1917 Award-Winning Polish Book Clarifies Polish-Jewish Relations
This book once gained recognition. It clarifies many old issues related to Poles and Jews.
Review of The Political History of Poland, by Edward H. Lewinski-Corwin. 1917. Polish Book Importing Company, New York.
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
Insights into Litwaks, Endeks, Judeopolonia, Bogus Pogrom Accounts, etc.
The author covers a lot of Polish history and, owing to the breadth and depth of the material, I only focus on a few issues. His work is especially useful in understanding the course of the anti-Russian November Insurrection (1830)(pp. 426-on) and the January Insurrection (1863)(pp. 471-on). His treatment of the late 19th century Prussian exploitation of Poland, and how the Poles thwarted and outdid the Germans, is recounted in considerable detail. (pp. 521-527).
The reader learns much about Polish-Ukrainian relations. When considering the events leading up to the Cossack revolts, one must realize that peasants were oppressed all over Europe, and not only in the Ukraine by Polish landlords. (p. 227). Lewinski-Corwin affirms the fact that the Ukrainian national awakening in Eastern Galicia, in terms of desiring a sovereign state, was a recent development, beginning in the 1860’s and gaining force in the 1880’s. (p. 543). Providing details to support his points (pp. 543-544), Lewinski-Corwin rejects Ukrainian accusations of Poles trying to repress the Ukrainian movement in Austrian-ruled Galicia: (quote) All sorts of preposterous charges have been made by Ruthenian political leaders against the Poles and yet upon a close analysis any unbiased scrutiny will reveal no real discrimination on the part of the Poles against the Ruthenians of Galicia. (unquote). (p. 543).
Lewinski-Corwin (Jewish himself?) displays especial insights into Polish-Jewish relations in the decades leading up to the resurrection of Poland (1918). He tacitly recognizes the fact that most Polish Jews were not one with the Polish nation, as he writes, (quote) In relation to their Gentile neighbors, on the whole the Jews entertain no ill feeling but do not identify themselves with the Polish nation, although there is a natural strong sentiment for Polish life and traditions. (unquote)(p. 560).
Unlike those who stereotype Poles as inveterate anti-Semites, Lewinski-Corwin does not, as he remarks, “The attitude of the Poles to the Jews has seldom been marked by any deep-rooted hatred. The Jews have often been made the butt of humor, but have seldom been the scapegoat in a serious outbreak of animosity.” (p. 561). In fact, before the Endeks and their publications, there was only one anti-Semitic periodical in Warsaw, published by an apostate Jew, and it eventually died from lack of support. (p. 561).
There is no doubt about the fact that Endek hostility to Jews came AFTER the Russian and Jewish hostility towards Poland. The author describes the tsarist Russian policy that used erstwhile Polish Jews, now self-Russified, as a weapon against Poles, and how this provoked the Endeks. He writes: (quote) By a policy of pogroms, persecutions, and restrictions the government forced hundreds of thousands of Russian and Lithuanian Jews, known as Litwaks [Litvaks], to migrate to Poland [that is, Russian-occupied Warsaw-area Poland], where they were given special protection against the Poles. The Litwaks, because of a keener cunning and because of their intimate knowledge of Russian ways and Russian markets, became dangerous competitors of the native Jews in Poland…the Russian Jews in Poland were unconscious, and sometimes conscious, tools of Russification as in their jargon they spoke Russian and either could not, or would not, employ the use of the Polish language. This was naturally resented by the Poles who looked with apprehension upon the enormous influx of a nationally and economically undesirable element…Poland, without a government of its own, could do nothing to prevent this unwelcome addition to its densely populated country…The infiltration of the Russian Jews helped to sweep out of the country the native Jews, whose places were then taken by the former, a people foreign in race as well as in national sympathy. It became a problem of great concern to the Poles. The National Democrats decided to take advantage of the general uneasiness engendered by this policy of the Russian government and to exploit it in the interest of their party… (unquote)(pp. 562-563). [Were Endeks exploiting it, or sincerely, even if misguidedly, trying to solve it?]
Although the author is consistently antagonistic to Endeks, he finds their Jewish counterparts equally responsible for Polish-Jewish polarization. While not using the term Judeopolonia, he alludes to it as he comments: (quote) The misdirected efforts of certain Jews in fostering nationalistic feelings and in agitating for the creation of a sort of Jewish state in Poland must meet with the most severe condemnation on the part of Poles, as they would on the part of any other nation. The Jewish nationalists have done as much to impede the proper solution of the Jewish problem in Poland as have the Polish National Democrats. (unquote). (p. 566).
Evidently anticipating the later Morgenthau Commission, Lewinski-Corwin condemns the bogus WWI-era accounts of massive Polish pogroms: (quote) The spread of false information in Europe and America about the alleged Polish atrocities committed upon the Jews in the opening months of the war has done great harm to Poland, and has helped only to embitter the Polish nation, in the hour when it is undergoing hard trials and is making a supreme effort to regain its independent national existence. It has not served the cause of Polish Jews. Many prominent men among the Jews like Dr. Joseph Sare, the Vice-President of the City of Cracow, Mr. Bernard Lauer, a manufacturer of Warsaw, Mr. Herman Feldstein, a banker of Lemberg [Lwow, Lviv], and others have raised their protest not only against the dissemination of fabricated slanderous tales but also against the presumption of certain misguided foreign Jews to speak in the name of the Polish Jewry and to advise with reference to Polish-Jewish affairs. (unquote) [references provided](p. 566).