Candid Statements by WWII-Era Jews on Jewish Conduct and Antisemitism

The subject of Polish anti-Semitism frequently comes up, but we seldom hear the full story. Read on…

 

BOYCOTTS AND POLISH-JEWISH ECONOMIC RIVALRY

Eyewitness and famous scientist Ludwik Hirszfeld commented, “Anti-Semitism vented in economic boycotts is unpleasant, but the fight for markets has generally assumed more cruel forms.” (p. 160).

[Hirszfeld, L. 2010. The Story of One Life. University of Rochester Press, Rochester]

 

THE JEWISH ECONOMIC NICHE: IMPACT ON NON-JEWS

Eyewitness David Kahane commented, “I cannot say that the Jews are completely blameless. Certainly, a peasant would have been angry with a Jewish land tenant who took a key to the church as a mortgage. More than once a Jewish innkeeper would get a peasant drunk and then swindle him and even steal his property. Nor were the weights and measures used by Jewish storekeepers always accurate. But how can one blame a whole people for the sins of individual land tenants or storekeepers?” (p. 11).

[Kahane, 1991. Lvov Ghetto Diary. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst]

 

Historian and eyewitness Emmanuel Ringelblum wrote, “We must not preach, or condemn commercial morality and lax mores in business, as Jews themselves have, no doubt, much on their conscience in this respect: cheating, indecency, unscrupulousness, all practiced on a large scale. But our main concern is with the Poles now; and they have learned all the methods from Jews, including blackmail (perhaps most frequently) and denunciation.” (p. 617).

[Kermish, Joseph, Editor. 1999. To Live With Honor; To Die With Honor. Documents From the Warsaw Ghetto Underground Archives. Yad Vashem Publications, Jerusalem]

 

AN ANTAGONISTIC SPIRIT TOWARDS THE MAJORITY

Professor Noah Efron described the condescending attitude, evident by the late 19th century, of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jews—this time towards the preexisting (Sephardic) Jews of Palestine, “Relations between these new settlements and existing Jewish settlements were tense from the start. Though many of the new settlers were religiously observant–some more, some less–they didn’t admire the Jews they found in Palestine. The new settlers were not live-and-let-live types. They had come to the Holy Land with reform on their mind and critique on their tongue, and they found much to disparage in the traditionalist communities.” (p. 27).

[Efron, N. 2003. Real Jews. Basic Books, New York]

 

Eyewitness American Jewish visitor Robert Gessner quotes a French Jew’s assessment of German Jewish refugees from pre-WWII Nazi Germany, “‘And they came, thousands of them. They have been here now several years, and what have they done? Many have tried businesses of all sorts, but on the whole they do nothing. They are ungrateful for the hospitality of France. They speak loudly in German at public places; they are commanding and haughty. They occupy prominent seats in cafes. They have actually made us French Jews ashamed of them and we avoid the places they frequent.’” (p. 42).

[Gessner, R. 1936. Some of My Best Friends are Jews. Farrar and Reinhart, New York]

 

Eyewitness Janusz Korczak (Henryk Goldszmit) wrote of Polish Jews, “”The Jews are conceited and that is why they are despised. I believe this will change, perhaps soon.” (p. 182).

[Korczak, J. 2003. Ghetto Diary. Yale University Press, New Haven]

 

SEPARATISM AND SUPREMACISM

Jewish Ghetto Policeman Calel Perechodnik reflects, “We are puzzled about where such hatred by Germans of Jews comes from, how much of it is the fault of the Jews. My opinion is that, setting aside inborn German sadism, the desire to murder for the enjoyment of killing, and the lust for gold, I ascribe the entire blame to the Jewish religion. One cannot enjoy the hospitality of other peoples and consider oneself a chosen people, better and wiser…Yes, the Jewish religion has divided us from other people with a Chinese wall, had inculcated in us a psychology of distinctness…” (pp. 171-172; see also p. 151).

[Perechodnik, C. 1996. Am I a Murderer? Westview Press, Boulder]

 

Image: Burning synagogue on the east front, 1941. Source: Wikipedia.

 

 

 

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