299 Paper Proposal Draft #1

Josh Furnary

Hist. 299


299 Paper Proposal Draft #1

            The defeat of the Nazi’s and eventual end of WWII left Europe as a whole in immense turmoil. Specifically, Poland found itself ravaged throughout the war and was left in vast social, economic, political, and religious tumult. Of the Jews in Poland before the war, over 90 percent had been killed by 1945- roughly 3 million people (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/ 20th_century/angap03.asp). Out of the remaining 10 percent who survived, many of them  attempted to return from either the concentration camps or from exile in the Soviet Union to their native towns in Poland. By 1946, specifically within the Polish town of Kielce, 200 or so Jews had returned from the concentration camps (Gross). When they returned, they were not welcomed back by the gentile Poles with much sympathy as one might assume; rather, they experienced profound resistance. On July 4th, 1946 the largest Pogrom against Jews since the end of the war took place in Kielce. Roughly 38 to 42 Jews were murdered and between 40-50 people injured in brutal and tragic fashion.

The Kielce Pogrom, as it is now known, reveals vast insight into the social and religious conflicts of post-war Poland in July 1946. The gentile Poles demonstrated a fear of Jews and anti-Semitism even though they themselves were not Nazis. What then was at the heart of this anti-Semitism in Kielce that ignited the Pogrom and influenced everyday citizens to mutilate and kill defenseless Jewish men, woman, and children?

The fact that the event took place clearly reveals that some underlying motives, not obvious to outsiders, are at play. In Jan Gross’s book, Fear, he delves deeply into this contradiction of human nature. The book is extremely heavily annotated with first hand sources and details of the events. Admittedly, it is hard to find translated accounts from Polish to English however. Another prominent source on the Kielce Pogrom is the subtitled documentary “Witnesses” by Marcel Lozinksi. This documentary is available via Professor Harris and has firsthand accounts of the events.

The sources reveal that there are many possible motives that the anti-Semitism stemmed from during the Kielce Pogrom. Part of the general hate can be broken down to human survival instinct. Poland was continuously occupied between the Nazi’s or Soviet Union throughout WWII, and the Poles struggled to survive. During the War, while the Jews were killed and forced into hiding, the gentile Poles immediately looted their property and possessions. Therefore, in 1946 when the Jews began matriculating back into Poland, the gentile Poles who took the Jews property out of survival instinct didn’t want to give up the property. They even then began to hate the people who they took from, likely because they didn’t want to admit their wronging. This in part explains Gross’s book; the fear he refers to lies within the gentile poles who are scared the returning Jews will expose them for the thieves they were.

This understanding helps to make sense of why the Kielce Pogrom took place, at least in part. The Pogrom can also be viewed as motivated from the top down. Some articles reference the Soviet Socialist Party as instigating the Pogrom in order to divert attention away from their shady politics and elections that were taking place during the time. And by jumping on board with the inherent anti-Semitism in Poland, the Communist Party could substantiate their role politically.

The Kielce Pogrom is one of the lesser known events of the 21st century, yet it reveals vast insight into the turmoil after the War. It is seemingly contradictory to think that with the Holocaust over and Jews finally liberated they would experience such disdain in their own towns. But it did happen, and it happened on a grand and gruesome scale.
















Gross, Jan. Fear: Anti-Semitism In Poland After Auschwitz. New York: Random House, 2006.

Blobaum, Robert, ed. Antisemitism and Its Opponents in Modern Poland. Ithaca, NY: Cornell       University Press, 2005.

Davies, Norman, and Antony Polonsky, eds. Jews in Eastern Poland and the USSR, 1939-46.       New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991.

Lozinski, Marcel. Witnesses: Anti-Semitism in Poland, 1946.

Kovachi, Aryeh Josef. “The Catholic Church and Anti-Semitism in Poland Following World         War II as Reflected in British Diplomatic Documents.” Gal-Ed on the History of the Jews     in Poland, no. 11, 1989.

Bliss Lane, Arthur. I Saw Poland Betrayed: An American Ambassador Reports to the American    People. Indianapolis and New York: The Bobbs- Merrill Co., 1948.

Browning, Christopher R. Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. Harper Perennial, 1998.

Checinski, Michal. Poland, Communism, Nationalism, Anti-Semitism. New York: Karz- Cohl        Publishers, 1982.

Gay, Ruth. Safe Amoung the Germans, Liberated Jews After WWII. New Haven and London:       Yale University Press, 2002.

Gay, Ruth. The Jews of Germany. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.

Gerrits, Andre. “Anti-Semitism and Anti-Communism: The Myth of Judeo-Communism in           Eastern Europe,” East European Jewish Affairs, vol. 25, no. 1 (1995).

Lendvai, Paul. Anti-Semitism Without Jews; Communist Eastern Europe. Garden City, NY:          Doubleday, 1971.

Michlic- Coren, Joanna. “Polish Jews During and After the Kielce Pogrom: Reports From the       Communist Archives,” in Polin, V.XIII (2000).




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  1.   Liberated jes | Triplegdating on September 29th, 2011

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