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New International, April 1947


Edward Findley

Anti-Semitism and the Polish People

A Criticism


From The New International, Vol. XIII No. 4, April 1947, p. 127.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.



The appearance of L. Rudzienski’s oversimplified and partly distorted survey of Polish anti-Semitism in The New International without a hint of editorial criticism and disagreement is more than a little disturbing.

Unfortunately space does not permit me to discuss in this letter all of the many false historical generalizations which abound in his article. I shall confine myself in this letter to an attempt to cast doubt on his interpretation of anti-Semitism in present-day Poland.

The political content of Rudzienski’s version is suspiciously identical with that contained in the communiques issued by the American Polonia and the PPS in which, for all intents and purposes, entire responsibility for the pogroms is thrown on the Stalinist regime and its provocateurs. According to these, the pogroms are not at all the expressions of a widespread, popular, mass based, indigenous anti-Semitism but the artificial provocation of Stalinist agents.

This attempt to absolve the opposition parties and the Polish masses of all responsibility and guilt is morally not too far removed from the other variant of the provocateur theory of pogrom origins advanced by the Stalinists. The latter cast Gen. Anders, the NSZ and the PSL (Mikolaczyk’s peasant party) in the provocateur role.

This lumping of the PSL together with the NSZ (reactionary armed bands who played a leading part in the anti-Semitic lynchings) is part of the criminal Stalinist game in which Jewish blood is used to smear and discredit the political opposition. In this connection it is important to bear in mind that this dirty Stalinist game is facilitated by the fact that up to the Kielce massacre the PSL shut its eyes to the anti-Semitic propaganda campaigns of its friends and supporters.

The PSL defense that its declaration on the Kielce pogrom was confiscated and that its newspaper, the Gazette Ludova, was prevented by governmental press censorship from adequately condemning the pogrom, loses much of its force when one examines the Cardinal Hlond-like statement made by Mikolaczyk in an uncensored press interview several days after the ghastly event of Kielce: “The PSL is against political and racial struggle based on political violence.”

This inadequate (to say the least) statement seems designed to “condemn” the pogrom without alienating the various anti-Semitic and reactionary tendencies which hung on to the coattails of the PSL.

Both the Stalinist and Rudzienski-PPS variants of the provocateur theory of pogrom origins give, in effect, a clean bill of health to the Polish masses who participated in the lynchings and to the still greater mass which had deep sympathies for the pogroms and gave the lynchers moral support. These absolutions are moral and political swindles.

The Kielce crowd, approximately 5,000 strong, was a large and representative cross-section of the Kielce population. It included thousands of petty-bourgeois and workers (from the great Ludvikov factories) , intellectuals, Catholic priests and militiamen.

For seven hours, this mass, calmly and without haste, in broad daylight and in the center of the city, sadistically tortured to death several dozen Jews (who had been disarmed and turned over to the mob by the Stalinist militia) without interference or intervention by any police, military or political agency. Not a single party (including the PSL which exercised great influence in the district) lifted a finger to intervene in any manner whatsoever.

Couple the mass participation in the Kielce lynching with the fact, that when the Stalinist puppet regime sentenced nine lynch mob leaders to death, thousands upon thousands of workers in Lodz and other factory towns went out on strike in protest against the death sentences, and the conclusion that the pogroms are expressive of a powerful, deep-seated and long-standing popular anti-Semitism becomes inescapable.

How can one say, as does Rudzienski, that “the principal cause of anti-Semitism in Poland is Stalinist policy” and that the Stalinists are “artificially fomenting” the pogroms in Poland? (my emphasis – E.F.) To seriously advance this thesis Rudzienski must be prepared to do two things:

  1. To deny the popular, spontaneous, mass character of the pogroms.
  2. To prove that the NSZ bands, who are guilty of hundreds of individual assaults and lynchings of Jews and who provide the leadership in the mass pogroms, are Stalinist agents.

It is not sufficient merely to establish that the Stalinist regime failed to prevent and suppress the Kielce massacre when they could easily have done so but let it take place so that they could use it for their dirty ends. The fact still remains that the massacres themselves were the work of anti-Semitic sections of the Polish masses led by NSZ elements. Rudzienski presents no facts that would deny the latter contention. Vigorous assertions to the contrary are not enough.

The published details of the anti-Semitic activities in Stalinist Poland seem to point in a direction away from Rudzienski’s thesis and to indicate that the anti-Semitic tendencies of the Polish petty-bourgeois play not a “secondary role” but a principle one in the development of anti-Semitism in present-day Poland.

Rudzienski’s lumping of all opponents of his thesis into the same pot with those who believe that “the anti-Semitism of the Polish people is ‘biological,’” is sheer demagogy.

To say, for example, that anti-Negroism in the South has widespread, deep, popular roots is not the same as affirming that the Southern whites are “biologically” anti-Negro. By fulminating against the latter generalization one does not disprove the former.

Rudzienski’s resort to a theory of artificial provocation to explain the phenomena of anti-Semitism in post-World War II Poland is, in part, an extension of his false premise that under the Nazi occupation real solidarity characterized the relations between the Jewish and Polish masses of that country. One wishes that Rudzienski were able to cite specific acts of material aid to the Warsaw ghetto fighters rather than “documents of the proletarian and human solidarity” to prove his claim that “the Polish workers’ movement lent all possible moral and material aid” to the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto uprising in April 1943. (My emphasis – E.F.)

In conclusion I would like to point out that I consider myself a partisan of Polish freedom and national liberation from the oppressive, imperialist tyranny of Stalinist Russia. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the cause of Polish liberation is ill served by whitewashing those elements in Polish life who share the guilt of Kielce.

Reply, by Ernest Erber

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