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History of Poland's Jews, the Partitions, and the Russian Century Afterward;Jewish hostility to the POlish State authour Dubnow

jan peczkis|Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The first volume begins with the Jews of pre-Partition Poland. Boleslaw the Pious, in 1264, codified the rights of Jews. Based on papal bulls (e. g., Innocent IV in 1247; V1, p. 179), the blood libel was repudiated as groundless, and a Jew could not be convicted of this offense unless supported by three Polish and three Jewish witnesses. (V1, p. 47). Later, Sigismund Augustus (1564, 1566), enacted a similar policy. (V1, p. 88). In addition, Casimir the Great (V1, pp. 50-on) and John III Sobieski (V1, p. 165) were notably friendly towards Jews.

Author Dubnow, evidently forgetting that alliances are the prerogative of nations, and not of minority groups domiciled as a favor of the majority, equated the Jews' siding with the invading Swedes (1655-1658) and the Polish-Swedish alliance against Russia. As the Swedes were being driven out, Poles retaliated for Jewish disloyalty by conducting pogroms. (V1, pp. 155-156).

Ironically, the decay of Polish society before the Partitions was paralleled by that in Poland's Jewish society: "The Jewish plutocracy followed the example of the Polish PANS in exploiting the poor laboring masses. The rabbinate, like the Polish clergy, catered to the rich. The secular and the ecclesiastic oligarchy, which controlled the Kahal, victimized the community by a shockingly disproportionate assessment of state and communal taxes..." (V1, pp. 274-275).

During the last Partition, the military actions of Berek Yoselovich [Joselowicz] provided a shining instance of Jewish support for Poland. (V1, pp. 291-296). However, in the later Duchy of Warsaw, "With few exceptions, the Jews preferred to pay an additional tax rather than spill their blood for a country which offered them obligations without rights. The decree of January 29, 1812, legalized this substitution of personal military service by a monetary ransom..." (V1, p. 304). [In actuality, Jews had more rights than peasants, that is, most Poles!]

In the War of 1812, the Poles sided with Napoleon in hopes of regaining independence, and the Jews collaborated with Russia, incurring Polish anger. (V1, pp. 357-358). Tsar Nicholas I, notwithstanding his disdain for the Jews, praised them for the fact that, "...in 1812 they displayed exemplary loyalty to us and assisted us wherever they could at the risk of their lives." (V2, p. 14).

Russian authorities saw Jews as ruled by the Talmud, which made Jews look down upon goys, and to think of all nations except Palestine as places of sojourn in captivity. Jews put self-rule (Kahals) over the authority of the government. (V2, p. 47). At the beginning of the 19th century, Lubenski, a leading Warsaw Pole, alluded to the fact that assimilation does not by itself make a Pole out of a Jew: "`Do they not wish to return to the land of their fathers?...Do they not regard themselves as a separate nation?...The mere change of dress is not sufficient.'" (V1, p. 391). Later, Count Adam Chartoryski [Czartoryski], the Chairman of the Provisional Government in Warsaw, proposed a series of policies, in 1815, which would give Jews full civil rights in return for such things as the abolishment of the Kahals. (V2, p. 89).

Long before Jewish particularism and separatism had become secularized and politicized through movements such as Yiddishism and Zionism, Poland's Jews had been exceptionally resistant to Polish-ness. Dubnow comments: "The opposition to the authorities was particularly vigorous in the Kingdom of Poland where the rank and file of Hasidim were ready to suffer martyrdom for any Jewish custom, however obsolete. The fight was drawn out for a long time and even reached into the following reign, but the victory remained with the obstreperous masses." (V2, p. 145).

During the Poles' November Insurrection (1831), some Warsaw-area Jews actively sided with the Poles (V2, pp. 105-107). However, most did not, and Dubnow implicitly refutes his oft-repeated argument that Jewish non-support for Poland owed to the way that Poles had been treating the Jews. He comments: "In the Western provinces outside the Kingdom of Poland, in Lithuania, Volhynia, and Podolia, the Jewish population held itself aloof from the insurrectionary movement. Here and there, the Jews even sympathized with the Russian government, despite the fact that the latter threw the Polish rulers into the shade by the extent of its Jewish persecution. In some places the Polish insurgents made the Jews pay for their lives for their pro-Russian sympathies." (V2, p. 107). After the 1831 Insurrection, Tsar Nicholas I again praised the Jews for their loyalty to Russia. (V. 2, p. 38).

In the Poles' January Insurrection (1863), many of the foregoing events repeated themselves. Jewish support for Poland was largely limited to Warsaw (V2, pp. 177-181), and Jews took no part in the military skirmishes between Polish guerrillas and Russian soldiers. Dubnow adds: "In Lithuania again neither the Jewish masses nor the newly arisen class of intellectuals sympathized with the Polish cause...The will o' the wisp of Russification had already begun to lure the Jewish professional class." (V2, pp. 182-183).

The author discusses various pogroms, including the 1880 Warsaw pogrom, even hinting at the possible Russian staging of it: "On the whole, the rioters were recruited from the dregs of the Polish population, but there were also found among them a number of unknown persons that spoke Russian. The NOVOYE VREMYA, in commenting upon the pogrom, made special reference to the friendly attitude of the Polish hooligans to the Russians in general and to the officers and soldiers in particular--a rather suspicious attitude, considering the inveterate hatred of the Poles towards the Russians, especially towards the military and official class." (V2, p. 282).

Interestingly, Zionism developed in parallel in Russia and western Europe. (V3, pp. 42-on). As for early Communism in Russia, Dubnow does not use this term, but realizes that the Socialism advocated by many Jews (such as the BUND and part of the Social Democrats) was Marxian in nature. (V3, pp. 56-57). This early form of the Zydokomuna (Bolshevized Judaism) was a significant factor in the Revolution of 1905: "In the Western governments and in the Kingdom of Poland the Jews played a conspicuous role in the revolutionary movement, counting as they did a large number of organized workingmen." (V3, p. 107).

Although Dubnow does not mention Dmowski and the Endeks by name, he condemns them for considering Jews a separate nationality. (V3, p. 167). Ironically, he recognizes JUST THAT as he points out that Jewish political and radical movements went beyond seeking equality for Jews: "They demanded their rights in full, and demanded them not merely as `the Jewish POPULATION' but as the Jewish PEOPLE, as an autonomous nation among other nations with a culture of its own. The doctrine of `National Cultural Autonomism' was crystallized in definite slogans." (V3, p. 144; emphasis his). The politicized agitation for enhanced Jewish particularism and separatism were also a factor in the Jewish over-involvement in the Revolution of 1905. Dubnow comments: "During the revolutionary struggle in Russia, in 1905 and 1906, the demand for a national-cultural autonomy was embodied in various degrees by nearly all Jewish parties and groups in their platforms..." (V3, p. 55).

Jews came to FUNCTION as a separate nation by sending their own candidates to the Duma elections alongside those of the Poles, beginning with the first one in 1906. (V3, p. 134). Considering the fact that Jewish aloofness from the Polish cause had been more than a century in the making, the reaction of the Endeks was recent and belated, as Dubnow tacitly realizes: "The extraordinary intensity of the national and religious sentiment of the Poles, accentuated by the political oppression which for more than a hundred years had been inflicted upon them, particularly by the hands of Russian despotism, has, during the last decade, been directed against the Jewish people. The economic progress made by the Jews in the two industrial centers of Russian Poland, in Warsaw and Lodz, gave rise to the boycott agitation...The anti-Semitic movement in Poland, which began shortly after the revolution of 1905, assumed extraordinary dimensions in 1910-1911, when the boycott became a fierce economic pogrom, reaching its culmination in 1912..." (V3, pp. 166-167).
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