Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 21

1968: Forty Years After
Edited by Leszek Gluchowski & Antony Polonsky

In the mid-1960s, Gomulka’s government adopted an antisemitic stance in consequence of which nearly 15,000 Jews left the country, effectively ending Jewish life in the country for over a decade. These events, long ignored by scholars, are now increasingly seen as an important step in the process that led to the collapse of communism. This volume illuminates the events that triggered the crisis, the crisis itself, and its consequences.

More info

In the mid-1960s, public opinion in Poland turned against the Gomulka regime for a variety of reasons. In an attempt to regain public support and divert attention from the real problems, Gomulka adopted an antisemitic stance. On 19 March 1968 he delivered a speech to party activists in which he divided Jews into three categories: ‘patriotic Jews’, ‘Zionists’, and those who were neither Jews nor Poles but ‘cosmopolitans’, who should ‘avoid those fields of work where the affirmation of nationality is indispensable’. In consequence, nearly 15,000 Jews--a very large part of Poland’s Jewish community--left for Israel, western Europe, and North America, effectively ending Jewish life in the country for over a decade.

The events of 1968 were long ignored by scholars but in recent years their importance in the process which led to the collapse of communism has become increasingly evident. This volume illuminates the events that triggered the crisis, the crisis itself, and its consequences.

Several contributors consider the background to the crisis in terms of the concerns of the Jewish community. Audrey Kichelewski describes developments in the community between the consolidation of Gomulka’s power in 1957 and the outbreak of the Six-Day War. Malgorzata Melchior examines how Jews who had survived in Poland during the Second World War responded to the crisis. Joanna Wiszniewicz provides a group portrait of pupils of Jewish origin in Warsaw schools in the 1960s, a milieu from which important elements in the student opposition were drawn. Karen Auerbach sharpens the focus in her consideration of the situation of one of the last Yiddish writers in Poland at this time, Naftali Herts Kon, while Holly Levitsky describes the travails of the long-established Jewish communist writer Sara Nomberg-Przytyk. The book also reprints the testimony of several people who lived through these painful events: Jerzy Jedlicki, Henryk Dasko, and Miroslaw Sawicki. Bozena Szaynok analyses the rhetoric of the period and examines the role of ‘Israel’ in the crisis. Some of the wider effects of the Jewish emigration are apparent from the exchange between generals Pióro and Jaruzelski concerning the impact of the purge of Jewish officers in the Polish People’s Army.

As in previous volumes of Polin, in the section ‘New Views’ substantial space is also given to new research into a variety of topics in Polish–Jewish studies. These include a study by Kalman Weiser of Yiddishist Ideology of Noah Prylucki; an reassessment by Julian Bussgang of the role during the Holocaust of Metropolitan Sheptytsky; an account by Michael Beizer and Israel Bartal of the tragic career of Moses Schorr; an evaluation of the work of the Polish poet Jerzy Ficowski by Krzysztof  Czyzewski; and a description of the reception in Poland of Art Spiegelman’s ‘graphic novel’ Maus.


About the editors

Leszek W. Gluchowski is an independent scholar and writer based in Hamilton, Ontario. He received his Ph.D. in 1992 from the University of Cambridge and has published numerous articles and documents, primarily with the Cold War International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. He has recently completed a novel, entitled ‘Father, Son, Holy . . . Spy’, based on the defection to the CIA in 1953 of Lt. Col. Józef Sawiatlo of the Polish Ministry of Public Security.

Antony Polonsky is Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Chief Historian of the Permanent Collection of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw.. He is the author of Politics in Independent Poland (1972), The Little Dictators (1975), The Great Powers and the Polish Question (1976), The Jews in Poland and Russia, Volume 1 and 2 (forthcoming), and co-author of A History of Modern Poland (1980) and The Beginnings of Communist Rule in Poland (1981).


Karen Auerbach, Israel Bartal, Michael Beizer, Teresa Bogucka, Julian Bussgang, Wojciech Czuchnowski, Krzysztof Czyzewski,  Henryk Dasko, Jerzy Eisler, Leszek W. Gluchowski, Piotr Gontarczyk, Anna Jarmusiewicz, Wojciech Jaruszelski, Jerzy Jedlicki, Audrey Kichelewski, Holli Levitsky, Krzysztof Link-Lenczowski, Tomasz LysakJacek Maj, Malgorzata Melchior, Joanna B. Michlic, Karol Modzelewski, Tadeusz Pióro, Wlodzimierz Rozenbaum, Maciej Rybinski, Dariusz Stola, Bozena Szaynok, Kalman Weiser, Joanna Wisniewicz, Tadeusz Witkowski, Piotr Wróbel, Rafal Ziemiewicz

Contributor information

Karen Auerbach, doctoral candidate, Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, Brandeis University
Israel Bartal, Professor of Modern Jewish History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Director of the Center for Research on the History and Culture of Polish Jews
Michael Beizer, Department of Jewish History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Seweryn Blumsztain, editor, Gazeta Wyborcza.
Teresa Bogucka, Polish journalist and writer
Julian Bussgang, co-editor of the newsletter Gazeta of the American Association for Polish–Jewish Studies
Wojciech Czuchnowski, journalist, Gazeta Wyborcza
Krzysztof Czyzewski,  poet, essayist, and cultural animator; editor-in-chief of the magazine Krasnogruda and Borderland Publishing House
Henryk Dasko, literary critic, publicist, and translator (deceased)
Jerzy Eisler, Director, Warsaw Section, Institute for National Remembrance
Leszek W. Gluchowski, independent scholar and writer based in Hamilton, Ontario
Piotr Gontarczyk, head of the archives, Institute for National Remembrance
Anna Jarmusiewicz, journalist and writer
Wojciech Jaruszelski, Polish communist politician
Jerzy Jedlicki, Professor Emeritus, Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw
Audrey Kichelewski, graduate student in history, École Normale Supérieure, Paris; teaching assistant at the Sorbonne and Historical Institute of Warsaw University
Holli Levitsky, Associate Professor of English, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles
Krzysztof Link-Lenczowski, Senior Lecturer, Department of Jewish Studies, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Tomasz Lysak
Jacek Maj, doctoral student in art history , University of Heidelberg
Malgorzata Melchior, Assistant Professor, Institute of Applied Social Sciences, University of Warsaw; member of the Polish Centre for Holocaust Research
Joanna B. Michlic, Associate Professor and Chair in Holocaust Studies and Ethical Values, Lehigh University, Pennsylvania
Karol Modzelewski, prominent figure in the student opposition in 1968, in the Committee for the Defence of the Workers, and the first Solidarity movement
Tadeusz Pióro, military historian and former brigadier general, army of the Polish People’s Republic
Wlodzimierz Rozenbaum, researcher in Polish Jewish history
Maciej Rybinski, active in student politics in late 1970s and during first Solidarity movement; formerly wrote for Rzeczpospolita and since 2006 for Fakt
Dariusz Stola, fellow Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, and professor, Collegium Civitas, Warsaw
Bozena Szaynok, Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Wroclaw
Kalman Weiser, Silber Family Professor of Holocaust and Eastern European Jewish Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada
Joanna Wisniewicz, writer and researcher, Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
Tadeusz Witkowski, Lecturer in Polish literature, Saint Mary’s College, Orchard Lake, Michigan: editor, Periphery: Journal of Polish Affairs
Piotr Wróbel, Konstanty Reynert Chair of Polish Studies, University of Toronto
Rafal Ziemiewicz, journalist and political commentator



Note on Place Names
Note on Transliteration


Leszek W. Gluchowski and Antony Polonsky

The Hate Campaign of March 1968: How Did It Become Anti-Jewish?
Dariusz Stola

1968: Jews, Antisemitism, Emigration
Jerzy Eisler

The March Events: Targeting the Jews
Wlodzymiersz Rozenbaum

A Critical Analysis of the Activities of the Polish Military Intelligence Service, 1945–1961
Leszek w. Gluchowski

‘Israel’ in the Events of March 1968
Bozena Szaynok

A Community under Pressure: Jews in Poland, 1957–1967
Audrey Kichelewski

Facing Antisemitism in Poland during the Second World War and in March 1968
Malgorzata Melchior

Jewish Children and Youth in Downtown Warsaw Schools of the 1960s
Joanna Wiszniewicz

The Exile of Sara Nomberg-Przytyk: Polish Jewish Communist
Holli Levitsky

The Fate of a Yiddish Poet in Communist Eastern Europe: Naftali Herts Kon in Poland, 1959–1965
Karen Auerbach

Domestic Shame: A Conversation with Professor Jerzy Jedlicki
Anna Jarmusiewicz

An Interview with Miros{l/}aw Sawicki (August 2006)
Joanna B. Michlic

Henryk Dasko

The Controversy Aroused by the Role in 1968 of General Wojciech Jaruzelski

The Purges in the Polish Army 1967–1968
Tadeusz Pióro

A Painful and Complex Subject
Wojciech Jaruzelski

Reply to General Jaruzelski
Tadeusz Pióro

The Controversy Aroused by the 1968 Events in 2006

A Meeting with Jacek Kuron as Reported by Secret Collaborator ‘Return’ (Leslaw Maleszka): A Contribution to the Discussions about the Events of March 1968
Piotr Gontarczyk

The Institute for National Remembrance Slanders Jacek Kuron
Wojciech Czuchnowski and Weweryn Blumsztajn

I Am, Therefore I Write: Uses and Abuses
Maciej Rybinski

Selective Indignation
Rafal Ziemkiewicz

Attention, Moczar Lives! An Interview with Karol Modzelewski
Adam Leszczy{na}ski

Between the Institute for National Remembrance and Gazeta Wyborcza: The Cracked Code
Tadeusz Witkowski

‘Gniazdo’—The Moral Bankruptcy of the Security Service (SB)
Teresa Bogucka


The Yiddishist Ideology of Noah Prylucki
Kalman Weiser

Metropolitan Sheptytsky: A Reassessment
julian j. bussgang

The Case of Moses Schorr: Rabbi, Scholar, and Social Activist
Michael Beizer and Israel Bartal

You Can’t Do It Just Like That... or, Jerzy Ficowski’s Path to Reading the Ashes
Krzysztof Czy{z.}ewski

Contemporary Debates on the Holocaust in Poland: The Reception of Art Spiegelman’s ‘Graphic Novel’ Maus
Tomasz {L/}ysak

Apollo, Mercury, and Soviet Jews
Piotr Wróbel

Father Stanislaw Musial
Józef Andrzej Gierowski
Jerzy Ficowski

Notes on the Contributors





'Detailed enough to yield a great deal of information and insight into matters broad and narrow, and to remind us that the issues that emerged in such sharp relief then are ones that still generate deep disagreement nearly twenty-five years after Communism collapsed.'
Walter D. Connor, Journal of Cold War Studies