Polish Jewish history

The History of Poland is rooted in the arrival of the Slavs, who gave rise to permanent settlement and historic development on Polish lands. During the Piast dynasty Christianity was adopted in 966 and medieval monarchy established.
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MaciekWielki
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Polish Jewish history

Post autor: MaciekWielki » 07 sty 2013, 10:55

The earliest verifiable records of Jewish settlement in Poland date from the late 11th century. However, it is generally believed that Jews arrived in Poland much earlier. Many scholars discard the theory that a large number of followers of the Judaic faith came to Poland from the east in about 965 after the fall of the Khazar state. While it is true that the rulers of Khazar converted to Judaism, there is substantial disagreement amongst researchers as to whether or not their subjects converted in significant numbers. The first Jews to arrive on Polish territory were merchants who were referred to as Radhanites. The Radhanites were merchants whose trade extended over vast distances between east ans west. They were fluent in Arabic, Persian, Greek, Spanish, "Franklish" and "Slav" languages. Their entrance occurred simultaneously with the formation of the Polish state. One of them was Ibrahim ibn Jacob, the author of the first extensive account about Poland. In the summer of 965 or 966 Jacob made a trade and diplomatic journey from his native Toledo in Moslem Spain to the Holy Roman Empire and Slavonic countries.

eudal disintegration, the birth of towns and the development of commodity money relations favored the settlement by Jews in Poland. Nevertheless, the influx of Jews was brought about mostly by their persecution in Western Europe, which gained in force during the crusades. Among the first Jews to arrive in Poland (in 1097 or 1098) were those banished from Prague. Jews from Bohemia and Germany settled primarily in Silesia. They usually engaged in trade and agriculture and some owned landed estates. By the middle of the14th century they had occupied thirty-five Silesian towns. Jewish settlement in other parts of Poland proceeded at a much slower pace and the first mention of Jewish settlers in Plock dates from 1237, in Kalisz from 1287 and a Zydowska (Jewish) street in Krakow in 1304. Earlier, Mieszko III, the prince of Great Poland between 1138 and 1202 and the ruler of all Poland in 1173-77 and 1198-1202, employed Jews in his mint as engravers of dies and technical supervisors of all workers. Until 1206, Jews worked on commission for other contemporary Polish princes, including Casimir the Just, Boleslaus the Tall and Ladislaus Spindleshanks. From pure silver they struck coins called bracteates, which they emblazoned with inscriptions in Hebrew.

n 1264, a successor to Mieszko III in Great Poland, Boleslaus the Pious, granted Jews a privilege known as the Kalisz statute. According to this statute, (which was modeled on similar decrees issued in Austria, Bohemia and Hungary) Jews were exempted from municipal and castellan jurisdiction and were subject only to princely courts. The same statute granted Jews free trade and the right to conduct moneylending operations which were, however, limited only to loans made on security of " immovable property". The Kalisz statute, which described the Jews as "slaves of the treasury", ensured protection of persons, protection of property and freedom in conducting religious rites. They were also given the opportunity to organize their internal life on the principle of self-government of their individual communities. Similar privileges were granted to the Silesian Jews by the local princes, Prince Henry Probus of Wroclaw in 1273-90, Henry of Glogow in 1274 and 1299, Henry of Legnica in 1290 - 95 and Bolko of Legnica and Wroclaw in 1295.

hese privileges resulted in hostile reactions against the Jews by the Catholic clergy. In 1267, the Council of Wroclaw created segregated Jewish quarters in citiesand towns and ordered Jews to wear a special emblem. Jews were banned from holding offices where Christians would be subordinated to them and were forbidden to build more than one prayer house in each town. These resolutions, however, though they were reiterated during the subsequent councils in Buda in 1279 and Leczyca in 1285, were generally not enforced due to the profits which the Jews' economic activity yielded to the princes. The turn of the 13th and 14th centuries saw the end of feudal disintegration in Poland. In the reunited kingdom the role of towns and the burghers grew. The rulers, interested in the development of a commodity money economy, encouraged Jewish immigration. The most outstanding of those rulers was Casimir the Great who in 1334, a year after ascending the throne, acknowledged the privilege granted the Jews in Great Poland by Boleslaus the Pious in 1264. As a result Jews were exempted from German law and came under the jurisdiction of the voivodes.

n the 14th and 15th centuries the main occupation of Jews in Poland was local and long distance trade. Jews performed the role of middlemen in trade between Poland and Hungary, Turkey and the Italian colonies on the Black Sea. They also took part in the Baltic trade and commercial operations in Silesia. Owing to their links with Jewish communities in other countries as well as experience in trade and moneylending operations, Jewish merchants gained the advantage over local merchants, both in European and overseas trade. Following protests by the rich Polish burghers and the clergy, the scope of credit operations conducted by the Jews was seriously curtailed in the early 15th century. In 1423 the statute of Warka forbade Jews the granting of loans against letters of credit or mortgage and limited their operations exclusively to loans made on security of moveable property.

he amassed capital was invested by the Jews in leaseholds. In the 14th and 15th centuries rich Jewish merchants and moneylenders leased the royal mint, salt mines and the collecting of customs and tolls. The most famous of them were Jordan and his son Lewko of Krakow in the 14th century and Jakub Slomkowicz of Luck, Wolczko of Drohobycz, Natko of Lvov, Samson of Zydaczow, Josko of Hrubieszow and Szania of Belz in the 15th century. For example, Wolczko of Drohobycz, King Ladislaus Jagiello's broker, was the owner of several villages in the Ruthenian voivodship and the soitys (administrator) of the village of Werbiz. Also Jews from Grodno were in this period owners of villages, manors, meadows, fish ponds and mills. However until the end of the 15th century agriculture as a source of income played only a minor role among Jewish families. More important were crafts for the needs of both their fellow Jews and the Christian population (fur making, tanning, tailoring).

he expansion of the scope of economic activity carried out by the Jews sharpened competition between them and their Christian counterparts. In the 14th century anti-Jewish riots broke out in Silesia which was ruled by the Bohemian-German dynasty of Luxembourg. These reached their climax during the epidemics of the Black Death when, as earlier in Western Europe, Jews were accused of systematically poisoning the wells. In 1349 pogroms took place in many towns in Silesia and some of the refugees from those towns, as well as Jews banished from West European countries, sought shelter from persecution in Poland. Streams of Jewish immigrants headed east to Poland during the reign of Casimir the Great who encouraged Jewish settlement by extending royal protection to them. First mentions about Jewish settlements in Lvov (1356), Sandomierz (1367), Kazimierz near Krakow (1386) and several other cities date from the second half of the 14th century. In the 15th century Jews appeared in many cities in Great Poland, Little Poland, Kuyavia, Pomerania and Red Ruthenia. In the 1450s Polish towns gave shelter to Jewish refugees from Silesia which was then ruled by the Habsburgs.

n 1454 anti-Jewish riots flared up in Wroclaw and other Silesian cities. They were inspired by the papal envoy, the Franciscan friar John of Capistrano. Though his main aim was to instigate a popular rebellion against the Hussites, he also carried out a ruthless campaign against the Jews whom he accused of profaning the Christian religion. As a result of Capistrano's endeavors, Jews were banished from Lower Silesia. Shortly after, John of Capistrano, invited to Poland by Zbigniew Olesnicki, conducted a similar campaign in Krakow and several other cities where, however, anti-Jewish unrest took on a much less acute form. Forty years later, in 1495, Jews were ordered out of the center of Krakow and allowed to settle in the "Jewish town" of Kazimierz. In the same year, Alexander Jagiellon, following the example of Spanish rulers, banished the Jews from Lithuania. For several years they took shelter in Poland until they were allowed back to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1503.

owards the end of the Middle Ages Jews lived in 85 towns in Poland and their total number amounted to 18,000 in Poland and 6,000 in Lithuania, which represented merely 0.6 per cent of the total population of the two states. The 16th and the first half of the 17th century saw increased settlement and a relatively fast rate of natural population growth among both Polish and Lithuanian Jews. The number of immigrants also grew, especially in the 16th century. Among the new arrivals there were not only the Ashkenazim, banished from the countries belonging to the Habsburg monarchy, that is Germany, Bohemia, Hungary and Lower Silesia (in the 1580's the whole of Silesia had only two Jewish communities, in Glogow and Biala), but also the Sephardim who were driven away from Spain and Portugal. Moreover many Sephardic Jews from Italy and Turkey came to Poland of their own free will.

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MaciekWielki
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Re: Polish Jewish history

Post autor: MaciekWielki » 07 sty 2013, 10:55

Towards the end of the 16th century the flood of immigration abated and new communities were founded generally as a result of the movement of the population from the crowded districts to new quarters. In around 1648 Jews lived in over half of all cities in the Commonwealth, but the center of Jewish life moved from the western and central parts of Poland to eastern voivodships where two out of three townships had Jewish communities. Beginning in the middle of the16th century Jews started to settle in the countryside in larger numbers. In the middle of the 17th century there were 500,000 Jews living in Poland, which meant some five per cent of the total population of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The legal position of the Jews was still regulated by royal and princely privileges and Sejm statutes, with the difference that in 1539 Polish Jews from private towns and villages became subordinated to the judiciary and administration of the owners. From that time on, an important role was played by privileges granted by individual lords. On top of that, the legal status of Jews was still influenced by synodal resolutions and the common law.

ll this amounted to a considerable differentiation in the legal position of the Jewish population. In some cities Jews were granted municipal citizenship, without, however, the right to apply for municipal positions. In many towns, especially the gentry towns, Jews were given complete freedom in carrying out trade and crafts, while in others these freedoms as well as the right to settle were restricted. Finally there were also towns where Jews were not allowed to settle. In the 16th century more than twenty towns obtained the privilegia de non tolerandis Judaeis. These included Miedzyrzec in 1520, Warsaw in 1525, Sambor in 1542, Grodek in 1550, Vilna in 1551, Bydgoszcz in 1556, Stryj in 1567, Biez, Krosno and Tarnogrod 1569, Pilzno in 1577, Drohobycz in 1578, Mikolajow in 1596, Checiny in 1597. In practice, however, this ban was inconsistently observed. In other locations, separate suburbs, "Jewish towns", were formed (for example in Lublin, Piotrkow, Bydgoszcz, Drohobycz and Sambor) or the Jews fought for and won the revocation of those discriminatory regulations, for example in Stryj and Tarnogrod. The restrictions imposed on the territorial expansion of Jewish quarters forced the Jews to seek the privlegia de non tolerandis christianis, or bans on Christian settlement in Jewish quarters. Such privileges were won by the Jewish town of Kazimierz in 1568, the Poznan community in 1633 and all Lithuanian communities in 1645.

etween 1501 and 1648 Jews further intensified their economic activity. This was accompanied by a basic change in the occupational structure of the Jewish population in comparison with the previous period. The primary sources of income for Jewish families were crafts and local trade. The magnates for whom Jewish traders and craftsmen were an important element in their rivalry with the royal towns, generally favored the development of Jewish crafts. On the other hand, in larger royal towns as well as in the ecclesiastical towns Jewish craftsmen and also Christian craftsmen who were not members of a guild (known as partacze or patchers) were exposed to permanent harassment from the municipal authorities and the Christian guilds. They could carry out their occupations only clandestinely. In a small number of towns, for example in Grodno, Lvov, Luck and Przemysl, some Jewish craftsmen managed to wrest for themselves the right to perform their trade from the local guilds, but that only after having to pay heavy charges.

espite these difficulties Jewish crafts, which were encouraged by royal starosts and owners of gentry jurisdictions, not only maintained their state of ownership but expanded it considerably. In the middle of the 17th century Polish and Lithuanian Jews practiced over 50 trades (43 in Red Ruthenia) and were represented in all branches of craftsmanship. The most numerous of them were those who made food, leather and textile products, clothing, objects of gold and pewter and glass manufacturers. In the first half of the 17th century Jewish craftsmen founded their own guilds in Krakow, Lvov and Przemysl. In Biala Cerkiew several Jewish craftsmen (tailors and slaughterers) belonged to Christian guilds in 1641. In the 16th and the first half of the 17th century Jews played an outstanding role in Poland's foreign trade. They contributed to the expansion of contacts with both the east and the west and were instrumental in importing foreign commercial experience to Poland. Particularly animated trade contacts were maintained by Jewish merchants with England and the Netherlands through Gdansk, and Hungary and Turkey through Lvov and Krakow.

ews exported not only Polish agricultural produce and cattle but also ready-made products, particularly furs and clothing. In return they brought in goods from east and west which were much sought after in Poland. Jewish wholesalers appeared at large fairs in Venice, Florence, Leipzig, Hamburg, Frankfurt on Main, Wroclaw and Gdansk. In order to expand their trade contacts they entered into partnerships. For example in the mid-16th century Jewish merchants from Brest Litovsk, Tykocin, Grodno and Sledzew founded a company for trade with Gdansk, while in 1616 a similar company was established by merchants from Lvov, Lublin, Krakow and Poznan. At the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, in many towns Jewish and Christian merchants set up joint ad hoc companies in order to conclude profitable financial operations. In European and overseas trade only a relatively small number of Jews were engaged. The most numerous group among Jewish merchants were owners of shops as well as stall keepers and vendors whose whole property was what they put on show on the stall in front of their houses or on a cart, or what they carried in a sack on their backs. The expansion of Jewish trade troubled the burghers for whom Jewish competition was all the more painful since they now had yet another rival in the developing gentry trade. The struggle of part of the burghers against Jewish merchants manifested itself among other things in attempts at curtailing Jewish trade. The monarchs, though generally favorably disposed towards the Jews, under the pressure from the burghers and the clergy passed a number of decrees which restricted Jewish wholesale trade to some commodities or else to certain quotas of purchases they were allowed to make. More severe restrictions were contained in agreements concluded between municipal authorities and Jewish communities, though these were seldom observed in practice. In private towns, Jewish trade, which yielded considerable profit to the owners, could develop without any obstacles.

he Jews' trading activity also encompassed credit operations. The richest Jewish merchants were often at the same time financiers. The most famous Jewish bankers were the Fiszels in Krakow and the Nachmanowiczs in Lvov as well as Mendel Izakowicz and Izak Brodawka in Lithuania. Those and a number of other Jews pioneered centralized credit operations in Poland. Though banking institutions created by them mainly financed large Jewish tenancies and wholesale trade, as a sideline they also lent money to the gentry on pledge of incoming crops and to Jewish entrepreneurs. A positive role was also played by much smaller loans granted by Jews to many small craft and trade shops. In many cases these loans were instrumental in opening a business. However, the other side of the matter must not be overlooked. The lending of money at high interest led to the impoverishment of both Jewish and Christian debtors. Some of them were put in prison as a result and their families were left with no means of subsistence. This money lending activity aggravated prejudice against Jews among the burghers, something which had always been there anyway due to their religious and traditional separateness.

n important field of the Jews' economic activity were tenancies. In the period under discussion, next to rich merchants and bankers who held in lease large economic enterprises and the collecting of incomes from customs and taxes, there appeared a numerous group of small lease holders of mills, breweries and inns. There also increased the number of Jewish subtenants, scribes and tax collectors employed by rich holders. Some of the latter sometimes attained important positions. For example, in 1525, during the ceremonies connected with the Prussian Homage, without relinquishing his Jewish faith the main collector of Jewish taxes in Lithuania, Michal Ezofowicz was knighted and given the crest of Leliwa. His brother Abraham Ezofowicz, who had been baptized, was also knighted and granted the starosty of Minsk and the office of Lithuanian deputy treasurer. In the first quarter of the 16th century, Jewish lease holders performed their functions as full-fledged heads of enterprises subordinated to them, for example salt mines and customs offices. "In this period," wrote in 1521 Justus Ludwik Decius, the chronicler of Sigismund the Old, "Jews are gaining in importance; there is hardly any toll or tax for which they would not be responsible or at least to which they would not aspire. Christians are generally subordinate to the Jews. Among the rich and noble families of the Commonwealth you will not find one who would not favor the Jews on their estates and give them power over Christians."

he gentry, who in the 16th century conducted an unrelentless struggle against the magnates, came out against the leasing of salt mines, customs and tolls to the Jews by the lords and the king. Under the influence of the gentry, the diet of Piotrkow in 1538 forbade Jews to take in lease public incomes. This ban was reiterated several times by subsequent diets but it proved only partly effective. In 1581 the autonomous representation of the Jews (the Diet of the Four Lands), which gathered in Lublin, took a decision which, under penalty of anathema, forbade fellow Jews taking the lease of salt mines, mints, taxes on the sale of liquor and customs and tolls in Great Poland, Little Poland and Mazovia. This ban was justified in the following way: "People fired by the greed of great income and wealth owing to those large tenancies, may bring unto the whole [Jewish population] - God forbid - a great danger."

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MaciekWielki
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Re: Polish Jewish history

Post autor: MaciekWielki » 07 sty 2013, 10:56

From that time on, Jewish lease holders were active only in Red Ruthenia, Podolya, Volhynia, west bank Ukraine and Lithuania. In the tenancies supervised by the Jews as well as in the estates run by the gentry, feudal exploitation of the peasant serfs often led to local revolts which in the Ukraine turned into a Cossack and peasant uprising. The cooperation of the Jewish lease holders with the magnates in the latter's colonial policy caused these revolts often to be held under the slogan of struggle against the Poles and Jews. Next to crafts, trade, banking and leasing operations, agriculture had become an increasingly important source of income for the Jewish population in the eastern regions of the Commonwealth. Maciej Miedhowita, author of the Polish Chronicle (1519), when mentioning Jews, says that in Ruthenia they were engaged not only in moneylending and trade but also soil cultivation. In towns Jews owned fields and gardens. In Chelm in 1636 Jewish landless peasants were forced to do serf labor. In villages Jews also toiled the land adjoining the inns, mills and breweries they held in lease. Some Jews earned their living as paid kahal officials, musicians, horse drivers, factors on gentry estates and in the houses of rich merchants, as middlemen known as barishniki, servants, salesmen, etc. There was also a large group of beggars and cripples without any means of subsistence. Only some of them obtained from time to time assistance from charity organizations and were given a place to sleep in an almshouse.

n view of the growing financial differentiation among the Jews social conflicts intensified. The middle of the 16th century saw the beginning of opposition by Jewish craftsmen against individuals who placed their capital in leather, textile and clothing manufacture. The struggle of the populace against rich merchants and bankers was reflected in the activity of Salomon Efraim of Keczyca, an outstanding plebeian preacher. In his book Ir Gibborim (The Town of Heroa), published in 1580 in Basle, he sharply criticized the exploitation of the poor by the rich. He also attacked the rabbis who tried to gain the favor of the wealthy Jews. He presented his views not only in his books and lectures in the synagogue, but also during fairs which were attended by numerous Jews. There are records of joint revolts by Jewish craftsmen and Christian "patcher" against the guild elders. There were also joint revolts of the Jews and the burghers against the gentry. This found expression in an agreement which in 1589 Jews in Kamionka Strumilowa concluded with the municipal authorities "with the consent of all the populace". The councilors "accepted the Jews into their own laws and freedoms while they [the Jews] undertook to carry the same burdens as the burghers". Jews pledged themselves to help in keeping order and cleanliness in the town, hold guard and take part in anti-flood operations together with Christians. The latter promised that they would "defend those Jews as our real neighbors from intrusions and violence of both the gentry and soldiers. They would defend them and prevent all harm done to them... since they are our neighbors."

he rapid development of Jewish settlement and economic activity was accompanied by expansion of their self-government organization. In the 16th century its structure had no equal in all of Europe. As in the Middle Ages, every autonomous Jewish community was governed by its kahal or a collegiate body composed of elders elected as a rule from among the local wealthiest The kahal organized funerals and administered cemeteries, schools, baths, slaughterhouses and the sale of kosher meat. In the closed "Jewish cities" it also took care of cleanliness and order in the Jewish quarter and the security of its inhabitants. To this should be added the administering of charities such as the organization of hospitals and other welfare institutions and the dowering of poor brides. Another important function was to establish the amount of taxes each individual household in the given community was to pay. The further hierarchic development of the Jewish autonomous institutions was connected with the difficulties which in the early 16th century the authorities encountered in exacting taxes.

etween 1518 and 1522 Sigismund Augustus decreed the foundation of four Jewish regions called lands. Each of these lands was to elect at a special diet its elders, tax assessors and tax collectors. In 1530 the king established a permanent arbitration tribunal based in Lublin which was to examine disputes between Jews from various lands. In 1579 Stephen Bathory called into being a central representation of Jews from Poland and Lithuania with responsibility for exacting poll taxes which had been introduced for the Jewish population in 1549. This institution, known as the Diet of the Four Lands (Va 'ad Arba Arazot), was constituted at a congress in Lublin in 1581. The Diet of the Four Lands, which usually was summoned once a year, elected from among its number a council, known as the Jewish Generality. The latter was headed by a Marshal General and included a Rabbi General, Scribe General and Treasurers General. The diets were attended by representatives of both Poland and Lithuania until 1623 when, following the establishment of a separate taxation tribunal for Lithuanian Jews, a separate diet of Lithuanian Jews was also set up. These institutions continued in existence until 1764. The diet of Polish Jews usually convened in Lublin, sometimes in Jaroslaw or Tyszowce, while the Lithuanian diets debated most often in Brest Litovsk.

he diet or Va 'ad represented all the Jews. It carried out negotiations with central and local authorities through its liaison officers (shtadlans) who, by their contacts with deputies, tried to influence the decisions concerning Jews taken by the Sejm and local diets of the gentry. During the sessions of the ra 'ads not only fiscal matters were discussed but also those related to the well-being and cultural life of the Jewish population in the Commonwealth. They took decisions on the lease of state products, the amount of interests in credit transactions among Jews, the protection of creditors against dishonest bankrupts, the upbringing of young people, the protection of the family, etc. The Va 'ad also took decisions on the taxation of the Jewish population, for example for defensive needs of the country. The main tax was the poll tax. In addition the Jews, like the rest of the burghers, paid taxes for the city's defenses. Besides taxes, all townsfolk, irrespective of religion, were obliged to perform certain tasks and contribute money in order to build and expand defensive systems and maintain permanent crews of guards.

he Jews, like the Christian population, had personally to contribute to the town's defense preparedness. In the Jewish quarter the most important structure was the fortified synagogue. In the 16th and 17th centuries several dozen such buildings were erected in Poland's eastern borderlands, including such places as Brody, Buczacz, Czortkow, Husiatyri, Jaroslaw, Leszniow, Lublin, Luck, Podkamien, Pomorzany, Sokal, Stryj, Szarogrod, Szczebrzeszyn, Szydlow, Tarnopol, Zamosc and Zolkiew. One of the main duties of all townsfolk, including the Jews, was to defend the city as a fortified point of resistance in case enemy troops succeeded in forcing their way through into the country. In the early 16th century in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to this was added the duty of providing a contingent of soldiers. After 1571 this duty was changed to appropriate money dues. For the first time Jews were ordered to provide an army contingent in 1514 but this obligation began to be exacted more consistently only after 1648. As was the case with the remaining population Jews acquired their military training during obligatory exercises and their fighting preparedness and ability to wield arms were tested during special parade.

he first mention of a Jew's direct participation in battle against enemies of the Commonwealth dates from the middle of the16th century. During the reign of Stephen Bathory there served in the Polish army one Mendel Izakowicz from Kazimierz near Krakow. He was a bridge builder and military engineer and during the war against Muscovy rendered considerable services to the Polish army. During the war with Muscovy in 1610-12 in one regiment only, probably one of those belonging to Lisowski's light cavalry, more than ten Jews served at one time. A certain number of Jews also fought on the Polish side in the Smolensk war of 1632-34 and some of them were taken prisoner by the enemy. The year 1648, when the Cossack uprising under Bohdan Chmielnicki broke up, was a breakthrough in the history of both the Commonwealth and Polish Jewry. The country was plunged into economic crisis made worse by war devastation. The wars against the Ukraine, Russia, Sweden, Turkey and the Tartars, which Poland fought almost uninterruptedly between 1648 and 1717, brought in their wake a permanent downfall of towns and agriculture and decimated the population.

uring Bohdan Chmielnicki's revolt and wars against the Ukraine and Russia Jewish communities in the areas occupied by enemy troops were completely wiped out. Some Jews were murdered, some emigrated to central Poland and the rest left for Western Europe. The drop in the number of the Jewish population during the Ukrainian uprisings (1648-54) is estimated as amounting to some 20 to 25 per cent, that is between 100,000 and 125,000. A rapid growth in the number of the Jewish population was recorded only in the 18th century, after 1717. It is estimated that in 1766, when the census of Jews obliged to pay poll taxes was concluded, there were in the Commonwealth as a whole some 750,000 Jews, which constituted seven per cent of the total population of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. According to Rafal Mahler, at this time some 29 per cent of all Jews lived in ethnically Polish areas, 44 per cent in Lithuania and Byelorussia and 27 per cent in regions with a predominantly Ukrainian population. Two thirds of all Jews lived in towns and the remainder in the countryside.

ollowing the first partition of Poland some 150,000 Jews found themselves under Austrian occupation, about 25,000 in the Russian zone and only 5,000 in Prussia. The population census conducted in Poland in 1790-91 demonstrated a further increase in the number of Jewish inhabitants. Tadeusz Czacki estimated them at over 900,000, that is some 10 per cent of the total population of the then Commonwealth. In the same period (1780) in the Austrian zone there were over 150,000 Jews and several tens of thousands in the remaining partition zones. The reconstruction of towns after each war took a long time. The quickest to emerge from ruin were the estates of magnates who willingly employed the Jewish population. In the eastern part of the Commonwealth and partly in central Poland Jews played an important role in reactivating crafts, and not only such traditionally Jewish branches as goldsmithery, pewter, haberdashery and glass manufacture, furriery and tailoring, but also tin and copper working, arms production, carpentry, printing, dying and soap manufacture. There appeared in this period a large number of Jewish craftsmen who traveled from village to village, from manor to manor, in search of temporary employment. The material situation of Jewish craftsmen was generally difficult.

he pauperization of towns and villages made it hard to sell their products both for Jewish craftsmen and their Christian counterparts. In the large cities, rivalry between the guilds on the one hand and the Jewish and Christian "patchers" on the other bred conflicts. These often ended in compromise and Jews more often than ever before were admitted to Christian guilds. At the same time, next to the old ones, new, purely Jewish guilds were formed, for example in Poznari, Krakow, Lvov, Przemysl, Kepno, Leszno, Luck, Berdyczow, Minsk, Tykocin and Bialystok. During the wars of the middle of the 17th century Jewish wholesale trade, both long distance and foreign, came nearly to a standstill. Only in some cities, for example Brody and Leszno, Jewish merchants, thanks to considerable support on the part of the magnates, succeeded in renewing contacts with Gdansk, Wroclaw, Krolewiec, Frankfurt on Oder and to a lesser degree with England. Thanks to the magnates' assistance local Jewish trade also began to expand. Most shops in the reconstructed town halls were leased to Jews (for example in Staszow, Siemiatycze, Kock, Siedlce and Bialystok). Peddling was also spreading as a result of which trade exchange between town and country, interrupted during the wars, was revived.

fter the middle of the 17th century wars radical changes took place in the organization of credits. Large banking houses disappeared and the kahals, instead of being creditors, turned into debtors. Representatives of the gentry and the clergy increasingly often placed their money in Jewish communities at the same time forcing the latter to take genuine responsibility for the debts of individual Jews. In case a kahal was unable to repay its debts, the gentry had the right to seal and dose down its prayer house, imprison the elders and confiscate goods belonging to merchants. In order to safeguard themselves against the lightheartedness of individual debtors the communities applied the credit hazakah, which consisted in the community issuing permissions to its members who wanted to avail themselves of credit. Whether someone was given a loan or not was often decided by a clique consisting of the kahal elders. Part of the capital leased from the gentry and the clergy and augmented by means of interest disappeared into the pockets of the kahal oligarchy, while part of it was turned over to nonproductive purposes, for example to financing defense in ritual murder trials, paying for the lords' protection, etc.

n the first half of the 18th century the gentry and the clergy became anxious of the fate of money located in the Jewish communities and the interests from unpaid debts which were growing in a landslide. When the above mentioned methods failed to produce adequate results, the krupki were applied, that is a consumption taxation, the income from which was destined totally for paying off the debts. Finally in 1764 a decision was taken on abolishing kahal banks altogether and servicing debts by taxing each Jew. As a result of the general impoverishment of the Jewish population in the second half of the 17th and in the 18th century, differences between the people and the kahal oligarchy deepened, the latter trying to pass the burden of the growing state and kahal taxes onto the shoulders of the poorer classes. In several cities, for example in Krakow, Leszno and Drohobycz, the Jewish poor revolted against the kahal oligarchies. A fierce struggle against the kahals was carried out by Jewish guilds which tried to free themselves from their economic dependence.

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MaciekWielki
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Re: Polish Jewish history

Post autor: MaciekWielki » 07 sty 2013, 10:57

At the same time, especially in larger royal towns, conflicts fired by economic rivalry broke out between Jews and Christians. The tense atmosphere of this struggle, conducted usually under religious slogans, was conducive to the outbreak of anti-Jewish riots and pogroms, for example in Krakow, Poznan, Lvov, Vilna, Brest Litovsk and several other cities. Particularly menacing were ritual trials organized in the period of religious prejudices. However much more dangerous was the situation in the Ukraine where the Jews returned only in the late 17th century. The role played in the 18th century by Jewish lease holders in the Polish magnates' colonial policy turned the anger of the local populace, as was the case during Bohdan Chmielnicki's uprising, against both the Polish gentry and Jews generally. In 1768, during a peasant rebellion called kolisczyzna, which was organized under the slogans of "winning independence" and defense of the Russian Orthodox religion, in Humari and several other Ukrainian cities several thousand gentry and several tens of thousand Jews were murdered.

he events in the Ukraine in 1768 turned the minds of the more enlightened section of Polish society to the problem of carrying out fundamental political reforms and solving both the peasant and the Jewish question. The latter was not only discussed in the last decades of the Commonwealth but practical ways of solving it were sought. Many pamphlets and Sejm speeches dealt with this matter. Some were for the further limitation of the Jews' economic activity while others spoke of turning the Jews into subjects of the gentry, as was the case with the peasants. Finally there were also those who demanded the expulsion of Jews from Poland. These views were opposed by an enlightened group of the gentry, led by Tadeusz Czacki and Maciej Topor Butrymowicz. This group demanded the limitation of the authority of the kahals and a change in the occupational structure of Jews through their employment in manufacturing and agricultural farms. It was also for the assimilation of the Jews and their inclusion in the burgher estate.

n the 1760s the Jewish question was the subject of Sejm debates. In 1764 the Sejm passed a resolution on the liquidation of the central and land organization of the Jews. In 1768 it decided that Jews might perform only such occupations which were allowed to them by individual agreements with towns. From the point of view of Jews, this meant full dependence on their all-time rival in the economic field, that is on the burghers. The Sejm of 1775 undertook the problem of agrarianization of the Jewish community and passed a resolution granting tax exemptions to those Jews who settled on uncultivated land. The same law forbade rabbis to wed those who had no permanent earnings. Jewish reforms were also discussed during the Great Sejm which elected a special commission for Jewish affairs. However this commission did not manage to submit its findings before 14 April 1791, that is the date when the law on towns was passed, on the basis of which Jews were not included in the burgher estate.

ater the Jewish question was dealt with several times; however the Four Year Sejm failed to approve any fundamental reforms in this field. The only important concession for the Jews during the debates of the Four Year Sejm was contained in the law of the police commission of 24 May 1792 which said that Jews, like all other citizens of the Commonwealth, could avail themselves of the right not to be put in prison without a court verdict. Though no important law concerning the solving of the Jewish question was approved by the Four Year Sejm, the very fact that the matter was discussed was welcomed by part of the Jewish community with appreciation. On the first anniversary of the passing of the Third of May Constitution services of thanksgiving were held in all synagogues and a special hymn was published. Neither was the difficult Jewish question solved in the Prussian and Austrian partition zones.

n the Prussian zone, according to the decree issued by Frederick II, the Jewish population was to be subordinated to the Prussian Jewish ordinance (General Judenreglement) of 17 April 1797. The right to permanent residence in towns was granted only to rich Jews and those engaged in trade. Jews were forbidden to pursue those occupations which were already represented in the guilds. The poor Jews, the Bettel Juden, were ordered by Frederick II to be expelled from the country. The activity of Jewish self-government organizations was limited almost exclusively to religious affairs. In the Austrian partition zone the attitude towards the Jewish question went through two stages, In the initial period, that is during the reign of Maria Theresa and the first years of rule of Joseph II, the separateness of the Jewish population from the rest of Galician society was retained and, with only slight modifications, Jewish self-government was preserved. The poorest Jews were expelled from the country. The remainder were limited in their right to get married, removed from many sources of income and forced to pay high taxes.

n the second half of the reign of Joseph II the Jews were recruited into the army (1788) and then, on the strength of the grand Jewish ordinance of 1789 certain restrictions in relation to the Jewish population were lifted and attempts were made to make them equal with the burghers. Expulsions of the Jewish population from Galicia were discontinued, the separate Jewish judiciary was abolished, Jewish self-government was restricted. Jews were ordered to wear dress similar to the Christian population and obliged to attend either German or reformed Jewish schools. However the separate Jewish tax was retained and their economic activity in the countryside was restricted. Some of these decrees met with a decided opposition on the part of the Jews and were eventually revoked. In 1792 Leopold II, Joseph II's successor, changed the military duty of the Jews into a money contribution, while the decree ordering the Jews to wear Christian dress was never introduced in practice.

n the second half of the 17th century Jews took an increasingly numerous part in the wars fought by the Commonwealth. During wars against the Cossacks and the Tartars, the Jewish population provided infantry and mounted troops. Some young Jews fought in the open field, for example in the battle of Beresteczko. Jews also fought in defense of besieged cities, for example Tulczyn, Polonne, Lvov and others. During Poland's wars with Sweden (1655-60), Russia (1654-67) and Turkey (1667-99) Jews provided recruits and participated in the city's defense (for example Przemysl, Vitebsk, Stary Bychow, Mohylew, Lvov and Trembowla), together with the burghers and gentry organized sorties to the enemy's camp (for example at Suraz in 1655, in the vicinity of Podhajce in 1667 and in Przemysl in 1672). The military engineer Jezue Moszkowicz of Kazimierz near Krakow, who in 1664 served in the Polish army, saved heavy mortars and other weapons from being sunk during the war against Russia.

uring the Kosciuszko Insurrection and wars against Tsarist Russia in 1794 Jews supported the uprising either in auxiliary services or in arms. For example they took part in the April revolution in Warsaw where many of them perished. After the Russian army was repulsed from Warsaw the idea was born to create a separate military unit composed of Jewish volunteers. This idea was backed by the commander in chief of the Insurrection, Tadeusz Kosciuszko. "Nothing can convince more the far away nations about the holiness of our cause and the justness of the present revolution," he wrote in a Statement on the Formation of a Regiment of Jews, "than that, though separated from us by their religion and customs, they sacrifice their own lives of their own free will in order to support the uprising." The Jewish regiment under Colonel Berek Josielewicz took part in the fighting during the storming of the Praga district of Warsaw by Tsarist troops on 4 November 1794. With the blood shed in this war they documented the loyalty of the Jewish population to the cause of the revolution and the slogans it upheld-equality and fraternity.

s the 19th century began, the Jewish community differed from the other groups of citizens of the partitioned country in their speech, customs and religion. They were also in different legal positions which were defined in the statutes of each of the ruling powers and the short-lived Duchy of Warsaw (1807-15) created by Napoleon. The laws that were derived from the period of the Commonwealth (prior to partition), laid down different rules for each estate: the gentry, the clergy, the burghers and the peasants. The place of Jews in society was defined by separate laws and thus they formed another independent estate. The foreign partitioning powers introduced many changes to these laws, for the most part to the detriment of their Jewish populations as compared with their status in pre-partition Poland. In spite of this regression, it was during the 19th century that the process of gradual emancipation of Jews was initiated. This was closely connected with the social liberation aims of the rest of the population.

n the part of Poland which was governed by Austria, the basic legal regulations concerning Jews were introduced during the late 18th century. They restricted the number of occupations that Jews were allowed to perform (for example they were forbidden to be chemists, brewers or flour-millers), engaging in trade was limited and some of the Jews were forced to move from country to towns. It should be added that some towns still enjoyed the privilege of de non tolerandis Judaeis, such as Biala, Jaslo, Wieliczka and Zywiec. In others, the occupation authorities forced the Jews to live in special quarters, ghettos, in the cities of Lvov, Nowy Sacz and Tarnow. These new regulations, which were introduced as a ''progressive reform'', contributed to the worsening of the living conditions of a large part of Jewish society.

ccording to estimates, in the 1820's in Galicia over forty per cent of all Jews had no permanent employment thus forming the proletariat (Luftmenshen) who lived ''from the air''. These restrictions applied above all to the poor strata whom the Austrian authorities thought to be a troublesome element. On the other hand, rich entrepreneurs enjoyed a relatively wide scope of freedom of activity. Thus this policy led to the intensification of material and social differences among the Jews. While certain individuals managed to acquire riches, the overwhelming majority lived in poverty. Jewish merchants played important role in Galicia. Major trade centers were Lvov and Brody. The latter became a large commercial center in Central Europe due to its convenient location across communication routes and to it acquiring, in the first half of the 19th century, customs privileges which promoted trade with Russia.

asic changes in the situation of Galician Jewry took place after 1848. Jews were active in the revolutionary movement of the period, which resulted in a Polish-Jewish reconciliation and Jewish emancipation. In the years following 1859 the Austrian authorities began to gradually repeal legal restrictions. In 1867-68 all citizens, Jews included, were finally made equal in the eyes of the law. As a result of difficult economic conditions in Galicia, equal rights were not enough to solve many everyday problems. Poor economic conditions forced many people to emigrate. Generally, Jews from Galicia sought work in other countries of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, sometimes in Vienna, and also in Hungary and the Balkan countries. Towards the end of the 19th century the wave of peasant emigration included many Jews as well.

etween 1881 and 1900 some 150,000 Jews emigrated, while between 1900 and 1914 about 175,000 Jews from Galicia left for the United States. The repressive Prussian laws introduced in former Polish territories were directed against the Jewish proletariat. There were a number of restrictions which, among other things, aimed at forcing the Jews out of the country as long as they could not produce evidence of possessing appropriate wealth. The General Ordinance on the Jews (General-Judenreglement) of April 17, 1797 divided all Jews into those ''protected''( Schutzuden), who were obliged to know the German language and possess a sufficient amount of wealth, and those who were merely ''tolerated''. This ordinance limited the rights of Jews to settle in the countryside. It also ordered the removal from the area those Jews who could not prove that they had resided in a given town in the territory of the partition zone at the time when this territory had been annexed to Prussia. The same regulations were introduced in the Grand Duchy of Poznan which had been part of the Duchy of Warsaw before the former was joined to Prussia. Equal rights for all Jews came in 1848, when the differences between the two categories of Jews were abolished.

ater, in 1850 , Jews were given the same rights as the remaining subjects of the king of Prussia. It should be added incidentally that the legislation which accorded certain privileges to those Jews who spoke German was conducive to assimilation. On the other hand, a large number of those who could not speak German, had to leave the country. The constitution of the Duchy of Warsaw, by abolishing differences between the estates, introduced formal equality of all citizens. In spite of this, it provided for a number of restrictions in relation to Jews. For example they were forbidden to work in certain occupations and the granting of full rights to them was made dependent on their cultural and traditional assimilation.

he Jewish question became the subject of extensive discussion. Some authors accused them of selling cheap, poor quality products. To this the outstanding economist, Wawrzyniec Surowiecki (1769-1827) replied: ''It is not the fault of the merchant or the craftsman that he supplies the country with this sort [of goods], but it is the result of the poverty and misery of the inhabitants who can afford nothing better. Were this sentence not true in relation to Poland, the Jews, together with their humble goods, would have soon gone bankrupt.'' In such discussions one could easily discern interests of the burghers who were afraid of competition from Jewish merchants and craftsmen and therefore were in favor of restrictive measures against the Jews.

he overwhelming majority of Jews in the Duchy of Warsaw were poor and made their living from petty trade and crafts. Only some succeeded in accumulating wealth. Of the latter, the leading place undoubtedly goes to the family of Samuel Zbitkover (1756-1801) who laid the foundations of his fortune in the final years of the Commonwealth when he was engaged in provisioning the army. Then there was also the banker Samuel Kronenberg whose son would play an important role in the country's economic and political life. The Congress of Vienna of 1815 created from part of the Duchy of Warsaw a new political entity-the constitutional Kingdom of Poland (also known as Congress Poland), with the Russian tsar as its king. Although the constitution provided for equality of all citizens, this referred only to Christians while Jews were deprived of both citizenship, and civil rights. The legal norms from the period of the Duchy of Warsaw were kept in force. Jews were not subject to duty in the army services but instead they were burdened with heavy taxes.

n cities the Jewish population had no municipal rights. Only limited forms of Jewish self-government were preserved. From the highly complex system of autonomous self-governing organizations of Jewish society in old Poland, only the lowest rung, the community, was left. In 1821 new regulations replaced the former kahal boards with new prayer-house supervisory bodies. The latter's terms of reference were limited only to religious matters and charity campaigns. They were also entrusted with certain administrative functions, for example the collecting of recruitment taxes. Important changes, connected with the process of social differentiation, took place within Jewish society. This process took on a particularly clear-cut form in the country's capital, Warsaw, where there arose a group of rich business owners and numerous intelligentsia, the latter composed for the most part of representatives of the professions (doctors, lawyers) as well as artists and booksellers, since Jews were not employed in public offices and institutions. These groups kept in touch with the corresponding Polish groups and took an active part in the country's intellectual life and political movements. Gradually they also came closer to the Polish forms of dress, customs and language. They began to aspire to full citizens' rights and emancipation and the transformation of the Jewish community as a whole. They sought ways of reforming the traditional customs, adapting the various religious requirements and prescriptions to the conditions of contemporary life and freeing themselves from the domination of the intolerant, and sometimes downright primitive, orthodox circles. Jewish youth formed secret societies collaborating with their Polish counterparts in clandestine educational and political work.

he November Insurrection of 1830-31 did not change the legal status of the Jews. The conservative leaders of the insurrection did not plan very progressive reforms in any field of social life. Nevertheless since Jews in Warsaw shared the national liberation aims of the insurrection, in early 1831 small groups of the richest Jewish sections were allowed to join the National Guards. Representatives of the petite bourgeoisie could enlist in the Municipal Guards while the proletariat joined the Security Guards. After the collapse of the November Insurrection the first steps were taken to introduce into the Kingdom of Poland the same rights as those binding in the rest of the Russian Empire in relation to Jews. Also in this field the Russian authorities attempted to blur out the differences between the Polish partition zone and the rest of Russia, although the administrative separateness of the Kingdom of Poland and its self-governing bodies were preserved for the time being.

he national authorities opposed unification attempts and tried to keep in force separate laws for the Jews. On the other hand progressive circles were preparing projects for granting Jews equal rights. The latter attempts corresponded to those represented by the progressive enlightened Jewish circles. It is true that arguments and discussions did not produce any direct effect in the form of new laws, but they promoted cooperation between those Jewish and Polish circles who wanted the abolition of legal and economic elements of the feudal system which still prevailed in the Kingdom of Poland. Next to the enfranchisement of the peasants, the most important question was the granting of equal rights to the Jews.

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MaciekWielki
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Re: Polish Jewish history

Post autor: MaciekWielki » 07 sty 2013, 10:57

Political movements became particularly active in 1861. Young Jews joined the various underground circles which arose in many towns. In summer news reached Poland about the death of two outstanding and much esteemed Polish emigration leaders, Joachim Lelewel (1786-1861) and Prince Adam Czartoryski (1770-1861). Prayers in commemoration of these two famous Poles were held in churches with the participation of Jews and in synagogues with the participation of Poles. Joint manifestations were organized on anniversaries of important historic events. The famous rabbi Dov Berush Meisels (1798-1870), who had moved from Krakow to Warsaw, proclaimed the brotherhood of Poles and Jews. The right to vote was granted to all male citizens over 25 years of age who could speak and write Polish, irrespective of religion, but with a qualification that the voter must own property. Through these changes Jews were allowed to take part in elections on an equal footing with the rest of society. Jewish representatives were elected to local self-governing bodies.

n the autumn of 1861 further demonstrations took place. For example on October 10th, during the funeral of Archbishop Antoni Fijalkowski (1778-1861), three graduates of the Warsaw rabbinical school unfurled the Polish banner. Patriotic manifestations with the participation of Jews were held also in other towns. The Russian authorities decided to approve the principles of reform of the legal status of Jews, which had been prepared by the autonomous organs of the Kingdom of Poland. On June 5th 1862 the decree introducing equal rights in many important fields was announced. Thus the road to gradual emancipation was opened. Since the most politically-minded Jewish circles considered the changes as their victory, they supported the January Insurrection of 1863. Several months after the outbreak of the insurrection, the insurrectionary National Government proclaimed full equality of rights for Jews in Poland. Jews found themselves in the ranks of insurrectionary armies and also among the leaders of the insurrection. The well-known banker and industrialist, Leopold Kronenberg (1812-78), who had wide-ranging contacts in European banking circles, organized the insurrection's finances.

he fall of the insurrection, however, crushed hopes and destroyed the reforms of the National Government. The progress which took place in introducing equal rights for Jews in the 1860's favored the development of transformations in consciousness in cultural and political life. In the second half of the 19th century, new political currents took shape. They had their supporters not only among the relatively limited wealthy social strata and intelligentsia, but also among the masses of the population. In the previous decades a movement aimed at the emancipation of Jews had developed. One important component of it was making Jews similar in dress and customs to their Polish surroundings and animating their intellectual life. Some of the leading representatives of this movement gradually became assimilated into Polish society. For them assimilation was the aim to which Jewish society as a whole should aspire. Though they preserved their links with their old circles, their children considered themselves, and were considered by others, to be Poles. These sections of Jewish society produced many families which played an important role in Polish culture, for example the Slonimski, Natanson and Toeplitz families.

he program of assimilation found it hard to reach to the masses of the population, one of the reasons being that the latter had no access to schools other than religious ones and had no conditions for mastering the Polish language and adopting different customs. What is more, after the basic premises of emancipation were won, the program of assimilation ceased to be considered as the only way to social emancipation. Other political concepts appealed to the masses much more. Towards the end of the 19th century another factor also emerged. Throughout Europe a wave of nationalism, directed above all against the Jews, swelled. France saw the Dreyfus case in 1894, in Czechoslovakia there was the Hilsner case in 1899 and in Russia the Beylis case in 1913. In Germany Richard Wagner wrote: ''The liberation from the yoke of Judaism is for us the supreme necessity.'' In the Kingdom of Poland this current was represented by Roman Dmowski (1864- 1939) and the National Democratic Party created by him. The medium for anti-Semitic sentiments was the growing rivalry among the petite bourgeoisie.

n Warsaw and other towns appeals to boycott Jewish shops appeared and instances of raids on Jewish shops were noted. The writer and journalist Leo Belmont (1862-1941) wrote: ''In some shops the eloquent notice 'Christian shop' appeared in accordance with the recommendation of Mr. Roman Dmowski who is the author of a new commentary to the Gospels, namely that Christ cleansed the Temple of the Jewish money-lenders only in order to bring the Polish tradesmen in there.'' And although the progressive Polish circles opposed such tendencies, they could do nothing to prevent them. This situation contributed to the defeat of the assimilation movement as the political concept which would help Jews win for themselves mass influence in society. The difficult economic situation, discrimination practiced by the Russian authorities and finally the emergence of anti-Semitism gave rise to Jewish emigration. They departed for some West European countries but above all for the United States. In most cases, however, they preserved strong sentimental links with their home country.

owards the end of the 19th century, among the Jewish proletariat, some groups of the impoverished petite bourgeoisie and part of the intelligentsia, great influence was exerted by the ideologies of the workers' parties. Later a Zionist movement emerged and finally the conservative movement took on organized forms. Other groups and movements had much lesser influence. The above mentioned political and ideological movements were not fully uniform. The workers' parties were divided as far as their strategies and tactics were concerned. Also, in addition to organizations which accepted members irrespective of nationality, there were some which had a powerful national character. Among the Jewish proletariat strong influence was exerted by the Jewish socialist Bund party formed at a secret meeting in Vilna in 1897. The Bund members proclaimed that it was possible to solve the social and nationality problems of the Jews in their countries of residence, that is also in Polish territories. Considerable influence was also won by the party called Po'alei Zion (Workers of Zion) divided into a left and right wing. Many Jews were members of the Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania. Within the Polish Socialist Party a Jewish Organization existed which produced many outstanding leaders.

he workers' movement aimed at the solution of nationality problems through the transformation of the existing social system and the liquidation of exploitation of man by man which was inherent in the capitalist system. A different stand was taken by the Zionist movement which put to the fore the nationality question. It maintained that this question could not be solved by way of cooperation of working people irrespective of their nationality. It treated the nationality conflicts as an unavoidable phenomenon and saw the only hope in the foundation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The realization of this goal was to be the main task of each Jew, although it was also necessary to defend one's interests within the country of residence. The Zionist movement, too, was divided as regards concepts concerning its strategy and tactics. For the conservatives, the most important problem was the preservation of tradition identified with religion and the scrupulous observance of customs. This was accompanied by considerable indifference towards other matters. In relation to authorities their program principle was the attitude of loyalty, and thus they proclaimed full obedience to state laws. Thus far they had not formed their own political organization and their influence was based on the authority of the zaddikim and the faithful Hasidim who formed their courts.

n 1918 some groups of the Jewish population, especially the conservative circles which maintained a detached attitude in relation to problems which did not concern the Jews directly, took a position of neutrality and expectation on the question of the rebirth of the Polish state. Some were afraid of any change since-as the experience of many generations had taught them-changes usually brought disaster in their wake. This opinion seemed to be justified in view of the anti-Jewish riots and raids which took place in some parts of the country, although the real significance of these events must not be overestimated. They were caused by conflicts of a social and economic nature between the merchant stratum and its customers from small towns and the countryside. In other instances these were simply criminal offenses, for example in Lvov where the pogroms in the Jewish streets were the work of criminals released from prisons. The conservatives, represented by the orthodox party Agudat Israel, which was founded in Poland in 1916, declared their loyalty to the Polish state shortly after its government was constituted. On the other hand representatives of other directions, especially the socialist organizations and their like, very often demonstrated their positive attitude to the independence of Poland and also took an active part in the struggle for liberation.

ews found themselves in the ranks of the Legions organized by Jozef Pilsudski (1867-1935) and also in other volunteer formations which proclaimed the program of independent Poland. Such attitude to the approaching transformations was connected with the conviction-maintained by both the Polish and Jewish masses-that the re-emergent Polish state would have a truly democratic character and thus would bring a solution of the urgent social and political problems and become a state of social justice for the working people. Poland emerged as a bourgeois republic under the influence of the great revolutionary movement which swept the whole of Eastern and Central Europe in the years 1917-19. Although the reborn state did not solve the basic economic and social questions, its legislation granted equal rights to all citizens irrespective of nationality and religious convictions. This was guaranteed by its constitution adopted by the Sejm in March 1921. Thus were abolished the legal norms inherited from the partitioning powers, which gave different legal status to various groups of society. However some questions as laid down in the constitution lent themselves to various interpretations.

n 1931 the Sejm passed a law which abrogated expressis verbis all regulations which were discriminatory on grounds of religion, nationality and race. In this respect independent Poland fulfilled the people's hopes. The matter was different in the field of economic relations. In the inter-war period Poland found herself in an extremely difficult situation. Leaving aside the fluctuations of economic development experienced by all capitalist countries (a particularly deep drop in production, employment and incomes was noted in the first half of the 1930's), the average increase in the number of places of work was far behind the population growth. Overpopulation of the countryside became more acute, which in turn brought about the shrinking of the internal market and the resultant impoverishment of petty tradesmen and craftsmen. Unemployment in towns took on catastrophic dimensions. In these circumstances, especially in the 1930's, the pauperization of those strata which earned their living from small shops increased. Economists spoke of the overcrowding of trade and crafts.

ccording to the 1931 census of the nearly 32 million Polish citizens, 10 per cent (or some three million) were Jews. Of this figure 42 per cent worked in industry, mining and crafts and 36 per cent in trade and kindred branches. Other occupations played a lesser role in the Jews, occupational structure. In some branches of the economy Jews constituted a majority. This concerned above all the retail trade where 71 per cent of all tradesmen were Jewish. In the clothing and leather industry this percentage was almost 50. Typical Jewish occupations were tailoring and shoemaking. However in the conditions of massive unemployment, in spite of the over abundance of certain specialties in crafts, they had no chance of finding employment. At the same time there was a growth in the number of merchants and craftsmen of other nationalities. In the countryside, the expanding cooperative movement became a serious rival to the private merchants. It would be wrong to assume that the concentration of Jews in certain branches of the economy and their pauperization were the result of a deliberate policy on the part of the state.

t is true that the administration was unfavorably disposed towards employing other than Polish nationals in state enterprises, especially those of military importance (for example railways and armaments factories) and therefore removed Jews from these establishments. However, the direct reason for anti-Jewish discrimination has to be sought in the past, in the relations which had been formed in the period of the partitions. The overcoming of the traditional occupational and social structure of the Jewish community could be accomplished only by the acceleration of the economic development of the country as a whole and also by the creation of conditions favoring the acquiring of new trades which had not been popular among the Jewish community. This problem was also perceived by some Jewish organizations which undertook actions aimed at training young people in various specialties. This was done most often by the Zionist organizations which in connection with their Palestinian plans attempted to prepare groups of settlers having definite trades. However the scope of this action was very modest indeed since it depended on winning financial means as well as those willing to go to Palestine. Similar undertakings could not be carried out on a mass scale without appropriate assistance from the state in a situation where the government found it difficult to acquire sufficient financial resources for the most urgent needs. What is more, even if money had been available, the specialists trained in this way would not have been able to find employment anyway.

he same objective reasons made it impossible to overcome the concentration of Jewish laborers in small enterprises and workshops, while it should be borne in mind that over 70 per cent of the Jewish urban proletariat were employed in such small establishments. This adverse situation was also affected by some traditional customs and religion. Since Jews observed Sabbath, it was difficult to employ in one enterprise both Jewish and Christian workers without disorganizing the rhythm of production. Even Jewish entrepreneurs unwillingly employed a Jewish labor force. Of course not all of them were Orthodox Jews and not all of them refused to work on Saturdays. However those who wanted to work on Saturdays were treated with suspicion by their employers who feared lest they belonged to a socialist or communist organization and one day might organize the factory work force in struggle for their interests. In smaller establishments, in which the owner himself took part in both the production process and management, work on Saturdays was suspended.

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MaciekWielki
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Re: Polish Jewish history

Post autor: MaciekWielki » 07 sty 2013, 10:58

The Jewish question in inter-war Poland was above all a social problem. Without solving the problems which were common to all working people, there was no chance of changing the lot of the Polish Jews. And the capitalist system provided no prospect of a radical overcoming of backwardness and increasing the number of jobs, despite efforts on the part of the state undertaken in particular in the second half of the 1930's. Thus emigration continued. There are no exhaustive data on this subject. However, it is known that between 1927 and 1938 nearly 200,000 Polish Jews left Poland, of which number 74,000 went to Palestine, 34,000 to Argentina and 28,000 to the United States. The largest waves of emigration were recorded in the 1920's. Following the great slump, after 1929, those countries which up till then accepted immigrants, introduced new, ever more severe restrictions on immigration. This concerned, among other countries, the United States. For this reason in the 1930's overseas emigration limited in scope while the number of those going to Palestine increased.

ccording to the most reliable calculations, between 1919 and 1942 almost 140,000 Polish Jews went to Palestine, that is, some 42 per cent of the total number of immigrants accepted by that country; the largest intensification of Palestine-bound emigration took place in the years 1933-36 when the number of emigrants amounted to 75,000. In the difficult economic situation and the changes in legal and political status of Jews after Poland had regained her independence, various programs of activity were formed. The traditional program of the Agudat Israel, which boiled down to the observance of religious prescriptions, loyalty towards the state and the expectation of the Kingdom of God, could not suffice. Although the position of this party among the petite bourgeoisie was maintained by the authority of the zaddikim (a particularly important role in the leadership of the Agudat Israel was played by the famous Tzaddik of Gora Kalwaria who was however criticized by many), its attempts at consolidating a specific kind of ideological ghetto (the isolation of the Jews from the goyim) resulted in a gradual decrease of its influence. Step by step the party moved towards the acceptance of the prospect of building a Jewish state in Palestine. On the other hand, the influence of the workers' parties continued to be strong.

he most important role was still played by the Bund, some concepts of which were close to those of the radical left wing, though its members represented a whole variety of views. The Bund differed from the program put forward by the communists in that it demanded cultural and national autonomy for national minorities, especially for the Jews, and perceived the necessity of organizing the whole of the Jewish proletariat in one, separate national party. Many Bund leaders saw the need for dictatorship by the proletariat (the Bund program adopted in 1930 mentioned the possibility of such dictatorship). The party was decidedly opposed to the conservatives and discarded religion. It accused the Agudat Israel of defending the interests of the propertied classes to the detriment of the needs of the masses. The most outstanding leaders of the Bund were Victor Alter (1890-1941), Henryk Erlich (1882- 1941) and Samuel Zygelbojm (1895-1943). The Bund, like the illegal Communist Party of Poland to which many Jews also belonged and the Polish Socialist Party, saw the only chance of solving the Jewish question in Poland in building a socialist society without man's exploitation by man. It sought its allies among workers of all nationalities living in Poland. It opposed all concepts of emigration since it perceived the impracticability of the idea of organizing emigration of a several million strong nation.

he socialist leaders considered the Palestinian campaign to be an element weakening the forces of the proletariat fighting for a change in social relations and as a solution which at best could constitute a chance for only few. A radical social program was also voiced by the left wing of the Po'alei Zion which saw prospects for the Jews in a socialist revolution and in introducing cultural and national autonomy. For the future, it accepted the idea of building a socialist Jewish state in Palestine and therefore it supported the Palestinian campaigns. Its leading members were Antoni Budhsbaum, Szachna Sagan and Jozef Witkin-Zerubavel (1876-1912). A much smaller following was enjoyed by the right wing of the Po'alei Zion which concentrated above all on Palestinian works, that is all activity aimed at forming. a future Jewish state, including education of qualified farmers, workers and soldiers. All the workers, organizations, irrespective of the differences that separated them, cooperated in many important issues. They undertook a common struggle against campaigns organized by the right wing of the National Democratic Party. In Warsaw they even formed an underground organization the task of which was to put up armed resistance to the nationalist militants.

oth Jews and Poles connected with the workers, movement took part in its work. Different views were voiced by Zionist organizations which saw the Jews, future exclusively in emigration and in building their own state. The Palestinian works became the most important aim while current issues of political life were relegated to the background, though they were not totally neglected. After Poland regained her independence, the most important organization was the Zionist Organization in Poland composed of three regional branches (for the former Austrian partition zone, eastern Galicia and western Galicia). Its members represented various views which in later years resulted in its break-up and the formation of a splinter group known as Zionist Revisionists who set up the New Zionist Organization. Among the leading activists of the Zionist movement mention is due above all to Rabbi Osias (Jehoshua) Thon (1870 - 1936), Emil Sommerstein (1883- 1957), Henryk Rosmaryn (1882-1955), all representing the Et Livnot wing, and Yizhak Gruenbaum (1879-1970), the magnificent orator, for many years Sejm deputy from the Al ha-Mishmar wing. Zionism was strongly opposed to both the workers, and conservative movements. The latter accused them of profaning religious tradition because in the future Jewish state the language of everyday use was to be Hebrew, the language of the holy books.

he other political groups generally considered Yiddish to be the language of everyday use. It is only an apparent paradox that the Zionist movement found support in Poland's nationalist circles. In the 1930's government circles granted it some assistance, especially to the radical group of the Zionist Revisionists who were ready to win an independent Jewish state in armed struggle. The plane on which agreement was reached was the question of emigration. For the Polish government saw no chances of solving the country's social problems with the use of its own resources and wanted to stimulate the emigration of the most impoverished sections which were the heaviest burden on the labor market. In the second half of the 1930,s another factor was added to this. From the National Democratic Party, the Sanacja government-the political camp which wielded dictatorial power in Poland at the time-adopted some of its ideas an tried to induce emigration first of all of national minorities.

n important arena of struggle among various political groups active among the Jews were the religious communities. The community was in principle a religious institution derived from the synagogue supervisors established in the former Russian partition zone. The principles of activity of the communities were laid down in a decree of 1927 which was binding in all of Poland with the exception of Silesia. By law, each community encompassed all followers of Judaism who lived in its area of operation. Obviously unbelievers were allowed to leave this organization and thus relinquish both the duties and the rights which were binding on its members. However, in fact only a few did that. According to the above mentioned decree, the terms of reference of the community included the maintenance of the rabbinate, the buildings and facilities which served religious needs and cemeteries, the supervision of religious instruction of their youth, the provision of kosher meat to the faithful, the administration of the community's property and funds and dispensing of charities.

he sphere of activity thus defined went beyond the limits of purely religious ministrations. The management of funds and assistance to the poor were after all of basic importance, especially in the years of economic crisis. The authorities of the community were thus responsible not only for satisfying religious needs but also for social policy. For these reasons the Jewish communities aroused interest in some political parties. Traditionally the community boards were dominated by the Agudat Israel. However as early as the 1920's, especially in large industrial centers, the Bund and the Zionists were also represented on these bodies. During the elections held in the spring of 1931, those groups challenged the orthodox factions since they saw the possibility of transforming the denominational institutions into a kind of cultural and national self-government. In this conflict, representatives of the Agudat Israel resorted to various abuses of electoral regulations, such as depriving their opponents of the right to vote on the accusation that they were acting against the religion. They also used the assistance of administrative bodies which were afraid lest the denominational self-government might become in time a political institution. The opponents of the conservatives quite rightly maintained that in many communities the latter neglected the needs of the working masses and even accused them of corrupt practices.

he second half of the 1930's brought many phenomena which intensified emigration sentiments among the Polish Jews. The country's economic situation did not promise any improvement, while emigration could facilitate the gaining of means of subsistence. Some young Zionists grew impatient since the longed-for proclamation of a Jewish state did not materialize. Violent acts committed by the National Democrats became more frequent, despite opposition on the part of progressive organizations and many outstanding scholars. However in practice in many universities the nationalists succeeded in introducing various regulations which were aimed against students of Jewish origin (not only those who considered themselves to be Jewish). Some municipal authorities passed regulations discriminating against the Jews though formally in accord with the existing legislation. There were cases of groups of militants beating up professors (for example Professors Edward Lipinski and Tadeusz Kotarbinski) who were opposed to anti-Semitism.

here were also instances of pogroms in small towns where the mob, incited by the nationalists and composed mainly of criminal elements, robbed and demolished Jewish booths and shops and maltreated their owners. Assistance from the workers could not always stop the attackers. The government took an equivocal stand in this matter. Though it condemned pogroms, yet at the same time Prime Minister Felicjan Slawoj Skladkowski (1885-1962) declared in the Sejm: ''Economic boycott? That's right!'' The Church condemned such excesses, but simultaneously well-known journalists writing for Catholic journals advised Christians to stay apart from the Jews. Of great importance were the events in Germany. After Hitler took power, mass persecutions of Jews started, among whom there were also some 50,000 Polish subjects living in Germany. This resulted in official protests from the Polish consulates and embassy which took various steps to help the persecuted. However, the Polish authorities were afraid that this persecution would reduce the Polish Jews living in Germany to such poverty that they would be forced to return to Poland where they would not find any means of subsistence. Many employees of the Polish consulates-as reports sent to Warsaw indicate-intervened on behalf of Jews for purely humanitarian reasons, since they wanted, at least to some degree, to alleviate the difficult situation of the persecuted Jews. These interventions stopped the Third Reich from applying against the Polish Jews all repressive measures which were used against the German citizens of Jewish origin. However nothing could change radically the situation of Polish Jews in Germany.

n the years 1938-39 more and more often Polish Jews, leaving behind all their property, were hurried across the border to Poland under threat of death. Particularly harsh measures were applied in the last days of October 1938 when some 13,000 were forced in this way out of Germany (according to data of the Polish consulates). For several days the victims stayed in the open air, between the two border points, before they were allowed back to Poland. Here, having no means of subsistence, they waited for many weeks in transit camps near the border. All these events made the picture of the future really gloomy. Poland
faced a direct danger. Those who were preparing for departure from Poland had one more reason for doing so. The others, the overwhelming majority, who had no such possibility nor wished to leave Poland which they considered their motherland, awaited anxiously what the future had in store for them. In the face of threat from the Third Reich the Jewish community in Poland demonstrated great self-sacrifice in the cause of defending the Republic. They contributed to the state loan for defensive purposes and collected funds for the army. This sacrifice manifested itself also during September 1939.

he outstanding scholar Emanuel Ringelblum wrote the following about the sentiments prevailing then in Warsaw: ''The Warsaw Jews were overcome with enthusiasm which recalled the year 1861, the era of fraternity''. During the siege of Warsaw, Jewish organizations took an active part in civil defense and assistance to victims. The historian Bernard Mark recalls an unusual demonstration of Jews through the streets of Warsaw: ''In the first line there marched five well-known rabbis in long, silk black coats and sable hats... They were followed by students of the rabbinical college, each carrying a spade on his shoulders.'' Many Jews helped to dig earthworks even on holiday, Saturday. Others took up arms and fought the common enemy. The defeat of the Polish army in the September campaign opened a new, tragic period in the common history of Jews and Poles.



• Source: "History of the Jews in Poland" by Ph. D. M. Rosenzweig

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