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  • Polish National Antisemitism
  • Ireneusz Krzemiński (bio)

In 2016 I published the results of three surveys, two on antisemitism and xenophobia in Poland and one on antisemitism and xenophobia in Ukraine, in Polin 29. The first of these was conducted in 1992, at the very start of Poland's turn to democracy. The second, conducted ten years later in 2002, coincided with the end of the transition to democracy and just before Poland's acceptance into the European Union. Shortly afterwards, in 2003, thanks to a grant from the Polish Committee of Scientific Research, we conducted a comparative study in Ukraine.1

I now present the conclusions of a fourth survey, conducted in Poland a decade later in 2012 and representing a time when democracy was supposedly being consolidated.2 This survey reveals some optimistic changes in Poles' behaviour and attitudes towards Jews and 'Others' in general. It shows, however, some very disturbing features. These would be felt some years later when the right-wing, nationalist-Catholic Law and Justice Party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość; PiS) won the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015. This new material adds to the picture that emerged from the previous surveys, but other features are evident as well. We were unable to repeat the survey in Ukraine because of the outbreak of social protest and the occupation of Maidan in Kiev in 2013.

In this chapter I present the key arguments and conclusions on antisemitism in Poland, as well as on 'Polish antisemitism' (in the context, of course, of a more general discussion on xenophobia and national stereotypes). My views were outlined in the earlier article, but I now expand and justify them. This chapter essentially [End Page 515] falls into two parts: in the first part I show the changes that have taken place in Polish attitudes to Jews; in the second, I discuss new developments and theories as well as providing justifications for them.

The field work of the 2012 survey, as previously, was carried out by the Social Research Workshop in Sopot. This ensured that the sample was as similar as possible to those of the earlier studies, although it was slightly larger: 1,201, compared with 1,011 in 1992 and 1,098 in 2002.

The survey was conducted by recording respondents' replies on a laptop. The questionnaire was long and involved, so some of the respondents were remunerated. This undoubtedly led to a more effective completion of the study. At the end of the questionnaire we included questions for both those surveyed and those conducting the survey. To the question 'Was the questionnaire interesting?' the most popular response was 'on the whole yes', although there were almost as many 'definitely yes' responses. To 'Did it cover important issues?' 30 per cent of respondents said that it 'most definitely' had, with only 7 per cent saying it 'most definitely' hadn't.3 Thus a substantial majority of respondents acknowledged the issues of Polish–Jewish relations, antisemitism, national convictions, and impressions of other nations to be sensitive matters. Despite this, 72 per cent of respondents reacted positively to the survey. The fears of some of the researchers that it would arouse resistance were not realized: respondents helped willingly.

A substantial block of questions remained unchanged from the earlier surveys, and a number of questions from the 1992 survey that had been dropped in 2002 were reintroduced. These questions reflected changes in social reality. New questions in the survey dealt with new phenomena. We added queries from our younger colleagues at the University of Warsaw's Centrum Badań nad Uprzedzeniami (Center for Research on Prejudice). We also added questions that we had decided against using in the first survey, on the issue of ritual murder, as the subject was being discussed in academic work and the media.

antisemitism and its determinants

The chapter in Polin 29 describes in detail how we defined antisemitic attitudes, so I will only briefly summarise that here. We distinguished between two types of antisemitism, based on how it was justified. The first type, 'traditional antisemitism', was justified by traditional religious stereotypes, including the charge that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus Christ. The second...


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