Is Poland really a nation of anti-semites?

A report issued by the US-based NGO Anti-Defamation League on March 20th says that:

Anti-Semitic attitudes in ten European countries remain at “disturbingly high levels”, with large swaths of the population subscribing to classical anti-Semitic notions such as Jews having too much power in business, being more loyal to Israel than their own country, or “talking too much” about what happened during the Holocaust.

Not perhaps a shocking finding but would you be surprised that Poland is one of the worst nations of the group with the overall levels of anti-semitism being recorded as follows:

  1. Hungary 63%
  2. Spain 53%
  3. Poland 48%
  4. Italy 35%
  5. Austria 28%
  6. France 24%
  7. Germany 21%
  8. UK 17%
  9. Norway 16%
  10. The Netherlands 10%

You need to dig a little to better understand how that score is calculated. If you want to read more you can go to the report on the ADL websiteand then follow the link to the full pdf document, highlights of which I copy and comment on below. 500 people in each country were interviewed by telephone in January 2012. I have no idea how the phone numbers were selected. They were asked questions as per the text below and the number of people who answered “probably true” to at least three of the first four questions counted toward the overall score for the country, as shown above. So, 48% of Poles interviewed answered “probably true” to three or more questions (excluding the one about Christ). In fact 23% of Poles thought all four were probably true, compared to 31% of Hungarians and 25% of Spanish

Respondents across the continent were asked whether or not they thought the following four statements were “probably true” or “probably false.” 1) Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country. 2) Jews have too much power in the business world. 3) Jews have too much power in international financial markets. 4) Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust. Respondents were also asked: Whether they agree or disagree with the statement that “Jews are responsible for the death of Christ.”. Finally, respondents were asked if their opinion of Jews was influenced by actions taken by the State of Israel and whether they believed the violence directed against European Jews was a result of anti-Jewish feelings or anti-Israel sentiment.

Interestingly, they were able to highlight some factors that influence these scores:

For the most part, those over the age of 65, those who did not continue their education beyond the age of 17 and those earning less than €11,000 per year are more likely than the rest of the population to agree with at least three of the four anti- Semitic characterizations presented in the survey.

That salary of “less than 11,000 Euro a year” equates to roughly 3,750 zloty per month which is a shade higher than the average wage in Poland and would therefore embrace a whole lot of Poles. That last question about blaming Jews for the death of Christ is an interesting one and guess which country won that particular round? Yep, Poland came top with 46%of people saying jews were responsible. Now I’m not an organised religion type of guy but surely those responsible for the death of Christ is a matter of (disputed) record isn’t it? Do the bible and other sources not make it clear how Jesus died? Excuse my ignorance but I’m trying to find out whether this question is really about

1/ who actually killed Jesus?

2/ how much of a grudge certain Christians bear (after 2000 odd years) for what they think the Jews did?

3/ the teachings or beliefs of other faiths that (may – I don’t know) blame the Jews?

Just to head off the Catholic thing at the pass, other strongly Catholic countries, Italy and Spain only scored 15% and 21% respectively, less than half of Poland.

There’s a long but seemingly objective explanation of who killed Jesus at The Straight Dope, where they conclude:

In summary, Jesus was killed because the Roman empire mercilessly put down any possible source of rebellion or riot. The empire’s agents included the Roman prefect Pilate who ordered the execution, and the Jewish high priest Caiaphus and his council who initiated the process.  Assigning responsibility to an entire group of people, whether the Jews or the Romans, is stereotyping, oversimplifying, and false.

The next interesting point and little mentioned by those covering the report is about the influence of the State of Israel as opposed to Jews generally. Here we find that some of those nations scoring lowest in the anti-semitic questions scored very highly. For example, 85% of Dutch and 78% of Norwegians found their opinion of Jews was made worse by the actions of Israel. Poland was 50%. The Hungarians, apparently never wanting to miss out on a chance to diss the Jews, also scored highly here with 80%. In fact they scored highly on every damned thing! Did they pick a bad 500 or do Hungarians really feel this strongly? Lastly, the question of whether violence against Jews is a matter of anti-Israel sentiment or anti-Jewish feelings got very mixed results. Consistent with earlier comments, Norway and The Netherlands have much higher scores for anti-Israel than for anti-Jewish with the UK and Spain being the only other countries to give this priority. All the other countries thought that the violence was anti-Jewish more than anti-Israel with Poland having the biggest gap between the two putting Poland roughly on a par with Hungary as the biggest believers that violence is against Jews and not against Israel. Poland, whilst not doing particularly well in the “test” is actually improving, or at least not getting worse. When compared with similar test results from 2009 the main findings were:

  • A comparison with the 2009 survey indicates that, over the past few years, levels of anti-Semitism have increased most dramatically in Hungary, the United Kingdom and Spain.
  • In fact, the number of those surveyed in the United Kingdom who now respond “probably true” to at least three of the four anti-Semitic stereotypes has increased by 70 percent.
  • Austria was the only country in which there was a slight decline in the percentage of respondents who believe that at least three of the four anti-Semitic stereotypes are “probably true.”
  • The percentage of those believing that “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country” has increased by 15 points in Hungary and 9 points in the United Kingdom.
  • Since 2009, there has been a 16 point increase in the percentage of Hungarian respondents who believe that “Jews have too much power in international financial markets.” In fact, three-quarters of Hungarian respondents now believe this stereotype to be “probably true.”

In general the scores for Poland in 2012 were either the same or slightly lower than in 2009. Looking the the rate of change, Poland should match The Netherlands by about 2100. All we can really say for sure about this result is that a sample of 500 Poles displayed fairly strong anti-semitic views as defined by the ADL when interviewed. How this can be portrayed as speaking for the nation is a matter of how representative those 500 were and a lot of complicated statistics.

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23 thoughts on “Is Poland really a nation of anti-semites?

  1. I’m not going to touch this with a 10 foot pole.

  2. scatts says:

    Is that why you look like a dark blob on your avatar? ;-)

  3. Tomala says:

    1) Chinese are more loyal to China than to this country.
    2) Chinese have too much power in the business world.(!)
    3) Chinese have too much power in international financial markets.(!)
    4) Chinese still talk too much about what happened to them in the past

    So every such qestion You can find in “The Economist”, “Guardian” etc. Especially last one sentence is great “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the holocaust” – so is it possible to talk on every topic to much? Or should Jews talk about holocaust during everyday breakfast and it will be not “to much”?

    I prefer to ask “do you hate Jews? could you be a jewish friend? Will you happy if your daughter marry Jew? Will you give in hospital your blood to Jew?

    Yes, there is antisemitism in Poland, but not greater than in the rest of CE Europe. And such questions like in survey doesn’t mean anything.

  4. scatts says:

    Tomala, I agree the questions are almost as interesting as the answers.

  5. B. Gnotta Freud says:

    Seems like the survey was a crock in every aspect of its conception and execution.

    Dumb questions.

    How was the compostion of respondants controlled in each country?

  6. scatts says:

    That I don’t know but it’s pretty important in terms of understanding the results and the validity of them.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I asked my rabbi the same questions, and than I asked WHY. I am still witing for answer…
    By-the-way what about anti-polandian sentiment in the world, we should have our own survey and those who are anti-poland put on black list. We as well shoud talk about Partion, WWII, communist regime at everyday dinner.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yep, Poland came top with 46%of people saying jews were responsible.

    hidden message???

  9. scatts says:

    Anon, if you mean anti-Polandian (blog) sentiment then there’s probably plenty of that out there! If you mean anti-Polish, probably even more but as far as I know Poles do not have an equivalent of the ADL to measure who doesn’t like them. In fact I can’t offhand think of anyone other than Jews who find it neccessary to measure such sentiments and publish the findings. That’s why I find this stuff fascinating from so many angles.

    You are right to pick me up on the “Yep, Poland came top……” line. It is badly written and open to wrong interpretation. No hidden message. I have actually asked plenty of Poles since writing this about the “who killed Christ” thing and from my sample 46% is far too high. I think it is more a question of ignorance or not caring enough to find out the facts but then that might be the point they are trying to make. Still, I’m sure there are plenty of others falsely blamed for bad things that happened a long time ago and who do not carry out annual surveys about it.

    In some ways it is easy to suppose that the questions have been chosen to deliberately exaggerate the level of anti-semitism.

    1/ I can’t think of any other faith that is as strongly associated with a single nation as the Jews with Israel or Israel with Jews. Relatively easy to connect the two – rightly or wrongly.

    2 & 3/ I think most people would say there is a very strong Jewish influence. Equally if not stronger American influence of course. Using the “too much” construction again makes this relatively easy to give the “wrong” answer.

    4/ I’m afraid I have a problem with this question. There were many people killed in the Nazi camps and in WWII generally and in many other actions before and since. Whilst the Jews (and others) were picked out for special treatment I don’t think it is fair for any one of them to become the primary focus of media attention and this is what makes this question tricky. Even if Jews themselves are not “talking too much” about the holocaust the fact is that the vast majority of the holocaust media we are exposed to is very focussed the treatment of Jews, for obvious reasons. At least it seems that way. So in my opinion this is another question easy to get “wrong” in a possibly hurried telephone interview. For clarity, no, I don’t think the Jews talk too much about the holocaust. I think the others don’t talk enough.

    On the question of (modern day) violence against Jews it would be interesting to compare the percentage carried out by what I shall wrongly but simplistically call “Arabs” or “Arab sympathisers” or “Muslims”, and in this group I would put Mohamed Merah who carried out the recent shootings in France, with the amount carried out by other people, especially in the nations scoring highest on the anti-semitic table. How much of the trouble Jews are currently experiencing derives from this well know historical conflict and how much is accounted for by all the other anti-semites out there. To what extent are they threatened by your average Hungarian, for example?

  10. guest says:

    Jews are a typical self hating/doubting* nation with lack of self confidence. Childish surveys like this are typical symptoms of it.

    Every nation (of course not all people) has some annoying and hiding-worthy
    characteristics, we know about them, we experience them on daily basis, we talk about them, we make jokes about them…

    Those poor Jews on the other hand try to hide them, try to censor them, try to argue about them and are simply insecure* like crazy. The possibility that someone may “find out” about something negative about Jews, makes them mad already. It all reminds me a little bit of Don Quichote…

    (*victim syndrome)

  11. guest says:

    ps: We Poles are of course very similar to Jews in that regard. But the overall “level” of histeria is much lower. Poles also have a huge sense of self-irony…

  12. Tomala says:

    Jews also have self-irony and not everybody agree with ADL.

  13. guest says:

    of course.

    But you will definitely find more Poles, Brits, Irish…. than Jews making jokes about themselves.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Hi scatts, you can easily say that this is very delicate subject, just by looking at how many anonymous responds are there.

    This survey compares western and eastern Europeans on very inflammatory subject; I think it is like comparing apples and oranges. In the west exists awareness of the issue, it
    comes from bigger sophistication in the west. They know what to say and not to say about Jews. In the west, there is law against prejudice, especially in the US and Canada. On other hand, easterners have not developed a national position on chauvinism against any social issue; religion, sex, minorities, race.

    What is fascinating to me is that Poles and Jews share the same insecurities, we- they alienate ourselves-themselves from own ethnic groups. The Poles try to prove for the centuries that they don’t belong to the Slavic people, or they fill different from. The Jews as a part of Semitic culture, they rather will fight against whole region, than live peacefully with the neighbours.

    And what is with this “anti-semitism” (semitism is not a word) in Poland compare to other nations:
    – Only in Warsaw is Aleje Jerosolimskie with big palm tree,
    – My father used to use “siuwaks” to fix everything,
    – I like “kogel”-mogiel, “halka” or “babka” (egg bread), “kiszka”, “maca” backed on a stove top,
    – “Paszkwil” is the way of communication,
    – “Cymes” is the best,
    – “Karp na slodko czy w galarecie” like mama made,
    – “Oj”…
    – Since King Kazimierz Wielki Jews were under special Crown protection and later they were given polish citizenships – only in Poland.

  15. scatts says:

    Anon, I only wish the system would call you all Anon1, Anon2, etc so I could see if I’m talking to one person returning or 3 different people! :) Sometimes it is obvious but not always.

    It is sensitive but all the more reason to at least try to discuss it.


  16. Sylwia says:

    The Catholic Church in Poland changed the official teaching on who killed Jesus a couple decades later than it did in the West. Hence the difference. Older people were taught different things in different countries.

    Jews talk too much about history – I’d say this question should be seen in view of what is being said on the topic in various countries. How one compares Poland – a country that so far had the most honest, nation-wide talks on this topic and many controversial books to, say, France, that is still blind to what the French people did to the French Jews. Unlike in Poland, no single German helped in the deportations of the French Jews, and yet even the French Left is quick to call Poles the nation of anti-Semites, but there’s no attempt at self-critique. Why the French people would be bothered that Jews and others talk too much about the fate of Polish Jews in Poland?

  17. scatts says:

    Interesting post and discussion. Thanks.

  18. guest says:

    Obama to award Medal of Freedom to Holocaust resistance figure
    Posted by:
    CNN White House Producer Alexander Mooney

    (CNN) – Speaking at the United States Holocaust Museum, President Obama announced on Monday he will award a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, the former Polish officer who escaped Nazi imprisonment and provided first-hand accounts to the Western Allies of atrocities he witnessed in Warsaw.

    “We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen—because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts; because so many others stood silent. But let us also tell our children about the Righteous Among the Nations. Among them was Jan Karski—a young Polish Catholic—who witnessed Jews being put on cattle cars, who saw the killings, and who told the truth, all the way to President Roosevelt himself,” Obama said in remarks observing Holocaust Remembrance day.

    Karski, who later immigrated to the United States and earned a Ph.D from Georgetown University, died in 2000.

    The Medal of Freedom is the highest honor a president can bestow on a civilian and is awarded to individuals “who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to the White House.

    Last week, the White House announced it will also award the Medal of Freedom to former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summit. Summit retired from her post this month after 38 seasons because she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

    Other 2012 Medal of Freedom recipients will be announced later this year.

  19. JewishGuest says:

    Hi, Sylwia:
    I hope you still read the comments ;-)

    I have never been to Poland but, in my opinion the numbers of the poll and the results are very strange. I have been told things about other european countries that aren’t even mentioned in the list.

    I am a jew and what I am interested in how it is for a jew to live in Poland. If Poland is a safe place for a Jew and a place you can live comfortable as a jew. It’s not about generalizing the people, but about capturing the atmosphre.

    I have never been to Poland but I have known a lot of Polish people and they often ask me why I have a Polish last name. So I tell them the story and I always get positive reactions like “if you are a jew you simply must come to Poland to know the country” and I liked that very much. What I also saw in youtube is the yearly jewish festival in Krakow and I find it awsome. Its like a big festival with a concert on a public place and it seems that everyone jew or non jew enjoyed the music and so on. As I read in wikipedia in Krakow are only like one thousand jews living. I think that for a jew it is nicer and easier to live in a place where there is a jewish festival and the non jewish people like the festival and join it. these kind of things make you feel safer in a place.

  20. scatts says:

    Jakob (?)

    If you want my opinion then yes, Poland is certainly a safe and good place for a Jew to live. My experience is that Jews are quite welcome and as you note many non Jews join in with the whole Jewish experience. Krakow is perhaps the best place for this as it has a well developed Jewish part of town as well as an active and progressive Jewish community.

    I might be wrong but I do feel there is something of a resurgence of Jews coming to Poland and not just bus tours from Israel.

  21. Vrais Le Faux says:

    Are we assuming that an ADL’s survey/research is unbiased?
    (surely this question alone will put me squarely into the “anti-semite” category, which would be quite funny for a reason or two)

  22. Barbra says:

    Good response in return of this query with solid arguments and telling all
    concerning that.

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