Controversy over Polish-Jewish relations

April 2, 2007 at 1:48 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 2 (UPI) -- The Piast Institute for Polish and Polish-American Affairs launched an international symposium on a controversial theory on anti-Semitism in post-war Poland.

Jan Gross, an expert on Eastern European politics, believes anti-Semitism developed after World War II due to Polish guilt over ill treatment of Jews.

Gross focuses on the killing of 42 Jews in the Polish town of Kielce in 1946. Using this event and some anecdotes as his evidence, he created a psychosocial theory to develop tendentious stereotypes of Poles.

"Gross' work is a flawed characterization of Polish society," said Thaddeus Radzilowski, president of the Piast Institute and co-chairman of the National Polish-American Jewish-American Council.

"What happened in Kielce, while still shrouded in uncertainty, was a tragedy that weighs heavily on Polish history. However, to use this single event to broadly stereotype Poles is unfair and irresponsible, and it can injure Polish-Jewish relations in America," said Radzilowski.

Many scholars argue Gross' fundamental error was ignoring Kielce's historical context. Poland was devastated after WWII, with the imposition of communism and Soviet control. Large percentages of Christian and Jewish populations were killed; 50,000 Christians and 400 to 700 Jews died as victims of crime, violence and political persecution.

Radzilowski stressed that Polish-Jewish relations cannot be characterized using scattered anecdotal evidence. Poland was home to the largest population of Jews in Europe for centuries.

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