Political groups seeking to limit the role of Jews in Central and East European states and societies emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century against the background of economic crisis, ethnic and political tensions, reaction to Jewish emancipation, and the increasing prominence of Jews in economic and cultural life. Such groups appeared first in Germany around 1880 and, shortly thereafter, in Austria-Hungary and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
Before World War I
The Russian pogroms of 1881–1882 and the ritual murder accusations in Tiszaeszlár, Hungary (1882–1883), helped strengthen the so-called antisemitic movement in Central and Eastern Europe. At the first International Anti-Jewish Congress, held in Dresden in 1882, a picture of Eszter Solymosi, the victim of Tiszaeszlár, was prominently displayed, and among the Congress’s delegates were three members of the Hungarian parliament. An Alliance Antijuive Universelle was established in 1886. Different circumstances governed the evolution and success of anti-emancipationist groups in different countries. In the Habsburg Empire, the emerging national movements often perceived Jews as agents of the dominant German culture and instruments of imperial authority. Thus, several political parties supported programs aimed at restricting or revoking the rights Jews had acquired through emancipation, and the “Jewish question” became a useful device for mobilizing voters.
Le Mouvement Anti-Sémitique en Russie." (The Antisemitic Movement in Russia). Cover of La République Illustrée (no. 324; Paris, 25 September 1886) depicting mobs destroying attacking Jews and destroying a Jewish home in Nizhni Novgorod, Russia. (Moldovan Family Collection)
In Hungary, Jewish emancipation was granted in 1867. As early as 1875 a representative of the liberal party in power, Győző Istóczy (1842–1915), urged in parliament that Jewish immigration from the east be curbed and in 1878, in his so-called “Palestine speech,” proposed that Jews be sent off to a restored Jewish state. Istóczy supported his position with both racial and religious arguments, and the rising tide of antisemitism in Germany and Austria, and later the pogroms in Russia, fueled his campaign. From 1880 he published the monthly 12 Röpirat, in which he announced the establishment of a Central Association of Non-Jewish Hungarians to fight against Jewish influence. Students at the University of Budapest, especially in the law and medical faculties, expressed their support for Istóczy and petitioned the rector in 1881 against the overrepresentation of Jews. Later that year, a petition from Vasvár in Istóczy’s electoral district called for revoking Jewish emancipation. Istóczy received support from Géza Ónody, Gyula Verhovay, the editor of Függetlenség (Independence), and Iván Simonyi, the editor of Westungarischer Grenzbote. But it was the Tiszaeszlár ritual murder accusation and the popular riots it generated throughout the country in 1882 and 1883 that gave Hungarian antisemitism a great boost. In the wake of the Dresden International Conference, “Christian defense societies” were established throughout the country. Five members of parliament, drawn mainly from the ranks of the left-wing opposition Independence Party, joined Istóczy’s association, some with more moderate, others with more radical anti-Jewish measures in mind.
In October 1883, two months after the conclusion of the Tiszaeszlár trial, the National Antisemitic Party (Orszagos Antiszemita Party) was formed and won 17 seats in parliament and a majority in the municipal council of Pressburg (Bratislava). Internal conflicts led Istóczy to leave the party in 1885 to form the National Moderate Antisemitic Party. By the 1887 elections, the combined strength of the two parties had dropped to 11 seats, and many of the leading figures returned to the mainstream. After 1890, attacks against Jews in Hungary came mainly from anticapitalist agrarian associations and clerical circles that formed the conservative Néppárt (People’s Party) in 1895 during the culture wars against the introduction of civil marriage and the “reception” of Judaism.
In imperial Russia, many right-wing political parties that proclaimed themselves defenders of orthodoxy, autocracy, and the “Russian idea” appeared after the 1905 Revolution. They drew on a tradition of stereotypic portrayals of Jews as nonproductive exploiters of the peasantry that dated to the late eighteenth century, as well as on a literature embodying traditional Christian anti-Jewish motifs, including ritual murder and the threat of a secret, worldwide Jewish conspiracy. Two prominent examples of that literature were Kniga kagala (Book of the Kahal) by Jacob Brafman (1825–1879) and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (1905). One especially notorious party was Soiuz Russkogo Naroda (the Union of Russian People; URP), also called “Chernaia Sotnia” (Black Hundred). Founded in 1905, its first leader was Aleksandr I. Dubrovin. The Union established paramilitary groups that engaged in street violence and assassinations and boycotted Jewish shops. Victims included two Jewish deputies representing the liberal Kadet party (Constitutional Democrats, abbreviated KD, hence their common name). Similar to the Union was Russkoe Sobranie (Russian Assembly), a group of high-ranking military and government officials, established in Saint Petersburg in 1900; it became a political party in 1905.
That same year the most powerful and influential right-wing organization, Soiuz Russkich Liudei (Union of Russian People; URP), was established in Moscow. Count P. S. Sheremetev, whose goal was to fight Jewish influence in all fields of Russian life by combining anti-Jewish slogans with populist anticapitalist and antiurban rhetoric, led it. These parties had little electoral success. The controlled, stable, and consistent discriminatory practices of the tsar and the ruling class tended to neutralize the extremist parties, who served more to maintain general hostility against Jews and to perpetuate anti-Jewish prejudices and stereotypes.
In Congress Poland, antisemitic parties and movements appealed to the proletariat and middle class under a nationalist program of struggle against Jewish competition and Russian oppression. After 1905, especially during elections to the Russian Duma, the “Jewish question” became highly politicized, with Jews depicted as the main domestic threat to Polish society. In Polish regions beyond the Russian Empire, especially in Galicia, peasant parties included the struggle against the “Jewish threat” in their agendas. These parties included the Union of Peasants Party (Związek Stronnictwa Chłopskiego; ZSCh), founded in 1893, and the Christian-Peasant Party (Stronnictwo Chrześcijańsko-Ludowe), founded in 1896 by Father Stanisław Stojałowski.
The National Democratic Party (Stronnictwo Narodowo-Demokratyczne; ND), known as Endecja, was the most important Polish nationalist party. Founded in 1893 by Roman Dmowski (1864–1939), it placed the fight against Jews at the center of its program. In accordance with its perception of Germany as Poland’s main antagonist, it claimed that German and Polish Jews were together spearheading an anti-Polish conspiracy. According to Endecja’s main ideologists—Dmowski, Jan Popławski (1854–1908), and Zygmunt Balicki (1858–1916)—Jews were alien to Poland and incorrigibly hostile to Polish national interests; in order to regain independence, ethnic Poles needed to wrest control of trade and industry from them.
“Who Is an Antisemite?” Russian poster. Printed in the USSR, 1927–1930. Artwork by Nikolai Denisovski. The poster associates antisemitism with “prerevolutionary” elements, such as capitalists, the bourgeoisie, and supporters of the tsar. (YIVO)
In Romania, an anti-Jewish political movement emerged against the background of the decision by the Congress of Berlin (1878) to condition recognition of Romanian independence upon emancipation of the country’s Jews. Politicians seized upon this external pressure to arouse an atmosphere of “vigilance” against the “danger” of Jewish penetration of Romania’s political and social life. Political parties and the press associated the presence of Jews in capitalist enterprises with the country’s critical economic situation. Similarly, the peasants’ revolt of 1888 and the great peasant uprising of 1907 were accompanied by anti-Jewish propaganda. Especially after 1900, politicians also argued that the Jews’ integration in Romanian society had to be prevented because it jeopardized the state’s Romanian national character.
Antisemitic organizations emerged in Romania in conjunction with similar groups in other countries. The Alliance Antijuive Universelle was founded in Bucharest. In 1895, Alexandru C. Cuza (1857–1947) founded Alianța Antisemită (Antisemitic Alliance) and Liga Antisemită Universală (Universal Antisemitic League). In 1910, he and the historian Nicolae Iorga (1871–1940) established the Nationalist Democratic Party with an explicitly anti-emancipationist agenda. The new antisemitic groups had significant influence in the press, but except for Cuza no politician had built a political career relying on an exclusively antisemitic agenda. Anti-Jewish themes could also be found in the programs of the main liberal and conservative parties. Several personalities stood out for their violently hostile rhetoric concerning Jews, including Vasile Conta, Vasile Alecsandri, Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu, Mihai Eminescu, and Ioan Slavici. These people were later considered “forerunners” of the radical antisemitic movements that developed after 1918.
Between the World Wars
The ethnic nationalist parties of the Habsburg and tsarist empires turned increasingly xenophobic upon gaining state power. The Minorities Treaties imposed upon the successor states carved from those empires strengthened right-wing movements by creating a backlash against interference in the internal affairs of the new states. Especially in Poland, Romania, and Hungary, calls to reduce the Jews’ role in economic and social life became a significant component of interwar nationalism. They were embraced by mainstream parties and taken to extremes by radical nationalist groups. Radical nationalists were politically marginal immediately after World War I, but they eventually succeeded in influencing official policy in a direction inimical to Jewish interests. They attacked liberalism for allowing Jews to prosper economically and reach cultural and intellectual prominence. They also identified Jews with external enemies: the Soviet threat (in Poland and Romania), Hungarian irredentism (in Romania and Slovakia), or Germanization (in Czechoslovakia). Moreover, in Romania and Hungary the military failures of World War I were blamed on Jewish soldiers’ “treacherous” and “antinational” actions. The Bolshevik Revolution and the failed Communist takeover in Hungary under Béla Kun (1886–1938) further strengthened the stereotype of Judeo-Bolshevism and revived the myth of a Jewish conspiracy for world domination, endowing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion with an aura of prophecy fulfilled.
In Poland, the unrest caused by World War I, and especially the war with Bolshevik Russia, exacerbated anti-Jewish hostility. Local acts of violence took place in Galicia and Lithuania, with the most deadly outbreaks in Lwów, Pińsk, Lida, and Vilna. Endecja, led by Dmowski, called for “de-Judaizing” the Polish economy and fighting against the Jews’ infiltration into Polish national culture. In 1926 Dmowski founded Obóz Wielkiej Polski (The Camp of Greater Poland; OWP), which, until its dissolution in 1933, demanded the exclusion of Jews (including converts) from political life.
In 1934, OWP veterans established Obóz Narodowo-Radykalny (National Radical Camp; ONR), which envisaged Poland as the “Catholic State of the Polish Nation,” with Jews eliminated from all fields of activity. It was outlawed because it resorted to violence, particularly against Jews, but it continued to operate clandestinely. In 1934 it split into two factions: ONR-ABC and ONR-Falanga.
“Żydzi do ghetta!” (Jews to the Ghetto!). Polish poster. Printed by Drukarnia i Księgarnia Sp. z.o.o., Tczew, Poland, 1938. Election poster of Obóz Narodowe (National Camp), a right-wing party. The text at bottom reads, “‘Ghetto’—a closed area where Jews are allowed to live and work until we completely remove them from Poland. In every area of life, we need to delineate a ghetto for them.” (YIVO)
Catholicism was an important influence on Endecja and other right-wing nationalist groups, although ideologists of these movements also frequently resorted to racist arguments. After the Nazis took power in Germany (1933) and the death of head of state Józef Piłsudski (1935), such arguments became more pronounced. In 1937 former Piłsudski followers established Obóz Zjednoczenia Narodowego (The Camp of National Unity; OZN), which portrayed Jews as unassimilable and demanded their mass emigration. Several smaller radical groups, close to the Nazi racist model, also became increasingly active toward the end of the 1930s. These included the Partia Narodowych Socjalistów (Party of National Socialists), Związek Nacjonalistów Polskich (Association of Polish Nationalists), Radykalny Ruch Uzdrowienia (Radical Movement for Recovery), and Narodowa Socjalistyczna Partia Robotnicza (National Social Workers Party).
In Romania, hostility toward Jews was exacerbated by their large numbers in territories incorporated into Greater Romania following World War I, including Transylvania, Bessarabia, northern Bucovina, and part of Dobruja. New organizations and political parties emerged aiming to promote the role of ethnic Romanians in the economy and culture and to limit that of Jews, Hungarians, and other minorities. In 1923 Cuza, a member of parliament almost without interruption between 1911 and 1938, established Liga Apărării Național Creştine (League of National Christian Defense; LANC). Cuza sought to discredit the Jews’ participation in the Romanian war effort—an important argument in favor of their emancipation—with accusations of treason, desertion, and spying for the enemy. He also called for a numerus clausus to stop the Jews’ “rush” into schools and universities. However, pressure from newer antisemitic groups forced him to place even stronger stress on the unity of the race and the Christian religion, as well as on the need for general mobilization to eliminate the “enemy.” His LANC party sought to revoke Jews’ political rights, to expel those who had arrived in the country after 1914, and to ban Jews from the army and from public office. From 1921 the swastika was the symbol of Cuza’s movement; he claimed a purely Romanian character of this symbol without referring to its use in Germany. One of Cuza’s close collaborators, Nicolae C. Paulescu (1869–1931), was noted for claiming Jews’ genetic inferiority.
Cuza’s increasing racialist radicalism led to a break with his former associate Nicolae Iorga. Iorga argued that Jews needed to be displaced gradually and peacefully from all significant sectors of social life as ethnic Romanians capable of taking their places were trained. Nevertheless, by associating the promotion of Romanian spiritual values with the fight against the “Jewish threat,” Iorga lent legitimacy to the antisemitic movements and bestowed an aura of patriotic mission on them.
Octavian Goga (1881–1938), a renowned poet and assiduous advocate of the rights of Romanians from Transylvania, joined Cuza in 1935 to found the Partidul Național Creştin (National Christian Party). He justified his anti-Jewish attitude on “objective” grounds: changing demographics following a wave of “undesirable intruders” from Bessarabia and Bucovina, Transylvanian Jews’ philoMagyarism, Jews’ control of the national press, their harmful infiltration of cultural life, and their threat to Romanian ethnic purity. Nevertheless, exposing the spiritual threat posed by Jews became Goga’s priority.
In 1927 Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, a law student and former disciple of Cuza, founded the fascist movement Legiunea Arhanghelului Mihail (Legion of the Archangel Michael), eventually known, after 1930, as Garda de Fier (the Iron Guard). The legion originally brought together students during the struggle for a numerus clausus; later it drew on the lower middle classes. The Iron Guard reached its greatest influence in the 1937 elections with 60 members in parliament, making it the country’s third-largest political party. More than other antisemitic political groups, the Iron Guard stressed “Jew equals Communist.” The Guard also presented the fight against the “Jewish threat” as a national mission with a mystical character. Although the Guard had ties to other European fascist movements, it did not claim the Jews’ racial inferiority and did not adopt the anti-Christian spirit of Nazism.
Dovid Frishman, “Briv fun Poyln” (Letter from Poland), early 1920s. In this article Frishman writes that it is said that extreme nationalist parties such as Roman Dmowski's Endecja are being influenced by Romanian-style antisemitism. But actually, Poland has a much more complicated relationship with antisemitism. In Poland, Jews are not hated, they are "despised," which is much worse. The epithets "Pan Moshek” [Little Mister Moyshe] and "Pan Itsek” [Little Mister Yitskhok] symbolize this disdain. Today, antisemites in Poland are angry because they are still mired in the world of long ago, whereas Jews have moved on and become modern and are no longer willing to put up with this sort of thing. Today's Jew will answer back, but watch out: with his son it will be even worse. He'll hit you or do even more damage. Poland is still today a feudal and ethnocratic society, mired in romanticism while the rest of Europe has moved on. Antisemitism in Poland is not just a matter of "politics," but also a deep reflection of national psychology.Yiddish. RG 108, Manuscripts Collection, F67.13. (YIVO)
An early prominent supporter of the Guard was Nichifor Crainic (theologian, poet, writer, politician), the main theoretician of the traditionalist and Christian Orthodox antisemitic trends. Philosopher and journalist Nae Ionescu’s affiliation with the Iron Guard attracted a new generation of intellectuals to the “legionary revolution.” His disciples followed their master in the spectacular “guardist conversion,” which began in 1933 and peaked in 1937–1938. After Codreanu’s assassination in 1938, Horia Sima took over the leadership of the Guard; he joined general Ion Antonescu in leading the “national-legionary” state in September 1940. The Iron Guard would play an important part in passing several antisemitic laws and in organizing violent actions against Jews. The climax was the pogrom in Bucharest on 21–22 January 1941, during a failed attempt by the Guard to seize power. Antonescu repressed and dissolved the Iron Guard, but many of the former members of the movement were still active in the massacres against the Jewish population ordered by the Antonescu regime during World War II.
In Hungary, territorial losses after World War I led to a feeling of national humiliation and generated a significant increase in the influence of antisemitic political movements, especially after the failure of Béla Kun’s revolution. The postrevolutionary right-wing dictatorship began with a period of White Terror (autumn 1919–summer 1920), including anti-Jewish massacres. The regime then embarked on a fight against Jewish economic “domination.” In September 1920, the so-called numerus clausus law made Hungary the first state in interwar Europe to establish quotas on Jews in higher education. Numerous public organizations and professional associations adopted similar agendas. The strongest was the Hungarian Association of National Defense (Magyar Országos Véderő Egylet; MOVE, established in November 1918); its president was Gyula Gömbös (1886–1936), a future prime minister.
Radical, xenophobic, and antisemitic right-wing parties that supported revision of the postwar peace settlements dominated the political scene. In November 1924, radical politicians established the Party of Racial Defense (Fajvédő Párt), which received four mandates in the 1926 parliamentary elections, but was dissolved by Gömbös in 1928. In October 1925, an international congress of antisemitic parties and groups, dominated by Gömbös, was held in Budapest. Gömbös became prime minister in 1932 and developed his political agenda in the spirit of Nazi racism, although in practice he maintained a relatively moderate attitude toward the Jewish community, and by 1933 distanced himself from Nationalist Socialism. Béla Imrédy formed the government in May 1938, and two weeks later the “First Jewish Law” was passed, limiting the proportion of Jewish participation in the liberal professions and commercial and industrial businesses to 20 percent. Under the Pál Teleki government, in 1939 the “Second Jewish Law” was passed, limiting Jewish participation to 6 percent. Jews were defined according to racial criteria; hence the law also governed Jewish converts to Christianity and persons only partially of Jewish origin. The decrees against Jews became harsher with the beginning of the war and the increase of Nazi influence.
The extreme fascist and racist organization, the Arrow Cross Party (Nyilaskeresztes Párt-Hungarista Mozgalom) established by Ferenc Szálasi in 1939, won 31 mandates in that year’s elections while other allied parties received another 15, a considerable increase over the two they had received in 1935. They formed a united Arrow Cross Party in 1940. Henceforth official policy toward Jews oscillated between the “moderate” traditional antisemitism of the conservatives (represented by “governor” Admiral Miklós Horthy and Pál Teleki) and the radical antisemitism represented by Arrow Cross.
In Czechoslovakia, the political atmosphere between the world wars differed from that in neighboring countries. Antisemitic parties existed for the most part only in Slovakia and the Sudetenland. Tomáš Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia, was a firm opponent of efforts to restrict Jewish rights. However, the urban Jewish bourgeoisie’s preference for German language and culture evoked hostility from Czechs, and several nationalist movements made political capital of this situation. From 1918, Agrarian Party newspapers attacked Jews as pro-German and Bolshevik agents and accused them of having caused postwar social and economic difficulties. Sudeten Germans ensured the electoral success of Konrad Henlein’s pro-Nazi Sudetendeutsche Partei (Party of Sudeten Germany) in the 1930s.
In Slovakia, hostility was generated by the fact that before World War I Jews had been identified with Hungarian rule. The Slovak Catholic Church tended to favor politicians with nationalist and antisemitic programs. A prominent Slovak nationalist political leader, Vavro Šrobár (1867–1950), accused the Jews of pro-Magyarism and of Bolshevik convictions. The priest Andrej Hlinka (1864–1938) established the main antisemitic party, Slovenska Ludova Strana (Slovak People's Party), in 1925. Xenophobic nationalism with a strong Catholic component, also espoused by Hlinka’s successor, the theologian Jozef Tiso, became a dominant feature of the party. The fascist militia set up by this party in 1938, the Hlinka Guard (Hlinková Garda), actively participated in the deportation of Jews to Nazi killing centers.
Under Communist Rule
In the context of the Soviet Union and its satellite states where formal political parties or movements were officially illegal, this discussion is concerned less with parties and organizations than with state antisemitism. The parameters for anti-Jewish political activity under Communist regimes were set in the USSR following the Bolshevik revolution. Soviet law forbade public expressions of antisemitism and antisemitic political activity. During the first years of Soviet rule, a large number of Jewish Bolsheviks took leading positions in the party and state hierarchies. After Lenin’s death (1924), Joseph Stalin’s struggle against his political rival, Leon Trotsky, became increasingly marked by anti-Jewish expressions, and the accusation of “Trotskyism” was used in the 1930s to eliminate many Jewish Bolshevik leaders, intellectuals, and artists, as well as to “de-Judaize” the higher ranks of the party, military, and state hierarchies.
After World War II, Stalinist policy became increasingly hostile to Jews, with the most important campaigns taking place under the slogan of struggle against American imperialism, Zionism, cosmopolitanism, and economic sabotage. Jewish access to higher education and public office was limited. Members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee were tried and executed, and in early 1953 several prominent Jewish doctors were accused of plotting to poison Soviet leaders. After Stalin’s death, the Soviet regime systematically prevented calling attention to the particular tragedy of the Jewish population during World War II.
Less intense discrimination continued during the regimes of Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev in the 1960s and 1970s, generally under the slogans of the struggle against Zionism and the State of Israel. It was only with Mikhail Gorbachev’s liberalization in the late 1980s that the first antisemitic organizations surfaced in the Soviet Union. Paradoxically, glasnost favored the emergence of numerous right-wing Russian nationalist groups with xenophobic agendas, supported also by renowned intellectuals (such as the mathematician Igor Shafarevich) and by cultural journals such as Nash sovremennik (Our Contemporary), Molodaya gvardiya (Young Guard), and others. During the early 1980s, the nationalist antisemitic organization Pamiat (Memory) was established; in 1987 it was transformed into the National-Patriotic Front (NPF), led by Dmitrii Vasil’ev.
The Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, especially during the Stalinist period, followed a direction similar to the one enforced by the Kremlin leaders, with variations from country to country. The new regimes inaugurated a radical change in the situation of Jews who had survived the Holocaust: Jews who were devoted to the regime penetrated the political hierarchy of the country, acquiring power and privileges. However, these Jews soon became victims of purges within the party and of show trials in the 1950s, together with numerous imprisoned Zionist activists. The Communist parties in Eastern Europe thus created a new “Jewish question,” officially condemning antisemitism but disguising it in practice under the rhetorical cover of a fight against Zionism and bourgeois nationalism. The former slogan “Jew equals Communist” was replaced by “Jew equals Zionist.” In the popular imagination, however, the identification of Jews with the new Communist regimes persisted.
In Czechoslovakia, official antisemitism surfaced before and during the show trial of the former Communist leader Rudolf Slánský (1950–1952). He was sentenced to death together with 10 other Communist leaders (all but three of Jewish origin), accused of espionage, Zionism, and Titoism. The anti-Zionist diversion was used again to compromise and annihilate the liberalization movement of the party in 1968.
Poland, under Władysław Gomułka’s leadership, experienced a first wave of official antisemitism in 1956. A second wave in 1967–1968 was marked by attacks upon Jews unprecedented under Communist rule, followed by massive purges and a new exodus of Jews from Poland. Several party leaders made overt use of anti-Jewish rhetoric, especially the group led by the nationalist Mieczysław Moczar. In the 1980s, after the emergence of the free trade union movement Solidarność (Solidarity), the regime attempted, unsuccessfully, to compromise several leaders of the movement by tendentiously revealing their (real or imaginary) Jewish origins.
In Hungary, after an initial postwar surge of rhetoric hostile to Jews, which culminated with László Rajk’s trial (1949), the government that took power after the repression of the 1956 uprising, led by János Kádár, kept antisemitic outbursts under control. However, it consistently pursued an anti-Israeli policy.
In Romania, Ana Pauker’s overthrow in 1952 was prepared based on an investigation with many antisemitic features, but it concluded without a trial or an ostentatious anti-Zionist campaign. Party leaders sought to implement a “Romanianization” of the higher ranks. A significant change occurred in the 1960s, especially under Nicolae Ceauşescu’s leadership. Essentially xenophobic, Ceauşescu’s national ideology regarded Jewish emigration as the most convenient way to “improve” the ethnic structure of the population and to insure that ethnic Romanians held positions of authority. Ceauşescu avoided Soviet-type anti-Zionist propaganda, however, and maintained good relations with the state of Israel; but at the same time he allowed and sometimes encouraged attacks upon Jews in the party-controlled press.
With the fall of the East European Communist regimes and the dismemberment of the USSR, the disappearance of controlled or official antisemitism was followed by the “privatization” of antisemitism and the emergence of numerous, often ephemeral, political groups with an anti-Jewish orientation. The new extreme right-wing parties emerging in Eastern Europe revived the heritage of the radical antisemitic parties of the period between the two world wars, including use of the same party names and resumption of the political agenda and ideology of such parties.
In the Russian Federation, one of Pamiat’s leaders, Aleksandr Barkashov, withdrew in 1990 and established the Russkoe Natsionalnoe Edinstvo (Russian National Unity; RNE), supported by several nationalist members of the Duma. Oleg Kasin replaced Barkashov in 2000. There were about 30 similar organizations in the late 1990s. Except for the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), led by Vladimir Zhirinovskii, these groups did not have significant success in elections, although they succeeded in fostering latent anti-Jewish feelings and occasional violent outbursts. The National Patriots, led by Sergei Baburin, stood out among such groups. In 2003, Rodina (Motherland), a bloc of nationalist and left-wing populist parties led by Dmitrii Rogozin and Sergei Glazev and including Sergei Baburin’s Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will) party, obtained 28 percent of the seats in the Duma. Some of these organizations enjoyed the sympathy and support of Orthodox church leaders. Gennadii Zyuganov, the leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, also overtly adopted anti-Jewish slogans. Another “national Bolshevik” party was established by the writer Eduard Limonov. While encouraging Russian nationalism but repeatedly accusing others of antisemitism, Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime neutralized to a certain extent the influence of the antisemitic organizations and parties that emerged in the 1990s, though it took no legal action against them.
While not as prominent as in the Russian Federation, antisemitic rhetoric reemerged in Ukraine in the post-Communist period. Extremist groups supporting Ukrainian ethnocracy took to identifying Jews with Western democracy, which had allegedly caused economic and political deadlock. The most influential such organization was a bloc of extremist parties united in the Ukrainian National Assembly (Ukrains’ka Natsional’na Asambleia; UNA), with a paramilitary wing, the Ukrainian Self-Defense (Ukrains’ka Natsional’na Samooborona; UNSO). The party ideology, expressed by one of its leaders, Dmytro Korchinskii, was a mix of pan-Slavism and Eurasianism. Other groups with a similar political profile included the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (Orhanizatsiia Ukrains’kykh Natsionalistiv; OUN), the Ukrainian Conservative Republican Party (Ukrains’ka Konservatyvna Respublikans’ka Partiia; UKRP), and the Ukrainian Social-Nationalist Party (Sotsial-Natsional’na Partiia Ukrainy; SNPU). Derzhavna Samostiynist Ukrainy (State Independence of Ukraine; DSU), established in L’viv in 1990, is another extreme right-wing organization. In many cases, the ideological antisemitism of such groups is a component of a xenophobic messianic doctrine according to which Jews are leading participants in an anti-Ukrainian conspiracy. The influence of such parties was negligible in electoral polling; only 2–3 percent of respondents defined themselves as ultranationalists hostile to Jews. In the absence of significant parliamentary representation, such parties focused on publishing leaflets and magazines hostile to Jews.
The situation in Belarus is more serious than in other former Soviet republics. Under Aleksandr Lukashenko’s dictatorial regime several active extremist organizations have operated, though their membership and political support are limited. Some of them have a clear Nazi and racist orientation and operate illegally. Such organizations include Rus, led by Gennadii Vlasov, and the Belarus Peoples Patriot Movement (NPDB), led by Viktor Chikin. There are also branches of Russian extremist organizations, such as the Belarus National Bolsheviks, led by Viktor Gordeev, a subsidiary of Eduard Limonov’s party and a subsidiary of the Russian National Unity (RNE), led by Andrei Sakovich.
Radical groups in the Baltic States set as their main objective the consolidation of national identity, aiming to combat the heritage of the Soviet period and the effects of forced Russification. Ethnic tensions were more pronounced in relation to Russian and Polish minorities than to Jews. Anti-Jewish attitudes and statements arose mainly in connection with public discussion of the Jews’ participation in the consolidation of the Soviet regime in the Baltic region. The most sensitive issue was the debate on the participation of the local population in Nazi massacres during the Holocaust and the rehabilitation of war criminals, including veterans of SS divisions in Latvia. Several radical extremist parties were represented in the Latvian parliament, including For the Fatherland and Freedom (Tevzemei un Brivibai; TB), and People’s Movement for Latvia (Tautas Kustiba Latvijai, Zigerist Partija). Certain generally illegal branches of various extremist parties from the Russian Federation, such as the pro-Nazi party Russian National Unity (RNE), became extremely active within Russian minority circles in the Baltic States. A party that had been active in the interwar years was reestablished in Lithuania—the Lithuanian Nationalist Party “Young Lithuania” (Lietuviu Nacionaline Partija “Jaunoji Lietuva”); it received 4 percent of the vote in 1996. It is led by Stanislovas Buskevicius, a xenophobic extreme nationalist politician, and a declared opponent of “Jewish influence.”
In Poland, the presidential election campaign was the first significant political arena in which anti-Jewish motifs appeared after the fall of communism. Some leaders of the Solidarność Party attributed an imaginary Jewish ancestry to other candidates. Emerging nationalist political groups rediscovered and exploited the spirit of Dmowski’s Endecja. Dmowski himself was rehabilitated and celebrated as one of the main ideologists of Polish nationalism. The most dynamic antisemitic organization is Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski (National Rebirth of Poland; NOP) led by Adam Gmurczyk, which claims to be the heir of ONR and includes groups of skinheads. Other active organizations, though less influential, are Związek Białego Orła (White Eagle Union; ZBO); Polska Wspólnota Narodowa–Polskie Stronnictwo Narodowe (Polish National Community–Polish National Party), led by the former Marxist Bolesław Tejkowski; and Młodzież Wszechpolska (All-Polish Youth), led by Roman Giertych, who since 2006 has been Poland’s minister of education. Another revived organization is Stronnictwo Narodowe (following Endecja’s model).
Traditional Catholic hostility toward Jews continues in extremist political discourse in Poland. A remarkable political force is Radio Maryja, which is extremely popular and propounds a mix of Catholic messages with nationalist, anti-Jewish, and xenophobic populism. On the other hand, in liberal Catholic intellectual and clerical circles, especially those surrounding the periodicals Tygodnik Powszechny, Więź, and Znak, a strong, though minority, liberal group has emerged that is active in fighting antisemitism.
In Poland, tensions related to Holocaust memory are linked to frustration on the part of some Poles who maintain that their suffering under Nazi occupation is not sufficiently acknowledged in the West. Recent historical studies highlighting the massacre of Jews by Poles at Jedwabne in 1941 and pogroms in Poland during the first years after the war led to heated debates and to significant anti-Jewish reactions in the press. However, a number of intellectuals and politicians—Jan Błonski, Jacek Kuroń, Jan Józef Lipski, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Maria Janion, and former president Aleksander Kwaśniewski—have consistently condemned antisemitism and assumed moral responsibility for crimes committed by Poles or for the indifference of the majority to the fate of Jews at the hands of the Nazis.
In Slovakia, nationalist parties and organizations are concerned with exonerating and rehabilitating the image of Jozef Tiso, who is represented as a “savior” of the Jews. They also minimize the Slovak authorities’ participation in the deportation of Jews to Nazi killing centers. Among such groups, the most powerful are Slovenska Narodna Strana (Slovak National Party; SNS) and the Matica Slovenska nationalist organization and cultural foundation. Their propaganda also claims a “Zionist conspiracy” against Slovakia. Other marginal extremist parties are the Slovak People’s Party (SLS) and Slovenska Pospolitost (Slovak Community), which also includes “skinhead” groups.
In Romania, Partidul România Mare (Great Romania Party; PRM), the first extremist party to emerge after the fall of Ceauşescu’s dictatorship, was also the most aggressive propagator of xenophobia and antisemitism. This party, which became the third-largest political party in Romania, sought to rehabilitate Antonescu’s regime, denied the Holocaust, and claimed a “worldwide Jewish conspiracy.” Its newspaper, România Mare, mixed anti-Jewish rhetoric with no less hostile statements against Hungarians and the Roma. Other extremist political organizations with a more limited pool of voters, founded in the early 1990s, claimed affiliation to the tradition of the Iron Guard: Mişcarea pentru România (Movement for Romania; MFR), led by Marian Munteanu; the Party of National Right (PNR) led by Radu Sorescu; the ultranationalist cultural foundation Vatra Românească (Romanian Cradle), led by Ion Coja, one of the main ideologists of conspiratorial antisemitism; and Şerban Suru’s Legionary Movement.
In the 1994 elections in Hungary, extremist parties with a strong antisemitic agenda did not gain more than 1.6 percent of the votes, but one of the governing coalition parties (Hungarian Democratic Forum; MDF) disseminated antisemitic slogans and denied the Holocaust. It was mainly after the 1998 elections that the Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), formed by István Csurka in 1993, brought antisemitic and xenophobic rhetoric to parliament. Small neo-Nazi groups, such as the Hungarian People’s Welfare Association (MNSZ), operate in the spirit of the Arrow Cross. The main topics of antisemitic political discourse concern the responsibility of the Hungarian authorities during the Holocaust and the purported world domination of the Jews. Such topics appeared in the periodicals Szent Korona and Hunia Fűzetek.
In the first decade of the twenty-first century, many East European intellectuals see antisemitic rhetoric as a form of moral dissolution and a belated effect of the later stages of the Communist age and of the confusion caused by the abrupt changes that occurred after the fall of the Communist regimes. Vulgar antisemitism could be thus included among the symptoms of moral crisis. The intellectuals who commit themselves to fighting against such phenomena, those who suggest critical rethinking of issues from the past, and those who oppose populist slogans and nationalist demagogy, often end up being labeled as “Jews.”
Shmuel Almog, Nationalism and Antisemitism in Modern Europe, 1815–1945 (Oxford and New York, 1990); Yehuda Bauer, ed., Present-Day Antisemitism (Jerusalem, 1988); Jean-Yves Camus, Les extrémismes en Europe: État des lieux en 1998 (Paris, 1998); Paul Hockenos, Free to Hate: The Rise of the Right in Post-Communist Eastern Europe (New York, 1993); Jacob Katz, From Prejudice to Destruction: Anti-Semitism, 1700–1933 (Cambridge, Mass., 1980); András Kovács, Antisemitic Prejudices in Contemporary Hungary (Jerusalem, 1999); Paul Lendvai, Anti-Semitism without Jews: Communist Eastern Europe (New York, 1971); Leon Poliakov, The History of Antisemitism, 4 vols. (Philadelphia, 2003); Dina Porat and Roni Stauber, eds., Antisemitism Worldwide, 2000/1 (Lincoln, Nebr., 2002); Peter G. J. Pulzer, The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria, rev. ed. (London, 1988); Michael Shafir, Between Denial and “Comparative Trivialization”: Holocaust Negationism in Post-Communist East Central Europe (Jerusalem, 2002); Leon Volovici, Antisemitism in Post-Communist Eastern Europe: A Marginal or Central Issue? (Jerusalem, 1994); Robert Wistrich, Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred (London, 1991).
HUNGARY: Randolph L. Braham, The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary, rev. and enl. ed., 2 vols. (New York and Boulder, 1994); Rolf Fischer, Entwicklungsstufen des Antisemitismus in Ungarn, 1867–1939: Die Zerstörung der magyarisch-jüdischen Symbiose (Munich, 1988); Andrew Handler, An Early Blueprint for Zionism: Győző Istóczy’s Political Anti-Semitism (Boulder and New York, 1989); Nathaniel Katzburg, Antishemiyut be-Hungaryah, 1867–1944 (Jerusalem, 1992).
POLAND: Olaf Bergmann, Narodowa Demokracja wobec problematyki żydowskiej w latach 1918–1929 (Poznań, Pol., 1998); Stephen David Corrsin, Warsaw before the First World War: Poles and Jews in the Third City of the Russian Empire, 1880–1914 (Boulder and New York, 1989); Jan T. Gross, Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz (Princeton, 2006); Israel Gutman et al., eds., The Jews of Poland between Two World Wars (Hanover, N.H., 1989); Jerzy Holzer, “Polish Political Parties and Antisemitism,” Polin 8 (1994): 194–205; Anna Landau-Czajka, “The Ubiquitous Enemy: The Jew in the Political Thought of Radical Right-Wing Nationalists in Poland, 1926–1939,” Polin 4 (1989) 169–203; Jacek Maria Maj- chrowski, Szkice z historii polskiej prawicy politycznej lat Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej (Kraków, 1986); Joanna Michlic, Poland’s Threatening Other: The Image of the Jew from 1880 to the Present (Lincoln, Nebr., and London, 2006); Szymon Rudnicki, Oboz Narodowo-Radykalny: Geneza i działalność (Warsaw, 1985); Jerzy Tomaszewski, Zarys dziejów Żydów w Polsce w latach 1918–1939 (Warsaw, 1990).
ROMANIA: Armin Heinen, Die Legion “Erzengel Michael” in Rumänien (Munich, 1986); Carol Iancu, Jews in Romania, 1866–1919 (Boulder and New York, 1996); Irina Livezeanu, Cultural Politics in Greater Romania: Regionalism, Nation Building & Ethnic Struggle, 1918–1930 (Ithaca and London, 1995); William O. Oldson, A Providential Anti-Semitism: Nationalism and Polity in Nineteenth Century Romania (Philadelphia, 1991); Michael Shafir, “The Inheritors: The Romanian Radical Right since 1989,” East European Jewish Affairs 24.1 (Summer 1994): 71–89; Leon Volovici, Nationalist Ideology and Antisemitism: The Case of Romanian Intellectuals in the 1930s (Oxford and New York, 1991).
RUSSIA: John D. Klier, Imperial Russia’s Jewish Question, 1855–1881 (Cambridge and New York, 1995); John D. Klier, “‘The Dog That Didn’t Bark’: Anti-Semitism in Post-Communist Russia,” in Russian Nationalism: Past and Present, ed. Geoffrey Hosking and Robert Service, pp. 129–147 (Basingstoke, Eng., 1998); William Korey, Russian Antisemitism, Pamyat, and the Demonology of Zionism (Chur, Switz., 1995); Matthias Messmer, Sowjetischer und postkommunistischer Antisemitismus: Entwicklungen in Russland, der Ukraine und Litauen (Konstanz, Ger., 1997); Hans Rogger, Jewish Policies and Right-Wing Politics in Imperial Russia (Berkeley, 1986); Vadim Rossman, Russian Intellectual Antisemitism in the Post-Communist Era (Lincoln, Nebr., 2002); Aleksandr Verkhovskii and Vladimir Pribylovskii, Natsional-patrioticheskie organizatsii v Rossii: Istoriia, ideologiia, ekstremistskie tendentsii (Moscow, 1996).
SLOVAKIA: Yeshayahu Andrej Jelinek, The Parish Republic: Hlinka’s Slovak People’s Party, 1939–1945 (Boulder, 1976); Ladislav Lipscher, Die Juden im slowakischen Staat, 1939–1945 (Munich, 1980); Pavol Mešt’an, Antisemitism in Slovak Politics, 1989–1999 (Bratislava, 2000).
UKRAINE: Liudmila Dymerskaya-Tsigelman and Leonid Finberg, Antisemitism of the Ukrainian Radical Nationalists: Ideology and Policy (Jerusalem, 1999).