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Kielce Pogrom

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The Kielce pogrom of July 1946 against Holocaust survivors in Poland was sparked by an blood libel accusation, and was actively assisted by local authorities. About 200 Jews, the remnants of Kielce's Jewish population, had returned to the town. Most of them were living in a building on 7 Planty Street, run by a Jewish rescue committee and apparently forming a  Zionist commune ("kibbutz").

On July 1, 1946, an eight-year-old Polish boy, Henryk Błaszczyk, was reported missing by his father Walenty, a man who was apparently a police informer. On July 4, the boy and  his father went to a local police station where Henryk claimed that he had been kidnapped by Jews. Henryk accused the Jews of killing children for their blood and keeping the bodies in the cellar of the kibbutz, though the building had no cellar. Shortly before his death in 1990s, Blaszczyk admitted he was induced to lie by his father and the secret police.

Local police and army units spread rumors of a blood libel, disarmed Jewish defenders and actively took part in massacring Jews. About 40 Jews were killed in the ensuing violence. Seweryn Kahane, head of the local Jewish Committee was shot in the head by police while attempting to call for help. Some of the survivors who fled the city by train were removed from the train by railways guards and civilians and murdered. Two or three Polish police were apparently murdered by Jews in self-defense. Church authorities, pressured to condemn the pogrom, insisted that it was due to Jewish abuse of Christian children and Jewish cooperation with the communist government. The blood libel and pogrom put an end to hopes of many Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors of integrating into Polish life, and increasing numbers tried to emigrate to Palestine, though the gates of Palestine had been slammed shut by the British Mandatory authorities. In July 1946, almost twenty thousand Jews decided to leave Poland. In August 1946 the number increased to thirty thousand. In September 1946, twelve thousand Jews left Poland. In those three months, more Jews had left Poland than in the entire preceding period since the war had ended. Many of them got to Palestine with the aid of the Beriha. Anti-Zionists subsequently claimed that the Jewish exodus from Poland was orchestrated by "Zionists" who invented incidents of anti-Semitic violence and spread false rumors.

Twelve rioters were tried and found guilty. Of these, nine were executed and three received prison sentences. Police and others were exonerated except for one officer who got a one year sentence. Various motives have been attributed to the rioters and the authorities. One possible motive was the unwillingness of Nazi collaborators to give up property confiscated from Jews. That could not explain police and army involvement. Poles have tried to blame the riot on the Soviets, but nobody has found any evidence of Soviet complicity. In 2006, a monument was erected in honor of the victims, and Polish authorities insisted that anti-Semitism is expunged from Poland. Nonetheless, there are constant reports of anti-Semitic harassment of Poland's Jewish community.

Ami Isseroff

April 6, 2009

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: Pogrom blood libel

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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