One in five Poles say that it is a good thing that the Second World War led to fewer Jews living in Poland, according to a new study, published to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day:
The survey also revealed that certain antisemitic stereotypes remain widespread in Poland, and that many Poles’ knowledge about the Holocaust is limited.
The survey was conducted by CBOS, a state-linked pollster, as part of a project on the Polish social memory of Auschwitz run by scholars at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków and financed by the National Science Centre (NCN), a Polish state body for funding academic research.
The study revealed that certain negative attitudes towards Jews are still present in Poland. For instance, 19% of the respondents agreed with the statement that “war is a horrible thing, but it is good that it resulted in fewer Jews in Poland”. A large majority, 71%, disagreed, however…
Meanwhile, 11% of respondents supported the statement that “Jews had so many troubles during the war because God punished them for crucifying Christ”. A majority (55%) agreed that today “Jews have too much influence in the world” and 28% that “Jews have too much influence on Polish political life”.
The findings echo an international study on antisemitism published in 2019, in which 56% of Poles said that Jews have “too much power” in business and finance. Attitudes classified as anti-Jewish were more common in Poland than in any of the other 17 countries surveyed.
The new CBOS data also confirm previous findings showing gaps in Polish public knowledge about the Holocaust. For example, almost 20% of respondents claimed that more Poles died at Auschwitz than Jews, reports the Polish Press Agency (PAP).
In fact, while around 70,000 ethnic Poles died at the camp, Jews – one million of whom died at Auschwitz – made up over 90% of its victims. Just over half of those surveyed by CBOS correctly stated that more Jews were killed there than Poles.
Only 11% of Poles were able to correctly identify the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust (around 6 million). Over 40% significantly underestimated the number of Polish Jews that died during the war, notes OKO.press.
“Poles generally do not know how many Jews died in the Holocaust,” Kucia told Catholic news agency KAI. But “almost all share the universalist meaning of Auschwitz as a symbol of total evil, a symbol of genocide”.
The researchers also asked about the role Poles played during Holocaust. They found that over 80% of Poles believe that their compatriots helped Jews “as much as they could”, while only 14% admitted that they could have done more.
Commenting on the findings, Kucia noted that “few Poles today deny the complicity of our ancestors in the extermination of the Jews…but half [try to] justify complicity in the Holocaust”.
The study found that exactly 50% believe that Polish involvement in the killing of Jews happened “only under duress and fear of the Germans”. Over 60% said that they get angry when someone speaks about wartime crimes committed by Poles against Jews, notes Kucia.
“These are not surprising results,” the sociologist told OKO.press. “They show how Poles perceive themselves as a nation of righteous people.”
Jews are wont to claim that antisemitism is caused by ignorance — allegedly only people who have never had encounters with actual Jews hold these negative views of them.
The problem with this theory of antisemitism is that Poland had the largest population of Jews in all of Europe — and Poles, more than any other people, have more experience living and interacting with Jews than any other people — and it is that centuries of experience that has led them to hold such wide-spread “antisemitic” views.
As Mark Twain once observed, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”
The same can be said of White Southerners who had much more experience living among Blacks than White Northerners — and yet Southerns were accused of being racist out of “ignorance”.
But Jews should be encouraged by the results of this survey — in that Poles are not more antisemitic than they apparently are — if anyone has reason to be antisemitic, surely the Poles do — considering that Jews are still trying to extort money out of them for not only “collaborating” with the “Nazis” to “murder Jews”, but also for property they allegedly lost under the Jewish-dominated communist regime.
Despite all that, most Poles — perhaps because they are a Christian people — are willing to let bygones be bygones — an attitude you’ll rarely find among “Never forgive-Never forget” Jews.
And contrary to the unflattering results of this survey — other surveys have shown that Jews have an overall favorable view of life in Poland for Jews — and Poland is more popular than ever as a tourist destination for Israelis — who are not going to Poland to visit Auschwitz.
There seems to be more to this “antisemitism thing” than meets the eye.