New Interpretations in Polish-Jewish Studies
Jews as a Polish Problem; and Why Not – as a Part of Polish History?
Jews have no longer been living in Poland for dozens of years now, and simply on account of this physical absence, our topic for today – Jews as a Polish problem – belongs to the spiritual realm. After the Second World War – and most certainly after the late 1940s, when almost all Shoah survivors emigrated from Poland – Jews did not constitute an economic, demographic, professional, or otherwise materially defined “problem” for the Poles. To ask about Jews as a Polish problem – Jews as a Polish spiritual problem – is but another way of posing the issue of Polish anti-Semitism. It is so because in the realm of Polish spirituality, broadly speaking, Jews exist only as an embodiment of evil.
In one sense, this is not a very original issue. Until Jews had been murdered in the Shoah, wherever Christian tradition predominated throughout Europe, anti-Semitism was the norm. It was widespread and articulated in all sorts of manners: in the programs of social movements and political parties; in the teachings of Churches; and in the discriminatory practices of various institutions including, beginning in the 1930s, many European states. State anti-Semitism, however, was a breach of an important component of European identity: the Enlightenment-inspired ideal of civic equality.
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