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Poles and Jews: The Quest For Self-Determination 1919-1934
By Feigue Cieplinski


Poland became an independent nation against all odds in the interwar period and retained her sovereignty from 1919 to 1939; hence the  concept “interwar Poland.”  The vicissitudes of her existence earned her the name of “God’s Playground.” [1] The Jews within her borders shared her history since 1240 C.E.  Their freedoms during this   period, unequalled in other places of Western Europe, earned Poland the Biblical allusion of   “New Canaan.” [2]   In contrast, some scholars have described Poland’s Jewry in the interwar Republic as being  “On the Edge Of Destruction.” [3]   That Polish Jewry was in distress is attested by the urgent visit of Mr. Neville Laski, a member of the British Joint Foreign Committee closely associated with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Joint Distribution Committee, in 1934. [4] His August visit fell between two historical events framing Polish Jewry’s status: seven months before, in January of that year, Poland and Germany signed a bilateral non-aggression declaration and in September Colonel Josef Beck, as Foreign Minister, announced in Geneva, his country’s unilateral abrogation of the Minorities Treaty in force since 1919. The scholars listed below have studied separately either the birth of Poland and the imposition of the Minorities Protection   Treaty, the rapprochement between Poland and Germany, or the situation of the Jews in Poland. However, they have paid scant attention to the nexus between the rise of Hitler, the rapprochement between Poland and Germany, the demise of the Minorities Protection Treaty, and the consequent worsening situation of Polish Jewry. [5]  

The Polish government reluctantly accepted the signing of the Minorities Protection Treaty concurrently with the Peace Treaty in Paris on May 28, 1919, complaining that it was an intrusion in its internal affairs and sovereignty. Colonel Beck’s unilateral abrogation sixteen years later was therefore a confirmation of this long held stance. While the Polish government could not reject the Minorities Protection Treaty in 1919, it chose to do so unilaterally in 1934 because of its new political circumstances. The Polish-German rapprochement of that year restored in Poland’s eyes its own standing as an independent political agent that could act without consultation with its staunchest ally, France. In addition, the Polish government felt that it could protect itself against the threat of German aggression on its own while at the same time project itself to be in the same league as other great powers such as Britain, Russia, or France. By abrogating the Treaty unilaterally the government sent a clear message that it was a master of its own house.

However, that house was not in complete order as there were intractable political and social problems. In addition, the Polish government’s treatment of its varied minorities deteriorated. Exploring in detail these international events and tying them up   to the internal political, social, and economic situation in Poland, makes the task of assessing Polish Jewry’s situation easier. It was indubitably threatened by both the internal situation in Poland and international political shifts of power, but most certainly not “on the edge of destruction.”  It is important to study the interwar period without taking into account Jewish annihilation during the Second World War. To do so casts a   shadow that obscures actual events the record and produces a partisan historiography. [6]   It behooves all historians working in this sensitive period to heed Michael Ignatieff’s advice: “in no field of history does one wish more fervently that historians could write blind into the future.” [7]  

The purpose of this study is to explore the Jewish situation in Poland during the years when the Minorities Protection Treaty was accepted. This will be done by framing in the context of both the domestic and international events affecting the country in the same period.  Such a study will make it clear that the September 1934 abrogation of the Minority Treaty was intimately connected to Poland’s new relationship with Germany.  The Polish government could ignore the treaty’s stipulations as it had done all along without the need to denounce it in the international arena.   Hitler’s contempt toward for the League of Nations bolstered by the rapprochement served as a model for Poland to follow suit. Finally, Mr. Laski’s visit anchors the political maneuvering that led the Polish government to renounce the Minority Treaty. The latter had been imposed by the Allies at the prodding of British and American Jews as insurance for the Polish Jews to be treated fairly.  Sixteen year later, Mr. Laski, as a member of the same group, albeit not an original contributor to the Treaty’s   stipulations, was now a witness to its demise.

*                   *                       *

The year 1934 opened with a coup of Polish diplomacy. War minister Josef Pilsudski, Foreign minister Colonel Josef Beck, and the newly appointed Envoy to Germany, Josef Lipski, engineered a careful rapprochement with Poland’s erstwhile foe.   Soon after Hitler walked out of both the disarmament conference in Geneva and the League of Nations, Pilsudski, Lipski, and Beck, conferring in Warsaw, agreed it was worthwhile to approach the Chancellor. Pilsudski directed his Envoy to convey the following communiqué:

Reflecting  upon  the  present situation,  the Marshal  [meaning Pilsudski]
declares  Poland’s  security  to  be  based directly upon these two elements
namely: upon  direct  relationship  with  other  states (in  this  instance, on
Polish - German relations), and  upon   the  collaboration  of  states within 
the  frame of the League of Nations. The  Marshal  describes  this  second
element as  a  sort  of  reinsurance, ensuing from the fact that the states, as
members of the League of  Nations,  are  bound  by  obligations  under the
pact of the  League of Nations, especially in the case of conflict. Therefore,
the last  decision of the Reich’s government, resulting in  [its]  withdrawal 
from  the  League  of  Nations,  deprives  Poland of this second element of
security. [8]

The Berlin- Warsaw diplomatic exchanges, surprisingly smooth and swift, culminated with the signing of a bilateral non- aggression pact. During his audience with the Chancellor on November 15, 1933, Lipski transmitted Pilsudski’s measured words to both Hitler and Baron Constantin von Neurath. Within two weeks, on November 27, 1933, he was handed a draft of their new commitments. Simultaneously, Germany’s Envoy, Hans von Moltke, presented the identical text to Pilsudski in Warsaw. Meanwhile, Col. Beck appeased the French ambassador. [9]   The non-aggression pact was signed on January 26, 1934. [10]   The most important paragraphs state:

Both  governments   announce  to   reach  direct  understanding
on  questions   of  any   mutual  nature  whatsoever   concerning  
their mutual relations. Should  any  disputes  arise  out of  these 
agreements  [and]  not  be  solved  by  direct  negotiations,  they 
will  in  each  particular case, on  the basis of mutual agreement, 
seek  a  solution  by  other   peaceful  means  without   prejudice
to   the   possibility of  applying   if  necessary,  such  modes  of
procedure as are  provided  for  such cases  by other agreements 
in force between them. In no circumstances, however, will they
proceed to use force in order to settle such dispute.” [11]

The present declaration is to remain in force until its denouncement
by one of the Contacting Parties, but  this  may not  be  done prior to 
expiration of ten years. [12]

Poland and Germany’s respective parliaments ratified this declaration soon thereafter, and their representatives were raised to the rank of ambassadors within a few months. [13] The western powers reacted in a stunned, subdued manner because the pact eased fears of renewed hostilities. Meanwhile, to cement the rapprochement, Hitler sent Josef Goebbels to Warsaw in June 1934. Ostensibly invited to speak at the Association of Intellectual Cooperation on  “National Socialism as a factor of European Peace,” he met afterwards with Beck and von Moltke in a non- official reception. [14]

In the interim, on June 7, 1934, a group of four Rabbis (Kanal, Perelman, Langleben, and Fajner) visited Cardinal Kakowski in Warsaw with a petition. They wanted him to use his moral authority to stop  “youthful outbursts,” and protect unfortunate Jews from suffering more violence.  Their petition is worth quoting in full:

Your Eminence!
In the name of the rabbinate of the Polish Republic we turn to you
in the following powerful matter. In Germany in the land of the
of the Teutonic knights, from time immemorial Poland’s enemy,
a horde of barbarous pagans has recently come to power warring
against all the laws of God, trampling upon all the important
principles of the Christian faith, persecuting all adversaries with
cruelty unknown in human history, especially to the descendants
of the land of Israel. The whole civilized world, and the princes
of the Catholic Church, has condemned the monstrous actions of
the Nazis in Germany.Unfortunately in Poland the land with the
greatest number of God – fearing Catholic Christians, a certain
faction, especially youth, is troubling us. Shamefully, calling
themselves Polish nationalists, they modeled themselves after the
example of the pagan Nazis. They attack defenseless people
walking on the streets of Poland’s cities because they look Jewish.
Without pity they bully, beat and injure them. Sometimes these
ruffians encounter resistance from their innocent victims and
they react with even more fury bringing shame to Poland’s old
reputation for tolerance and God. We are convinced, Cardinal,
that no true Polish Catholic can be utterly corrupt, that these youth
have been momentarily deluded by the slogans of foreign enemies.
At an appeal by their senses and certainly cease the persecution of
the Jewish people which defames Poland’s good name. In the
name of the Rabbis and Jews of this illustrious Republic, we
entreat you, Cardinal, to issue a pastoral appeal about this to all
Poland Catholics. Then peace and order will reign again in the land
beloved by us all. May grace flow upon it.

                                                       Amen. [15]

The Rabbis were referring to the violence generated by the students’ “Green League” formed in 1931. Their platform called for all those belonging to the League not to buy from Jews, not to patronize their businesses in any way, not in commerce and not in law, and certainly not as social peers. They also called for the government to reinforce the numerus clausus restricting the entry of Jews in the universities they attended. [16] In addition, they distributed antisemitic pamphlets, posters and cartoons and the number of violent incidents increased during their school holidays.  They attacked Jews in Warsaw, Vilna, and Lemberg (See map Appendix 1).  The police dispersed them, but within a few days they attacked again. [17]

These anti-Jewish riots were outright imitations of Nazi violence. [18] They spread like wildfire to other universities and by 1934 they had become a threat to the Jewish community as a whole. Indeed, anti-Jewish violence inspired non-radicalized youth to join the Green League and harass shopkeepers everywhere. These attacks escalated to Jewish homes under the excuse that the Jews  “affronted” a Christian procession in Warsaw. The intensification of violence was triggered by the Goebbels’ visit to Poland. [19]   While Polish Jews have suffered similar pogroms prior to the re-establishment of interwar Poland, the ferocity of these attacks during a peaceful period was unprecedented. Undoubtedly, these youths were imitating their counterparts in Germany. Hence the Rabbis’ pressing appeal to stop the terror. 

However, the Cardinal did nothing of that sort and his response to the Rabbis’ plea is an important indicator of the role religion played in the complex interaction between Jews and Poles in this period.  Whereas the 1921 Constitution guaranteed equal rights to all religions, article 114 declared the Roman Catholic faith to be in “a chief position among the enfranchised religions of the state.” [20] Most significantly, Cardinal Kakowski was one of the signatories of the Concordat with the Holy See in 1925. [21]   His close relationship with Pious XI was implicit in his response to the Rabbis: he regretted the violence but railed at the same time against Jewish newspapers  “infecting public culture with atheism.” [22] That allusion -meant for Jews directly tied to Communism- tainted also anyone politically active left of center. [23]   Undoubtedly, his denunciation was devoid of a racist tenor; nonetheless it depicted Jews as an inimical force to Christianity and by extension the Polish state. The Cardinal’s response implied that Jewish behavior provoked Polish youth to use Nazi methods. Yes, he ruefully added it was “regrettable,” but apparently eminently necessary.

The Rabbis’ appeal also offers clues to the Polish-Jewish relationship. Their plea was typical of Jewish petitions since medieval times. Prior to emancipation, Rabbis or wealthy individuals served as intermediaries requesting protection or the rescission of a law that affected all the community. Political enfranchisement made intercession, or Shtadlanut, obsolete. Elected Jewish representatives to the Parliament, or Sejm, could effectively argue that the recent violence was in complete violation of both the clauses of the Minorities Protection Treaty and Poland’s own 1921 Constitution.

Mr. Laski’s June 1934 visit was therefore geared to assess the impact of these violations.  He arrived in Poland after visiting the Jews in Austria, and was received by a young man named Cang who served as his guide. This young Jewish-Polish journalist wrote for the Manchester Guardian, the Jewish Chronicle and the Central News. He obviously spoke English and was well versed on the current events and situation. [24] After walking through the streets of Warsaw and speaking with diverse members of the Jewish community, Laski was granted an audience with Colonel Josef Beck.

Actually, Mr. Laski had two important conversations that August morning. While waiting to be received by Colonel Beck, he was able to strike up a conversation with Beck’s principal secretary Mr. Gwiazdowski. The secretary, a converted Jew, suggested that the solution to the pressing Jewish situation was emigration.  Mr. Laski challenged him to be practical: “Where was the land, the money, the technical means and the will of the Polish Jews to leave Poland?” Gwiazdowski’s silence spoke volumes. Mr. Laski then berated him by adding that the Jews of Poland had citizenship rights. Moreover, they were under the protection of the Minorities Treaty and there was absolutely no point in arguing about the validity of the Treaty. Undoubtedly, the Polish state had to abide by it. Moreover, the Jews of Western Europe were ready to compel the Polish state to comply. Gwiazdowski retorted that there was less antisemitism in Poland than in Germany. Upset at Gwiazdowski’s disingenuousness, Mr. Laski compelled him to answer: “Do two blacks make a white?” Does the fact that Germany is [blatantly] antisemitic justify a similar penchant [for it] in Poland?” However, Mr. Laski elicited neither an answer nor any emotions from the Secretary. He essentially continued taking notes about the conversation. [25] As a converted Jew, Gwiazdowski no longer retained a staunch commitment to his coreligionists or their fate.

Apparently Mr. Laski’s interview with Colonel Beck had a more subdued and formal tone. Prince Lubormski, served as a translator.  Lubormiski greeted Laski in a most pleasant manner, informing him of his acquaintance with his brother Harold. [26] At the very outset of the conversation, Mr. Laski was assured that the Jews of Poland were treated fairly and that concerns about antisemitism were exaggerated.  To this “well worn cliché,” related Mr. Laski,  “ I answered with another well worn cliché: that the proof of the pudding was in the eating.” He then praised the Pilsudski’s government as more benign, but argued that nothing practical was truly being done to ameliorate the Jewish situation. Indeed, Mr. Laski remarked, “nobody could visit the Warsaw’s Jewish quarters and argue that the Jewish community was not in distress.” [27]   Interestingly, Mr. Laski did not say anything to Col. Beck about the Minorities Treaty.

Finally, Mr. Laski spent another hour that afternoon speaking with the acting Prime Minister, Mr. Zawadski. The conversation covered the same ground, but  Laski felt that he had better rapport with Zawadski than with Col. Beck: “…whether it was pre-agreement of courtesy or not, at any rate, I found that we were moving very much along the same line at the close of the interview.” [28] Quite possible this was so because they were both able to speak privately in French with no intermediary.

The most remarkable conversation was with the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Zydram- Koscialkowski.  He acknowledged that the poverty in the Jewish quarter was striking, but appealed to Mr. Laski to consider, too, the undeniable fact that Poland’s poverty contributed to Jewish pauperization.   As for antisemitism, he acknowledged its irrefutable incidence as: “common in Poland and probably ineradicable and most parties used it for election purposes.” [Indeed] “Any party that favored the Jews would find itself in a precarious position, and added “un grand nombre de Juifs sont communiste, mais ce n’est pas la politique, cest la misere.”  Delighted to hear his own perceptions validated, Mr. Laski politely encouraged him to take the next step: “could this be said in a public platform?”  Zydram Koscialkowski did not take the hint. Actually, he warned against such a move: “no one would have the courage to say so publicly, even though it was absolutely true.” In the final moments of this interview, they deliberated about possible solutions to the present Jewish quandary; depressingly none emerged: Zydram Koscialkowski averred that emigration was impossible and that Zionism was a palliative. [29] Mr. Laski offered some clues to this gentleman’s exquisite frankness: He was married to a Jewess and had been governor of a province for four years.  During his regime, Jews and non- Jews lived side by side in harmony. [30]

Mr. Zydram- Koscialkowski’s remarks about the party system were accurate.  The Parliament, or Sejm, despite its diverse parties was totally dominated by the Nationalist Party, or Endecja.  Its heady patriotism, imbued with a strong Catholic ethos, encouraged   ethnic uniformity, barely tolerating the participation of other political groups. [31] Its   preference for the Hassidic Agudath Israel Party hinged on this group’s narrow claims:  religious protection as granted by article 110 in Section V of the 1921 Polish Constitution. Other Jewish parties were snubbed because they aimed at a broader range of political co-determination based also on the Constitution:

Article 95:

The Republic of Poland guarantees on its territory, to all,
without distinction of extraction, nationality, language, race,
or religion, full protection of life, liberty, and property.

Article 107:

Citizens have the right of presenting individual or collective
petitions to all state and self-government representative
bodies and public authorities.

Article 110:

Polish citizens belonging to national, religious, or linguistic
minorities have the same rights as other citizens of funding,
supervision and administering at their own expense, charitable,
religious and social institutions, schools and other educational
institutions, and of using freely therein their language, and
observing the rules of their religion. [32]

Importantly, as the Jewish leadership stressed, these articles were backed by the stipulations of the Minorities Protection Treaty of 1919. These articles were incorporated almost verbatim in the Constitution with stipulations insuring civil, political, and religious rights to all the minorities in reconstituted Poland. [33]  

However, Jewish leaders did not speak with one voice.  Jewish parties were splintered in a multiplicity of political currents and lines of conflict. There were four Zionist parties: Orthodox Zionists, or Mizrachi (Conservative agenda combined with Modern Zionism), General Zionists (Democratic-liberalism geared to the Middle class and neutral to the issue of religion), Labor Zionists (with a socialist agenda) and Revisionists (fiercely Zionists with a Palestinian emigration agenda). In contrast, the Bund party was anti-Zionist and anti-Communist, anchoring itself on national territorial claims and the right to use the Yiddish language. Finally, there was an insignificant group of mostly former assimilated Austrian-Jews who advocated Polonization. [34]    Unable to jettison these parties’ insistent claims, the Sejm retaliated instead by not allocating money for their school budgets and not offering their students free rides on the trams. [35] Needless to say, Agudath’s students did not confront such petty slights.  

In an attempt to counteract the constant snubs and distinctive harassment in the Sejm, the General Zionists led by Yitzhak Gruenbaum banded with other non- Jewish minorities (Germans and some Slavs) to form a Minorities Bloc in 1922, as a response to the government’s re-arrangement of political districts favoring the Nationalist Party, or   Endejca. [36] The animosity between the Minorities Bloc and the Nationalist Party peaked with the election of the first President of the Republic. The ballots awarded this post to Gabriel Narutowicz, a socialist, chosen as candidate by the Minorities Block as well as the Left and Center. Endecja acrimoniously decried this legal victory: “Look what the Jews are imposing on us.” [37]    The ensuing diatribe, published in several newspapers, cost the fifty-seven years old President his life.  He was assassinated while talking to the British Ambassador during the opening of the Zacheta Art Gallery.  While Eligiuz Niewamdowski allegedly acted alone, there is no question that Endecja bears the brunt of the responsibility for fostering this rancorous climate. [38]   

This enduring visceral hostility between Endecja and the Jews is most immediately linked to the tensions surrounding the Fourth Duma elections of 1912 when the Jews did not support the party’s candidate, Mr. Kurazewski. In retaliation, Roman Dmowski, Endejca’s founder, called for an economic boycott which was later incorporated as a party-platform in interwar Poland. In addition, Dmowski envisioned an ethnically homogeneous and intensely Catholic Poland. He therefore supported the signing of the Concordat with the Holy See. [39]   The boycott was a tool to achieve his twofold aims: to rally most Poles behind Endejca, and to make Jews so uncomfortable they would  “voluntarily” decide to emigrate from Poland.   Dmowski’s antisemitic rhetoric is evident in his 1916 speech: 

Why is there such dislike for the Jews in Poland? The Jews are the salt
of the earth. It is necessary to court them. I will not go into whether they
are the salt of the earth or not. Salt is a good condiment and if added to
soup in measured amounts it brings out taste. But if too much is poured
nobody can finish the soup. [40]

Elite books and popular newsletters carried Dmowski’s message across the land. Arthur Gruszecki‘s novel Prezebudzenie (1916) picked up the theme by accusing Jews of lacking patriotism by wanting to dominate the land at the expense of Poles and Polishness. [41] Similarly, the newsletter Gazetta Polska carried as its masthead the rhyming logo  “Swoj do Swego po Swoje” encouraging Poles to patronize only “their own.” [42]   

This “ cold pogrom” channeled as an economic strangulation, albeit ambivalently applied, impoverished the most vulnerable members of the Jewish community, but drove away very few Jews. Many saw no reason to leave since they were citizens of Poland. Furthermore, they and their ancestors had shown loyalty by fighting alongside Polish forces in their attempts at liberation. But even those who heard the expulsion clarion there was no place to go. Most governments around the world closed their frontiers to new emigration throughout the interwar period. [43]

Mr. Laski’s visit confirmed both the abject poverty of the majority in the Jewish community and the wishes to emigrate. His wandering around Warsaw’s Jewish district permitted him to observe the wretchedness of its inhabitants: “Nothing that I have seen or heard [before] in any degree can picture what I saw with my own eyes.”  He interviewed, for example, a man about forty years old who eked a living as a sign-painter. He lived and worked out of one room shared with his wife and four children. His total earnings were 30 zlotys which only covered the rent. Mr. Laski observed a child sleeping on the doorstep because there was no room for him to sleep inside.  Most of the district’s homes were in disrepair and the hygienic conditions appalling. Finally, dishevelled children wandered  everywhere in these tenements. [44]

In desperation, many Jews asked Mr. Laski for certificates of emigration to Palestine. One young man thought that he would be permitted to emigrate from Poland if he had a wife. Could Mr. Laski provide him one? [45] He could not promise anything of that sort because the British restricted emigration to Palestine following a dispute between Arabs and Jews about access to the Western Wall in 1931. [46]   Furthermore, the majority of Polish Jews barely eked out a living from their labors and few could afford travel expenses.  In 1934, only 19,026 Polish- Jews managed to leave the country. [47]

The poverty of most Polish Jews stemmed from their concentration in the less modern sectors of the economy, but there was also an important middle class contingent ignored in Mr. Laski’s report.   According to the 1931 census there were about 3,113,933 million Jews, or 9.8% percent of the total population of Poland. [48]   By 1934 it had grown to approximately 3,200,000. [49]   The upper strata, mostly urban, were involved in commerce, trade and insurance.  Jews also formed a large part of the intelligentsia:  forty to fifty percent were lawyers and forty percent were doctors. They were also involved in the cultural life of both the Jewish and the Polish community. While there were a handful of industrialists, most Jews fell into the category of master craftsmen with small shops   employing a few people, or self employed as petty traders: tailoring, leatherwork, book -binders, and bakers. [50]   These craftsmen lived dispersed in small villages, or shtetls. Finally, in an unusual move, a handful of Galician Jews used their newly won legal right to buy land in these villages becoming landowners and peasants. [51] (See map Appendix 2).

According to Mr. Laski, bureaucratic discrimination exacerbated the pauperization of the Jews in the shtetls. Dealing with these corrupt officials was like running an obstacle course.  A clear example was the discrimination against the approximately 30,000 Jewish bakers. Compelled by the government to modernize their machinery, many lost their businesses through their inability to obtain the necessary loans. In one case, a lucky baker obtained both a loan and a letter because he had been a baker in the army. A new impediment was soon invented however: he was told his bakery would have to function near a body of water. That meant a considerable physical dislocation and further expenses. Needless to say this baker joined the ranks of the impoverished.  Laski recorded a similar harassment deriving from the payment of taxes. While the law permitted flexibility and discretion for those lagging behind, local officials resorted to bribery and extortion with impunity. Finally, while the government encouraged the formation of trade guilds, local guilds barred Jews from joining them. [52]

Another factor implicated in this impoverishment was the Jews’ adherence to the strictures of Orthodox life.  Mr. Laski’s visit to schools and Yeshivot (religious academies) confirmed this fact: committed to just study Torah and Talmud, they could not supplement their income except as teachers or rabbis. The facilities and living arrangements in these institutions were coarse and primitive. Many of these students slept on the floors of the schools. Mr. Laski justly perceived this lifestyle as injurious, but his own ambivalence is apparent. On one hand, he enjoyed his visit with these young men, and judged them to be “remarkably intelligent,” but on the other, he also depicted them as “odd” and their occupation as a “ blind alley.” [53]

Undoubtedly, Jewish impoverishment was part and parcel of Poland’s own economic situation. Since its independence, the government had a difficult time establishing one currency system and stabilizing it. In addition, Poland’s population growth during this period was one of the highest in Europe. However, this instability was intimately tied to political atomization and its ensuing corruption. [54]    As of 1925, of 92 registered political parties, thirty-two gained representation in the Sejm. Political stability, a leading indicator of an orderly society, appeared to be unattainable. In the first seven years the government formed 14 different cabinets. These parties’ representatives were educated prior to the reconstitution of Poland. As members of the  either Russian, Polish and Austrian Parliaments  their modus operandi had been always  reactive to their governments oppressive policies. While this policy was appropriate then, it was obsolete as members of their own government.  They spent more time bickering with one another than attending to the affairs of state. Their animosity and mindset were still entrenched in fighting pre-independence struggles with each other. [55]   It was in this milieu that Jewish parties tried to enforce their minority rights to no avail.

The Sejm’s ineffectiveness led to Josef Pilsudski’s re-emergence and the subsequent coup of 1926. [56] He justified his new involvement in politics under the apt name of “sanajca” (literally meaning purification.) [57]   The majority of Jews preferred a Pilsudski-dominated government because, unlike Endejca, it did not promote overt antisemitism. Indeed, their situation improved under the cabinet of Pilsudski’s appointee Kazimierz Bartel. He had a friendlier attitude toward all minorities. [58] During his government, steps were taken to revive Jewish trade, prohibit university quotas at the universities, and rescind the still extant Russian anti- Jewish laws. However, the cold pogrom was not dismantled. [59]    Unfortunately, two factor undermined these positive developments. First, the Sejm, still dominated by Endecja, remained recalcitrant and made a mockery of purification.  For example, encouraged by the new benign climate, the minorities published a newspaper called Nation in 1927. Within a few days Yitzhak Gruenbaum was mysteriously beaten in front of his house in Warsaw, and the German editor, a teacher by the name of Augusta Utta, was soon transferred to a forsaken province. [60]   Secondly, the stock market crash of 1929, and the consequent world wide Depression, expunged the rest of the Bartelian promises.

Mr. Laski was able to talk with one of the members of the Sejm: Mr. Wislicki. He was an extremely prosperous merchant not touched by the Depression. He reiterated the distressed economic condition of the Jewish population. Apparently Mr. Laski associated the problem of discrimination with the subject of the Minorities Protection Treaty. Mr. Wislicki sidestepped the issue by remarking emphatically, “the Treaty would soon be liquidated by the Polish government, Poland would not be deterred from denouncing the Minorities Treaty merely because of her minorities [living] outside, or because of the Treaty of Versailles.” [61]

 Mr. Wislicki’s casual forewarning of such an important political shift to a mere member of a NGO is at first surprising.  Yet, prince Lubormiski’s allusion to Laski’s brother Harold offers an interesting clue.  Since both Neville and Harold Laski worked in the highest echelons of government as barristers, this delicate message was meant to reach not only Mr. Laski’s Jewish audience, but also the British government itself. Quite possibly, it was a deft attempt to blunt its response to Poland’s challenge at Geneva.

As Mr. Wislicki predicted, Poland stunned the world again:  Colonel Beck, on September, 13, 1934, announced his country’s stance on the Minorities Protection Treaty with a succinctly short statement:

My government is compelled to refuse as of today all cooperation
in the matter of supervision of the application by Poland of the
system of minorities protection, pending the implementation of a
uniform system for protection of minorities. [62]  

The key words in this defiant statement are “pending the implementation of a uniform system.” In other words, unless all countries across the world embraced similar Minorities Protection Treaties, Poland would no longer obey its statutes. The lack of universality touched the issue of fairness already debated by the Allies in 1919. However, weary about their own colonial concerns, the seemingly lucid argument failed to persuade the Allies. This crucial understanding of particularity versus universality haunted the authors of the Minorities Protection Treaty. Finally, as a way out of their quandary, they conjured a compromise: old states had a legacy of stability, but new states lacked it. Therefore, only “new” states would be required to incorporate a Minorities Protection Treaty. [63]

Poland protested this new interpretation. Indeed, interim Polish President Ignazy Paderweski had pleaded not to make them sign such a document since it infringed upon his country’s sovereignty. He also stalled on the eve of signing the Peace accords, to no avail. The French Premier, Clemenceau, tersely warned Paderewski of the dire consequences of procrastinating:  the Allies won the war and it was up to them to define the conditions of the Polish miracle. [64]    Roman Dmowski, keenly aware of the inexorable quid pro quo, had advised Paderewski to sign first and worry later about the implications of compliance to the Minorities Treaty. [65] Furthermore, despite ratification, the Polish government had not published the text of this treaty in its official Gazzete until December 6, 1920. [66]   This passive- aggressive behavior was a clear indication not only of hurt pride, but also of the government’s unwillingness to meet its terms in the future.

In addition, the 1919 activism of Jewish groups formulating and lobbying for the enforcement of a Minority Protections Treaty affronted Polish sensibilities. [67]   Although American and British Jews had no direct access to the Peace conference, except through President Wilson and his counsel, Col. House, they had introduced their own minorities-protection document.  They took into account the following factors: extreme nationalism, antisemitism, the ongoing boycott, and the past history of Polish pogroms that were reccurring. [68]

These new pogroms began because the Allies had not define Poland’s borders with Russia. A Polish- Russian war, lasting until 1921, defined the new frontiers.   The Polish Army, dressed proudly in blue uniforms, also dubbed “Hallerczy Boys” because of the name of its captain, fought valiantly and enlarged Polish territory.   Josef Haller, an Austrian by birth and trained in France, had been allowed to form there the Polish army in exile and transfer it to Poland. However, Haller had also augmented his troops along the way with badly trained volunteers. Either by design or accident of war, the “Hallerczy Boys” had killed Jews not involved in the direct hostilities during these maneuvers; their neutrality was to no avail as many were accused of having sided with either the Russian or the Ukranians. [69]

In the midst of the hostilities it was difficult to fathom how many Jews had been killed, but these cold-blooded murders were in the pattern of old pogroms and dubbed as such. The total tally of Jews killed was disputed by the parties involved in conformity with their own aim:  Pilsudski minimized the incidents and the number of Jews killed, but a journalist by the name of Israel Cohen confirmed the events and characterized them as a pogrom. [70]   The Allies, bent in preserving Poland’s rebirth as a “cordon sanitaire” against Bolshevist ideology and Russian old-age imperialism, also toned down the nature of these incidents. [71] Pressed by American Jews to send a fact-finding commission, President Wilson assigned Henry Morgenthau to the task. [72]   His return report had been tone down for the press.  At any rate, Jewish organizations then used these recent pogroms as evidence that the Poles needed to be restrained. (See map Appendix 3). Actually, some individual Jews had even argued that Poland did not deserve its independence. This acrimonious debate over the extent of the pogroms and Jewish involvement in the Minorities Treaty continues to strain Polish-Jewish relationship up to this day. [73]

Nonetheless, these incidents had convinced the Allies of a categorical need for protection of minorities in all successor-states. [74] The League of Nations would assume responsibility for reinforcing the treaties. However, a remarkable hurdle needed to be surmounted: this proviso was decided before the League of Nations became a reality!   It was not even clear if the members of the League’s Council would accept to oversee such a minefield of future disputes. Indeed, Lord Balfour had predicted the obstacle to such an endeavor. [75] A softening criterion to make the task more palatable was agreed upon: any minority, which required the League of Nations’ attention, would only address the League under the doctrine of “clean hands.”  In other words, this group could solve practical issues to enhance its socio/political welfare, but could not have an irredentist ulterior agenda. [76] However, it was also noted that resisting assimilation should not be construed as irredentist. [77]   This fear of potential political conflagrations had watered down the sanctions of the League of Nations against wayward states. Furthermore, the Council’s purposeful destruction of its own papers and records make it difficult to evaluate their performance adequately. [78]

The Minorities Protection Treaty and the League of Nations, despite the above iniquities, were both bold and courageous new designs in international law.  Yet, many in-built setbacks had undermined their effectiveness. Chief among them was the United States’ withdrawal from its initial commitment to help form a new order in Europe. The Senate’s vote had not ratified either the Treaty or the United States’ entrance into the League of Nations, robbing the latter of a chance to grow roots as a truly international system. [79] Championing at first Poland’s rebirth, the United States had unceremoniously abandoned it and permitted it to become again, in Norman Davies’s apt phrase,  “God’s Playground.” 

One example of this iniquity will suffice: the Germans’ case in Polish Upper Silesia. Its German residents became, overnight and against their will, a minority.  While many moved to Germany immediately, the German government had entreated many others to stay.   The German government had argued that there was no point in uprooting themselves from their homes and the environment they knew so well. However, the hidden agenda is more convincing: they should stay there in the hope that one-day this land would return to its “rightful owners.”   Moreover, once Germany entered the League of Nations in 1926, it used this minority issue to browbeat Poland with a myriad of complaints. While many grievances- such as language and educational issues- were indeed accurate, others were intended to keep the issue of Germany’s minorities alive.  In this manner, Gustaf Stresemann became their advocate at the expense of Polish dignity. [80]    On the other hand, even with this constant harassment, Poland learned too well to wait   out these complaints until they lost their relevancy. Furthermore, Poland imputed any and all grievances to acts of disloyalty. [81]

Polish-Jews, acutely aware of the disloyalty card, understood that winning a case against the government in the League’s Council was often a Pyrrhic victory with consequent reprisals back home. [82]   Even if they won, the Polish government always found new legal maneuvers at the federal and local level to camouflage or nullify their non-compliance with the Minorities Protect Treaty. For example, the licenses of many thousands of shoemakers and tailors were taken away from them in 1927, due to a new pre-requisite requiring a test on Polish history, geography and language. [83]         

The situation of the German minority also deteriorated as a result of the Polish-German non-aggression pact in 1934.  While Hitler allowed, the Stresemann’s monetary compensation, albeit in a more reduce level, he was not their guardian anymore.  Unrestrained, the Polish government also harassed them with impunity. [84] Indeed, the League of Nations did not receive any complaints from the German government and the grievance Council ceased its activities after 1934. [85] This paralysis perfectly captures the ineffectiveness of the whole system.

Meanwhile, Russia’s imminent integration into the League of Nations system, also in 1934, raised Poland’s fears that its small but sizable Russian minority, quiescent up to now, would soon acquire a champion. The Polish government envisioned the German humiliation nightmare repeating itself again:  indeed, some historians argue that Russian   admission to the League was the main trigger for Poland’s unilateral abrogation of the Minorities Protection Treaty. [86]

However, Soviet Russia’s entry into the League of Nations was clearly not the primary instigating factor in the abrogation. It is a well-known fact that Stresemann’s unrelenting defense of the German minority forced Beck’s predecessor, Foreign Minister A. Zaleski, to resign from his post in 1932. [87]   It seems reasonable to assert that under those circumstances Poland would have more important reasons to withdraw.  Instead, it endured the indignities and even acquiesced to solve some of its own blatant transgressions as a result of the League’s arbitration.  Therefore, a more plausible explanation for the unilateral abrogation is Poland’s new relationship with Germany:  emboldened by Hitler’s own withdrawal from the League, Poland dared to defy it too.   It purportedly proclaimed to regain its absolute sovereignty while shielding itself of further public indignities at the international level.

Nonetheless, Poland was vaguely aware that this new international position, albeit temporarily tenable, was extremely uncertain in the long run.  Pilsudski’s relief after the signing of the non- aggression pact purportedly “buying” ten years security confirms this assertion.  Interestingly, Pilsudski also assumed an independent relationship with Russia. He sent   Colonel Beck to Russia with reassurances that Poland intended to respect their 1932 bilateral agreements despite its new pact with Germany.  Colonel Beck successfully managed to extend the Russian pact for other ten years. [88]  

Both Pilsudski and Colonel Beck were extremely proud of their brinkmanship. Without the help of France they had single-handedly wrestled their country from the starker political designs of both Germany and Soviet Russia. They hoped that the pacts they signed with each of these countries would prove to be a true détente. They were pleased to think that as of 1934 Poland was in charge of its own destiny. Barring omniscience, there was no way to detect later tectonic political shocks.  Similarly, the Jewish minority, despite Poland’s insidious political antisemitism, could not predict the future implications of this double-tracked international venture. Under the best of circumstances their situation would not deteriorate further, and at worst, they might suffer other pogroms; but they would nonetheless survive them.

Meanwhile, in a volatile era of competing nationalisms, Polish-Jewish discourse on self-determination remained embroiled in the antithetical quarrels about its criteria and significance. On one hand, it is important to remember that the Polish people once they were independent in 1919 resented any new interference with the way they wanted to handle their political and domestic affairs. Understandably, they looked forward to reconstitute themselves as a Catholic Polish country and the presence of Jews and other minorities appeared to be an insurmountable hindrance. At this moment in time, they had not taken into consideration that Jews dwelled with them for five centuries. On the other hand, the latter also considered Poland their own country and had no irredentist agenda. They hoped to be granted the same respect and self-determination the Poles wanted for themselves. The wanted they civic rights that the 1921 Constitution assured them they will have, but also respect and dignity as a diverse minority. This is what they understood by self- determination. Had the Jews felt there was no hope of improvement, they would not have had participated in neither the government’s elections nor the Parliament. 

However, the Poles did not care for the Jews’ presence or their religion, and their rapprochement with the Holy See complicated the political tensions. Poles understood self -determination as uniformity: one ethnicity, one religion, and one political outlook. They were not alone; Hitler was advocating similar nationalistic notions.  Granted, Poland’s antisemitism was not the same level as Hitler’s maniacal obsession. Yet, the Polish government allowed itself to be seduced by the use of similar violent tactics- in addition to an economic strangulation- fervently hoping Jews would emigrate. It is at this junction that both political antisemitism and racial antisemitism entwine. Witness, the word  “pollution” in the Cardinal’s speech:  it was meant as an obvious attack against Jews’ sympathies for Communism or Socialism, but it was also a borrowed term from racial notions. Furthermore, Jews, as victims of either cold or hot pogroms, did not stop to make this fine distinction between the two; although, of course there are important differences between the two.  Historians that read the tragic story of interwar Poland as linked with the Holocaust are conflating both antisemitic discourses and drawing what appear to be logical conclusions. Yet, it is prudent, as disciplined historians, to keep these two periods separate and not read the events backward: coercive emigration measures no matter how violent are not a ”Final Solution,” despite the intense hatred against Jews and Judaism that inspired them.

Mr. Laski’s report highlighted these complex issues and put into perspective the mistreatment of the Jews and the reasons for it. Undeniably, Polish Catholic antisemitism and Nationalism - as expressed by the Endejca Party- were part of this explosive mixture. If in addition, the government permitted the racial discourse in Germany to filter in by allowing its youth to act like Nazi thugs, any hope of a Polish Jewish dialogue was lost. Mr. Laski’s arrival coincided with these events, as the last shreds of compromise between Poles and Jews began to unravel. The abrogation of the Minority Protection Treaty proved to be a watershed.         

*                  *                     *


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[1] Norman Davies, God’s Playground Vol. 2.  New York:  Columbia University Press, 1992.

[2] Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski, Jews In Poland: A documentary History (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1993), p. 14. Poland was the only land to accept massive influx of Jews escaping from the Christian Crusades. In that period of peace and freedom they grew and cultivated a unique culture in a rare co-existence not evinced anywhere in Europe at that time.  This religious toleration made Poland attractive to Jews for more than 500 years.

[3] Celia Heller, On the Edge of Destruction New York: Columbia University Press, 1977.

[4] Encyclopedia Judaica, “AJC. ” The American Jewish Committee is the oldest Jewish defense organization in the United States. It was established in 1906 to prevent the infraction of the civil and religious right of Jews in any part of the world- including the United States. The men who worked on behalf of their co-religionists were prominent American- Jews of German extraction who formed this organization in the wake of the Russian pogroms of 1904. By 1931 the AJC counted 350 such volunteers under a small executive in New York.  The Joint Distribution Committee was founded in 1914. As its name indicates it united several Jewish relief organizations belonging to the spectrum of religious denominations and labor. The main aim of the JDC was to help Jews in the country they inhabited: “The Jew Must be helped where he is.” See, JDC Archive Berhnard statement of November 11, 1931.  See also, H.H. Fisher, America and the New Poland (New York: Macmillan, 1928), p. 189. The JDC also helped non- Jews in 42 countries including interwar Poland.  

[5] See, Antony Alcock , A History of the Protection of Regional- Cultural Minorities in Europe (New York: St. Martin Press, 2000), p.83.  Richard Blanke, Orphans of Versailles (Lexington: Kentucky University Press, 1993), p. 195.  Gordon Craig, Germany: 1866- 1945  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), pp.680-682. Klaus Fischer, Nazi Germany (New York: Continuum, 1995), p. 405. Carole Fink, “Defender of Minorities: Germany and the League of Nations 1926-1933,” in Central European History 5(4) 1972, p 357. Roman Debicki, Foreign Policy of Poland (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1962), pp. 77, 80,89. Oskar, Halecki,  A History of Poland p. 304R. F Leslie, Antony Polonski and Z. A. Pelcyski, The  History of Poland Since 1863 (Cambridge Cambridge University Press) p. 183. Peter Pulzer, Germany- 1870-1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press,) p.141.  Mark Mazover, Dark Continent  (New York: Knopf, 1999), pp. 61-67.  Dietrich Orlow, A History of Modern Germany (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1995), pp. 195-196. Antony Polonski,  Politics in Independent Poland (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), pp.384-385. Henry Roberts, The Diplomacy of General Beck” in The Diplomats: 1919-1939 Gordon Craig and Felix Gilbert ed. (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1953), pp. 579-614. Christian Raitz- von Frantz, A Lesson Forgotten: Minorities’ Problems and the League of Nations  (New York; St. Martin’s Press, 1999) p.246.   Jacob Robinson, Oscar Karbach, Nehemia Robinson, Marc Vichniak, Were the Minorities treaties a Failure? (New York: Antin Press, 1943), pp. 178, 179, 264.  Richard Watt, Bitter Glory (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1982), pp. 323-327. Janus Zanowski, “ La Systeme de Protection de minorities et la Pologne” in  Les Consequences Des Traites de Paix de 1919-1920 En Europe Centrale et Sud- Orientale (Strasbourg, Association des Publications  pres la Universites de Strasbourg, 1987), p.200. Piotr Wandycz, Polish Diplomacy ( London: Orbis Books, 1988), pp.23-24.

[6] On the Jewish camp: see Celia Heller, “On the Edge.”  See also, Isaiah Trunk,” Der Economischer Antisimitismus in Poiln” in Studies on Polish Jewry Joshua Fishman ed. (New York: Yivo Instititute for Jewish  Research, 1974), pp. 1-98. (Yiddish).   See also, David Cymet “Polish State Antisemitism as a major factor leading to the Holocaust” in Journal of Genocide Research, 1999 1(20), pp. 169-212.   Finally see, Pawel Korzec,  “Antisemitism in Poland as an Intellectual Social and Political Movement,” in Studies on Polish Jewry Joshua Fishman ed.  (New York: Yivo Insitute for Social Research, 1974), pp.12-104.  On the Polish camp: see, Norman  Davies, op. cit.,   Andrezej Korbonski  “Poland Between the Wars” in  The Columbia History of Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century (New York: Columbia University Press), p.234.  In addition, it is important to contrast these two authors: Ezra Mendelsohn’s  fairer appraisal against Peter  Stachura’s ad-hominem attacks: Ezra Mendelsohn’s “Interwar Poland: Good for the Jews-Bad for the Jews,” in Chimen Abramsky, Maciej Jachimzyk and Antony Polonski ed. New York; Basil Blackwell, 1986), pp. 136-139.  Peter Stachura’s Poland Between the Wars New York: St Martin Press, 1988, and   Poland in the Twentieth Century  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999. As a closure see, Pogonowski’s op. cit. straightforward historical account. His work is a provocative bridge between all the above- mentioned authors. His exhaustive documentation supports some of the above authors’ assertions while exposing others as extremely partisan.

  [7] Quoted in Michael Bernstein, Foregone Conclusion: Apocalyptic History (Berkley: University of California Press, 1996), p. 16.

[8] Josef Lipski:Diplomat in Berlin Waclaw Jedrezewicz ed. (New York; Columbia University Press, 1968), pp. 95-96. 

[9] Debicki, “Foreign Policy,” p. 74.  The Foreign Office at the Quai d’Orsay criticized Poland for not advising them about these diplomatic negotiations before they happened.    However, the French, having just changed their own cabinet, had their own political internal problems. They were not in a strong position to argue or restrain the Poles in this issue.

[10] Lipski,”Diplomat,” p. 100.

[11] Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918-1945 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1959), Section III, Vol. 2, p. 395.

[12] German Documents, p. 313.

[13] Debicki, “Foreign Policy,” p. 77. The elevation to embassy level was on October 1934.

[14] Debicki, “ Foreign Policy,” p. 90.

[15] Ronald Modras, The Catholic Church and Antisemitism in Poland, 1933-1939 (Chur, Switzerland: Harwood Academic Press, 1994), p. 348.

[16] Segal, “New Poland,” p. 197-198. “Numerous clausus” refers to the regulation to accept student at the university only in the proportions of people living in the country. Yet, these radicals would have been more content by achieving a numerous nullus so that no Jews should take any class seats at all.  The Polish government argued that the universities were autonomous bodies and that it could do nothing to prevent this type of policy. Yet, the government exercised a similar pressure against Jewish students independently of the universities. For example, twenty nine percent of Jewish students forced to study abroad in 1927 the government did not recognize their diploma once they returned and had to wait five years to take their examinations. In the interim they had no choice but to be idle or return abroad. See also, Heller,” On the Edge,” p. 104. It was important to have this license because without it, there was no chance to employ apprentices, or helpers. Finally see, Watt,” Bitter Glory,” p. 360. The exams were given only in Polish thereby excluding Yiddish speaking students who wanted to train in artisan schools.

[17] Isaiah Trunk ,” Economische,” p. 49.

[18] Modras, “ Catholic Church,” p. 33.

[19] Segal, “ New Poland,” p. 79.

[20] Modras, “ Catholic Church,”  p. 27. See also 1921 Constitution of Poland  Section V article 114.

 http://www. personal.engin.umichedu/~zbiegnew//Constitutions/k1921.E. htm ( Dec. 2000) 

[21] Modras, “ Catholic Church,” p. 37. Pope Pious XI signed the Concordat.  As Archbishop Achilles Ratti he arrived in Poland in 1918 at the behest of Pope Benedict XV. At a later date Archbishop Kakowski elevated him to Nuncio, and Kakowski became a Cardinal.  Ratti returned to Milan and was then elected Pope. He never lost interest Polish affairs and worked closely with the Church of Poland to preserve Polish Catholicism.

[22] Modras, “Catholic Church,” p. 350.

[23] Modras, “ Catholic Church,” p. 352.

[24] Laski’s file number 788, Poland. Center for Jewish History, New York City, New York. (hereafter referred to as AJDC Laski), p. 6  

[25] AJDC Laski, p. 11. 

[26] Encyclopedia Judaica,    “ Harold Laski.”   Mr. H.  Laski , a Fabian socialist, was well placed in  British politics. He later became the leader of the Labour Party.

[27] AJDC Laski, p. 12.

[28] AJDC Laski,  p. 12.

[29] AJDCLaski,  pp.12-13.

[30] AJDC Laski, p. 13. Mr. Laski does not mention the name of the mayor’s town.

[31] Stachura, “National Identity,” p. 66.

[32] Ibid., Constitution (1921)

[33] Oskar Wagner, “ Der Minderhetenschutzvertrag von 28, Juni 1919, und seine Bedeutung fur die Evangelische Kirche in Polen,” in  Jarbucher fur Geschichte Ostoeuropas, V. 5 (1-2) , 1957, pp.206-220.

[34] Segal, “ New Poland,” p. 182.  See also,  Heller,” On the Edge,” pp.262-266.

[35] AJDC Laski,  p. 9. 

[36] Polonski,” Politics,” p. 44.   The Jews, a 9.8% of the total population, lived througout  the land. In contrast, the Germans (2.3%) lived in concentrated areas such as Upper Silesia and were skilled industrial workers. The Ukrainians (4%), mostly peasants, lived in concentrated areas such as Lwow,Tarnopol,, and Lublin. While the Germans and Jews decided to cooperate with the government, the Ukrainians declined because they wanted independence and wanted to avoid a message of accommodation. There were other minorities such as Lithuanians (0.3%), Russians (0.2%), and Czechs (0.1%). There were even Polish speaking Moslems descendants of Tatar and Turkish prisoners of war, and Karaites, a schismatic group once part of Judaism.

  [36] Paul Mendes- Flohr and Jehuda Reinharz,  The Jew In The Modern World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995) pp.444 -445.  See also Bela Vago “ The attitude toward the Jews as a criterion of the Left- Right Concept” in  Jews and Non- Jews in Eastern Europe (New Brunswick: Transaction Books), p. 48 n.50.

[37] Watt,” Bitter Glory,” p. 191. See also, Modras,”Catholic,” p.28.  Finally see, Polonski,”Politics,” p 110. Father Kazimierz Lutlowski   wrote those words in an article for Gazetta Porannna, on December, 1922.

[38] Stachura, “National identity,” pp. 75-76. This author perceives the actions of the Minorities Block as “calculated antagonism to ethnic harmony.” Is this not part of the give and take of a democratic system? Also, depicting Gruenbaum in unsympathetic terms and accusing him of kowtowing to the German leader Erwin Hasbach who later became a Nazi is unfair. How could Gruenbaum divine future allegiances?  Stachura is bent in protecting Polish honor and therefore misses the opportunity to examine these complex issues in a balanced manner.  

[39] Modras,”Catholic,” p. 30.

[40] Alvin Marcus Fontaine, Roman Dmowski: Party, Tactics and Ideology (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), p. 110.

[41] Magdalena Opalski and Israel Bartal,  Poles and Jews: a failed brotherhood. (Hanover: Brandeis Press, 1992), pp. 141-142.

[42] Heller, “ On the Edge,” p. 44. See also, Modras, “Catholic,” pp.22-24. The direct quote “father of Polish nationalist antisemtism” is according to Modras in Pawel Korzec Juifs en Pologne: La question Juive pendant L’entre-deux-guerres (Paris Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, 1980), p. 33.  

[43] Father Edward Flannery, The Anguish of the Jews (New York: Paulist Press, 1985), p. 200.  See emigration issues in R.F. Leslie, Antony Polonski and Z. A. Pelicyski, History- Poland,” p. 146.

[44] AJDC Laski, p. 6.

[45] AJDC Laski, p. 9.

[46] Robert Seltzer, Jewish People- Jewish Thought (New York: Macmillan, 1980), p. 658, and p.650. The underlying fear of many countries closing their frontiers was the importation of Bolshevism. Many prominent Jews were involved in the movement: Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev.  See also, William Rubinstein, The Myths of Rescue (London: Routledge, 1997), p. 26. During and after the First World War, Britain enacted the Aliens Restriction Act which in effect abolished the notion of a refugee altogether. See also, p. 33. As in Britain, the USA’s immigration legislation of 1924 ended   America as an automatic place of refuge for any would be immigrant, not only Jewish ones. Finally see, p. 40. .Rubinstein argues that these measures were not only as a protection for the countries that closed their frontiers, but also  for those oppressed populations in successor states. Had there been a open door policy it would have encouraged those government to be more brutal to achieve that coveted goal of expulsing “undesirables.”

[47] Heller,”On the Edge,” p. 285.  It is not clear in which countries did these Jews found a haven.

[48] Heller, “ On the Edge,” p. 71.

[49] AJDC Laski,,  p. 7.

[50] Leslie, “History-Poland,” p. 144.

[51] Leslie, “History-Poland,” p. 145.

[52] AJDC Laski,,   p. 7.

[53] AJDC Laski,  p. 9.  See also p. 10. Indeed, on his interview with Mr. Mazur, head of the Warsaw community and a member of Agudath Israel, Mr Laski tried to convince him of the positive economic prospects if these yeshiva students trained as artisans.  Mr. Mazur was not enthused.  Laski, as an assimilated Jew, could not grasp the religious devotion of these Hasidim. No secular pursuit could take its   place or interfere with Jewish learning.  Frustrated, Laski’s described Mr. Mazur’s lack of enthusiasm for his scheme: “ I felt as if I was talking to a stone.” While Mr. Laski’s advice seemed logical, Mr. Mazur’s response was so steeled because he perceived   this intervention as disrespectful.

[54] Leslie, “History-Poland,” pp. 139-143.  See also, Polonski, “Politics” p. 12. The immigration outlet was also closed for this surplus of unemployed   non- Jewish Poles.

[55] Segal,” New Poland,” pp. 20-24.  See also, Leslie, pp. 147- 148.

[56] Leslie, “History-Poland,” p. 158.  The coup was accomplished in three days of fighting. About 500 people were killed and a 1,000 were wounded. See also Marian Mushkat, Philosemitic and Atisemitic attitudes in Post Holocaust Poland (Levinston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992), P. 15.  All national minorities supported the coup, as did the socialists, the liberals, and the democrats. 

[57] Leslie, “History-Poland,” p. 160.  See also, Watt, “Bitter Glory,”  pp. 207-209. A month prior to Pilsudski’s coup there were food riots in Warsaw. Watt intimates that Pilsudski’s semi-retirement was a result of Narutowicz’s assassination.  He is alleged to have said: “ Serving under these people (meaning the nationalists) never!”  Quite possible he was afraid of being assassinated too.

[58] Korzec,” Antisemitism,” p. 65. n. 66. Bartel was associated with Klub Pracy. The latter adopted the following slogan as its banner: “Truly free is only he who is able to respect the freedom of others.” See also, Modras,  “ Catholic Church,” p. 58. Bartel was a Freemason.

[59] Leslie, History Poland,” p. 162. See also, Watt, “ Bitter Glory,” p. 360.  Finally see, Korzcec, “ Antisemitism,” p. 63. In 1925 there had been a similar attempt under the Wladislaw Grabski cabinet in 1925-26. He agreed to help the Jews  to bolster  the precariousness of his cabinet.  This agreement was called  Ugoda.   Grabski even acceded to let the Jews work on Sundays. However, nothing came out of these meetings because the agreement made with the Jews was not published in its totality in the official Gazette.  Indeed, his cabinet fell the following year and Pilsudski took over. The latter never accepted the presidency, but retained the Army and War portfolio.   The Ugoda was another example of shtadlanut - similar to the one attempted by the rabbis with Cardinal Kakowski in 1934. See also, Korzec, “Antisemitism,” p. 63.  Yitzhak Gruenbaum could not convince religious Jews that private arrangements by one section of the Jewish population with the government were not the proper way anymore. Actually, he left the country for a while as a protest. In turn, sectors of the Jewish community criticized him for the failure of the Minorities bloc. Encylopedia Judaica  “Yitzhak Gruenbaum” The Minorities Bloc folded in 1930, but Gruenbaum continued in the Sejm until 1932.    

[60] Blanke, “Orphans,” pp. 92-93.

[61] AJCD, Laski, .p. 14.

[62] Watt, “ Bitter Glory,” p. 329.  Poland’s non- compliance was just that: a message, The Polish government did not withdraw from the League of Nations, as Hitler had done.  See also, Polonski, “ Politics,” p. 378. Polish public opinion seconded this abrogation. For example, the Gazetta Warsawska reacted by saying that Poland had not gone far enough. The next step should complete the process by depriving the Jews of their civil rights. While they would be allowed to continue living in the country, they would be severed from the political life of the country.   See also, Modras, “ Catholic,” p. 176. The Catholic press seconded this opinion in newspapers like Pro- Christo,  reminding its readers that Jews  after all were the  engineers of  the Minorities Treaty.”

[63] Mazover, “ Dark Continent,” p. 57.

[64] Lundgren-Nielsen, “ Polish Problem,” p. 412.

[65] Wagner, “ Minderheit,” p. 210.

[66] Robinson, “Minorities,” p. 281.

[67] For a detailed account see, Oscar Janowski, The Jews and  Minority Rights: 1898-1919 Columbia University Press, 1933.

[68] Von Frentz, “Lesson,” pp. 53, 66.  The Allies did not accept all the articles recommended by the Jewish delegation. According to the British, some of these demands in protection of the Jews meant to institute  “a state within a state.” Their rationale was based on the assumption that Jews in Poland would acculturate themselves successfully as they had done in America and Britain. However, this was a mistake because the majority of Polish- Jews observed their religion in the Hassidic tradition and they spoke only Yiddish. Mr.. Laski’s observation of the Gerer Rebbe and Agudath’s behavior with the government confirms that British predictions were not appropriate for the Central European milieu.  See also, Blanke, “ Orphans,”  p.18. Polish diplomats were aware of the international damage of Dmowski’s antisemitic stance. They asked him to tone it down but he never relented.

[69] Levene, “ War-Jews” p. 292.Paderewski, the interim President, justified these actions by claiming  that: “they were just killing Bolsheviks.”  Undoubtedly,  “Bolsheviks” was a code work for Jews.  See also, Lundgren-Nielsen,  “ Polish Problem,”  pp.302-303.

[70] Janowski,, “ Jews- Minority” pp. 277-327. Cohen’s account continues to be contested. In addition, the Jewish leadership was enormously divided over the scope and limits of protection. 

[71] David Ryan, US Foregin Policy (New York: Routledge, 2000), p. 86.  This was also true of President Wilson. He was extremely worried about Trotsky’s pronouncement and ideology.

[72] Lundgren- Nielsen, “Polish Problem,” pp.  346, and 372-373.  See the interesting debate of American Jews’ misgivings on sending Morgenthau in this fact- finding mission. Morgenthau himself resisted this appointment..   See Cymet, “Polish State Antisemitism,” p.117. Morgenthau’s visit to Pinsk.

[73] Stachura, “Poland,” p. 74. This author calls these incidents “apocryphal” and Jews “hysterical.” Furthermore, he insists, Jews were “disloyal” because they argued that maybe Poland should not be given independence.  The charge of Communist ties and hence support for the Russians in the ongoing border disputes, is part of Stachura’s polemic. While there were indeed Communist Jews, they were a tiny minority and not very influential. What's more, the number of Jews killed in these pogroms is much higher than the number of existing communists.  On the other hand, see Cymet, “ Polish State- Antisemitism,” pp.176-179. He cites personal diaries and related documents confirming the accuracy of these events. See also, Norman Davies, “ Gods’s Playground,”  p. 262. This author takes a middle of the road position: while there were indeed casualties, they were less than the Jews claimed them to be. Finally see, Pogonowski, “Jews,” p. 305.  He denies both Stachura’s and Davies assertions of exaggerations by citing the higher figure of 70,000 killed and more than 50,000 wounded in hundreds of pogroms in different cities.

[74] Lundgren- Nielesen, “ Polish Problem,” p. 343. See also, Wagner, “Minderheit” p. 208. There were several types of Minorities Protection Treaties: Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Greece. Others were signed with Austria Bulgaria, Hungary and Turkey. The governments of Finland, Albania, Eastland, Letland and Lithuanians had to hand explanation about their treatment of minorities as a requirement to be accepted on the League of Nations. Other separate closed agreements were signed between single states. The most significant was the Polish Treaty, because it served as a model for the treaties signed subsequently.

[75] Robinson, “ Minorities,” pp. 78-79. The League had no choice but to accept the challenge. The Tittoni Commission  researched the legal implications of  this issue. It concluded that the League of Nations was indeed liable because  these  legal transactions  fell under the category of international agreements.

[76] Robinson,  “Minorities,”  p. 96.

[77] Robinson,” Minorities,”  p. 102.

[78] Robinson, “ Minorities,”  pp. 110, 133. The Minorities committee had three period of peak activity: 1921-1923, 1929, and 1934.   It folded soon thereafter.

[79] See George Creel, The War, The World and Wilson ( New York: Harper and Row, 1920), pp 32-346. The Senate killed on March 19, 1919. The Republicans were bent on discrediting President’s Wilson’s record and prevent his re-election the following year.

  [80] von Frentz, “ Lesson,” p.102. Stresemann used this issue to divert public opinion at home, but there is no denying  either that the Poles were  intent in Polonizing the area and make those German leave. 

[81] Blanke, “ Orphans,” pp. 132-136,195.  

[82] Robinson, “Minorities,” p. 248.  Yet, it also important to stress that The Jewish situation in Poland, despite the antisemitism and the economic boycott, enjoyed its bright spots.  Touring the same Warsaw, perhaps on the other side of these dismal streets there was a small but powerfully cultured middle class. Mr. Laski would have observed successful educational activities, a Jewish national   press, like the newspaper Haynt, teacher- training institutes, and theater performances, and Zionist schools.  The scope of these activities is beyond the scope of this brief paper, but mentioning them balances Mr. Laski’s bleak portrayal.

[83] Cymet, “ Polish State Antisemitism,” p. 181. See also, Segal, “ New Poland”  p. 180. Finally see, Watt, “ Bitter Glory,” p.360.

[84] Blanke, “ Orphans,” pp. 163, 195.  See also, von Frentz, “ Lesson,” p.246. The German minority became in Hitler’s eyes a bargaining chip for greater further political advantages.

[85] Robinson, “ Minorities,” p. 133.

[86] See Zanowski,  “ Le System,” pp. 24-24.

[87] Fink, “Stresemann,” p. 410. The A. Zaleski- Stresemann confrontation of 1928 is an example of Zaleski’s ongoing frustrations. In that meeting he argued that most of the German complaints were of a trivial nature. In addition, Zaleski  denounced the support given to the Deutscher Volksbund in Silesia.  Stresemann interrupted him and contemptuously derided his interferences with the “sacrosant Minorities Treaty.” A. Briand, the French Foreign Minister, privately chided Zaleski for allowing Stresemann to vent.  All members knew of Stresemann’s need to appear strong for domestic consumption. See also, Debicki,  “Foreign  Policy,” p.67.

[88] Craig and Gilbert, “The Diplomats,” p.595.