"The pogrom began. They broke down
doors and windows...they took everything they could carry...they rushed like demons. we
cried, we hid in cellars and in barns but we were ready for death. The pogrom didn't
subside; it grew. The gang leaders who gave directions were well-dressed men. The more we
pleaded with them for mercy and the more they felt in control of the situation, the madder
they became...We cried for our martyrs...I was afraid. In every Pole I saw a
murderer." (8 year-old Jewish boy in village near Cracow).
How did such behavior come about? Who were
these perpetrators? Real demons? No, pogroms were run by ordinary Poles. It was the
rhetoric of the increasingly conservative government that incited pogroms.
As Celia Heller notes, it is impossible to
convey the tragedy of pre-war violence to a generation silenced by Hitler and Stalin.
Historical important facts are noted above in the political review section.
It is important to note the official acceptance
or downright approval of the violence in the system. The violence after Russian invasion
was quite highly organized, precise, and consistent, with the help of the Endek and the
observance of everyone else. Even the Church, while not officially condoning the violence,
provided rationale. A Cardinal Hlond in 1936 illustrates this incitement-by-default in an
oft-quoted address: "A Jewish problem exists, and will continue to exists as long as
the Jews remain Jews...It is a fact that the Jews fight against the Catholic Church, they
are free-thinkers, and constitute the vanguard of atheism, and of revolutionary activity.
It is a fact that the Jewish influence upon morals is fatal...But let us be just. Not all
Jews are like that...I warn against the fundamental, unconditional anti-Jewish principle,
imported from abroad. It is contrary to Catholic ethics...it is not permissible to hate
anyone. Not even Jews. One ought to fence oneself off against the harmful moral influences
of Jewry, and to separate oneself against its anti-Christian culture, and especially to
boycott the Jewish press...But it is not permissible to asault Jews...When divine mercy
enlightens a Jew, and he accepts sincerely his and our Messiah, let us greet him with joy
in the Christian midst." The Jesuit periodical, Przeglad Powszechny, further
illustrates the official attitude, in response to later pogroms: "One should let the
Jews be, but eliminate them from the life of Christian society. It is necessary to provide
separate schools for Jews so that our children will not be infected with their lower
morality." The Church, with more power than any other single institution in Poland,
failed to halt the violence (being done with supposedly Christian aims) with strong
condemnations, and thus subtly encouraged it.