THE SUN ABOVE INDEPENDENT ISRAEL

BOGDAN KĘDZIORA

It is destroying a unilateral image of Jews’ history on the Polish land, mostly associated with trauma of experienced evil and experiencing the place which became the biggest grave yard of Jews in the world. Whereas Polish footsteps on roads leading to beginning of existing Israel are not only numerous and significant for this remembrance, as it was just pre-war Poland which became an important staff facilities for Zionist fighters and the future political elites of this state, and after the war one of the most important centres from which the Jewish minority in Palestine were empowered with waves of other migrants.

Saved from Holocaust

Szewach Weiss, the former ambassador of Israel in Poland saved from Holocaust by a Polish family, reminisces that at the age of 13 years with six other Jewish children, who survived the disaster, he arrived in Hajfa, a port on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Later he was savoring the taste of freedom and ‘farewell to the feeling of being a stranger’ in a boarding school. On 14 May 1948, together with other children from school he listened to a speech of David Ben Gurion, and in the evening he read out Declaration of Independence from a 20-meter tower, to a request of his teacher. He remembered those moments: ‘I felt that little Szewach, who had been hiding in a cramped basement and between a double wall a few years ago, must go up to the top of the tower now and read out the Declaration of Independence. For himself and his family. And despite my fear I did it’.

Direction: Palestine

At the time of the Second Republic of Poland, when it was the beginning of the migration of Jews from Europe to Palestine prevented by the British having a mandate on behalf of the League of Nations, there appeared an international, Zionist organization called Betar from which the later fighters fighting against the Arabs about their state came from. Polish authorities, seeing a peace way of reducing the number of Jews in Poland in the idea of Zionism and establishing Israel state, were supporting the activity of Betar in the sense of organization, staff and finances. They were carrying out regular trainings of Jewish youth within military training, which comprised about 10 thousand people. They also organized a three-month course for the future leaders of the Israeli army and provided fighters in Palestine with a prepared leadership staff. They also passed over machines, guns, bullets and ammunition to them. One of the members of the Betar was young Menach Begin at that time, the later prime minister of Israel, who in the mid of the 0s of the last century wrote: ‘Dear Jewish Youth! Our nation is experiencing a historic epoch today. Its fate is being decided about. Either it will gain its independent homeland in a fight, in order to begin a new existence or it will remain in (…) captivity, in order to be killed’. The Betar members fascinated by Polish culture and legions used to meet with liking from ordinary Poles. In Łódź, during an action of collecting signatures under the petition prepared for the English kings, uniformed Betar members were walking around the city, shouting: ‘May Republic of Poland live!’, and inhabitants of Łódź were signing the petition, shouting: ‘May Israel live, may Jews live!’. And it was taking place at the times when nobody in the world was thinking seriously about the appearance of the Jewish state, and among Jewish elites there were opponents of this idea, for example, the leftist Bund.

Warsaw Masada

During the war, against the attitude of the Soviet Union, the Polish authorities in exile and the leadership of the army being created since the year 1941, with gen. Władysław Anders at helm were supporting joining Poles of the Jewish origin to the army, treating them equally to Poles. Thanks to it, ten of hundreds of Jews were released from death camps and exile places, who were saved in this way. Unfortunately, only a few thousand of them were allowed by the Soviet authorities to leave the USSR together with the army of gen. Anders. Although the leadership of the army was caring about refugees so that none of them would suffer from ‘any defect’ in regard of national or religious belonging, during the stay of thye army in Palestine there was desertion of about 3 thousand soldiers of Jewish origin, which did not meet with any predicted action in such circumstances(court trial). Gen. Anders, acknowledging the right of soldiers of Jewish origin to a fight for their homeland, was secretly approving of their decisions. In his memories he wrote: ‘I did not allow for looking for deserters and no deserter was arrested. I decided not to use an act towards the national minority about the general duty of military service of all Polish citizens abroad. I did not want to have soldiers under my leadership who do not want to fight’. Therefore, today reanimating the accusation from the times of the war, which appeared in the western press, disapproving of Poland then, and which suggested that those desertions resulted from the allegedly anti-semitism being in the corpus, is – in the opinion of many historians – the unfounded insinuation. Deserters, among whom there was the aforementioned Begin, fulfilled armies fighting against the Arabs. Jewish memory included a heroic fight of Jewish fighters from the uprising in ghetto, trained and equipped with weapon by the Polish underground, into the independence tradition; the fight in the Warsaw ghetto was given a symbolic name for Jews – the name of ‘Warsaw Masada’ (in ancient Israel Masada was a fortress which was defending itself the longest during an uprising against the Romans, that is, till the suicide of many fighters).

The post-war emigration

After the war, when a game for a new Jewish state began, communist authorities according to the policy of Kremlin, interested in weakening British influences on Near East, showed their approval of the Zionist movement and Jewish emigration from Poland to Palestine. Despite the opposition of Jewish communists who saw nationalists in the Zionists and competitors for influences among Jewish people, as well as an obstacle in rebuilding Jewish life in Poland, the authorities were tolerating first illegal, and then, especially after the so-called pogrom in Kielce, in summer 1946, legal emigration to Palestine. According to hypothesis of many historians, the pogrom – which, as a lot proves it, was a communist provocation – in fact it was used by communists and Kremlin as an impulse needed to dynamize emigration. In the years 1944-47, the emigration comprised about 30 per cent of the whole Jewish population in Poland. Communists even allowed for creating a training camp for Jewish volunteers in Bolków, in Lower Silesia, and they sent a ship to Israel with a few hundred recruits. Although the attitude of Moscow towards Israel in 1949 began to change, emigration from Poland was still going on – from the end of the year till the mid of the year 1951, other 28 thousand resettlers from Poland arrived there. It should be added that at that time Poland was a closed country and possibility of temporary and permanent journeys was very limited. Therefore Jewish people was perceived by many Poles as a privileged group, and they perceived themselves as a ‘discriminated’ group.

Polish language in Kneseta

Jewish immigrants from Poland were one of big groups of Israeli citizens born abroad. Jews coming from the lands of the previous Republic of Poland played a significant role in creating and developing Israel state, being its political and cultural elite for a long time. This group includes: the first president Chaim Weizmann, the first prime minister David Ben Gurion and the later: Menachem Begin, Golda Meir, Szimon Peres, Icchak Szamir. For many years Polish language belonged to the most popular languages among inhabitants of this country. The afore-mentioned Szewach Weiss estimates that in the Israeli parliament – Kneseta in 1949, over a half of deputes understood Polish language.

Support of Poles

So, it is worth for Jewish people, celebrating the anniversary of their state existence, on the 100th anniversary of regaining independence by Poland, to remember about help which Poles gave to Jews in building their state, and, regardless of motives and circumstances which were accompanying it, as it objectively served to the most vital interest of Jews. And Israel did not have many allies in the world fighting at that time with the coalition of Arabic countries.

Translated by Aneta Amrozik

Niedziela 19/2018 (13 V 2018)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Lidia Dudkiewicz • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl