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Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 9: Poles, Jews, Socialists: The Failure of an Ideal [Paperback]

Antony Polonsky , Gershon David Hundert , Jerzy Tomaszewski
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: CDN$ 32.86 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Jan. 1 2007 Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry (Book 9)
'The less antisemitism exists among Christians, the easier it will be to unite the social forces . . . and the sooner workers' solidarity will emerge: solidarity of all who are exploited and wronged . . . Jew, Pole, Lithuanian.' Józef Pilsudski, 1903 The Socialist ideals of brotherhood, equality, and justice have exercised a strong attraction for many Jews. On the Polish lands, Jews were drawn to Socialism when the liberal promise of integration into the emergent national entities of east and central Europe as Poles or Lithuanians or Russians of the Hebrew faith seemed to be failing. For those Jews seeking emancipation from discrimination and the constraints of a religious community, Socialism offered a tantalizing new route to integration in the wider society. Some Jews saw in Socialism a secularized version of the age-old Jewish messianic longing, while others were driven to the Socialist movement by poverty and the hope that it would supply their material needs. But in Poland as elsewhere in Europe, Socialism failed to transcend national divisions. The articles in this volume of Polin investigate the failure of this ideal and its consequences for Jews on the Polish lands, examining Socialist attitudes to the 'Jewish question', the issue of antisemitism, how the growth of Socialism affected relationships between Poles and Jews, and the character of Jewish Socialist groups in Poland. The result is a significant contribution to the history of Jews in Poland. It also sheds light on the history of Socialism in east-central Europe and the complexity of national problems there. Editors and contributors: Israel Bartal, Daniel Blatman, Alina Cala, Stephen D. Corrsin, David Engel, Sylvia Barack Fishman, Gershon Hundert, Ross Kessel, Shmuel Krakowski, Dov Levin, Pawel Machcewicz, Stanislaw Meducki, Erica Nadelhaft, Magdalena Opalska, Richard Pipes, Antony Polonsky, Dina Porat, Teresa Prekerowa, Michal Sliwa, Janusz Sujecki, Jerzy Tomaszewski, Barbara Wachowska

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Review

'This massive volume is a pioneering step in the study of popular Jewish culture in Poland ... a fascinating collection.' Shulamith Z. Berger, AJL Newsletter 'Without a doubt, an important contribution to the study of the folk and popular culture of Polish Jewry ... Such an important collection of articles ... must be read from cover to cover.' Itzik Gottesman, Forverts --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Antony Polonsky is the first holder of the Albert Abramson Chair of Holocaust Studies, a joint appointment held in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Israel Bartal is Professor of Modern Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Director of the Centre for Research on the History and Culture of Polish Jews. Gershon Hundert is Professor of History and holds the Montreal Jewish Community Chair in Jewish Studies at McGill University. Magdalena Opalski is Adjunct Professor at the Institute of Central/East European and Russian Area Studies at Carleton University, Ottawa. Jerzy Tomaszewski is Professor of History in the Institute of Political Science at the University of Warsaw, and Director of the Mordecai Anieliewicz Centre for the Study of the History and Culture of Polish Jews.

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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Hardcover
Most Holocaust-related material, especially the films, seem to always portray Poles in a unilaterally negative light. This volume, by contrast, is well worth the reader's time. It gives various perspectives on Jewish-Polish relations during and immediately after WWII. But I take issue with some claims. In one article, Antony Polonsky cites a document from the mainstream Polish underground (AK) wherein the AK would come out in open combat if the Germans tried the same thing to Polish gentiles that they did to the Jews. From this, Polonsky infers that the leadership of the Polish underground saw Polish deaths as worth averting, but not Jewish deaths. But this is a complete non-sequitur on Polonsky's part. Remember that, along with 3 million Polish Jews, 2-3 million Polish gentiles were also being murdered by the Germans, yet the AK did not start a national uprising on behalf of the 2-3 million gentiles any more than it did on behalf of the 3 million Polish Jews. What the AK leadership was actually saying was that a national uprising would not be in the offing unless a large fraction of the Polish population was in danger of being exterminated in a full-blown genocide, at which time there would be nothing to lose, for Polish people as a whole, to come out in open warfare against the German occupation authorities. The Jews, of course, had nothing to lose already in 1942, but the Polish gentiles, as a whole, still did. That is the actual reason for the AK witholding more overt military action on behalf of the Jews. Nevertheless, the AK did aid Jews in various ways, including supplying the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Uprising with 50 firearms. This may not seem like much, but remember that every gun was worth its weight in gold. Read more ›
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Has an English Translation of Andrzej Paczkowski's Study of Jews in the Post-WWII Communist Security Forces (U. B., or Bezpieka) June 30 2010
By Jan Peczkis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This review expands an earlier one. Andrzej Paczkowski (pp. 453-464), using archival sources, examines the over-representation of Jews in the leadership of the UB, or Bezpieka. He comments: "One of the few reliable sources is a report sent by Nikolay Selivanovsky, the chief Soviet advisor at the Ministerstwo Bezpieczenstwa Publicznego (Ministry of Public Security, MBP) to Beria on 20 October 1945. According to this report, Jews made up 18.7 per cent of the ministry's workforce and held half of the managerial positions...we must accept these data, at least initially, as reliable." (p. 456). To put these numbers in perspective, post-Holocaust Jews constituted only 1% of Poland's postwar population.

Other figures cited by Paczkowski are either lower or higher, and these discrepancies probably stem from different reckonings based on geographical coverage, different criteria for "managerial position", etc. (p. 457). In any case, they all agree on the gross over-representation of Jews in the leadership of the hated Bezpieka--a force responsible for the torture and murder of tens of thousands of Poles.

The over-representation of Jews in the Bezpieka has at times been equated with Poles' over-representation earlier in the Cheka (the post-1917 Soviet Communist police). In actuality, the former was much more extreme than the latter. Poles, at about 2% of USSR's population, peaked at 6.3% membership in the Cheka (in September 1918), and declined rapidly thereafter. (p. 454).

Paczkowski rejects those who say that U.B.-serving Jews were no longer Jews. He compares it to those who say that Polish Communists are not "real" Poles. Besides, many U.B. Jews identified, to varying degrees, with their Judaism. (pp. 459-460). (Finally, according to Israel's Law of Return, one is Jewish if born to a Jewish mother, provided that one does not convert to another religion.)

Studying the U.B.--Jewish connection, according to Paczkowski, is a legitimate one, and is not "racist". (Is study of Polish misdeeds against Jews "racist"?)

Overall, this volume gives various perspectives on Jewish-Polish relations during and immediately after WWII. But I take issue with some claims. In one article, Antony Polonsky cites a document from the mainstream Polish underground (AK) wherein the AK would come out in open combat if the Germans tried the same thing to Polish gentiles that they did to the Jews. From this, Polonsky infers that the leadership of the Polish underground saw Polish deaths as worth averting, but not Jewish deaths. But this is a complete non-sequitur on Polonsky's part. Remember that, along with 3 million Polish Jews, 2-3 million Polish gentiles were also being murdered by the Germans, yet the AK did not start a national uprising on behalf of the 2-3 million gentiles any more than it did on behalf of the 3 million Polish Jews. What the AK leadership was actually saying was that a national uprising would not be in the offing unless a large fraction of the Polish population was in danger of being exterminated in a full-blown genocide, at which time there would be nothing to lose, for Polish people as a whole, to come out in open warfare against the German occupation authorities. The Jews, of course, had nothing to lose already in 1942, but the Polish gentiles, as a whole, still did. That is the actual reason for the AK withholding more overt military action on behalf of the Jews.

Nevertheless, the AK did aid Jews in various ways, including supplying the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Uprising not with 50, but with several hundred firearms. (See Peczkis review of Two Flags: Return to the Warsaw Ghetto). Even this may not seem like much, but remember that every gun was worth its weight in gold. In fact, if was worth human lives, as each donated firearm had been procured at risk of a Polish gentile's life, and kept at risk of a Polish gentile's life. And, of course, each gun donated to the Jews meant one less gun available to Polish gentiles to conduct guerrilla actions against the Germans, and to protect Polish gentiles in the event of a full-blown German genocide against the entire Polish population.
11 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seldom-Heard Perspectives On Polish-Jewish Relations Aug. 8 2001
By Jan Peczkis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Most Holocaust-related material, especially the films, seem to always portray Poles in a unilaterally negative light. This volume, by contrast, is well worth the reader's time. It gives various perspectives on Jewish-Polish relations during and immediately after WWII. But I take issue with some claims. In one article, Antony Polonsky cites a document from the mainstream Polish underground (AK) wherein the AK would come out in open combat if the Germans tried the same thing to Polish gentiles that they did to the Jews. From this, Polonsky infers that the leadership of the Polish underground saw Polish deaths as worth averting, but not Jewish deaths. But this is a complete non-sequitur on Polonsky's part. Remember that, along with 3 million Polish Jews, 2-3 million Polish gentiles were also being murdered by the Germans, yet the AK did not start a national uprising on behalf of the 2-3 million gentiles any more than it did on behalf of the 3 million Polish Jews. What the AK leadership was actually saying was that a national uprising would not be in the offing unless a large fraction of the Polish population was in danger of being exterminated in a full-blown genocide, at which time there would be nothing to lose, for Polish people as a whole, to come out in open warfare against the German occupation authorities. The Jews, of course, had nothing to lose already in 1942, but the Polish gentiles, as a whole, still did. That is the actual reason for the AK witholding more overt military action on behalf of the Jews. Nevertheless, the AK did aid Jews in various ways, including supplying the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Uprising with 50 firearms. This may not seem like much, but remember that every gun was worth its weight in gold. In fact, if was worth human lives, as each donated firearm had been procured at risk of a Polish gentile's life, and kept at risk of a Polish gentile's life. And, of course, each gun donated to the Jews meant one less gun available to Polish gentiles to conduct guerrilla actions against the Germans, and to protect Polish gentiles in the event of a full-blown German genocide against the entire Polish population.
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