Historian: Polish Society Shunned Jewish Survivors Returning From Nazi CampsHistorians in the News
tags: Jewish history, Poland, Holocaust history
When the slim percentage of Polish Jewry that survived the Holocaust returned home from the ghettos and concentration camps, they were not readily accepted back into the folds of Polish society.
“They were physically present but socially absent,” Polish historian Lukasz Krzyzanowski tells The Times of Israel via Zoom call from his book-lined study in Warsaw. “Polish Jews after the war felt alone and socially isolated because there was no compassion or empathy forthcoming from their [non-Jewish] Polish compatriots.”
In his book, “Ghost Citizens: Jewish Return to a Postwar City,” Krzyzanowski examines this phenomenon by focusing on the mid-sized industrial city of Radom, located in the center-east of Poland, between the years 1945 and 1950.
“After the war there was a complete change to the social fabric of Radom,” says Krzyzanowski, who is an assistant professor at the Polish Academy of Sciences. “Not only with the disappearance of the Jews, because most of them were murdered, but those Jews who survived and returned were absent in a social sensibility.”
“These Jews were citizens, but they were not seen as citizens by most of their compatriots after they returned from the war,” Krzyzanowski says.
The historian is reluctant to get into a detailed discussion about Holocaust memory politics in contemporary Poland. But he does claim that most Poles today are “unwilling to accept the bitter fact that they live in a post-genocidal land.”
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