The Polish-Jewish Lethal Polka Dance

Keywords: Jewish-Polish relations, Israeli-Polish relations, Holocaust victims, bystanders, perpetrators.

Abstract

Aim. This paper analyses the inherent paradoxes of Jewish-Polish relations. It portrays the main beliefs that construct the contradicting narratives of the Holocaust, trying to weigh which of them is closer to the historic truth. It seeks for an answer to the question whether the Polish people were brothers-in-fate, victimized like the Jews by the Nazis, or if they were rather a hostile ethnic group.

Concept. First, the notion of Poland as a haven for Jews throughout history is conveyed. This historical review shows that the Polish people as a nation have always been most tolerant towards the Jews and that anti-Semitism has existed only on the margins of society. Next, the opposite account is brought, relying on literature that shows that one thousand years of Jewish residence in Poland were also a thousand years of constant friction, with continuous hatred towards the Jews. Consequently, different accounts of World War II are presented – one shows how the Polish people were the victims, and the others deal with Poles as by-standers and as perpetrators.

Results and conclusion. Inconsistency remains the strongest consistency of the relations between Jews and Poles. With the unresolved puzzle of whether the Polish people were victims, bystanders or perpetrators, this paper concludes with some comments on Israeli domestic political and educational attitudes towards Poland, that eventually influence collective concepts.

Cognitive value. The fact that the issue of the Israeli-Polish relationship has not been deeply inquired, seems to attest to the reluctance of both sides to deal with what seems to form an open wound. At the same time, the revival of Jewish culture in Poland shows that, today more than ever, the Polish people are reaching out to Israelis, and are willing to deal with history at an unprecedented level. As Israelis who wish to promote universal values, a significant encounter with the Polish people may constitute a door to acceptance and understanding of others. Such acceptance can only stem from mutual discourse and physical proximity between the two peoples.

 

Author Biographies

Nitza Nitza Davidovitch, Faculty of Social Studies, Ariel University, Ariel 40700, Israel

Prof. Nitza Davidovitch serves in teaching and administrative positions at the Ariel University. She is currently the Head of Quality Assessment and Academic Instruction in Ariel University and the Head of the Israeli Consortium of Faculty Development Centers. She is the head of the Teacher Training Program at the Education Department. Her areas of research interest include academic curriculum development, development of academic instruction, Holocaust awareness and Jewish identity, student exchange programs with Germany and Poland, preservation of the heritage of Jewish sects, and moral education. 

 

Eyal Lewin

Eyal Lewin is Professor Assistant [Senior Lecturer] at Ariel University. He is also a research fellow at the Kinneret Center on Peace, Security and Society. Serves as Academic Advisor for the MA program at the National Security College of the IDF. Lewin is the author of academic papers and monographs and editor of books focusing on general socio-political phenomena such as patriotism, national resilience, national ethos, and Israel studies.

References

Aleksiun, N. (1999). Polish Historiography and the Jewish Holocaust. Bishvil Hazikaron, 34, 34-42 [Hebrew].

Ben Arieh, K. (1987). September 1939. Tel Aviv: Lavi [Hebrew].

Bergman, E., K. Czerwonogora, K. Gebert, V. Hannush, H. Lieberman, M. Matuszewka, & Sajdak, A. (2011). 1,000 Years of Jewish Life in Poland. Belmont, CA: Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture.

Bikont, A. (2016). The Crime and the Silence: Confronting the Massacre of Jews in Wartime Jedwabne. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Blatman, D. (2001). Polish Self Examination and the Jewish Perspective. Bishvil Hazikaron, 43, 12-16 [Hebrew].

Davidovitch, N., & Soen, D. (2015). The Trip Experience – Poland and the Polish People as Perceived by Israeli Youth in Light of their Trips to the Death Camps. In N. Davidovitch, & D. Soen (Eds.). (2015). Shoa and Experience - A Journey in Time. Boston, MA: Academic Studies Press.

Gerstenfeld, M. (2000). Wartime and Postwar Dutch Attitudes toward the Jews: Myth and Truth. Jewish Political Studies Review, 12 (1, 2), 55-95.

Gross, J. T. (2001). Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Horowitz, G. (2011). The Other Poland. Yisrael Hayom, November 27, 2011: 5. [Hebrew].

Lehrer, E. (2010). Can There Be a Conciliatory Heritage? International Journal of Heritage Studies, 16, 269–288.

Lewin, E. (2014). Ethos Clash in Israeli Society. Lanham, MD: Lexington.

Lukacs, R. C. (1989). Out of the Inferno: Poles Remember the Holocaust. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky.

Michnic-Coren, J. (1999). The Troubling Past: The Polish Collective Memory of the Holocaust. European Bibliography of Slavic and East European Studies, 29, (1-2), 75-84.

Michnik, A. (2014). The Trouble with History: Morality, Revolution and Counterrevolution. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Noakes, J. and G. Pridham (1990). Nazism: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts, 1919-1945. New York, NY: Schocken Books.

Paulsson, G. S. (2002). Secret City: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw, 1940-1945. Suffolk, UK: Yale University Press.

Perechodnik, C. (1996). Am I a Murderer? Testament of a Jewish Ghetto Policeman. New York, NY: Westview Press.

Renz, R. (2004). Small Towns in Inter-War Poland. In A. Polonsky (ed.) (2004). Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry. (pp. 143-151). Portland, OR: Litman Library of Jewish Civilization.

Rubinstein, E. (2015). Witness: Passing the Torch of Holocaust Memory to New Generations. Toronto, Canada: Second Story Press and March of the Living.

Steinlauf, M. C. (1997). Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust. New York, NY: Syracuse University Press.

Wróbel, P. (1997). Double Memory: Poles and Jews after the Holocaust. East European Politics and Societies, 11, 560–574.

Zimmerman, J. (2003). Contested Memories: Poles and Jews during the Holocaust and its Aftermath. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Published
2019-09-02
How to Cite
Nitza Davidovitch, N., & Lewin, E. (2019). The Polish-Jewish Lethal Polka Dance. Journal of Education Culture and Society, 10(2), 15-31. https://doi.org/10.15503/jecs20192.15.31