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The POlish Jew social and economical value: Fascinating 1906 Analysis of Polish-Jewish Relations in Late-Tsarist Russian Ruled Poland

jan peczkis|Thursday, March 30, 2017

This British author's understanding of Jews is quite different from that of westerners [review based on the original 1906 edition], and she points out that her conclusions are supported by eight years' residence in Russian-ruled central Poland. (see the Preface).

Developing her thoughts, she asks, (quote) Can he [the westerner] imagine the capital of Poland, the most civilized city in Russia, the link between Europe and Asia, where every third man is a Jew, where the trade and commerce are in the hands of the Jews and where Jewish organizations have openly declared their intention of converting the Imperial army to the tenets of Socialism and of gaining the greatest amount of political influence...? (unquote). (p. 6).

Baskerville notes the rapid growth of the Jewish population. She mentions the Litvaks (Litwaks) and their migration to Warsaw and other central-Polish cities and towns (p. 11), thus recognizing their sometimes-denied significance.

Jewish economic dominance over the peasantry is commonly attributed to the actions of the nobility centuries ago. While once true, the nobility, unlike Jewish economic dominance, are but a distant memory, (quote) Today-there is not a trace of the Zamek [castle] left, the stock of the magnate has long since died out, but the descendants of the Jews who first settled there have increased and multiplied, plying the same trades and observing the same customs for ten centuries. (unquote)(p. 31).

The relationship between the oft-exploiting Jewish usurer and the oft-exploited Polish debtor is, using modern parlance, a form of co-dependency: (quote) He generally manages to succeed, for the Polish peasant is easy prey. Having very little ready money...readily pays interest in kind without reflecting how much dearer it really costs him. And borrow he must from time to time...When a misfortune comes, and the cow dies or falls sick, the Jew is at hand, and so it goes on till the peasant is perpetually in his debt and power. He and his wife have no idea of the market value of their dairy and farm produce, for the Jews rule the market and keep their secrets to themselves. (unquote)(pp. 36-37). (quote) The following incident, which is not only true, but one of similar instances, will illustrate the happy-go-lucky way in which the Pole will burden himself with debt. (unquote)(p. 67).

The Polish-Jewish co-dependency is further clarified: (quote) ...the Poles affirm...No walk of life is free from you--you enter the professions as well as the trades, but we are a lazy people and found you useful. We do not like you personally, but we must admire many excellent qualities which you possess, in which we are deficient, and which, thanks to your presence, we have had little chance of developing. (unquote).(p. 127). For more on this codependency, see Comment.

Christian clergy, and not only the Church and papacy, opposed the blood libel: (quote) These two incidents show that the old conviction that the Jews are ready to murder Christian children for ritualistic purposes still prevails among the Polish masses, in spite of the efforts of the clergy to eradicate it. (unquote)(p. 146).

Nor did Christian clergy promote pogroms. To the contrary: When some incidents inflamed Poles and Jews, (quote) In the churches the priests mounted the pulpits twice and thrice daily to preach against the evils of racial hatred and the necessity for Christian love and forbearance. (unquote). (p. 141).

Interestingly, there were no pogroms in Russian-ruled central Poland between 1880 and 1906, and the latter (in Bialystok)[possibly also the former] was clearly Russian-instigated. (pp. 146-147). Baskerville suggests that Poles in general saw themselves as a humane and cultured people who would "deeply regret" the eruption of pogroms, notwithstanding the "arrogance of the Jewish masses". (p. 127).

Jewish factory owners had differing opinions on the relative worth of Poles and Jews as workers. (p. 52-on). Most of the time, Poles and Jews lived in amity (p. 57, 144), notwithstanding the anti-Semitic undercurrent (p. 144), which was normally dormant (p. 127), and otherwise lacking in aim and energy--completely unlike the dynamic Russian anti-Semitism. (p. 150).

As for blame, Baskerville faults with both sides: (quote) But to the mere observer it appears that there has been a good deal to forgive on both sides; and today, at any rate, the Jews are as anti-Polish as the Poles are anti-Semitic. They do not want to assimilate, they do not want to blend their interests with the interests of the rest of the community. They are striving to assert their national individuality, to live their own lives and attain their own ends, all three of which are as far removed from the Sclavonic [Slavonic] ideals as the twilight from dawn, as night from day. (unquote)(pp. 150-151). She adds, "Thanks to political and social conditions, and partly also to Talmudism, the Jews in Poland have preserved their exclusiveness." (p. 107).

Jewish self-imposed apartheid (my term) was also re-affirmed by modern Jewish thinking. Baskerville comments: (quote) Amongst the Poles themselves, Sionism [Zionism] with its separatism, with its anti-communal and anti-cultural tenets, has only served to increase anti-Semitism. To the Polish nature, easy-going though it be, there is something particularly obnoxious in the contemplation of the better part of a million Jews, whose forefathers found a refuge in the country at a period when the Semite was chivied and chased from all parts of Europe, who have lived upon that country for centuries, some of which have even amassed fortunes, assuming an attitude of hostile exclusiveness towards the very people of whom they owe so much, flaunting the cult of the jargon [Yiddish], the halat and the Talmud before their eyes, and eagerly looking forward to the time when they will have amassed a sufficient quantity of Polish gold to bear them over the seas and establish them in Palestine... (unquote). (p. 126).

Jews also had active prejudices against Poles. Baskerville notes: "...(the) learned Jew holds a high place in the ghetto. Nobody hates the goya [goy] like he, and he would rather suffer hunger than learn to speak Polish." (p. 26). As for Jewish children in the cheder (school), taught by a melamed (teacher): "All they are taught of the Gentile and his culture is to hate both." (p. 87).

Ironic to the later much-maligned Polish boycotts of Jews, Baskerville faulted the Poles for not forming guilds, or taking other measures, to protect their economic interests from the Jews. (p. 138).

Although the Dmowski-led retaliatory boycotts of Jews after the 1912 Duma election were still years in the future, Baskerville alludes to one of the reasons for the newly-politicized Judaism constituting an affront to Polish national aspirations: (quote) ...the Jew, who has been economically dangerous to Polish interests for centuries, has now become a political peril, because, having nothing to gain by keeping quiet and a possible gain in revolt, he has prompted and is guiding the present revolutionary movement. This conviction prompted the Poles to act with unexpected energy during the election for the Duma. (unquote). (p. 136).

The Bund, though anti-Zionist, promoted Jewish particularism (p. 158) and grew increasingly anti-Polish. (p. 186). The Jewish Bund and SD (Social Democrats) often turned against even Polish socialists. (p. 164). Bund-led strikes ended up hurting Poles more than the Russian authorities: They closed factories, drove commerce overseas, and lowered the standard of Polish produce. (p. 165).

Armed Bund gangs killed policemen in broad daylight. (p. 21). Bund-led violence, both of a revolutionary as well as bandit nature, was supported by numerous firearms, and was well organized. (pp. 173-201). Poles were often the victims. For more on this, see Comment.

In the rest of her book, Baskerville flashes back to early Polish-Jewish history. Although Jewish accounts focus on exceptions, Baskerville points out that most Polish cities not only did not turn their Jews over to the murderous Cossacks during the Khmelnytsky (Chmielnicki) Revolt, but paid ransom to have them spared. Lwow (Lviv) was notable for paying a hefty ransom. (p. 233).
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