Until the outbreak of the anti-Semitic campaign of 1968, the word Zionist was used in Poland solely to denote a supporter of Zionism, a social and political national movement. One of the principal aims of Zionists was the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. In 1948, the State of Israel proclaimed its independence, which led to the exacerbation of the Jewish-Arab tensions. While previous military conflicts between Israel and Arab countries had been given little attention by the Polish public opinion, the Six-Day War (5–10 June 1967), also known as the Third Arab–Israeli War, became a turning point in the policy of the Polish People’s Republic towards the State of Israel and to Jewish citizens of Poland. The USSR and its satellite states (with the exception of Romania) condemned the actions of Israel and gave support to the Arab allies. In consequence, Israel broke all diplomatic relations with the countries of the Eastern Bloc (with Poland – on 12 June 1967).
In his speech given on 19 June 1967, Władysław Gomułka initiated an anti-Zionist campaign directed de facto against Polish Jews. The March propaganda used the term Zionists as synonymous with Jews, regardless of their individual social and political opinions. It should be emphasised that the last active Zionist parties in Poland had been dissolved in 1950, with most of their members leaving the country afterwards. The words Jew or Jewish were hardly present in the March campaign and were instead replaced by Zionist¸ used either as a noun or an adjective. Gomułka himself emphasised that his policies were strictly anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic. Nonetheless, the anti-Jewish character of the events was so poorly concealed that the society quickly realised whom the authorities considered to be Zionists. There was a popular joke circulating the streets of Poland, in which a boy asks his father: “Daddy, how do you spell Zionism?,” and the father replies: “I don’t know, but before the war we would spell it with a J.” Paradoxically, there were also non-Jewish Poles that were branded Zionists. According to Dariusz Stola, anyone could be labelled “a lackey of Zionism.”
The communist propaganda accused Polish Jews of being disloyal to Poland, having negative attitudes towards socialism, and supporting the revisionist policy of Israel. Zionists, understood as communists of Jewish descent, were also presented as responsible for the crimes of the Stalinist era. The authorities also blamed a Jewish “commando” for inciting student protests.
On 24 June 1968, during the session of the Assembly Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party, Władysław Gomułka concluded that the issue of Zionism and, consequently, Zionists, had been finally solved. As a result of the campaign, purges were carried out in the ruling party, national institutions, administrative facilities, and academic centres. In the years 1968–1971, a total of ca. 13,000 Jews migrated from Poland. This constituted the last mass exodus of Polish Jews from the country.
- Eisler J., Polski rok 1968, Warsaw 2006.
- Osęka P., Syjoniści, inspiratorzy, wichrzyciele. Obraz wroga w propagandzie marca 1968, Warsaw 1999.
- Stola D., Kampania antysyjonistyczna w Polsce 1967–1968, Warsaw 2000.