The Jews of Danzig, the City Where World War II Began

Sept. 4 2019

Following World War I, the formerly German port of Danzig (modern-day Gdansk, Poland) was made a “free city,” separated from Germany by a sliver of Polish territory. Adolf Hitler manufactured a conflict with Poland over this anomalous situation as a pretext for invading 80 years ago Sunday. Colin Shindler describes the situation of the city’s Jews at the time:

After the upheavals of the World War I, Danzig had become a temporary location for stateless and persecuted Jews, seeking a better life elsewhere. Many were encamped in a special transit facility on the city’s outskirts where they were helped by Danzig’s Jewish community. In the 1920s, some 60,000 homeless Jews passed through.

The Nazi virus, after infecting Weimar Germany, was soon exported to Danzig’s German citizens. . . . In May 1933, the Nazis won power in Danzig through a democratic election. . . . One tactic used by the Nazis was to create a split between the acculturated German-Jewish leadership and the [more] traditional Ostjuden from Poland. [Yet they refused] to denounce each other. Even so, by 1937, 3,000 Jews had left.

In October 1937, the local Nazis announced that they could not guarantee the rights of foreign-born Jews. A year later, Kristallnacht resulted in the burning down of two synagogues and the desecration of two others. . . . On January 2, 1939, laws excluding Jews from economic life and the professions came into force in Danzig. Deportations began shortly afterward.

When war broke out on September 1, German troops seized Danzig in a matter of hours:

The following day, the Nazis established the first concentration camp outside German borders at Stutthof, 30 miles from Danzig. It was also the last camp to be liberated by the Allies, on May 9, 1945. Over 60,000 died there in the intervening period—half of them Jews.

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Read more at Colin Shindler

More about: Holocaust, Kristallnacht, Polish Jewry, World War II

What to Expect from the Israeli Election

Sept. 16 2019

Tomorrow Israelis go to the polls for the second election of 2019, in which the two main contenders will be the Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and the centrist Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. Neither party is likely to have an easy path to forming the 61-seat Knesset majority needed to form a government, a reality that has affected both parties’ campaigns. Haviv Rettig Gur explains how the anomalous political situation has led to something very different from the contest between left-wing and right-wing “blocs” of parties predicted by most analysts, and examines the various possible outcomes:

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Avigdor Liberman, Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics