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Antisemitism

Antisemitism is known to have been a major factor in precipitating Jewish emigration from Poland. The Jews of Bodzentyn who attended school in the 1920s and 1930s refer to such incidents. "One [particular] teacher did not respect the Shabbat, he wanted us to have a seminar on this day," Rachel Saphir-Einesman recalls. There were also instances when Jewish children were subjected to the medieval myth of Jews killing a Christian child to use the blood for the Passover, baking the unleavened bread (matzt).

Rachel Saphir-Einesman and Jakub Bromberg specifically recall one teacher who was a known antisemite and taught at the local school in Bodzentyn's public school in the mid 1920s and the following years. He would sing a song about wishing to see the Jews killed. Rachel's father, Icek, complained to the school management asking them to remove this teacher who "called for violence against the Jews". Nonetheless, the teacher was permitted to remain at his job.

Rachell Szachter recalls life in Bodzentyn as quiet up to the late 1930s. "Not until close to the war did I ever experience any antisemitic incidents [] But just prior to the war when Hitler was already having his power in Germany — I think it must have been very close to '39 [] this teacher, who was known to be an antisemite, was teaching geography. And she called a Jewish boy, and she wanted him to show Gdynia [on the map]. Gdynia was the port, the farthest northern port in Poland. First she brought a little stool, and she made fun of him because he was too short. And then when he pointed to Prussia, she said: 'Run away from there, Jew, because that is where Hitler is and he does not like Jews.' And this was the first time that I openly experienced an antisemitic outburst."

With war closing in on Poland, local antisemitic activists in Bodzentyn would take up posts outside Jewish shops and stalls, attempting to prevent Poles from entering them. "They shouted to others 'do not buy from Jews' but there were those who would roam around the store until the site was clear and then they would go into the store and buy whatever they needed anyway," Rachel Saphir-Einesman recalls.


German propaganda antisemitic poster written in Polish, hanged out on Polish streets in German-occupied Poland 1942: "JEWS-SUCKING LOUSE-TYPHUS."
© Bodzetyn.net | Wikipedia Commons, courtesy of Archives of Institute of National Remembrance.

With the influx of Nazi German propaganda Dawid is likely to have experienced for himself the gradual intensification of antisemitism in his own neighborhood. Sometime after the outbreak of war it was even expressed by the village mayor in Krajno. On 16 January 1942 Dawid writes: "The mayor said all Jews would have to be shot because they were enemies. If I could only write down just a part of all those things said at our house, but I simply cant..." Dawid himself had seen the village constable's cruelty in forcing local Jews to shovel snow in the bitter cold, so it was probably no surprise to learn that it was the constable who was responsible for setting up a poster with a caricature of the Jews headed "The Jew Is A Cheat, Your Only Enemy".

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