[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-Poland]: Sliwa on Trębacz, 'Nie tylko Palestyna: Polskie plany emigracyjne wobec Żydów 1935-1939'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Tue Dec 17 20:16:12 MST 2019

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
Date: Tue, Dec 17, 2019 at 9:19 PM
Subject: H-Net Review [H-Poland]: Sliwa on Trębacz, 'Nie tylko Palestyna:
Polskie plany emigracyjne wobec Żydów 1935-1939'
To: <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.org>

Zofia Trębacz.  Nie tylko Palestyna: Polskie plany emigracyjne
wobec Żydów 1935-1939.  Warsaw  Żydowski Instytut Historyczny im.
Emanuela Ringelbluma, 2018.  384 pp.  $12.49 (paper), ISBN

Reviewed by Joanna Sliwa (Conference on Jewish Material Claims
Against Germany - Claims Conference)
Published on H-Poland (December, 2019)
Commissioned by Anna Muller

Published in 2018, the year that marked the centennial of Poland's
independence, Zofia Trębacz's book, _Nie tylko Palestyna: Polskie
plany emigracyjne wobec Żydów 1935-1939 _(Not only Palestine:
Polish emigration plans toward Jews, 1935-1939) pushes readers to
reevaluate their understanding of interwar Poland. As the subtitle of
the book suggests, the study explores the plans of the Polish
government to solve "the Jewish question" through the mass emigration
of Jews. While Trębacz refers to earlier years, her focus is on
1935-39. The significance of 1935 onward, as Trębacz explains, lies
in the death of Marshall Józef Piłsudski, a speech made by Prime
Minister Felicjan Sławoj Składkowski giving his tacit approval to
anti-Jewish measures, the upheaval caused by the economic crisis, and
a turn in national politics. Trębacz's exploration ends obviously
with 1939, when Germany overran Poland and introduced its "Final
Solution to the Jewish Question."

A multilayered study, _Nie tylko Palestyna_ deals with Poland's
history as it concerned the self-understanding of Poland in the
interwar period and the country's position on the world stage. Key to
fulfilling that national and nationalist identity, Trębacz shows,
involved blaming "the other" (Jews) for the ills plaguing Poland and
purging the country of the perceived enemy through emigration. "The
arguments against Jews were not original, but what was new was the
certitude and unambiguity of the statements and the willingness to
bestow upon the Jewish question the rank of a concrete political
problem, in need of an immediate solution," Trębacz explains (p.
25). Was emigration a tool to solve internal problems? Or, was
emigration the goal itself? Trębacz asks these questions but
refrains from providing one answer, preferring instead to steer the
reader to see the complexities inherent in each scenario. While
posing a question without providing an answer may work in one case,
the repetitive use of such a device throughout the book is less

Trębacz masterfully shows the various individuals and entities
(government, lay, and religious) who had a stake in not only pushing
Jews out of Poland but also conducting the search for a viable
destination. Africa, South America, Central Asia, or Palestine--these
options floated around. The amount of detail about the various actors
involved in the process is both impressive and dizzying. What becomes
clear is that the Jewish question rested with a range of Polish state
ministries and organizations, among them the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and the Marine and Colonial League. It relied on the input of
academics, thinkers, and travelers who conducted their expeditions.
The church, too, had a role to play by engaging in and disseminating
antisemitic propaganda that exculpated Christian Poles from their
support for embracing antisemitism and the mass emigration project.
Interestingly, the project aimed to involve the Polish Diaspora in
South America in advertising the merits of Jews' immigration to
countries on that continent. International Jewish organizations, too,
had a role to play in this endeavor, especially when the Polish side
presented the emigration of Jews from Poland as a positive response
to the Jews' worsening situation--conditions created by the Polish
government itself. Trębacz illustrates how the government-sanctioned
and socially approved program to drive Jews out of Poland was a joint

_Nie tylko Palestyna_ is also a study about imagining Poland.
Trębacz outlines the path to fulfilling the fantasy about Poland
free of "the other" and the perceived source of all national, social,
and economic problems--the Jews. With the departure of Jews, their
jobs and property would benefit the only legitimate inhabitants of
Poland: the ethnic, Catholic, Poles. Or so the promise and vision
went. If inventing a new Poland was promoted in the domestic realm,
that dream was also pursued on the international arena. For that, the
Polish government strove to forge connections and solicit cooperation
among various countries, in particular France. Therefore, _Nie tylko
Palestyna_ offers a transnational perspective that contextualizes the
history and politics of various countries and regions through
interests furthered by Poland. Poland, which itself had been
partitioned thrice and disappeared from the map for 123 years to
reemerge after the collapse of empires, voiced its own imperial
aspirations. Trębacz explains that colonies, or rather mandates,
that Poland demanded on the world stage would make up for lost time
and opportunities as a result of the partitions, embody the national
grandeur that the country strove for, offer a solution to an unwanted
minority (Jews), and provide compensation that Poland believed it

_Nie tylko Palestyna_ paints a grim picture of Poland on the brink of
another world war. Poland was among the countries that espoused a
closed-door policy on immigration. The infamous _Polenaktion_ (Polish
Action) in the course of which Nazi Germany expelled about seventeen
thousand Polish Jews was a direct result of Poland's antisemitic
agenda and fear of a possible return of persecuted Jews from Greater
Germany to their country of birth. As Trębacz shows, Poland
continued to express interest in finding ways to get rid of its own
Jews even as anti-Jewish persecution raged in Nazi Germany. The
labeling of Jews as the enemy and source of all evil in Poland and
the country's determination to solve the problem through finding a
place for Jewish Poles outside Poland shaped Polish responses to the
Holocaust. Therefore, Trębacz's book is an essential read for anyone
who studies Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust.

The significance of the study is obvious, but some of the
shortcomings of the book merit attention. While the book is grounded
in an impressive wealth of primary and secondary source material,
archival sources about the activities of American Jewish
organizations in the context of Poland's efforts to decrease the
Jewish population through mass emigration are missing. Some of the
glaring omissions include American Jewish Committee Archives and the
JDC Archives. In the case of the latter, Trębacz devotes
considerable attention to the JDC's favorable response to the Polish
government's idea but cites only a secondary study. Trębacz briefly
refers to Vladimir Jabotinsky and the Jewish emigration movement that
he promoted but does not address how young people in particular
responded to the Polish government's plans. Here, the author could
have drawn upon Daniel Kupfert Heller's book,_ Jabotinsky's Children:
Polish Jews and the Rise of Right-Wing Zionism_ (2017). Trębacz also
refers to the Fourth Aliyah. Magdalena Wrobel's book, _Social
Networks and the Jewish Migration between Poland and Palestine,
1924-1928_ (2013), could have contextualized that emigration wave as
well as the phenomenon of a return to Poland from Palestine. Did
reverse emigration influence the Polish government's pursuits later
on? From the outset, Trębacz indicates that repetitions are both
inevitable and deliberate. Perhaps more careful editing could have
eliminated such urging and thus made the narrative more compact.

Without a doubt, _Nie tylko Palestyna_ is an important contribution
to the field of Polish history, Jewish history, and migration
studies. The book has received a nomination for the prestigious
POLITYKA Historical Award for 2019 in the category of popular and
scholarly debuts. The subject of the book is a timely one, too. It
offers a key lens onto the current debates in Poland about
nationalism, victimization, and attempts to deal with those deemed
the "other."

Citation: Joanna Sliwa. Review of Trębacz, Zofia, _Nie tylko
Palestyna: Polskie plany emigracyjne wobec Żydów 1935-1939_.
H-Poland, H-Net Reviews. December, 2019.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=54823

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States

Best regards,

Andrew Stewart

More information about the Marxism mailing list