The expression “Żydokomuna” was coined in 1817 by the Polish Enlightenment writer and political activist Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz in his dystopia, The Year 3333, or the Incredible Dream (Rok 3333 czyli Sen niesłychany). The novel presented a fantastic vision in which a Communist Poland would be run by assimilated Jews. It described an abject-ridden Warsaw of the future, renamed Moshkopolis (in the Polish, Moszkopolis) after its Jewish ruler Moshko (in the Polish, Moszko), and was published during the period of European Jewish history known as the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah).
The expression “Żydokomuna” was rediscovered and popularized during the Bolshevik revolution and was used once more during the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-21, when Jews were blamed for having supported the Soviets.
During World War II, “Żydokomuna” was applied to resemble the “Jewish-Bolshevism” rhetoric of National Socialist Germany, wartime Romania and other war-torn countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
History since World War I
The Polish Communist Party (KPP, 1918–1938) had a very strong power base among the Jews. In Polish court proceedings against communists between 1927 and 1936, 90% of the accused were Jews. Out of fifteen leaders of the KPP central administration in 1936, eight were Jews. Jews constituted 53% of the “active members” (aktyw) of the KPP, 75% of its “publication apparatus,” 90% of the “international department for help to revolutionaries” and 100% of the “technical apparatus” of the Home Secretariat. In terms of membership, before its dissolution in 1938, 25% of KPP members were Jews; most urban KPP members were Jews—a substantial number, given an 8.7% Jewish minority in prewar Poland. Nonetheless, research on voting patterns in Poland's parliamentary elections in the 1920s has shown that Jewish support for the communists was proportionally less than their representation in the total population; based on 1928 elections data, it can be estimated that only 5% of Jews were sympathetic enough to the communist cause to vote for the KPP. In the end, while most Jews were neither communists nor communist sympathizers, a substantial and quite visible portion of Polish Communists in the interwar period were Jews. This disproportionately large participation of Jews in the communist movement led to the spread of the Żydokomuna term, which in the late 1930s was widely used in the propaganda of the right-wing National Democrats, who after Józef Piłsudski's death in 1935 hoped to take power.
According to Jaff Schatz's summary of Jewish participation in the prewar Polish communist movement:
Throughout the whole interwar period, Jews constituted a very important segment of the Communist movement. According to Polish sources and to Western estimates, the proportion of Jews in the KPP [the Communist Party of Poland] was never lower than 22 percent. In the larger cities, the percentage of Jews in the KPP often exceeded 50 percent and in smaller cities, frequently over 60 percent. Given this background, a respondent's statement that "in small cities like ours, almost all Communists were Jews," does not appear to be a gross exaggeration.
Invasion of Poland and the Soviet occupation zone
Following the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, compared to the Poles, a substantial percentage of Jews were sympathetic to the Soviets. While most Poles saw the Soviets as invaders, many Jews saw them as what they claimed to be – protectors from the Nazis. Large numbers of Jews welcomed the Soviet invasion, implanting in Polish joint memory the image of Jewish crowds greeting the invading Red Army as the liberator. Many Jews declared, by their words and deeds, disdain for the Poles and the Polish state, and their loyalty to the Soviet Union. Young Jews joined or organized communist militias, others organized a new, communist, temporary self-government. Such militias often disarmed and arrested Polish soldiers, policemen and other authority figures; often, Poles and the Polish states were mocked. In the days and weeks following the events of September 1939, the Soviets engaged in a harsh policy of Sovietization. Polish schools and other institutions were closed, Poles were dismissed from jobs of authority, often arrested and deported, and replaced with non-Polish personnel. There were even cases of Jewish participation in massacres of ethnic Poles such as Massacre of Brzostowica Mała. Such events implanted in the Polish collective memory the image of Jewish crowds greeting the invading Red Army as liberators, and willing collaborators, further strengthening the żydokomuna. In return, many local Jews were rewarded with positions of authority by the Soviet government. What Poles saw as occupation and betrayal, many Jews saw as an opportunity for revolution or retribution. This worsened Polish-Jewish relations, leading to increased tensions.
Niall Ferguson wrote:
The entire Polish population adopted a negative attitude towards the Jews because of their blatant cooperation with the Bolsheviks and their hostility against non-Jews...the people simply hate the Jews.
After Operation Barbarossa and the beginning of Nazi terror in the former Polish eastern territories, many Jews joined Soviet guerilla groups, which increasingly clashed with Polish guerillas; this contributed to yet another argument that the Jews worked with the Soviets against the Poles.
Żydokomuna rule in the aftermath of World War II
The Polish-American historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz stressed that after the Soviet takeover of Poland in 1945 Jewish anti-Polish violence had developed, exacerbated by the breakdown of law and order. Some Jewish avengers endeavored to extract "justice" from the Poles who "harmed Jews" during the War and in some cases Jews attempted to reclaim property confiscated by the Nazis. These phenomena further reinforced the stereotype of Żydokomuna, a Jewish-Communist conspiracy in post-war Poland. Chodakiewicz noted that after World War Two, the Jews were not only victims, but also aggressors. He describes cases in which Jews cooperated with the Polish secret police, denouncing Poles and members of the Home Army. Chodakiewicz noted that some 3,500 to 6,500 Poles died in late 1940s because of Jewish denunciations or were killed by Jews themselves.
After the Second World War Polish Jews again were blamed for their active participation in the new Polish Communists organizations, particularly the secret police and Ministry of Public Security of Poland (also known as Służba Bezpieczeństwa). During Stalinism, the preferred Soviet policy was to keep sensitive posts in the hands of non-Poles. As a result "all or nearly all of the directors (of the widely despised Ministry of Public Security of Poland) were Jewish" as noted by Polish journalist Teresa Torańska among others. This allegation was denied by official sources which claimed that the Ministry of Security employed only one Jewish officer, presumably the head of the Ministry, Jakub Berman. Nonetheless recent study carried by Polish Institute of National Remembrance showed that out of 450 people in director positions in the Ministry (from 1944 to 1954), 167 (37.1%) were of Jewish ethnicity – a significant number, when compared to approximately 1% of Polish post-war population composed of Jews. All three communist leaders who dominated Poland between 1948 and 1956; Berman, Boleslaw Bierut, and Hilary Minc, were Jews.
There were a number of Jewish communists who played a highly visible role in the unpopular communist government and its security apparatus. Among the notable Jewish officials of the Polish secret police and security services were Minister Jakub Berman, Joseph Stalin's right hand in the PRL. He was responsible for the largest and most notorious secret police in the history of the People's Republic of Poland, the Ministry of Public Security (UB) employing 33,200 permanent security officers, one for every 800 Polish citizens. Hilary Minc, the third in command in Bolesław Bierut's political triumvirate of Stalinist leaders, became the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Industry, Industry and Commerce, and the Economic Affairs. He was personally assigned by Stalin first to Industry and then to Transportation Ministries of Poland. His wife, Julia, became the Editor-in-Chief of the monopolized Polish Press Agency. Diplomacy and intelligence Marcel Reich-Ranicki, Vice-minister Roman Romkowski (born Natan Grinszpan-Kikiel) (head of MBP), Dir. Julia Brystiger (5th Dept.), Dir. Anatol Fejgin (10th Dept. or the notorious Special Bureau), deputy Dir. Józef Światło (born Izaak Fleischfarb) (10th Dept.), Col. Józef Różański (born Józef Goldberg) among others.
Fleischfarb – "a torture master" – defected to the West in 1953. Other prominent Jews included: Mieczysław Mietkowski (born Mojżesz Bobrowicki), Leon Andrzejewski (born Ajzen Lajb Wolf), Józef Różański (born Józef Goldberg), Edward Kalecki (born Szymon Eliasz Tenenbaum), Ludwik Przysuski (born Salomon Przysuski), Michał Taboryski (born Mojżesz Taboryski), Zygmunt Braude, Zygmunt Okręt (born Nechemiasz Okręt), Józef Czaplicki (born Izydor Kurc), Julian Konar (born Julian Jakub Kohn), Aleksander Wolski (born Salomon Dyszko), Józef Kratko, Bernard Konieczny (born Bernard Bernstein), Julia Brystiger, Wacław Komar (born Mendel Kossoj), Marek Fink (born Mark Finkienberg), Józef Światło (born Izaak Fleischfarb), Henryk Piasecki (born Izrael Chaim Pesses), Salomon Morel.
Encouraged by their Soviet advisors, many Jewish functionaries and government officials adopted new Polish-sounding names hoping to find less acrimony among their adversaries.
Kevin MacDonald (in The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements):
Jews were installed by their Russian masters as the ideal middle stratum between an exploitative alien ruling elite and a subject native population. Jews were seen as having engineered the communist revolution and as having benefited most from the revolution. Jews constituted nearly all of the party's elite, held the top positions in the security police, and dominated managerial positions throughout the economy.
On 20 October 1945 deputy commander of the Soviet counterintelligence agency SMERSH, Nikolai Selivanovsky, who in 1945-46 was serving as advisor to the Polish Ministry of Public Security, sent to Lavrentiy Beria in Moscow a lengthy "Report on Situation of the Jewish Population in Poland":
In the Ministry of Public Security, there is a box for suggestions to improve the work of this authority. In the box there were found two anonymous letters with the following contents: 'Why does the democratic Poland exist only for the Jews? Why do only they have power there and everything is for them? Why do they all have high positions, why are they kierowniki, the bosses? Why can they use their diamonds and gold to gain the ranks of colonels, lieutenant colones, majors, in short all kind of officers, rather than we rank and file'.
Post Stalinist period
Polish October, also known as October 1956, Polish thaw, or Gomułka's thaw, marked a change in the Polish internal political scene in the second half of 1956. For Poland, 1956 was a year of transition. The international situation, particularly the deaths of the Soviet Union's leader, Joseph Stalin, and of Polish communist leader Bolesław Bierut, significantly weakened the hardliners' Stalinist faction in Poland. Protests in June by workers in Poznań highlighted the people’s dissatisfaction with their current situation. The events set in motion resulted in the reformers' faction, led by Władysław Gomułka, taking power. After brief but tense negotiations with the Soviet Union, the Soviets gave permission for Gomułka to stay in control, and made several other concessions resulting in wider autonomy for the Polish government. For Polish citizens, this meant the temporary liberalization of life in Poland. The era of Stalinization in Poland had ended.
Before Stalin's death, Gomułka's view on how Communism in Poland should look like (i.e. he was highly critical of the ruling Żydokomuna) led to his imprisonment, denounced as "right-wing" and "reactionary", and expelled from the Polish United Workers' Party (as the Communist Party was renamed following a merger with the Polish Socialist Party). Stalin's personal order was to have Gomułka killed so that "Bierut could rule without problems" but the plan was not carried out due to Stalin's death.
Edward Ochab, Bierut's successor, invited the now-rehabilitated Gomułka to serve as First Secretary of the Party. Gomułka insisted that he be given real power to implement reforms. Gomułka was initially very popular for his reforms (in contrast to the Żydokomuna rule of the previous years) and seeking a "Polish way to socialism", and beginning an era known as Gomułka's thaw.
Gomułka's thaw was caused by several factors. The death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 and the resulting de-Stalinization and Khrushchev's Thaw prompted debates about fundamental issues throughout the entire Eastern Bloc. Nikita Khrushchev's speech, On the Personality Cult and its Consequences, had wide implications for the Soviet Union and other communist countries as well.
During the brief period of de-Stalinization, many Jewish Stalinists were officially accused of "gross violations of human rights laws" and "abuse of power". For example, on 11 November 1957 vice-minister Natan Grinszpan-Kikiel aka Roman Romkowski (head of Ministry of Public Security of Poland) and Josek Goldberg aka Józef Różański (member of the Soviet NKVD and later, colonel of the Stalinist Ministry of Public Security of Poland. After the war, he served as interrogator with the Polish communist security apparatus Urząd Bezpieczeństwa) were sentenced to 15 years in prison for their crimes.
During the de-Stalinisation period the numbers of Jews in communist structures gradually fell. Urząd Bezpieczeństwa was liquidated. With time, more Poles joined the communist party. Gomułka in 1968 incited an anti-Zionist campaign, as a result of Soviet bloc opposition to the Six-Day War. Additionally, Mieczysław Moczar's anti-Zionist faction became increasingly influential in the communist party, leading to the March 1968 events, which resulted in most remaining Jews leaving Poland. The Jewish communists were blamed for a major part, if not all, of the crimes and horrors of the Stalinist period .
After the collapse of the People's Republic of Poland, the expression Żydokomuna is now used by Polish nationalists, right-wingers and some Catholic Church officials usually in reference to former communist party members and to liberals or left-wingers. Organizations referred to as "Żydokomuna" have included the left wing SLD and UW political parties, and Gazeta Wyborcza (a leading Polish left-liberal newspaper), whose editor-in-chief, Adam Michnik (born Aaron Schechter), is a Jew. Szechter's father, Ozjasz (Uzziah) Szechter, was the first secretary of the Communist Party of Western Ukraine. His (Adam's) brother, Stefan Michnik (Schechter), was a judge in the 1950s during the Stalinist period and is accused of passing death sentences on Polish resistance movement soldiers.
- Żydokomuna (eng. "Jew[ish]-commune") literally "Jewish-communism", is a word play of Żydo meaning Jewish (Żyd - Jew) and komuna (Komuna - Commune). Commune in Polish language is also pejorative about Communism (pl. Komunizm).
- Antony Polonsky and Joanna B. Michlic (2003). The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-11306-8. p.469
- Antony Polonsky, Poles, Jews and the Problems of a Divided Memory, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, page: 20 (PDF file: 208 KB)
- (English) Tadeusz Piotrowski (1997). Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide.... McFarland & Company, pp. 41-42. ISBN 0-7864-0371-3.
- George Voicu (4/2004). The Notion of “Judeo-Bolshevism” in Romanian Wartime Press. Studia Hebraica. p.55-68
- A. Gerrits (1995). Anti-Semitism and Anti-Communism: The Myth of 'Judeo-Communism' in Eastern Europe. East European Jewish Affairs. 25,1,49-72
- (English) Tadeusz Piotrowski (1997). Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide.... McFarland & Company, p. 36-37. ISBN 0-7864-0371-3.
- Robert Blobaum (1983). Antisemitism and Its Opponents In Modern Poland. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-691-11306-8. p. 97.
- Joseph Marcus (2003). The Social and Political History of the Jews in Poland, 1919-1939. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN ISBN 9027932395. p. 362.
- Tadeusz Piotrowski, Poland's Holocaust, p. 37
- The Death of Chaimke Yizkor Book Project, JewishGen: The Home of Jewish Genealogy
- (English) Tadeusz Piotrowski (1997). Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide.... McFarland & Company, p. 49-65. ISBN 0-7864-0371-3.
- Niall Ferguson, The War of the World, The Penguin Press, New York 2006, page 422
- Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, "After the Holocaust Polish-Jewish Conflict in the Wake of World War II", Columbia University Press, New York 2003, ISBN 0-88033-511-4
- Teresa Torańska, Them: Stalin's Polish Puppets, Harper & Row, New York 1987, ISBN 0060156570
- Norman Davies, "God’s Playground – A History of Poland (revised edition), Columbia University Press, New York 2005, ISBN 0-231-12819-3
- Krzysztof Szwagrzyk Żydzi w kierownictwie UB. Stereotyp czy rzeczywistość? (Jews in the authorities of the Polish Secret Security. Stereotype or Reality?), Bulletin of the Institute of National Remembrance (11/2005), p. 37-42, online article, entire issue
- Kevin MacDonald's review of a book by J. Schatz, The Generation: The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Communists of Poland (1991) in Kevin MacDonald, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements (Westport, Connecticut & London, 1998).
- The defection of Jozef Swiatlo and the Search for Jewish Scapegoats in the Polish United Workers' Party, 1953-1954 (PDF). Fourth Convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities. Harriman Institute, Columbia University, New York City (April 15-17, 1999). Retrieved on 2006-10-26.
- Michael C. Steinlauf, in David S. Wyman, Charles H. Rosenzveig, The world reacts to the Holocaust. Page 112. JHU Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8018-4969-1. 981 pages.
- The document can currently be found in the "special files" (osobye papki) of Molotov and Stalin in the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF), fond 9401, opis 2, delo 104, pp. 81-89.
- Dariusz Stola. "Fighting against the Shadows The Anti-Zionist Campaign of 1968." In: Robert Blobaum, ed. Antisemitism and Its Opponents in Modern Poland. Cornell University Press, 2005.
- Henryk Pająk, Piąty rozbiór Polski 1990–2000, Wydawnictwo Retro, 1998, p.92
- August Grabski, Działalność komunistów wśród Żydów w Polsce (1944-1949), Trio, Warszawa 2004, ISBN 8388542877