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July 7, 2011 6:48 pm

Antisemitic Trends in Poland

avatar by Maggie Glanowska

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Synagogue vandalized by Anti-Semitic slogans. Photo: Untamle.

In Poland, anti-Semitism is still one of the most controversial, sensitive and shameful subjects in the political, cultural and socio-economic arenas. To better understand the current sentiment Poles share and have a clearer picture of the Polish-Jewish relationship, I have created a study that determines that there is no direct correlation between the state of the economy in modern Poland and anti-Semitism between 1993 and 2010. My dependent variable constituted years in which anti-Semitism was high in relation to other years, while my independent variables were composed of the four most common economic indicators used to measure economic performance: unemployment rate, inflation rate, consumer price index and gross domestic product (GDP).  Surprisingly, when I compared the levels of anti-Semitism with the economic indicators, the results were clear – no correlation. For instance, when I compared the data of 2006, all four variables were desirable, the state of the economy was not deteriorating, but the level of anti-Semitism continued to be high. The results were pretty consistent with an exception of 1993.

Since the state of economy has a limited or almost non-existent influence on anti-Semitism in contemporary Poland, the question is: What triggers such strong anti-Semitic moods in Poland? I believe the answer can be found in Polish nationalism. Nationalism, as a collective state of mind, creates ethno-centric perception of reality and provides basis for prejudice and hate. Anti-Semitism is infused by political agendas of extremist right-wing parties that are in power since the fall of communism. Taking into consideration the tragic history of the country and deeply rooted nationalism, Poles do not oppose.  Political parties, supported by the influential Catholic Church, create an environment in which anti-Semitism is cultivated.  Adam Michnik, former Solidarity activist, in his article The Polish Witch-Hunt published on June 28, 2007, stated, “Today, Poland is ruled by a coalition of three parties: post-Solidarity revanchists of the Law and Justice party; post-Communist provincial trouble-makers of the Self-Defense Party; and the heirs of pre-World War II chauvinist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic groups that form the League of Polish Families.” This “grand coalition” of the political parties and the Church lost its true concept and threshold between healthy patriotism and unhealthy nationalism.

Modern nationalistic spirit of Poles is also a response to the process of globalization and Poland’s entrance into the European Union.  The melting pot of cultures, political agendas and religions creates uncomfortable fear and generates identity crises for Poles.  Tragic historical events that took place in Poland, the fear of change and possible cultural invasion create opportunity for neo-nationalistic and anti-Semitic movements.  The threat is imaginary, but the fear may be real, so Poles resist an idea of a multi-ethnic country.   Therefore, anti-Semitism is a response of Poles to historical struggles for independence, political instability and insecure national identity, which of course cannot, is not, and should not be treated as a legitimate justification.

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  • Ms. Glanowska raises some intriguing research ideas which makes me want to read her thesis on the topic. The idea of attempting to show correlations between anti-Semitic levels and economic performance is quite novel, and as an Asian Business scholar I could see applying her research methodologies to other groups such as the discrimination that overseas Chinese groups feel in the countries of Southeast Asia.

    I applaud her for having the intestinal fortitude for undertaking such a controversial topic. Regarding her commentary on the Polish people, etc., I cannot comment intelligently as I have no knowledge on this area. But again I applaud her efforts for taking a stand, in that in the best traditions of academia she is willing to say what may be unpopular, in order that it be discussed and examined by other scholars. Well done!

  • Wojtek
  • Maggie Glanowska

    Hello Everyone,
    First, I would like to state that in my essay I didn’t mean to offend anyone. If I did, I truly apologize. Second, I should mention that the essay published above is a fragment of my 90-page study. It is a lesson for me to not to publish parts of more extensive work, because fragments may be taken out of context and may be misinterpreted. Third, despite negative comments, I maintain my position that anti-Semitism still exists in MODERN Poland, but is not connected to economic conditions. That was the main point of my study. To show contemporary Polish anti-Semitism, I examined several studies like this one:

    My data on anti-Semitism, I took from the Public Opinion Research Center (CBOS) which is the largest and the most trusted public opinion research institute in Poland. The agency employs 400 field staff in 24 regions of Poland. Results of all polls are double-checked by regional coordinators. Since 1993, the bureau monitors attitudes of Poles toward different nationalities, and those polls were used in my study. Throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the level of negative attitudes of Poles towards Jews was very high (between 53-45%). Changes from year to year ranged from 1%-5%, and increases and decreases did not follow any specific pattern. However, in 2007 the situation started to change and the level of anti-Semitism decreased by 5%-8% each year. OK, enough data…. I am not going to discuss on this public forum who said what and what party supports Jewish communities and what party – doesn’t. The bigger question is what can WE DO to fight anti-Semitism? What educational programs can we launch to reduce anti-Semitism, not only in Poland, but also in the world? All ideas are welcome! Anyone?

    Maggie Glanowska

  • David J

    Unfortunately, the article is correct in portraying Poland as having a resurgent antisemitism. I don’t see any attempt to paint the entire country as antisemitic, or suggsesting that Israel or Jews have no suporters there. Of course, they do. The main point is that there is no correlation of antisemstism with economics. This is interestesting because it is a classic trend in the history of antisemitism. That is not present in Poland is certainly of noteworthy. The existence of very public antisemitism in Poland, not just private expressions, is clear: In early 2010, we heard about a Polish Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, one of the leading figures in the Polish Catholic Church, who described the Holocaust as a “Jewish invention” in an interview with an Italian Catholic news website. If a leader of the Church is willing to go on record that the Holocaust was mythical, I think it is self-evident that antisemitism is alive and well in Poland. (Ignorant antisemitic blatherings from the antizionist troll Mr PissedOff, notwithstanding.)

  • Michal M

    Wow what a biased article… wow

  • PissedOffAmerican

    “What is the reason for such a hate-filled and provoking article without any reason or justifiable cause to falsely accuse Poland of anti-semitism?”

    Its all they got. Eternal victimhood, staged while Israel engages in policies and practices motivated by a national mindset that rivals the bigotry of the most virulent anti-semite.

    “Also, as a Polish-American I can say in all honesty that there is far more anti-semetism here in the US then ever existed in Poland”

    Yes, true. And increasing. As the murderous and bigotry driven policies of Israel become more and more conflated and confused with Judaism, you will see anti-semitism continue to rise. Plus, Israel’s acts of espionage against us, false flag attacks designed to involve us in Israel’s conflicts, and targeting of American citizens engaged in peaceful protest, (Tristan Anderson, Emily Henochowizc, etc, Furkan Dugan, etc), are becoming too blatant to ignore. It doesn’t help, either, that these embarrassing subservient slut politicians in Washington DC ship the racist murderous little nation billions of our tax dollars while THEY enjoy a robust economy, as WE are going broke.

    “What triggers such strong anti-POLISH mood in the JEWISH community?”

    Do not mistake the radical hate filled propagandistic blatherings that are the common fare at this site for the sentiment of the “jewish community”.

  • janek

    Ms Maggie is right and the comments to this article attest to it. Poles are incurable nationalists.

  • Correction: This article was published by Maggie Glanowska, not Daniel Vahab. It was originally published on Daniel’s weekly newsletter on antisemitism as a guest essay by her.

  • Tom Baldyga

    I have to question the author’s knowledge of the current political situation in Poland. PM Tusk is one of the most anti-nationalistic leaders Poland has ever had. He currently serves in a leadership role in the EU where he promoting European unity.

    Also, the author fails to point out that Poles as a group ake up the largest number of gentiles on Israel’s Yad Vashim wall of rightious gentiles.

    Poland has been a haven for Jews when Israel did not exist. There is a reason why so many Jews called Poland home prior to WWII, it’s because they opened their doors to the Jewish people while other European countries either killed them or expelled them.

    Also, as a Polish-American I can say in all honesty that there is far more anti-semetism here in the US then ever existed in Poland.

  • Helena Grynberg

    I’m am a Pole of Jewish origin brought up and living in Poland, near Kraków. What is the reason for such a hate-filled and provoking article without any reason or justifiable cause to falsely accuse Poland of anti-semitism? Sorry, I have never seen or witnessed it here, and I’m living in Poland. Poles are more tolerant to Jews than all countries in Western Europe, today and historically, and the government supports Israel strongly. Is some graffiti on a synagogue (probably scrawled by some punks who do the same to Catholic monuments as well) a reason to paint an entire country as anti-semitic? Your assumptions and article is nonsense and again, purely a provocation. Polish Catholics are doing all that is possible to mend ties with the Jewish community and diaspora and very good developments have come out of such efforts. Articles like this one only hinder such good deed efforts. The ruling government is PO and was voted by Poles democratically. They chose such a government over any fringe party, which discredits the article in Alegmeiner.

  • Daniel Kolczuk

    What triggers such strong anti-POLISH mood in the JEWISH community? I do NOT believe the answer can be found in Jewish nationalism, but instead in miseducation. Also you are incorrect about “extreme” right wing parties being in power, Donald Tusk of PO is Prime Minister. Also please do not mistake being pro-church as being anti-Semitic because I don’t call Jews who go to synagogue “Christian-haters.”

    • Roman Solecki

      I fully agree wirth you, Mr.Kolczuk. I’m a US citizen and formerly a Jewish Pole. I also was a member of Polish Underground (PPS/WRN)connected to the Polish Government in Exile. I also participated in Warsaw Uprising 1944. That much about my background. Reading Mr.Vahab’s article I wondered whether we talk about the same Poland. Yes, there are and were Polish nationalistic parties which were often antisemitic. That much is correct. Talking about the present: the ruling PO party is right of center (in the US it would be identified as left of center), its main competitor PiS is more to the right than PO but hardly an “extremist right-wing party” as Mr. Vahab suggests. PO is certainly not antisemitic and while there are anti-semitic elements in PiS it is also hardly an antisemitic party. Mr. Vahab should know that the late Polish President and PiS member, Lech Kaczynski, was considered in Israel to be her best friend.