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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]

[5.3. Structure of criminal anti-Semitism in Poland in the 1930s: Church - economy - nationalism]

[1930s: Three elements of anti-Semitism in Poland]

Polish anti-Semitism in the 1930s drew its inspiration from three sources:

-- the traditional, historic enmity of a Catholic people to the Jewish minority;
-- economic competition exacerbated by crisis conditions;
-- and a virulent form of nationalism that was influenced by Fascist models.

[There was already an anti-Semitism before 1929. So, with the world wide economic crisis since 1929 anti-Semitism in Poland is rising to a level during the whole 1930s which is in Nazi Germany reached only in 1938].

[The propaganda of the Polish Catholic church against the Jewish population]

The historic element was most clearly expressed by the church, (p.185)

which exercised a tremendous influence and used it to agitate in fairly extreme terms against the Jews. Although paying lip service to its abhorrence of "the eruption of human passions" generally, a statement by the Catholic Press Agency in early 1936 declared the Catholic belief in "the cultural separation of Poles and Jews".

It thought that Jewish youth was generally "badly brought up, which sets a bad example for Christian youth". Jews were accused of having Communist leanings. "As to other negative traits of the Jewish character", the statement continued, "even writers of Jewish origin do not fail to emphasize them. In the forefront of the fight against Christianity in Poland, there too Israel's sons are being found."

Anti-Jewish boycotts were justified because it was no sin to defend the laborer against exploitation.

(End note 16: 46-reports 1936/7-Catholic Press Agency statement, 1/25/36 [25 January 1936], Moskowitz-Schneidermann report, March 1937)

"The Jews are ulcers on the Polish body", declared a Polish paper, and another Catholic writer thought that while "no power will be able to stop" the hatred between the Jews and Poles, "this hatred is highly beneficial to our Polish trade and to our country."

(End note 17:
-- Lukomski in Sprawy Katolicke, Lomza, 11/10/36 [10 November 1936],
-- and Kerwalski in Gazetta Swiateczna, no. 2915 (1936);
-- 46-report)

Traditional anti-Semitism could also be discerned in aristocratic circles, as in the newspaper Czas, which was under the influence of Prince Radziwill and Prince Lubomirski. The peasant leaders declared that they opposed anti-Semitism radically, "but they could not ignore the importance of polonizing industry and relieving the peasant from exploitation by the Jewish traders."

(End note 18: CON-17, 7/1/38 [1 July 1938], memo by Raymond L. Bull of the Foreign Policy Association to the American Jewish Committee)

[1928-1934: Economic desaster in anti-Semitic Poland provokes poverty of traders and farmers - measures against the Jewish competitors]

One can see in these opinions the overlapping of the economic and nationalistic aspects of anti-Semitism with the more traditional element. The peasants were hard hit by the crisis, which caused agricultural prices to fall from an index of 100 in 1928 to an index of 34 in 1934, whereas government and private monopolies in industries contrived to prevent a similar decline in prices of manufactured goods, which only fell to 82.

(End note 19:
-- R14, Kahn material, November 1936;
-- Raphael Mahler: Jews in Poland between the Two World Wars (Hebrew); Tel Aviv 1968, p. 15)

These fluctuations in prices affected the small Jewish trader no less than they did the peasant, for indeed the economic decline of the peasant was the root cause of Jewish rural poverty. Of course, the peasant leaders failed to see this. On the other hand, the crisis increased cutthroat commercial and industrial competition. In this (p.186)

area the Polish middle class was supported by the government in its violent attack on Jewish competitors.

[Joint Distribution Committee working in Poland helping the Jews]

Essentially, therefore, it was the task of JDC as the major Jewish aid organization to fight a rearguard action to protect the helpless Jewish trader and artisan as afar as possible against the combined onslaught of government, mob, and economic competition.

[Since 1937: Anti-Semitic Poland copies the Nazi laws against Jews of the Third Reich]
Economic and nationalistic anti-Semitism was clearly Nazi-influenced. Revocation of Jewish equality in Poland became a declared Endek [National Democrat] policy in April 1937. Boycott measures and pressure on Jews to emigrate referred constantly to the German example.