By William Markiewicz
I assisted in a conversation of two Poles; one sustained that Poland is not anti-Semitic and the other sustained that it is. The discussion was very emotional as usually happens with topics about national characteristics. I found that the question was wrongly put; anti-Semitism is not like some mysterious sickness that may come and go but reaction to very real situations which could be avoided but mostly are not.
Contrary to America, and perhaps Australia, Europe and Asia are composed of rather homogenous countries. Africa, which is somewhat tribal, suffers the consequences of Colonialism which arbitrarily changed its frontiers and put tribes together that didn't want to be joined. This has provoked big frictions up to today. Europe and Asia, particularly the latter, were not continents made by immigrants. Therefore, interior ethnic peace prevailed. As for America and Australia, they mostly progressed as mixed populations from the beginning so color, more than any other differences, may be a tension point.
Poland, has its immigration traditions and the way particular cases were handled resulted or not in consecutive conflicts. The first example that comes to mind: there was relatively extensive German immigration to Poland. They were numerous enough to revolt. After being beaten by Polish King Boleslaw the Valiant, they assimilated quite fast with the Polish population because religion was, and remains, the greatest binder among people, more than origin, culture and race. To prove what I've stated: Serbs and Croats are two people of the same origin and language but different religion – Orthodox and Catholic -- which gave them enough motivation to hate each other. There are mixed couples who live very well together. For mixed societies it's more difficult. The bloody religious wars in Europe were among people of the same blood but religious differences were enough to fight almost to extinction. Going to Asia, Iraq, one people, one language, and even one religion, but different sects were enough to kill each other.
Returning to Europe and particularly to Poland, avoiding mixture of different populations was the best insurance for peace because homogenous populations don't like to mix. So, various types of immigration provoked frictions or not. The most successful was the German one previously quoted: total assimilation. The other way of successful immigration was homogenous settlements, where people lived undisturbed and not disturbing others. I remember the case of one German Protestant settlement not far away from the German frontier. They stayed to themselves and their mayor was simultaneously mayor and minister of the church. I'm sorry I don't remember the name of the place or of their leader. When Nazis invaded Poland, they entered the village and ordered the Mayor/Minister to ring the church bells. He refused, saying that he was a Pole and he would not be ringing bells for invaders. He was shot for treason. As I said, I don't know his name or village and a few years ago when I was editor/publisher of Polish Canadian Courier, I honored the memory of this heroic Pole on Kurier's pages when marking the anniversary of the war. In the remote past, Polish kings hired Tartar ordes to guard the Polish frontiers from the Teutonic Knights' marauding troops. The King didn't have enough money to pay them so he gave them land for villages. They are still there. They don't disturb and are not disturbed; only a few tourists visit. The same happened with a few Czech villages, Mennonite villages in the east, Armenian and perhaps Hungarian villages existed in Poland. I don't mention Ukrainians because they were not immigrants, but locals. In general, they were distant enough from each other to not disturb or be disturbed. It is an example of successful pacific immigration which doesn't provoke antagonisms.
The groups that chose the more difficult form of immigration were the Jews and the Gypsies. The Gypsies, due to their mobility, were not particularly welcomed but not globally pursued despite their different culture, habits, and not the friendliest relationship with the other populations. The mobility and relatively small number of groups or tribes, made the organization of self-defense practically impossible. They paid for this in misery and, during Nazi times, in genocide.
Regarding the Jews, they didn't prepare a welcome mat for themselves. They became simultaneously intermixed and separated – the worst of solutions. They didn't create their own villages or settlements to stay inside like the others, but entered, massively, villages, small towns and cities created by others. They remained totally different, religiously, culturally, linguistically . . . a very uncomfortable situation for all. It is not only true for Poland; the wandering Jews throughout Europe never created something of their own but always looked for a crowd of others, with uncomfortable and dangerous consequences. Still, Europe was full of forests, mountains, plains where people could settle without being jammed in with others. If they'd acted like those Moors in Valais, like those Djebel Druze in Lebanon, anti-Semitism would probably never have existed. "Keep yourself away from strangers" is the best formula for stable peace. The Jews throughout Europe were enclosed in ghettoes too nearby their powerful enemies, a terrible solution because it excluded the possibility of self-defense, separated, yes, but also, strategically and militarily unable to defend themselves. The wishy-washy relationship between strong and weak, no matter how long it lasts, is never a stable situation. It's like building houses on earthquake grounds. Breathing space, living space, is the best guarantee for world peace as all the animals and all the dwellers in the Darwinian Universe should know.Back to the index of the Vagabond