Poland between the two world wars was an independent country which. in theory, guaranteed its Jews and other minorities equal rights in a constitution drawn up after World War One. In 1931 there were about 3.1 million Jews in Poland, accounting for about 10% of the population. Warsaw itself had around 350,000 Jews, who comprised about one third of the city's population. Most Jews were lower middle class; the typical Jew was a craftsman, shoemaker, baker, tailor or worked in a shop. Some Jews belonged to the wealthier, upper middle class and would have been doctors, lawyers or civil servants.

As the 1930s progressed, against a backdrop of economic crisis, the Polish government became increasingly anti-Semitic. It sought to exclude Jews from those parts of the economy where they were most active through a series of laws restricting Jews in the workplace. It also actively encouraged Jews to emigrate from Poland. Some did leave - for America, Palestine or other places - but immigration quotas made this difficult In some instances, pogroms broke out, which increased this pressure.

During the 1930s, Jewish cultural and political activity was very highly developed and the different parties, such as the Zionists, Jewish Socialists, and the Ultra-Orthodox, competed for support.

In the 1936 internal Jewish election, the most successful party was the Bund, which was Socialist and anti-Zionist Previously in this period, the Zionist parties had done very well, not so much by promoting Aliyah as by presenting the idea of Jewry in national terms, but the British quota on immigration and internal bickering within the various Zionist parties had made the Zionist position less attractive. The Bund, however, with its policy of fighting anti-Semitism together with the Polish socialists and of promoting secular Yiddish culture, received increasing support. This policy was known as "Dohkeit" meaning "Hereness", as they wished to deal with the Jewish question in Poland, rather than in any other country.

 
 

 

 

 

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13 Jul 2005 / 6 Tamuz 5765 0