My nephew in Jerusalem is headed to Poland

My nephew beeped me on ICQ last night. He’s in the eleventh grade at a Jerusalem high school, which means he will be going on a school trip to Poland. He wanted to hear family stories from the Holocaust and the names of relatives who had perished, which he will use in a ceremony he is supposed to lead at Auschwitz. My mother showed him the memorial book published in the 1960s by the shtetl “ landsmannschaft”, but there is little there about our family, and the book is mostly in Yiddish – a language neither my nephew nor my mother understand. I told him some stories I had heard from my grandfather, and a little about the town itself – an important railroad junction in Polish Galicia. He told me they will visit some of the sites associated with the history of Hasidism, as well as Auschwitz and Warsaw, where they will take part in a ceremony, together with high-ranking IDF officers.

Much has been said and written about these trips – sharply criticised by prominent figures on the Israeli left, such as Shulamit Aloni and Tom Segev, as little more than chauvinistic indoctrination. While chatting with my nephew, images from Yoav Shamir’s documentary Defamation went through my mind. Shamir accompanied one such trip to Poland, and shows the process by which Israeli teenagers are inculcated with a deep belief in eternal Polish – and by extension, universal – anti-Semitism, with explicit ideological ramifications for the Jewish present and future. I said to my nephew: “You know, Poland is a fascinating country. It’s a shame you won’t be coming into contact with ordinary Poles, but your trip has a specific educational purpose.” Without batting an eyelash, he said: “You mean the Holocaust as justification for the existence of the State of Israel?” I decided to go a little further, and typed “You will be shown a superficial version of Polish history, portraying all Poles either as collaborators or ‘righteous gentiles’.” He replied: “I know, they were under occupation, but didn’t the Germans choose Poland as the location for their death camps because they knew they could count on Polish anti-Semites to collaborate and/or turn a blind eye?”

He’s leaving in a few days for what will undoubtedly be a very difficult trip, emotionally, in which he will need the support of his classmates, teachers and guides. I decided to back off a little, simply remarking that the issue is a lot more complicated than that. We will see each other in a couple of weeks, right after his trip. He said he would like to hear more about it when we meet. He’s a smart and sensitive boy, but he’s also a born diplomat. He may just have been trying to humour his old uncle, but I hope not.

About Shmuel Sermoneta-Gertel

Shmuel Sermoneta-Gertel is a Canadian-Israeli translator living in Italy.
Posted in American Jewish Community, Israel/Palestine, US Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

{ 57 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Citizen says:

    I guess you have to bone up on the history of Poland viz a vix the role of the Jewish people in it; as well, how Meine Kampf treated the Poles as animals. And of course, Poland’s geo-strategic position as between Nazi Germany and Stalin’s USSR. Good luck–how do you get across the full meaning of the Pale Of Settlement to average Poles of those years, and average Jews? And, how do you display the roots of anti-semitism beyond simply a mental disease? Again, Good luck.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      Yeah. As someone with both German and Polish background, I get a bit irked about some of the distortions of the Israeli narrative. Whereas Jewish Poles were treated as vermin, non-Jewish Poles were still treated as cattle — and both were slaughtered in large numbers.

      Likewise, on the German Catholic side of my family tree, there’s the purges that took place under Bismark’s kulturkampf. Being the target of religious persecution in that region is by no means singular to Jews.

  2. Without batting an eyelash, he said: “You mean the Holocaust as justification for the existence of the State of Israel?”

    I don’t know the kid, but that reads like a droll, cynical comment to me.

  3. Mooser says:

    “And, how do you display the roots of anti-semitism beyond simply a mental disease?”

    Gosh, Citizen, I’d be eternally grateful (and don’t discount what that might mean to you) if you explain to me the roots of anti-semitism beyond simply a mental disease?
    And just to cut out a whole lot of bullshit, can we stipulate from the first that the fact that Jews are no worse than anybody else is not a rational justification for anti-Semitism?
    I’m sure you are aware that by your logic, the cultural and technological backwardness of the Africans (as we saw it then) was a justification for slavery.

    No matter what the subject, it all comes down to some ineffable essentialist characteristic we Jews suffer from, donnit? Are we all made of Madoff?

    • Citizen says:

      Mooser, I said exactly the contrary to what you say I did, and your spin on that. I don’t think there is any ineffable essentialist characteristic common to any group of people across the board. This includes a commonly alleged mental affliction called “anti-semitism.” I do think that a study of contrasting socio-economic roles at any given time and place, an obvious one being feudal eastern europe, helps to understand
      why ignorant and manipulated folks tend to gravitate for a simple explanation, painting the Other (of whatever stripe) as the boogyman, the scapegoat. As you know, this is happening all over in the USA’s domestic politics now, and in our foreign affairs. For the neocons and neoliberals, it has worked very well to date, yes?

      • Mooser says:

        Well then, I can only plead, after your clear, ringing and forth-right declaration, which had my gallusses thrumming like the entry of the double-basses in the last movment of Betthoven’s Ninth Symphony, that it’s early in the morning, I don’t see so good, and I’m always grouchy until my old dog wakes up so I can turn the organ on and practice. She hates it. Everyone’s a critic!
        So I must a got mixed up. But your disavowal of ineffable essentialist characteristics is heartening, and I accept it, and will consider all your comments from that standpoint in the future, especially after a few more cups coffee.

        • annie says:

          in support of citizen’s comment i would also like to offer we (humans) do not generally support, empower and otherwise nurture mental diseases. the same cannot be said of anti semitism thruout the ages.

        • Citizen says:

          Believe it or not, Mooser, I am not a rascist or ethnocentric person. You aren’t the only American that feels (I assume from your past comments) that so many things they read places them in a particular catagory. I fully realize that you are a striving true individual; in your case, you happened to be born Jewish. I have my own happenstance ethnic and religious birth. I toss them out as being too limiting, as I know know you have–both of us, long ago. You are peevish, and so am I–we both
          want the world to know that we will not be imprisoned in our mind or activities by any black and white world view. Yes? On the one side is the state; on the other the individual. Ditto, conventional religion. We both know the history.

    • Keith says:

      MOOSER- “Gosh, Citizen, I’d be eternally grateful …if you explain to me the roots of anti-semitism beyond simply a mental disease?”

      There is an important point here that needs to be discussed. First of all, I think that you have misinterpreted Citizen’s comment. The reason for this I think is the traditional Jewish ideology drummed into you all of your life that Gentiles are inherently anti-Semitic. This “anti-Semitism” has nothing to do with environmental factors, hence, is beyond analysis or control.

      “The world hates the Jews. The world always has and will continue to do so.” (David Mamet)

      This irrational take on “irrational” anti-Semitism is the basis for the cult of eternal and never-ending victim hood which underpins both classical Judaism and present day Zionism. It has powerful emotional appeal which promotes internal solidarity even as it precludes rational thought and analysis. Without this cult of eternal victim hood, Zionism could not exist.

      “Therefore, the real test facing both Israeli and diaspora Jews is the test of their self-criticism which must include the critique of the Jewish past. The most important part of such a critique must be a detailed and honest confrontation of the Jewish attitude to non-Jews.” (Israel Shahak)

      The whole point is that we all must be aware of the ideological and emotional levers of control which the dominant elites use to establish and maintain elite control. No easy task, but an essential one.

      • Classical Judaism is underpinned by a belief that God commanded the Torah. Once that pillar is removed- other supports, such as the enmity of the world for the Jew, might be invoked. But do not confuse such secondary support systems for the primary support system in the belief of the divine origin of the Torah.

        • WJ,

          “Classical Judaism”, to the extent that it exists, cannot be reduced to a single principle and, as I’m sure you know, Judaism traditionally places far more emphasis on praxis than on specific beliefs. Furthermore, “Classical Judaism” has not been espoused by a majority of European in Jews in a good few centuries – prior to which there were no real alternatives (for various reasons -some shared by contemporary non-Jews). The idea of Sinaitic Revelation was one of the first to go. Prejudices and superstitions are among the last.

        • Citizen says:

          What do you mean to convey, WJ? The Torah says the Jews were chosen by God to be his mouthpiece and soldier. The Torah shows that God commanded to kill even babies, whether they wer Jewish babies for not following God’s commandments, or non-Jewish babies for being potential anti-Jewish soldiers. The bible says so. The Jewish prophets say so–the very prophets recorded who are pointed to as the inspiration for the solid base of the current state of Israel, for how to interpret the natural rights of man according to the western Enlightenment in a Jewish power state. I fail to see “the divine origin of the Torah”
          as a tool of universal humanism. It seems to me the USA’s founding documents
          are a more effective guide for the best intersts of the whole of humanity. You don’t? Why?

  4. Avi says:


    It sounds like you’ve got an interesting trip coming up. In a way, you certainly have your work cut out for you. I’d be interested to know what your nephew has to say after the trip.

  5. Howard says:

    I would strongly recommend that you enocourage your nephew to read the PhD. dissertation “Traditional Jewish Attitudes Toward Poles,” by Mark Paul, August 2009 found at the link below. Having married into a Polish family and travelled to Poland where my wife satill has relatives I found it very interesting and informative. It explores the attutides of Polish Jews and finds that Jews were as much imbued with negative stereotypes about Poles, as Poles were about Jews. I may have found this through Mondoweiss but can’t remember.

    link to

    • Howard says:

      Obviously I did get the article I referenced above through Mondoweiss. Its number 3 in related posts.

    • Thanks, Howard. I’ll do the reading. Apart from the fact that my nephew’s level of English comprehension is not great, I want to talk to him, not give him homework.

    • bigbill says:

      Nice article. Pretty much common knowledge among historians, though, isn’t it? Jews are commanded by God to be separate and apart forever, and not to mix and mingle with the goyim. Thats why Jews are still around. And teh scriptures and commentary are quite clear: no race mixing, no mongrelizing, no drinking wine from a bottle a goy opened. The hasidim know this. Ask the people in Postville, Iowa about the Jewish ghetto next to their town. Utterly no common activities and relations. Its like a mini Polish shtetl with the same traditional Jewish attitudes toward the goyim. So what else is new? Don’t they teach you about the haskala and the maskilim and how they tried to break the rabbis’ power over the Jewish people? How they went to the Russian and German authorities and tried to get them to force Jewish children living in ghettoes to learn German and Russian and become for real citizens of the country? Do you not read the orthodox jewish websites where they curse the names of these Jewish “liberators”, these shtetl destroyers, over 200 years later?

      Of this whole story the most bizarre aspect is the visiting Poland to teach goy-hate when the place that ghetto Jews are most hated now is Israel … and for all the same reasons: insularity, contempt for non-Haredim, a desire to defraud the government (and any other outsider fool) to get money, and a blanket refusal to fight in the Israeli army.

      In short, the secular Jewish kids who are being sent to Poland to learn to hate the Poles are now in exactly the same position as the Poles were and hate the haredim for exactly the same reasons. Go figure.

      I figure the Poles ought to sit those kids down and say, “Look here, young man. You know those selfish, self-centered, greedy, corrupt, violent, rioting, segregationist haredim back in Israel? Well, Poland is where they came from. What are YOU going to do about them?”

      I love reading Failed Messiah and Mondoweiss back to back. Its like two different, completely separate worlds, each utterly unaware of each other.

      • RoHa says:

        ” no drinking wine from a bottle a goy opened”

        That’s a new one on me. Next time I’m sharing a bottle of wine around, I’ll have to make sure I don’t offend any Jews present bygiving them some.

        Does it apply to beer, as well?

        • RoHa,

          The rule applies only to wine (a holy beverage with ritual functions), and non-religious Jews (“public Sabbath-desecraters”) have the same, terrible effect on the noble fermented grape. Even the most Orthodox Jews would be happy to share a pint with you however.

        • RoHa says:

          “Even the most Orthodox Jews would be happy to share a pint with you however. ”

          Sure about this? I wouldn’t want my nasty goyish influence to damage their Jewish souls. It starts with beer from a goy, but next next thing is that they fall in love with a shiksa, and you’ve got assimilation! It’s the second Holocaust!

          No, I don’t want to risk that. You’ll get no beer from me.

        • I think I understand your problem, RoHa. Beer is the sacred beverage in the Australian tradition, and you are afraid that one of the unfosterised heathen might – yea, even as they sip a pint and good on ya – commit terrible sacrilege in their minds, thinking unholy thoughts of warm beer.

        • RoHa says:

          Thoughts of warm beer are perfectly legitimate as long as they are restrained to Britain and British (including Irish) beer. (It just doesn’t taste nice if it is chilled. I remember complaining that a pint of Guiness tasted like water, and the barman apologised for having next to the lager, so it was getting too cold.)

          But any such thoughts about Australian beer are just another manifestation of the ever-growing menace of anti-Australianism.

  6. catauro says:

    why USA do not help them to relocate in Texas or perhaps in Utha or maybe Birobidjan will have them.

  7. Danaa says:

    Shmuel, there were a number of really enlightening posts by Eva Smahacz here sometime ago about Poland, it’s history and the not-so-fair rap it’s getting. If I can uncover them – ii’m sure one or more would be useful add-on to your bag of treats (not tricks….really…who would stoop to that —). She might even pop in here and add her bit to the stories.

    With regards to your nephew. I was subjected to the brain washing without the benefit of a trip to Poland. Turns out it’s just as effective. To this day, and after everything I know and learnt outside the bubble about European history in general and Polish in particular, I still do an internal double take when I meet a non-jewish polish person. It’s like going through a check list where I have to literally undo a jumble of gut feelings, impressions, movie bits, odd assortment of factoids. All conjured up in an instant. I still see Aucshwitz through them. I still look – instinctively for any hidden signs of anti-semitism. One off-color comment and the whole bag of prejudices spring forth whole, barely faded in time. Zionists/israelis who may be reading this blog and chanced upon Eva’s comments probably parsed it to find the hidden jems that would betray her as tainted by that whiff of unending, incurable disease.

    To most of the israelis who grew up in israel, meeting a Pole is like meeting a leper. no matter what they say – their feelings are just barely below the surface. That’s what studying a highly distorted, one-sided history does. And I think the real damage was done earlier than high school, which is why I’m not sure even you would know the full depth of it. By the time we were in high school, many such prejudices – be they Arabs or Poles were permanently imprinted, That’s what I know. Because I struggle with mine to this day, quadzillion books, movies and friends later. Somewhere along the line I even had a polish boy-friend (I have a nice, varied collection there). It was quite long ago, but i still remember than when we broke up over something or other (probably it was just me moving elsewhere) I thought to myself ‘well, he was a bit of anti-semite anyways” in the way we do when we try to excuse our own behavior (see what I meant about excuses?).

    And that is why I feel so opposed to these trips they sponsor to Auschwitz for israeli kids. What will they gain from it? knowledge that the germans were bad? that bad things were done to jews? they already know that quite well. That the Poles were part of a seamless tapestry of anti-semitism uninterrupted for centuries and eons? it’ll just put an exclamation mark on already deep well of prejudice against gentiles of all stripes. It’ll be so easy afterwards to think – “well, those “nice’ Arabs. Just like the Poles…waiting for their chance to do us all in”. As if it isn’t so facile already.

    I doubt any attempt to bring in nuance after the fact regarding the Polish people and what they went through over the centuries will help. Your nephew will have to have many kind of smarts to get over this kind of brain washing. The “Defamation” director was right about it all.

    BTW, what’s the difference between “liberal’ and not-so-liberal school nowadays? also, I wonder what your nephew thinks about the poll that was just released about attitudes of high school kids….

    • Danaa, here’s an interesting article about the same sort of thing in the US:

      Goyland: Where the Wild Things Are
      Edmund Connelly

      Clearly, many American Jews are battling with cognitive dissonance when it comes to assessing their safety and welfare in America. Objectively, there is very, very little that has threatened American Jews financially, socially or physically. Yet deeper inside their psyches, there is something telling them that all non-Jews are potentially dangerous and unfriendly anti-Semites. (As the old saw goes, “Scratch a goy, find an anti-Semite.”)

      This fear and defensiveness may stem from what Professor Salo Baron, a prominent Jewish historian, has called the “lachrymose view of Jewish history.” Or, as Barbara Fuerlicht writes, “The diaspora is often presented as 2,000 years of uninterrupted martyrdom.” Again, however, we find that paradox spawned by the incongruity between reality and perception. Consider, for example, that one scholar wrote, “Most medieval Jews in most places in most years were not the targets of pogroms. Most lived lives that, protected by geniz charters [i.e., charters specifying Jewish rights] and privileges, were far more secure and prosperous than the overwhelming percentage of non-Jews around them.”

      Reader, think about it: If you’re an average American, you quietly pay your federal taxes, likely knowing that some goes to aid Israel. (On top of that, many of you Christian Zionists support Israel further through donations and political support.) Further, it’s highly improbable that you’ve ever committed a crime against a Jew, let alone actually harmed one. The thought has probably never even crossed your mind.

      Yet a good percentage of American-born Jews still consider you a lethal threat simply because you are not a Jew. At this stage in history, is there any excuse for that? Worse, such Jews are often able to translate their fantasy-based fears about goyim into cultural products such as films and TV shows—and books like Where the Wild Things Are. Through the activism of groups like the ADL, they are also able to affect legislation such as the new Hate Crimes Law that may well target people like you for potentially thinking the wrong thing. This is not good.

      link to

      • Also, I just noticed this:

        Do you really think that American Jews perceive themselves, and self-identify, as “insiders”? My experience is quite the contrary. In fact, I’ve always observed (and found it curious) that American Jews, from their positions of wealth and achievement, practically cultivate and nourish a sense of outsiderness, which is often wielded as a grievance.

        My medical school class had 226 freshmen. Of these, at least 190 were Jewish. At that, an orthodox Jewish professor complained more than once that the admissions committee discriminated against Jews, proving that America truly had it in for the Jews.

        link to

    • Danaa,

      I had Eva in mind when I wrote the post, and am hoping that she will able to contribute to the discussion. I have read her comments on the subject, and will certainly go back and reread them.

      As any good brainwasher will tell you, nothing compares to direct emotional experience. Imagine your upbringing combined with a gut-wrenching trip, at the age of 16 or 17, to Auschwitz and Warsaw, where you are intentionally manipulated to feel as if you were there at that time and you are a “survivor” (the Passover seder, if you recall, is based on a similar principle – physical experience and drama as pedagogical tools). You have heard about the anti-Semitic Poles, but you have never seen it first hand, “in their eyes”, in their “natural habitat”. It’s far more than an exclamation point. It is a life-changing experience.

      My upbringing was slightly different than yours, and I entered the Israeli system only in high school, but I had lived in a very isolated Orthodox Jewish ghetto in Canada. I was certainly taught the narrative of Jewish victimhood, but more importantly, non-Jews were simply not a part of my world. I never met any, never had a single non-Jewish friend. As for non-Jewish Poles, my grandfather had a lot of resentment toward them, based on his own experiences – including a pogrom, random attacks in the street, and the loss of his entire family in the Holocaust, for which he blamed the Nazis (more specifically Hitler) first and foremost, but also ingrained Polish anti-Semitism.

      In Israel, I made up for lost time, attending a high school affiliated with the most extreme, paranoid and self-righteous group of all – the right-wing national-religious. I got bucketsful of Jewish exceptionalism and victimhood, and was isolated in another kind of ghetto, far from secular Jews like you (you were also a girl, which made you even more other).

      When I left Israel and started to make non-Jewish friends, I must admit that it felt a bit weird at first, not because I was suspicious of them or looking for a copy of the Protocols on their bookshelves, but because they were other – not dangerous or inferior, just other. It took me a while to feel completely comfortable with non-Jews (just as it took me a while to feel comfortable with women, after having grown up in a segregated society).

      I have some ideas on how to broach the subject with my nephew, not necessarily focusing too much on the specifics of Polish history. There are so many different aspects to the brainwashing, and I have few illusions regarding what I can accomplish in a conversation or two.

      Relatively liberal in the context of religious schools in Jerusalem means that they encourage independent thought within certain limits, as opposed to most other schools that do everything in their power to produce unquestioning automatons.

      • Danaa says:

        Shmuel, I can see how a trip to Poland to actually see the camps first hand and ogle the anti-semite Polesin person can be potent in underscoring an already existing sea of deep prejudice. To most kids who undertake the trip this will no doubt be an exclamation mark, and having to speak of and add their own personal victims serves well to personalize the tragedy, taking it in from the abstract to the concrete. That is how imprinting is done and I can see what makes it such an effective brain washing tactic. The jews, as a group, were never ones to move on – for centuries they lived historically, no slight forgiven, no persecution forgotten. The words “never again” may sound like an “understandable sentiment” to people outside the tribe, but to those who grow within a history of persecution in israel, the words have the effect of lumping all the past persecutions, ancient military defeats, and the present experience of colonization of another people, into one narrative that’s profoundly hostile to the “others”, as you refer to them. I’ve said before that modern zionism has more in common with cults than with religion or nationalism. That it is rapidly acquiring the ‘circle the wagons’ mentality typical of cults is just normal evolution. Unfortunately the ever tightening ‘circling” spells nothing good for any of the parties involved – or, for that matter, the ones that aren’t .

        Thanks also for the extra personal dimensions. Yours was really one special journey – I can see how you must have confounded those around you. Must be kind of fun too. I understand all too well what you mean by experiencing groups of people you never encountered growing up as “other”. You can imagine how “otherly” the religious and the orthodox seem to those who grew up secular in Israel, like me. Only long after I left did i start to realize just how utterly separate different groups were in early Israel. We were each completely isolated within our own “cliques” never to stray an inch, never to encounter a different perspective, except through books or movies. mizrahi and ashkenazi, religious and secular, kibbutznik and urban, arab and jew – each in their separate corner, never mixing, rarely crossing the lines. In the 60s and early 70s there wasn’t even much in the way of television to interrupt the insularity. I thought of that when reading Judt’s reminiscenses about his Kibbutz experience. If you grew up in a city or a small town the first time you met Kibbutznikim was in the army. I have, to this day, absolutely no clue about what it must be like to grow up in an gender segragated religious community. No more than I can comprehend the experience of growing up in, say, a mormon sect, or semi-cloistered in a samurai family in feudal japan. It still feels alien no matter how much I read about it, or take pains to learn a bit about what Judaism actually teaches (getting a couple of years instructions in the Talmud – our most hated subject in school, BTW – only deepen the alienation – and I was quite good at it, too, quite reluctantly). On an intuitive level I think some things remain forever out of reach for us, no matter how fascinating.

        Here’s what I mean by imprinting – one of my cats is really quite doglike – he fetches and chases, briskly follows me around the block and makes sounds that seem like a pathetic attempt at a bark – but the poor thing just can’t get seem to get out of his “catness”. I am fascinated by his valiant – and doomed attempts to rattle his cage. Needless to say the behavior is no doubt reinforced by my very fascination.

        Your nephew is about to be imprinted – and it won’t be just software that can be written over later with a new update or a patch. It’s the hardware circuitry itself that’s affected. You, for whatever reason seem to have been granted a more flexible wiring – or maybe just more connectivity or more layers of redundancy that get activated as one goes through life. It’s an attribute i – and probably many people here share – to some extent. We must remember though that most people come with a single programmable array – once triggered, the fuses are blown and the individual is hard wired for life. It is my sincere hope that your nephew – who through your words shows definite potential – is not one of them.

        Apologies to all for the long post – I hate to hog (but do it all the time, I know). Things just get away with me sometimes.

    • Citizen says:

      I understand, Danaa. I am retired. There’s a community pool nearby. It has many Jewish Americans and Polish Americans who go there. The Jewish Americans are usually born here. The Polish Americans are newcomers. I must say, those new Polish Americans are much more educated in history than the American Jews. It’s virtually like night and day–exactly the contrary to the old polish jokes. And so? What do you make of this, my experience?

  8. MHughes976 says:

    You’re not descended from the royal house of Mycenae, are you, Danaa – or should I say Danae? I seem to remember that you often allude to the Spartans.
    Poland seems for centuries to have been the scene of a battle between rationalising forms of Christianity, favoured by several of Poland’s kings, and wildly fanatical forms bursting out from the Church. The events of WW2 had often been prefigured, it seems, as Polish liberalism attracted Jewish immigrants (as after the expulsion from Spain), who enriched the country considerably, and an answering wave of Polish intolerance then inflicted indignity and violence on them. So a conflicted culture must have been produced on both sides.

    • Citizen says:

      MHughes, while it’s true that Jewish input enriched said Polish economy, it’s also true that said input greatly exploited the Polish masses, exploited by the Jews for their own interests, and in the service of the Polish elite. Said gentile elite, of course, as happened in so many places in history, and is as is happening in the USA and England, and Canada today for example (just not Polish, mostly), are the very reason
      why the Western world is going down the tubes, and has no moral justification for its obvious exploitation.

  9. stranger says:

    I am unsure as to the direction of this thread, but surly Polish anti-semitism is an established fact.
    To give a few examples,
    The Catholic youth paper, the Pro Christo, affirmed that the Jews really did sacrifice Christian children at Passover. In 1926, 1929 and 1935 it carried articles to this effect. In 1929, the Catholic journal Echo parafialne was produced in the Polish parliament by a Jewish member, objecting to an article in it detailing how Jews capture Christian boys so that they can drink their blood at Passover. In 1932, the popular periodical for priests, the Glos Kaplanski, spoke of the Jews waging a “time immemorial war against the church and the ‘Aryan’ world”. The Catholic youth paper, the Mlodziez Katolicka printed Catholic university students comments concerning Jews. The Jewish “psyche,” these students stated, was cynical, its ethic materialistic, and both posed a danger to the spiritual, idealistic psyche and ethic of Catholic Poland. Austria’s bishop Gfoellener was also quoted as saying: “it is the duty of every good Christian to fight against the spirit of international Judaism”. In 1938, the Jesuit monthly Poslaniec Serca, accused the Jews of “controlling the world’s financial markets and press” and of “seething with loathing for Christianity and especially for the Catholic church”. The Catholic cathedral in Sandomierz has a large oil painting by Carlo de Parvo (done in 1712) depicting the 1698 blood libel in that town. The painting shows “rabid looking” Jews holding innocent Christian babies in their prayer shawls, preparing to slit their throats. As Father Dembowski stated at a Mass on the fortieth anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising: “We must admit that the crime of genocide had its origin in the sin of anti-Semitism.” In 1936 Cardinal August Hlond, the new primate of Poland, wrote in an official pastoral letter:

    It is an actual fact that the Jews fight against the Catholic Church … the Jews are committing frauds, practicing usury and dealing in white slavery. It is true that in the schools the Jewish youth is having an evil influence, from an ethical and religious point of view, on Catholic youth … One does well to prefer one’s own kind in commercial dealings and to avoid Jewish shops and Jewish stalls in the markets, but it is not permissible to demolish Jewish businesses. One should protect oneself against the influence of Jewish morals, to keep away from their anti-Christian culture, and in particular, to boycott the Jewish press. In 1936, Monsignor Trzeciak addressed a large audience on the topic “The Jewish problem in the light of Christian ethics”. He stated:

    Saint Jerome hated the Jews and Pope Pius V expelled all Jews from the Papal domain. Poland should follow this example: Jews should be destroyed, exterminated and expelled from Poland … Noble are those Christians who refuse to sit with Jews on the same bench at university … every Polish woman who buys from a Jew is a traitor. The Christian religion imposes a penalty for dealing with Jews

    In 1936 the Polish episcopate and the primate of Poland endorsed a student pilgrimage to the town of Czestochowa, the site of the holiest Catholic shrine in Poland. Sixty percent of the entire university student population of Poland attended, and issued a declaration that: “We will not rest until the last Jew, alive or dead, has left Polish soil”.
    The Endeks official slogan was “Poland without Jews”. In 1936, the Polish Catholic daily, the Maly Dziennik declared: “we want the Jewish enemies of Christian Poland to leave our country”. Writing in Pro Christo and Maly Dziennik in 1937, Monsignor Trzeciak’s plan was first for the Jews to be deprived of their civil rights, and then for them to be removed from Poland. Father Wisniewski (who would later become editor of Pro Christo) was an “ardent” exponent of expulsion, describing Jews as a gangrenous limb on the body of Poland and as unjust aggressors. Jews, he wrote in 1933, must be deprived of their rights and removed from Christian society. In 1938, the Jesuits published a pamphlet which quoted Thomas Aquinas, who said that “Jews should be expelled from Christian societies”. Concerning this, the Mlodziez Katolicka wrote: “like Jesus, Poles must drive away Satan and all those who aided him”. In 1923, the prominent cleric Father Jozef Krusznski wrote: “if the world is to be rid of the Jewish scourge, it would be necessary to exterminate them, down to the last one”. Two years later, he was named head of the Catholic University in Lublin.
    In 1936, a pogrom in Przytyk clubbed a Jewish couple to death in front of their five children. After being acquitted by a Polish court, the perpetrators returned to a heroes welcome, and had their victory celebrated with a Te Deum in the local church. E. Ringelblum reflected back on this:

    When year after year the blood of Jewish students was shed in institutions of higher learning, when anti-Semitic savages rioted in Przytyk, Brzesc-on-the-Bug and other Polish towns, the clergy either kept silent or approved these deeds … One could hardly expect any considerable help from a clergy like this in the present war, if it gave no help when it was still possible to do so.

    Between 1934 and 1938 over 500 Jews were murdered and over 5,000 wounded in such attacks. Upon entering Warsaw, the Germans organized free bread distribution for propaganda purposes. It was the Poles who identified Jews in these queues so that the Germans could exclude them. A survivor later recalled:

    It was orderly until someone said in a loud voice that there were Jews in the queue. A commotion broke out with many people demanding any Jew in the queue to leave immediately. Nobody moved. The man who had started the commotion left his place but a few minutes later came back with a German army patrol. ‘Jude! Jude!’, he pointed to a woman in the queue. One of the German soldiers grabbed her and threw her to the ground, shouting ‘Jude, heraus!’ Everybody in the queue burst out laughing.

    In January 1940, Ringelblum recorded “incessant attacks … in public places … in broad daylight” by Polish gangs. With the establishment of the Warsaw ghetto, Jews who tried to escape from it were captured and handed over by large numbers of szmalcowniks. A Polish underground paper commented that “the problem of blackmail is well known not only to the leaders of the Polish underground but the Polish population at large.” The commander of the Home Army wrote in September 1941 to the government in exile in London. “Please accept it as a fact that the overwhelming majority of the country is anti-Semitic … the country does not like Jews.”
    Jews who attempted to escape were captured and turned over to the Germans by Polish police and civilians. Ringelblum wrote: “The Polish Police is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Polish Jews caught with their assistance and pushed onto the death trains … It is difficult to estimate the number of the victims due to the collaboration of the Polish police – they certainly run into the tens of thousands.” When the ghetto finally rose in revolt, the rest of Warsaw stood idly by. As a Pole told Emanuel Ringelblum: “We eat well, and afterwards we go out to the balcony to watch the fires in the ghetto from above. We hear the thunderous echoes of bombs and explosives blowing up the buildings and the shelters – and we keep silent.” Ringelblum described the general attitude:

    What did our neighbors do when the German occupant … attacked the defenceless Jews? Did they, despite the reigning German terror, offer shelter to the victims of Nazism who escaped from the ghettos to the so called “Aryan” side? … Why, when the death trains were moving from all sides to Treblinka or other places of extermination, did the last look of the victims fall on the indifferent and even happy faces of their neighbors?
    A report on the church which was sent to the Polish Government in Exile in June 1941 noted:

    The need to solve the Jewish problem is urgent. Nowhere else in the world has that question reached such a climax, because no fewer than 4 million of these highly noxious and by all standards dangerous elements live in Poland, or to be more precise, off Poland … [it] must be seen as a singular dispensation of Divine Providence that the Germans have already made a good start … they have shown that the liberation of Polish society from the Jewish plague is possible … Clearly, one can see the hand of God in the contribution to the solution of this urgent question being made by the occupiers. The Jewish leader Zerubavel traveled the country after the war, in 1948 and interviewed Jewish survivors (of all the Jews in Poland, the approximately 1% who survived were the most likely to have had Polish help). Concerning the Polish helpers overall he concluded that:

    They were a few drops in the ocean of Polish anti-Semitism. When one speaks to Jews from various circles, one can hear a statement without any reservation that the deaths of 50, or perhaps 75% of Jewish victims can be ascribed to the Poles … They did what they did for personal motives, and due to the perception that whatever happens Poland will be rid of the Jews.

    • Stranger,

      That there was widespread and deep-seated anti-Semitism in Poland is a historical fact. It is the reason that my grandparents decided, in the 1930s, that there was no future for them, as Jews, in Poland. Their relatives (especially my grandfathers’ brothers) disagreed, feeling that Poland was their home and that things would get better. As it turned out, those who stayed perished – although not at the hands of Poles.

      The problems start with the perpetual black and white dichotomy of good, passive Jewish victims and evil, racist Poles – and by extension, non-Jews in general – that has characterised some Jewish views (especially in Poland) and lies at the heart of Herzlian Zionism and Israeli chauvinism. Both sides of this dichotomy are two-dimensional caricatures, with far-reaching consequences in the world today, most notably for Palestinians. Hannah Arendt’s early essays on perceptions of Jewish passivity and a-historicity are particularly relevant in this context.

      • Citizen says:

        Hard to see any difference between the conflict between Israel’s POV and powerful actions against non-Jews paid for by the only superpower, the USA, and Poland’s in history against Jews.

  10. James North says:

    Thanks, Shmuel, and others, for yet another fascinating discussion. I remember reading, some 35 or so years ago, an article by a group of Jewish leftists who objected to the word “Holocaust.” My version of their reasoning is not as eloquent as the original, but it went something like this: “‘Holocaust’ is a word outside history, which implies a perennial malignant force, valid at all times and places. We prefer to call it ‘The Destruction (or Mass Murder) of the European Jews,” which does not minimize genocide but locates it in a specific time and place.
    Clearly their expression is a little unwieldly, but you can see what they were driving at. Does Shmuel (or anyone else) know more about this contention about terminology?

    • Thanks, James. More than anything, I think the word “Holocaust” has disturbing theological implications. In English however, it has become the accepted term for “The Destruction (or Mass Murder) of the European Jews”, and most people aren’t aware of its original meaning anyway. In Italy, France and elsewhere in Europe, “Shoah” (lit. “destruction” – see Prov. 3:25; Is. 10:3) is preferred (for the above, theological reason), but that generally implies some sort of acquiescence to the Israeli/Zionist narrative – which includes treating the Holocaust (or whatever one calls it) as a perennial malignant force or, conversely, as an ahistorical aberration. So it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other, which is why I just tend to use whatever word I think will be more readily understood.

      • Citizen says:

        Yeah, like how about any narration that uses the same ethical principles?

      • MHughes976 says:

        I’ve often felt disturbed by the application of ‘holocaust’, one of the Biblical terms for an acceptable sacrifice, to mass murder, partly because it seems to give some kind of priestly role to those who perpetrated a terrible crime and partly because it seems to hint, pursuing the same thought, at the horrific suggestion that this was the sacrifice that God accepted for the restoration of Israel.

  11. Eva Smagacz says:

    I have written twice a long comment for this thread, and twice it disappeared as my Internet Explorer hung when I hit the submit button. Its 4am. Will try tomorrow.

  12. Sylwia says:

    A couple of years ago there was a series of articles in the Polish press about the Israeli trips to Poland. The Polish government was to talk to the Israeli one and do something about it, esp. to make it possible for Israeli and Polish kids to meet. I hope the situation has improved, but I’m not sure whether the March of the Living trips changed.

    The way the trips were organised seemed plain wrong. It was as if the kids were their security guards’ hostages. They were told that something bad might happen to them, and that they shouldn’t leave their bus or hotel. Seeing how it’s often their first foreign trip they might come to the conclusion that the entire world is hostile towards them.

    From the Polish POV the groups seemed scary. It’s not normal to carry guns in Poland. Celebrities and politicians alike go about unarmed. The president of Poland has four bodyguards and it’s called waste of money. There’s simply no reason why a group of teenagers shouldn’t go wherever they wish and do whatever they like without bodyguards.

    I thought that perhaps you might show these films to your nephew. Some time ago a group of Israelis came to meet a group of Poles to work on movies together. (I’ll post them separately because your site suspects me of spamming when I try to post many links.)

    • Sylwia says:

      I knew I’d do something wrong. I meant to link to this article: link to

    • Keith says:

      SYLWIA- “…they might come to the conclusion that the entire world is hostile towards them.”

      The primary purpose of the trip is to convince these impressionable Jewish youth that the entire world is hostile to them, and that the evil Goyim threaten their very existence. This is the core component of Zionist solidarity.

      “The world hates the Jews. The world always has and will continue to do so.” (David Mamet)

      Obviously, the Zionists have been very successful.

  13. Sylwia says:

    This one is about their general impressions.
    Part I
    link to
    Part II

  14. Sylwia says:

    While here they learnt about Marek Edelman (they never heard of him before!) and it appeared that they lived not far from the place where he lived in Łódź. They went to meet him and made a film about him too. As you may know Marek Edelman passed away last year, so it was the last chance for Israeli kids to meet him.

    Part I
    link to
    Part II
    link to

    I hope those films may provide a more balanced perspective.

    Regards from Poland, Sylwia

  15. Thanks very much, Sylwia. The links are all fascinating, but I think the film is just what I’ve been looking for – about a different kind of trip and interaction with poles. Marek Edelman was a great man, but he is virtually unknown in Israel, due to his anti-Zionist views. The fact that he was also a hero and a man of principle made him all the more “dangerous”.