The Battle of Warsaw and Its Mixed Legacy for Polish Jewry

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.

Read more at Times of Israel

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

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy