Title of Oral/Poster Presentation

A Tense Peace: Polish-Jewish Relations in Interwar Podlasie

Class

Article

College

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Faculty Mentor

Tammy Proctor

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract

My project uses three counties in Poland as a case study to examine the nature of Polish-Jewish relations between 1918 and 1939. During this period, the powiats (counties) of Siedlce, Węgrów, and Sokołów Podlaski in Eastern Poland hosted a large Jewish population which made up at least 10% of the total population. While the Poles and Jews of this region were economically interdependent, the two groups remained divided in many ways. Yet throughout most of the interwar period, they coexisted in relative peace. My research seeks to examine the dynamics of the two ethnic groups, focusing on moments when relations broke down into conflict and arguing that moments of military and economic stress contributed to rising tensions. Two of the most notable moments where these tensions stand out are the Soviet invasion of Poland between 1919 and 1921 and economic boycotts of Jewish goods carried out by the far-right National Democratic Party throughout the 1930s. The bulk of my sources describing the stance and actions of the National Democrats are found in reports produced by the Starostwa Powiatowe of each county. The Starostwo Powiatowe was an administrative office tasked with maintaining regional peace and recording political and social movements. A greater understanding of these issues contributes to a wider literature investigating ethnic dynamics in Poland before and during the Holocaust. Indeed, the extent to which Polish society was antisemitic continues to be a point of contention and controversy, especially in Poland, where the government just made it illegal to unfairly accuse Poles of collaborating with Nazi war crimes on Polish soil. But in order to begin to understand Polish-Jewish relations in the context of World War II, we must first get a sense of what relations looked like before the war. My project is adding to scholarship trying to establish such an understanding.

Location

Room 421

Start Date

4-12-2018 3:00 PM

End Date

4-12-2018 4:15 PM

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Apr 12th, 3:00 PM Apr 12th, 4:15 PM

A Tense Peace: Polish-Jewish Relations in Interwar Podlasie

Room 421

My project uses three counties in Poland as a case study to examine the nature of Polish-Jewish relations between 1918 and 1939. During this period, the powiats (counties) of Siedlce, Węgrów, and Sokołów Podlaski in Eastern Poland hosted a large Jewish population which made up at least 10% of the total population. While the Poles and Jews of this region were economically interdependent, the two groups remained divided in many ways. Yet throughout most of the interwar period, they coexisted in relative peace. My research seeks to examine the dynamics of the two ethnic groups, focusing on moments when relations broke down into conflict and arguing that moments of military and economic stress contributed to rising tensions. Two of the most notable moments where these tensions stand out are the Soviet invasion of Poland between 1919 and 1921 and economic boycotts of Jewish goods carried out by the far-right National Democratic Party throughout the 1930s. The bulk of my sources describing the stance and actions of the National Democrats are found in reports produced by the Starostwa Powiatowe of each county. The Starostwo Powiatowe was an administrative office tasked with maintaining regional peace and recording political and social movements. A greater understanding of these issues contributes to a wider literature investigating ethnic dynamics in Poland before and during the Holocaust. Indeed, the extent to which Polish society was antisemitic continues to be a point of contention and controversy, especially in Poland, where the government just made it illegal to unfairly accuse Poles of collaborating with Nazi war crimes on Polish soil. But in order to begin to understand Polish-Jewish relations in the context of World War II, we must first get a sense of what relations looked like before the war. My project is adding to scholarship trying to establish such an understanding.