This week my focus is on an interview that I had with an expert in the field of Holocaust studies. My interviewee was Joanna Sliwa, an historian born in Krakow, Poland who specializes in Holocaust research and Polish Jewry at the Claims Conference. As I previously indicated, the Claims Conference is an organization that represents world Jewry in negotiating with Germany for compensation and restitution for the victims of the Holocaust.
I prepared for our meeting by reviewing the secondary sources that I had previously read on Poland, with an eye toward the issues that were still unclear to me. I was hoping to explore with Ms. Sliwa the impact that the Jewish immigration to Uzbekistan from Poland during the war had on survival rates, the role of the Polish Resistance, the process of obtaining false papers, the response by the Catholic Church in Poland and the differences in local reactions between urban and rural areas.
Through my interview I learnt about the 200,000 Polish Jews who managed to escape the Germans into the interior of the Soviet Union. Unlike other countries where there was nowhere to flee as a result of the Germans controlling the country itself and the neighboring countries, Poland bordered the Soviet Union. Up until June of 1941 the Soviet Union was entirely independent of the Germans. As a result, an estimated 200,000 Jews living in eastern Poland migrated into Soviet controlled Central Asia, mainly Uzbekistan.
I also learnt about the role of the Underground and the Catholic Church. The Polish Underground was a military and civilian resistance movement in opposition to the Germans. In some instances, the Polish Underground greatly assisted Jews by providing false papers. However, at other times they were blinded by their antisemitism leading them to turn a blind eye or even turn Jews in. A similar mixed response was seen by the Catholic Church. The reaction by the Catholic Church greatly varied depending on the region and the circumstances.
One issue when creating a general trend of the factors for survival rates in Poland is understanding the nuances. With this in mind, Sliwa recommended to me a book solely focused on the Polish Underground and another book focused on the responses of Poles living in rural areas. I hope these books will help me to develop a general trend of the role of the Polish Underground and the Poles living in rural areas in the Jewish survival rate in Poland during the Holocaust.
Next week, I will blog about Poland.