The Battle of Warsaw and Its Mixed Legacy for Polish Jewry

Aug. 20 2020

On August 16, 1920, the Red Army stood just outside Warsaw, ready to take the city, hoping that thereafter it could advance on Berlin and perhaps even Paris. But in one of the great military reversals of modern history—the so-called miracle on the Vistula—the Polish leader Jozef Pilsudski achieved a dramatic victory against the Soviets, after which his forces succeeded in pushing them out of Poland and parts of what is now Ukraine and Belarus. He thus saved the world’s second-largest Jewish community, numbering over 300,000 souls, from Soviet repression. But, writes Joshua D. Zimmerman, this was hardly a great moment for Polish Jewry:

The significance of the Polish victory for the fate of Europe and the world is not in dispute. But for Polish Jews, there was a dark side to this story of the Battle of Warsaw. On the day Pilsudski ordered the counter-offensive from his post 70 miles south of Warsaw—August 16, 1920—the country’s minister of war, Kazimierz Sosnkowski, ordered the internment of Jewish soldiers, officers, and volunteers in the Polish Army at a camp in Jabłonna, fourteen miles north of the capital. The order made reference to “the continuous increase in cases testifying to the harmful activities of the Jewish element” attesting to alleged pro-Bolshevik sympathies. Some Poles protested, including the country’s deputy prime minister, Ignacy Daszyński, who called the order shameful and demanded the Jewish inmates’ immediate release and return to active duty.

Jewish members of the Polish parliament expressed outrage, writing to Sosnkowski on August 19, 1920, that “such orders instill the conviction that Jews are enemies of the state.” The Jewish camp inmates, who numbered around 3,000 by the end of August, were not accused of any crime. Nonetheless, they appeared to have the status of prisoners.

When Sosnkowski ordered the release of all Jewish soldiers at Jabłonna on September 9, 1920—23 days after their confinement—an estimated 17,680 inmates emerged. No deaths or injuries were reported.

At a parliamentary session held on October 29, 1920, the Zionist deputy, Yitzhak Gruenbaum, turned to Sosnkowski and demanded an explanation. . . . Sosnkowski unapologetically continued that reports of Polish Jewish soldiers laying down their arms and joining the Bolsheviks forced his hands. The parliamentary minutes show that Gruenbaum interjected, asking him to provide the name of a single Jewish soldier who was reported to have committed such an act of treason. The minister of war was silent, unable to recall any specific case.

While the Jewish prisoners were treated relatively well—and certainly better than those who found themselves in Soviet gulags—the incident undermined Jewish confidence in the newborn Polish state, and foreshadowed Poland’s increasingly anti-Semitic policies of the 1930s.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Anti-Semitism, Poland, Polish Jewry, Soviet Union

 

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism