Przyslala Rimma Kaul
The left should condemn Islamophobia, Trumpism, the Israeli government’s policies, and the congresswoman’s anti-Semitic comments.
On June 19, 1967, less than two weeks after the conclusion of the Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the great and (supposedly) good of communist Poland assembled for the Sixth Trade Union Congress. In a keynote speech, Władysław Gomułka, the country’s de facto leader, addressed the tiny minority of Polish Jews—many of them ardent socialists—who remained in the country:
Since the Israeli aggression on the Arab countries was met with applause in Zionist circles of Jews, Polish citizens, I wish to announce the following: We have made no difficulties for Polish citizens of Jewish descent when they wished to move to Israel. We maintain that every Polish citizen should have only one fatherland: People’s Poland. … Let those who feel these words are addressed to them, irrespective of their nationality, draw the proper conclusions. We do not want a fifth column to be created in our country.
At the time, my grandparents, who considered themselves Poles and had joined the Communist movement as teenagers in the hope of overcoming the racism they had faced in their ancestral shtetls, were living in the heart of Warsaw. My mother, who was only 20 years old, was a student at the local music conservatory. My uncle was still in high school.
In the months that followed Gomulka’s speech, my grandfather was expelled from the Communist Party and fired from his job. When my mother went to class one day, she discovered a placard telling her and two of her Jewish classmates to leave for Israel. My uncle was threatened and bullied. A police car took up its position outside my family’s building, projecting a bright spotlight at their apartment. Most of the remaining Jews in Poland experienced similar acts of state-sponsored harassment.
Heartbroken, my grandfather applied for an exit visa. The Polish government stipulated only two conditions for his family’s departure: He had to leave his passport and possessions behind. And he had to sign a declaration that he was voluntarily leaving Poland due to his supposed Zionist leanings.
Before the Holocaust, there had been over 3 million Jews in Poland. By 1967, there were 50,000. By the end of the 1960s, less than 500 remained.