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Never Again? Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Representations of Jews in Modern Poland

Contemporary images of Jews in Polish society are constructed and negotiated under emotional and highly nuanced circumstances. Discussions of Jewish-Polish relations immediately elicit images of the past: the shadow of the Holocaust, the post-war pogroms against returning Jewish survivors, and the 1968 Communist purge of Jews from Poland. Only recently have Jewish-Polish relations, which had been frosty prior to the emergence of post-Communist Poland in 1989, materialized as a topic of great national interest and historical debate. On urban Polish streets, one can readily find stereotypical depictions of Jews in dolls and paintings, and common insults often include calling someone a “Jew.” However, amidst these challenges, Poland is experiencing what the New York Times has described as “the greatest ethical transformation of any country in Europe.” Poland is often cited for its proactive approach to relations with the American Jewish community and State of Israel. Significant Jewish culture festivals are flourishing across Poland, and there have been campaigns developed to strengthen ties between world Jewry and Polish society. Within this context, this paper seeks to explore the state of contemporary anti-Semitism in Polish society through modern representations of Jews, as well as recent events that have contributed to the public debate over Jewish issues and concerns. 

In order to gauge the level of contemporary anti-Semitism in Poland, this paper will focus on six different events that involve representations of Jews in Polish society. These include three recent events impacting the Jewish community, including an attack on the Chief Rabbi of Poland, a recent fascist rally at the Jewish Historical Institute, and the opening of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in conjunction with an art installation on the site of a Polish kibbutz. In addition, this research attempts to analyze three major ways in which Jews are currently represented in Polish society, including decorative dolls and paintings which employ traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes, Holocaust tourism such as the March of the Living, and the emergence of Jewish culture festivals across Poland. 

Untangling Today: 

Jewish Issues in Contemporary Polish Society 

As argued above, after a number of years without the Communist regime, Polish society is now undergoing an uneasy process of unpacking the past. As anxious as Poles are to publicly untangle the complexity of their modern history, they also significantly vary in their visions of rewriting the past. The case of Alina Cala, a Polish historian working at Jewish Historical Institute, is an illustrative example of such rhetorical clashes, which among others involves the dispute between Jewish and Polish people over Second World War victimhood.

In her interview for Rzeczpospolita, one of the most popular Polish dailies, Dr Alina Cala offered a harsh critique of Polish society, claiming that as a nation they were partly responsible for killing 3 million Polish Jews during the Holocaust. Cala contrasted the relatively small number of Polish Righteous among the Nations (6 thousand people out of the total 30 million Poles during that time), with the much more frequent anti-Semitic acts committed by Poles before, during and after the war. She used these numbers to claim shared responsibility on the part of Poland for the war crimes against Polish Jewry.  In particular, she singles out the Catholic Church’s active role in fostering anti-Semitic feeling among Poles, which contributed to the isolation of Jewish people from the rest of society and the consequent lack of response among Poles during the Holocaust. 

Alina Cala’s argument, which was widely discussed in both mainstream and right-wing media, received fierce critiques from right-wing political groups including—but by no means exclusively—right-wing/nationalist extremists. At the same time, she has gained strong support from a vast number of people who have decided to stand against the anti-Semitic epithets to which she herself has recently been subjected.

One of the most active right-wing groups, Obóz Wielkiej Polski (The Great Poland’s Federation), described by many as a racist organization, decided to hold a demonstration in front of the Jewish Historical Institute, where Cala’s office is located, to protest against “her anti-Polish efforts to falsify history.” The group of approximately 10 elderly people, most of them in their seventies, was outnumbered by nearly one hundred people who reacted to Caly’s appeal to counter the efforts of Polish neo-racists. The counter-demonstration included a number of Polish intellectuals, numerous activists, some representing the LGBT movement, and members of the Green Party. These were joined by regular passersby spanning a broad spectrum of age. 

As problematic as some of Cala’s supporters found the idea of linking prewar economic anti-Semitism in Poland with the Holocaust, they found it crucial to support her for at least two reasons.  First and foremost, as Piotrek , one of the counterdemonstrators argued, Cala’s statement served as a catalyst for ‘an authentic discussion about the contemporary images of Jews and Poles, respectively, in the public eye.  As other counter-demonstrators cautioned, it is crucial that more and more Poles acknowledge the difficult truths of the past. Taking that point further, Kasia , a participant, suggested that the acknowledgement of collective Polish co-responsibility is a precondition for constructing a common Jewish-Polish narrative of the past. 

The second reason that led people to take to the streets and protesting against the critics of Alina Cala is their concept of ‘the truth’. More often than not, this ‘truth’ is not explicitly mentioned in the rhetoric of the counterdemonstrator, and has not yet been publicly acknowledged.  Certainly, Cala’s accusatory tone is not the most effective way of untangling the highly sensitive events of the past. However, as another participant Miriam pointed out, Cala’s voice that came closer to that ‘truth’ than any other recent public statement, and as such inspired people to defend her. This disconnect between supporters’ particular personal views of Dr. Cala and the larger issue that she argued for was also evident in an interview with Halina Bortnowska-Dąbrowska of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, herself an active Roman Catholic who is involved in Polish-Jewish relations. As she explained, due to the derogatory character of Cala’s claims, the historian’s views have only gained limited support from those who joined the counter-demonstration. According to Bortnowska, those who came to protest the neo-racists turned out to share Cala’s underlying concern, not her particular historical claims. This underlying concern was, as Bortnowska understood it, the immense need for a Polish–Jewish dialogue on their recent common history that would be based on independent scholarly study, and free from anti-Semitic prejudices.  

Ultimately, Alina Caly’s case carries a positive message; namely, that anti-Semitic discourse has been significantly discredited and widely acknowledged to be backward. However, it also clearly reveals a worrisome discursive deadlock, in which the public debate regarding Polish-Jewish relations has reached a stalemate. The recent polarization of attitudes towards Jews in Poland is significant. On the one hand, we have right-wing extremists, who have managed to modify their rhetoric so as not to violate hate speech laws. Blinded by their xenophobic paranoia, they are perceived as largely inaccessible and unable to engage in a serious discussion. At the other extreme, there are a significant number of liberals (broadly defined), whose reliance on excessively sweeping statements regarding collective blame is hardly appealing to people with more moderate views. 

Untangling Today: 

Wariness and Renewal in Polish-Jewish Society 

In the Western world, Judaism, with its roots going back 3000 years, is considered the oldest religion. The relationship between Jews and Poles go back to at least the very beginning of the Polish narrative—in the 10th century. It was Jewish tradesmen who visited the emerging empire and left the very first written description of this Slavish country. In subsequent centuries, due to its liberal policy towards Jews, the Polish empire became the homeland to a vast and flourishing Jewish community, unique to the Western world. Poles and Jews lived together for centuries, sharing the same land. As the demons of Absolutism, Nationalism, Fascism and Communism raged in Europe, Poland was particularly stricken. Jews and Poles were pitted against each other, causing great suffering. This history has left us today with a set of unresolved problems, but for the first time, these issues can be addressed in a democratic, liberal context.

One such issue is the common past between the two groups. With the Holocaust, nearly the entire Jewish population was erased from Poland, and with it a large portion of their common history. Beginning in the 1990s, Polish society was finally free to address this deficit. On Tuesday, in the grassy square between Karmelicka and Zamenhofa Streets in the centre of Muranow, where the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes is located, ground was broken for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The museum is the result of a popular initiative for a multimedia, narrative and cultural center that will present the history of Polish Jews, and the rich civilization they helped to create in Poland. 

One week earlier, the same square hosted another impressive event. The Israeli multimedia artist Yael Bartana created a Kibbutz. The “Wall and Tower in Muranów” project is a response to her former work, “Mary Koszmary,” in which a leftist activist calls for Jews to come back to Poland in a dramatic speech. Obviously both the speech and the building of “the first” Kibbutz in Poland are exercises in imagination, but still, they challenge the current state of mind.

Another event that is somewhat less recent, but still significant, is the attack—both verbal and physical—that was made on the Chief Rabbi Schudrich in the very center of Warsaw. The event gained broad media attention because of the simultaneous visit of Pope Benedict 16th to Poland and to Auschwitz. The follow-up investigation by the government left little doubt that the incident had been taken seriously. Yet, the question still remains of why, when someone shouts “Poland for Poles” in public, no pedestrians feel offended, and why few people are offended by anti-Semitic graffiti.

Contemporary Jewish Depictions: 

Popular Media, Holocaust Tourism, and Jewish Culture Festivals 

Within the popular media and public decorations, it is not entirely unusual to find images and representations of Jews in Poland. The most popular of these include decorative dolls of Jews with large noses and piles of money. These are most often sold in either tourist areas or home décor stores. However, they can also be found in a number of restaurants and shops in and around Warsaw as decorations and “good luck symbols.” When asked about these images, a group of young Polish high school students from Warsaw were completely unaware of the phenomenon. Their reaction, after the dolls and paintings were described to them, was that these depictions were problematic. However, these were not items that they themselves had ever encountered. This suggests that those who are aware of and invested in these issues may well be a significant minority rather than a large majority. However, many members of the Jewish community, as well as non-Jewish Poles involved in Polish-Jewish dialogue, did in fact have strong opinions about these depictions. Their interpretations of the likenesses varied widely. Benjamin Zajac, a local leader and tour guide for the Jewish community in Warsaw, took little issue with Jewish dolls. Though he found them “nasty and unpleasant” at times, he relayed the observation that many of the people buying them were, in fact, Jewish tourists. Although he was unsure about why these tourists would purchase such problematic objects, he saw no malevolence in the manufacture of the dolls. Rather, he said, they are manufactured because there exists a significant market for their purchase. Zajac saw the “traditional anti-Semitic” association of Jews with money as part of a fledgling Polish folklore regarding the country’s former Jewish population. Thus, in his view, the images constructed and portrayed through the dolls was merely folkloristic, not problematic—and largely innocent.  

Konstanty Gebert, a leading Polish Jewish intellectual and writer, largely shared Zajac’s lack of concern about the Jewish dolls. Similarly, he reported that many Jewish tourists buy these dolls for the express purpose of demonstrating tangible evidence of Polish anti-Semitism, ironically fueling the market for naïve manufacturers. Gebert, like Zajac, placed the Jewish dolls within the larger context of Polish folkloristic tradition, which he described as largely stereotypical. Just as Jews are depicted through stereotypes and falsehoods, so too are priests, Roma, and other groups. Furthermore, the situation appears more acute in the case of depictions of Jews due to the fact that Jewish stereotypes in Poland were largely developed before the war, and frozen in time after the decimation of the its Jewish population in the Holocaust. Thus, while Polish society has been able to continue to develop its images of priests and Roma, as society continues to interact with these groups, the same is largely untrue in the case of the Jewish community. For comparison, Gebert pointed to Polish Yiddish writers from the pre-war period, such as I.B. Singer, who depicted non-Jewish Poles in a fashion just as stereotypically as Polish authors depicted Jews. For Gebert, the dolls may actually reveal how un-anti-Semitic Polish society is. For this leading Jewish intellectual, the fact that these dolls do not depict the age-old blood libel or other, more violent anti-Semitic imagery testifies to the harmless association of Jews with wealth and economic success, rather than more extreme anti-Semitic thought. 

While Gebert and Zajac largely explained away the problematic nature of these dolls, two university students, Ewa and Natalia,  took a quite different view. The two students work as volunteers for Forum for Dialogue Among Nations, a Polish NGO engaged in Polish-Jewish dialogue and anti-Semitism/Holocaust education. In their view, the Jewish dolls do not represent a violent expression of anti-Semitism, but rather, are symbols of Polish society’s difficulty in viewing minority issues with sensitivity. While many segments of Polish society are undergoing radical transformations in their connections to and dialogue with Jews, many others remain insensitive to symbolic representations of those same people. However, both Ewa and Natalia observed Polish society growing increasingly sensitive to minority issues, and learning more nuanced ways of approach historically contentious events. Thus, to them, the Jewish dolls are problematic, but in the sense of being indicative of a more general and continually-changing societal insensitivity rather than a unique contemporary expression of anti-Semitism. 

One anonymous rabbinic source in Warsaw described Jewish dolls as indicative of Church anti-Semitism, and its deep roots in Polish society. The dolls, according to the rabbi, are a reflection of Vatican II’s late implementation and incomplete integration into Polish society. This has allowed problematic images of Jews to flourish, without there being significant response from theological and religious forces. The rabbi also recounted the interesting parallels between Jewish and Polish sensitivities regarding their own national and ethnic images. Since Poles are highly sensitive to depictions of Poland and Polishness, it is important for Poles to reciprocate this sensitivity by integrating it into their depictions of Jews.

Perhaps the group most offended by these images has been American Jews visiting Poland. The members of a trip through the Forum for Dialogue Among Nations almost universally expressed confusion and dissatisfaction over the dolls and paintings of Jews that they encountered. Elon, a participant from New York City, described the dolls as “plainly anti-Semitic and really horrendous. How is it that all these years after the Holocaust these are not viewed as a huge problem?” Participants in another recent trip for cantors and Jewish congregants were similarly perplexed and unhappy. Mimi, from Florida, recounted that she was “really surprised to see something like this…especially considering the history of where we are.” It appears, then, that while Polish Jews and non-Jews appear to see a great deal of nuance in the meaning and significance of these depictions, American Jews tend to see view them as purely anti-Semitic,. 

Further complicating these issues is the academic work of Erica Lehrer, of Concordia University. In her seminal essay, Unquiet Places, which explores both Jewish and Polish reactions to the depictions—from dolls to the Jewish-themed restaurants and shops of Kazimierz, Krakow—Lehrer writes of the genuine desire of non-Jewish Poles to preserve Jewish culture through the creation and sale of Jewish images, even problematic ones. As Lehrer writes “These images raise profound questions about what will remain with the passage of time, who will own these traces, to what ends they will be put. How will those of us who come ever further ‘after’ see, feel, and connect to this past? The embrace of things Jewish in Poland is a fashion. But it is not only that. As non-Jewish Lucyna Les of the Jarden Jewish bookshop asked, ‘What’s the matter with doing this? To keep tradition, to try to save the memory of the people who lived here for 600 years. That’s part of Polish history. Everybody who can do it should do it.’” Lehrer’s analysis makes a strong case for the nuances present in Jewish imagery, understanding both its positive and negative aspects. She concludes that depictions of Jews through dolls and paintings cannot be immediately labeled as traditionally anti-Semitic, but rather, are a nuanced—if problematic—form of folklore, commemoration, commercial opportunity, and stereotyping. 

While many individuals found popular depictions of Jews only mildly problematic, many others took profound issue with the derogatory language used to demean others, which often incorporates words and imagery related to Jews. This is most popular among football fans who depict opposing teams as “Jewish,” and have been known to yell slogans such as “death to the Jews” and “Jews to the gay chambers.” Other examples of Jewish-themed derogatory language include calling another individual a “Jew” to imply something negative, especially in reference to money and economic issues. Ewa, the Warsaw University anthropology student, took particular issue with derogatory “Jewish” language. Ewa noted that “language is fundamental in shaping our social outlook.” That is, that language, more than dolls and paintings, is essential in helping to construct specific and fundamental social understandings of individuals and groups. Therefore, assigning negative connotations to the terms “Jew” and “Jewish” can fundamentally shape a person’s social understanding of Jews, whereas the same is not true with other depictions of Jews (e.g., visual). This notion is refined in such works as Hate Speech by Rita Kirk Whillock and David Slayden. In the book, the two scholars document the linkage between hate speech and hate acts, ultimately finding a somewhat linear connection between the two. Such research justifies Ewa’s specific concerns about this phenomenon in Polish society. 

To Jan Spiewak, a leader of a young Jewish group in Warsaw, demeaning speech is a significant problem, though hardly the most important. He recognizes, as Ewa does, the significant of popular media and language in shaping images of Jews and other groups, in suggesting that Polish Jews need a blockbuster film to help break down stereotypical characterizations and open up new dialogue and language about Jews and Jewish issues. Konstanty Gebert also links problematic language to acts of violence. However, Gebert places this demeaning language toward Jews in a larger context in which other groups are also targeted through language. To Gebert, in terms of language and depiction, Jews are relatively “safe” when compared to the situation of Roma or gay people in Polish society. 

The position of Benjamin Zajac further muddies the debate. To Zajac, demeaning language like that used by Polish football fans is hardly about Jews at all, despite employing terms like “Jew” and “Jewish.”  Instead, it is about the opposing football team and the person who the user of the language wants to demean. Here, Jewish language is used as a means to an end that has little to do with Jews. Thus, Zajac does not connect this type of language to the active building of social identity that Ewa and Spiewak are concerned about. While the use of anti-Semitic language to demean others contains strong elements of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic imagery, it is not necessarily interpreted by “outside” observers and members of Polish society as in an expressly anti-Semitic manner. Indeed, one’s religious identification and nationality appear to have a direct and significant impact on how these objects are interpreted by the viewer.   

While the dolls and paintings depicting Jews undoubtedly serve a significant function in constructing social images of Jews, perhaps the most important influence is the Holocaust tours to Poland. First primarily associated with the March of the Living in 1988, trips by young Israeli and American Jewish youth to Polish Holocaust sites have become a rite of passage for many. Indeed, these trips represent some of the most significant international gatherings of Jewish youth, leading thousands of Jews to Poland every year and undoubtedly having an impact on the way in which Poles and Jews perceive one another. In the early years of the March, participants were banned from contact with Poles regardless of religion, and Poles had no opportunity to participate in the March. Today, the March continues to relax their restrictions on who may participate; still, there is lingering resentment amongst some Poles over their treatment by March organizers. (Taube, 2006) 

Konstanty Gebert makes his critique of the March clear and unambiguous, accusing it of being tantamount to “emotional manipulation” of participants. He claims that the deliberate escalation of emotions leading up to the visits to Auschwitz and other sites of mass death and starvation makes participants disoriented and encourages them to develop negative feelings toward the Poles with whom they come into contact. As an example, he points to language once used as part of the regular literature for the March, which preempted participants’ personal reactions to the trip by telling them that they would feel “hate” for the Poles they encountered. Thus, Jewish travelers were essentially expected to experience emotions that were not necessarily productive, positive, or even authentically their own. Gebert’s criticism of the March, however, also extends to the ways in which Poles react to Jewish visitors. Not only do many regard the March and similar trips as an intrusion into their towns and locales, but they often come to resent what they perceive to be wealthy, comfortable individuals marching through their relatively impoverished towns. The result is that the Jewish visitors often leave with an unnecessarily skewed image of Poles, while Poles similarly develop negative and resentful images of Jews.

Gebert’s critique of Holocaust tourism and the March of the Living is seconded by Ewa and Natalia. As members of an organization explicitly dedicated to promoting dialogue between Poles and Jews, both women expressed deep disappointment that many of the Holocaust trips that they were aware of “allow little to no room for interaction with Poles.” They felt personally insulted by their initial inability to participate in March of the Living, and saw the program as deeply flawed and narrow in scope. Ewa and Natalia note that many participants of these programs develop deeply negative images of Poland and its people, and come to see the country as “a vast wasteland and Jewish cemetery rather than a contemporary country actively dealing with its past and its Jewish future.” Both women actively work with visiting Jewish groups, helping to expose Jewish students to Poles who are also attempting to deal with anti-Semitism and the meaning of the Holocaust for Polish society. Indeed, to combat the negative images of Jews held generally, as well as those specifically developed through Holocaust tourism, Ewa and Natalia work in local Warsaw high schools to address such distorted depictions and stereotypes of Jews, as well as educate students about Polish Jewish history.

While Gebert, Ewa, and Natalia offer stinging critiques of the current state of Holocaust tourism, Michael Shudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, questions the validity of these claims. Shudrich questions whether it is always appropriate to mix heritage tours with dialogue and intergroup activities, as the two are significantly distinct in focus. Furthermore, he, like Gebert, questions youths’ capacity to fully comprehend the enormity of the situation around them. Thus, Shudrich wonders whether it can be expected that young adults who are in Poland to see Holocaust sites—an important and worthy trip in his estimation—can be expected to process deeply emotional feelings while simultaneously engaging in critical dialogue and cross-cultural “bridge-building”. Perhaps, he suggests, the two are distinct goals that require separate kinds of trips in order to properly accommodate all of these needs. On a similar note, Shudrich points out that travelers to other locations often go with a specific and narrow agenda as well—perhaps based around one’s religious and/or cultural identity—and that it is important to be mindful of this reality even within the emotional context of Jewish trips to Poland.  

Holocaust tourism, like depictions of Jews through dolls, language, and paintings, is a nuanced and complicated affair which immediately elicits a varied set of emotional reactions. Polish Jews, American Jews, and non-Jews appear to agree that it is an ever-evolving venture that includes problematic elements in how it depicts Jews and Poles alike. Thus, while there is a certain degree of concern over the mutual construction of Polish and Jewish imagery that occurs during these trips, there is hardly a uniform interpretation of the trips’ impact on either community, or on anti-Semitism overall. 

One of the most striking and seemingly positive developments regarding how Jews are perceived in Poland is the emergence over the last 20 years of Jewish cultural festivals, spanning urban areas and rural communities across the country. The largest and most famous of these takes place annually in Krakow, attracting thousands of visitors, most of whom are non-Jewish. The first reaction of many American Jews to these festivals is a mixture of, on the one hand, excitement that non-Jews are interested and dedicated to Jewish culture; and on the other hand, a deep sense of bewilderment about the “authenticity” and motivations behind the festivals. Many people such as Elizabeth, a Jewish university student from the United States, wonders if there may not be “financial and commercial motivations” behind these ventures. 

Erica Lehrer explicates these concerns in her essay Unquiet Places, when she writes of the former Jewish district in Krakow in which the festival takes place: “Many Jews express understandable ambivalence on encountering a celebration when they were anticipating a cemetery. As one young Jewish tourist told me, ‘I don’t like all this business. I don’t think a Jewish concert is good for anyone. I want to see the synagogue in ruins. I have to see the ruins because that’s what I can find here – ruins of a culture. I just don’t like to have so much life here.’” There is a clear sense of discomfort with non-Jews’ embracement of a culture that has been largely destroyed by the Holocaust. Thus, while some American Jews are heartened by these developments, they are simultaneously confused and emotionally vexed. Lehrer continues: “In Kazimierz, life faces death, presence accompanies absence, then is embraced by now, because some people do care. Many Poles find in Jewishness an activist project, a way to bear witness to unspoken losses, a possibility for a better future. And many visiting Jews seek reconnections to a milieu long cut off by post-Holocaust pain and Communist realities. Here curiosity, engagement, and pleasure confront, and perhaps prevail over, the threat of amnesia.”

Lehrer’s assessment regarding a genuine and important Polish interest in Jewish life and preservation speaks to the sentiments of Chief Rabbi Michael Shudrich, who laments the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” attitude toward Jewish festivals in Poland. He explains this expression as meaning that Jewish people are justifiably angry at both the disinterest and interest in Jewish affairs, culture, and religion held by respective non-Jews. Shudrich, for his part, describes the culture festivals as wonderful examples of widespread Polish interest in exploring Jewish culture, usually with input from the existing Jewish community, and as representing an honest attempt to portray Jewish culture as accurately and richly as possible. As the Chief Rabbi, Shudrich is happy to witness such a cultivation of Jewishness in Poland, even when its expression might be imperfect. 

Many Jewish intellectuals and community leaders echo the sentiments of Rabbi Shudrich. Konstanty Gebert celebrates the preservation and cultivation of Jewish culture, even though it is narrowly focused on specific strands of Jewish culture such as music and art, which he finds to be less significant than those he would prefer to emphasize, such as study and scholarly achievement. He mirrors Benjamin Zajac’s belief that the festivals represent a positive influence for the small and vulnerable Jewish community in Poland as well as for the non-Jewish community, even if they do not account for all aspects of “high” and “low” Jewish culture. Perhaps they are at times inauthentic, but nevertheless, they constitute an important part of Polish society’s ongoing engagement with its Jewish roots. 

The sentiments expressed by Natalia with respect to the Jewish festivals speak to a positive and compassionate engagement with Jewish life. Natalia relates that she feels a profound connection to Jewish life as part of her Polish history. She laments the loss of Polish Jewish culture and the pre-war Jewish community, explaining that “It’s a profound sense of loss that I want to do something to repair.” Natalia, and others in Kazimierz, and elsewhere, regard themselves as having become the non-Jewish caretakers of Poland’s Jewish tradition. Indeed, these developments thoroughly complicate any black and white conceptions of or conclusions about the nature and motivations behind the Jewish cultural festivals. 

Seeking Conclusions 

Contemporary depictions of Jews in Poland and the current state of anti-Semitism there represents a complex, evolving, and highly nuanced phenomenon. While anti-Semitism undoubtedly exists in numerous capacities, as evidenced by the right-wing rally at the Jewish Historical Institute and other recent events, Polish society is unquestionably engaged in a broader evolution regarding its relationship to the Jewish community. Whether through Jewish dolls, tourism, or festivals, Poland is engaging with Jews and Jewish memory in ways which are emotional and painful to some, but courageous and bold to others. Such diverse understandings of the same events, which are intimately linked to the viewer’s respective nationality and religious affiliation, amongst other variables, point to the tensions that need to be overcome and the dialogues which must assuredly occur. Change is undeniably taking place among most spheres of Jewish-Polish relations, and only the future will witness how these significant developments play out. 


Newspaper Articles:

Cala, Alina. “Antysemicki świat antywartości,” Rzeczpospolita, June 16, 2009.

Dubrowska, Magdalena. “Narodowcy zakrzyczeni na demonstracji,” Gazeta Wyborcza, June 25, 2009. 

Kimmelman, Michael. “Poland Searching Its New Soul,” New York Times, April 8, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/09/movies/09abro.html?_r=2

Personal Interviews:

Bortnowska-Dabrowska, Halina. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. Warsaw, Poland. July 2, 2009.

Elon. Participant of Forum for Dialogue Among Nations from New York City. Warsaw, Poland. June 23, 2009.

Ewa. Volunteer at Forum for Dialogue Among Nations. Warsaw, Poland. June 26, 2009.

Gebert, Konstanty. Journalist and Jewish activist. Warsaw, Poland. June 25, 2009.
Kasia. Participant of the Demonstration. Warsaw, Poland. June 26, 2009.

Natalia. Volunteer at Forum for Dialogue Among Nations. Warsaw, Poland. June 26, 2009.

Piotrek. Participant of the Demonstration. Warsaw, Poland. June 26, 2009.

Spiewak. Jan. Leader of Jewish Community “Jewish.org.pl”. Warsaw, Poland. June 26, 2009.

Shudrich, Michael. Chief Rabbi of Poland. Warsaw, Poland. June 30, 2009.

Young Polish high school students. Warsaw, Poland. June 22, 2009.

Zajac, Benjamin. Local leader and tour guide for the Jewish community in Warsaw. Warsaw, Poland. June 25, 2009.


Whillock, Rita Kirk and Slayden, David. Hate Speech. SAGE Publications (Thousand Oaks, 1995).
Lehrer, Erica. Unquiet Places.

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