Category Archive 'Antisemitism'

31 May 2012

Obama’s Polish Gaffe

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It is not really difficult to understand Poles being offended, when at the presentation of a posthumous American valor award for Jan Karski, a Polish officer who risked his life obtaining knowledge of the Holocaust and then carried that information to the Western Allies, President Barack Obama referred to Karski being “smuggled into a Polish death camp.”

The Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania served as homeland to the overwhelming majority of European Jewry for six centuries until that country was invaded, wiped from the map, and occupied by Prussia, Austria, and Russia at the end of the 18th century.

Jews lived for all those centuries in Poland-Lithuania as a self-governing estate under the protection of royal charters which granted Jews privileges and immunities nearly equal to those of the noble estate.

The witches’ brew of demagogic populist ideologies of the late 19th century, Socialism and Nationalism, impacted occupied Poland and Lithuania, as they did the rest of Central and Eastern Europe, dividing classes, ethnicities, and religious groups, but the so-often-alluded-to Polish antisemitism was far less virulent than elsewhere. During the Nazi-era persecution of the Jews, Poles themselves were on the receiving end of nearly equivalent scale murder and atrocities, but nevertheless Poles, like Karski, did much more on behalf of the Jews than citizens of any other occupied country.

Routine reference to “Polish death camps” by the ignorant and reflexively biased naturally deeply offend Poles.

Hat tip for the image above to Kaj Malachowski.

10 Feb 2007

Forthcoming Book by Jewish Historian Reported to Accept Blood Libel as True

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Repeating the blood libel, the accusation that Jews used human blood in religious rituals and performed human sacrifice, was a crime in Poland and Lithuania in the Middle Ages; while, in most of Europe, it was merely an opportunistic means of debt restructuring. After the rioting was over, Jewish moneylenders were dead or had vanished from the land, and no one, particularly the king, owed anybody anything.

Enlightened Christians, including Popes as early as Innocent IV (1195-1254) and Pope Gregory X (1271-1276) have consistently rejected the accusation as inconsistent with well known teachings of Judaism.

This week, however, several reports appeared indicating that a forthcoming book by Arial Toaff, professor of Jewish History at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and author of a number of previous well-received and respected titles on Jewish Life in Medieval Italy, gives credence to the legend.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Toaff’s latest book, soon to be published in Italy, is titled: Bloody Passovers: The Jews of Europe and Ritual Murders.

According to a review by Sergio Luzzatto, appearing in Corriere della Serra:

from 1100 to about 1500…several crucifixions of Christian children really happened, bringing about retaliations against entire Jewish communities – punitive massacres of men, women, children. Neither in Trent in 1475 nor in other areas of Europe in the late Middle Ages were Jews always innocent victims…

A minority of fundamentalist Ashkenazis…carried out human sacrifices.”

The Telegraph has a less informative report.

Washington Post.

The journalistic accounts reaching English readers make Toaff’s thesis sound extremely implausible and his reasoning unpersuasive. One is curious as to what the book actually says.


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