Essential Questions What were the varieties of Jewish life that existed in Poland before World War II? What was Jewish life like in Poland before World War II? Was there a way to predict that it would be threatened? THE JEWISH EXPERIENCE IS NOT JUST THE HOLOCAUST, AND THE HOLOCAUST IS NOT JUST THE JEWISH EXPERIENCE. JEWISH EXPERIENCE EXISTS BEFORE AND AFTER THE HOLOCAUST. THE HOLOCAUST IS PART OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, HUMAN HISTORY.
Poland had >3,000,000 Jews before the war. (Israel only reached 6 million last week.) In 1937, there were only 4.7 million Jews in all of the U.S. There were ~ 16.5 million Jews in the whole world in 1939 There were Jews in every country in Europe Polish Jews had been in Poland ~ 1,000 years Poland = center of Jewish life, not America Major cities: Warsaw: 30% Jewish Lodz: 33% Jewish Kielce: 40% Shtetls: 75% to 90% Jewish JEWISH LIFE BEFORE THE WAR
Most of the Polish population was rural Most of the Jewish population was urban Only 4% of Jews = farmers, whereas >60% of Poles = farmers In Lodz, 80% of doctors = Jewish In Warsaw, 66% of doctors = Jewish Jews just recently given right to vote Poles worried they would be outvoted by minorities CAN YOU SEE THE ROOTS OF ANTI-SEMITISM BEING BUILT? DEMOGRAPHICS
In census, 88% of Polish Jews said mother tongue was Yiddish 70% said nationality was Jewish, not Polish. Many different groups of Jews, each with own newspapers, publications, social events, political arm 1.Hasids 2.Bund 3.Zionist 4.Communist 5.Agudat Israel 6.Youth Movements 7.Bais Yaakov POLISH JEWRY WAS NOT MONOLITHIC, BUT A MOSAIC, all struggling with balancing modernity with tradition. JEWISH CULTURE
Sciences Albert Einstein Sigmund Freud Literature Sholom Aleichem Isaac Peretz Isaac Bashevis Singer Film Aizik Samberg Leon Kharaz Simkhe Rozen FAMOUS ICONS Religion Baal Shem Tov Rebbe Nachman Gerer Rebbe Philosophy Martin Buber Abraham Joshua Heschel Franz Rosensweig
Membership card of Breyndel Chliwner (Betti Kenig), a member of the Yiddish Actors Union, Warsaw, 1920. (YIVO)
Accultration: Adoption by a minority cultural group of a majority cultural group's customs and attitudes. Minority group manages to stay a distinct, although, altered, society. Assimilation: Does not leave minority culture intact. Minority group will gradually adopt the customs and attitudes of the dominant culture until inevitably it becomes completely absorbed by the dominant culture. Poland: Accultration German: Assimilation WHICH IS BETTER? ACCULTRATION VS. ASSIMILATION