Interwar Poland: The OZON Government’s anti-Jewish Policies Were NOT an Imitation of Those of Next-Door Nazi Germany

In this mini-encyclopedia of Poland (1918-1939), [review based on 1939 edition], one learns about matters as diverse as the Polish achievement in constructing the port of Gdynia from scratch (p. 159), the crushing poverty of the peasantry (pp. 20-21), the stunting effect of government intervention on the growth of free enterprise (p. 185), and much more.
  • Poland – Key to Europe by Raymond Leslie BuellPublished March 15th 2007 by Herzberg Press (first published March 1st 1939)


Buell’s analysis of Poland’s treatment of her minorities is critical but relatively fair. He realizes that the imposed Minorities Treaty was hypocritical in that the Powers weakly followed it (p. 240, 316), that Polish fears of her neighbors using it as a tool against her were factually-based (pp. 242-244), and that the Polish government never actually repudiated it. (pp. 244-245). The perceptive reader can see how, using modern parlance, parts of the Treaty advanced special rights. For instance, its full implementation would not only mean that Jews would be required to be allowed to use Yiddish in courts and public institutions, but also that multitudes of Poles would be forced to learn Yiddish in order for this to be realized. (pp. 295-296).


According to Buell, the discriminatory policies intended to end Jewish economic dominance hurt Poland. Polish merchants and tradesmen couldn’t duplicate the output of the Jewish ones they had replaced. (p. 314). [But this might be analogous to a surgical procedure done to a victim after an accident. The very process of surgery adds to the injury sustained by the patient, but is absolutely necessary for him to get better. So it is with Poles temporarily hurting themselves more in order to eventually free themselves from Jewish economic hegemony]. Without intending to, Buell highlights the severity of the economic disenfranchisement of the Poles at the hands of the Jews.


The author rejects the notion that Polish anti-Semitic policies, notably those of the post-Pilsudski OZON Government, were simply an imitation of Nazi ones in (prewar) Germany. For instance, Poland never enacted the Nuremberg laws, in part because racialist thinking did not fit into this Catholic society. (p. 316). To the contrary: In spite of the self-imposed Jewish apartheid (my term), and contrary to Heller’s ON THE EDGE OF DESTRUCTION, Poland’s Jews were accepted to a counterintuitive extent. Buell comments: „The ordinary Jew speaks Yiddish…and is influenced by a particularly formidable type of orthodoxy, or rabbinism, of the Tsadika or Wunderabbi variety. While some Jews contend that the government obstructs assimilation, there is little doubt that the most powerful factor which keeps the Jew separate from the Pole is the type of orthodoxy which dominates a large part of the Jewish population. The American visitor unaccustomed to the Polish tradition wonders why more interracial disputes have not occurred when, on visiting a typical village, he sees the Orthodox Jew, wearing his skullcap, black boots, long double-breasted coat, curls and beard, mingling with the Poles proper. The government may think that it is in its interest to support the Orthodox Jews against their more assimilated brethren, but the foreign observer is nevertheless struck by the readiness of the ordinary Poles to accept the assimilated or baptized Jew as an equal. In government departments, in the army, in the banks, and in newspapers, one finds the baptized Jews occupying important positions. This class, which in Nazi Germany is subject to bitter persecution, has been freely accepted in Poland. With the growth of nationalist spirit among both Jews and Poles, the trend toward assimilation seems to have been arrested. It remains true, however, that the Polish attitude towards the Jew is governed by racial considerations to a lesser degree than the attitude of other peoples.” (pp. 308-309).


Buell characterizes the German minority as one that was well-off (pp. 246-247), prone to make frivolous complaints (p. 243), and enjoying far greater privileges than the Polish minority in (pre-WWII) Nazi Germany. (p. 251). Recounting the history of the region, Buell rejects the premise that Polish rule over Ukrainian-majority areas was a form of imperialism (pp. 80-81), and realizes that the granting of greater autonomy to the Ukrainians could increase separatist impulses instead of weakening them. (p. 284). Finally, he suggests that Jews be more sensitive to ending their abuses, as well as realizing that the middleman-peasant relationship is an outdated one. (pp. 317-318).


Owing to the fact that, except for the last paragraph as an add-on, it was written before WWII, this book escapes being colored by it. Therefore, fascinating is the fact that Buell recognized not only the long-term Nazi plans (e. g., Hitler and Rosenberg) for the conquest of the Slavic east and the replacement of the local population by German settlers (pp. 10-11), but also the fact that these plans most probably implied that the Poles (and Jews) would have to be exterminated. (p. 11).

Jan Peczkis


Published with the author’s permission.


  • Title image:  Adolf Hitler i Alfred Rosenberg. Fot.: You Tube. / selected by wg.pco

Polish-Club-Online-PCO-logo-2, 2018.09.10.