1946 report shows Poles treated Jews as badly as the Germans did

The report said many Jews preferred to flee, even to Germany, after the war.

BY Tamara Zieve, JPOST

Exclusive: 1946 US report shows Poles treated Jews as badly as Germans did

A declassified US State Department report from 1946 documented the abhorrent treatment of Poland’s Jews before, during and after World War II. The report equated Polish and Nazi treatment of the Jewish population and said many Jews preferred to flee, even to Germany, after the war.

The document, titled “The Jews in Poland Since the Liberation,” was obtained by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and shown exclusively to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, the same day a Polish governmental delegation arrived in Israel to discuss Warsaw’s contentious “Holocaust law,” which has caused a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

“There is little doubt that the current anti-Jewish manifestations in Poland represent a continuation of activities by rightwing groups that were at work before 1939, when even major political parties had antisemitic programs,” the report said. “In other words, there is not much that is essentially new or different in the current antisemitic agitation.

However, the antisemitic overtones in prewar Polish politics predisposed many Poles to the acceptance of Nazi racial theories, and there is evidence that Poles persecuted the Jews as vigorously as did the Germans during the occupation. The retreating Nazis, moreover, left in their wake a heavy residue of their racial theories.

Even before the liberation of Poland, antisemitic propaganda emerged in Polish émigré circles.”

The Intelligence Research report, dated May 15, 1946, was distributed by the US Office of Intelligence Coordination and Liaison as a restricted document.

It was declassified in 1983.

It describes how antisemitism “reached such dimensions in the Polish Army under General Wladyslaw Anders that many Jewish soldiers felt compelled to desert those forces and seek enlistment with other Allied armies.”

By mid-1944, it said, widespread antisemitism was reported in Lublin and other parts of Poland. By April 1945, “more reports were current and a dozen Polish towns were named as places where Jews had been killed, allegedly by members of the Polish Home Guard (Armia Krajowa), the armed force formed by and loyal to the Government-in-Exile.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Wiesenthal Center, said the documents directly contradict current arguments by Polish leaders that antisemitism was the result of communism.

He pointed to a part of the report that discussed rampant antisemitism and treatment of Jews as second-class citizens long before the communists took power in Poland and indeed, well before the war, with religious leaders, political parties and both high and low-level officials preaching and practicing antisemitism.

“In the jockeying for political preference in Poland after 1919, most of the major political parties – with the exception of leftist groups – followed an antisemitic line,” the report reads. “Catholic Church leaders, from Cardinal Hlond down, preached antisemitism and favored an economic boycott of the Jews.

Polish nationalists sought to win peasant and working-class support by attributing many of Poland’s internal difficulties to the Jews.” Lawless elements attacked Jews, adding physical peril to the already discouraging social and economic conditions.”

A widespread Polish argument in the current disagreement with Israel over Holocaust history acknowledges that some Poles may have acted badly during WWII, but denies that antisemitism was prevalent in Polish society. “This is absolutely not true,” Hier stressed. Some members of the Polish government have said only Israel holds this view of Poland’s history, he noted, but the impartial report written by the US government soon after WWII “absolutely tells a different story and one that would be very difficult for the president of Poland to deny.”

The report also referred to the post-war era, when some Jews opted to move to Germany rather than remain in Poland.

“So violent have been the antisemitic incidents reported – and so widespread is the fear for their lives among the handful of Jewish survivors – that some Polish Jews have been reported seeking to escape to the American Zone in Germany rather than remain in Poland,” the report said.

“Others, who have gone back to Poland, are reported to be returning to Western Germany after only a short stay.

Polish Jews in displaced persons centers in Germany have, moreover, almost unanimously declined to return to their former homeland,” the document said.

Hier said, “It’s very important that this report be made public so that people all over the world can read what a 1946 assessment of the issue of how Polish Jews were treated in Poland.”

Copies of the report are currently being held at the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide in London and in the US National Archives in Washington.

While the report is accessible, it has remained widely unknown until now.

The Wiesenthal Center obtained the document in the course of research while publishing books about the Holocaust.

Hier said he believes widespread knowledge of the report can provide insight into why Jews are upset by the new law. He emphasized that his organization is not an enemy of Poland, but a group that brings hundreds of visitors to the country. “They have to acknowledge that antisemitism in Poland was a problem of longevity. You just have to read this report, which was not written by Jews, to see how real antisemitism was in Poland,” he said.

March 1, 2018 | 63 Comments »

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13 Comments / 63 Comments

  1. @ Edgar G.:
    Well, I saw the movie version of the English Patient and I think it was a really different plot, if I recall, but if you ever come to New York again, visit Strand Books on E. 12th St. One of New York’s treasures. And it has 45 cent and $1 book bins outside! As well as editor’s first editions of books and rare books inside. Several floors.
    Unless you already have. It’s been there for at least as long as I’ve been alive.

  2. @ Sebastien Zorn:

    It was niggling at my mind all the time and I just couldn’t do anything about it. Then I remembered .The Magic Mountian in certain ways reminded me of “The English Patient” by Michael Ondatje. As i began in earnest to track it down I started with “the English…the English.,…then “The English Gentleman” which when looked up showed nothing. then The Englshman” also nothing. Suddenly I recalled. “The English Patient”….success…but for what. I had to do this book in my last college career which was to quality in Gerontology.

    So I had to actually BUY this damned book at a cost of $18 paperback and it bored me out of my mind. I wasn’t used to simple dreary books. And the enormous fuss they made of this guy Ondatje, who it turned out was a bloody Canadian POET…..I Hate Poetry. Looking him up, he wrote 6 undistinguished book, and about 16 collections of poems, so I know where that places him in my estimation…
    He stole $18 from me for a handful of waste paper disguised as a novel.. And when I tried to sell it to incoming students I couldn’t even give it away…..at any price.

    In my whole life most of my books, acquired second hand, never cost more than 25-50 cents, maybe exceptionally a dollar. Of course this was a very long time ago. I think the most I ever paid for a used book was $2, for Labaume’s writings on the 1812 war, where he was a ranking military orderly–secretary to the Eugene, The Viceroy, and sometimes travelled with him in his carriage. He wrote about the Jewish schtetls through which they passed in Poland and Russia, that the Jews were in the last stages of despair, destitute, starving, and verminous. Of course he was clean being on a lengthy campaign where there was no hot water or bathing privileges. So compared to him, they were abysmal.

    (I had refused to pay $4 for the Memoires of Count Las Cases even 1st ed. I was foolish there. But the books were tiny , with microscopic printing, not to my likeing at all. I already had enough of that type).

    There is NO doubt in my mind that the Poles were ALWAYS very Anti-Semitic, and the local peasants themselves badly treated by the boyars, passed it on to the Jews, plus extra for Jew-hate.

  3. @ Edgar G.:
    As I recall, it takes place in a Swiss tuberculosis sanitorium on the eve of WWI, where everybody expects to die of consumption or be cured and then likely die in the coming war, and have nothing to do but sit around and debate or watch others do so. These two professors or professor types are competing with each other trying to win the ideological allegiance of a naive young man in debate before avid audiences. They don’t necessarily believe in the philosophies they are propounding so vigorously, they just want to win; sometimes they switch sides.

    I wonder if it gave Russell Baker the idea for “The Historian Glut”.


    Could there be a linguist’s glut Noam Chomsky might know, eh? Wink, wink, no what I mean, no what I mean?


  4. @ Sebastien Zorn:

    To me “The Magic Mountain is rather esoteric and full of symbolism” and I found it a bit heavy. I preferred Hasek’s “The Good Soldier Schweik”, although they don’t resemble one another, they were published at around the same time.

  5. @ Sebastien Zorn:

    I became used to all that correct English, with beautiful sentence structure through extensive reading of my collection of mid 19th cent writers books; like Thackeray for instance whom I’ve mentioned here before, I have most of his books some even duplicated where I couldn’t resist buying a better copy. And many I read more than once-or even twice.. Wonderful stuff. Prefer him by far to Dickens. I like his very humourous cynicism, and that he takes many of his characters from life, people he knew or had met, like Captain Costigan, always boozed up and full of “honour”..and Major Monsoon, never sober, a unique character.. Charles Lever, another great 19th cent. writer did the very same thing; his description of an Irish Parliamentary election is a howl, and as I confirmed elsewhere, quite close to factual..(I have a 2 Vol. 1st edit 1841 copy of “Charles O’Malley The Irish Dragoon” A wonderful book.read at least 5-6 times.. and the two of them had much in common, literally I mean.

  6. @ Edgar G.:
    Doesn’t this interchange remind you of Magic Mountain — which is one of the books I needed my portable Oxford English to look up every other word in when I read it for fun when I was in high school — ?

    We really need to resist the dumbing down of the language. The internet, to some extent, facilitates that in unifying dictionaries, including out of print ones. Hard words were being removed from print dictionaries or relegated to specialization hell.

    In fact, on one level, this latest attempt at Holocaust denial by Poland can really be seen as part of the wider assault on language which Orwell was the first to really make a fine point of as the tip of the petard of totalitarianism. Once again, we are the canary in the coal mine.

  7. @ Edgar G.:
    for them, not for me. I have no memory of it. My mother recently mentioned it. Did I mention she’s 93? My parents were 35 when I was born. WWII college generation. My paternal grandfather fought in WWI in the Austro-Hungarian army, and my maternal grandfather, who was here, was too old to be drafted in WWI. When the United States entered in 1917, he was 30. She also once mentioned that her father didn’t speak to my parents for 2 years after I was born because they just gave me a standard medical circumcision. No bris.

    I got along well with my grandfather. I have no memories of any of this. My religious relatives were friendly to me when I visited them, treating me like a guest, just like when I’ve played Ultra-Orthodox events recently. They were traditional or modern orthodox or conservative, or something like that. They understood that I hadn’t been given any kind of a religious upbringing and were pleased to make contact. We live in different worlds, you know? As long as we respect our differences, it’s cool. We’re still family, after all.

  8. @ Edgar G.:
    I really didn’t know the yiddish terms and nothing that makes sense comes up, googling. You only explained the first one. Thank you, for that, at least.

  9. @ Edgar G.:

    For a reason unknown to me, the old, hilarious, quite topical movie with Judy Holliday called “Born Yesterday”, just came to mind.

  10. @ Sebastien Zorn:

    You said… “Thank you for injecting forgotten words into our vocabulary…..? The whole context of the sentence seemed to imply that you were unfamiliar with the term. Of course now knowing you knew the term, you were clearly schmearing him. And I know you’ve done the same with me, as my prompt answers will show. Like your silly merry-go-round about the Yiddish terms I used that you persisted in asking for minute explanations for. I just played along until I got tired of it… Too obviously unctuous and simple for you to be.

    On your “bloviating” sentence…Is it MY fault that you are so ambiguous….like a politician…