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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Poland 03: 1772-1914

Unsuccessful reform plans - emancipation since 1862 - movements and parties with and without assimilation - anti-Semitism with boycott in 1912

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland,
                            vol. 13, col. 733-734. Nineteenth-century
                            caricature of Jews in the Polish militia
                            [[Jews are in the army but cannot understand
                            Polish]]. The text reads: " 'You Jews
                            listen to my command: Attention, present
                            arms!' 'What did he say? What did he say?'
                            Herschel thereupon asked the corporal."
                            Tel Aviv, I. Einhorn Collection amplifyEncyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol. 13, col. 733-734.

Nineteenth-century caricature of Jews in the Polish militia [[Jews are in the army but cannot understand Polish]].

The text reads: <"You Jews listen to my command: Attention, present arms!" "What did he say? What did he say?" Herschel thereupon asked the corporal.>

Tel Aviv, I. Einhorn Collection

from: Poland; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 13

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)



[The different parts of ancient Poland and their authorities]


The geographic entity [[existence]] "Poland" in this part of the article refers to that area of the Polish commonwealth which, by 1795, had been divided between Austria and Prussia and which subsequently constituted the basis of the grand duchy of Warsaw, created in 1807. Following the Congress of *Vienna in 1815 much of this area was annexed to the Russian Empire as the semi-autonomous Kingdom of Poland, also known as Congress Poland. The kingdom constituted the core [[center]] of ethnic Poland, the center of Polish politics and culture, and an economic area of great importance. It is to be distinguished from Austrian Poland (Galicia), Prussian Poland (Poznan, Silesia, and Pomerania), and the Russian northwestern region also known as Lithuania-Belorussia.

[[Silesia and Pomerania were 100 % German since approx. 1400]].

[Polish plans to reform Jewish life to be "useful" citizens - assimilation thesis and steps: abolition of the assembly in 1822 - liquor tax - new professions - enlightened rabbinical seminary - emancipation since 1862]

During and after the partitions the special legal status enjoyed by the Jews in Poland-Lithuania came under attack while disabilities [[discriminations]] remained, efforts were made to break down the Jews' separateness and transform them into "useful" citizens. This new notion [[intention]], brought to Poland from the west and championed by Polish progressives with the support of the tiny number of progressive Jews, advocates of the Haskalah, was clearly expressed during the debates on the Jewish question at the Four-Year Sejm (1788-92). The writings of H. Kollantaj and M. *Butrymowicz demanded the reform of Jewish life, meaning an end to (col. 732)

special institutions and customs (from the kahal [[assembly]] to the Jewish beard), sentiments to be expressed later on by S. Staszic and A.J. *Czartoryski. The attack on "l'état dans l'état" [["The State in the State"]], as Czartoryski put it in 1815, was accompanied by an attack against Jewish economic practices in the village, which, it was claimed, oppressed and corrupted the peasantry.

From Butrymowicz, writing in 1789, to the writings of Polish liberals and Jewish assimilationists in the inter-war period, there runs a common assumption [[idea]]: the Jews suffer because they persist in their separateness - let them become like Poles and both they and Poland will prosper. This assumption was also shared by many anti-Semites of the non-racist variety.

Some effort was made during the 19th century to implement this belief. For example, the kahal [[assembly]], symbol of Jewish self-government, was abolished in 1822, and a special tax on Jewish liquor dealers forced many to abandon their once lucrative profession. On the other hand Jews were encouraged to become agriculturalists and were granted, in 1826, a modern rabbinical seminary which was supposed to produce enlightened spiritual leaders. Moreover, in 1862 the Jews of Poland were "emancipated", meaning that special Jewish taxes were abolished and, above all, that restrictions on residence (Jewish ghettos and privilegium de non tolerandis Judaeis) were removed.

[Anti-Semitism in Russian Congress Poland since 1891 - expulsions from villages - quotas - Jewish resistance with productivity and isolation]

Nonetheless, the legal anti-Semitism of Russia's last czars was also introduced into Poland: in 1891 aspects of N. *Ignatiev's *May Laws were extended to Congress Poland, resulting in the expulsion of many Jews from the villages, and in 1908 school quotas (*numerus clausus) were officially implemented. In sum, during the 19th and early 20th centuries the policy of the carrot and the stick [[sugar cake and punishment]] was employed. By the end of the pre-World War I era the stick had prevailed [[dominated]], making the legal status of Polish Jewry nearly identical to that of Russian Jewry. The efforts to assimilate Polish Jewry by legislation aimed at making it more productive and less separatists had virtually no impact on the Jewish masses.

[High Jewish birth rate and Jews concentrating in towns]

The "Jewish question" in Poland and the legal efforts to deal with it were to a certain extent the result of the Jews' special demographic and economic structure. From the demographic point of view two striking tendencies may be observed. First, the natural increase of Polish Jews was greater than that of non-Jews, at least during most of the 19th century, leading to an increasing proportion of Jews within the population as a whole. In 1816 Jews constituted 8.7% of the population of the kingdom; in 1865, 13.5%. In 1897, despite the effects of large-scale Jewish emigration, 14 out of every 100 Polish citizens were Jews. This increase, attributable in part to the low Jewish death rate, was accompanied by the rapid urbanization of Polish Jewry. A few examples may suffice to illustrate this important process. Table 4 demonstrates the growth of Warsaw Jewry, where restrictions on residence were not entirely lifted until 1862:

Table 4. Growth of Warsaw Jewry
Number of Jews
14,061xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 18.1%xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
44,149xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 24.3%xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
127,917xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 33.4%xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
219,141xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 33.9%xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
from: Poland; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 13, col. 735

A similar trend is found in Lodz, the kingdom's second city (see Table 5): (col. 735)

Table 5. Growth of Lodz Jewry
Number of Jews
11xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 5.7%xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
2,775xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 12.2%xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
98,677xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 31.8%xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
166,628xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 40.7%xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
from: Poland; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 13, col. 736

This remarkable urbanization - the result of government pressure, a crisis in the traditional Jewish village professions, and the economic attractions of the growing commercial and industrial centers - had the following impact on the Jewish population:

in 1827, according to the research of A. Eisenbach, 80.4% of the Jews lived in cities and the rest in villages, while in 1865 fully 91.5% of Polish Jewry lived in cities. In the same year 83.6% of the non-Jewish population lived in the countryside. As early as 1855 Jews constituted approximately 43% of the entire urban population of the kingdom, and in those cities where there were no restrictions on Jewish settlement the figure reached 57.2%. The Jews, traditionally scattered, could claim with some justification that, by the end of the century, the cities were their "territory".

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol. 13, col.
                728. Engraving of a Jew from Warsaw and his wife. From
                L. Hollaenderski: "Les Israélites de Pologne"
                [[Israelites in Poland]], Paris, 1846. Jerusalem, Israel
                Museum. Photo David Harris, Jerusalem
amplifyEncyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol. 13, col. 728. Engraving of a Jew from Warsaw and his wife.
From L. Hollaenderski: "Les Israélites de Pologne" [[Israelites in Poland]], Paris, 1846.
Jerusalem, Israel Museum. Photo David Harris, Jerusalem

[Professions: trade - banks - financing for industrialization - credits]

This demographic tendency meant that the traditional Jewish economic structure also underwent certain changes. Jews, of course, had always predominated in trade; in 1815, for example, 1,657 Polish Jews participated at the Leipzig fair compared with 143 Polish gentiles. During the course of the century, as the Jews became more and more dominant in the cities, their role in urban commercial ventures  became more pronounced. Thus, in Warsaw, at the end of the century, 18 out of 26 major private banks were owned by Jews or Jewish converts to Christianity. A wealthy Jewish merchant and financial class emerged, led by such great capitalists as Ivan *Bliokh and Leopold *Kronenberg, who played a role in the urbanization and industrialization of Poland.

On the other hand, the vast majority of Jews engaged in commerce very clearly belonged to the petty bourgeoisie of shopkeepers (of whom, in Warsaw in 1862, nearly 90% were Jews) and the like. In the same year, according to the calculations of the economic historian I. *Schiper, more than two-thirds of all Jewish merchants were without substantial capital.

[1862-1898: Christian trade and Jewish crafts - some rich Jews and many in tiny shops - Jewish professional class]

Two tendencies must be emphasized with regard to the Jewish economic situation in the kingdom. First, it became apparent by the end of the century that the Jews were gradually losing ground to non-Jews in trade. Thus, for every 100 Jews in Warsaw in 1862, 72 lived from commerce, while in 1897 the figure had dropped to 62. For non-Jews on the other hand, the percentage rose from 27.9 in 1862 to 37.9 in 1897. The rise of a non-Jewish middle class, with the resulting increase in competition between Jew and gentile, marks the beginning of a process which, as we shall see, gained impetus during the interwar years.

Second, there was a marked tendency toward the "productivization" of Polish Jewry, that is, a rise of Jews engaged in crafts and industry. The following figures, which relate to the whole of Congress Poland, are most revealing: in 1857 44.7% of all Jews lived from commerce and 25.1% from crafts and industry, while in 1897 42.6% were engaged in commerce and 34.3% in crafts and industry. In this area, as in trade, the typical Jew was far from wealthy.

For every wealthy Jew like Israel Poznański, the textile tycoon from Lodz, there were thousands of Jewish artisans (some 119,000, according to the survey of the *Jewish Colonization Association (ICA) in 1898) who worked in tiny shops with rarely more than one hired hand. It is noteworthy that for various reasons - the problems of Sabbath work, the anti-Semitism of (col. 736)

non-Jewish factory owners, fear of the Jewish workers' revolutionary potential - a Jewish factory proletariat failed to develop. Even in Lodz and Bialystok the typical Jewish weaver worked in a small shop or at home, not in a large factory.

One further development should be mentioned. By the end of the century a numerically small but highly influential Jewish professional class had made its appearance, particularly in Warsaw. This class was to provide the various political and cultural movements of the day, Jewish and non-Jewish, with many recruits, as well as to provide new leadership for the Jewish community. (col. 737)

[Integration is not always possible: Jews in peasantry and in Polish legions in the Polish army - Polish-Jewish periodical for assimilation - lack of Polish language]

The Jews therefore, constituted an urban, middle class and proletarian element within the great mass of the Polish peasantry. There existed in Poland a long tradition of what might be called a "Polish orientation" among Jews, dating back to the Jewish legion which fought with T. *Kościuszko in 1794 and continuing up to the enthusiastic participation of a number of Jews in J. *Pilsudski's legions. The Polish-Jewish fraternization and cooperation during the Polish uprising of 1863 is perhaps the best example of this orientation, which held that Polish independence would also lead to the disappearance of anti-Semitism. The idea of Jewish-Polish cultural assimilation took root among the Jews of the kingdom far earlier than in Galicia, not to mention multi-national Lithuania-Belorussia. *Izraelita, the Polish-Jewish periodical advocating assimilation, began publication in 1866, and a number of Jewish intellectuals like Alexander *Kraushar hoped for the eventual merging of the Jews into the Polish nation. Such men took comfort from the views of a few Polish intellectuals, notably the poet Adam *Mickiewicz, who hoped and worked for the same event. The slogan "for our and your freedom" had considerable influence within the Polish-Jewish intelligentsia by the century's end.

The Jewish masses, however, had nothing to do with such views, knew nothing of Mickiewicz, knew little if any Polish, and remained (as the assimilationists put it) enclosed within their own special world. Here, too, as was the case regarding the economic stratification of Polish Jewry, a thin stratum separated itself from the mass. It was usually the offspring [[son]] of the wealthy (Kraushar's father, for example, was a banker) who championed the Polish orientation, while the typical Jewish shopkeeper or artisan remained Yiddish-speaking and Orthodox. O the Polish side, too, Mickiewicz was a voice crying in the wilderness.

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol. 13, col.
                733-734. Caricature and music entitled, "March of
                the Jewish National Guard in Warsaw", 1831. Tel
                Aviv, I. Einhorn Collection
amplifyEncyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol. 13, col. 733-734. Caricature and music entitled,
"March of the Jewish National Guard in Warsaw", 1831. Tel Aviv, I. Einhorn Collection

[Pogroms concentrated in the Ukraine - anti-Semitism in Polish political parties - racist Zionist declaration provoking more anti-Semitism - boycott 1912]

It is true that the great wave of *pogroms in the Russian Empire was concentrated in the Ukraine and Bessarabia (although Russian Poland was not wholly spared); nor was there anything in Poland resembling the expulsion of the Jews from Moscow in 1891. Indeed, Russian anti-Semitism led to the influx of so-called "Litvaks" into the kingdom. But the rise of Polish national fervor [[passion]], accompanied by the development of a Polish middle class, naturally exacerbated [[made bitter]] Polish-Jewish relations. The founding of the National Democratic Party (*Endecja) in 1897 was symptomatic of the growing anti-Semitism of the period.

[[Racist Zionism with the claim for civic an national rights in the Helsingfors declaration of 1906 lead into anti-Semitism in Poland]]:

<[[...]] Polish population, which initially favored the idea of a movement likely to enlarge the scope of Jewish emigration. This situation changed considerably, however, when the [[racist]] Zionist movement proclaimed as a part of its immediate aims the struggle for civic and national rights for the Jewish population, as formulated in the *Helsingfors Program of 1906 [[Helsinki Program]]. The reaction of the authorities was a marked reduction in tolerance toward [[racist]] Zionist activites and anti-Semitism spread among the Polish population, leading even to an economic boycott of the Jews, which continued until the outbreak of World War I.>
( from: Zionism; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 16, col. 1130)

The economic and political roots of this anti-Semitism (not to mention the traditional religious factor) were clearly expressed in 1912, when the Jews' active support of a Socialist candidate in elections to the *Duma resulted in an announced boycott of Jewish businesses by the National Democrats. On the eve of World War I relations between Poles and Jews were strained to the utmost, a state of affairs which led to a decline in the influence of the assimilationists and a rise in that of Jewish national doctrines.

[[Positive examples of Poles and Jews are not mentioned]].

[No strong Jewish enlightenment movement in Poland - assimilated Jewish intelligentsia - Bund - racist Zionists against assimilation]

In comparison with Russia, specifically Jewish political movements had a late start in the kingdom. The Haskalah, progenitor of modern Jewish political movements, was far less influential in Poland than in Galicia or Russia. (col. 737)

Warsaw, unlike *Vilna, Lvov, and other great Jewish cities, did not become a center of the Enlightenment; its Jewish elite, like the elite in Germany, tended toward assimilation. True, the city of *Zamosc was, for a time, a thriving Haskalah center, but Zamosc was part of Galicia from 1772 to 1815 and followed the Galician rather than the Polish pattern. Later on, the pioneers of Jewish nationalism and Jewish Socialism came from the northwest region (Belorussia-Lithuania) or the Ukraine.

While in Lithuania the Jewish intelligentsia, though Russianized, remained close to the masses, in Poland the intelligentsia was thoroughly Polonized. Its members tended, therefore, to enter Polish movements, such as the Polish Socialist Party (*PPS). Thus the *Bund, although it succeeded in spreading into Poland in the early 20th century, remained very much a Lithuanian movement. It is striking that the so-called "Litvaks" played a major role in spreading the ideas of Jewish nationalism to Poland; it was they, for example, who led the Warsaw Hovevei Zion (*Hibbat Zion (Ḥibbat Zion)) movement, the precursor of modern [[racist]] Zionism.

[[Anti-Zionists in Poland who saw that Zionism would be an eternal war trap are not mentioned]].

On the eve of World War I, however, Jewish political life in Poland was well developed. The Bund had developed roots in such worker centers as Warsaw and Lodz, while the [[racist]] Zionists felt strong enough to challenge, albeit unsuccessfully, the entrenched assimilationist leadership of the Warsaw Jewish community.> (col. 738)

[[The time of the First World War 1914-1918 which would be very interesting for Poland and it's Jewry is missing in the article. It was a time of flight, destruction, death, hunger, and disease (with many Jewish refugees since 1915 by anti-Jewish propaganda always maintaining that Jews would be the collaborators of the enemy), also 1919-1921 when the Red army (financed by banks of the criminal "USA") was fought by European armies (with many Germans, and with a Polish invasion to Kiev) and at the end the Red army was fighting before Warsaw (and was stopped by the French). Add to all this there was a Jewish Communist government in Moscow so the anti-Jewish propaganda invented the propaganda that Jews would all be "Communists", and the "Christian" mob believed it, without considering that there also were many impoverished Jews - and discriminated Jews within the Communist system. This time was also an important time for starting many Jewish organizations like the Joint]].

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol.
                        13, col. 731-732
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol. 13, col. 731-732
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol.
                        13, col. 733-734
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol. 13, col. 733-734
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol.
                        13, col. 735-736
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol. 13, col. 735-736
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol.
                        13, col. 737-738
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol. 13, col. 737-738

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