Another Tack: The Humanistic Ardor of Interwar Poland

Jewish storefronts in prewar Krakow: the mandatory name-sign decree was hardly innocuous

Jewish storefronts in prewar Krakow: the mandatory name-sign decree was hardly innocuous.

Poland made history on Monday morning, April 19, 1937. It taught the world how to implement a boycott without actually admitting that it’s doing anything of the sort.

Headliners of today’s European Union have learned the lesson well, even if few of the EU’s sanctimonious sermonizers can likely cite the source and inspiration for their very unoriginal charade.

The Polish non-boycott was no mean feat on the eve of WWII, when dark clouds of impending doom already gathered over the heads of European Jewry. Given the bestial goings-on and the brutish anti-Jewish boycotts next-door in the Third Reich, Poland appeared positively refined by comparison – the soul of sophistication.

The Poles never sank as low as the crude and vulgar Germans. They didn’t adopt the practice of daubing storefronts with giant Jude inscriptions, smashing windows or sending out storm troopers to form scary picket lines, carry offensive signs in the formidable Teutonic tradition and warn off the super-race away from subhuman Jewish shopkeepers.

Instead, Poland’s Minister of Industry and Commence Antoni Roman issued an edict that looked impeccably non-discriminatory. It ordered that all business signs boldly display the proprietor’s name, directly above any other incidental scrap information such as what was sold at the premises. Precise rules were stipulated regarding the size of the letters required.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

The measure applied to everyone throughout the republic. Surely nothing could be more equitable. No single community or grouping was targeted. Technically this was not an anti-Judaic decree. Quite the reverse: here was an exemplary act of public service born of the public-spirited conviction that the public was entitled to know the identity of each vendor everywhere.

No way could the Polish government be blamed for the fact that Jews – estimated (depending on the location) at between one-tenth to one-eighth of the population – on the whole had surnames that instantly betrayed their ethnic extraction.

Poland was already endemically anti-Semitic. From the early 1920s it had tolerated an unofficial numerus clausus geared to drastically reduce the number of Jewish students.  It had also introduced innovations like the “Ghetto bench” – special seats in university lecture halls earmarked for despised and humiliated Jewish students. This started at the Lvov Polytechnic Institute on December 8, 1935 and quickly spread countrywide as the academic must-follow fad.

The National Democratic Party – notorious as Endek, its Polish acronym – zealously blamed Jews for the country’s economic woes. This even spilled over to America, where already in 1919 Polish-Americans and their assorted Slavic sympathizers declared a boycott of all Jewish enterprises in the US. They petitioned the American government, charging Jews with “importing racial conflicts” to the States and “condemning the insincere tactics of the Jewish imperialists.”

Quite obviously, Jewish imperialism isn’t contingent on Jewish territorial conquests and much-reviled “occupation.”

These boycotters, upholding their rights as Americans, emulated the old-country’s innate penchants. Strangulating grassroots Jewish subsistence was Poland’s time-tried recipe for ridding itself of poverty and backwardness.

In the Polish environment, suffused as it was with virulent anti-Semitism, the mandatory name-sign decree was hardly innocuous. If anything, it was a clever ruse which facilitated the identification of Jewish shops so that these could then be singled out and boycotted. Savvy buyers could be counted upon to draw the proper conclusions regarding establishments run by a Rubinstein or a Levin.

All the while, Poland – obliged pro forma by the Treaty of Versailles to treat its Jews fairly and likewise hoping not to tarnish its image in the League of Nations – could feign innocence: Boycott? What boycott?

This isn’t esoteric nitpicking into an irrelevant past. The old predispositions hardly died out. The humanistic ardor of interwar Poland vibrantly lives on in today’s Europe. So does its insidious slyness.

The EU, of which Poland is a member, exudes all the insincerity (to resort to gross understatement) which permeated Poland between the two world wars. Its faceless Brussels functionaries can, with just as much guile as their Polish predecessors, feign innocence and with just as much affectation ask: Boycott? What boycott?

EU headliners react with the gruffest of righteous indignation to the very suggestion that they enable economic boycotts against the Jewish state. Their denials are vehement. How can any upstanding individual conceivably insinuate that the EU is anything but admirably civic-minded and justice seeking? Its ethical standards apply identically to all, don’t they?

According to the gospel from Brussels, Israel bears the blame for the fact that the EU’s in-house red-tape entanglers must now diligently scrutinize postal codes and busy themselves with codifying detailed  stringent guidelines obliging members states to clearly and prominently label all products manufactured by Jews in Judea and Samaria (including even negligible assembled components) .

The 28-nation bloc’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, had recently reported to Europe’s foreign ministers that such assiduous tasks are meticulously underway so that a set of guidelines might be “finalized in the near future.” That means that it would take no more than a few more months before the new parameters had been fully outlined.

The European foreign ministers are chomping at the bit, eager to coerce the Jewish state to do their bidding, the consequences to the Jewish state be damned.

On the same day that they rushed headlong to approve the deal with Iran’s nuke-craving apocalyptic ayatollahs, they also reaffirmed their “commitment to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products.” This is Brussels-babble for labeling settlement products.

The EU foreign ministers all unanimously and avidly backed the “hit-the-Jew-in-the-pocket” tactic. There wasn’t one saint in Sodom.

The contrast between the EU foreign ministers’ simultaneous attitudes to terror-sponsoring Iran and to the Middle East’s lone democracy couldn’t be more mind-blowing. As the EU paved the way for lifting sanctions off despotic Iran, it sought to tighten its pressure on liberal little Israel.

The European Council on Foreign Relations, an influential EU policy think-tank, argues that the EU is in breach of its own regulations and must get tougher on Israel’s beyond-the-Green-Line waywardness. Labeling is merely a preliminary move and the Council advocates more painful measures, ones that would impact banking, loans and mortgages, academic degrees and plenty more.

But for now, the EU’s strangulation-regulations require the explicit and prominent labeling of all Jewish-made goods from beyond the Green Line as having originated from “the settlements.” The “settlement” pejorative in politically correct Newspeak applies to Jewish habitation in the cradle of Jewish nationhood, even in much of Jerusalem (where Jews had formed an overwhelming majority already in the early 19th century).

By enlightened European notions, much of the Jewish homeland must remain strictly judenrein – cleansed of Jews.

The 1949 Armistice Line has been elevated to the status of a hallowed international border beyond which all Jewish presence is strictly verboten – never mind that it was an inadvertent line of exhaustion colored in green on maps at the end of Israel’s War of Independence. That war was launched with blusterous genocidal ferocity on day-old Israel by seven synchronized invading Arab armies – just three-years post-Holocaust.

The current European vogue is to denounce any Jewish existence, activity or sign of life beyond that 1949 line as “illegal settlement.” That though, by European parlance, doesn’t amount to a boycott even of Jews who reside where Europe forbids them to. Neither is Europe out to boycott the Jewish state. Heaven forefend. Europe actually loves Jews.

All Europe desires is to improve the behavior of the Jews and their state. The EU high-mindedly strives to ensure legality according to strictures singularly stitched to Israel’s measure.

Foremost, stresses Brussels, Europe has no wish to promote boycott. What it does promote is just an exemplary act of public service born of the public-spirited conviction that the public is entitled to be warned off “settlement” imports.

Once these are designated as objectionable, savvy buyers could be counted upon to draw the proper conclusions and shun them. Get it? Rather than a boycott, the EU moves constitute the provision of indispensable consumer information – exactly as in prewar Poland.

It’s chillingly the same sham. The Polish government didn’t officially send thugs to Jewish shops just as organized Europe sends no thugs to supermarkets at its official behest to spy out made-in-Israel produce, toss it to the floor and trash it to the accompaniment of sonorous expletives.

Endek thugs did attack Jewish merchants but the government’s hands were clean. Today’s BDS thugs in some of the most civilized European urban centers attack emporiums selling any made-in-Israel wares (regardless from which side of the Green Line) but such hooliganism cannot be directly tied to the Brussels bureaucracy.

Its hands are as spotless as were Antoni Roman’s. Like him, the EU non-judgmentally urges that the buying public be given a fair choice. Informed consumers can presumably exercise their judgment and independently decide which items to avoid. Everything is quite on the up-and-up.

Big-heartedly Europe even gives Israel a way out of the benevolent non-boycott, which is more than prewar Poland gave its unfortunate Jewish citizens.

With characteristic goodwill, Brussels makes Israel an offer not to be refused: Israel can avoid non-punishment by restarting peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. The onus is placed exclusively on Israel despite the fact that it was Mahmoud Abbas who broke off contact, ignored such “confidence-building” gestures as a freeze on Jewish construction in the “settlements” and the release of some of the most heinous of convicted mass-murderers.

Likewise, Brussels has developed convenient amnesia about the PA’s rebuff of egregious concessions offered by such past non-Likud prime ministers as Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert. As was in interwar Poland, the Jew is always guilty and challenged to prove otherwise.

Nothing will satisfy Europe apart from compressing Israel back into the 1949 confines, which would leave the insufferable Jewish empire no wider than 9-miles at its center. Europe’s pompous pontificators surely realize that this would put the life of each and every Israeli in grave danger but wouldn’t sate Arab appetites.

Those who today revive the humanistic ardor of interwar Poland must suspect that squeezing six million Jews into the lines Europe loves would eventually render the Jewish state too vulnerable to stay viable. Even an outspoken ultra-dove like Abba Eban pointedly ruled out a return to what he dubbed as the Auschwitz lines.

10 thoughts on “Another Tack: The Humanistic Ardor of Interwar Poland

  1. Dear Sarah,
    The Europeans aren’t very nice people, are they?
    Especially compared to us wonderful and beautiful Jews, who would
    שבת שלום

  2. Who would never dream dream of saying or doing anything untwords.
    PS : Commenting by smartphone can be a pain in the you-know-what, it sometimes cuts you off in midsentence.
    שבת שלום

    • Please treat us to the full measure of your venom, Noodles, don’t stop in mid-innuendo.

      Another poignant piece, thank you Sarah. It’s important to be reminded of the old European antisemitism, to fully understand its present manifestations. . But will it l wake up the ultra-progressive Left and so, for once, unite the Jews to face their murderous foes? Fat chance.
      The unreconstructed Left, ready to give away the store, is
      confident that the Jews will survive no matter what, as they have for more than two thousand years. It’s pathetic.

  3. Europe is Israels enemy, plain and simple…it supports Irans nuke program and it’s economy and at the same time pressures the Jewish state to give up it’s ancient heartland.
    But unlike during the time of the III. Reich, there is now a vibrant Jewish state and the IDF.
    Israel can and MUST win this time..!

  4. Where should one begin when speaking about the EU?

    That Holier than Thou, Whiter than the driven snow, collection of “Saintly nations” who for the most part turned a blind eye to the Holocaust and the death of millions and often were directly complicit in the arrest and murder of their own Jews. Many people, even today, are totally ignorant of the fact that when it was decided to round up the Jews of France, it was the French Police who did the rounding up. That embarrassing fact could be said of almost every single country that is now a Member of the EU, daily pontificating on what is considered “correct and ethical behavior”.

    The EU, most of whose Member nations throughout the history of so-called Civilization, always singled out the Jew for “special treatment”. And when countless laws detailing “special treatment” for their Jews was considered insufficient, many EU countries “invited” their entire Jewish populations to exit their countries, forced to leave behind almost everything they owned as was the case in England, Spain et al.

    Such forced expulsions were the precursors, by many centuries of the later concept perpetrated during the Holocaust of making as much of Europe as possible become, “judenrein”.

    Ironically, with so much of Europe in an economic tailspin, with financial problems galore, how interesting it is to witness how Spain, which expelled all its Jews in 1492, has recently “most graciously” invited the descendants of all its expelled Jews to return and even offered them full Spanish citizenship if they will now accept this “generous” invitation.

    Any reader with an IQ over 10 knows exactly why Spain wants its Jews to return “home”.

    Sorry Spain: nice try but 500 years too late and a Euro short.

    With all of the Euro in crisis after crisis and the Euro now at an all time low against the US dollar, and chomping at the bit to plunge below the US dollar, one might think they would have better things to focus on than whether an apple or an orange was picked from a tree either 15 degrees East or West of some mostly arbitrary, mythical “Green line”.

    After the Holocaust and three thousand years of non-stop discrimination and ceaseless persecution, the former Jews of Europe have built a safe haven for themselves through the shedding of much Blood, Sweat and Tears.

    They no longer must worry about being chained inside a Ghetto or being confined by the electrified wire fences of a Concentration Camp.

    With mass slaughter and bestial blood letting taking place on a daily, even hourly basis throughout the world and in particular throughout the Middle East, with its millions of dead and/or homeless refugees, one might imagine these issues would be of more paramount interest to the EU than Boycotting the products of tiny Israel.

    Whether Israel sells one apple, more or less, to the EU will not appreciably alter the future of the State of Israel. Israel has survived far more horrendous fates and challenges than that.

    But the pathetic “hit them in their pockets”/ “economic boycotts”, perpetrated against Israel tells one more than he ever needs to know about whether anti-Semitism is still alive and well and thriving in Europe.

    Let every farmer and producer of anything of human value in Israel rejoice in the work of their hands and laugh at the idea that some person’s idea of a pathetic economic boycott can or ever will seriously endanger the future well being of the Jewish State.

    And let every Jew in Europe and in fact, the entire rest of the world, rejoice in the fact that they will always have a “home” to which they can return to live out their lives in safety and in Peace. That is something that not a single person living in the EU can begin to claim as their Borders are being continuously inundated by asylum seekers and refugees flooding in to try to escape the continual meltdown of the Middle East and similar problem areas of the globe.

    In the final analysis, when one considers the present state of the so-called EU, with all its many anti-Semitic Members, he or she is challenged to conclude whether to laugh or cry.

    But there is an old saying that says: “He who laughs last, -laughs best.”
    The Jewish people have already done more than enough weeping during their long history and have shed more than enough tears to last ten thousand years. So enough !

    As for the E.U., I submit those initials might be allowed to stand for “Entirely Useless”.

    And as for their silly Boycott I say:

    “Do not make use of Israeli cutting edge technology- just vegetate in the Past”.

    “And please don’t even think of eating Israeli apples- they are far too good for you.”

    • Whenever you write, whether I agree or not, I think, “that’s my people”. We are fortunate in having a people. Life ends, peoples end, even the Earth ends, but I imagine, nephesh yehuda remains. All of us. We are all included. It is precious and eternal. That is what I believe.

      • @J’Opinion

        Dear Sir:
        You have posted so many thoughts here that are pregnant with Truth and age old Wisdom. You say more in a few words than others are able to express in an entire page of words.

        And a few kind words from you are worth more than a volume of compliments and praise from anyone else.

        Just so you know.

        Most Respectfully,

        David Pakter
        NY

  5. (nice historical, analogy, Sarah)
    When dealing with a disrespectful religious offspring, the same rules apply as dealing with a disrespectful child – the one thing one must not do is concur with one’s own humiliation. The following is my own reaction; others, including others whose words have actual effect, might have another.

    This cannot get better, it can only get worse, in Israel now as it was in Europe then. Theoklepts must believe the Jews are Satanized, how else could they worship the God of Israel without becoming Jews? How can that not be obvious?

    In the future, the Palestinians can be bribed off with water (shut off on the Sabbath just for them to realize that if they don’t want to be drinking sewage, they must keep Israel alive) but all fungible exports will eventually be boycotted by the theoklepts.

    That still leaves half the world, the better half, the half with the most future, the most dynamism – the pagans, India and China. They don’t need vegetables but they can use high tech and formidably, military equipment. The Muslims don’t just attack Peoples of the Book. We must use our God-given yiddische kopfen to foster our Satanic side (I believe the real meaning of the Schma is that God is ALL, including the Bad). This age is not the Neolithic, the stronger number is the IQ not the demographic, and it will continue, and increasingly so.

    I just heard of thousands of scientists signing a letter against Artificial Intelligence in Robot Warriors – what a perfect product for the IDF! Sell robo-killers to India and China! Small requirements in material, large requirements in brains, huge profit potential! They wish to call us the Devil? Let’s see how much they like to play with the Devil.

    P.S. In the last paragraph there is a problem. The grand exalted Pooh Bah, the United States of America, won’t let us. Like the Lavi and the selling of drones to China, they exercise a veto. Their guard dogs must be lap dogs, above all, obedient. Which means Israel must exert a bit of independence for this to happen. It’s time for Israel stop acting cranky, whiny and subservient. It’s not worth the 3 billion. And as far as the vetos go, what is the UN going to do that it hasn’t already done?

  6. Let us talk about how to deal with these threats (“Nice export product you have, would be a shame if we had to label it forbidden fruit”). My first reaction was illogical Israel could require a label such as “Produced in Finland-occupied Lapland”. But that would be sinking to their level and wouldn’t help the situation

    What does, say, Finland, have to offer in trade? Timber? Minerals? These can easily be purchased on the world market, which right now is glutted with commodities.

    High-value manufactured goods? If they’re unique enough to export, they’re probably patented. Why not simply declare all patents from an offending country to be null and void in Israel? Then farm out production to the Chinese, the ones who produce all those Rolex watches.

    Obama is threatening to withhold ammo to Israel if in a conflict Obama does not approve of.
    They are stockpiled in Israel, simply seize them if necessary. In the meantime, produce the ammo in Israeli factories, in case Obama cuts off Israel permanently.

  7. Is Israel’s need to trade with EU countries stronger than the EU’s need to trade with Israel? Naive question, some might say–of course Israel needs the EU’s trade more than the EU needs Israel’s. If this is true, then it underscores the importance of Israel developing its natural gas fields, and perfecting a method for extracting oil from its underground oil shale deposits. As time passes, the EU is becoming more and more dependent on Russia for its energy, a development that even the pacifist EU countries don’t like. If Israel would continue to develop the Leviathan field, and get Noble Energy to return, they could have the EU over a barrel(no pun intended) in a few years. Then tiny Israel could negotiate a good natural gas deal with the EU countries, and at the same time, intimate to the EU that a 50% tariff will be placed on all EU goods coming into Israel, if this labeling nonsense doesn’t stop. However, I’m curious to know what happened to those Polish shop-keepers that refused to put their names above their marquees. Nothing at all wrong with Jews having some power; and many thanks for a good article.

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