Jewish-Polish history (1989–present)

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With the end of Communism in Poland following the Revolutions of 1989, Jewish cultural, social, and religious life has been undergoing a revival. Many historical issues related to the Holocaust and the long period of Soviet domination in the country – suppressed by the Communist censorship – have been reevaluated and publicly discussed leading to better understanding and visible improvement in Polish-Jewish relations.

Jewish-Polish current events[edit]

In 1989, the Soviet-backed regime – notorious for its political repression – collapsed, thus exposing the rift between the Polish non-Jewish and Jewish communities caused by the World War II remembrance and the 1944–1989 period of prolonged human rights violations committed by the Polish government against its own people. Since then, the 20th-century history of the Polish Jews have been widely popularized, including the circumstances surrounding the Massacre in Jedwabne, the Koniuchy Massacre, the Polish-Jewish wartime as well as postwar relations in general,[1] Stalinist reign of terror and the March 1968 events.[2] Many negative stereotypes originating from the cold-war literature on the subject have been challenged.[3] The Rescue of Jews by Poles during the Holocaust suppressed by the Soviet-backed regime in an attempt to discredit the Polish resistance movements as reactionary has also been reasserted.[1]

In 1993 the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland (ZGWŻ) was established with the aim of organizing the religious and cultural life of the members of the Jewish communities in Poland. It helps the descendants of the Holocaust survivors in a variety of legal matters (communal as well as personal) such as, in the process of recovery and restoration of property once owned by the Jewish Kehilla (קהלה) and nationalized in communist Poland.[4] Jewish religious practise has also been helped financially with grants from the Ronald Lauder Foundation. The Polish Jewish community employs steadily two rabbis, runs a network of Jewish schools and summer camps, and sustains several Jewish periodicals and book series.[5]

Academic Jewish studies programs were established at Warsaw University and the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Kraków became home to the Judaica Foundation,[6] which has sponsored a wide range of cultural and educational programs on Jewish themes for a predominantly Polish audience.

Poland was the first Communist Bloc country to recognize Israel in 1986 again, and restore full relations in 1990. Government relations between Poland and Israel are steadily improving, resulting in the mutual visits of presidents and the ministers of foreign affairs. The Polish government will finance the construction of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.[7]

Commemoration[edit]

In September 2000, dignitaries from Poland, Israel, the United States, and other countries (including Prince Hassan of Jordan) gathered in the city of Oświęcim (location of the Auschwitz concentration camp) to commemorate the opening of the refurbished Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot synagogue and the Auschwitz Jewish Center. The synagogue, the sole synagogue in Oświęcim to survive World War II and an adjacent Jewish cultural and educational center, provide visitors a place to pray and to learn about the active pre–World War II Jewish community that existed in Oświęcim. The synagogue was the first communal property in the country to be returned to the Jewish community under the 1997 law allowing for restitution of Jewish communal property.

March of the Living[edit]

In April 2001, during the 13th March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau honouring victims of the Holocaust, several hundred local citizens joined the 2,000 marchers from Israel and other countries. Government officials participating in the event included Members of Parliament, the province's governor, Oświęcim's mayor and the chairman of city council. Schoolchildren, boy scouts, the Polish-Israeli Friendship Society,[8] and the Polish Union of Jewish Students (PUSZ) also participated in the march. In May 2001, several hundred students from around the world marched through the town in The March of Remembrance and Hope.

In April 2002, during the 14th March of the Living [1] from Auschwitz to Birkenau to honor victims of the Holocaust, several hundred citizens joined 1,500 marchers from Israel and other countries.

Latest Jewish population estimates[edit]

In 2000, Poland's Jewish population was estimated to have risen to somewhere between 30,000 and 55,000—mostly living in Warsaw, Wrocław, Kraków, and Bielsko-Biała. With Poland joining the European Union, a number of Israeli Jews are emigrating to Poland.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Zapluty karzeł reakcji, czyli lekcja nienawiści." - Telewizja Polska SA
  2. ^ Andrzej Friszke, "The March 1968 Protest Movement in Light of Ministry of Interior Reports to the Party Leadership," Intermarium, Volume 1, Number 1, 1997; translated from Polish. Original published in Wiez (March 1994).
  3. ^ Joshua D. Zimmerman, "The Polish Underground Home Army (AK) and the Jews: What Survivor Memoirs and Testimonies Reveal" Yeshiva University
  4. ^ "Związek Gmin Wyznaniowych Żydowskich w RP". Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland (in Polish). Gedeon. 2003–2006. Retrieved July 17, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Gminy zrzeszone w Związku Gmin Wyznaniowych Żydowskich". Jewish communities belonging to the Union of Religious Communities (in Polish). Forum Żydów Polskich. 2010. Retrieved July 17, 2012. 
  6. ^ Judaica.pl homepage. Programs.
  7. ^ Jewishmuseum.org.pl homepage.
  8. ^ Israel-Kolobrzeg.Republika.pl homepage.