Letter received April 13th 2005


"Thank you for sending me your translation of the article about so-called 'Polish Nazis'. I have not been able to visit the major libraries here for the last few weeks, so my comments are not very authoritative.
If I am asked to comment quickly, I would say that the author of the article had simply piled up a lot of quotations he found at random, on the basis that if twenty people assert the same thing it is truer than if one person asserts it. Much of the 'evidence' (assuming that the writers were quoted correctly - I have not been able to check this) is  based on reminiscences, which may well reflect some individuals' subjective experience, but cannot be used to prove general statements about Polish opinion and attitudes in the 1920s and 1930s. The book by Leon Uris he quotes is presumably a work of fiction, by which I imply no disrespect, but merely note that authors of fiction are not obliged to stick to the facts. As far as Polish government policy is concerned, the picture is more complex than the writer's quotations make it appear. The 'evidence' used to prove that government policy was anti-semitic in the 1930s is a statement from a textbook author (R.R.Palmer) who has no specialist knowledge of the period, since he is an expert on the eighteenth century. In any case, the story of the long and ultimately tragic Polish-Jewish relationship deserves a more subtle and a more extensive treatment than it receives from the author. There are such treatments - Mahler, for instance, on the social history of the Jews in Poland in the interwar period - and one could in fact send the writer quite a long reading list! This is not to deny that there was anti-semitism in interwar Poland, or even that there were political parties with programmes aimed at reducing Jewish influence. But this is really not unusual. Whether anti-semitism was particularly strong and whether interwar Poland was a bad place for Jews to be as compared with, say, the Soviet Union, is much more difficult to evaluate, and such an evaluation should only take place in a calm and scholarly manner".



Dr. Ben Fowkes is the author of several books about Eastern Europe including "The rise and fall of Communism in Eastern Europe" and "The Disintegration of the Soviet Union: A study in the Rise and Triumph of Nationalism"