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Poland and Polin

New Interpretations in Polish-Jewish Studies


Edited By Irena Grudzińska-Gross and Iwa Nawrocki

The contributions in this volume reflect discussions and controversies during the Princeton University Conference on Polish-Jewish Studies (April 18–19, 2015). The debates examined the politics of history in Poland, as well as the scholarly and pedagogical need to move beyond national and diasporic narratives in researching and teaching Polish-Jewish subjects. They focused on the role and meaning of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
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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.

Of course, like any broad phenomenon, Anti-Semitism in Poland has its specificity, but it is not specific to Poland. Nonetheless, when we discuss mutual relations between Poles and Jews, we borrow terminology from the anti-Semitic lexicon, above all the term “Jewish...

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