The Jews of Leszno 1918-1939: the Polish-Jewish dilemma in the western borderlands

Nicholls, Stephen (2011) The Jews of Leszno 1918-1939: the Polish-Jewish dilemma in the western borderlands. MPhil thesis, University of Portsmouth.

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                          Abstract

                          My thesis shows the enduring difficulty of acceptance of the Jews by the host nation during the inter-war years of the Second Polish Republic, shaped by the legacy of Imperial Germany, when political change and religious-national conflict in East Central Europe destroyed Leszno’s multi-ethnic population. The tide of Polish nationalism following Germany’s surrender in November 1918 swept aside any residue of harmony and co-existence in this now Polish town, the focus of my study.
                          The resurgent Polish nation-state, politically and economically weak, insecure within its borders and now fighting Russia, rode roughshod over its minorities. In the west, the Germans in their hundreds of thousands were the greater threat, and for this reason the Jews were the greater threat in the east. The German-Jewish exodus in Western Poland soon after the war occurred during a period of great political and economic instability. Gradually, the Jewish Community in Leszno County re-emerged, greatly depleted and vulnerable in this new, sensitive border area.
                          After peace with Russia, the ‘March Constitution’ of 1921, the introduction of the złoty and the stabilisation plan, the Jews of Leszno re-established their economic and socio-cultural presence, while battling against an unrelenting and suspicious bureaucracy.
                          The early years under Piłsuski brought a temporary respite for Jews as the economy recovered, until the Great Depression of the 1930s halted the revival and anti-Jewish hatred intensified.
                          Following the authoritarian ‘April Constitution’ of 1935, the continuing anti-Jewish agitation by Dmowski’s Nationalists and widespread economic hardship, the Jews of Leszno maintained their way of life and their commitment to charity. Despite nationwide economic boycotts, an antisemitic press and attacks on Jews, violence in Leszno remained limited. Whatever the setback, local Jews continued to show allegiance to the Polish state.
                          My thesis analyses local Polish-Jewish relations against this complex, hostile background.

                          Item Type: Thesis (MPhil)
                          Subjects: History
                          Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social, Historical and Literary Studies
                          Depositing User: Jane Polwin
                          Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2011 14:48
                          Last Modified: 20 Nov 2013 16:02
                          URI: http://eprints.port.ac.uk/id/eprint/4714

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