Relations between Poles and Jews deteriorated significantly in the three decades leading up to World War I. Many reasons for this phenomenon can be given, for example: economic competition, a general atmosphere of acute nationalism, increased migration, perceived threats to traditional forms of life and religion. Exacerbating all of these factors, however, was the fact of Polish statelessness and the extreme sensitivity of Poles to perceived threats to their culture and nation. In particular within the Russian Empire, Poles perceived the very future of their nation at risk. In such circumstances the continued existence of Jewish cultural difference combined with the development of specifically Jewish forms of national awakening (e.g., the Bund and Zionism) were understood by many in Polish society as ingratitude and collaboration with the Russian occupier.

issue 03 / July 2012 by Theodor R. Weeks