Poland, Palestine and Zionism

Zeev_JabotinskyIn the middle of the 1930s the official policy towards the Jews in Poland began to change. The liberal approach to the large Jewish population pioneered by Josef Pilsudski, the father of the nation, died with him in May 1935. What came in its place was a plan to export Poland’s Jews to Palestine, then a British mandate in the Middle East. The development of Poland as a nation state from 1918 onwards led to growing demands for a racially homogenous society from Polish nationalists. Whilst the treatment of the Jews and plans for their future treatment were in no way as violent and savage as that meted out by the Nazis, pre war Poland was still an officially anti Semitic state. The curious feature of this policy was the degree of cooperation from Jewish revisionist zionists in Poland, namely Vladimir Jabotinsky (above) and Menachem Begin. The two men cooperated openly with the Polish Government who armed and trained the zionist guerrilla group Irgun and helped to arm the zionist youth movement Betar into a paramilitary organisation. All parties harboured fantasies of creating and ‘army of liberation’ for Palestine; there was a curious mixture within the Polish government of a desire to exclude and remove Jews (especially during the great depression, as it was believed they represented a surplus population that could be expelled), and an admiration and affinity.

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