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A Critical Look at the Polish ‘Pogroms’ of 1914–1920
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“Jewish reports tended toward exaggeration.”
William Hagen, Anti-Jewish Violence in Poland, 1914–1920, 173.

“All the methods of malevolent propaganda are a menace from which Poland is a notable sufferer.”
Major General Edgar Jadwin, U.S. Army, 1920

Anti-Jewish Violence in Poland, 1914–1920
William W. Hagan
Cambridge University Press, 2018

ORDER IT NOW

I recently had the good fortune to read William Hagen’s Cambridge-published Anti-Jewish Violence in Poland, 1914–1920, one of the most interesting books I’ve read on Jewish-European relations since John Doyle Klier’s Oxford-published work on the Tsarist pogroms. It’s always refreshing to see scholars of European heritage tackle this subject matter, which has been dominated for too long by Jewish academics offering a one-sided, lachrymose, and propaganda-laden approach. Now eighty years old, Hagen, like Klier before him, has started publishing his most incisive work on the Jews only in the deep twilight of his career. Also echoing Klier’s work on the pogroms, Hagen’s Anti-Jewish Violence in Poland offers an unflinching look at the causes of inter-ethnic friction, often using novel or previously ignored source material, as well as a balanced and careful approach to the true extent of any violence that occurred. The result is a text that doesn’t just attempt to get to the bottom of what exactly happened, but also why it happened. The following essay is a hybrid work involving a partial review of Hagen’s work and some of my own thoughts and research on the subject.

Context

Hagen’s text offers strong support for Kevin MacDonald’s argument in Separation and Its Discontents that anti-Semitism is a reactive phenomenon very closely related to Jewish dominance in certain spheres of public life, especially the economy. In fact, in Separation and Its Discontents MacDonald cites on several occasions Hagen’s only previous work on anti-Semitism, a 1996 prize-winning article published in the Journal of Modern History.[1]Hagen, William W. “Before the ‘Final Solution’: Toward a Comparative Analysis of Political Anti-Semitism in Interwar Germany and Poland.” The Journal of Modern History 68, no. 2 (1996): 351–81. MacDonald cites this work on pages 53 and 55 of the paperback edition of SAID. The focus on socio-economic factors in both works indicates that Hagen’s understanding of anti-Semitism has been settled for some time.

Hagen’s Anti-Jewish Violence in Poland opens by giving voice to some fascinating Polish contemporaries, opening up an avenue of discussion often closed off in lachrymose Jewish histories which overwhelmingly focus on the putative suffering of the Jews rather than the difficult experiences of those they lived among. One of the more interesting examples is Hagen’s exploration of the works of Jan Słomka, Habsburg Polish mayor of Dzików and author of From Serfdom to Self-Government: Memoirs of a Polish Village Mayor. Słomka’s memoirs offer insight in the origins of Polish antipathy towards the Jews, and depict Jews as “cynical exploiters of Christian villagers’ weaknesses and ignorance.” (11) Mimicking tactics employed under the Russian tavern system, Jewish merchants in Poland often used alcohol to drag peasants into debt and keep them there. Słomka explained how Jews

would begin from harvest-time to buy up provisions from the farmers, mostly paying them with vodka: and these they would sell during the hunger period at huge profit. They would set things out on market days in sacks; and around these sacks would wander a hungry throng … buying grain in pots or quart measures. (13)

Słomka was a teetotaler and castigated his fellow Poles for the reckless drinking and lack of forethought that allowed them to fall into the hands of Jews who were systematically “bankrupting the emancipated peasantry and foreclosing on their minuscule farms.” In his own town of Dzików, Słomka remarked that most of the land had at one time been in Jewish hands and had only been “bought back with a lot of toil.” The Jews, according to Słomka, “have never wanted to till the soil, they have preferred to live by their wits, to profit by trading in the lands peasants have had to pay for [in compensation for receiving post-emancipation freeholds].” For the Jews, of course, it was a very successful strategy. In the 1860s, Słomka looked on as the prestigious houses ringing the central square of his chief market district, Tarnobrzeg, passed into Jewish hands.[2]Hagen (2018), 14.

Hagen places Słomka’s concerns in the context of a wider Polish discourse on a slow national dispossession carried out by Jews. Słomka is a particularly interesting writer because he focuses as much on Polish weaknesses as on Jewish strategic competence. Słomka, for example, was irate that rural Poles had neglected to develop a keen acumen in business that would enable them to at least compete with Jews on an ethnic level rather than simply acting as prone or passive victims of unanswered economic exploitation. Słomka was later full of praise when such an answer did materialize, in the form of cooperatives that emerged in the 1880s. Due in part to increased assistance from the priesthood and sympathetic aristocrats, the decade witnessed the creation of a significant number of these ethnically based marketing and retail consortiums that defeated the economic strategy of the Jews, often via boycott, and enabled the supply of “villagers with their purchased necessities at Jewish merchants’ loss.”[3]Ibid.
(Hagen (2018), 14.)
A side-effect of growing awareness among Poles that they were engaged in a multi-front ethnic competition with Jews prompted some to engage in petty violence and robbery, which Słomka condemned as unhelpful. Słomka believed that “the struggle against Jewish capital was a contest … of morality, self-control, and will power.”[4]Ibid, 18.
(Hagen (2018), 14.)

Hagen demonstrates the uniformity of Polish thought on the Jews by comparing the relatively uneducated and rural Słomka’s views with those of the more cosmopolitan academic Franciszek Bujak, author of the 1919 pamphlet “The Jewish Question in Poland.” Like Słomka, Bujak argued that Polish anti-Semitism was largely a result of Jewish socio-economic dominance and the exploitation of the lower classes. In fact, Bujak a rgued that it was wrong to focus on Polish attitudes at all since

we may speak with more truth about Jewish antipolinism than about Polish antisemitism, which is not an aggressive movement displaying itself in consequent deeds, but merely a psychic reaction against damages suffered by the Polish nation from their [Jews] part. (19)

Bujak posited that Jewish clannishness gave them certain advantages over the trusting Poles, and suggested that the resulting exploitation was worsened by the Jews’ biblically based sense of superiority and adherence to a system of dual morality. When Jews did decide to leave the life of the ghetto-dwelling exploiter they invariably assimilated only “in an intruding way” into Polish society, where they “veered toward radicalism and revolution” as a result of their “inclination towards analysis and criticism.”(19) For Bujak, as for Słomka, the solution to Jewish strategic success was for Poles to heighten their sense of ethnocentrism and ethnic co-operation and engage in a process of ethnic exclusion—a social, political, and economic boycott of the Jews. Bujak viewed the prospect of violence as entailing a moral and strategic failure on the part of the Poles.

The only significant dissent from this prevailing view appears in the writings of the linguist and Slavist Jan Baudouin de Courtenay. Baudouin thought that exclusionary efforts were doomed to failure given the deeply embedded nature of Jewish involvement in Polish life, which extended even to the psychological:

I recognise the Jews’ power, i.e., the power of Jewish tradition’s influence on other human groups’ mentality. For at the base of our thinking, our beliefs about fundamental matters, we encounter a Jewish source [the Old and New Testaments]. We are ourselves but ‘modified’ Jews. Principled ‘mercilessness,’ unforgivingness, readiness to exterminate, raised to ideological level — all this we imbibed from literary monuments [the Christian Bible] of Jewish descent. Thanks to the ‘Judaization’ of our thinking even those who rush forward into wholesale attacks on Jews call themselves servants of him born in Bethlehem and profess Jehova, God of Israel. (25)

Baudouin’s proposed solutions couldn’t have been more representative of extremes. On the one hand he suggested an attempt to smother Jews with love and tolerance in the hope they would become excellent allies of the Polish nation. On the other, he mused about the prospects of “extermination, expulsion, starvation.” His ideas were, however, very much in the minority, and the position of the new Polish state was to tacitly permit the slow exclusion of the Jews from their prior positions of influence while condemning any and all instances of violence.

Violence and Exaggeration

Hagen has an excellent section looking at the slow build-up of verbal and physical provocation between the two populations. Unlike Jewish-authored texts on historical anti-Semitism, Hagen isn’t shy when it comes to including information that shatters the myth of the Jews as the passive and innocent victims of irrational European hatred. One hears about Jews taunting Polish villagers with “the streets are yours, the houses ours” and “the keys to the churches will be o urs.” (38) With physical violence being an extremely dangerous strategy for a minority population, such taunts are emblematic of the much more common rhetorical, financial, and otherwise abstract character of historical Jewish aggression. Faced with this aggression, Europeans throughout history have often relied on the ease and simplicity of their numerical superiority in the form of varieties of “physical force” responses ranging from pranks and vandalism to boycotts, small-scale evictions, and mass expulsions. Quite where on this spectrum the events of 1914–20 fall is the primary concern of Hagen’s text.

One of Hagen’s central primary sources for his investigation of anti-Jewish violence in Poland between 1914 and 1920 is a rather dubious 1920 book, Poland and Its Minority Races, produced by Arthur Lehman Goodhart, a Jewish academic and lawyer. The origins of the book lay in a series of protests against “wholesale killing of Jews in Poland” organized by Jewish groups in several American cities in 1919. Although the Polish government denied any such atrocities had taken place, and despite the lack of clear objective evidence, American-Jewish agitation was sufficient for President Wilson to appoint a small commission “to ascertain the facts.” A commission was also sent by Great Britain, in the context of similar protests in London, led by the senior diplomat Sir Horace Rumbold. The American commission was composed of Goodhart and Henry Morgenthau (infamous author of the Morgenthau Plan), and of two non-Jews, the U.S. army officer Edgar Jadwin and his colleague Homer H. Johnson. Although not mentioned in detail by Hagen, the ethnic difference between the Jews Goodhart and Morgenthau on the one hand, and the Anglo-Saxons Jadwin and Johnson on the other, resulted in two different reports (the former more or less affirming atrocity propaganda and the latter emphatically denying, or at least heavily qualifying, it) on the return of the group to the United States, with the National Polish Committee of America even publishing “The Jadwin and Johnson Report” as a separate document entirely.[5]The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 11. Both the Goodhart text and the document produced by the National Polish Committee are available in complete form from archive.org and can be read in full here and here.

From the outset, Hagen is skeptical of contemporary Jewish accounts that alleged spontaneous mass shootings. He opens the book by making it clear the documentary record has “gaps or blindspots” and “doubtless exaggeration occurred … I have sought out multiple accounts so as to minimise bias.”[6]Hagen (2018), xvii. He later argues that “resentment-laden animosity coloured many such [Jewish] reports, which tended, in an atmosphere heavy with collective paranoia and hysteria, to exaggerate Jewish losses.”[7]Ibid, 124.
(Hagen (2018), xvii.)
He even cites one brief but telling remark from Henry Morgenthau himself, who, although promoting atrocity propaganda admitted once that “there is also no question but that some of the Jewish leaders [in Poland] had exaggerated.”[8]Ibid, 359.
(Hagen (2018), xvii.)

Patterns of Propaganda

In 1920 the National Polish Committee of America published a statement outlining the origins of atrocity propaganda against Poland:

From the very first moment, when at the beginning of November 1918, Poland regained her independence, day after day, month after month, news of dreadful Jewish pogroms were spread over the whole world. … This news found the more credit because nobody contradicted it. And nobody could contradict it. The Polish Government could not, because there was no Polish Government. … And so the news of dreadful ‘pogroms’ penetrated everywhere, spread systematically via Berlin and Vienna, and by special bureaux in Stockholm and Copenhagen, which from day to day furnished Zionist organisations possessing sufficient means and influence to give it a world-wide publication. And the news was frightful. It told of thousands of Jews not only beaten and robbed, but murdered and burned alive. As these facts were confirmed by “eye-witnesses” it is no wonder they aroused general indignation. And when Mr. Israel Cohen, the Secretary of the London Zionist Organisation, after investigating the matter on the spot published in England papers and at a meeting at Queen’s Hall in London that such atrocities had taken place in Poland in 130 towns, indignation meetings and funereal processions began all over the world.[9]The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 55.

The Chicago Jewish weekly, The Sentinel, reported on July 23 1920 that:

Polish people are crazy with Jew-hatred and are busily engaged in pogroms. … The outrages perpetrated by old Russia against the Jews are child-play in comparison with the appalling crimes perpetrated by the Polish government and the Polish people against the Jews. … The Polish representatives abroad know that even the Spanish Inquisition has not committed so many crimes against the Jews as Poland is committing now. … Poland, born in crime and sin, will go under in a sea of crime and sin.

Newspapers in America were also flooded with lurid tales penned by local Jews claiming to have first-hand knowledge of what was happening in Poland. One “eye-witness” claimed to have counted 2,300 corpses. A “Charles Golosman” had a letter published in the New York Globe on August 18 1920 in which he writes of “massacres of the Jews by the Polish military” and adds:

A bloody pogrom was organised in my own native town, Bobruisk, with every home pillaged and the women ravaged in the open in broad daylight by the blood-thirsty Polish beasts. My own people may have become victims of some Polish assassin’s hands.

This account of the media origins of the pogrom myth, and in fact everything discussed thus far, is remarkably consistent with Klier’s findings regarding the Russian pogroms of the 1880s. As with agitation against Poland, in the 1880s the West was rocked by massive Jewish protests against “the mass killing of Jews” in the Russian empire, and (mirroring Goodhart’s book) the production of books and pamphlets on Russia’s putative ill treatment of the Jews. This followed, in Russia as in Poland, an increasingly assertive peasantry or lower class that began to act against Jewish economic exploitation through cooperatives or other non-violent methods. Atrocity propaganda may therefore be seen as an attempt to avenge or ameliorate a Jewish loss of influence in a given nation. In both cases, Western governments (Britain in the 1880s, America in 1919) sent official delegations to discover the truth of the situation. In both cases (unanimously in the case of Britain, and with divided opinion in the American group) the resulting reports cast great doubt on the Jewish narrative.

After many years of searching archives and reviewing contemporary reports produced by all sides, Klier concluded that Jewish accounts should be treated with “extreme caution,” that some were “flatly contradicted by the archival record,” and that some claims of pogroms are attached to cities where it is certain “there were no significant pogroms and no fatalities.” Klier noted that while the Jewish atrocity narrative dominated cultural discourse via the power of media, almost no government agency took it seriously once it had been investigated. The British government investigation, published as a “Blue Book,” presented, to use its own words, “an account of events at great variance with that offered by The Times.” The most notable aspect of the British Blue Book is the outright denial of mass rape, a prolific propaganda device. In January 1882, investigator Consul-General Stanley objected to all of the details contained within reports published by The Times, mentioning in particular the unfounded “accounts of the violation of women.” He further stated that his own investigations revealed that there had been no incidences of rape during the Berezovka pogrom, that violence was rare, and that much of the disturbance was restricted to property damage. In relation to property damage in Odessa, Stanley estimated it to be around 20,000 rubles, and rejected outright the Jewish claim that damage amounted to over one million rubles.

Vice-Consul Law, another independent investigator, reported that he had visited Kiev and Odessa, and could only conclude that “I should be disinclined to believe in any stories of women having been outraged in those towns.” Another investigator, Colonel Francis Maude, visited Warsaw and said that he could “not attach any importance” to atrocity reports emanating from that city. At Elizavetgrad, instead of whole streets being razed to the ground, it was discovered that a small hut had lost its roof. Accusations of murderous intent among the masses were simply unfounded and unsubstantiated by the evidence.

What Happened in Poland?

Although clear in its expression of skepticism, a crucial weakness of Hagen’s text is that it shows a willingness to attach some credence to flamboyant and discredited Jewish atrocity narratives about mass killings by mobs of Polish peasants or soldiers, and it doesn’t make full use of compelling counter-narratives such as that produced by Jadwin and Johnson, or by the National Polish Committee of America, a group that very studiously compiled and published a variety of independent reports into events in Poland. (Hagen does cite the NPC report twice in his book but otherwise demonstrates little evidence of having actually read it.) Nor does Hagen’s text incorporate other valuable material, such as testimony from Colonel C.A. Gaskill, the U.S. Army’s Relief Administration worker and technical adviser in Poland between 1919 and 1921. Gaskill and Jay P. Moffatt, Secretary of the American Legation in Warsaw, both testified that Jews had been engaged in sniper activity against Polish troops in several key locations and that Polish officers had actually issued orders against retaliating even when Polish casualties resulted from Jewish attacks.[10]New York Times, July 2, 1920. I regard it as imperative that Hagen should have noted somewhere in his book that Jews were active in most of the relevant war zones as guerrilla combatants, particularly during the Polish-Soviet war of 1918̶-1921 in which many Polish Jews were Soviet partisans, and that Jadwin and Johnson concluded their own investigations by arguing that Poland was the victim of an international smear campaign orchestrated via the media:

The coloring, the suppression, and the invention of news, the subornation of newspapers by many different methods, and the poisoning by secret influences of the instruments affecting public opinion, in short all the methods of malevolent propaganda are a menace from which Poland is a notable sufferer. This applies to propaganda both at home and from abroad.[11]The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 18.

Although Morgenthau and Goodhart were quite happy to repeat lurid tales of mass shootings of civilians, Jadwin and Johnson offered a report that has an entirely different feel and, in their own words, offers “conclusions which differ from those of Mr. Morgenthau.” In terms of details, most official accounts seem to agree that only around 348 Jews could be confirmed as having died from violence in relevant areas between 1914 and 1920, but this is clarified further in the official British report on the violence, written by Sir Horace Rumbold. Rumbold pointed out that even if we accepted this figure of 348, only 18 of these deaths would have occurred on actual Polish territory with the rest occurring in established war zones where civilian casualties among all ethnic and national groups were commonplace.[12]The Reports of the British Mission, included in The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 19. In these war zones, according to Jadwin, some shootings were the result of guerrilla tactics by Jewish civilians known to be sympathetic to the Bolsheviks. In one town, entering Polish soldiers were fired upon from a “certain meeting house in which Jews had congregated,” resulting in the execution of five Jewish men.[13]The Jadwin and Johnson Report, The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 15. Captain P. Wright, a member of the British investigating team summed up the circumstances of Jewish deaths as involving not Polish prejudice but “only the expression of a mutual animosity,” and that these “excesses have been so small.”[14]Report of Captain P. Wright in The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 33.

A very modern parallel to the incorporation of these war zone deaths into atrocity propaganda would be declaring a gunshot fatality a “Covid death” so long as the corpse can produce a positive PCR test. In this case we have an “anti-Semitic murder by Poles” simply because a Jew dies violently anywhere near Poland and under any conditions, including active warfare. Goodhart even includes the testimony of one Jewish mother who reported the “anti-Semitic” death of her son to the American commission even though she admitted her son was a member of the Bolshevik militia:

I tried to explain to her that there was a difference between the case of a man murdered in cold blood and the death of her son who had been shot while fighting for the Bolsheviks. She simply could not understand the difference and kept on repeating “He was such a fine boy.”[15]Goodhart, 52.

Since both the British and American missions concluded that violence against Jews was never endorsed or encouraged by Polish authorities, and thus meant it could not technically be classed as a pogrom, it can be said that an international diplomatic crisis and mass propaganda campaign about “mass killings” in 130 towns involving in some cases mass graves of 2,300 corpses, was provoked by the violent deaths of just 18 Jews over a six-year period. Jadwin, moreover, argued that only five Jewish deaths could be confirmed to have resulted from mob violence “since the establishment of a stable government in the Republic.”[16]The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 10. Captain Wright explicitly stated that “though pogroms in Krakow were reported, this was not the case,” and that any violence targeting Jews in Polish territory was “small and trivial.”[17]Ibid, 47.
(The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 10.)

Motivations

Of course, the campaign was about revenge more generally, and more so in terms of the loss of economic power and influence than the 18 (or 5) deaths. Rumbold himself concluded that violence and antagonism between the groups was probably inevitable given the economic situation of the Jews: “it is only natural that separatism should have manifested itself.” Rumbold noted the relatively recent awareness of the Poles that they could engage in their own ethnically-based economic strategies, and the non-productive nature of the Jewish population, was the real source of animosity: “Competition between the Poles and the Jewish population commenced. … The co-operative movement is becoming very strong and will undoubtedly form an important factor in the development of economic relations in Poland, so that indirectly it will be bound to affect the position of the small Jewish trader.”[18]Ibid, 20.
(The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 10.)
Jadwin and Johnson were equally insistent that there were economic factors behind any inter-ethnic tension, and they were adamant that religious issues played a negligible role in the development of anti-Jewish attitudes:

We are convinced that religious differences as such play therein a very slight role, and that the Polish nation is disposed to religious tolerance and self-control in religious disagreements. … The relation of the Jew to the eventual political disposition of these territories is still an irritating element. These same problems are to some extent inherent in every other country where the Jewish character and habits develop a racial solidarity, necessarily accompanied by an economic and social intermingling with the other elements of the population.[19]Ibid, 13 & 17.
(The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 10.)

There are some indications that the atrocity propaganda campaign against Poland was explicitly designed to protect Jewish interests by preventing contested territories from being granted to the Poles (then operating the peasant co-operatives against the Jews) in peace treaties. Goodhart, for example, mentions Jewish leaders in Bialystok who told him that “if Bialystok should be given to the Poles, the Jewish merchants would be ruined, because the Polish boycott would come into force.”[20]Goodhart (1920), 45. Smearing the Polish reputation internationally with accusations of mass murder and mass shootings could thus have been intended to sway the decision of the major international powers in deciding the allocation of disputed territory, potentially preventing Jews from being absorbed into a state where they would be forced to abandon non-productive ethnic economic strategies based on mass exploitation.

Finally, despite enormous economic and religious differences between Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Romania, during the 1930s, it should be noted that all of these countries developed policies in which Jews were excluded from public-sector employment, quotas were placed on Jewish representation in universities and the professions, and government-organized boycotts of Jewish businesses and artisans were staged. From Hagen’s 1996 paper:

[Anti-Semitism was] a broad regional phenomenon rather than . . . [a] set of nationally bounded histories. In this view, modern anti-Semitic ideology and politics in both Germany and Poland figure as pathologies of middle-class formation or, in an alternative formulation, as accompaniments of embourgeoisement in a setting, unlike western and southern Europe, where a relatively large (or very large) and economically very significant urban Jewish population appeared to constitute an impediment to Christian advancement. In both countries, anti-Semitism served to justify assaults on Jewish-owned or Jewish-occupied business enterprises and medical, legal, and other professional practices, as well as bureaucratic positions, which were widely seen to block the path of upward mobility to non-Jewish aspirants to bourgeois respectability and security. In both countries, more or less sporadic anti-Semitic violence fomented by political organizations of the radical right, particularly in the 1930s, elicited considerable popular support or acceptance, reflecting widespread though normally mostly latent hostility to the Jews. . . . Similar policies were also being implemented in Hungary and Romania, the other major homelands of the central European Jews. (Hagen 1996, 360, 361)

Conclusion

The fabricated Polish pogroms of 1914-20 offer a remarkable glimpse into patterns established decades earlier in the Russian empire. The basic pattern appears to be that attempts on the part of a majority population to protect their interests as an ethnic group, especially economically, will result in the utilization of media influence to create a flamboyantly exaggerated atrocity narrative about that state or locality, often involving accusations of mass shootings and mass graves. Because of their entrenchment in popular consciousness via mass communications, these narratives are incredibly difficult to overturn, even with highly critical official government reports. The Russian pogrom myth is an excellent example given that it was repeated during the Polish hoax (The Sentinel: “The outrages perpetrated by old Russia against the Jews are child-play in comparison with the appalling crimes perpetrated by the Polish government and the Polish people against the Jews”). The reality, of course, was that the Russian and Polish ‘atrocities’ were equally baseless and fraudulent. And yet, look hard enough today, and you will certainly see some Jewish Twitter personality inevitably claim a distant relative mass murdered in the Russian pogroms. These are deeply engrained fictions that are internalized by Jews and go some way to generating fear, antipathy, and aggression towards majority White populations who are always said to have the same potential for mass violence.

Atrocity narratives remain an important strategic device, and the tactic is visible even on the small scale in events like Charlottesville. The actual events of Charlottesville are by any consideration, to borrow Captain Wright’s words, “small and trivial,” involving no more petty violence and vandalism than any other major protest of recent years (arguably much less), and one death of ambiguous cause. And yet hasn’t Charlottesville adopted the air of a “Kishinev” in the way it has been transformed, via propaganda, into a kind of pogrom, perpetrated by an angry White mob? Journalist David Greenberg reported on “the siege of a Charlottesville synagogue during the right-wing rampage there in 2017” during an article scaremongering about “America’s Forgotten Pogroms.” But for the presence of modern recording technology, one can easily imagine that tales would have emerged from Charlottesville of all manner of killings and assaults.

As a final note, I should say that we are all perfectly aware of the creeping attempts in all of Europe and the rest of the West to silence any questioning of that ultimate Jewish atrocity narrative. In our attempt to defend the Western position, we could do well to start with the approach of any good defense lawyer — to critique the credibility of the accuser. Looking at the Russian and Polish cases, do we see a record of truth or fabrication? Is there a case for believing such narratives, or asking further questions?

I’ll conclude with remarks made by Rupert Hughes in the New York Times Book Review, July 18 1920:

Has everybody forgotten the procession in New York and in other cities where mourning was worn and dirges were sung for the slaughtered multitudes of the Polish pogroms? Has anyone apologized to Poland for accusing her of rivalling Turkey, in Armenia? I have not seen the apologies.[1]Hagen, William W. “Before the ‘Final Solution’: Toward a Comparative Analysis of Political Anti-Semitism in Interwar Germany and Poland.” The Journal of Modern History 68, no. 2 (1996): 351–81. MacDonald cites this work on pages 53 and 55 of the paperback edition of SAID.

Notes

[1] Hagen, William W. “Before the ‘Final Solution’: Toward a Comparative Analysis of Political Anti-Semitism in Interwar Germany and Poland.” The Journal of Modern History 68, no. 2 (1996): 351–81. MacDonald cites this work on pages 53 and 55 of the paperback edition of SAID.

[2] Hagen (2018), 14.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 18.

[5] The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 11.

[6] Hagen (2018), xvii.

[7] Ibid, 124.

[8] Ibid, 359.

[9] The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 55.

[10] New York Times, July 2, 1920.

[11] The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 18.

[12] The Reports of the British Mission, included in The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 19.

[13] The Jadwin and Johnson Report, The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 15.

[14] Report of Captain P. Wright in The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 33.

[15] Goodhart, 52.

[16] The Jews in Poland: Official Reports of the American and British Investigating Missions · Volume 1, National Polish Committee of America, 1920, 10.

[17] Ibid, 47.

[18] Ibid, 20.

[19] Ibid, 13 & 17.

[20] Goodhart (1920), 45.

(Republished from My Corner by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: History, Ideology • Tags: Academia, American Media, Anti-Semitism, Jews, Poland 
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