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Yehuda Bauer: My Brother's Keeper

A History of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee 1929-1939

[Holocaust preparations in Europe and resistance without solution of the situation]

The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia 1974

Transcription with subtitles by Michael Palomino (2007)



Chapter 5. Prelude of the Holocaust
[A. Destruction of the Jewish existence in Poland 1929-1939]

[5.2. Discrimination and murderous pogroms in anti-Semitic Poland 1935-1939]

[Discrimination of Jews in Poland is harsher than in the Third Reich]
The economic problems, which will be discussed below, were accompanied by a growing crescendo of physical attacks by anti-Semitic elements on the Jewish population. At times these attacks tended to overshadow the dismal poverty into which the Jewish masses were sinking. The physical attacks were accompanied by acts of deliberate discrimination that equaled, and often exceeded, the steps taken by Germany's Nazis at that time.

[March 1935: Lodz: Subsidies for Jewish institutions abolished]

In early March 1935 the Endeks [National Democrats] ruling in the municipality of Lodz (a town with a Jewish population of 200,000) abolished all subsidies to Jewish institutions.

(End note 3: Jewish Chronicle, 3/22/35 [22 March 1935], p.22)

[Years 1935-1937: Discrimination of Jewish students from universities enforced]
Late in 1935 the long-standing Endek demand to separate Jewish university students from their non-Jewish colleagues was put into operation in Lwów; the Warsaw Polytechnic followed suit in October 1937, as did the universities of Vilna, Cracow, and Poznan.

(End note 4: Ibid. [Jewish Chronicle], 12/20/35 [20 December 1935], 1/17/36 [17 January 1936]. R61-report on Poland, February 1939, 46-report 1938; special bulletin of AJC [American Jewish Committee], 2/1/38 [1 Feb 1938])

[Since early 1935: Boycotts and pogroms against Jews with stones, fire and many murders]

Starting in early 1935, boycotts of Jews spread all through the Polish countryside. These were followed by pogroms: window-smashing, the overturning of Jewish market stalls, beatings, arson, and finally murder. The details of these brutalities are repetitive and terrible.

In 1935 pogroms took place at Radomsko in April, at Radosc (near Warsaw) and Grochow in May, at Grodno in May. In December [1935] these isolated occurrences began to harden into a campaign: disturbances in Klwow, Lodz, Katowice, Kielce, and Hrubieszow were followed in January 1936 by attacks on Jews in Cracow and Warsaw, among other places.

On March 9, 1936, a terrible pogrom occurred at Przytyk, where two Jews were killed and many houses burned: Bombs were thrown in those same months in 13 more towns, including Minsk Mazowiecki; there a second pogrom occurred in early June and, after four Jews had been killed, most of the Jewish population left for Warsaw.

During 1936 and early 1937 the pogroms became a daily occurrence in Poland, and clearly indicated increasingly better oganization. In Czestochowa riots started in June 1937 (p.183)

with a fight between two porters; a well-organized boycott movement against the Jews prolonged the unrest there for months.

Kahn discerned "carefully planned activities of anti-Semitic elements, in which high government officials participated." In the course of the Czestochowa pogrom, the Endek paper Ganiec Czestochowski gave lists of streets on which Jews had not as yet been robbed.

(End note 5: Large amounts of material on the pogroms are available at the JDC archives, files R13, R52, R60, 8-21, 14-5, 46-reports 1936, 1937, 1938; See also: WAC, Boxes 345 and 366. The quotation is taken from Kahn's report, 6/7/37, in R52; See also: Jewish Chronicle 4/19, 5/3, 5/10, 6/14, 9/6, 11/2, 12/6, 12/13/35; 3/13, 3/27/36; et seq.)

75 Jews were wounded in this particular outbreak.

In May 1937 another outbreak occurred at Brest Litovsk, where a number of Jews were killed and some 200 wounded.

(End note 6: R13-Hyman's report to the Budget and Scope Committee, 6/27/37; see also WAC, Box 366 (a)

Between May 1935 and January 1937, 118 Jews were killed and 1,350 wounded; 137 Jewish stores were destroyed. A total of 348 separate violent mass assaults on Jews were counted during the period, and the compilation was termed both "unofficial" and "incomplete". Another compilation showed that between the end of 1935 and March 1939, 350 Jews had been killed and 500 wounded.

(End note 7:
-- New York Times, 2/7/37 [7 Feb 1937];
-- R10-American Jewish Committee review of the European situation, 3/30/39 [30 March 1939] (by Moses Moskowitz)

The wave of pogroms did not abate throughout 1937 and 1938. In August 1937 five severe outbreaks occurred in central Poland, and anti-Jewish demonstrations occurred in seven towns, including the capital.

(End note 8: WAC, Box 366 (f)

One result of these events was an increased movement of the Jews from smaller places, where they felt themselves exposed, to the larger towns, where  they thought they would be safer.

But in early 1938 the riots spread to Warsaw, and from then on attacks on Jews in the larger cities became a normal occurrence.

[Jews on strike and self-defense units against riots - police supports the pogroms]

Several times the Jews reacted by demonstrations and general strikes (March 1936, May and June 1937). In Warsaw and Lodz the Bund tried to create Jewish self-defense units. These were supported by PPS as well, but police intervention in favor of the pogromists

(End note 9: "Jews have been deserting many villages en masse and going to the cities, their property burned down and their very lives endangered" - JDC Executive Committee (ECO), 9/23/37 [23 September 1937])

neutralized Jewish opposition.

(End note 10: 44-3, cable 3/20/38 [20 March 1938]; ibid., 8-21

[1938-1939: Poland: Boycott movements in anti-Semitic Poland ruin Jewish communities]

In 1938 and 1939 the anti-Jewish boycott movement became more and more effective. Again, it was mainly the small Jewish communities that were hit, and in this a parallel to the experience in Germany can clearly be discerned. These boycott actions were usually organized by the Endeks, but by early 1939 the government OZN group also supported them.

In February 1939 an OZN- (p.184)

inspired boycott in the Lublin area caused Jewish economic life to be "practically ruined".

(End note 11: R61, February 1939)

The number of Jewish stores in town after town decreased, while the Polish stores grew in number, despite the continued economic crisis.

(End note 12:
-- JDC, 45-publicity, Warszawski Dziennik Narodowy, 4/14/38;
-- R28-Fortnightly Digest, no. 14 (5/1/38 [1 May 1938], et seq.)

[Early 1939: Poland: Deportations of Jews from the frontier towns]

In early 1939 Jews were forced to leave certain frontier towns because they were considered to be unreliable elements - as though Jews were less interested in resistance to the Germans than were the Poles. In this connection "almost one-quarter of the Jewish population of Gdynia was deported".  At Katowice it was "feared that half the local Jewish population may be forced to emigrate elsewhere."

(End note 13: See note 11 [R61, February 1939])

[1939: Anti-Semitism also in Western and Northwestern Poland]
Riots, pogroms, and boycotts now spread to areas in western and northwestern Poland, where the number of Jews was very small; up till then these areas had been spared from excesses.

(End note 14: 45-publicity, bulletin, 3/10/30 [10 March 1930]; thus a bloody pogrom in Dobrzyn caused "many Jews to be wounded", etc.; at the same time the pogroms did not cease elsewhere).

[April 1936: Poland: Law against ritual slaughter]
Jews, especially observant Jews, who formed the majority of Polish Jewry, were hard hit by Polish laws against ritual slaughter (shehita) enacted in April 1936 and, in a final and drastic form, in March 1939. Not only was religious freedom sharply diminished, but a large number of Jewish butchers and supervisors of ritual slaughter were threatened with economic ruin.

[March 1939: Poland is threatened after German occupation of CSR - laws against Jews in anti-Semitic Poland]
The general and extreme anti-Jewish movement, both political and economic, continued until the spring of 1939. Only with the increased Polish-German tension after Hitler's conquest of Czechoslovakia in March did Polish anti-Semitism show signs of weakening, as the attention of the Polish nationialists became directed outward.

Yet the long campaign against the Jews was even then by no means over; on the contrary, it was the clear intention of the middle-class parties to enact openly anti-Jewish legislation. Laws modeled on Nazi legislation were to include "the revision of citizenship and the elimination of the Jews from the economic and cultural life of Poland."

(End note 15: 44-4, memo, 5/1/39 [1 May 1939])