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Blood Libel in Poland, 1945

Blood Libel in Poland, 1945

Hearing of modern-day "Blood Libels" in the Arabic press reminds me of a painful experience I had in postwar Poland in 1945.

by Anda M. Rosen

At the time I was 12, having been recently liberated by the Russian army, after living in the Sambor Ghetto, and after hiding for two years in a rat-infested cellar.

On a spring Saturday morning in 1945, I was on my way to join my father in the synagogue which was in the old market section of Krakow. As I was nearing the synagogue, I saw Jews being beaten by people in the street, being escorted by a couple of Polish soldiers. Nearby, the military band was playing. It was a bizarre scene.

A "kind" elderly lady grabbed my hand and pulled me inside a store, which was packed with fleeing Poles, ostensibly hiding from bloodthirsty Jews. She said to me: "Child, don't go out there, because the Jews are catching Christian children to use their blood for Passover." She held on to my hand firmly.

I was shaking with fear and anger, but kept quiet about being Jewish. The crowd would have instantly lynched me. In her other raised hand, the "kind" old lady held a torn fragment of a Torah scroll, as she passionately declared, "This is a souvenir of the day we finally got rid of the last Jews in Poland!"

I escaped her grip and ran to look for my father, fearing the worst. After escaping the beatings in the synagogue, my father hid in a nearby house, and returned home later.

That evening, the synagogue's janitor came over to apologize. He was drunk. He told us that his 13-year-old son had been detained by police for a couple of hours. Apparently somebody had paid him to run out of the synagogue, covered with some kind of animal blood, screaming: "Help! The Jew are using me and other Christian children to draw blood for Passover!"

Historically, the Jews were invited by a Polish king over 1,000 years ago. But they were never considered by their fellow citizens to be Polish, even after a thousand years. Even before 1939, the children in my neighborhood, and in my first grade, were calling out to me: "Dirty Jew, go to Palestine!"

During the Nazi era we were more afraid of the local Poles and Ukrainians than of the Germans. Our neighbors pointed us out to the SS, and then while we were running away and hiding like mice, they emptied our apartments.

Eventually our family fled Poland and emigrated to the United States. Now that there are virtually no Jews living in Poland, I read that the city of Krakow is inviting tourists to celebrate an exhibit of "Jewish life and culture in Poland."

October 5, 2002

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Visitor Comments: 22

(22) Ms. Kennedy, September 26, 2010 9:49 PM

Painful Truth

Professor Rosen, thank you for relating the truth of history as you lived it. It is unfortunate that some readers cannot acknowledge historical truth from which we can, and ought to all learn. I'm looking forward to reading your memoir which I just ordered from Respectfully, MM Kennedy

(21) Tomasz, December 14, 2009 4:58 AM

Time for Peace!

>> Personally, I consider every Pole a brother and a sister of mine. I hope they can feel the same way about me. Thank you Bennett. That's the attitude that we desperately need in the world. Love, brother.

(20) Bennett, May 17, 2009 9:41 PM

Time for Peace

I am the descendant of Polish Jews. 2 generations later when asked about my nationality i say Polish and my religion is Jewish. As far as World War 2 is concerned, I don't believe any one group should be given more attention than another. Polish Christians and Polish Jews fought and died together during the "Offensive War of 1939. At the memorial for Katyn, there are symbols of all 4 of the great religions in Poland at the time including Jews. While there is anti-jewish sentiment among some Polish people, can we state as fact that this same sentiment can't be found in the USA either. It exists and it is up to each of us individually to combat the mistrust that has been so evident for so many years. Personally, I consider every Pole a brother and a sister of mine. I hope they can feel the same way about me.

(19) Anda meisels Rosen, March 9, 2009 8:37 PM

I am grateful for all these responses, and am deeply touched by them all.This article is an excerpt from my published mymemoir: "Middle Andzia"in which Poles and Ukrainians are mentioned who risked their lives to save Jews. Together let us all learn from history and heal this world from bigotry, prejudice and hatreds.The author.

(18) kate, November 27, 2008 12:15 PM

from Krakow

Still,after all they have been through, you rarely see such Polish patriots as some of the people who emmigrated to Israel. Remember that Poland as a country did not exist during the whole 19th century, and even before that ethnic Poles were just one of the many nations that inhabited it and were part of its story. Being Polish was a state of mind, regardless of your genes. Anybody has read Arthur Rubinstein's autobiography? He was 100% Polish and 100% Jewish at the same time, in the times when there was no free Poland on the map of the world! Antisemitism or any kind of racism is abominable. It is, however, not an attribute of any nation, but of individual people. We are what choose to be by our actions, as our ethnic origins alone cannot tell whether we are the good guys or the bad guys. During the war, there were good Poles, and bad Poles, heroes, villains, the indifferent ones, the scared ones etc. There were Christian Poles, Jewish Poles, and many other kinds of Poles. Racism will stop when we start to see people as individuals, not as some generic nation groups labelled with particular characteristics, because that's how stereotypes and prejudice are created. That's where, unfortunately, we all keep failing as human beings, and this article shows it very clearly. Ignorance is the mother of all evil. Let as be ingorant no more.

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