The political history of the Central Committee Of Polish Jews (1944–1950)

The small Jewish community living in Poland just after the Second World War was very political. In 1947 somewhere form 20 to 22 thousand people belonged to 11 different political parties; the most popular were the Zionist Ichud (8 thousand) and the Polish Workers’ Party Fraction (7 thousand).

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Przemarsz chaluców z ruchu Ha-noar Ha-cijoni, Warszawa, 19 IV 1947 r.

That meant that every fifth Jew living in Poland, including women and children, belonged to some party. Between 1945 and 1950 there were 30 Jewish social organizations, including 4 veterans’ societies, active in Poland. 

With the politicisation came a large amount of social activity, particularly in Warsaw where the anniversary of the Ghetto Uprising was celebrated especially ceremoniously. In Wrocław various Polish, Jewish and Soviet anniversaries were celebrated every year, including the anniversaries of the October Revolution and the Red Army Day. Białystok also held celebrations to commemorate the uprising in the local ghetto. 

In the fall of 1944 the Central Committee of Polish Jews (CCPJ) was established in Lublin. Its task was to represent the Jews who survived the Holocaust: registering them, providing housing and food as well as financial assistance. It was composed of the representatives of the reactivated Jewish political parties: Bund, Ihud, Poale Zion Left, Poale Zion Right, Hashomer Hatzair and the Jewish fraction of the Polish Workers’ Party. The Committee worked closely with the American Jewish joint Distribution Committee in Warsaw. 

In 1946 the CCPJ consisted of 19 departments including the Repatriation Department, the Financial Department, Social Services, the Emigration Department and the Central Jewish Historical Commission; provincial, regional, district and local committees were created. All these details however, do not describe the atmosphere at the time. This applies both to the attitude of the Central Committee of Polish Jews towards the new reality and communist authorities, and to attitude of the Polish public opinion towards these institutions. When it comes to this former, one thing is certain: the majority of the Jewish activists came out in support of the communist authorities and were very critical towards the Government in Exile in London and the military and civilian organizations in Poland under its control. They did not hide their beliefs. However, it is difficult to understand how such a politically diverse group could so easily be taken in by the communist who were fighting for power. 

Nevertheless, in the early years after the war the Jewish community and the new authorities made an informal deal: in exchange for police and military protection, the former would give the government their political support. It is unclear, hoverer, to what extent this position of the CCPJ’s was due to their critical opinion of the inter-war period and to what extent it was the result of their war experiences. It is certain that many Jews realized that the support of the communist authorities would only strengthen anti-Jewish sentiment among the Polish population, and that police protection might then no longer suffice. It is possible then, that fear for their lives lost out to the doctrinism of Jewish communists and the determination of the Zionists, who even went as far as to manipulate the public mood in order to send as many survivors as possible to Palestine. 

These issues are discusses in dr. August Grabski’s book The Central Committee of Polish Jews (1944–1950). A Political History which is available at our bookstore. 

Visit the exhibition: After the Holocaust. The Central Committee of Polish Jews (1944–1950).


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