Poland is not them

The Jewish Historical Institute recently published “Poland is not Them. Poland and Poles in Polish-language Jewish press in the Second Polish Republic” by Anna Landau-Czajka. Below you will find a short summary of the book written by its author.

Wide menachem kipnis zih 9

Recent years have brought a veritable flood of works concerning the history of Jews in Poland and Polish-Jewish relations. This second issue has been discussed in many works, however, most of them focus on it from the perspective of the Polish people — how did Poles treat their fellow citizens — the Jews, what they thought of them, which stereotypes were common among the Polish society. This issue has not been investigated from the Jewish perspective. Until this day we still don’t really know what how Jews perceived Poland and Poles, whether there existed any established national stereotypes. It is a problem which has in recent years garnered the attention of many scientists.

Additionally there exists, in certain circles, the conviction of the “anti-Polish” sentiments held by Polish Jews, a sentiment usually treated as an absolute truth, one that does not require any evidence. It would be worthwhile to investigate whether this stereotype is reflected in the Jewish press of the inter-war period.

It became apparent that though the stereotype of the Jew (or rather the many stereotypes of Jews) is very easy to recreate based on the Polish inter-war press, the opposite — recreating the stereotype of the Pole from Polish-language Jewish press — is impossible. Further research was required to come closer to understanding how the acculturated Jewish press viewed, or maybe rather presented Polish society. The work was thus broadened to include the press’ attitude towards Poland as a homeland and present Jewish patriotism. In other words: what was the attitude of the acculturated Jewish press towards Poland and Poles? Did it present its readers with some coherent image or was it dependent on the type of the publication, the subject matter, current needs?

 In this case the work, though concerning a rather cohesive topic, is not a monograph in the strict sense — presenting every aspect of the topic. It should be treated as a catalog of questions rather than a collection of answers. Most chapters, and sometimes even passages, like the ones on the attitudes towards certain classes or professions, the questions regarding the causes of Anti-Semitism or the issue of reconciling a double patriotism with the demands citizens of any country must meet, deserve their own monographs. Additionally every publication of the dozens presented here awaits its own research paper. As a result this work should be viewed as a review of research questions, an outline of issues which should be researched much more thoroughly and extensively.

We must also remember that any answers to the questions posed in this book apply only to one of the groups in the diverse Jewish community — acculturated Jews. And we must not forget even for a moment that this work is missing a second volume — the presentation of the same issues in the Yiddish press. There is no doubt that there were significant differences between these two perspectives, not lest due to the fact that they were intended for disparate audiences, audiences which differed from each other not only in language but also education, degree of assimilation, a often political leanings. We can only hope that someone will delve into this issue sometime soon.

Find out more about “Poland is not Them” in the Jewish Historical Institute Publications section.

 Anna Landau-Czajka, sociologist and historian, professor — Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW), chairwoman of the JHI’s Program Board. Deals with the history of Polish-Jewish relations, women’s history and the social history of the 20th century. Author of: And they shared one house. The ideas of solving the Jewish issue in Polish publications (1933–1929) (1998), What Alice discovers on her side of the looking-glass. Everyday life, society, government in children’s school books 1785-(2002), And the Son will be Lech… The assimilation of Jews in inter-war Poland (2006). Published a series of texts concerning women’s history in the collected works “A Woman and…” edited by Anna Żarnowska and Andrzej Szwarc.


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