The fast approaching 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was marked by an opinion poll conducted by the Homo Homini Institute, surveying the attitudes towards ‘Jewishness’ of a representative sample of 1250 Warsaw high school students. The results have been reported by some of the mainstream media, including Israeli news portals or the British Daily Mail, as proof of deeply rooted anti-Semitic attitudes amongst Polish youth.
It is true some figures are rather shocking – 60% of the polled 17-year-olds declared that they would be unhappy (‘niezadowolony’) if they found out that their boyfriend or girlfriend are Jewish. Only 16% declared they would be happy (‘zadowolony’) about such revelation, with 22% declaring indifference. Almost 45% of those polled would not want to have a Jewish neighbour, and a similar number would resent having a Jewish relative. Journalists also underline the poor knowledge of the history of Polish Jews – the students gravely underrated the number of Jews living in pre-war Warsaw (indicating 17% as opposed to the actual 31%), and 30% of those polled could not correctly indicate the year of the Ghetto Uprising (1943).
Nonetheless, the Homo Homini poll seems to indicate a general lack of knowledge of Polish history among Warsaw students, rather than of the history of Polish Jews in particular. In fact, while 23% of the 17-year-olds erroneously thought that the Ghetto Uprising was victorious, almost 40% thought the same about the ‘Polish’ Warsaw Uprising of 1944. In addition, surprisingly in view of the other results, over half of those polled correctly identified Mordechaj Anielewicz as the leader of the Ghetto Uprising.
The issue of the media alarmism about the prevalence of anti-Semitism could also be questioned. After all the majority of the polled students declared that they would be happy or indifferent if they were to find out one of their family members was Jewish, if they were to have Jewish classmates, or Jewish neighbours. The students also ranked the Ghetto Uprising as the 7th most important event of Warsaw’s history, ahead of the 1989 Round Table Agreement that opened the way to the first free election in Communist Poland.
Read http://bit.ly/17076qR for some of the detailed results of the poll (in Polish).
The 70th anniversary of the Ghetto Uprising on April 19th will be marked by the opening of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in heart of Warsaw’s old ghetto district. Almost 200 million złoty ($64 million) of public money were spent on the project, making it the largest cultural investment of the Polish capital. See the museum’s website at:
For our article on the Jewish cultural revival in Poland see: