Perceptions of Germans and Jews as the Enemy in Poland: Similarities and Differences

 

To state it clearly right away: The Polish perception of the Germans, as it was based on a clear concept of the enemy, cannot be put on the same level as their perception of the Jews.

In history, concepts of the enemy are no homogenous ideological trends but must be understood as complex constructs emerging from discourse, from ways of thinking and common practices the historical origins of which vary depending on the definition of the enemy.

Indeed, a strict differentiation is not always possible, and concepts of Jews on the one hand and Germans on the other hand as enemies of the Polish people cannot always be consistently and accurately separated, but there are structural similarities, and there are also parallel developments. Any labelling of someone as an enemy must be understood as a historically and culturally conditioned form of persecution that is aimed at strengthening identitarian movements and their ability to act.[1]

Even today, anti-German and anti-Semitic judgements play a significant role for the Polish sense of identity and for Polish national self-perception. Especially during the numerous conflict situations, establishing anti-German and anti-Semitic concepts of the enemy has been an essential element of Polish propaganda, intended to stabilize Polish identity and morality and support a continued determination to fight in the face of the perceived threat.  In this light, Polish enemy stereotypes of Germans and Jews are an inherent part of the cultural, socio-economic, and political development in Poland and should thus always be seen as historically developed phenomena. As historical “products”, which did not evolve outside a specific historical context they have always been composed of a mosaic of various experiences that are characteristic of the history of Polish-German-Jewish relations.

The present analysis of historically handed down negative judgements on both Jews and Germans will investigate which historical and collective mental preconditions within the Polish society contributed to the developing, establishing, and later instrumentalizing hostile perceptions of Germans and Jews, and the influence these concepts of enemy for their part had on the said conditions and world views. Neither the concept of the enemy itself nor the conditions under which it evolved and was replicated are firm and static realities. On the contrary, they mutually shape each other’s development, and the reciprocal changes resulting from this ongoing interaction can indeed be retraced.

 

The Devil Incarnate

As early as the Late Middle Ages, an increasing hostility towards members of the Jewish religious community in the Christian-occidental society emerged. It originated mainly from the Church and was significantly more pronounced in Western Europe than in Poland where until the 12th century there weren’t many people practising Judaism.  At its core there was the accusation of deicide and its alleged symbolic replication in the form of host desecration and the ritual murder of Christian children. The anti-Semitic, religiously motivated demonization of Jews led to their social marginalisation in a society that defined itself as Christian, and saw and legitimized itself as a realization of divine ideals. It often culminated in excesses of violence.[2]

The economic and religious war against the Jews ultimately led to the near annihilation of medieval Jewish communities in Western Europe. Only a very few Jews could save themselves in time, seeking refuge in Poland. However, during the 15th and especially in the 16th century, the era of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the golden age of the Jews in Poland gradually came to an end. After the first successes of the Reformation, as in its Calvinist form especially among the powerful noble families in Lithuania, there was a counter-reformatory policy of rollback in Poland.[3] Already in the premodern era, belonging to the Catholic Church became more and more of a criterion of belonging to the political community of the Polish nation. In addition to the old religious conflicts there were now economic tensions that contributed to the deterioration in relations between Jews and Christians. In feudal Poland, the Jews were barred from most economic activities other than money lending and trade and accordingly were often employed as financiers, tenants or subtenants by the Polish aristocracy. Apart from the hostilities of the Catholic Church, the indebted minor nobility, and the Christian competitors, it was primarily the relationship between Jews and peasants, who constituted the majority of the population, which was precarious.  For the peasants the Jews were an instrument of feudal oppression and, since they profited from it, they were despised all the more.[4] As a result, the initially religiously motivated marginalization of Jews was now further aggravated by a dimension of economic ethics. 

Conflicts arose on a cultural level as well. As the Jews were barely integrated, lived mostly in their “Schtetl”, spoke their own language, regarded themselves as God’s chosen people, followed their own dietary laws, and stood out because of their outer appearance, the Christian majority perceived them as strangers in the heart of their country. Due to these two main features: being Jewish and being in the position of an outsider or middleman, the Jewish population appeared alien in many ways. Jews were somehow caught between the landlords and the peasants, between different faiths and ethnic groups, and between inside and outside. As strangers who did not belong anywhere and were also suspected of being in close contact with everything that was in any way strange or evil, Jews provided an ideal projection screen for fears caused by the ominous economic, political, ideological, and even meteorological changes that were happening. Jews were said to conspire with the devil and to profit from all harm that befell Christians. This was the background against which anti-Semitism, in a many-layered process, found its way into popular Polish culture.

During the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, Germans were increasingly compared to the devil as well. In predominantly Catholic Poland-Lithuania the followers of Luther and Calvin were seen as heretics who had betrayed the “true” God and had sold their souls to the devil. In the 17th century, the dictum “Niemiec, Szwab, diabłu brat” [Deutscher, Schwabe, Teufelsgabe] became popular, meaning that Germans (Suebians) were a gift from the devil. With its Counter-Reformation propaganda, the Catholic clergy in particular sought to depict Luther as a devil worshipper. This condemnation and defamation of Luther and his attitude toward the Pope inevitably had an effect on the attitude of Polish Catholics toward the German-speaking Protestant minority in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. They were soon pegged as “Lutheranians” who were blindly loyal to their spiritual leader and thus supported the “devil’s work”. Soon the pejorative term “luter” was applied to every Protestant citizen of Poland-Lithuania.

This religious demonization developed alongside increasing political hostilities. Kazimierz Maliszewski points to the image - already established in the late Middle Ages - of the German as a “strange” neighbour, a neighbour who was different with regard to appearance, traditions, and customs.  Characteristics such as indolence, harshness or boorishness were also among the essential features of this image. The strained relations between Poland-Lithuania [s. Illustration 1] and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation further deepened the widespread aversion among Polish aristocracy to their German-speaking neighbours.[5] The religious conflicts of the 16th and 17th century only consolidated this process of marginalization and added a strong ethical dimension to long-established anti-German resentments.

 

Religious demarcation served to form a community that was united in Catholicism and that felt free to identify friend or foe, to define enemy concepts, and morally justify any form of political marginalization. As a result, an ever stronger “Polish and Catholic” identity formed within the Polish-Lithuanian aristocracy. The scriptural commandment of loving one’s enemies was pretty much ignored, and one’s own interests were idolized as the source of virtue.  Once one had claimed the political and moral authority of interpretation it became easy to attribute everything “immoral” or unethical to one’s politically or religiously defined enemies or adversaries and at the same time present one’s own community as free from any blame.  The other, recognized and identified as the “devil”, had to be warded off and fought in the political arena as well. Unlike anti-Semitic beliefs, the Catholic demonization of the “German faith”- as Protestantism was colloquially referred to - lacked the element of alleged conspiracy. Instead, Lutherans and Calvinists were seen as rebels and renegades, but they were hardly suspected of poisoning wells, spreading epidemics, or murdering Catholic children for ritual purposes.  And unlike the Jews, Protestants often became the object of ridicule and contemptuous anecdotes, as the typical portrayal of Luther as a profligate sinner proves.[6]  

 

Concepts of the Enemy as National Patterns of Interpretation

As the interlocking of religious and political concepts of the enemy evolved, they had an increasing influence on Polish-Jewish and Polish-German relations. The stigmatization of Polish Jews as traitors proved to be crucial for this development. They were accused of sympathizing or even collaborating with the enemy after Poland had ceased to exist as an independent nation-state as a result of the divisions undertaken by Prussia, Russia, and Austria (1773, 1793, and 1795) [s. Illustration 2]. Poland’s loss of independence, for which Hohenzollern was also partly responsible and which brought Prussia substantial territorial gains, also determined the way the new Polish subjects perceived Prussia. In the context of repeated efforts to mobilize against the oppressors, both the “Jewish question” and the protest against the German authorities played an important role. There was never any prospect of an integrative solution. The attitude of the Prussian government - and that of many Jews - concerning the Polish quest for external independence and internal consolidation remained negative or undecided as this quest came with a struggle toward national-cultural and linguistic homogeneity.

Whenever the “Jewish question” was brought up, the discussion often narrowed down to speculations about whether or not the Jewish part of the population of the provinces under Russian, Prussian or Austrian rule was somehow on the side of the powers that had partitioned the country. The resemblance of Yiddish to the German language and the fact that in particular well-to-do Polish Jews in the provinces under Prussian rule had relatively quickly adapted to German culture made all Jews who lived there potential proponents and followers of the Prussian rulers. Positive images of Jewish patriots who supported the Polish fight for freedom or even sought complete assimilation to the Polish nation were rare and found in literary tradition mainly and had minimal impact on the widespread anti-Jewish attitudes.[7]

In addition to the accusation of being traitors to the nation, in the anti-Semitic discourse of the 19th century Jews were also blamed for all the social upheavals and uncertainties of everyday life that followed in the wake of industrialization and the radical changes from a world of crafts and agriculture to the industrialised world. The image of the individual profiteer was replaced by that of the “immoral Jewish financial capital”.  In the rather enigmatic capitalist economy, Jews, as traditional scapegoats, were only too readily held responsible for political and economic developments, including socialism. In anti-Semitic thinking, international socialism - later communism - together with international capitalism became a Jewish “weapon” in the rivalry of nations.[8]

The calls for national consolidation with a clear demarcation from the Jews were particularly powerful and they became more urgent when Poland regained its autonomy after WW I in 1918 and national consolidation was set high on the agenda by the sovereign Polish government. At that time no homogenous ethnic Polish nation existed. National minorities of considerable size lived within Poland’s borders, among them the Jewish minority of about 10% of the total population, which was hard to ignore. Anti-Semitic propaganda fell on fertile ground as a result. Making allusions to an internal Jewish threat, be it in economy, politics or cultural life, seemed to make sense and made it easy to mobilize the majority to form a state modelled on nationalist conservative ideas.

After the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the communist Soviet rule in the neighbouring country, anti-Semitism was no longer just about keeping in check the Jewish competitors in politics or economics but also about fighting “Jewish Bolshevism”. The danger of a Jewish-Bolshevik world- conspiracy in the form of a Judean commune (żydo-komuna), much-trumpeted by the anti-Bolshevik propaganda, served to justify the numerous anti-Semitic excesses as a means of patriotic defence.[9] Not only the liberation of the new state from the “red” (communist) and “golden” (capitalist) International, but, in particular, the social exclusion of the Jews from the Polish-Catholic nation became the order of the day.

Allegations that the Germans were internationally organized or sought to destabilize the Polish nation from within was found only rarely in the Polish picture of Germany, though. Until the mid-nineteenth century there cannot be ascertained any ongoing hostility that would mark a uniform negative image of Germany.  The Polish never bestowed their general friendship on the Germans - they didn’t trust them much and considered them malicious - but they did not in general regard them as their chief enemy.[10] The chief enemy was rather the Russian Imperial Family and Russia that occupied the majority of the former Polish territories and against which most of the Polish struggles for independence were directed. During the Polish nationalization process in the late nineteenth century, when the Prussian governments frustrated all efforts of the Polish minority to regain national autonomy, the differentiated perception of the Germans changed. It was then that the Polish image of Germany acquired its consistently hostile character. A true Polish patriot had to be an enemy of Germany. As a consequence of this concept of the enemy people became more and more convinced that there existed an age-old German-Polish antagonism, and this belief found its way into politics, historiography, literature, and the Polish culture of remembrance, and was preserved there.[11]

Initially the renewal of the Polish statehood had little influence on the blackening of the German image, mainly because of the unresolved border conflict of the 1920s. The stereotype of the German “Drang nach Osten”, Germany’s desire to expand its territory eastward, gained importance again, not least because of the attitude of the German minority which was predominantly pro-German and which refused any kind of assimilation with re-established Poland.  Later, the calming down of mutual nationality and border conflicts did little to put into perspective the hostile attitude of the Polish toward their German neighbours - and vice versa. Although friendly images of the Germans emerged on occasion, particularly in relation to German culture, they had hardly any effect on the prevailing negative view of Germans.  The German-Polish rapprochement of the 1930s, when the Polish government formed a five-year alliance with Hitler’s Germany, had no effect either. The negative connotations had been established far too strongly and far too long to allow the Polish image of the Germans to be questioned or put into perspective.  One remained wary because Hitler had too often and too clearly proclaimed the chief goal of his eastern policy - territorial gain.

In summary, it can be concluded that from the 19th century onwards the Polish concepts of the Germans as the enemy and their concepts of the Jews as the enemy became increasingly alike in their manifestations. Not only did both develop into a political argument during the socio-economic changes of the time but they also both became an integral part of the Polish national or nationalistic identity. The substantial difference between the two perceptions of an enemy, however, lay in their respective history as well as in the mechanisms of the arguments used to justify them. [12] In contrast to anti-German views, the Polish anti-Semitism (with any other anti-Semitism) employed an abstract image of Jews which did not require the physical presence of Jews; this kind of anti-Semitism developed its own logic and its own momentum and thus could exist uncoupled from any relation to the real world, as that would invariably compromise the image created and shake the foundations of one’s world view.

No Victims without Enemies

The difference between the concept of the German enemy that was drawn from the real world and the concept of the Jewish enemy that was fuelled by imagination became distinctly apparent during the Second World War. It comes as no surprise that during the Second World War – which cost millions of Polish lives – a hermetically sealed enemy image of Germans as villains and executioners took root. Any positive or favourable connotations with the Germans that might have existed until then were almost completely superimposed during the war and the occupation.

Classical German attributions such as sophistication, accuracy, discipline, and orderliness now appeared to be the perfect precondition for the brutal murderousness of the Germans, their well-organized barbarism and their mechanistic cruelty. In a popular song of the occupation period it said, “Ihre Kultur hat’s zugelassen, Menschen zu jagen auf off’ner Strasse”. [13] “Your culture has allowed you to hunt people down on the streets”, putting in a nutshell that culture and barbarity are incompatible yet can exist concurrently.

For most of the Polish people the War and the occupation seemed to bring to a grand finale the perceived 1000 years of Germany’s desire to expand its territory eastwards, the German “Drang nach Osten”. Logically, Hitler-Germany’s invasion of Poland was seen as a direct continuation of the raids by the Brandenburg margraves and the commanders of the Teutonic Order of Knights, followed by the occupation of Polish territory by the Prussian partitioning power, Bismarck’s Germanization policy up to the border conflicts and the territorial claims during the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich [s. Illustration 3]. “Der Helm auf dem Kopf des Soldaten des Wehrmacht”, sums up Tomasz Szarota, the Polish historian of WWII and the occupation erscheint so als gewöhnliche Modifikation der preußischen Pickelhaube, das Hakenkreuz erinnerte sehr an das Kreuz an den Mänteln der Ritter des Deutschen Ordens’:The helmet on the head of the Wehrmacht soldier looks like an ordinary modification of the Prussian spiked helmet, the swastika is reminiscent of the cross on the coats of the Knights of the Teutonic Order.’[14]

The enemy images of “the Germans” had until then varied, depending on region and time. Now, in retrospect, this image was both standardized and consolidated and therefore appeared to acquire a consistency and linearity from the Middle Ages to the 20th century that seemed to prove the Germans had always had clear, hostile and imperialistic intentions. There wasn’t any room left for disparateness, variation, dynamic developments, or inconsistencies.

The concept of the eternal German enemy was now successfully embedded in history and the image of this enemy was propagated mainly by the Polish resistance organizations. Germans were often dehumanized and described as unfeeling machines, as monsters incapable of any human feeling, as a moral plague. Not allowing for any dissenting perception, these attributions also served to have a deterrent effect on all intentions to collaborate with the Germans, making them morally wrong. However, fear and terror had to be harnessed so as not to paralyze active resistance in the face of an all too powerful adversary.  Therefore, the Polish underground movement cleverly combined their demonization of the enemy on the one hand with mockery, scorn, and ridicule on the other. The despised German enemy thus seemed vulnerable and vincible, if not through the weak military potential then surely by the national solidarity and the moral superiority of the Polish people. 

The Polish claim to sole representation of moral values, legitimized by the Polish victims, formed a demarcation line not only between them and the Germans as the perpetrator nation, but also in opposition to the Russians, the superpower at the eastern border of Poland. In September of 1939 Poland was caught in the double lock between the Soviet and the German interests. The twenty-one-year-long existence of the Polish state ended when Germany and the Soviet Union divided Poland between them. Abandoned and defeated, the Polish people once more saw themselves as martyrs and victims of several enemies at once. This existential threat was countered with extreme exclusionary nationalism, which also encouraged vicious anti-Semitism.  Even though the Polish people bear no primary responsibility for the Holocaust, it cannot be denied that under the German-Soviet occupation anti-Semitism did not disappear, on the contrary. “Gerade weil”, Aleksander Smolar writes, ‚der polnische Antisemitismus nicht den Makel der Kollaboration mit den Deutschen trug, konnte er während des Krieges prächtig gedeihen – nicht nur auf der Strasse, sondern auch in der Untergrundpresse, in den politischen Parteien und den bewaffneten Einheiten: “Polish anti-Semitism did not bear the flaw of collaboration with the Germans, which is precisely why it could thrive during the war – not only on the streets but also in the underground press, in political parties, and in armed units.”[15]

The certainty of being morally right was based on the perceived connection between Jewry and communism. The fight against Jews as the alleged supporters of communism became part of the resistance. The declaration of Jews as the “third enemy” – in addition to NS-Germany and the Soviet Union – was mainly supported by the conviction widespread among the Polish nationalist underground groups that the Jews had betrayed Poland during the Soviet occupation of the eastern Polish territories.[16] The commitment numerous Jews showed to establish the Soviet system of rule confirmed the opinion held by many Polish that Jews had an “affinity to communism”. The idea of a “Judean community” that worked against Polish independence movements was then sweepingly generalized and attributed to the entire Jewish population. This, in turn, made it often easy for the German occupying forces to execute Jewish citizens. [17] The best-known example of this is the savage pogrom of 1941 in Jedwabne where Polish inhabitants actively took part in murdering their Jewish neighbours. [18]

 

New Systems, Old Enemy Concepts

In 1945 a new system and a completely alien political order were decreed overnight. As in Poland the communist regime was implemented in the wake of Soviet intervention, it seemed only natural for the Polish people to blame a foreign power for the situation in which they found themselves. The difficult part was the fact that the government now officially consisted of “Polish patriots” and independence fighters. But if one wanted to demonstrate opposition, it would be sufficient to discredit the government as being Jewish, and hence alien. Many among the Polish population blamed first and foremost the Jews for their personal hardships and the distress the nation was in. Jewish communists had contributed to establishing the regime and the age-old hostility towards Jews had deepened during the war and blended with the conviction that Jews, in general, supported the Soviet regime. The term “Judaeo Communism was applied to the entire system. Both, rivalries over the Jewish estates the Polish had appropriated during the war and the existing, religiously motivated, traditional anti-Semitic ideas – such as the still widespread belief that the Jews performed ritual killings – fed into and aggravated the prevalent anti-Jewish projections of the immediate post-war period.

However, not only the opponents of the new ruling powers but the rulers too found a “universal” enemy concept in anti-Semitic views which easily lent itself to be used as an instrument, despite the fact that in communist anti-fascist propaganda anti-Semitism was officially declared to be a crime be. Against the background of the commitment of Jewish “comrades” in the party apparatus, the well-established allegation of a “Judaeo Communism” was easier to manipulate than other enemy concepts and could, therefore, be put into service for specific interests, both within the party and outside the party. Since 1948, when after the official founding of the state of Israel [s. Illustration 4] an anti-Zionist turnaround occurred in the USSR and its satellite states, the communist propaganda ruthlessly used anti-Jewish enemy concepts to rationalize the conflicts between the power structures and the population. This anti-Zionist campaign culminated in 1967/68 when the power of the party was at stake. To stabilize this power again, one needed to find someone to put the blame on – and to sacrifice eventually.  There were many Jews among the so-called “reactionary enemies of the people”, hence among perceived spies, foreign agents and among certain conspiratory groups in the party that were responsible for “errors and deviations”. They were now accused of treason and described as the “fifth column” in the words of Władysław Gomułka, [s. Illustration 5] then Head of State. Through its fight against “Zionism” and “Cosmopolitanism”, the communist propaganda pointed to the external enemy and at the same time encouraged a readiness to carry out brutal purges against the enemy among their own ranks.[19]

After the collapse of Communism and Poland’s accession into the European Union, which is seen as an anti-national, supranational and secular centre of political power by nationalist parties, the enemy concept of the “international Jew” is inevitably reinvigorated and Jews are suspected of posing a threat from within to everything Polish with the help of the EU. Right-wing populist and right-wing conservative groupings as well as certain circles in the Catholic Church meticulously search for the “Jewish string pullers” in Polish politics and the Polish media world to present as the “guilty party”, as the ones responsible for economic and social evils in Poland. Without any scruples, they spread anti-Jewish watchwords in their publications, in radio stations, and even in the Polish Parliament. Their agitation aims at mobilizing anti-Semitic resentment and creating an anti-Semitic mood, and it uses the mind’s faculty to keep the past alive in the present. Thereby – under the conditions of the “extreme” 20th century – Anti-Semitism once again and more deeply than before takes root both in Polish everyday life and in the popular conception of history in Poland. It now serves, as it were, as an integral part of Polish national self-assertion.

While the hostility towards Germany shows a strong dynamic in post-war Poland, anti-Semitic enemy concepts develop hardly at all. This may again have to do with the abstract character of the anti-Semitic worldview. New anti-Semitism perpetuates the concept of the enemy based on generalized abstractions for which the actions, the conduct or even the very existence of Jews are entirely irrelevant.

All kinds of phenomena in politics, in the economy or cultural life, are attributed to conspiratorial and sinister activities of ominous “Jewish puppet masters”. The Polish concept of the Germans, in contrast, tends to be unambiguous. It has always been the fallout of a simplification of reality, yet not in the sense of abstraction but rather in the sense of reducing one’s perception in line with a dualistic friend-or-foe mindset. The conflict- and cooperation-structures of the bilateral German-Polish relations are therefore the essential prerequisite for exploiting this concept. In the post-war period, the Polish perception of the Germans went through various phases, and the fluctuations were a result of both external conditions in the international environment and internal political conditions. Immediately after 1945 Germans were the “number one enemy”, a natural result of the German warfare and the occupation. The communist system and state doctrine supported this hostility towards Germany. “Hitlerists”, “fascists”, “militarists” or “revanchists” – those were the battle cries and accusations constantly reiterated and addressed to the neighbours in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Such intense anti-German propaganda was part of a political strategy. For the pro-Soviet governments of Poland, seen as alien and anti-national, consistently pointing out the “German danger” was an efficient means of securing the consent of the non-communist part of the population and presenting Moscow’s patronage as the only guarantor of Polish independence.

Constant reference to the heroic Polish fight against Germany was another essential ingredient of such national-communist “pandering” policies. There started an intense “education” of the population with the help of anti-German or anti-fascist commemoration instruments such as anniversaries, erection of monuments or memorial plaques and the like. At the same time the definition of “fascism” served to exonerate the GDR – (and all other so-called “anti-fascist countries” that once had collaborated with Nazi-Germany) – and present them as brother nations. [20]

The non-recognition of the German-Polish border by the Federal Republic of Germany and the escalating East-West conflict helped substantiate the official picture of an age-old German-Polish antagonism in daily politics and helped justify anti-German events, such as the resettlement and the forced displacement and expulsion of the German minority. Despite all this, the monolithic perception of the Germans as enemies increasingly came under scrutiny.[21] The gestures of reconciliation made by the Polish bishops and the clear calls from within German federal politics for a new Ostpolitik in the 60s marked the beginning of a peaceful change in bilateral relations. Although the communist government repeatedly tried to exploit anti-German slogans for their political purposes, they were unable to stop the process of waning enmity that had set in.

After the collapse of Communism, the subsequent treaties between Germany and Poland paved the way to normalization, reconciliation, and aggregation of interests. Poland’s accession to the NATO and the EU has strengthened political ties and weakened old perceived threats. This does not mean, however, that anti-German concepts of the enemy have entirely disappeared from the political scene and political debate. They are easy to re-activate, and they serve political goals all too well.  Activating anti-German resentment is now a goal mainly of right-wing conservative and right-wing populist groupings and parties such as the present ruling party “Law and Justice” (PiS). To enforce (nationalist) interests they insinuate that Germany with its current policy – especially within the framework of the EU – pursues imperialistic and chauvinistic interests. Thus the PiS Government compares Germany’s leading role in the EU to the NS-occupation policy, and the construction of the Baltic Sea pipeline from Russia to Germany serves as “evidence” for another German-Russian teaming-up against Poland.  Any criticism from the German side of Poland’s anti-democratic political line is denounced as historical amnesia, and Poland claims reparations for Polish losses in the Second World War.

However, anti-German resentments do not seem to work any longer as a means of politics. Studies show that sympathies for Germany have grown continually since the 1990s. However, anti-German concepts of the enemy undeniably still exist in Polish memory, especially in connection with the history of forced displacements and evictions. Many people in Poland react with scepticism or even open hostility to the changes that the German understanding of history undergoes – where no longer only the German guilt but also the suffering of many Germans is recalled, and where by now not only the German perpetrators but also the German victims are brought up. That scepticism or hostility towards Germany is sustained in the Polish nationalist interpretation of history. There, any recognition of the suffering of Germans is vehemently denied and perceived as a disavowal of the plight of the Polish people.[22]

Such moralizing political understanding of the victim does not allow for any other than the national perspective on the German-Polish and Jewish-Polish history, and it once again loads historical thinking in Poland with concepts of the enemy that are untenable yet easily lend themselves to manipulation and exploitation towards political goals. Thus, history and historiography merely serve to be the exploitable memory of a political group. Those who have a different collective memory remain excluded. Considering how these politics of memory are again putting forth concepts of the enemy, one of the most urgent challenges for the science of history is to reclaim the Polish enemy narrative from political discourse and look for the answer to why the friend-or-foe identification developed into a constituent part of Polish history. Concepts of the enemy must not become the ultimate categories of historical understanding. The stories and histories of friends and enemies are woven into history, and it is the task of critical historiography to show how and why the enemy became an enemy.

 

 

Endnotes

[1] Cf. Weller, Christoph, Feindbilder. Ansätze und Probleme ihrer Erforschung, Bremen 2001; Klemm, Thomas, Christian Lotz, Katja Naumann, (Ed.), Der Feind im Kopf: Künstlerische Zugänge und wissenschaftliche Analysen zu Feindbildern, Leipzig 2005.

[2] Wippermann, Wolfgang, Rassenwahn und Teufelsglaube, Berlin 2005, p. 66f.

[3] Tazbir, Janusz, Poland in: Scribner, Robert (Ed.) The Reformation in National Context, Cambridge 1994, 168-180; Augustyniak, Urszula, History of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. State – Society – Culture, Frankfurt a. M. 2015, 277-285.

[4] Haumann, Heiko, Geschichte der Ostjuden, München 1998, p. 35f.

[5] Maliszewski, Kazimierz, Kształtowanie się stereotypu Niemca i obrazu krajów niemieckich w potocznej świadomości sarmackiej od XVI do połowy XVIII wieku. (próba rekonesansu) in: Wajda, Kazimierz (Ed.), Polacy i Niemcy: z badań nad kształtowaniem heterostereotypów etnicznych, Toruń 1991, p. 15f. It has to be made clear, however, that their anti-German attitudes were not, on the face of things, directed at the concrete nation-building, but rather at a certain group of people: German-speaking protestants in general, regardless of which territory they inhabited.    

[6] Cf. Zimorowic, Bartłomiej, Testament Luterski żartownie napisany, Kraków 1623.

[7] Cf. Hertz, Aleksander, Żydzi w kulturze polskiej, Paris 1961, p. 191.

[8] Cf. Barṭal, Yiśraʾel, Geschichte der Juden im östlichen Europa 1772–1881, Göttingen, 2010.

[9] Cf. Pufelska, Agnieszka, Die “Judäo-Kommune”– Ein Feindbild in Polen. Das polnische Selbstverständnis im Schatten des Antisemitismus 1939–1948, Paderborn 2007, pp. 46-58.

[10] Cf. Kępiński, Andrzej, Lech i Moskal. Z dziejów stereotypu, Warszawa 1990, p. 141; Piskorski, Jan, Die Deutschen aus polnischer Sicht vor dem Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts in: Dmitrów, Edmund, Tobias Weger (Ed.), Deutschlands östliche Nachbarschaften. Eine Sammlung von historischen Essays für Hans Henning Hahn, Frankfurt am Main, 2009, p. 366;  Mick, Christoph, The Dead and the Living. War Veterans and Memorial Culture in Interwar Polish Galicia in: Cornwall, Mark, John Paul Newman (Ed.), Sacrifice and Rebirth. The Legacy of the Last Habsburg War, New York 2016, 233-257.

[1]1 A homogenous concept of the Germans as enemies was partly promoted in response to hostile polemics of political groupings such as ”Der national-rassische Ostmarktverein”. cf. Pufelska, Agnieszka, Zwischen Ablehnung und Anerkennung – das polnische Berlin im widerspruchsvollen 19. Jahrhundert in: Berbig, Roland, ‎Iwan-M D ́Aprile, ‎Helmut Peitsch (Ed.), Berlins 19. Jahrhundert. Ein Metropolen-Kompendium, Berlin 2011, p. 47.

[12] Holtz, Klaus, Nationaler Antisemitismus, Hamburg 2001, p. 543.

[13] German translation cited from Szarota, Tomasz, Die Deutschen in den Augen der Polen während des Zweiten Weltkrieges in: Süssmuth, Hans (Ed.), Deutschlandbilder in Polen und Russland, in der Tschechoslowakei und in Ungarn, Baden-Baden 1993, p. 121.

[14] Ibidem, p. 122.

[15] Smolar, Aleksander, Unschuld und Tabu in: Babylon. Beiträge zur jüdischen Gegenwart 2, 1987, p. 48.

[16] Prekerowa, Teresa, Konspiracyjna Rada Pomocy Żydom w Warszawie 1942–1945, Warszawa 1982, p. 29.

[17] Pufelska, Die “Judäo-Kommune”, pp. 64-94.

[18] Henning, Ruth (Ed.), Die “Jedwabne-Debatte” in Polen. Dokumentation und Kalendarium, Potsdam 2002 (Transodra; 23).

[19] Ibidem, p. 243-246.

[20] Cf. Pufelska, Agnieszka,  Der Faschismusbegriff in Osteuropanach 1945. Ein geschichtsphilosophisch angeleiteter Erklärungsversuch in: Globisch, Claudia, Volker  Weiss, Agnieszka Pufelska (Ed.), Die Dynamik der Europäischen Rechten: Geschichte, Kontinuitäten und Wandel, Wiesbaden 2011, pp. 281-294.

[21] Jacobsen, Hans-Adolf, Polen und Deutsche. Kontinuität und Wandel gegenseitiger Bilder im 20. Jahrhundert in: Süssmuth, Hans (Ed.), Deutschlandbilder in Polen und Russland, in der Tschechoslowakei und in Ungarn, Baden-Baden 1993, p. 159f.

[22] Pufelska, Agnieszka, Raub der Clio. Die polnische Geschichtspolitik und ihre Exekutoren in: Flierl, Thomas, Elfriede Müller (Eds.), Osteuropa- Schlachtfeld der Erinnerung, Berlin 2010, pp. 33-56; Meyer, Julia, Der totgeglaubte Held als TV-Event. Eine Studie zum gegenwärtigen Heldenbild in der Trilogie “Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter”, 2013; Logemann, Daniel, After the Conflict is before the Conflict? On the Debate over the Three-Part Miniseries Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter Shown on ZDF German Television, in: Cultures of History Forum, 2013.

 

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Author

PD Dr Agnieszka Pufelska

Published on March 27, 2020