Statistics on Jews in Eastern Galicia - continued #galicia

Peter Jassem <jassep@...>

Dear Friends,

Our discussion started by Alex Sharon's posting of the 1921 and 1931
censuses' results has stretched far beyond the disputed numbers. It's taken
me over a week this time to reply to last Alex's posting, but the complexity
of issues demanded some contemplation on my part and enough time to respond
properly. Some GG-SIGers may think that Alex and I overdo the subject and
if so on my part I declare this to be my last extensive posting of this


Alex Sharon wrote:
My interoperation of the available statistics is a bit different. If
statistics show that Jewish population of e.g. Lwow Province has been
identified as 7% Jews by the nationality and 11.5% by Mosaic religion, I
begin to wonder. What means not identified term "nationality", since all
Jews were Polish citizens. Were 4.5% of the Jewish population allocated?

Peter Jassem:
Well, it is rather obvious to me. In the pre-war multi-ethnic Poland there
was no strict definition of the term 'nationality' and the census did not
carry a strict definition either. One would refer either to one's ancestry
or sense of belonging to a particular society, nation or state. When asked
to define their nationality and religion Polish Jews would either say Poles
of Mosaic faith or Jews of Mosaic faith. It is likely that a certain number
of Jews, in particular assimilated, reformed, progressive and
Polish-speaking identified themselves as Poles and constituted the disputed
4.5%, while the majority, in particular Yiddish-speaking, orthodox and
Chassidic Jews constituted 7%. We may also expect that the city residents
of Lwow, rather than small shtetl dwellers, were more likely to identify
themselves as Poles of Mosaic faith. All (or most) of them, regardless of
their sense of nationality claimed the Jewish religion thus producing the
11.5%. Odd exceptions, not important in this statistic, would include Jews
who changed religion or embraced Marxism etc. I am a descendant >from the
first group and believe that my grandparents would have written down
"Polish" and "Mosaic" in the respective columns. I hope I am not re-opening
our heated discussion on the identity of Galician Jews. This is only meant
to try to understand the outcome the census.


Alex Sharon wrote:
Poland was reestablished in 1918 following Versailles Treaty (Peace
Conference). Of the all beneficiaries of Versailles, Poland was the
greediest and the most bellicious. Poland emerged in 1921, after three years
of fighting, twice as big as had been expected at the Peace Conference.. She
attacked the Ukrainians, getting >from them eastern Gailcia and their capital
Lwow. She fought the Czechs for Teschen (Cieszyn) and failed to get it, one
reason that Poland had no sympathy with Czechs in 1938, though it was in her
long-term interest to side with Czech independence.

Peter Jassem:
First of all the Peace Conference of Nov.11 in Versailles dealt with ending
the war, not borders. The January conference in Paris recognized and invited
Poland to participate in recognition to her efforts to end the war. The
June 28, 1919 treaty did not specify Polish borders. Treaties weren't
always just to Poland, which was later evident in Potsdam and Yalta, but
Versailles did not take position on exact borders in Eastern Europe. And to
give history justice, these were Ukrainians who first attacked predominantly
Polish Lwow and the Red Army that walked first into predominantly Polish
Wilno and declared the Belorussian-Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic
there. Was Poland expected to volunteer to shrink its historical borders
and have millions of Polish civilians living east of River Bug deported to
the west, or would the new eastern countries guarantee them minority rights?
Would Soviet Union? I don't think there was anything unusual in Poland's
drive to restore the multi-ethnic Polish Commonwealth in its pre-partition
shape and size. On the other hand I perfectly understand aspirations of
Ukraine (or rather Eastern Galicia) and Lithuania. The chances of them not
being swallowed by Soviet Union were non-existent however, and I believe
that even bigger and stronger multi-ethnic entity in central Europe would
have been better for everybody. And as for the Cieszyn, the 1938 events are
shameful but one must remember that the area was originally (that is shortly
after WWI) to be divided between the ethnic lines (Czech-Polish) but Poland
was busy securing more strategic lands and neglected it. After the WW2
Czechs offered the area to Poland in exchange of the Klodzko area, which was
100% German, and Poland would go for it, but Stalin intervened and the deal
fell apart.


Alex Sharon wrote:
Poland waged a full-scale war against Russia and persuaded Western powers to
ratify her new frontiers in 1923. In expanding by force Poland skillfully
played on Britain's fears of Bolshevism and France's desire to have a
powerful ally in the east.

Peter Jassem:
The fear of Bolshevism was real. No doubt Soviet communists intended to
reach Germany, the only country west of Russia with strong communist
movement, over the dead body of Poland. They would have been welcomed warmly
by their counterparts in Germany, would have joined forces and would likely
continue flooding Europe. There is extensive historical evidence of Soviet
plan to expand bolshevism to the entire world, and only with Gorbachov's
perestroika the doctrine was abandoned. Poland did not start the 1920 war,
she tried to suppress the imperial plans of the Bolsheviks and secure its
own sovereignty.


Alex Sharon wrote:
At Versailles Poland was obliged to sign a special treaty guaranteeing
rights to her minorities (Jews, Ukrainians, Belorussian, Lithuanian and
Germans). But she did not keep even in the 20ies, still less in 30ies when
her minority's policy deteriorated under the military leadership.

Peter Jassem:
We agree on this one. Poland's ethnic policy was far >from perfect. Not
only bad will of Polish politicians was responsible for it but also
incredibly complex reality. One has to understand that situation of Lwow or
Wilno was as complicated as Jerusalem today and the situation in the eastern
lands (Kresy) was not easier than today's Belfast. Plus the large Jewish
population was spread across the ethnic borders. The second republic lasted
only 20 years. It has not achieved a desirable level of minorities' rights
in this period of time and frankly was no different than most multi-ethnic
countries in Europe of the time.


Alex Sharon:
With a third of her population treated as virtual aliens, she maintained an
enormous police force and army. Poland has established its own concentration
camp for the undesirables at Bereza Kartuska.

Poland's police and army were not more 'enormous' than those of many other
European countries were and in particular Germany and Soviet Union. I think
they were proportional to the size of the country and adequate to the
political situation. I agree however that Bereza Kartuska prison, the only
Polish concentration camp ever, was a regrettable example of non-democratic
measure and political oppression against anybody considered a threat to the
young statehood, whether communists or not. As terrible as it was only a
miniature of the Soviet Union's Gulag and a very 'soft' version of what
Germans were soon to establish.


Peter Jassem: (on Hebrew usage)
To my statement "It should be also noted that practically nobody spoke
Hebrew" Alex gives a long list of educational facilities and organizations
based on Hebrew language and says that his parents spoke to each other in
this language. I am sure they were able to. I believe Alex. But I still
doubt that many Jews adopted this language in Galicia as their first
language. It was Yiddish, Polish and Ukrainian that were heard on the
streets. It was mostly Yiddish and Polish that Galician Jews expressed
themselves in literature although I know of Jewish authors who also wrote in
Hebrew. The vast majority however was in Yiddish (see YIVO collections).
Perhaps in certain Zionist and religious circles Hebrew education was on the
rise at the time but I have never heard of this ancient language being
spoken in the market place for example. Alex and I were born after the war.
I hope some older GG members could enlighten us based on their direct
personal experience.


At the end I would like to conclude that although Alex and I represend very
different views on many issues we share similar values and remain good
friends. In a way by having this argument we are setting a good example of
tolerance, which was in such short demand during those dark times we got to
write about.

Peter Jassem
Toronto, Ontario

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