Customer Reviews: Poland's Threatening Other: The Image of the Jew from 1880 to the Present
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on December 5, 2014
To correct the countless errors and partial-facts of this book would require a book in itself. (For more details, see the first Comment). I can only touch on a few matters in this single review.

The author's Judeocentric bias goes to ludicrous extremes. Joanna Beata Michlic specifically and openly rejects explanations of anti-Semitism in terms of objective contextual factors. (e. g, p. 12). To Michlic, Jews are simply objects of perceptions, and never flesh-and-blood humans who interact with their environment. All she has is a simplistic dialectic, where Poles are the bad guys and Jews are never more than victims. Michlic's trash-the-Poles mindset would have the reader believe that Poles only have the right to say flattering things about Jews, while Jews can say whatever they want about Poles. How dare those rascally Poles disagree with Jewish attitudes and actions! By what audacity do the Poles stand up for their own nation?


The very title of this book is vacuous. The informed reader realizes that, historically, Jews always thought themselves as the "other", and spared no efforts to emphasize their alien-ness. For thousands of years, Jews lived in self-imposed apartheid, and strove not to become contaminated by the ways of the GOYIM. In the 19th century, as Jewish religion declined, Jewish religious-based separatism gave way to an even stronger, politicized separatism--based on Zionism, the Yiddishist movement, etc.

Michlic complains that the Endeks thought that Jewish culture was too old and too developed to ever become part of Polish culture. (e. g, p. 53, 63, 66). However, she fails to mention that many Jews also contended that Polish culture is younger than, and inferior to, Jewish culture, and otherwise unworthy of the Jews.

The author consistently leaves out facts that are inconvenient to her position. For instance, she dwells on the fact that pre-Endeks and Endeks thought of Jews as unassimilable, and especially that Endeks were arguing that assimilation did not necessarily transform Jews into Poles. However, she fails to mention the fact that many Jews thought likewise. Some Jews even supported the premise of a Jewish essentialism that survives assimilation and even conversion, thereby unavoidably making Jews the perpetual "other" and even "threatening other". For instance, please click on, and read my detailed review (January 2, 2015) of You Gentiles.

Joanna Michlic's understanding, of the implications of the assimilation process itself, is no better. She skirts around the fact that Jews assimilated and converted for a variety of motives, including self-advancement and opportunism, and not in order to stop being the "other" to Poles.


While admitting that there is no sharp line between civic nationalism and ethnonationalism (p. 282), Michlic harps on the Endeks as ethno-nationalists because they (generally) did not embrace assimilated Polish Jews as fellow Poles. The case of poet Julian Tuwim is instructive. Michlic portrays him as some kind of poor victim of Polish intolerance. Notwithstanding the fact that Tuwim was completely assimilated to Polish culture, and had even severed all ties to Judaism, he ALSO opined that assimilation did not make Poles out of Jews. Pointedly, Tuwim freely admitted that he did not, at some level, feel himself a Pole--thus validating the Endek doubts about him as a real Pole. Please click on Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generation's Life and Death in Marxism, 1918-1968 and read the detailed Peczkis review. [Endek thinking proved prophetic. After WWII, Tuwim came out openly in support of the Soviet-imposed Communist puppet government that had enslaved Poland.]

However, the issue is more basic. If, following Michlic's reasoning, Poles have no right to decide who is and is not a Pole, then who does? Note that Jews very much decide who is and is not a Jew, and merely claiming to be a Jew does not suffice. For instance, Jewish believers in Jesus Christ are not recognized as Jews--even if they identify with their Jewishness and practice many Judaic customs. Neither Jewish organizations, nor the State of Israel, recognize Jews for Jesus as authentic Jews. Now, if Jews can decide who is and who is not a real Jew, then why on Earth are Poles forbidden from deciding who is and is not a real Pole?

The foregoing also occurs in more subtle contexts. There are many references, among Jews, to certain Jews being "not Jewish enough". Now, if Jews can, without shame, say that certain so-recognized Jews are "not Jewish enough", then why can Poles not say, without shame, that some assimilated Polish Jews are "not Polish enough?"


The author bad-mouths historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz on the Jedwabne massacre (p. 277), but--not surprisingly--presents no evidence showing that Chodakiewicz is incorrect. For more on this, please go to JEDWABNE, by Chodakiewicz, and read the detailed Peczkis review.

Joanna Beata Michlic also berates Chodakiewicz for bringing up murderous Jewish crimes against Poles, repeatedly accusing him of trying to create a "zero sum game" between Poles and Jews. (e. g, pp. 216-217, p. 332). If so, why not? Are Jews above Poles? Is the Polish murder of a Jew a horrible event, while the Jewish murder of a Pole is nothing? It certainly sounds like it. She follows an identical line of attack on historian Piotr Gontarczyk and his perceptive analysis of the Przytyk Pogrom. (pp. 110-111). [See POGROM?, by Gontarczyk, and read the detailed English-language Peczkis review.]

Not surprisingly, the author tries to deny the magnitude of Jewish-Soviet collaboration against Poland (which is sometimes called the Zydokomuna). She cites fragmentary statistics on the relative abundance of Jewish officers in the hated Soviet-imposed Communist security forces, the U. B. (Bezpieka). The actual figure, based on a detailed analysis of the relevant archives, shows that at least 37% of Bezpieka officers were Jews, which means that Jews were at least 40-fold over-represented, among these torturers and murderers of Poles, over the Jewish percentage in Poland's postwar population. For details, please click on Aparat bezpieczenstwa w Polsce w latach 1950-1952: Taktyka, strategia, metody (Dokumenty) (Polish Edition), and read the detailed English-language Peczkis review.


Joanna Michlic has been identified as a neo-Stalinist. This is not in the sense of admiring or rehabilitating Stalin, but in the sense of resurrecting Stalinist-era attacks on non-leftist and devout Poles as anti-Semites, fascists, Nazis, and whatnot. This book, without a doubt, fits the bill.

The informed reader may be astonished by the degree of similarity of this book with the books of fellow neo--Stalinist Jan T. Gross. Is Gross a clone of Michlic, or is Michlic a clone of Gross?

However, to her credit, Michlic parts ways with other neo-Stalinists in rejecting the argument that there was no Polish Quisling because the Germans never wanted one. She realizes that, early in the German occupation of Poland, the Nazis unsuccessfully tried to win over the likes of Stanislaw Estreicher and Wladyslaw Studnicki as Polish Quislings. (p. 172).


Author Joanna Beata Michlic cites Teodor Jeske-Choinski (1854-1920), who made this sage point about Jewish-Polish relations--a perceptive conclusion that is still very much true today: (quote) "Anti-Semitism will cease to exist when the Jew finally understands that living in someone else's home means learning how to be an acceptable guest and how neither to aspire to the role of the host nor to harm the host...After all, our Christian culture is humanitarian." (unquote). (p. 56).

Finally, since this book very selectively focuses on prejudices, the serious reader must realize that prejudices between Poles and Jews very much went both ways. See the detailed, free, online book, TRADITIONAL JEWISH ATTITUDES TOWARDS POLES, by Mark Paul.
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on February 24, 2010
With the partitions and the Nazi and Soviet occupations, no other European nation has suffered as Poland has, which makes it extremely difficult for Polish Catholics to admit to any malevolence of their own.

Polish monarchs welcomed Western Europe's Jews to Poland in the Middle Ages but this was not for altruistic reasons. The nobility desperately needed the Jews' acumen in finance and trade. Over the centuries, anti-Jewish sentiment grew in Poland, fueled by economic rivalry and the Polish Catholic Church.

At the end of the nineteenth century, a growing number of Poles envisioned an independent Poland whose citizens would be exclusively ethnic Polish and Catholic. This "Poland for Poles" ethno-nationalism, spearheaded by Roman Dmowski and his National Democratic Party, tapped into centuries-old, popular anti-Jewish sentiment. By the 1930's, anti-Semitism was not only prevalent among the masses, it was becoming increasingly institutionalized throughout independent Poland.

There were boycotts of Jewish businesses, restrictions on Jews attending university, segregation of Jews in classrooms, increasing Catholic-on-Jew violence, restrictions on Jewish religious practices passed into law, discussions of deportations, hiring and promotion restrictions in the public sector, etc.

Michlic ably examines the rise of institutionalized anti-Semitism in Poland in the 19th and 20th centuries. There can be no arguing with the extremely well-researched contents of her presentation. This book would be quite an education for Polish and Polish American conservatives, who deny anti-Semitism most zealously, and hold to it most dearly.

The editor of a Polish American weekly recently proclaimed that "Poles are not anti-Semitic" (Am-Pol Eagle, 4/8/2010), pointing to the thousands of Polish Catholics who participated in rescuing Jews during the Holocaust. The ignorance of this argument is beyond comprehension although it is widely disseminated throughout Polonia, even by academics who should know better. It's quite obvious that anyone who holds to this opinion has an extremely parochial understanding of Polish history, 1918-1945.

Polish chauvinists constantly point to the fact that Poland leads other former Nazi-occupied countries in the number of Righteous Among Nations awarded by Yad Vashem (6195 as of 6/12/10) without acknowledging that half of Europe's Jews lived in the country at the beginning of the Second World War. In reply to Poles who purposely misinterpret the number of Righteous by country for their own purposes, Yad Vashem states on its website, "The number of rescuers in the different countries depends on a multitude of factors and therefore does not necessarily indicate the attitude of the local population to the Jews and their murder. Moreover, in view of the great difference in circumstances between different countries and regions, one should proceed with great caution when making such comparisons."

Some other very good books which discuss Polish Catholic anti-Semitism:

Antisemitism and Its Opponents in Modern Poland by Robert Blobaum

Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz by Jan Gross

Golden Harvest: Events at the Periphery of the Holocaust by Jan Gross

Imaginary Neighbors: Mediating Polish-Jewish Relations after the Holocaust by Dorota Glowacka

Jews and Heretics in Catholic Poland: A Beleaguered Church in the Post-Reformation Era by Magda Teter

Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland by Jan Gross

No Way Out: The Politics of Polish Jewry, 1935-1939 by Emanuel Melzer

Rethinking Poles and Jews: Troubled Past, Brighter Future by Robert Cherry

Rome's Most Faithful Daughter: The Catholic Church and Independent Poland, 1914-1939 by Neal Pease

The Catholic Church and Antisemitism: Poland, 1933-1939 by Ronald E. Modras

The Crosses of Auschwitz: Nationalism and Religion in Post-Communist Poland by Genevieve Zubrzycki

The Populist Radical Right in Poland: The Patriots by Rafal Pankowski

When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth-Century Poland by Brian Porter

Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust by Michael C. Steinlauf

Contested Memories: Poles and Jews during the Holocaust and Its Aftermath by Joshua D. Zimmerman

Forced Out: The Fate of Polish Jewry in Communist Poland by Arthur J. Wolak

Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust by E. Thomas Wood

My Brother's Keeper: Recent Polish Debates on the Holocaust by Antony Polonsky

On the Edge of Destruction: Jews of Poland Between the Two World Wars by Celia Stopnicka Heller

Polish-Jewish Relations During the Second World War by Emanuel Ringelblum

Secret City: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw, 1940-1945 by Gunnar S. Paulsson

Shtetl: The Life and Death of a Small Town and the World of Polish Jews by Eva Hoffman

The Convent at Auschwitz by Wladyslaw Bartoszewski

The Hidden Pope: The Untold Story of a Lifelong Friendship That Is Changing the Relationship Between Catholics and Jews - The Personal Journey of John Paul II and Jerzy Kluger

The Jews in Poland by Chimen Abramsky

The Jews in Polish Culture by Aleksander Hertz

The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy Over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland by Antony Polonsky

Between the Brown and the Red: Nationalism, Catholicism, and Communism in Twentieth-Century Poland by Mikolaj Stanislaw Kunicki

Difficult Questions in Polish-Jewish Dialogue by Jacek Santorski

Economic origins of Antisemitism: Poland and Its Jews in the Early Modern Period by Hillel Levine

Faith and Fatherland: Catholicism, Modernity, and Poland by Brian Porter

From Assimilation to Anitsemitism: The "Jewish Question" in Poland, 1850-1914 by Theodore R. Weeks

Holocaust and Memory by Barbara Engelking

Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German Occupied Poland by Jan Grabowski (available 10/30/2013)

In the Shadow of Hitler: Personalities of the Right in Central and Eastern Europe by Rebecca Haynes

In the Shadow of the Polish Eagle: The Poles, the Holocaust, and Beyond by Leo Cooper

Memory Offended: The Auschwitz Convent Controversy by John K. Roth

Poland and the Jews: Reflections of a Polish Polish Jew by Stanislaw Krajewski

Poles and Jews: A Failed Brotherhood by Magdalena Opalski and Israel Bartal

Polish Politics in Transition: The Camp of National Unity and the Struggle for Power, 1935-1939 by Edward D. Wynot

Sinners on Trial: Jews and Sacrilege after the Reformation by Magda Teter

Social and Political History of the Jews in Poland 1919-1939 by Joseph Marcus

Studies on Polish Jewry, 1919-1939: The interplay of social, economic, and political factors in the struggle of a minority for its existence by Joshua A. Fishman

Symbiosis and Ambivalence: Poles and Jews in a Small Galacian Town by Rosa Lehmann

The House at Ujazdowskie 16: Jewish Families in Warsaw after the Holocaust by Karen Auerbach (available June 26, 2013)

The Jews in Poland and Russia: Volume III: 1914 to 2008 by Antony Polonsky

The Jews of Poland Between Two World Wars by Yisrael Gutman

There Once Was A World: A 900-Year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok by Yaffa Eliach

Thou Shalt Not Kill: Poles on Jedwabne

Unequal Victims: Poles and Jews During World War Two by Israel Gutman

In the Shadow of Hitler: Personalities of the Right in Central and Eastern Europe by Rebecca Haynes
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on January 11, 2012
A welcome and uplifting addition to the discussion that began when Jan Tomasz Gross's "Neighbors" shined a spotlight on Polish persecution of Jews during World War II. Joanna Michlic, author of "The Neighbours Respond," explains the development of the negative image of Polish Jewry in the 19th century and traces this image through to the beginning of the 21st century. In looking closely at Polish anti-Semitism, Michlic encourages all of us to move beyond easy judgments.
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