Pogrom Cries – Essays on Polish-Jewish History, 1939–1946

2nd Revised Edition

by Joanna Tokarska-Bakir (Author)
©2019 Monographs 512 Pages
Open Access


This book focuses on the fate of Polish Jews and Polish-Jewish relations during the Holocaust and its aftermath, in the ill-recognized era of Eastern-European pogroms after the WW2. It is based on the author’s own ethnographic research in those areas of Poland where the Holocaust machinery operated. The results comprise the anthropological interviews with the members of the generation of Holocaust witnesses and the results of her own extensive archive research in the Polish Institute for National Remembrance (IPN).
«[This book] is at times shocking; however, it grips the reader’s attention from the first to the last page. It is a remarkable work, set to become a classic among the publications in this field.»
Jerzy Jedlicki, Professor Emeritus at the Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Dedication
  • Contents
  • Introduction: The land of the deadly exclusion
  • Post Script
  • Chapter 1: The Polish Underground Organization Wolność i Niezawisłość and Anti-Jewish Pogroms, 1945–1946
  • Chapter 2: The Unrighteous Righteous and the Righteous Unrighteous
  • Chapter 3: The Trial of Tadeusz Maj. The History of AL Unit “Świt” in the Kielce Region
  • Chapter 4: Ethnographic Findings on the Aftermath of the Holocaust through Jewish and Polish Eyes in the Memory of the Polish Hinterland
  • Chapter 5: “Our Class”, in Klimontów Sandomierski
  • Chapter 6: The Figure of the Bloodsucker in Polish Religious, National and Left-Wing Discourse, 1945–1946
  • Chapter 7: Pogrom Cries
  • Chapter 8: Communitas of Violence. The Kielce Pogrom as a Social Drama
  • Chapter 9: “Barabasz” and the Jews. Chapters from the History of the Home Army Unit Wybranieccy
  • Chapter 10: Suppressio veri, suggestio falsi. The History of Ryszard Maj’s Testimony
  • List of previously published papers
  • Appendix
  • Bibliography
  • Index of Names

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Irena Grudzińska-Gross

Introduction: The land of the deadly exclusion

Those who are following the present developments in Poland will not be surprised that the question of what happened to Jews during the Second World War and right after it is steadily getting more and more attention. As time passes, the temperature of the debate seems only to increase. Since the formation of the Law and Justice [PiS] government, entire institutes and ministries have been devoting themselves to this topic. History is being written anew, in which Lech Kaczyński features as the leader of the Solidarity movement, and millions of Poles are involved in saving Jews in the Nazi-occupied Poland. A shrine to the Polish Righteous has been erected in Father Rydzyk’s Toruń sanctuary. The Second World War is being fought again.

There are several reasons for the continued presence of this particular fragment of the past. Its harrowing nature and lasting consequences do not allow it to fade. The book Pogrom Cries is one of the efforts to examine this part of history in all its documentary depth. The author, Professor Joanna Tokarska-Bakir, is an ethnographer, cultural anthropologist, and public intellectual – her thinking defies artificial disciplinary divisions. She bases her work on archival research, interviews, anthropological and ethnographic studies. She writes about the culture of antisemitism and studies violence and social rituals. Her c.v. shows an impressive list of publications and awards. Her presence in public debates is invaluable. Hers is one of the most important voices in the controversies about Polish history and she keeps them more grounded in documented facts than they would be otherwise.

The ten studies that form the present book probe the history of Poland during the Second World War and in the immediate post-war period. The studies are based on materials from three regions – Kraków, Kielce, and, partially, Białystok. Focusing on these territories allows a dense description of something that is difficult to call other than ethnic cleansing: both during the German occupation and after the occupation ended. The focus of the studies is on perpetrators and abettors, the “neighbors” and the anti-German resistance movements, both on the left and the right. Their actions and motivations are described with unflinching clarity. For the author, the documentary thoroughness seems to be here a moral imperative of sorts. The reader will find the studies emotionally difficult to read. It must have been at least equally hard to write them.

←9 |

As I said, all of the studies are thoroughly documented. Their innovative character consists in working on the words of persons who witnessed the events analyzed or participated in them. These words are found in interviews, legal depositions, various testimonies, and reminiscences. Tokarska-Bakir calls these fragments “verbal fossils” and they permit the reconstruction of both the facts and how people understood them. Hence the title of the book – Pogrom Cries. We are lucky to have it masterly translated by Blanka Zahorjanova (and one text by Avner Greenberg). The author exhibits a high degree of methodological self-awareness. There are no unsubstantiated claims. The assumptions are always questioned, opinions separated from facts. It is an exemplary work of research, on a topic whose violence did not distort the writing process.

The first study in the volume, “The Polish Underground Organization Wolność i Niezawisłość and anti-Jewish Pogroms, 1945–1946,” has been added to the present edition. It presents the newest thoughts and discoveries about the immediate post-World War II situation. The second study presents the etiology of the situation of Jews hiding to survive: the author analyzes several case stories from the regions mentioned above. She discusses the sources and the language of witnesses: their use of terms such as “to apprehend Jews,” “to hand over Jews”, “to hold,” “to conceal.” It is a particular vocabulary – a phrase can sound matter-of-fact and colloquial, but mean exploitation and death. Quoting the novelist and Holocaust survivor Bohdan Wojdowski, Tokarska-Bakir calls these words “the memory of that time.” Confronted with the testimonies of those who were hidden or saved, we get to comprehend the utter extremity of their situation.

Chapter three of the book is a case study of the trial of Tadeusz Maj, the leading commander of the leftist anti-German partisan movement in the Kielce region. His case, as well as the case of General Korczyński, contradicts the theory that it was only right wing partisan groups that were involved in the extermination of Jews. After the war, Tadeusz Maj was convicted of the systematic killing of Jews who, in June and July of 1944, were escaping from the Starachowice labor camp. The study unearths the links between those who persecuted Jews during the war and the post-war Kielce pogrom: these links point to Mieczysław Moczar, a “patriotic” communist, later responsible for the 1968 anti-Jewish purges.

The next chapter discusses the post-war completion of the anti-Jewish ethnic cleansing in the town and surroundings of Klimontów Sandomierski, a small urban entity typical of south-central Poland. The chapter is based on the ethnographic research undertaken in the years 2004–2008, and can be described in terms of the archeology of language. In the interviews with local people, the author and her collaborators probed the question of why the Jews who returned after the war soon disappeared from that area, how they were killed or chased ←10 | 11→away. We follow the fate of four local millers and their unsuccessful efforts to reclaim their property and to rebuild their former lives. The author shows them as victims of the antisemitism that transforms itself into a discourse of anti-communism. The characters from that chapter reappear in the next study, which, analogically to Tadeusz Słobodzianek’s play Our Class, looks at the neighborly and school links between the Klimontów victims and victimizers.

Chapter six discusses the role that the figure of the Bloodsucker played in the consolidation of the Polish nation in the immediate post-war period. In this cultural and anthropological study, Tokarska-Bakir looks at three versions of that figure: religious, national, and leftist. In the following chapter – “Pogrom Cries” – the work of the Bloodsucker is shown in all its murderous potential. The author cites the words uttered by participants or witnesses in the attempted Rzeszów pogrom of 1945, in the pogrom of Kraków of the same year, and in the 1946 pogrom of Kielce. In all three events, the blood libel rumors were the motivation for the initial mob gathering. The study shows the mentality of the victimizers and the dynamics of the transformation of a crowd into a pogrom mob. Chapter eight continues the analysis of the Kielce pogrom, which, although the best documented among such events, is still contested as to the reasons and inspiration behind it. In a structural analysis of the pogrom, the presence among the attackers of the representatives of the authorities is interpreted by Tokarska-Bakir in terms of the desire to establish territoriality – the “our-ness” of Polish territory. That social eruption bound the “people” to the elites. From then on, the elites tried to encourage Jewish emigration from Poland. “Antisemitism,” Tokarska-Bakir writes, “became a social cause that united Communists and anti-Communists alike.”

The ninth study, written with Alina Skibińska, is devoted to the important aspects of the history of a famous unit of the Home Army – Wybranieccy – and of its leader. A thorough analysis of sources allows us to see the pattern of systematic murdering of Jews on the pretext of protecting the safety of the unit (or even without any pretext at all). The next and final chapter continues the research in the “racial liquidation” of Jews by partisan units. It is also a methodological summary of the way such research should be conducted. It is a proper end to the book, the language of which is direct and somber, the stories of killings and persecution horrific. Though its tone seems mild, it is highly polemical toward the established ways Polish historians use to work on these issues. If they touch them at all.

The above summary does not do full justice to this book, which is rich in argument, historical background, and insight. The ten studies have continuity between them and this quality gradually enriches the image of these times. Each study ends with conclusions, but they pertain to the topic discussed, without generalizations. Enough material is provided, though, for the reader to understand the repetitive ←11 | 12→nature of ethnic cleansing. My own conclusions from reading these studies are very painful. The words quoted in the book, the “fossils” that come from the depth of violence, from the very heart of darkness, show murderous prejudices enshrined in customs, tradition, beliefs, and religion. Prejudices supported by local structures and social institutions. The rites of violence and the reasons for them are documented, not explained away. They cannot be contextualized or limited to a certain moment in history, though certainly the war provided a very fertile ground for them. We can recognize them in the language of the present; we can see the persistence of hostility that once led to murder. We are facing the revival of aggressive victimhood that removes the barriers of civility and remorse. Today’s return of Polish fascist movements, the acceptance of antisemitic argumentation, the near-sanctification of the soldiers who perpetrated the murders of Jews, described in this book, are all terrifying developments. Wojtek Wołyński’s cover illustration captures it aptly: The thugs are coming. The very same thugs. They are almost here.

I started by wondering about the reasons for the continued interest in the events of the Second World War: shouldn’t we have by now engaged in some other, more recent preoccupations? Pogrom Cries – the poignancy of its descriptions, the desperation of its quiet tone – is proof of the presence of that past. The writings about war, violence, Shoah, exterminations, refer to the past but speak also about the present. We can apply to this phenomenon the term, used in literary studies, of “synchronicity,” the coexistence of two time zones. This explains the popularity of the term “trauma” used in relation to war experiences – even if submerged in denial, the events resurface each time we encounter a “trigger” situation. Traumatic events seem to have the longevity of toxic waste; they remain in circulation, and are not degradable.

The concept of trauma is not necessary for “synchronicity” to function: memory itself is at the same time “now and then.” We think about ourselves, as individuals or members of a community, in a temporal way. In order to have an identity, to be authentic, we need continuity. We have a past so that we can hope for a future, a future that we want, that we imagine for ourselves. And what kind of continuity, of our past, do we see in the studies making up the present book? We see a land that is hostile to Jews not only because of the danger that hiding them brings. We see Jews pushed beyond the line that separates those who have an obvious right to live from those who are destined to die, their goods to be harvested, their traces erased. There was always a difference between the Christians and the Jews, but that difference was maximized in the years described in the book. What we are talking about is the complicity in ethnic cleansing, and the persistence of the hostility toward its victims. The echoes of the pogrom cries have not faded away.

* * *

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Post Script

The second edition of Pogrom Cries is enlarged by an additional chapter, entitled The Polish Underground Organization “Wolność i Niezawisłość” and Anti-Jewish Pogroms, 1945–1946. The chapter deepens and completes the author’s analysis of the cognitive attitudes towards Jews of the members of that organization; a question is what turned into pogromschiks. The chapter is very important and based on thorough documentation, but I am happy to say that even before it was added the book has been recognized as a major achievement in Polish-Jewish studies. What’s more, Pogrom Cries has provided a grounding for the next step in Joanna Tokarska-Bakir’s extraordinarily incisive writing about the history of violence against minorities on the territory of Poland. That next step takes the form of the book Pod klątwą. Społeczny portret pogromu kieleckiego (Under a Curse. A social portrait of the Kielce pogrom). The book appeared in 2018 and is certainly a final word on the reasons and, especially, the sequence of events during the 1946 Kielce pogrom. On the basis of years of archival research, intense study and interviews, Tokarska-Bakir was able to prove beyond doubt that there was no single decision or intent behind the pogrom (the “communist provocation” thesis), and, following that certitude, was able to show multiple agencies that lead to the explosion of accumulated hatred and malevolence. Under a Curse allows us to see the actors and the events in all their horrible vividness.

Under a Curse is a breakthrough not only as an illuminating analysis of the mechanism of the two-day Kielce massacre, but also as an innovative approach to the historical and biographical documentation. In her accumulated knowledge about the region, the city, the participants in the pogrom and its victims, Tokarska-Bakir was able to reconstruct the social scene that made the violence happen. She discovered the links between participants, the dynamics of the decisions taken or avoided by the authorities, the atmosphere of siege in the city and its environs. I expect her book to lead to the revision of the commonly accepted version of the history of that pogrom. And, consequently, to have an enormous impact on the interpretation of the entire period of recent Polish history tout court.

One could say that there are no “final words” in the writing of history, but the depth and conclusive documentation that lie at the basis of Under a Curse allow me to make an exception to this rule. Many of the preceding studies that prepared this Kielce book are contained in the present volume. The fact that they lead to a next step in the author’s work does not diminish their value. Quite the opposite, their insight has been proven right, their energy turned out to be fertile ←13 | 14→and productive. It is fascinating to see how the texts in this volume inform each other, build upon the knowledge that has been tested and enriched. They are part of a continuum of research, thinking and writing that is removing barriers to the clear and straight image of recent history.

This ark of historical, cultural and ethnographic work is quite unprecedented and should be admired as such. Fortunately, Professor Tokarska-Bakir does not labor totally alone. Pogrom Cries is a part of a larger intellectual production. I’m referring here to a (small) movement I would call the New School of Thinking about the Shoah, i.e., a number of historians, anthropologists, literary scholars, writers and journalists whose work examines the extermination of Jews during and after World War II. Most of the people I have in mind are women who, like Joanna Tokarska-Bakir, in their writings pierce through almost iron taboos. They avoid the pressures of discretion, academic loyalties, good taste, patriotism; they don’t search for exculpatory context or for equilibrium between “two sides” of the matter. Another thing they reject is the paralyzing question: “How would I myself behave in such a situation?” that excuses the questioner from moral judgment or even study of reprehensible acts, placing the matter on the level of you-who-are-without-sin cast the first stone. I think about women-writers rather than men, because they accomplish this taboo-boosting style of work by renouncing the position of authority that protects against questioning and rejection. They look for what happened on a very basic level, most of all in human biography, but also in the changes of the city maps, in literature, in oral history. Learned as they are, they do not use a priori theories, they move on the ground rather than in the air. Knowing that they are not and don’t want to be insulated by commonly accepted ideas, they fortify their research by extremely thorough documentation. They are governed by the belief that we can learn what happened and can present it in a way that will be heard. I have in mind historians, anthropologists, journalists and writers like Joanna Tokarska-Bakir, Barbara Engelking, Alina Skibińska, Anna Bikont, Elżbieta Janicka, Anna Zawadzka, Aleksandra Domańska, Monika Sznajderman, and many others working on subjects of violence but also on family and neighborly stories that throw light on the history of Jews. Their work requires knowledge, modesty, and industriousness, because it goes against strong group loyalties, established clichés and authorities, state supported institutes and academia, and the easy camaraderie of the majority. The members of that New School work on the past without propagating any ideology or group. It seems to be the most fruitful way one can write about the Holocaust.

The flourishing of the New School of Thinking about the Shoah is meeting with strong political and academic barriers. The breakthrough in the approach ←14 | 15→to the study of the Shoah did not come from the Polish historical establishment. For a long time already, the academic history in Poland has been too focused on being patriotic to produce any breakthrough. The authors of the most important works in the domain of recent history came from anthropology, ethnography, cultural and literary studies. Now these domains are under siege, and not only because they are often dealing with Jewish topics. All study of power relations in culture, of exclusion, gender, nationalism, postcolonialism are considered subversive. The new reforms of the Ministry of Education abolish these academic specializations, introducing instead a new discipline of “studies of culture and religion.” The state “captured” history: the universities and institutes that produce and employ new historians openly conduct a policy of regimentation of topics to be researched and conclusions to be reached. But it is never easy to silence people moved by the sense of responsibility for how the past is seen in the present. No matter how much money and honors the state-captured history bestows upon its acolytes, it is this other work, independent and free that is fruitful and interesting. As proven by the present book.

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Chapter 1:The Polish Underground Organization Wolność i Niezawisłość and Anti-Jewish Pogroms, 1945–1946


In the two years following the German occupation of Poland, before the consolidation of Communist rule in 1947, between 400 and 2,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors (depending on the estimate) encountered a form of violence that has long been a subject of historical debate. Several different explanations for this phenomenon have been put forward. Some have linked it to the absence of law and order in post-war Poland, others to the involvement of some Polish Jews in installing the Communist regime, while yet others have seen it as a response to Jewish efforts to re-acquire property that was appropriated during the war by Germans and Poles.1 In this text, drawing on arguments advanced by Roberta Senechal de la Roche with regard to a 1908 race riot, or pogrom, in Springfield, Illinois,2 I attempt to examine the anthropological dimension of such events in more detail.

In explaining the origins and nature of collective violence, scholars over the past few decades have moved away from traditional social strain theory,3 which posits objective threats as the reason for attacks, towards a more dynamic view in which the perception of threats by different individuals in changing social and historical contexts gives rise to violence. The affective turn in the humanities has also provided an impulse to reinterpret the traditional Aristotelian definition of fear, considered as “a painful or troubled feeling caused by the impression of an imminent evil that causes destruction or pain”.4 Today, most scholars of collective violence espouse a different reading of the phrase ‘that causes’ in the definition ←17 | 18→above. They have concluded that fear as a stimulus does not trigger an automatic reaction since it is always filtered through a historically changing system of deep-rooted cognitive habits which interpret signals in accordance with a cultural system of expectations.5 Because of this, the focus of research on collective violence has shifted from threat to threat perception, since the same thing can be interpreted as threatening and non-threatening in different situations or cultures.6

While democratic society in theory accepts the upward mobility of minority groups, in traditional hierarchical society, based on the subjection of “deviants”, it is treated as a breach of the social contract. As we will see, this is precisely the type of situation we are dealing with in post-war Poland, where, for the first time, Jews assumed pivotal public positions.

The Wolność i Niepodległość Archive

This article analyses the deep-rooted cognitive habits among informers and reporters belonging to the organization Wolność i Niezawisłość (WiN, Freedom and),7 as seen in documents from the WiN archive, preserved at the Archiwum Narodowe w Krakowie (State Archive in Kraków), Poland, under reference no. ANKr 1214. It is estimated that WiN had between 20,000 and 30,000 members, making it the largest pro-independence organization in Poland after the Second World War.

WiN was founded on 2 September 1945, at the initiative of underground commanders who refused to accept the decisions of the Yalta Conference which made Poland part of the Soviet sphere of influence. The founders of WiN did not intend it as a political organization. Its leader, Lt. Jan Rzepecki, was referred to as “President,” and the organization’s board was to be elected by members. Nevertheless, those at the grassroots thought of themselves as soldiers and, particularly in central Poland, played an active part in the ongoing civil war. An important ←18 | 19→part of WiN’s activities was a publishing and propaganda campaign, seen as a prelude to the expected free elections guaranteed at Yalta. Many of the sources analysed here were produced within its framework.

WiN, well known to scholars of Poland’s post-war history, has so far been described only in political terms.8 In this text, I will offer an anthropological perspective based on documents in its archive relating the organization’s attitude to Jewish Poles.9 Another criterion governing the choice of texts to be analyzed is a focus on the pogroms perpetrated in post-war Poland. Following the Second World War, Poland, like Ukraine, Slovakia and Hungary, witnessed numerous anti-Jewish pogroms, the first on 14 and 15 June 1945 in Rzeszów; the second on 11 August 1945 in Kraków; and the third and bloodiest, with forty-two victims, on 4 July 1946 in Kielce.10 Using Peter Brass’s terminology, the pogrom spark almost everywhere in Poland in 1945–1946 proved to be accusations of ritual murder. What remains to be investigated is the nature of the tinder11 that caught the spark.

Although WiN was established in the autumn of 1945, the archives, as well as the Kielce pogrom, document the earlier pogroms in Rzeszów and Kraków ←19 | 20→and the ripple effect12 that followed the one in Kraków, including incidents in Tarnów (WiN, 7, c. 205, 3717), Radom (WiN 5, c. 41, 3557) and Rabka (WiN, 7, c. 205,3717). The goal here, however, is not to determine the course of any of these incidents. The intention is rather to learn about the social views of the perpetrators, whose statements and reports make up the WiN collection13. What were they afraid of? What outraged them? How did they view the conventions governing relations between the dominant ethnic group and the Jewish minority after the Holocaust? What customs did they believe to be threatened and by whom? What was the hierarchy of these norms? Who was supposed to defend them and who was perceived as the deviant against whom self-defence (pogrom) was organized, according to Senechal de la Roche’s theory of collective violence14?

Classification of Fears

The most important threats linked by WiN informers in 1945–1946 to the behaviour of the Jews can be arranged according to the following six factors:

A.fear of Communism, which, as is apparent in the widespread use of the term “Żydokomuna” (Judaeo-Communism), is believed by the authors of WiN reports to be collectively represented by Jewish Poles;

B.fear of Jewish upward mobility: after positions unattainable in pre-war Poland became accessible to Jewish Poles in “Lublin Poland”15, something the dominant group experienced with humiliation and saw as a violation of the social contract providing for the subordination of the subordinated;

C.fear of a Jewish plot articulated as “the Masonic conspiracy” or “Jewish world domination”;

←20 | 21→

D.demographic panic connected with the return/influx of Jewish Poles from the Soviet Union, and fears that they would reclaim their pre-war properties inhabited then by non-Jewish Poles;

E.fear of racial pollution caused by mixed marriages on a massive scale, and the consequent “deforming influence” of Jewry, perceived as excluding Polishness;

F.fear of ritual murder.

What proves striking in the reports about Jewish Poles compiled by WiN is descriptive language devoid of any civic categories. The language is strikingly distinct from expressions such as “Jewish citizens” or “Polish citizens of Jewish origin” that appear in the documents of “Lublin Poland”. What appears in the WiN documentation, rather, is the divisive and dichotomous term “Poles-Jews” which signals demonization, predisposing those so called to pogrom.16 It is well known that demonization facilitates the collective attribution and liability of transgression.17 The declaration in the WiN archives of the organization’s attitude towards national minorities states: “The Polish state secures equal civil rights to all national minorities in Poland”. However it makes these rights conditional on whether the minority “takes a friendly stance towards the state” and atones for its offences:

“All organizations, individuals or national groups, who have harmed the Polish Nation, must be justly punished” (WiN 10, c. 33, 3278).

Considering the context of declarations that justify collective responsibility in advance, the conditions imposed on the Jewish Poles for entering the Polish nation, could have proved difficult to meet.

A.Fear of Communism personified by Jews

The reports compiled by WiN in 1945 describe Jews as a homogeneous group:

“The society’s attitude towards the Government of National Unity is unanimous. We all share the opinion that the people in charge of the government have been sent mostly by Russia and obey orders from Moscow. No one, except for the Polish Worker’s Party [Polska Partia Robotnicza, PPR] recognizes the Government of National Unity. All Poles know that this country is ruled by Jews and the NKWD18” (WiN 7, c. 42, 3558).

←21 | 22→

“Jews: their anti-state activity targets the Polish state and society” (WiN 5, c. 8, 2705).

“Almost all of them [Jews] are informers for the Soviets and the Office of Public Security” (WiN 7, c. 8, 3655)19.

“In the present democracy, they play a special role. Without exaggeration, you can say that every Jewish man or woman you come across is a member of the NKGB or NKWD” (WiN 5, c. 7, 2704).

However, detailed reports present a different picture:

“Jews can be divided into two groups. a) One faction aims at assimilating with Poles as fast as possible. This group pursues its goals by all sorts of means: conversion to Christianity, marriage [with non-Jews], changing their last names (common). This group stays in Poland. b) The second faction leaves Poland and goes abroad: to Palestine and, in most cases, to the areas occupied by the British. This group includes mostly poor and simple people” (WiN 7, c. 60, 3570).

Another report, possibly compiled by a person employed at the office of the Military Censorship, notes that “in letters sent abroad, Jews always ask their relatives to help them to leave Poland” (WiN 42, c. 41, 5262).20

B.Fear of Jewish upward mobility

The reports notoriously express anxiety about the social and professional activity of Jews, who, not long before, had been deprived of their rights and, before the war, were only able to enter domains reserved for ethnic minorities. The following, from October 1945, is characteristic:

“Jews always stay united and do not disperse. However, today they play a prominent role in our political life. We see them in all significant political positions – in local government, the military, industry, etc. – although they try not to stand out, and assume Polish names to conceal their nationality. The rest of Jewish society believes that they have played ‘a beautiful role’ in our national life and seem to be waiting for an opportunity to emigrate from Poland” (WiN 2, 3560).

←22 | 23→

“Jews are fixed in roles and positions everywhere throughout Poland. Even in the military they did nothing to ease the repressions” (WiN 1, c. 202, 2369).

The ethnic profiling present in the reports compiled by WiN reports relates exclusively to Jews and Russians. The following is a typical:

“A large percent of Jewish Communists, who came to Poland, had been trained in Russia, and are now being installed as ethnic Poles in central government, the Office of Public Security, the military, industry, commerce, the press, propaganda apparatus, radio and in the Polish Worker’s Party” (WiN 7, c. 214, 3730).

The author of this report is concerned that Jews impersonate Poles, which (together with “denying their Jewish origins”) forms a common conversational script in a society where civic identity categories are not applicable. Assimilative tendencies are interpreted as a means to acquire positions that the author is convinced are reserved for Poles. Although not all Jews are viewed as striving for prominent positions, this did not make their reputation any better. The following text was noticed in the conspiratorial press, Na jakim koniu jadą żydzi w Polsce? (Which horse are the Jews in Poland riding?):

“Jews aim at capturing all public life and bringing it under their control. They do not force their way into executive and representative positions but prefer to join at a second and third layer. They conceal their origins and assume Polish names. They want to seize control of the propaganda (Borejsza21), especially its most important departments – the press, film and radio – in order to form opinions and outlooks. In the military they seize control of all political, economic and intelligence functions. When it comes to the ministries, they try, primarily, to install themselves in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Public Security, the Treasury, Ministry of Industry. (…) The rule they follow is to control everything while sitting behind the Poles’ backs!!!” (WiN 11, c. 340, 3265).

C.Fear of Jewish conspiracy


ISBN (Hardcover)
Open Access
Publication date
2017 (September)
Holocaust in Poland's countryside Holocaust aftermath in Poland Polish pogroms against Jews Ethnic cleansing after the WW2 in Sandomierz region, Poland War killings of Jews by Polish partisans Anthropology of violence
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019., 512 pp., 5 fig. b/w, 2 tables

Biographical notes

Joanna Tokarska-Bakir (Author)

Joanna Tokarska-Bakir is a cultural anthropologist and Professor at the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences at Warsaw, Poland. She specialises in the anthropology of violence and is the author, among others, of a monograph on blood libel in European perspective and a monograph on the Kielce pogrom.


Title: Pogrom Cries – Essays on Polish-Jewish History, 1939–1946
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