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Zionists to Dayan: The anti-Zionist campaign in Poland, 1967--1968Anat Plocker
In March 1968 tens of thousands of students across Poland left their classrooms to protest against the communist regime. The Polish United Workers' Party (Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza, or PUWP), which had been in power for two decades, responded by publicly accusing the student leadership, which included many 'Polish citizens of Jewish descent,' of serving a Zionist conspiracy aimed at destroying the country. These allegations amounted to a sequel to official condemnations that had rained down on Polish Jews months earlier for supporting Israel during and after the Six-Day War. An anti-Zionist media campaign and purge of Polish Jews continued until late in the summer. In a year the Polish communist regime crushed by force the reform movement that sought 'socialism with a human face' and drove out of Poland about fifteen thousand Jews. This is the first English-language study of the campaign and the first to put the anti-Jewish character of the campaign at its center. Based on PUWP and Security Services archival documents, my thesis reconstructs the worldview of those who orchestrated the anti-Zionist campaign, showing how preconceptions about the role of Jews in the communist state conditioned the regime's reactions to the student demonstrations. Unlike most published studies, which portray the anti-Zionist campaign as a cynical tool used by the Party to mobilize the Polish street against would-be reformers of communism, I demonstrate that a deeply rooted belief in a Jewish conspiracy set the tone for the regime's reaction to student unrest. Powerful elements in the PUWP were worried that the small Jewish minority living in Poland would succeed in manipulating the reformist student movement to such an extent that it would not only overthrow the communist regime but turn Poland into a state ruled by Zionists and serving Jewish nationalist interests. Since the mid-1960s, high-ranking officials in the Ministry of Internal Affairs wrote reports describing Polish Jews as a subversive minority, working in the interests of world Zionism. In 1967, when the Six-Day war broke out, the First Secretary of the PUWP Wladyslaw Gomulka went in front of the Polish nation and called Polish Jews a "fifth column." The First Secretary's words launched the first wave of the anti-Zionist campaign. Ministry of Internal Affairs and party officials sought out and purged Polish Jews working for party and state administration. The press printed articles condemning the conduct of Polish Jews. When student protests erupted in March 1968, the Ministry of Internal Affairs blamed the Jews again. The PUWP leadership saw the anti-Zionist campaign as defending the Polish Socialist homeland against its enemies. As the campaign unfolded, something unexpected and unacceptable to the regime happened: a public discussion about the role of Jews in imposing communism on Poland began. The regime had awakened the demons of the Zydo-komuna, the Jewish-Communist nexus that had allegedly fostered communism in Poland. Several openly anti-Semitic articles arrived at the censorate for review; the authors blamed Jews for selling Poland to Stalin and insinuated that the communist government was essentially Jewish, illegitimate, and alien to Poland. The reappearance of a rightwing anti-communist and anti-Semitic discourse struck fear in the hearts of the leaders of the PUWP, who quickly smothered the anti-Zionist campaign. The few Jews who had chosen to stay in Poland after Stalinism and who participated in the March protests were trusted and devoted members of the socialist elite. For most of them, the termination of the anti-Zionist campaign meant little. Hundreds had already been dismissed from their jobs and expelled from the party, among them government ministers, vice ministers, and heads of departments as well as leading intellectuals and university professors. After March 1968, beaten and arrested, persecuted and discriminated against, they realized that Jews--even fully assimilated Polish citizens of Jewish descent--could never fulfill their dream of fully belonging to the Polish socialist nation.
Social sciences; Poland; Anti-Semitism; Communism; 1968; Jews; Anti-Zionism; European history; Modern history; Judaic studies; 0751:Judaic studies; 0335:European history; 0582:Modern history
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