Poland the cradle to Poles of Jewish faith, Zionists and Orthodox Jews.

Orthodox Jews, observed strict religious practices, dressed according to the old traditions, followed the Old Testament, spoke Yiddish, a mixture of Hebrew and Germen. Like any devout group, they relied on faith.  

Zionism & Bund, came to exist in the 19th century, a response to State Sponsored Antisemitic Violence, Discrimination, Pogroms, but each took a different path and competed for Jewish recognition.

Zionism liberated the native and world Jews. Zionism’s aim was to return to Palestine. The Roman name given to Judea to distance Jews from their Ancestral Homeland. Zionists believed that to preserve their identity, heritage, traditions culture, to live as liberated self-determined people they had to go back to their native land. 5% of Polish Jews left for Palestine after the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire, after WWI and until WWII. Zionists blossomed across Europe, Russia and Poland. 

Arab violence prevented the National Home of the Jewish people to be realized after WWI, why the British ended up mandating Palestine.

Father of modern Zionism is Theodor Herzl, Austro-Hungarian secular Jew, who was covering the Alfred Dreyfus affair, in 1895 Paris, a Jewish army officer wrongly accused and pardoned. That Alfred Dreyfus was a not a traitor to France was exposed, invented by the Antisemitic French aristocracy, who did not want Jews in their ranks. Herzl witnessed mobs, from all levels of society shouting “Death to the Jews.” This convinced him that the solution for Jews is Zionism.

In the 2nd century the Maccabees, the 1st Zionists, fought back an occupying army of pagan Syrian Greeks. Maccabees won, they reclaimed the Temple, the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem. They purified it by rekindling the golden Menorah with a tiny jar of oil that lasted eight days. The miracle and celebration of Chanukah is the oil lasting eight days. 

But most Polish Jews were Bundists, Polish patriots of Jewish religion. My mother and family were Bundists. General Union of Jewish Workers. Bundism was born in the Pale of Settlement, Western region of Czars Russia, where Jews were forced to live and experienced the worst persecutions up to the early 20th century. Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine, parts of Latvia, E Poland the worst state sponsored pogroms happened here before the Holocaust. 

They believed they could preserve their Jewish identity, heritage, traditions, culture language and “coexist” with non-Jews anywhere in Europe. Bund was legal, they were not interested in overthrowing the government, their main goal was to improve economic conditions of all workers. At this time, workers had no rights, no safeguards. They fought for workers’ rights, to end child labor and against illiteracy. In the end Bund proved to be a failed ideology, they mistakenly believed Jews were safe in Europe.

In Russia the Bolsheviks dismantled the Bund, never in Poland, Bund never joined the Communists even after the war. To Bund the Communists were the enemy, the invaders, unfortunately Bund saw Zionism as a pipe dream. 

My mother writes about the Communists, they were illegal, they wanted to overthrow the government, they were arrested, most were leaving for Russia, wanting to be part of the revolution in Russia.

Polish Jews who survived and came back to Poland, left in two main phases. Of the over 3 million Jews who lived in Poland before the war, about 100,000 Jews remained at the end of World War II. By 1958, 50,000 emigrated, some to Israel, others to Western Europe, America, Canada and even South America. The rest chose to stay, and ten years later, in 1968 they were forced to leave once again. By the time communism fell in Poland in 1989, only 5,000–10,000 Jews remained in the country. Most chose to conceal their Jewish identity.



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