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Jabotinsky's children Jews...;Disciples of Trumpeldor: The Betar and Its Complex Relationship With the Pre-WWII Polish Government

jan peczkis|Monday, October 16, 2017

One commonly-voiced exculpation for Jews in Communism states that Jews were just seeking a better world [Who doesn’t?], and that they had no idea that Communism relied on violence and totalitarianism. This is patently untrue. Heller candidly writes that, “Despite knowledge of the violence and repression that had accompanied the early years of Soviet rule, many socialist Zionists were mesmerized by the romance of the Communist revolution, with its promise to promote social justice, abolish unearned privilege, and fight antisemitism.” (p. 48).


The entanglement of Jews and Communism went far beyond membership in the Communist Party itself. Author Heller describes how the heretofore-apolitical HASHOMER HATSAIR re-made itself, “HASHOMER HATSAIR branches in industrial cities such as Warsaw, Bialystok, and Lodz were the first to radicalize. By the fall of 1925, the youth movement’s leadership in central Poland, and soon after in Galicia, were drawing battle lines at their conferences between those who endorsed communism and called for class warfare and revolutionary struggle, and those who defended the youth movement’s original commitment to transcending party politics. The latter were soon outflanked by leaders who adopted a pro-Soviet stance.” (pp. 48-49).

For more on the drift of the ostensibly non-Communist Jewish Left to Communism, see Comments.


Jabotinsky referred to the Sanacja regime for inspiration and direction. However, he also reached out to the National Democrats, and expressed no concern when they praised him and referred to him as a “Jewish Endek.” (p. 62).

Laurence Weinbaum, who wrote A MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE (see my review), thus characterized this apparent symbiosis of Betar and the Polish government. Others thought of it as an expression of mutual affection. Author Heller suggests that it was neither: It was a complex and sometimes-contradictory give-and-take. (p. 18). In addition, he stresses the fact that the Betar movement was hardly monolithic, and that the Polish/Betar relationship was irrelevant to many Betarim. Pointedly, even when genuinely amiable, the Polish/Betar relationship in no sense implied that Betar members were out to “become Poles”--to the contrary. Heller quips, “Equally significant was the fact that their performance of Polishness simultaneously insisted on its very uniqueness as a Zionist act. It allowed Betar’s members to send a message to local Poles that even as they exhibited all the celebrated virtues of the Polish nation, they had no desire to become a member of its national community. Instead, they could take pride in their own national identity.” (p. 144).

In the late 1930’s, Jabotinsky met with the post-Pilsudski Polish officials to implement his “Evacuation Plan”, which called for the emigration of 1.5 million eastern European Jews to Palestine in the next 10 years. He also came to understand Polish anti-Semitism as the product of economic rivalry between Poles and Jews in an overcrowded poverty-stricken nation. (p. 227). For more on this, please see my review of Jabotinsky’s THE JEWISH WAR FRONT. For details on the economic and non-economic antagonisms that polarized Jews and Poles, see comments.


Before WWI, Jabotinsky had claimed common cause with the Ukrainians against the Poles. (p. 161). At about this time, he also threatened to support the Russians, against the Poles, if the latter did not stop when he considered their anti-Semitism. (p. 262). Many young Jews were politically promiscuous, frequently changing party affiliations. (p. 262). [No wonder that the Endeks thought of Jews as ones with ephemeral loyalties, so that a pro-Polish Jew today would likely not be one tomorrow.] This continued. By July 1944, Revisionists were meeting with Soviet officials in order to solicit Soviet support for the State of Israel. (p. 246).


Though it is an oft-used emotive term, there is no straightforward objective definition of a fascist. (pp. 9-10). D. Stabiecki, a Revisionist living in Rome, proclaimed that the Revisionists are Jewish fascists. (pp. 71-73; 101-102). Many Betar members agreed, but others did not. Finally, some Betar leaders (e. g, Abba Achimeir) did suggest that the Revisionist movement had a great deal to learn from Germany’s Nazi Party. (p. 205). As for Jabotinsky, he never deviated from belief in democracy, although he freely disclosed that “fascism has many good ideas”. (pp. 80-81).


Assassinations are easy to politicize. When Yishuv Zionist Haim Arlosoroff was murdered, by unknown assailant(s) in 1933, Labor Zionists exploited this tragedy by accusing the Revisionist Zionists of “importing” foreign European models of nationalist violence. They also dragged-in the Narutowicz assassination by pontificating that the assassin of Arlosoroff “shares the same mentality as Niewiadomski”. (p. 207). [The Narutowicz assassination was later also politicized by the Communists. Now it is exploited by the LEWACTWO.]


Author Heller rejects the claim that Jabotinsky anticipated the Shoah. Based on Jabotinsky’s correspondence at the time and thereafter, Heller concludes that Jabotinsky’s August 1938 speech (about Jews needing to flee the soon-to-erupt volcano of Europe) referred to upcoming severe economic boycotts of Jews, not a genocidal extermination of Jews. (p. 253).


Heller cites Horowitz’ work, MEMORIAL BOOKS OF EASTERN EUROPEAN JEWRY to draw the following conclusion, “Historians need to exercise great caution when using memorial anthologies (YIZKER BIKHER) published by Holocaust survivors to commemorate Jewish communities in towns and cities across Poland. Many of them were published decades after the historical events they describe. The accounts of the past provided by YIZKER BIKHER contributors frequently bear the imprint of the trauma of the Holocaust, nostalgia for a ‘vanished world’, as well as the authors’ political and religious commitments.” (p. 286).


Author Daniel Kupfert Heller touches on pre-WWII Betar violence (e. g, p. 85, 203, 225), but just barely. He ignores an important work—DUCH MLODYCH by Wojciech Muszynski—that does. [See comments for my review of Muszynski’s ignored work.]

On another subject, the author fails to connect Jabotinsky’s views with those of fellow-Revisionist Jacob Gens, the eventual Judenrat leader of the Vilna (Wilno, Vilnius) Ghetto under the Nazi German occupation. Jacob Genes had believed that Jews, while seeking their own homeland, should be unswervingly loyal to the nations in which they live. Accordingly, Jews should not be separatists demanding special rights or cosmopolitans denying patriotic bonds. See my review of THE PAVEMENT OF HELL, by Leonard Tushnet. 3 comments| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse| Permalink   Comment Jan Peczkis1 day ago Report abuse ________________POLISH ANTI-SEMITISM: THE UNTOLD STORY_____________

I. Not long after the Partitions of Poland, which erased Poland off Europe's map (1795-1918), most local Jews sided with Poland's foreign rulers, notably during Polish battles for independence:

History of the Jews in Russia and Poland: From the Earliest Times Until the Present Day

II. Jews generally were hostile to the prospect of the resurrection of the Polish state--out of an arguably-narrow self-interest. A newly-reconstructed Polish nation-state would disrupt the geographical continuity of the Jewish "nation-within-nation" in tsarist Russia, and would hinder the movements of Jewish commerce:

The Tragedy of a Generation: The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism in Eastern Europe

III. Many "anti-Semitic" themes (e. g, the Jew as the perpetual “Other”), for which Poles nowadays are selectively blamed, were also widely held by respectable Jews:

Jewish People, Yiddish Nation: Noah Prylucki and the Folkists in Poland

IV. Centuries of economic privileges had essentially made Jews an economic overclass over Poles. Both the nobility and peasantry had been made dependent upon Jews. In time, all this led to Polish efforts to "take Poland back" from the Jews. Even then, the AVERAGE Jew remained better off than the average Pole:

From Serfdom to Self-Government: Memoirs of a Polish Village Mayor, 1842-1927

Social and Political History of the Jews in Poland 1919-1939 (New Babylon: Studies in the Social Sciences)

V. As Polish independence was finally becoming reality (1918), local Jews generally sided with Germany over the contested territories of western Poland:

The White Eagle of Poland

On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War

VI. As Poland was being resurrected, the local Jews, with the undisguised support of international Jewry, attempted to detach the eastern city of Bialystok from Poland, and make it part of Lithuania or Russia, or even a mini Jewish state:

Jewish Bialystok and Its Diaspora (The Modern Jewish Experience)

VII. The so-called Minorities Treaty, being forced on the new Polish state by international Jewish pressure, was not about the Jewish rights of a religious and cultural minority--something that Poland's Jews already freely had. It was all about creating expansive separate-nation rights of Jews on Polish soil:

The Jews and minority rights (1898-1919) (Studies in history, economics, and public law, no. 384)

VIII. Finally, the old religious-based antagonisms did not come only from Poland's Catholicism (e. g, deicide). The unmistakable racism that is part of the Jewish religion was also a cause:

Jewish Identity in Early Rabbinic Writings (Arbeiten Zur Geschichte Des Antiken Judentums Und Des Urchristentums, Vol 23) Leave a reply Jan Peczkis1 day ago Report abuse .

Please click on the following items and read my detailed reviews:


I. The Poale Zion, and Hashomer Hatzair, usually described as "Marxist-Zionist", were--semantics aside--often little different from Communism:
Israeli Society, the Holocaust and its Survivors

II. The Bund, a large, mainstream Jewish socialist and Yiddishist party, was strongly infected with Communism:

Bundist Counterculture Interwar Poland (Modern Jewish History) 

On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War by Bernard Wasserstein (May 1 2012)

III. The silly exculpatory notion--that Jews at the time did not know that Communism was violent and totalitarian--is totally false:

Essential Papers on Jews and the Left (Essential Papers on Jewish Studies)

IV. Members of the Bund, Hashomer Hatzair, and other elements of the non-Communist Jewish Left, nevertheless often displayed open support for Soviet Communism:

Reflections on the Kielce Pogrom

The Fall of a Sparrow: The Life and Times of Abba Kovner (Stanford Studies in Jewish History and C)

V. "Many Jewish leaders were reared in the spirit of the Russian Revolution":

And We Are Not Saved: Including The Jewish Military Organization in the Warsaw Ghetto

VI. After the Russian Revolution (1917), many Jewish socialists effortlessly became Communists:

Vladimir Medem: The Life and Soul of a Legendary Jewish Socialist

VII. Forget woolly conspiracy theories. Soviet Communism, for a time, enjoyed considerable OPEN financial support from American Jews:

Dreams of Nationhood: American Jewish Communists and the Soviet Birobidzhan Project, 1924-1951 (Jewish Identity in Post-Modern Society)

VIII. Even in the new State of Israel (1948), there was no sharp demarcation between Jewish Socialists and Jewish Communists:

1949: The First Israelis Leave a reply Jan Peczkis1 day ago (Edited) Report abuse .

Did Jewish financial actions generate short-term profits and long-term antagonisms?
(I). The Jewish Economic Hegemony Over Poland Led to the Exploitation of Poles, and Definitely Prevented Poles From Improving Their Lot:

The Nation in the Village: The Genesis of Peasant National Identity in Austrian Poland, 1848-1914

Ludwik Hirszfeld: The Story of One Life (Rochester Studies in Medical History)

The Polish Jew, his social and economic value

Przez druty, kraty i kajdany: Wspomnienia partyzanta NSZ (Polish Edition)

From Serfdom to Self-Government: Memoirs of a Polish Village Mayor, 1842-1927

A World Problem, Jews, Poland, Humanity: A Psychological And Historical Study, Part 1 (1920)

(II). The “Unbeatability” Of Jewish Economic Privilege--From a Jewish Viewpoint:
Polin, Volume Seventeen - The Shtetl: Myth and Reality (Studies in Polish Jewry)

(III). No Inevitable Polish “Intolerance” of Minority Groups. The Armenians Were Unswervingly Loyal to Poland, and Thereby Enjoyed Centuries of True Equality With Poles. They Were Allowed to Own Land and Hold Political Office:
Thoughts of a Polish Jew: To Kasieńka from Grandpa (Jews of Poland)

(IV). The Blood-Libel In Reverse: Jews Taught That Gypsies Steal Jewish Children:

Bialystok to Birkenau

Life is With People : The Culture of the Shtetl

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