Why this story matters:
On Sunday, several hundred people gathered at the Gdańsk Railway Station in Warsaw, where most of the expelled citizens left in 1968. The demonstration, whose slogan was "Truth and reconciliation / Solidarity in truth," was an expression of solidarity with the Polish Jews who had to leave 50 years ago. The organizers stressed that the demonstration was also a way to address the current diplomatic tensions between Poland and Israel.
Though powerful, this is not the only response that Poles have had to the new Holocaust bill. Fifty Polish Righteous Among the Nations penned and published an appeal for Polish-Jewish friendship in newspaper all over the world. In their letter, we read:
“We, the remaining living Righteous, representing the 6,850 Polish Righteous Among the Nations appeal to the governments and parliaments of Israel and Poland to return to the path of dialogue and reconciliation.
“We ask you not to re-write history. The worst tragedy in the history of our nations was written once and for all during the darkest hour of the Nazi German occupation, of which we are all still victims to this day.
“We do not consent to the escalation of the conflict between Jews and Poles that we are witnessing today.
Social media are also buzzing with the "Nie w moim imieniu" (Not in my name) campaign, which allows Poles to publicly distance themselves from their government's new law.
The most important organization dealing with Polish-Jewish dialogue in Poland has published "10 Steps towards Dialogue," a short guide to action for those who disagree with what is happening in Poland.
The fiftieth anniversary of March 1968 coincides with the hundredth anniversary of Poland's independance -- an important year. On one hand, we see an intensification of Polish antisemitism and a deterioration of Polish-Israeli relations. On the other, there are Poles who react, who face the demons of the past, who write letters and get involved.
Though the anniversary of the expulsion of Polish Jews in 1968 makes clear that the country is still not free from bias, in today's Poland resistance to intolerance is also on the rise.
What happened in Poland in March 68:
- In 1968, the communist authorities forbade Adam Mickiewicz's "Dziady" to appear in the National Theater for fear that the play would be come across as anti-Soviet propaganda.
- Students all over Poland responded by protesting against censorship.
- In response to the protests, the Polish authorities started an anti-Semitic campaign.
- The first secretary of the communist party in Poland, Władysław Gomułka, began to blame Jewish citizens for the agitation. Many Polish Jews and Poles of Jewish descent had to leave the country.