Lit. Review Draft

Josh Furnary

Hist. 299


Literature Review


            On July 4th, 1946 the largest pogrom in Polish history took place in the town of Kielce[1]. Upwards of forty Jews were killed either by stoning, beating, or shooting in a massive citywide massacre. What caused the attacks and motivated the all day pogrom against Jews is a question still greatly debated. More profound than the actual catalyst that instigated the pogrom, the false accusation of blood labeling, are the potential big actors behind the scenes. The literature holds rather consistent that in the earlier years the pogrom was thought to be instigated by the Polish Communist Party (PPR). But as the years passed the literature shifted blame more towards the Polish Peoples Party (PSL) and the anti-Semitism they felt. The vast majority of arguments fall within these two groups, while only a handful present different standpoints. Starting in 1948 two very critical and known figures of the era published books relating to the Kielce Pogrom, kicking off the argument of placing blame, just two years after the events took place.

            Arthur Bliss Lane argued in his book I Saw Poland Betrayed (1948) that the PPR was responsible because they stood to gain the most from the pogrom overshadowing the media coverage that was exposing their rigged referendum just five days prior[2]. Bliss Lane was writing as an extremely informed source because at the time of the pogrom he was the US ambassador to Poland. He resigned when he saw the complete communist takeover of Poland. Bliss Lane put the practical fault on the Communist party, but he also goes a step further appointing moral obligation on the Catholic church as well. He believes the pogrom would not have taken place if only Cardinal Hlond and the clergy in Kielce taken action to calm the crowd[3]. Stanislaw Mikolajcyk, the former leader of the Polish Peoples Party released a very similar verdict of the pogrom in his 1948 book The Rape of Poland. As the head of the nationalistic party, he was pushing extremely hard to expose the PPR of their falsified referendum by presenting data to western media outlets[4]. He viewed the attacks as being ordered in hopes of diverting the west from the referendum[5].

            In 1982 Michael Checinski, a former Polish intelligence officer, continued to put the blame on the communist party in his book Poland: Communism, Nationalism, and Anti-Semitism. Checinksi saw the Soviets benefit from the pogrom by their ability to frame the events. The Soviets were able to tighten their grip on security by calling into question the Poles inability to maintain law and order[6]. Checinski also quoted Bliss Lane and his construction of the referendum cover-up as a motive for the PPR to instigate the pogrom.

            Also in 1982, Stewart Steven, an English journalist, began the ground work for a movement away from directly Communist related motives towards more anti-Semitic and nationalistic ones in his book The Poles. Steven put the blame on behalf of the Jewish Communists who were returning from the USSR after WWII. For the most part, Steven claims the gentile Poles saw the Jews as deriving most of the power within the Soviets Communist rule over Poland as a result of their time spent exiled in the USSR during the war, even though practically the claims were false[7]. By 2004 Anita Prazmowska put forth the argument in her book A History of Poland that unlike most historians such as Bliss Lane, blame for the pogrom really lies in the legitimacy effort of the PSL[8]. She claims that lawlessness arouse out of the nationalistic movement of the PSL, led by Mikolajczyk[9]. Joanna Michlic, a Professor of Polish-Jewish history at Lehigh, also supports this idea that the nationalistic movement instigating the pogrom in her book Poland’s Threatening Other (2006). She recognized that anti-Semitism was so deeply engrained in Polish society that even school children did not want to associate with Jews[10]. This was significant because it meant for the PSL to gain legitimacy, it would need to garner support from the majority of Poles via anti-Semitic means, even if they themselves did not have anti-Semitic views.

            The shift of blame from the communist backed actors to the nationalist movement took place over many years. All the sources share a similar story and debate amongst the same style, yet none of the sources rely heavily on primary sources. They are mostly conjecture and broad looks at the motives and social history surrounding the Kielce Pogrom. Furthermore, there seems to be a lack of literature through the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s until interest sparks back up during the period of Soviet glasnost, or transparency. It is likely the Soviets kept that period of history under wraps, until research could be continued after the Soviet collapse. 



Works Cited

Prazmowska, Anita J. A History of Poland. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004.

Bliss Lane, Arthur.  I Saw Poland Betrayed: An American Ambassador Reports To The American People.                 New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1948.

Mikolajczyk, Stanislaw. The Rape Of Poland: Pattern of Soviet Aggression. New York: McGraw-Hill Book                Company, 1948.

Checinski, Michael. Poland: Communism, Nationalism, and Anti-Semitism. New York: Karz-Cohl                Publishing, 1982.

Steven, Stewart. The Poles. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1982.

Michlic Beata, Joanna. Poland’s Threatening Other: The Image of The Jew from 1880 to the Present.         Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006.

[1]   Anita J. Prazmowska, A History of Poland (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004), 191. The events actually took place on the 4th, but Prazmoska mistakenly says they took place July 23, 1946.


[2]   Arthur Bliss Lane, I Saw Poland Betrayed: An American Ambassador Reports To The American People (New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1948), 249.

[3]   Ibid.


[4]   Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, The Rape Of Poland: Pattern of Soviet Aggression (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1948),165-166.


[5]  Ibid, 167. 


[6] Michael Checinski, Poland: Communism, Nationalism, and Anti-Semitism (New York: Karz-Cohl Publishing, 1982), 31-32.

[7]   Stewart Steven, The Poles (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1982), 307-308.


[8]   Anita J. Prazmowska, A History of Poland, 191.


[9]   Ibid, 191. Also, the Mikolajczyk mentioned is the same author of The Rape Of Poland: Pattern of Soviet Aggression.


[10]   Joanna Beata Michlic, Poland’s Threatening Other: The Image of The Jew from 1880 to the Present (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006), 234-236.

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