Forty-four percent of Warsaw high school students don’t want a Jewish neighbor.
This is one of the findings in a new poll of 1,250 students in 20 Warsaw high schools. The poll was conducted by the Center for Research on Prejudice at Warsaw University. It’s findings came April 16, just days before the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
Among other findings:
• 60.7% would be unhappy if their girl friend/boy friend turned out to be a Jew • 44.1% would be unhappy if a Jewish family moved into his/her neighborhood • 45% would be unhappy if it was found there was a person of Jewish origin in his/her family
Professor Michal Bilewicz, who supervised the poll, expressed dismay at the results. He said the teen-agers’ level of prejudice is twice as high as the numbers for their parents.
“Knowledge of history in the Warsaw schools is extremely weak,” he said in a phone interview with the Forward. “This reflects poorly on the caliber of teaching in our schools, and this ignorance of history corresponds with an aversion to modern Jews.”
According to Bilewicz, the poll also revealed that the students attach little significance to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943.
Joanna Korzeniewska, a spokeswoman for the Jewish Community in Warsaw, told Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s leading newspaper, that the poll results will be useful in designing education programs that are more necessary than they had imagined.
Piotr Kadlicik, president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, was troubled by the findings, according to the Jewish Telegraph Agency. He said the prevalence of anti-Semitic attitudes is particularly surprising “considering there are hardly any Jews in Poland.”
There were 3.2 million Jews in Poland before the Holocaust compared with 7,500 people who identify as Jews in the 2011 census. This small number of Jews in a country of 38.5 million means that many Poles have no contact with Jews, creating ignorance and many misconceptions.
A national poll in 2012 showed that anti-Semitic sentiment in Poland is high, but less than in Hungary and neighboring Lithuania. The national poll was conducted by the Anti-Defamation League.
In spite of both poll findings, there are some grounds for optimism. Poland is engaged in a candid examination of its darker side during the world war. Histories call into question the established self-image whereby Poles view themselves as either heroes or victims during World War II.
In fact they were heroes and villains, according to contemporary histories,
The new Polish movie “Aftermath” deals with the wartime massacre of Jews by ethnic Poles in the town of Jedwabne in July 1941.
“We have to deconstruct our identity as victims and innocents which was created during the Communist time,” said Jolanta Ambrosewicz-Jacobs,” director of the Center for Holocaust Studies at Jagiellonian University in Krakow.
This story "Half of Polish Students Don't Want Jewish Neighbor" was written by Don Snyder.