Summary and Info
The Jewish experience on Polish lands is often viewed backwards through the lens of the Holocaust and the ethnic rivalries that escalated in the period between the two world wars. Critical to the history of Polish-Jewish relations, however, is the period prior to World War I when the emergence of mass electoral politics in Czarist Russia led to the consolidation of modern political parties. Using sources published in Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew, and Russian, Joshua D. Zimmerman has compiled a full-length English-language study of the relations between the two dominant progressive movements in Russian Poland. He examines the Polish Socialist Party (PPS), which sought social emancipation and equal civil rights for minority nationalities, including Jews, under a democratic Polish republic, and the Jewish Labor Bund, which declared that Jews were a nation distinct from Poles and Russians and advocated cultural autonomy. By 1905, the PPS abandoned its call for Jewish assimilation, and recognised Jews as a separate nationality. Zimmerman demonstrates persuasively that Polish history in Czarist Russia cannot be fully understood without studying the Jewish influence and that Jewish history was equally infused with the Polish influence. Founded in 1892 by descendants of Polish nobility and polonized Jews from Warsaw, the PPS saw its leading mission as the formation of a united ethnic front against the imperial Russian rulers. It advocated the break-up of Russia and the formation of a breakaway federal republic of the Polish, Lithuanian, and Ukranian nations as successor nations to the old 18th century Polish Commonwealth. As part of this plan the PPS saw the Jews as potential recruits to the Polish nation who would be polonized through linguistic, cultural and civic assimilation. For the PPS the Polish proletariat consisted of Christian and Jewish workers. The Jewish Labor Bund, however, instead declared that Jews were a nation distinct from Poles and Russians and advocated a distinctive national program within Jewish socialism. Between 1893 and 1905 and between 1907 and 1914 Zimmerman shows how and why the Bund underwent a major ideological transformation, moving from initially advocating equal civil rights for Jews and unification with the Russian socialist movement to endorsing the principle of Jewish national autonomy.
More About the Author
Joshua D. Zimmerman (born 1966) is Professor of History at Yeshiva University, where he holds the Eli and Diana Zborowski Professorial Chair in Interdisciplinary Holocaust Studies.
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