Letter from Akiva Kohane, Director of American Joint Distribution Committee Office (JDC) in Poland in July 1968 to New York Headquarters

July 1, 1968

To : Mr. Louis D. Horwitz

From : Akiva Kohane

Re : Report on Poland – based on visit to Vienna June 25 and 26, 1968.

GENERAL MOOD. The general mood of the Jewish population has not charged. The ceaseless anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist propaganda continues. It has not gotten any easier in Warsaw, but it got much worse in the provincial places. Those Jews who have survived on their Jobs until now – because the jobs were small ones, because they were specialists, because they were considered “indispensable” are now being fired. Their superiors are not even trying to explain to then they are being terminated, and the majority of the victims are not oven asking for the reasons. 

Those who are asking are getting a very simple answer — “Zionist activities,” A high official in the Foreign Ministry got an answer that at a meeting of the Basic Party Cell, he was not vehement enough when he was asked about Israeli aggression. A lady who had worked in the Polish Academy of Science (PAN) for over twenty years, asked for the reason why she was fired, and the official told her that when the Six Day War was discussed, she had a “glimmer in her eye.” (I would not believe this fantastic story, but two very reliable people told it to me, and I know the person who lost her job.)

There are still some Jews in governmental jobs, such as Mr.  Kotlicki in the Ministry of Finance. Nobody expects them to last long in their Jobs. They are still needed, either to prepare successors to take over their job as soon as possible or to help remove other Jews from their jobs. An example is the case of Mr.R, who was chief of a department in the Ministry of Health. Nobody (or so he thought) knew that he was Jewish. One day the representative of the Party asked him for a list of Jewish people in his office. Nolens volens, he had to give it to them. Nolens volens, he had to give it to them. Weeks later, the representative of the Party asked him whether he “would not be kind enough to fill out again his personal papers.” During the last twenty years he has been transferred from one office to another, always using his assumed name and not indicating that he is Jewish. With the present witch-hunt against the Jews, ha was afraid that they may have discovered it. He filled out the document truthfully and was immediately fired.

Fiszgrund openly told Felhendler that in the end he would be fired in the same way as anybody else, who was fired with Felhendler’s help. Probably by now Felhendler knows it.

What is the situation of the people who have lost their Jobs and who have not been expelled from the Party? A committee has been established in the Central Committee of the Party, for “re-employment of people who have been removed from their job.” Similar committees exist on regional levels. From a formal point of view, it looks almost “decent.” De facto, it is a parody. The above-mentioned ex-high official in the Foreign Ministry was sent by the Committee to fill a desk job at a factory. When he came to the factory, the personnel officer asked for his papers and then asked him, “Are you a Zionist?” The man answered, “I didn’t come to discuss politics with you. I have been sent by the Party for a job.” He was told that he would get an answer within seven days and that he would be assigned to a position in the factory. Within three days he got a letter informing him that there is no position in the factory. He returned again to Commitee for placement, and was sent to a second factory. He was accepted for a job. However, after ten days he was fired at the request of the Basic Party Unit (P.K.P.) in the factory. (It was very “democratic.” There was a meeting. The new worker was present; he listened to accusations about his anti-State and Zionist subversive activities; he answered that all this was a lie and fiction, provided proof, after which came a unanimous vote firing him from the Job.) He didn’t go back to the Committee any more for another Job. He applied to the Dutch Embassy for a visa to Israel.

The wife of the famous Professor Bross, after being fired from her job, was assigned to a small clerk’s job from which she was also fired on the demand of the Basic Party Unit.

The chicanery of the authorities extends even to those who have been fired a decade ago. So, for instance, former Vice Prime Minister Berman has been evicted from his apartment which he had occupied since the old days and was ordered to move to a small one-room apartment. The same thing is happening to most people who were removed from their job after Gomulka came to power twelve years ago. More people are being fired from their jobs and from the Party – among them Mr. Gitler-Barski, a leading member of the JDC staff in Poland in the post-war period and later director of the largest factory in Poland – obviously enough, for Zionist activities.

NOWOGRODZKA 5: Our driver informed me that he was interrogated by the Security people many times, from morning until evening. He was asked about Mr. Jordan, Mr. Braude, Alberstein, and the undersigned. They showed him a number of pictures made by the Security people where we have all been together (including one showing Jordan, Slobodkin and me visiting a restaurant on the Schneekoppe, a place which Mr. Jordan wanted to visit as he spent his honeymoon there), and asked him what we talked about. He gave them the truthful answer that he doesn’t know what we talked about, as we always spoke in English. The driver also had difficulty in receiving his passport, and from his former friends in the Security he learned that the difficulties were made by Felhendler. The driver’s interpretation of the reason why Felhendler made the difficulties is that he was afraid he would meet with JDC people and tell them “secrets.”

The cooperatives still exist, but in addition to the fact which I have already mentioned of the change in the chairmen and blocking of the account, a number of machines have been marked for removal from our cooperatives to other non-Jewish production centers. Irrespective of those steps, nobody harbors any hopes that the cooperatives can continue for long, as practically all of the remaining Jewish chairmen, as well as many of the Jewish members, intend to emigrate. (We have already received communications from a number of them requesting help.)

According to the people who have come out of Poland, they believe that the FOLKSSTIMME will not continue for long, and there will be no new books published by the “Yiddish Buch.”

EMIGRATION. The difficulties and chicanery indicated in my previous report still continue. The ten-days validity stateless travel document which the emigrants are receiving are being consumed by the customs officials to such a degree that emigrants don’t have even enough time to say good-bye to their friends (which may be one of the intentions). Documents and private papers are being confiscated. (So, for instance, the customs officials took from Professor Baumann the manuscripts of his two prepared but not yet published books.)

A number of people who were in top positions but had not applied for emigration, for psychological and prestige reasons, are now ready to apply.

In June 178 Jews arrived from Poland in Vienna. It is expected that the July figure will be much higher.


(Source: JDC Archives)