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Antisemitism in an Era of Transition

Continuities and Impact in Post-Communist Poland and Hungary

Edited By François Guesnet and Gwen Jones

The post-Communist transition in Eastern Central Europe has brought about democratic reform, liberalized economies and accession to the European Union, but also the emergence of political movements that revert to antisemitic rhetoric and arguments. This volume compares the genealogies and impact of antisemitism in contemporary Poland and Hungary. Leading and emerging scholars contrast developments in both countries from the last quarter of the nineteenth century to the present, analysing the roles played by organised religion, political leaders, media and press, but also by Communist Parties. They present historical analysis as well as the results of qualitative and quantitative research on contemporary public memory, the image of the Jew, antisemitic media, political constituencies and the interplay of prejudices, specifically anti-Roma racism. A topical bibliography of research on antisemitism in post-Communist Eastern Central Europe offers pathways to further research.
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The Emergence of Antisemitism in Times of Rapid Social Change: Survey results from Poland: Mikolaj Winiewski and Michal Bilewicz


Mikołaj Winiewski and Michał Bilewicz

That rapid social change often leads to pathologies and societal problems is common knowledge, both in sociology and psychology.1 Economic crises, systemic transitions, and industrial and political revolutions change the lives of individuals and threaten existing social norms. This process, described by Durkheim as anomie, might also have very specific psychological consequences. People whose situation is rapidly deteriorating tend to seek explanations for their misfortune, and this is why they often seek scapegoats, minority groups that can be blamed.2 Difficult life conditions lead to feelings of relative deprivation among individuals and groups, and real and imagined deficits and deprivation are also known to increase competitive and prejudiced reactions between ethnic groups.3

The political transformations that occurred in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe around 1989 has been studied in many aspects, although empirical works on the impact of transformation on antisemitic prejudice are rather scarce, with some notable exceptions.4 It is clear that the change of economic system from state-owned to a free market, together with the change of political system from single-party Communist regime into a pluralistic parliamentary democracy could have a significant impact on inter-ethnic relations in these countries, including re ← 187 | 188 → lations towards Jews. In case of Poland, several large surveys analysed the forms and patterns of antisemitism after 1989,5 while numerous opinion polls typically asked participants to answer a few questions about Jews, Israel or the Holocaust. In order to discuss the impact...

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