The Polish-Jewish Lethal Polka Dance

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


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.


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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.