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Jewish Economic Dominance. Root Causes of Polish anti-Jewish Hostilities. 1936 Przytyk Pogrom Debate

jan peczkis|Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Brian Horowitz discusses Lev Levanda (1835-1888), a leading advocate of the Russification of Poland's erstwhile Jews, and the way that he felt ambivalent towards Poland. Perhaps while not intending to, Horowitz demonstrates that Jewish attitudes towards Poland (and Russia) were governed primarily by self-interest, not stable loyalties. He writes, (quote) Levanda was not alone in siding with Russia. Many Jews in the 1840s and 1850s saw an opportunity for social advancement in the Russian educational system and little room for social mobility within Polish culture. (unquote)(p. 281).

5 As with other works of the POLIN series, this one presents a lot of information, but often in a skin-deep manner. I focus on a few themes.

Nowadays, the Endeks are routinely condemned for their "exclusive" concept of what it meant to be truly Polish, and for "excluding" Jews from Polishness. This was just one side of the coin. The Jews, by and large, had already excluded themselves from Polishness, and had often done so long before Roman Dmowski was even born.


There is interesting information, relevant at least to the Jews of the area around Pinsk, which inadvertently touches on the question of alleged Jewish profiteering during and after wars. Adam Teller, identified as Professor at the University of Haifa (p. 468) writes, (quote) Many Christian townspeople abandoned trade and crafts during hard times, turning to agriculture to support themselves, and they often found it difficult to pay off their debts and reassume their previous professions when peace came. This meant that the Jews were in a much better economic position in the towns after the wars than they had been before. (unquote). (p. 31).


Adam Teller inadvertently "sets the stage" for understanding the Przytyk pogrom as he provides valuable information on previous pogroms from this part of Europe. He comments, (quote) Thus it was that in the shtetls, as elsewhere in Poland-Lithuania, the Jews were the victims of violence, both verbal and physical, on the part of their neighbors. However, a close examination of the sources reveals that the Jews were able to give as good as they got, and often did so. Violence in the shtetls and towns of Poland was by no means one-sided. The court records indicate many cases of Jews attacking townspeople, peasants on their way to market, and even nobles and priests who tried to interfere in their daily lives. This violence, which was endemic to Polish society in this period, should therefore be understood not so much as signifying the Jews' weakness in the face of non-Jewish society, or their excessive self-confidence in light of noble protection, but rather as a sign that the Jews were well integrated into urban society and acted, MUTATIS MUTANDIS, just like their neighbors. (unquote). (pp. 37-38).


Author Rosa Lehmann traces the Poles' economic efforts, with their very modest successes, at Jasliska, beginning with some business initiatives, and half-hearted boycotts of Jews, in the 1890's, and then proceeding through the 1930's. She writes, (quote) The limited involvement of Poles in the local and regional market, apart from the activities of the rural co-operative, which from 1918 were heavily protected by the Roman Catholic Church and the Polish national authorities, can be traced to the lack of a Polish trade network to realize an efficient supply and distribution of merchandise and information. One major advantage of the Jewish merchant was that he had access to such contacts and information, and that, as a rule, he knew his customers. The extent and importance of the local Jewish networks is clear from the accounts of Jewish informants. First, through marriage bonds Jews were able to activate a family network that reached far beyond the confines of the local community. Jewish informants gave examples of how, in setting up one business or another, within or outside Jasliska, mostly relatives were consulted or involved in some other way. Secondly, generations of experience in trade laid the foundation for numerous contacts in the professions and with the main trading centers; hence, for example, the large number of Jewish companies that specialized in exploitation of local forests and that were run by local Jews with expert contacts outside the region, in Krakow, and even outside the country, in Slovakia. (unquote). (p. 159).

(Quote) It should be noted that during the inter-war years Poles also entered the sector of moneylending. Mortgage deeds in the real-estate registers show that debtors and creditors were Poles as well as Jews. However, in contrast to Poles, who often were indebted to Jews (with debts sometimes exceeding 200 zlotys), the Jews themselves were rarely indebted to Poles as richer relatives or co-religionists were quick to help them out. (unquote). (p. 160).


It is clear that, using modern parlance, the economic playing field, between Poles and Jews, was very, very far from level. Jewish economic privilege, having lasted so many centuries, had become so entrenched, so variegated, so versatile, and so sophisticated, that it was almost impossible for Poles to even put a dent into it. Poles could hardly ever compete successfully with Jews, and to start businesses. No wonder that Poles commonly thought in terms of "supporting their own" (that is, boycotting Jewish economic establishments).

Now consider the Endek calls for more-systematic boycotts of Jews, the corrective-discriminatory policies of the pre-WWII Polish government against Jews, the arguments for harsher anti-Jewish action by the ONR, the increasing unpleasantries such as ghetto benches, and the increasing calls for most of Poland's Jews to be forced to emigrate. Considering the fact that Poles felt, quite reasonably, that there was no other way to emancipate Poland from Jewish economic dominance, and to start their own businesses, why, then, do Poles face opprobrium for feeling, and acting, the way they did?

To ask this question is to answer it. Jews are not seen as the privileged, even though they clearly were, and Poles are not seen as the disadvantaged, even though they clearly were. Let us take this further. The reader must remember what liberals tell us about the privileged "having won life's lottery", of the privileged tending to hang on to their privileges, of the anger and hopelessness of those who are economically disenfranchised, of the root causes of violence in the face of these continued inequities, etc. Although never recognized by liberals as such, the disadvantaged state of the Poles accounts not only for Endek and ONR attitudes and policies, but also for the Przytyk pogrom.


The exchange on this event is in the format of a debate. Jolanta Zyndul criticizes scholar Piotr Gontarczyk for his work, Pogrom? Zajscia polsko-zydowskie w Przytyku 9 marca 1936 r. : Mity, Fakty, Dokumenty (Polish and English Edition). Gontarczyk gets to respond. Then Zyndul responds again. What kind of editorial standards are these, where Zyndul gets the first and the last word, and Gontarczyk gets only one statement?

On top of all this, there are four other pogrom-accusing articles included in this debate. There is thus, numerically speaking, a 5:1 bias in favor of the standard narrative on the Przytyk pogrom. Pretty fair, huh? Then again, this is probably the best that can be expected from the transparently Judeocentric POLIN series. Most POLIN volumes--and I have reviewed a number of them--lack the inclusion of even a single article from a dissenting voice.


Jolanta Zyndul concludes that the facts about the Przytyk pogrom, brought out by Gontarczyk, are not in dispute. (p. 387). Only their interpretation is.

Zyndul tries to confuse the issue by making allegations of Endeks making hateful and incendiary statements against Jews (p. 388), as Ryszard Fenigsten does also. (p. 402). This is a red herring. Incendiary rhetoric is uncharitable, but is not synonymous with homicide. In addition, not only did incendiary rhetoric go both ways, but hateful Jewish rhetoric against Poland, even from presumably assimilationist-oriented Jews, and as exemplified by the periodical IZRAELITA, went far back in time. [See first Comment under this review.]

Now, back to the Przytyk pogrom itself. Zyndul's irrelevant comments on incendiary rhetoric notwithstanding, nothing changes the fact, brought up originally by Gontarczyk, that it was the Jews, and not the Poles, that had escalated the heretofore-limited conflict into homicide. The Przytyk pogrom was first a Jewish riot before it became a Polish riot. It was the Jews who introduced firearms, and homicide, into the conflict, when they started shooting, and shooting indiscriminately, at Poles. Up to that time, the dispute had been non-homicidal. It had been limited to mutual insults, fisticuffs, and reciprocal overturning of booths--all the while Jews were trying to protect their economic privileges, and the Poles were trying to reverse them.

What's more, after tailor Dalman had been attacked by Poles, the Jewish "self-defense" mob did not go after Dalman's assailants. They attacked Poles indiscriminately, in a fit of collective revenge. (Gontarczyk, pp. 394-395).


Zyndul and Gontarczyk go in circles on the applicability of the term pogrom, but do not examine this term in the broad sense. The term pogrom is not only a matter of semantics, but of application--an application that is determined according to politics. Consider, for example, the unmentioned Crown Heights riots of 1991. There had been a spasm of community anger directed against Jews collectively, and the Jew Yankel Rosenbaum was brutally murdered. Although some Jewish groups called the Crown Heights riots a pogrom, most did not, and the term pogrom never stuck. Why? The answer is simple. The USA is a sophisticated, pluralistic society. Therefore, a pogrom occurring in the USA is not really a pogrom. However, in Poland, a presumably backwards, hyper-Catholic nation, a pogrom is expected to occur, and the term sticks, even when only one Jew is killed, as happened at Przytyk.

There is, in addition, the standard politics of victimhood in play, as determined by the leftists who steer our popular culture. African-Americans are a recognized victim group. Jews are a recognized victim-group, especially in the context of Polish-Jewish relations. Poles, in contrast, are not a recognized victim group. Therefore, a pogrom conducted by African-Americans cannot be a true pogrom, while one conducted by Poles certainly can.


Jolanta Zyndul should, first of all, read the quote from Adam Teller above, on the tendency of Jews to do violence as well as receive violence. She might learn something.

Jolanta Zyndul attacks Gontarczyk for referring to historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz and his ZYDZI I POLACY scholarly work. She claims that the book was "widely criticized." (p. 398). "Widely criticized" by whom? By leftists? By Judeocentrists? She also provides not the slightest evidence that the criticism of Chodakiewicz is valid, much less that Chodakiewicz is wrong.

Zyndul then berates Piotr Gontarzyk for comparing the Przytyk violence against Jews with other manifestations of popular violence in Poland at the time, accusing him of trying to "soften" it. (p. 398). Oh, dear!

Zyndul's mindset is unmistakable, and is nothing new. When Jews are the object of hostility and violence in Poland, this cannot be juxtaposed with any of the co-occurring violence between other peoples in Poland. What's more, violence against Jews is entitled its own special, proprietary term--the pogrom--while the violence against other peoples never gets its own special term. The conclusion is inescapable. Jews are special. Therefore, violence against Jews is more grave, and more worthy of attention and historical memory, than violence against other peoples. [Such thinking goes back to antiquity: According to the Talmud, in Sanhedrin 58b, striking a Jew is tantamount to an attack on the Divine presence. Look it up, as I did.] It all boils down to this: There exists one standard for Jews and another, less favorable standard, for Poles.
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