Attitudes towards Jews in Polish society, 1967-2007: multifacted continuity and change
Institute of Sociology The University of Warsaw Poland,
The paper is based on an meta-analysis of public-opinions polls and scholarly inquiry conducted in Poland since 1967, when the first survey of ethnic attitudes was carried out. The paper covers the last twenty years of Communism and the first twenty years of democracy in Poland - it permits to show the effect of these historical changes on attitudes towards Jews. Also covered are multinational surveys carried out in Poland and other countries for the AJC and ADL - it permits to compare Poland with some other European countries.
1. The attitude towards Jews in Poland is multifaceted - from factual knowledge about Jews, through sympathethic/unsympathetic feelings and social distance, stereotypes, prejudices and thinking schemas, to views on Polish-Jewish history. Some of the facets, particularly unsympathetic feelings and prejudices, are not unique to the relationship with Jews. They are also present in relations with other ethnic groups and result more from a general non-acceptance of strangers than from a specific anti-Semitism. Other facets, however, are uniquely related to Jews.
2. Polish society is diversified and divided in its attitudes towards Jews. In that sense, as a society, the Poles are neither anti- nor philo-Semitic, and quite often just indifferent.
3. Stereotypes of Jews, thinking schemas ("Jews have too much influence") and views on Polish-Jewish history are of a societal as well as individual background. Created and carried over by the society they become parts of its tradition and collective consciousness. Individual members accept them and pass them over, endured in the process.
4. Many surveys indicate that those attitudes take strong roots in and encompass a wide range of Polish society. In this regard Poland and some other East European countries are much alike and distinguish themselves negatively in comparison with Western Europe.
5. The changes in Poles' attitudes towards Jew are looming. Sympathy and feelings of closeness arise, although very slowly. Those changes are part of a general change in attitude towards others but the change of attitude towards Jews has its own dynamics and depends on the public debates about Polish-Jewish relations.