Refugees Streaming into Poland Discover Hospitality of the Poverty-stricken and Hostility of Natives
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Refugees Streaming into Poland Discover Hospitality of the Poverty-stricken and Hostility of Natives

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Officials estimate that more than six thousand Jewish refugees from Germany have passed through this little city in Polish Upper Silesia.

A few of them—perhaps one thousand—have remained here. The rest have scattered to various parts of Poland and Eastern Europe.

Each has brought his story of hardship and oppression. And from them one may learn more about Jews in Germany than from those who remain in that country.

Jews in Katowice and other parts of Poland are finding this country no promised land of milk and honey. Both the officials, who have little love for Jews, and the millions of unemployed, who eye the immigrants with no small measure of hate, resent their coming.

Whether the Jews be rich or poor makes little essential difference. It is true that those with some wealth are shown the deference usually bestowed by fawning humanity; but beneath this thin coat of superficial courtesy a heavy strata of jealousy lies. Wealthy Jews are pointed at on the streets. “They left Poland to escape helping us fight Russia after the World War,” the Poles say. “They went to Germany and made fortunes, while we fought and became poor.”

Hundreds of returning Eastern Jews are being concentrated in ghettos in communes near Katowice. They live here in a state of poverty, distress and dirt that is almost beyond description. In Pszcayna, Rybnik, Swietochlowice, Tarnowski Gory and other adjoining territories, they are tendered hospitality, the sole merit of which lies in the kindness with which it is offered to Polish Jews.


Many ghettos can be detected from a distance by no other sense than that of smell. Entire blocks are without sewage systems or drainage. Pigs and geese are the only scavangers of these beleaguered areas; and their inefficiency is evident by the squalor of the streets and the unwholesome odors that emanate from them.

While the Polish government offers little succor to German Jews, Polish Jews are living up to all traditions of their race in the measure of charity they are extending their less fortunate brothers. Themselves accustomed to stark poverty, they are generously sharing their meager possessions with Jews from Germany.

Little aged Jews dressed in somber black, with typically Jewish caps and long beards, have thrown open their humble homes to smooth-shaven, modern-tailored Jews from across the border. Many of their guests had become accustomed to the most luxurious features of Germany. It requires greater effort on the part of these guests to appear cheerful than it does for their hosts to provide them with hospitality.

In the meantime powerful forces are at work to make life for Jews in Poland as intolerable as it is in Germany. Since the Nazi ascension to power a group called the Christian Union has renewed efforts to rouse the Polish people against the Jews.


As more Jews daily stream into Poland, anti-Semitic forces are being enhanced by hundreds of unemployed Poles, who view the immigration as a new form of competition in their struggle to find work. A half hundred minor organizations in Poland have recently been created with their essential motive that of putting Jews out of Poland.

It is understood that the Polish Government, while not taking action against these organizations, is in no way supporting them. The severe retaliation being adopted by world powers as counter action against persecution of Jews in Germany is said to have had great effect on many anti-Semitic elements of the Warsaw administration.

Silesian government authorities are closely watching the activities of anti-Jewish organizations. A number of these groups are rapidly assuming a Nazi aspect; and for this reason, as much as for any other, the police frown upon overt anti-Semitic demonstrations.

In the network of intrigue that criss-crosses this still disputed territory it is greatly feared that Hitlerites are appealing to the sympathy of Silesians through their common dislike for Jews. Officials have expressed the belief that the Nazi enrolling of many Polish citizens in the local war against Jews has a far broader and deeper significance.


Availing themselves in full measure of rights granted them as a minority by the League of Nations, German young men in Polish Silesia have formed a “Youths’ Union” which is in all ways similar to that of the Nazis across the border. They meet quite openly and march through the streets singing Nazi songs despite the glowering stares of thousands of confirmed Poles.

It is admitted by authorities on both the German and Polish sides of the border that neither the essential cause for trouble nor the tendency toward forceful settlement of territorial issues has diminished. Germany still loudly proclaims that she was robbed of Polish Upper Silesia, one of the most important industrial territories in Europe; and she points to features of the plebiscite in which the population in Polish industrial areas favored German dominance. With Germany the Silesian question is by no means solved.

Poland, however, considers the issue settled with the possible exception of future rendition of a part of present German Upper Silesia in which many Poles live. Quite freely are espionage agents passing from one country to the other. With citizenship here as confused as it is, Poles have little difficulty in spying in Germany as German citizens and vice versa. In fact, it is known to this writer that a part of the Polish reserve spends two days drilling in uniform in Polish Upper Silesia and twenty-eight days as German citizens prying around German offices and factories.


Language difficulties are not encountered by Polish spies. Those coming from Upper Silesia speak German fluently. German is spoken by approximately 95 percent of the people in Polish Upper Silesia, while only 90, percent understand and speak their mother tongue.

While to all outward appearances the rights of minorities in Polish Upper Silesia are being granted, this outward compliance with the League of Nations ruling is little more than a blanket to cover a severe rivalry between Germans and Poles. The same circumstance prevails on the German side of the border, where German merchants and employers have all but boycotted their Polish guests.

And between the two the unhappy Jew is cast. He is an outcast both in Poland and Germany. Polish authorities are seeking through decisive means to eliminate both Germans and Jews from positions in industry. Employers have been ordered to dismiss these two classes and replace them with specially favored Poles.

In many instances employers have refused to do this; but every occasion for argument is utilized by authorities to press their point. Thus, if someone picks a fight with a Jew and both are arrested as brawlers, representations are immediately made to the employer of the Jew for his dismissal.

Because of ancient and current restrictions in the nature of employment that may be given Jews, they have become neither landowners nor merchants who sell directly to the consumer. They are middlemen—and as such they are scorned by the more ignorant classes of Poles, who can see no use for middle men in our present-day complicated scheme of business. Anti-Jewish literature that is occasionally found in Poland invariably carries the criticism, “The Jews neither produce nor sell. They merely exact an unearned fee from both the producers and the consumer.”

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