Proposal Final

Josh Furnary

Hist. 299


299 Paper Proposal

            The defeat of the Nazis and eventual end of WWII left Europe in immense turmoil. Specifically, Poland found itself ravaged throughout the war and left in vast social, economic, political, and religious tumult. Over 90 percent of the Jews in Poland before the war were killed by 1945- roughly 3 million people. Most of the remaining 10 percent who survived after the war 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 returned from the concentration camps. When they returned, they were not welcomed back by the gentile Poles with as 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 reveals that some underlying motives were 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 documentary is extremely useful because it reveals a different view point from that of Jan Gross’s book Fear. In Lozinkski’s documentary, citizens from Kielce spoke of how the Jew’s themselves were at fault for the pogrom. It demonstrates that for many of the common gentile citizens of Kielce, popular consensus held the Jews responsible, even though the facts paint a different picture.

The sources reveal that there are many possible motives for the anti-Semitism that stemmed during the Kielce Pogrom too. Part of the general hate can be broken down to human survival instinct. Poland was continuously occupied between the Nazis 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 returning back into Poland, the gentile Poles who took the Jews property out of survival instinct didn’t want to give it back up. They even went as far as hating the people whom they took possessions from, likely because they did not want to admit they had taken so ruthlessly from the Jews. This in part explains Gross’s book; the fear he refers to lies within the gentile Poles who were scared the returning Jews would expose them for the thieves they were.

This understanding helps to make sense of why the Kielce Pogrom took place. 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 bolster their role politically.

The Kielce Pogrom is one of the lesser known events of the 20st century, yet it reveals 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. A wide spectrum of people, whether they were government officials, policemen, shop owners, or Boy Scouts, took place in the events of that July day in 1946. What spawned and influenced the actions of the Kielce Pogrom is an important question worth investigating.














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