The Statute of Kalisz is issued by the monarch, granting Jews legal protection.
Poland becomes the leading center of Jewish life in Europe. The Jewish community thrives and grows in size and influence.
Poland becomes a center of new Jewish cultural and spiritual movements, like Hasidism and the Haskalah (Jewish enlightenment).
Poland regains independence after World War I. Jews are granted equal rights as citizens while antisemitic parties grow in influence. They are among the thousands who perished in pogroms instigated by Polish, Ukrainian and Russian civilians and military forces. Jewish life and culture flourish: schools, youth movements, sports clubs, theatre, cinema, literature and the press develop exponentially to meet the needs of the growing Jewish population.
Nazi Germany invades Poland beginning World War II. During the German occupation some three million Polish Jews are killed systematically and industrially in death camps, ghettos and execution sites, amounting to 90% of the prewar Jewish community.
The Cold War and Sovietization of Poland intensify. Jewish organizations are disbanded or placed under strict communist party control. Israeli diplomats negotiate an agreement allowing 30,000 Polish Jews to move to Israel.
Disillusioned with socialism and attracted by a life in Israel, combined with growing local antisemitism, 50,000 Jews exploit the post-Stalinist opening of the country to leave Poland.
The Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors takes place with an overwhelming victory for the Jewish state. The Polish People’s Republic and other states of the Warsaw Pact (with the exception of Romania) broke all diplomatic relations with Israel and condemned the “Zionist aggression.”
“We believe that every Polish citizen should have only one homeland – the Polish People’s Republic. (…) The fifth column is not welcome in Poland,” declared Gomułka in his nationally broadcast speech. The statement led to a series of anti-Semitic purges in the Polish army and media. Mieczysław Moczar, the Minister of the Interior and a key figure in the nationalist faction of the communist party, was one of the main orchestrators of the campaign. General Moczar directed authorities to identify and investigate “covert Zionists” in Poland, stating, “Comrades, we are preparing ourselves, but the Party must make the decision.”
Poland initiates it’s “anti-Zionist campaign” which forces most of the remaining Jewish community into exile.
Students across Poland protest the Communist regime’s increasingly repressive policies, sparking a government crackdown on dissent. Students from all academic centers in Poland organize rallies and marches, brutally quenched by the government.
During a Communist Party meeting that was broadcast on national radio and television, Gomułka delivered a lengthy diatribe against the protesting youth and what he deemed as “disruptive intellectualism”. He emphasized the danger posed to the country by supposed “Jewish cosmopolites” and “Zionists”.
The regime put all its efforts into the struggle against the alleged enemies of the state, taking advantage of smear tactics developed in the Stalinist era. Television and radio stations, popular newspapers, posters, banners, and slogans painted on the walls of major cities all vilified “Zionists”. Tens of thousands of gatherings were arranged, ranging from large marches attended by 100,000 people to small meetings held in individual workplaces, where aggressive anti-Semitic propaganda was disseminated.
The Communist Party Central Committee’s Politburo decided to dismiss a number of ministers and vice-ministers from the government on the basis of their Jewish heritage, which worsened the ongoing anti-Semitic campaign. The Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were directed to “prepare instructions for Polish citizens of Jewish descent who want to leave the country”, effectively starting the Jewish exodus from Poland.
Following the Politburo’s decision to remove ministers and vice-ministers of Jewish heritage, the Security Service created guidelines to distinguish between Jews and Poles. The government claimed that the voluntary migration of Jewish citizens was occurring for propaganda purposes, but it was actually a covert method of deportation. Instead of using physical force, the authorities employed more subtle tactics, exerting psychological and financial pressure on the “enemies of the state.” Polish Jews were fired from their jobs, denied access to higher education, and subjected to systematic state-sponsored harassment and blackmail.
Between 1968 and 1971, more than 15,000 Polish Jews were forced to leave their country, and were required to renounce their Polish citizenship, rendering them stateless. Their belongings were confiscated before they departed. Most emigrants relocated to Scandinavia, Israel, North America, and Western Europe. The campaign had a significant impact on Polish science and culture, with many intellectuals departing, including 500 academic workers, 200 journalists, 100 musicians, actors & filmmakers.
Over several months, Gomułka had been coming to the realization that the antisemitic campaign was getting out of hand.
During party meetings, officials were openly advocating for the expulsion of Jews without the knowledge or consent of their superiors. This posed a serious threat to the stability of the political system.
In response, at the Assembly Committee on June 24, 1968, Gomułka denounced the campaign, stating, “Enough, Comrades! From this moment on, I forbid you to talk and write about Zionism.”
However, Gomułka did neither explicitly condemn anti-Semitism nor acknowledge the enormous harm being inflicted on the country’s Jewish population. As a result, the persecution and emigration of Jews continued.
Fall of Communism in Poland, leading to a gradual opening of Jewish life and culture.