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POLAND , republic in E. Central Europe; the kingdom of Poland and the grand duchy of Lithuania united formally (Poland-Lithuania) in 1569. This article is arranged according to the following outline:

the early settlements
jewish legal status
economic activity
cultural and social life
1569–1648: colonization of the ukraine
internal jewish life
from chmielnicki to the first partition
after partition
independent poland
holocaust period
    Reichsgau Wartheland
        physical annihilation
    Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreussen
    Regierungsbezirk Zichenau (Ciechanow)
    Regierungsbezirk Kattowitz (East Upper Silesia)
    General Government
        warsaw district
        lublin district
        cracow district
        radom district
        galicia district
    Bezirk Bialystok
    Generalbezirk Litauen and Weissrussland
    Generalbezirk Wolhynien-Podolien
    Demographic Total
    Jewish Resistance
    Jewish-Polish Relations during the War
after world war ii
    Rescue of Jewish Children
    Renewal of Jewish Life
    Cultural, Religious, and Economic Life
    The Flight from Poland
    Anti-Jewish Excesses
    The Soviet Example
    Final Liquidation
    Later Developments
relations with israel
    The Change of 1950
    Improved Relations in 1956
    The Six-Day War
    Emmigration to Israel
    Trade Relations

the early settlements

While Jews had visited the kingdom of Poland and been economically active there at an early stage of the country's consolidation, from the tenth century approximately, they had no contact with the grand duchy of Lithuania until King Gedimin conquered the regions of Volhynia and Galicia (as it was later called) in 1321.

Jews came to Poland mainly from the west and southwest and from the very beginning were of *Ashkenazi culture. Those in the regions conquered by Gedimin had come there from the south and the southeast, chiefly from *Kiev, and were thus influenced to a large degree by Byzantine Jewish culture patterns; some think that they could have had traces of *Khazar ethnic descent and culture patterns. Jews in the region of *Lvov and its environs were of the same provenance to a large extent. In the end the western Ashkenazi culture became dominant.

Polish-Jewish legendary tradition tells about a Jewish merchant, Abraham Prochownik (unlikely to mean "the gunpowder man," which would be completely anachronistic, but probably, "the dust-covered," an epithet found in the early Middle Ages in relation to merchants), who was offered the Polish crown around the middle of the ninth century, before Piast, the first, legendary, Polish king, ascended to the throne. According to another legend, at the end of the ninth century a Jewish delegation in Germany appealed to Prince Leszek to admit them to Poland. The request was granted after prolonged questioning, and later on privileges were granted to the immigrants. Although almost certainly formulated in their present version in the 16th–17th centuries – at a time of fierce struggle between Jewish and Christian townsmen (see below) – the legends do transmit meaningful historic elements. Jews did first come to Poland as transient, dust-covered merchants, and they did come there to escape the suffering and pressure brought to bear on them in the lands of the German Empire. The theories of some historians, that place-names like Żydowo, Żydatycze, Żydowska Wola, and Kozarzów indicate the presence of Jewish villages and peasants and even the presence of Khazar settlements in the regions where they are found, have been thoroughly disproved. The first Jews that the Poles encountered must certainly have been traders, probably slave traders, of the type called in 12th-century Jewish sources Holekhei Rusyah (travelers to Russia). Some of them may have stayed for years in Poland, giving rise to the legends and fixing their dates. The chronicler Cosmas of Prague relates that the persecutions of the First Crusade caused Jews to move from *Bohemia to Poland in 1098. From this point undisputed and datable information on Jews in Poland begins to appear. According to the chronicler Vincent Kadlubek, under Boleslav iii heavy penalties were laid on those who harmed Jews bodily.

The first sizable groups and fixed communities of Jews settled and established themselves in the region of Silesia, then part of Polish society and culture but later Germanized. A large part of Jewish settlement in what was later consolidated as the kingdom of Poland came from Silesia, and a great proportion of the immigration from further west and from the southwest passed through it. As late as the 15th century Silesian Jewry kept its ties with Poland. Jewish settlement grew steadily, though at first slowly, in Polish principalities to the east of Silesia. Excavations in *Great Poland and near *Wloclawek have unearthed coins with Hebrew inscriptions issued under the princes Mieczyslaw iii (1173–1209), Casimir ii the Just (1177–94), Boleslav the Curly (1201), and Leszek the White (1205). Some inscriptions directly concern the ruler, like the Hebrew legend "Mieszko King of Poland" (משקא קרל פולסקי) or "Mieszko Duke" (משקא דוכוס); others include the names and titles of the Jewish *mintmasters, one of them even with its honorific title of *nagid; "of the [coining] house of Abraham the son of Isaac Nagid" (דבי אברהם בר יצחק נגיד); another showing that the Jewish mintmaster was settled in Poland: "Joseph [of] Kalisz" (יוסף קאליש). Minting money was an important social and economic function, and as some of the inscriptions indicate, these finds are evidence of a circle of rich and enterprising Jewish merchants in the principalities of great Poland and Mazovia in the 12th century, some of them in close contact with the princely courts, some priding themselves on their descent from old Jewish families or on their own role in Jewish leadership. Rulers were quick to realize what they could gain from such immigrants; in 1262 Prince Boleslav the Shy forbade a monastery in *Lesser Poland to take Jews under its sovereignty.

By that time, however, a new era had already begun in the history of the colonization of Poland in general and of the settlement of Jews in it in particular. From 1241 onward the Mongol invasions caused heavy losses in life and destruction to property in Poland. Subsequently, the princes of Poland eagerly sought immigrants from the west, mainly from Germany, and gave them energetic assistance to settle in the villages and towns. Various organized groups settled in the cities that were granted the privilege of living according to German Magdeburg *Law; thus Polish towns became prevailingly German in origin and way of life. Though the children of the immigrants became gradually Polonized, the traditions and social attitudes of the German town remained an active force and basic framework of town life in Poland of the 15th to 17th centuries. From the Jewish point of view the most important, and harmful, result of this basic attitude of the Polish towns was the tradition of the *guilds against competition and against new initiative in individual commercial enterprise and the activities of craftsmen. The townsmen also inherited a direct and bitter legacy of hatred of the Jews and the baleful and deeply rooted German image of the Jew.

Jews did not only come to Poland in the wake of the German Drang nach Osten, tracts of which are found in the 13th-century Sefer Ḥasidim, for instance, in the description of the creation of a new settlement in a primeval forest by Jews (Sefer Ḥasidim, ed. J. Wistinetzki (1924), 113, no. 371). For them the move was a continuation of and linking with earlier Jewish settlement in Poland. They also had compelling reasons stemming from the circumstances of their life in Western and Central Europe to leave their homes there and go to Poland-Lithuania. Their insecure position in this region was a compound of the atmosphere of fear and danger generated by the *Crusades, the insecurity of settlement caused by the *expulsions, the wave of massacres in Germany in particular between 1298 and 1348 (see *Rindfleisch; *Armleder; *Blood Libel; *Black Death; *Host, Desecration of), the insecurity and popular hatred in Germany and German-Bohemian-Moravian towns in the second half of the 14th century and the first half of the 15th, the tensions and dangers created by the *Hussite revolution and wars in Bohemia-Moravia and southern Germany in the early 15th century, and the worsening situation of Jews in the kingdoms of Christian Spain after the massacres of 1391. All these factors, combined with the success of the settlers in Poland-Lithuania, induced large and variegated groups of Jewish immigrants from various countries – Bohemia-Moravia, Germany, Italy, Spain, from colonies in the Crimea – to go to Poland-Lithuania long after the original German drive had died out. As Moses b. Israel *Isserles put it in the 16th century, "it is preferable to live on dry bread and in peace in Poland" than to remain in better conditions in lands more dangerous for Jews" (Responsa, no. 73). He even coined a pun on the Hebrew form of Poland (Polin), explaining it as deriving from two Hebrew words, poh lin ("here he shall rest").

The results of this immigration were evident almost immediately. In 1237 Jews are mentioned in Plock. The Jewish community of *Kalisz bought a cemetery in 1283, so it must have been organized some time before, as the fact that the first writ of privileges for Jews was issued in 1264 by the prince of Kalisz also tends to show (see below). A Judengasse (*Jewish Quarter) is mentioned in *Cracow in 1304, lying between the town market and the town walls, but there must have been a community in Cracow long before then for about 1234 "Rabbi Jacob Savra of Cracow that sits in Poland, a great scholar and fluent in the entire Talmud" put forward his own opinion against that of the greatest contemporary scholars of Germany and Bohemia. In 1356 there is a record of the Jewish community at *Lvov; in 1367 at *Sandomierz; in 1379 at *Poznan; in 1387 at Pyzdry; and about 1382 at *Lyuboml. In the grand duchy of Lithuania Jewish communities are found in the 14th century at *Brest-Litovsk (1388), *Grodno (1389), and *Troki (1398). The volume of immigration grew continuously. By the end of the 15th century more than 60 Jewish communities are known of in united Poland-Lithuania. They were dispersed from Wroclaw (*Breslau) and *Gdansk in the west to *Kiev and *Kamenets Podolski in the east. The number of Jews living in Poland by that date is greatly disputed: At the end of the 15th century there were between 20,000 and 30,000.

jewish legal status

The foundations of the legal position of the Jews in Poland were laid down in the 13th to 15th centuries. The basic "general charters" of Jews in Poland have their origin in the writ issued by Prince *Boleslav v the Pious of Kalisz in 1264. This "statute of Kalisz" (Pol. Statut kaliski) – as it is called in literature – was also an "immigrant" from the countries which Jews left to come to Poland, being based on the statute of Duke Frederick ii of Austria and on derivative statutes issued in Bohemia and Hungary. The Jews are seen, accepted, and defended as a group whose main business is *moneylending against pledges. With the unification of Poland into a kingdom, King *Casimir iii the Great strongly favored the Jewish element in the cities of Poland, the German element having proved untrustworthy under his father, the unifier of Poland, Ladislaus I Lokietek.

Casimir broadened the statute of Kalisz while ratifying it for the Jews of his kingdom (in 1334, 1364, and 1367). Yet basically the same conception of the Jews as *servi camerae regis and as protected moneylenders remains throughout. The legal status of the Jews changed considerably in Poland, but not through any central reinterpretation of their rights and standing, which remained in theory based on and conceived of in terms of the Boleslavian-Casimirian statutes, codified and ratified by King Casimir iv Jagello in 1453. Throughout the 14th century, there was opposition to Jews accepting landed property as security for loans; while throughout the 15th century town and church tried to insist that Jews should wear the distinctive *badge.

On several occasions these undercurrents broke out in sharp and violent decisions and action. During the Black Death "All Jews … almost throughout Poland were massacred" (omnes judaei … fere in tota Polonia deleti sunt; Stanislas of Olivia in his Chronica Olivska, for the year 1349). The martyrs were defined by German Jews as "the communities and kingdom of Cracow, its scholars and population" (S. Salfeld, Das Martyrologium des Nuernberger Memorbuches (1898), 82). By that time hatred of the Jews was also widespread among the nobility. In the statute of Lesser Poland of 1347, paragraph 26 claims that "the aim of the perfidious Jews is not so much to take their faith away from the Christians as to take away their wealth and property." In 1407 the Cracow populace was diverted by the spectacle of a Jewish moneylender being led through the streets adorned with a crown set with forged coins – he was accused of forging currency – to be horribly tortured and burned in public. The citizens of Cracow claimed as early as 1369 that the Jews were "dominating" the town and complained of their cruelty and perfidy. In the main King Ladislaus ii Jagello was hostile to Jews, though some of them were numbered among his financial and business agents, like Volchko, whom the king hoped in vain to bring over to Christianity.

Church circles were very active in their opposition to the Jews. Many priests and directors of monasteries, who had originally come from Germany, brought to Poland the hostile traditions concerning the city-dwelling accursed Jew. As early as 1267 the Polish Church Council of Wroclaw (Breslau) outlined its anti-Jewish policy; its main aim was to isolate the Jews as far as possible from the Christians, not only from the communion of friendship and table but also to separate them in quarters surrounded by a wall or a ditch: "for as up to now the land of Poland is newly grafted on to the Christian body, it is to be feared that the Christian people will more easily be misled by the superstitions and evil habits of the Jews that live among them" (quum adhuc Terra Polonica sit in corpore christianitatis nova plantatio, ne forte eo facilius populus christianus a cohabitantium Iudeorum superstitionibus et pravis moribus inficiatur; Aronius, Regesten, 302 no. 724). With various modifications, this was restated in subsequent Church councils. In the 15th century this ecclesiastical attitude found new and influential expression. Cardinal Zbigniew *Oleśnicki and the chronicler Jan *Długosz were the main leaders of the anti-Jewish faction. When Jewish representatives came to King Casimir iv Jagello to obtain the ratification of their charters, Oleśnicki opposed it vehemently. He invited to Poland "the scourge of the Jews," John of *Capistrano, fresh from his "success" in engineering a *Host desecration libel which resulted in the burning of many Jews and expulsion of the community of Wroclaw. In vain Capistrano tried to influence the king not to ratify the Jewish charters. Oleśnicki himself wrote to the king in support of his effort: "Do not imagine that in matters touching the Christian religion you are at liberty to pass any law you please. No one is great and strong enough to put down all opposition to himself when the interests of the faith are at stake. I therefore beseech and implore your royal majesty to revoke the aforementioned privileges and liberties. Prove that you are a Catholic sovereign, and remove all occasion for disgracing your name and for worse offenses that are likely to follow" (Monumenta Mediaevi, ed. Szugski, Codex Epistolaris s. xv, t. ii past posterior p. 147). As a result of this pressure, the Nieszawa statute of 1454 decreed the repeal of all Jewish charters, but the repeal was short-lived. Perhaps central to the definition of the status of the Jews was the decision of King Sigismund i in 1534 that the Jews need not carry any distinguishing mark on their clothing. Despite the contrary resolution of the Sejm (Diet) of *Piotrkow in 1538, the king's decision remained.

Major changes in the status of the Jews occurred throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, but they came about either through the issuance of particular writs of rights by kings for towns and communities – both in favor of Jews as well as to their detriment (e.g., the privilegia de non tolerandis judaeis given to many towns in Poland) – or through the action of various magnates, whose power was continuously growing in Poland in these centuries. Some of the latter, nicknamed Krolewięta ("kinglets"), granted Jews many and costly rights in the new municipal settlements they were erecting on their expansive estates – the "private townships" of Poland, so-called in distinction to the old "royal townships." To a slight degree, change resulted from the new economic activity of the Jews, mainly in the east and southeast of Poland-Lithuania, and their move toward colonization there.

The foundations of the legal status of the Jews in the grand duchy of Lithuania were laid by Grand Duke Vitold in writs of law granted to the Jews of Brest-Litovsk in 1388 and to the Jews of Grodno in 1389. Though formally based on the rights of the Jews of Lvov in Poland, in letter and spirit these charters reveal an entirely different conception of the place of Jews in society. The writ for the Grodno community states that "from the above-mentioned cemetery – in its present location as well as on ground that might be bought later – and also from the ground of their Jewish synagogue, no taxes whatsoever will have to be given to our treasury." Not only are the Jewish place of worship and cemetery tax free – a concession that indicates interest in having Jewish settlers in the town – but also "what is more, we permit them to hold whatever views they please in their homes and to prepare at their homes any kind of drink and to serve drinks brought from elsewhere on the condition that they pay to our treasury a yearly tax. They may trade and buy at the market, in shops and on the streets in full equality with the citizens; they may engage in any kind of craft." Thus, in granting the Jews complete freedom to trade and engage in any craft, the grand duke gave them economic equality with the Christian citizens. He also envisaged their having agricultural or partially agricultural occupations: "As to the arable lands as well as grazing lands, those that they have now, as well as those that they will buy later, they may use in full equality with the townspeople, paying like them to our treasury." The Jews are here considered as merchants, craftsmen, and desirable settlers in the developing city. As the grand duchy merged with Poland to an ever-increasing degree, in particular in the formal, legal, and social spheres, the basic concepts of the servi camerae also influenced the status of Lithuanian Jews (as was already hinted at in the formal reference to the rights and status of the Jews of Lvov). In spite of this, the general trend in Lithuanian towns and townships remained the same as that expressed in the late 16th-century charters. In 1495 the Jews were expelled from Lithuania. They were brought back in 1503: all their property was returned and opportunities for economic activity were restored.

Thus, on the threshold of the 16th century, the gradually merging grand duchy of Lithuania and kingdom of Poland had both a fully worked out legal concept of the status of the Jews. In Poland, the whole conception was medieval to the core: Legally and formally the attitude to the Jews remained unchanged from their first arrival from the west and southwest. In Lithuania, on the other hand, from the start the formal expressions reveal a conception of a Jewish "third estate,"

equal in economic opportunity to the Christian townspeople. Particular legal enactments in Poland took cognizance of the change in the economic role of the Jews in Polish society. In Lithuania the formal enactments were always suited to their economic role, and to a large extent the dynamics of 16th- and 17th-century development could be accommodated in the old legal framework.

economic activity

From the very first the Jews of Poland developed their economic activities through moneylending toward a greater variety of occupations and economic structures. Thus, by the very dynamics of its economic and social development, Polish Jewry constitutes a flat existential denial and factual contradiction of the antisemitic myth of "the Jewish spirit of usury." On the extreme west of their settlement in Poland, in Silesia, although they were mainly engaged in moneylending, Jews were also employed in agriculture. When the Kalisz community in 1287 bought a cemetery it undertook to pay for it in pepper and other Oriental wares, indicating an old connection with the trade in spices. As noted above, the Jewish mintmasters of the 12th century must undoubtedly have been large-scale traders. In 1327 Jews were an important element among the participants at the *Nowy Sacz fair. Throughout the 14th and 15th centuries Jews were occupied to a growing degree in almost every branch of trade pursued at that time. Jews from both the grand duchy of Lithuania and Poland traded in cloth, dyes, horses, and cattle (and on a fairly large scale). At the end of the 15th century they engaged in trade with Venice, Italy, with Kaffa (Feodosiya), and with other Genoese colonies in the Crimea, and with Constantinople. Lvov Jews played a central role in this trade, which in the late 15th and early 16th centuries developed into a large-scale land-transit trade between the Ottoman Empire and Christian Europe. Through their participation in this trade and their contacts with their brethren in the Ottoman Empire, many Jewish communities became vital links in a trade chain that was important to both the various Christian kingdoms and the Ottoman Empire. Lithuanian Jews participated to the full and on a considerable scale in all these activities, basing themselves both on their above-mentioned recognized role in Lithuanian civic society and on their particular opportunities for trade with the grand principality of *Moscow and their evident specialization in dyes and dyeing. Obviously, in all these activities, all links with Jewish communities in Central and Western Europe were beneficial.

During all this period Jews were engaged in moneylending, some of them (e.g., Jordanis *Lewko, his son Canaan, and Volchko) on a large scale. They made loans not only to private citizens but also to magnates, kings, and cities, on several occasions beyond the borders of Poland. The scope of their monetary operations at their peak may be judged by the fact that in 1428 King Ladislaus ii Jagello accused one of the Cracow city counselors of appropriating the fabulous sum of 500,000 zlotys which the Jews had supplied to the royal treasury.

To an increasing extent many of the Jewish moneylenders became involved in trade. They were considered by their lords as specialists in economic administration. In 1425 King Ladislaus ii Jagello charged Volchko – who by this time already held the Lvov customs lease – with the colonization of a large tract of land: "As we have great confidence in the wisdom, carefulness, and foresight of our Lvov customs-holder, the Jew Volchko … after the above-mentioned Jew Volchko has turned the above-mentioned wilderness into a human settlement in the village, it shall remain in his hands till his death." King Casimir Jagello entrusted to the Jew Natko both the salt mines of Drohobycz (*Drogobych) and the customs station of Grejdek, stating in 1452 that he granted it to him on account of his "industry and wisdom so that thanks to his ability and industry we shall bring in more income to our treasury." The same phenomenon is found in Lithuania. By the end of the 15th century, at both ends of the economic scale Jews in Poland were becoming increasingly what they had been from the beginning in Lithuania: a "third estate" in the cities. The German-Polish citizenry quickly became aware of this. By the end of the 15th century, accusations against the Jews centered on unfair competition in trade and crafts more than on harsh usury. Not only merchants but also Jewish craftsmen are mentioned in Polish cities from 1460 onward. In 1485 tension in Cracow was so high that the Jewish community was compelled to renounce formally its rights to most trades and crafts. Though this was done "voluntarily," Jews continued to pursue their living in every decent way possible. This was one of the reasons for their expulsion from Cracow to Kazimierz in 1495. However, the end of Jewish settlement in Cracow was far from the end of Jewish trade there; it continued to flourish and aggravate the Christian townspeople, as was the case with many cities (like *Lublin and *Warsaw) which had exercised their right de non tolerandis Judaeis and yet had to see Jewish economic activity flourishing at their fairs and in their streets.

cultural and social life

In Poland and Lithuania from the 13th century onward Jewish culture and society were much richer and more variegated than has been commonly accepted. Even before that, the inscriptions on the bracteate coins of the 12th century indicate talmudic culture and leadership traditions by the expressions used (rabbi, רַבִּי, nagid, נָגִיד). About 1234, as mentioned, Jacob Savra of Cracow was able to contradict the greatest talmudic authorities of his day in Germany and Bohemia. In defense of his case he "sent responsa to the far ends of the west and the south" (E.E. Urbach (ed.), in Sefer Arugat ha-Bosem, 4 (1963), 120–1). The author of Sefer Arugat ha-Bosem also quotes an interpretation and emendation that "I have heard in the name of Rabbi Jacob from Poland" (ibid., 3 (1962), 126). Moses Zaltman, the son of *Judah b. Samuel he-Ḥasid, states: "Thus I have been told by R. Isaac from Poland in the name of my father.… thus I have been told by R. Isaac from Russia.… R. Mordecai from Poland told me that my father said" (Ms. Cambridge 669. 2, fol. 69 and 74). This manuscript evidence

proves conclusively that men from Poland and from southern Russia (which in the 13th century was part of the grand duchy of Lithuania) were close disciples of the leader of the *Ḥasidei Ashkenaz. The names of Polish Jews in the 14th century show curious traces of cultural influence; besides ordinary Hebrew names and names taken from the German and French – brought by the immigrants from the countries of their origin – there are clearly Slavonic names like Lewko, Jeleń, and Pychacz and women's names like Czarnula, Krasa, and even Witoslawa. Even more remarkable are the names of Lewko's father, Jordan, and Lewko's son, Canaan or Chanaan, which indicate a special devotion to Ereẓ Israel.

By the 15th century, relatively numerous traces of social and cultural life in the Polish communities can be found. In a document from April 4, 1435, that perhaps, preserves the early *Yiddish of the Polish Jews, the writer, a Jew of Breslau, addresses "the Lord King of Poland my Lord." The closing phrases of the letter indicate his Jewish culture: "To certify this, have I, the above mentioned Jekuthiel, appended my Jewish seal to this letter with full knowledge. Given in Breslau, on the first Monday of the month Nisan, in Jewish reckoning five thousand years and a hundred years and to that hundred the ninety-fifth year after the beginning and creation of all creatures except God Himself " (M. Brann, Geschichte der Juden in Schlesien, 3 (1901), Anhang 4, p. lviii).

(דש צו בקינטניש האבע איך אֵי גננטר יקותיאל מיין יודיש זיגל אנ דיזן בדיבֿא מיט רעכטר ווישן גהאנגן. גגעבן צו בריסלא אנדעמא אירשטן מאנטאג דש מאנדש ניֿסן איין יידישר צאל בֿונץ טאוזנט יאר אינ הונדרט יאר אונ דר צו אין צעמא בֿינווא אונ׳ נויינציקשטן יאר נאך אנבגינן אונ' שיפֿפונגא אללר קריאטייר זונצו גוטא אליין)

Though Israel b. Ḥayyim *Bruna said of the Jews of Cracow, "they are not well versed in Torah" (Responsa, no. 55, fol. 23b), giving this as his reason for not adducing lengthy talmudic arguments in his correspondence with them, he was writing to one of his pupils who claimed sole rabbinical authority and income in the community of Poznan (ibid., no. 254, fol. 103b). Israel b. Pethahiah *Isserlein of Austria writes, "my beloved, the holy community of Poznan." Two parties in this community – the leadership, whom Isserlein calls "you, the holy community," and an individual – were quarreling about taxation and Isserlein records that both sides submitted legal arguments in support of their cases (Terumat ha-Deshen, Pesakim u-Khetavim, no. 144). Great scholars like Yom Tov Lipmann *Muelhausen, who came to Cracow at the end of the 14th century, and Moses b. Isaac Segal *Mintz, who lived at Poznan in 1475, must certainly have left traces of their cultural influence there. Some of the responsa literature contains graphic descriptions of social life. "A rich man from Russia" – either the environs of Lvov in Poland or of Kiev in Lithuania – asked Israel Bruna, "If it is permissible to have a prayer shawl of silk in red or green color for Sabbath and the holidays" (Responsa, no. 73, fol. 32b), a desire fitting a personality of the type of Volchko. Something of the way of life of "the holy company of Lvov" can be seen from the fact that their problem was the murder of one Jew by another in the Ukrainian city of *Pereyaslav-Khmelnitski. As the victim lay wounded on the ground, a third Jew, Naḥman, called out to the murderer, Simḥah: "Hit Nisan till death" and so he was killed by being beaten on his head as he lay there wounded. The victim was a totally ignorant man, "he couldn't recognize a single [Hebrew] letter and has never in his life put on tefillin." The murderer was drunk at the time and the victim had started the quarrel; they were all in a large company of Jews (ibid., no. 265, fol. 110a–b). The rough social and cultural climate of Jewish traders in the Ukraine in the middle of the 15th century is here in evidence. Moses Mintz describes from his own experience divorce customs in the region of Poznan (Responsa (Salonika, 1802), no. 113, fol. 129b). He also describes interesting wedding customs in Poland which differed in many details from those of Germany: "when they accompany the bride and bridegroom to the ḥuppah they sing on the way … they give the bridegroom the cup and he throws it down, puts his foot on it and breaks it, but they pour out the wine from the cup before they give it to the bridegroom. They have also the custom of throwing a cock and also a hen over the head of the bride and bridegroom above the canopy after the pronouncing of the wedding blessings" (ibid., no. 109, fol. 127a). Thus, in the western and central parts of Poland there is evidence of an established and well developed culture and some learning, contrasting sharply with the rough and haphazard existence of Jews living southwards from Lvov to Pereyaslav-Khmelnitski.

Jewish culture in Poland and in Lithuania seems to have had a certain rationalist, "Sephardi" tinge, as evidenced both by outside reports and by certain tensions appearing in the second half of the 16th century. At the beginning of the 16th century the Polish chronicler Maciej Miechowicz relates that in Lithuania, "the Jews use Hebrew books and study sciences and arts, astronomy and medicine" (Tractatus de duabus Sarmatiis (1517), ii: 1, 3). The cardinal legate Lemendone also notes that Lithuanian Jews of the 16th century devote time to the study of "literature and science, in particular astronomy and medicine." At the end of the 15th century, Lithuanian Jews took part in the movement of the *Judaizers in Muscovite Russia, whose literature shows a marked influence of rationalistic Jewish works and anti-Christian arguments. The Jewish community of Kiev – in the 15th and early 16th centuries within the grand duchy of Lithuania – was praised by a Crimean Karaite in 1481 for its culture and learning. In about 1484 another Karaite, Joseph b. Mordecai of Troki, wrote a letter to Elijah b. Moses *Bashyazi (Mann, Texts, 2 (1935), 1149–59) telling about a disputation on calendar problems between him and "the Rabbanites who live here in Troki, Jacob Suchy of Kaffa (Feodosiya) and Ozer the physician of Cracow" (ibid., 1150). He closes his letter with ideas showing a decided rationalist tendency, "The quality of the sermon will be through the quality of the subject, therefore as we have none such more important than the Torah, for in it there is this teaching that brings man straight to his scientific and social success and the chief of its considerations is that man should achieve his utmost perfection, which is spiritual success; and this will happen when he attains such rational concepts as the soul, the active reason, can attain, for the relation between a phenomenon and its causes is a necessary relation, i.e., the relation of the separate reason to the material reason is like the relation of light to sight" (ibid., 1159).

In Poland a dispute between two great scholars of the 16th century – Solomon *Luria and Moses *Isserles – brings to the surface elements of an earlier rationalist culture. Luria accuses yeshivah students of using "the prayer of Aristotle" and accuses Isserles of "mixing him with words of the living God … [considering] that the words of this unclean one are precious and perfume to Jewish sages" (Isserles, Responsa, no. 6). Isserles replies: "All this is still a poisonous root in existence, the legacy from their parents from those that tended to follow the philosophers and tread in their steps. But I myself have never seen nor heard up till now such a thing, and, but for your evidence, I could not have believed that there was still a trace of these conceptions among us" (ibid., no. 7). Writing around the middle of the 16th century, Isserles tells unwittingly of a philosophizing trend prevalent in Poland many years before. A remarkable case of how extreme rationalist conceptions gave way to more mystic ones can be seen in Isserles' pupil, Abraham b. Shabbetai *Horowitz. Around 1539 he sharply rebuked the rabbi of Poznan, who believed in demons and opposed *Maimonides: "As to what this ass said, that it is permissible to study Torah only, this is truly against what the Torah says, 'Ye shall keep and do for it is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the gentiles.' For even if we shall be well versed in all the arcana of the Talmud, the gentiles will still not consider us scholars; on the contrary, all the ideas of the Talmud, its methods and sermons, are funny and derisible in the eyes of the gentiles. If we know no more than the Talmud we shall not be able to explain the ideas and exegetical methods of the Talmud in a way that the gentiles will like – this stands to reason" (see mgwj, 47 (1903), 263). Yet this same man rewrote his rationalistic commentary on a work by Maimonides to make it more amenable to traditionalistic and mystic thought, declaring in the second version, "The first uproots, the last roots." Later trends and struggles in Jewish culture in Poland and Lithuania are partly traceable to this early and obliterated rationalistic layer (see below).

Polish victories over the Teutonic Order in the west and against Muscovite and Ottoman armies in the east and southeast led to a great expansion of Poland-Lithuania from the second half of the 16th century. In this way Poland-Lithuania gained a vast steppeland in the southeast, in the Ukraine, fertile but unpacified and unreclaimed, and great stretches of arable land and virgin forest in the east, in Belorussia. The agricultural resources in the east were linked to the center through the river and canal systems and to the sea outlet in the west through land routes. These successes forged a stronger link between the various strata of the nobility (Pol. szlachta) as well as between the Polish and Lithuanian nobility. In 1569 the Union of Lublin cemented and formalized the unity of Poland-Lithuania, although the crown of Poland and the grand duchy of Lithuania kept a certain distinctness of character and law, which was also apparent in the *Councils of the Lands and in the culture of the Jews (see below). With the union, Volhynia and the Ukraine passed from the grand duchy to the crown. The combined might of Poland-Lithuania brought about a growing pacification of these southeastern districts, offering a possibility of their colonization which was eagerly seized upon by both nobility and peasants.

1569–1648: colonization of the ukraine

The Polish nobility, which became the dominant element in the state, was at that time a civilized and civilizing factor. Fermenting with religious thought and unrest which embraced even the most extreme anti-trinitarians; warlike and at the same time giving rise to small groups of extreme anarchists and pacifists; more and more attracted by luxury, yet for most

WojewódstwoBefore 1569c. 1648
Total24c. 4,00011551,325

of the period developing rational – even if often harsh – methods of land and peasant exploitation; despising merchandise yet very knowledgeable about money and gain – this was the nobility that, taking over the helm of state and society, developed its own estates in the old lands of Poland-Lithuania and the vast new lands in the east and southeast. Jews soon became the active and valued partners of this nobility in many enterprises. In the old "royal cities" – even in central places like Cracow, which expelled the Jews in 1495, and *Warsaw, which had possessed a privilegium de non tolerandis Judaeis since 1527 – Jews were among the great merchants of clothing, dyes, and luxury products, in short, everything the nobility desired. Complaints from Christian merchants as early as the beginning of the 16th century, attacks by urban antisemites like Sebastian *Miczyński and Przecław *Mojecki in the 17th century, and above all internal Jewish evidence all point to the success of the Jewish merchant. The Jew prospered in trade even in places where he could not settle, thanks to his initiative, unfettered by guilds, conventions, and preconceived notions. The kesherim, the council of former office holders in the Poznan community, complain about the excessive activity of Jewish intermediaries, "who cannot stay quiet; they wait at every corner, in every place, at every shop where silk and cloth is sold, and they cause competition through influencing the buyers by their speech and leading them to other shops and other merchants." The same council complains about "those unemployed" people who sit all day long from morning till evening before the shops of gentiles – of spice merchants, clothes merchants, and various other shops – "and the Christian merchants complain and threaten." There was even a technical term for such men, tsuvayzer, those who point the way to a prospective seller (Pinkas Hekhsherim shel Kehillat Pozna, ed. D. Avron (1966), 187–8 no. 1105, 250 no. 1473, 51 no. 1476). Miczyński gives a bitter description of the same phenomenon in Cracow in 1618. Large-scale Jewish trade benefited greatly from the trader's connections with their brethren both in the Ottoman Empire and in Germany and Western Europe. It was also linked to a considerable extent with the *arenda system and its resulting great trade in the export of agricultural products.

Through the arenda system Jewish settlements spread over the country, especially in the southeast. Between 1503 and 1648 there were 114 Jewish communities in the Ukraine, some on the eastern side of the River Dnieper and list by S. Ettinger, in Zion, 21 (1956), 114–8); many of these were tiny. The table Growth of Jewish Settlement shows the main outlines of the dynamics of Jewish settlement in these regions of colonization (ibid., p. 124).

The further the move east and southward, the greater the relative growth in numbers and population. The Jewish arenda holders, traders, and peddlers traveled and settled wherever space and opportunity offered.

Life in these districts was strenuous and often harsh. The manner of Jewish life in the Ukraine, which as we have already seen was uncouth, was both influenced and channeled through Jewish participation in the defense of newly pacified land. Meir b. Gedaliah of Lublin relates "what happened to a luckless man, ill, and tortured by pain and suffering from epilepsy.… When there was an alarm in Volhynia because of the Tatars – as is usual in the towns of that district – when each one is obliged to be prepared, with weapon in hand, to go to war and battle against them at the command of the duke and the lords; and it came to pass that when the present man shot with his weapon, called in German Buechse, from his house through the window to a point marked for him on a rope in his courtyard to try the weapon as sharpshooters are wont to do, then a man came from the market to the above mentioned courtyard … and he was killed [by mistake]." The rabbi goes on to tell that a Christian, the instructor and commander of this Jew, was standing in front of the courtyard to warn people not to enter. The Jew was "living among the gentiles in a village" with many children (Meir b. Gedaliah of Lublin, Responsa, no. 43). There is reference to an enterprising group of Jews who went to Moscow with the armies of the Polish king during war, selling liquor (one of them had two cartloads) and other merchandise to the soldiers (ibid., no. 128). Among the Cossack units there was a Jew about whom his Cossack colleagues "complained to God … suddenly there jumped out from amongst our ranks a Jew who was called Berakhah, the son of the martyr Aaron of Cieszewiec." This Jew was not the only one in the ranks of the Cossacks, for – to allow his wife to marry – one of the witnesses says that "he knew well that in this unit there was not another Jewish fighter who was called Berakhah" (ibid., no. 137). Life in general was apt to be much more violent than is usually supposed: Even at Brest-Litovsk, when the rebbe of the community saw a litigant nearing his door, he seized a heavy box and barricaded himself in for fear of harm (ibid., no. 44).

Arenda did more than give a new basis to the existence of many Jewish families; it brought the Jews into contact with village life and often combined with aspects of their internal organizational structure. Thus, the Jew Nahum b. Moses, as well as renting the mills, the tavern, and the right of preparing beer and brandy, also rented for one year all milk produce of the livestock on the manors and villages. Elaborate and complicated arrangements were made for payment and collection of these milk products (S. Inglot, in: Studja z historji społecznej i gospodarczej poświęcone prof. Franciszkowi Bujakowi (1931), 179–82; cf. 205, 208–9). In contact with village life, the Jew sometimes formed a sentimental attachment to his neighbors and his surroundings. In 1602 a council of leaders of Jewish communities in Volhynia tried to convince Jewish arendars to let the peasants rest on Saturday though the Polish nobleman would certainly have given them the right to compel them to work: "If the villagers are obliged to work all the week through, he should let them rest on Sabbath and the Holy Days throughout. See, while living in exile and under the Egyptian yoke, our parents chose this Saturday for a day of rest while they were not yet commanded about it, and heaven helped them to make it a day of rest for ever. Therefore, where gentiles are under their authority they are obliged to fulfill the commandment of the Torah and the order of the sages not to come, God forbid, to be ungrateful [livot לִבְעֹט] to the One who has given them plenty of good by means of the very plenty he has given them. Let God's name be sanctified by them and not defiled" (H.H. Ben-Sasson, in Zion, 21 (1956), 205).

The interests of the Jews and Polish magnates coincided and complemented each other in one most important aspect of the economic and social activity of the Polish-Lithuanian nobility. On their huge estates the nobles began to establish and encourage the development of new townships, creating a network of "private towns." Because of the nature of their relationship with their own peasant population they were keen to attract settlers from afar, and Jews well suited their plans. The tempo and scale of expansion were great; in the grand duchy of Lithuania alone in the first half of the 17th century between 770 and 900 such townships (miasteczki) existed (S. Aleksandrowicz, in: Roczniki dziejów społecznych i gospodarczych, 27 (1965), 35–65). For their part, the Jews, who were hard pressed by the enmity of the populace in the old royal cities, gladly moved to places where they sometimes became the majority, in some cases even the whole, of the population. Since these were situated near the hinterland of agricultural produce and potential customers, Jewish initiative and innovation found a new outlet. Through charters granted by kings and magnates to communities and settlers in these new towns, the real legal status of the Jews gradually changed very much for the better. By the second half of the 17th century everywhere in Poland Jews had become part of "the third estate" and in some places and in some respects the only one.

Jews continued to hold customs stations openly in Lithuania, in defiance of the wishes of their leaders in Poland (see Councils of the Lands). Many custom station ledgers were written in Hebrew script and contained Hebrew terms (see R. Mahler, in yivo Historishe Shriftn, 2 (1937), 180–205). Sometimes a Jew is found with a "sleeping partner," a Pole or Armenian in whose name the customs lease has been taken out. That some customs stations were in Jewish hands was also of assistance to Jewish trade.

This complex structure of large-scale export and import trade, the active and sometimes adventurous participation in the colonization of the Ukraine and in the shaping of the "private cities," in the fulfilling of what today we would call state economic functions, created for the first time in the history of Ashkenazi Jewry a broad base of population, settlement distribution, and means of livelihood, which provided changed conditions for the cultural and religious life of Jews. Even after the destruction wrought by the *Chmielnicki massacres enough remained to form the nucleus of later Ashkenazi Jewry. The later style of life in the Jewish *shtetl was based on achievements and progress made at this time.

internal jewish life

The Councils of the Lands, the great superstructure of Jewish *autonomy, were an outgrowth of such dynamics of economy and settlement. Beginning with attempts at centralized leaderships imposed from above, appointed by the king, they ended with a central elected Jewish leadership. The aims, methods, and institutions of this leadership were intertwined with the new economic structure. Great fairs – notably those of Lublin and Jaroslaw – since they attracted the richest and most active element of the Jewish population, also served as the meeting place of the councils. Throughout its existence the Council of the Province of Lithuania cooperated with its three (later five) leading communities through a continuous correspondence with them and between each of them and the smaller communities under its authority. Here the council was adapting the organizational methods of large-scale trade to the leadership structure. The concern of the councils with the new economic phenomena, like arenda, is well known. They also concerned themselves with matters of security and morals which arose from the thin spread of Jewish families in Christian townships and villages. On the whole, up to 1648 a sense of achievement and creativity pervades their enterprises and thought. A preacher of that time, Jedidiah b. Israel *Gottlieb, inveighed against a man's gathering up riches for his children, using the argument of the self-made man: "The land is wide open, let them be mighty in it, settle and trade in it, then they will not be sluggards, lazy workers, children relying on their father's inheritance, but they themselves will try … to bring income to their homes, in particular because every kind of riches coming through inheritance does not stay in their hands … easy come, easy go.… through their laziness … they have to be admonished … to be mighty in the land through their trading: their strength and might shall bring them riches" (Shir Yedidut (Cracow, 1644), Ẓeidah la-Derekh, fol. 24a).

This buoyancy was based on a continuous growth of population throughout the 16th and the first half of the 17th centuries, due both to a steady natural increase thanks to improving conditions of life and to immigration from abroad resulting from persecution and expulsions (e.g., that from Bohemia-Moravia for a short period in 1542). As noted, the growth was most intensive in the eastern and southeastern areas of Poland-Lithuania, and it was distributed through the growing dispersion of Jews in the "private cities" and in the villages. At the end of the 16th century, Great Poland and Masovia (Mazowsze) contained 52 communities, Lesser Poland 41, and the Ukraine, Volhynia, and Podolia about 80; around 1648, the latter region had 115 communities. From about 100,000 persons in 1578 the Jewish population had grown to approximately 300,000 around 1648. It is estimated that the Jews formed about 2.5–3% of the entire population of Poland, but they constituted between 10% and 15% of the urban population in Poland and 20% of the same in Lithuania.

The dynamics of Jewish economic life are evident not only in the variety and success of their activities, but also in certain specific institutions and problems that reveal the tension behind their strain for economic goals which tended to entail risks. By the end of the 16th century, Jews were borrowers rather than lenders. Seventeenth-century antisemites – Miczyński and Mojecki – accused Jews of borrowing beyond their means and deceiving Christian lenders. From their accusations it is clear that much of this credit was not in ready cash but in goods given to Jewish merchants on credit. Borrowing was a real problem with which the Jewish leadership was much concerned. Many ordinances of the Councils of the Lands, of the provincial councils, and of single communities are preoccupied with preventing and punishing bankruptcy. Great efforts were devoted to prevent non-payment of debts to Christians in particular. Young men who were building up a family were especially suspected of reaching beyond their means. These ordinances tell in their own way the story of a burgeoning economy which is strained to dangerous limits, inciting in particular the young and the daring. A good name for credit was then a matter of life and death for the Jewish merchant. The great halakhist Solomon Luria was prepared to waive an ancient talmudic law in favor of the lender because "now most of the living of the Jews is based on credit; whereas most of those called merchants have little of their own and what they have in their hands is really taken from gentiles on credit for a fixed period – for they take merchandise [on credit] till a certain date – it is not seemly for a judge to sequester the property of a merchant, for news of this may spread and he will lose the source of his living and all his gentile creditors will come on him together and he will be lost, God forbid, and merchants will never trust him again. I myself have seen and heard about many merchants – circumcised and uncircumcised – to whom, because people said about them that they are a risk, much harm was caused and they never again could stand at their posts" (Yam shel Shelomo, Bava Kamma, ch. 1, para. 20). Because of the importance of credit the practice of a Jew lending on interest to another Jew became widespread in Poland-Lithuania despite the fact that it was contrary to Jewish law (see *usury). This necessitated the creation there of the legal fiction of hetter iskah, formulated by a synod of rabbis and leaders under the chairmanship of Joshua b. Alexander ha-Kohen *Falk in 1607. Widespread credit also led to the use of letters of credit specific to the Jews of Poland, the so-called *mamram (Pol. membrana, membran; Heb. ממרמ״א, ממרים, ממרנ״י, in initials: מ״מ, ממ״א): the Jew would sign on one side of the paper and write on the other side "this letter of credit obliges the signed overleaf for amount x to be paid on date y."

Jewish cultural and social life flourished hand in hand with the economic and demographic growth. In the 16th and early 17th centuries Poland-Lithuania became the main center of Ashkenazi culture. Its *yeshivot were already famous at the beginning of the 16th century; scholars like *Ḥayyim b. Bezalel of Germany and David b. Solomon *Gans of Prague were the pupils of *Shalom Shakhna of Lublin and Moses Isserles of Cracow, respectively. Mordecai b. Abraham *Jaffe; Abraham, Isaiah, and Jacob b. Abraham *Horowitz; Eliezer b. Elijah *Ashkenazi; *Ephraim Solomon b. Aaron Luntshits; and Solomon Luria were only a few of the great luminaries of talmudic scholarship and moralistic preaching in Poland-Lithuania of that time. Councils of the Lands and community ordinances show in great detail if not the reality at least the ideal of widespread Torah study supported by the people in general. This culture was fraught with great social and moral tensions. Old Ashkenazi ascetic ideas did not sit too well on the affluent and economically activist Polish-Lithuanian Jewish society. Meetings with representatives of the Polish *Reformation movement, in particular with groups and representatives of the anti-trinitarian wing like Marcin Czechowic or Szymon *Budny, led to disputations and reciprocal influence. Outstanding in these contacts on the Jewish side was the Karaite Isaac b. Abraham *Troki, whose Ḥizzuk Emunah sums up the tensions in Jewish thought in the divided Christian religious world of Poland-Lithuania. It was Moses Isserles who formulated the Ashkenazi modifications and additions to the code of the Sephardi Joseph Caro. Isaiah b. Abraham ha-Levi *Horowitz summed up in his Shenei Luhot ha-Berit the moral and mystic teaching of the upper circles of Ashkenazi Jewry. Yet his writings, and even more so the writings of Isserles, give expression to the tensions and compromises between rationalism and mysticism, between rich and poor, between leadership and individual rights. To all these tensions, Ephraim Solomon Luntshits gave sharp voice in his eloquent sermons, standing always on the side of the poor against the rich and warning consistently against the danger of hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Fortified and wooden synagogues expressed the needs and the aesthetic sense of Jewish society of that time. In the old "royal cities" magnificent synagogue buildings were erected as early as the 16th century (e.g., the Rema synagogue at Cracow and the Great Synagogue of Lvov). Hebrew manuscripts were brought from abroad and some of them illuminated in Poland. Jewish printing developed early and many beautiful works were published. Various sources describe carnival-like Purim celebrations, and the fun, irony, and joy of life expressed in now lost folk songs and popular games and dramas.

from chmielnicki to the first partition

The *Chmielnicki revolt and massacres of 1648–49, the Tatar incursions from Crimea, and the subsequent war with Moscow combined with the Swedish War to bring on the Jews of

RegionPercentage of communities of less than 500Percentage of communities of more than 500
Great Poland91.78.3
Lesser Poland76.523.5
RegionArenda and Alcoholic BeveragesTradeTransportationCraftsProfessionsUnspec.
Great Poland1.86.141.712.438.0
Lesser Poland3.

Poland-Lithuania approximately 30 years of bloodshed, destruction, and suffering. Thousands were killed, thousands forced to adopt Christianity. At the end of these convulsions, Poland-Lithuania had lost much territory in the east which of course was also lost for Jewish life and settlement. Thousands of refugees thronged westward, bringing heavy pressure to bear on charity and the very structure of Jewish society. The arrangements of the Councils of the Lands to prevent competition for arenda had to stand the severe test of diminished opportunities and increasing demand. Contemporary figures like Nathan Nata *Hannover saw in this catastrophe a fissure in Jewish life and institutions, as indicated by the tenor of his chronicle, Yeven Metsulah. In reality, Jewish cultural and social life in the second half of the 17th century and in the 18th continued to a considerable extent along the lines developed in the great era of the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries. Recent research has shown that *Pinsk, a community in the east of Lithuania, recovered from its troubles more completely and at greater speed than had been known before. But the dynamism had gone out of institutions and activities; inertia set in. Much that had been full of imminent promise of development and change before the disasters tended now to be petrified. Tensions that had been submerged in the buoyant pre-Chmielnicki times became more open, causing dissension and revolt. The councils and communities were burdened with the growing debts incurred mostly to meet unexpected demands for defense against multiplying libels and massacres, but at the same time the oligarchic structure within the community and the councils and the dominating attitude adopted by the larger communities toward the smaller ones – in Lithuania in particular – caused the lower strata of the population and the members of the smaller communities to suspect their intentions and greatly resent the increasingly heavy tax burden. Jewish economic activity continued to develop, though Jews in the "private towns" and on arenda in the villages came to feel more and more the heavy and capricious hand of the Polish nobles, who by that period had lost the vigor of earlier times and become tyrannical, petty lords.

Despite the loss of territory and the worsening of conditions, the Jewish population in Poland-Lithuania continued to grow both absolutely and, from many aspects, in its relative strength in the country. With the abolition of the Councils of the Lands in 1764, a census of the Jewish population was taken. Jews tried to evade being counted by any means available for they were certain that the purpose of the census was to impose heavier taxation on them, as they had every reason to suspect the intentions of the authorities. For this reason at least 20% should be added to the official figures. Accordingly in 1764 there were 749,968 Jews over a year old in Poland-Lithuania: 548,777 of them in Poland and 201,191 in Lithuania; 16.5% of the Jewish population of Poland lived in western Poland, 23.5% in Lesser Poland, and 60% in the Ukraine and neighboring districts; in Lithuania 77% lived in the western part and only 23% in the eastern, Belorussian districts. Taking into account the overall population of Poland, it can be seen that the concentration of Jewish population had shifted eastward in the 18th century to an even greater extent than in the early and successful 17th century. The census also shows that Jews lived mostly in small communities. (See Table 2: Distribution of Jews in Poland.)

As the entire Christian urban population of Poland-Lithuania was estimated at that time to be about half a million, and as the Jews were concentrated mainly in the townships and "private towns," there emerges a clear picture of a predominantly Jewish population in the smaller Polish-Lithuanian urban centers, at least 70% to 90% in many of these places.

The economic structure of the Jewish population at this time is shown in Table 3.

Although the predominance of unspecified professions does indicate the impoverishment of the Jews, it is largely an aspect of the evasive attitude toward the census. As this table does not include the village Jews, among whom the occupations of arenda and the production and sale of alcoholic beverages certainly predominated, only the following economic conclusions can be drawn with certainty: A considerable proportion of the Jews were engaged in crafts, and arenda and alcoholic beverages became more important as sources of livelihood as the Jews moved eastward and into villages (according to R. Mahler, Yidn in Amolikn Poyln in Likht fun Tsifern, 1958).

The Jewish population of Poland-Lithuania was still seething with creativity and movement in the 18th century. The messianic claims of *Shabbetai Ẓevi not only stirred the masses of Jews in 1665–66 but also left a deep impression on later generations. This is evident in the suspicion expressed about itinerant *maggidim (it was also demanded that they be supervised), who were suspected of disseminating heretical and critical ideas. The personality and movement of Jacob *Frank made the greatest impact on the distressed population of Podolia, in the extreme southeast. From the same region too arose *Israel b. Eliezer Ba'al Shem Tov and the movement of *Ḥasidism he originated. Talmudic scholarship and traditional ways of life, which continued to flourish throughout the period, found a supreme exemplar in the vigorous personality and influence of *Elijah b. Solomon Zalman, the Gaon of Vilna, and in the way of life and culture originated by him and his circle in the Mitnaggedic Lithuanian yeshivot. At that time too the first influences of *Haskalah and *assimilation began to appear in Poland-Lithuania.

With the partitions of Poland (beginning in 1772), the history of ancient Jewish Poland-Lithuania comes to an end. During the agony of the Polish state, several of its more enlightened leaders – e.g., H. Kołłąntaj and T. *Czacki – tried to "improve the Jews," i.e., improve their legal and social status in the spirit of western and European enlightened absolutism. With the dismemberment of Poland-Lithuania, their belated efforts remained suspended. Even when broken up and dispersed, Polish-Lithuanian Jewry was not only the majority and the cultural source of Jewish society in czarist Russia, but those elements of it which came under Prussia and Austria also served later as the reservoir of Jewish spirit and manpower which resisted the ravages of assimilation and apostasy in the German and Austrian communities in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

[Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson]

after partition

The geographic entity "Poland" in this part of the article refers to that area of the Polish commonwealth which, by 1795, had been divided between Austria and Prussia and which subsequently constituted the basis of the grand duchy of Warsaw, created in 1807. Following the Congress of *Vienna in 1815 much of this area was annexed to the Russian Empire as the semi-autonomous Kingdom of Poland, also known as Congress Poland. The kingdom constituted the core of ethnic Poland, the center of Polish politics and culture, and an economic area of great importance. It is to be distinguished from Austrian Poland (Galicia), Prussian Poland (Poznan, Silesia, and Pomerania), and the Russian northwestern region also known as Lithuania-Belorussia.

During and after the partitions the special legal status enjoyed by the Jews in Poland-Lithuania came under attack – while disabilities remained, efforts were made to break down the Jews' separateness and transform them into "useful" citizens. This new notion, brought to Poland from the west and championed by Polish progressives with the support of the tiny number of progressive Jews, advocates of the Haskalah, was clearly expressed during the debates on the Jewish question at the Four-Year Sejm (1788–92). The writings of H. Kołłąntaj and M. *Butrymowicz demanded the reform of Jewish life, meaning an end to special institutions and customs (from the kahal to the Jewish beard), sentiments to be expressed later on

YearNumber of JewsPercentage
YearNumber of JewsPercentage

by S. Staszic and A.J. *Czartoryski. The attack on "l'état dans l'état" as Czartoryski put it in 1815, was accompanied by an attack against Jewish economic practices in the village, which, it was claimed, oppressed and corrupted the peasantry. From Butrymowicz, writing in 1789, to the writings of Polish liberals and Jewish assimilationists in the inter-war period, there runs a common assumption: the Jews suffer because they persist in their separateness – let them become like Poles and both they and Poland will prosper. This assumption was also shared by many antisemites of the non-racist variety.

Some effort was made during the 19th century to implement this belief. For example, the kahal, symbol of Jewish self-government, was abolished in 1822, and a special tax on Jewish liquor dealers forced many to abandon their once lucrative profession. On the other hand Jews were encouraged to become agriculturalists and were granted, in 1826, a modern rabbinical seminary which was supposed to produce enlightened spiritual leaders. Moreover, in 1862 the Jews of Poland were "emancipated," meaning that special Jewish taxes were abolished and, above all, that restrictions on residence (Jewish ghettos and privilegium de non tolerandis Judaeis) were removed. Nonetheless, the legal antisemitism of Russia's last czars was also introduced into Poland: in 1891 aspects of N. *Ignatiev's *May Laws were extended to Congress Poland, resulting in the expulsion of many Jews from the villages, and in 1908 school quotas (*numerus clausus) were officially implemented. In sum, during the 19th and early 20th centuries the policy of the carrot and the stick was employed. By the end of the pre-World War i era the stick had prevailed, making the legal status of Polish Jewry nearly identical to that of Russian Jewry. The efforts to assimilate Polish Jewry by legislation aimed at making it more productive and less separatist had virtually no impact on the Jewish masses.

The "Jewish question" in Poland and the legal efforts to deal with it were to a certain extent the result of the Jews' special demographic and economic structure. From the demographic point of view two striking tendencies may be observed. First, the natural increase of Polish Jews was greater than that of non-Jews, at least during most of the 19th century, leading to an increasing proportion of Jews within the population as a whole. In 1816 Jews constituted 8.7% of the population of the kingdom; in 1865, 13.5%. In 1897, despite the effects of large-scale Jewish emigration, 14 out of every 100 Polish citizens were Jews. This increase, attributable in part to the low Jewish death rate, was accompanied by the rapid urbanization of Polish Jewry. A few examples may suffice to illustrate this important process. Table 4 demonstrates the growth of Warsaw Jewry, where restrictions on residence were not entirely lifted until 1862.

A similar trend is found in Lodz, the kingdom's second city (see Table 5).

This remarkable urbanization – the result of government pressure, a crisis in the traditional Jewish village professions, and the economic attractions of the growing commercial and industrial centers – had the following impact on the Jewish population: In 1827, according to the research of A. Eisenbach, 80.4% of the Jews lived in cities and the rest in villages, while in 1865 fully 91.5% of Polish Jewry lived in cities. In the same year 83.6% of the non-Jewish population lived in the countryside. As early as 1855 Jews constituted approximately 43% of the entire urban population of the kingdom, and in those cities where there were no restrictions on Jewish settlement the figure reached 57.2%. The Jews, traditionally scattered, could claim with some justification that, by the end of the century, the cities were their "territory."

This demographic tendency meant that the traditional Jewish economic structure also underwent certain changes. Jews, of course, had always predominated in trade; in 1815, for example, 1,657 Polish Jews participated at the Leipzig fair compared with 143 Polish gentiles. During the course of the century, as the Jews became more and more dominant in the cities, their role in urban commercial ventures became more pronounced. Thus, in Warsaw, at the end of the century, 18 out of 26 major private banks were owned by Jews or Jewish converts to Christianity. A wealthy Jewish merchant and financial class emerged, led by such great capitalists as Ivan *Bliokh and Leopold *Kronenberg, who played a role in the urbanization and industrialization of Poland. On the other hand, the vast majority of Jews engaged in commerce very clearly belonged to the petty bourgeoisie of shopkeepers (of whom, in Warsaw in 1862, nearly 90% were Jews) and the like. In the same year, according to the calculations of the economic historian I. *Schiper, more than two-thirds of all Jewish merchants were without substantial capital.

Two tendencies must be emphasized with regard to the Jewish economic situation in the kingdom. First, it became apparent by the end of the century that the Jews were gradually losing ground to non-Jews in trade. Thus, for every 100 Jews in Warsaw in 1862, 72 lived from commerce, while in 1897 the figure had dropped to 62. For non-Jews, on the other hand, the percentage rose from 27.9 in 1862 to 37.9 in 1897. The rise of a non-Jewish middle class, with the resulting increase in competition between Jew and gentile, marks the beginning of a process which, as we shall see, gained impetus during the interwar years. Second, there was a marked tendency toward the "productivization" of Polish Jewry, that is, a rise of Jews engaged in crafts and industry. The following figures, which relate to the whole of Congress Poland, are most revealing: in 1857 44.7% of all Jews lived from commerce and 25.1% from crafts and industry, while in 1897 42.6% were engaged in commerce and 34.3% in crafts and industry. In this area, as in trade, the typical Jew was far from wealthy. For every wealthy Jew like Israel Poznański, the textile tycoon from Lodz, there were thousands of Jewish artisans (some 119,000, according to the survey of the *Jewish Colonization Association (ica) in 1898) who worked in tiny shops with rarely more than one hired hand. It is noteworthy that for various reasons – the problems of Sabbath work, the antisemitism of non-Jewish factory owners, fear of the Jewish workers' revolutionary potential – a Jewish factory proletariat failed to develop. Even in Lodz and Bialystok the typical Jewish weaver worked in a small shop or at home, not in a large factory. One further development should be mentioned. By the end of the century a numerically small but highly influential Jewish professional class had made its appearance, particularly in Warsaw. This class was to provide the various political and cultural movements of the day, Jewish and non-Jewish, with many recruits, as well as to provide new leadership for the Jewish community.

The Jews, therefore, constituted an urban, middle class and proletarian element within the great mass of the Polish peasantry. There existed in Poland a long tradition of what might be called a "Polish orientation" among Jews, dating back to the Jewish legion which fought with T. *Kościuszko in 1794 and continuing up to the enthusiastic participation of a number of Jews in J. *Piłsudski's legions. The Polish-Jewish fraternization and cooperation during the Polish uprising of 1863 is perhaps the best example of this orientation, which held that Polish independence would also lead to the disappearance of antisemitism. The idea of Jewish-Polish cultural assimilation took root among the Jews of the kingdom far earlier than in Galicia, not to mention multi-national Lithuania-Belorussia. *Izraelita, the Polish-Jewish periodical advocating assimilation, began publication in 1866, and a number of Jewish intellectuals like Alexander Kraushar hoped for the eventual merging of the Jews into the Polish nation. Such men took comfort from the views of a few Polish intellectuals, notably the poet Adam *Mickiewicz, who hoped and worked for the same event. The slogan "for our and your freedom" had considerable influence within the Polish-Jewish intelligentsia by the century's end.

The Jewish masses, however, had nothing to do with such views, knew nothing of Mickiewicz, knew little if any Polish, and remained (as the assimilationists put it) enclosed within their own special world. Here, too, as was the case regarding the economic stratification of Polish Jewry, a thin stratum separated itself from the mass. It was usually the offspring of the wealthy (Kraushar's father, for example, was a banker) who championed the Polish orientation, while the typical Jewish shopkeeper or artisan remained Yiddish-speaking and Orthodox. On the Polish side, too, Mickiewicz was a voice crying in the wilderness. It is true that the great wave of *pogroms in the Russian Empire was concentrated in the Ukraine and Bessarabia (although Russian Poland was not wholly spared); nor was there anything in Poland resembling the expulsion of the Jews from Moscow in 1891. Indeed, Russian antisemitism led to the influx of so-called Litvaks into the kingdom. But the rise of Polish national fervor, accompanied by the development of a Polish middle class, naturally exacerbated Polish-Jewish relations. The founding of the National Democratic Party (*Endecja) in 1897 was symptomatic of the growing antisemitism of the period. The economic and political roots of this antisemitism (not to mention the traditional religious factor) were clearly expressed in 1912, when the Jews' active support of a Socialist candidate in elections to the *Duma resulted in an announced boycott of Jewish businesses by the National Democrats. On the eve of World War i relations between Poles and Jews were strained to the utmost, a state of affairs which led to a decline in the influence of the assimilationists and a rise in that of Jewish national doctrines.

In comparison with Russia, specifically Jewish political movements had a late start in the kingdom. The Haskalah, progenitor of modern Jewish political movements, was far less influential in Poland than in Galicia or Russia. Warsaw, unlike *Vilna, Lvov, and other great Jewish cities, did not become a center of the Enlightenment; its Jewish elite, like the elite in Germany, tended toward assimilation. True, the city of *Zamosc was, for a time, a thriving Haskalah center, but Zamosc was part of Galicia from 1772 to 1815 and followed the Galician rather than the Polish pattern. Later on, the pioneers of Jewish nationalism and Jewish Socialism came from the northwest region (Belorussia-Lithuania) or the Ukraine. While in Lithuania the Jewish intelligentsia, though Russianized, remained close to the masses, in Poland the intelligentsia was thoroughly Polonized. Its members tended, therefore, to enter Polish movements, such as the Polish Socialist Party (*pps). Thus the *Bund, although it succeeded in spreading into Poland in the early 20th century, remained very much a Lithuanian movement. It is striking that the so-called Litvaks played a major role in spreading the ideas of Jewish nationalism to Poland; it was they, for example, who led the Warsaw Ḥovevei Zion (*Ḥibbat Zion) movement, the precursor of modern Zionism. On the eve of World War i, however, Jewish political life in Poland was well developed. The Bund had developed roots in such worker centers as Warsaw and Lodz, while the Zionists felt strong enough to challenge, albeit unsuccessfully, the entrenched assimilationist leadership of the Warsaw Jewish community.

independent poland

As a result of World War i and the unexpected collapse of the three partitioning powers, Poland was reconstituted as a sovereign state. The final boundaries, not determined until 1921, represented something of a compromise between the federalist

CityPercentage of Jews in 1921Percentage of Jews in 1931
ReligionNatural Increase
Roman Catholic13.1
Greek Catholic12.5
Greek Orthodox16.7

dreams of Pilsudski and the more ethnic Polish conception of R. *Dmowski. To Congress Poland, purely Polish save for its large Jewish minority, were added Galicia, Poznania, Pomerania, parts of Silesia, areas formerly part of the Russian northwestern region, and the Ukrainian province of Volhynia. The new state was approximately one-third non-Polish, the important minorities being the Ukrainians, Jews, Belorussians, and Germans.

The heritage of the war years was a particularly tragic one for Polish Jewry. The rebirth of Poland, which many Jews had hoped for, was accompanied by a campaign of terror directed by the Poles (as by the invading Russian army in the early years of the war) against them. The Jews too often found themselves caught between opposing armies – between the Poles and the Lithuanians in Vilna, between the Poles and the Ukrainians in Lvov, and between the Poles and the Bolsheviks during the war of 1920. And it is probably no accident that the two major pogroms of this period, in Lvov in 1918 and in Vilna in 1919, occurred in multi-national areas where national feelings reached their greatest heights. The triumph of Polish nationalism, far from leading to a rapprochement between Jews and Poles, created a legacy of bitterness which cast its shadow over the entire interwar period. For the Poles the war years proved that the Jews were "anti-Polish," "pro-Ukrainian," "pro-Bolshevik," etc. For the Jews the independence of Poland was associated with pogroms. The legal situation of the Jews in independent Poland was, on the surface, excellent. The Treaty of Versailles, concluded between the victorious powers and the new states, included provisions protecting the national rights of minorities; in the Polish treaty Jews were specifically promised their own schools and the Polish state promised to respect the Jewish Sabbath. The Polish constitution, too, declared that non-Poles would be allowed to foster their national traditions, and formally abolished all discrimination due to religious, racial, or national differences. The Jews were recognized by the state as a nationality, something the Zionists and other Jewish nationalists had long fought for. There were great hopes that the Jews would be allowed to develop their own national institutions on the basis of national autonomy.

These hopes were not fulfilled. The two cornerstones of Jewish autonomy – the school and the *kehillah – were not allowed to develop freely. The state steadfastly refused to support Jewish schools, save for a relatively small number of elementary schools closed on Saturday which possessed little Jewish content. The Hebrew-language *Tarbut schools, along with the Yiddish-language cysho (see *Education) network, were entirely dependent on Jewish support, and the diplomas issued by the Jewish high schools were not recognized by the Ministry of Education. The Jewish schools were successful as pedagogical institutions, but the absence of state support made it impossible for them to lay the foundation for a thriving Jewish national cultural life in Poland. As for the kehillah, projected by Jewish nationalists as the organ of Jewish national autonomy on the local level, it was kept in tight check by the government. While elections to the kehillah were made democratic, enabling all Jewish parties to participate on a basis of equality, the government constantly intervened to support its own candidates, usually those of the Orthodox *Agudat Israel. By the same token the government controlled the budgets of the kehillot. These institutions remained essentially what they had been in the preceding century, concerned above all with the religious life of the community.

Far from barring discrimination against non-Poles, the policy of the interwar Polish state was to promote the ethnic Polish element at the expense of the national minorities, and above all at the expense of the Jews, who were more vulnerable than the essentially peasant Slav groups. The tradition of numerus clausus was continued at the secondary school and university level, efforts were made to deprive the "Litvaks" of Polish citizenship, local authorities attempted to curb the use of Yiddish and Hebrew at public meetings, and the Polish electoral system clearly discriminated against all the minorities. All Jewish activities leading toward the advancement of Jewish national life in Poland were combatted; the government favored Zionism only insofar as it preached emigration to Ereẓ Israel, and in domestic politics tended to support the traditional Orthodoxy of Agudat Israel. Worst of all was the economic policy of the state.

According to official statistics, most likely too low, Jews made up 10.5% of the Polish population in 1921. The density of their urban settlement was related to the general development of the area. In less developed regions, such as East Galicia, Lithuania, and Volhynia, the Jewish percentage in the cities was very high, while in more developed areas, such as Central Poland (the old Congress Poland), the existence of a strong native bourgeoisie caused the Jewish percentage to be lower. As for the Jewish village population, it too was higher in backward areas, since the number of cities was naturally less. There were, therefore, substantial Jewish village populations in Galicia and Lithuania but not in the old Congress Poland (with the exception of Lublin province, economically backward in comparison with the other provinces of the region). The most striking development in the demography of Polish Jewry between the wars is the marked loss of ground in the cities. Table 6 illustrates this point. (See Map: Poland, 1931 and Map: Jews in Poland.)

Among the factors contributing to this decline was the Polish government's "colonization" policy in non-Polish areas, its changing of city lines to diminish the Jewish proportion, and Jewish emigration (though with America's gates shut this last factor was not very significant). Another major cause would appear to be the low Jewish natural increase, caused by a low birth rate. (Table 7 presents the natural increase of four major religious groups in interwar Poland.) Thus the process of Jewish population expansion in Poland ended, itself the victim of urbanization (which led, in turn, to a low birth rate). If the cities were Judaized during the 19th century, they were Polonized in the 1920s and 1930s.

The demographic decline of Polish Jewry was paralleled by a more serious economic decline. On the whole, Polish Jews between the wars continued to work at the same trades as their 19th-century predecessors and the tendency toward "productivization" also continued. The vast majority of those engaged in industry were artisans, among whom tailors predominated; those working in commerce were, above all, shopkeepers. What distinguished the interwar years from the prewar era was the antisemitic policy of the Polish state, which Jewish leaders accused of leading to the economic "extermination" of Polish Jewry. Jews were not employed in the civil service, there were very few Jewish teachers in the public schools, practically no Jewish railroad workers, no Jews employed in state-controlled banks, and no Jewish workers in state-run monopolies (such as the tobacco industry). In a period characterized by economic étatisme, when the state took a commanding role in economic life, such official discrimination became disastrous. There was no branch of the economy where the state did not reach; it licensed artisans, controlled the banking system, and controlled foreign trade, all to the detriment of the Jewish element. Its tax system discriminated against the urban population, and its support of peasant cooperatives struck at the Jewish middleman. Such specific legislation as the law compelling all citizens to rest on Sunday helped to ruin Jewish commerce by forcing the shopkeeper to rest for two days and to lose the traditionally lucrative Sunday trade.

More natural forces were also at work in the decline of the Jews' economic condition, e.g., the continued development of a native middle class, sponsored by the government but not created by it. According to research carried out by the *yivo in 113 Polish cities between 1937 and 1938, the number of Jewish-owned stores declined by one, while the number of stores owned by Christians increased by 591. In the western Bialystok province, to cite another example, the number of the Jewish-owned stores declined between 1932 and 1937 from 663 to 563, while the number of Christian-owned stores rose from 58 to 310. These figures reflect both the impact of antisemitism (in the late 1930s the anti-Jewish boycott became effective) and the impact of the developing Polish (and Ukrainian) middle class.

The Jews' economic collapse in the interwar period bears witness to the disaster, from the Jewish point of view, inherent in the rise of exclusive nation-states on the ruins of the old multinational empires. Jews were employed in the old Austrian public schools of Galicia, but not in the Polish state-operated schools. They worked as clerks in the railroad offices of Austrian Galicia, but not in Poland. Thousands of Jewish cigarette factory workers in the old Russian Empire were dismissed when the Polish state took over the tobacco monopoly. It also demonstrates the extremely vulnerable position of the Jews vis-à-vis the other Polish minorities, largely peasant nations which did not compete with the Polish element. The urban Jewish population found itself in a situation in which the traditional small businessman was being squeezed out, while the policy of the state also ruined the wealthy Jewish merchant and industrialist. This was then the end of a process already discernible in the late 19th century, immeasurably speeded up by a state which wanted to see all key economic positions in the hands of "loyal" elements, i.e., Poles.

What was the Jews' political response to this situation? In the beginning of the interwar period the *General Zionists emerged as the strongest force within the Jewish community, thus reflecting the general trend in Eastern Europe toward nationalism and, in the Jewish context, reflecting the impact of the terrible war years. In the 1919 Sejm elections the list of the Temporary Jewish National Council, dominated by General Zionists, received more than 50% of those votes cast for Jewish parties. In 1922, when Jewish representation in the Sejm reached its peak, the percentage of General Zionists (together with the *Mizrachi) among the Jewish deputies was again over 50% (28 out of 46). The Jewish Club (Koło) in the Sejm, which claimed to speak for all Polish Jewry, was naturally dominated by General Zionists, who with considerable justice regarded themselves as the legitimate spokesmen of the community. General Zionism in Poland was divided into two schools, that of "Warsaw-St. Petersburg" and that of "Lvov-Cracow-Vienna." The former came of age in the revolutionary atmosphere of the czarist regime and consequently tended to be more extreme in its demands than the Galicians, who had learned their politics in the Austrian Reichsrat. The clash between Yiẓḥak *Gruenbaum, leader of the Warsaw faction, and Leon *Reich of Lvov was well expressed in the negotiations carried on between the Jewish Sejm Club and the Polish government in 1925. Gruenbaum, rejecting negotiations with antisemites and offering instead the idea of a national minorities bloc, found himself outnumbered in the club by adherents of Reich's position, namely that negotiations should be carried on in order to halt the deterioration of the Jewish position. In the end neither Gruenbaum's minorities bloc nor Reich's negotiations caused any improvements; the tragedy of Jewish politics in Poland was that the government would not make concessions to the Jews so long as it was not forced to do so, and the Jews, representing only 10% of the population, could find no allies.

All General Zionists agreed on the importance of "work in the Diaspora," though Gruenbaum, the central figure in this work, was castigated by Palestinian pioneers as the apostle of "Sejm-Zionismus." They did not agree, however, on various aspects of Zionist policy; the efforts to broaden the *Jewish Agency and the nature of the Fourth *Aliyah caused a split within the Warsaw Zionists, Gruenbaum leading the attack on Chaim *Weizmann and upholding the young pioneering emigration while his opponents defended the "bourgeois" aliyah and Weizmann's conciliatory tactics toward non-Zionist Jewry. Gruenbaum's faction, Al ha-Mishmar ("On Guard"), remained in the minority throughout the 1920s, but the so-called radical Zionists returned to power in the 1930s following the failure of the Agency reform, the crisis in the Fourth Aliyah, and the stiffening of the British line in Palestine. The General Zionists, of course, did not monopolize Jewish political life in interwar Poland. On the right, non-Zionist Orthodoxy was represented by the Agudat Israel, which succeeded in dominating the Jewish kehillot, but its generally good relations with the government did not stem the antisemitic tide. On the left the dominant Jewish party was the Bund, which had disappeared in Russia but survived to play its last historic role as the most important representative of the Jewish proletariat in Poland. The Bund, like Gruenbaum's Zionist faction, also recognized the need for allies in the struggle for a just society in which, its leaders hoped, Jews would be able to promote their Yiddish-based culture. Such allies were sought on the Polish left rather than among the disaffected minorities, but the Polish Socialist Party (pps), for reasons of its own, had no desire to be branded pro-Jewish. Unable to create a bloc with the Polish proletariat, the Bund devoted itself to promoting the interests of the Jewish working class and took a great interest in the development of Yiddish culture. Despite the fact that this party, too, was split into factions (the split turned chiefly on different attitudes toward the international Socialist movement), it was to grow in influence. Sharing the left with the Bund, though overshadowed by it in terms of worker allegiance, were the various Socialist Zionist parties, ranging from the non-Marxist *Hitaḥadut to the leftist *Po'alei Zion (the Po'alei Zion movement had split into right and left factions in 1920; in Poland the left was dominant, at least in the 1920s). The moderate Socialist Zionists were concerned mainly with the pioneering emigration to Ereẓ Israel, while the Left Po'alei Zion steered a perilous course of non-affiliation either with the Zionist organization or with the Socialist International. Its ideological difficulties with the competition of the anti-Zionist Bund (which went so far as to brand Zionism as an ally of Polish antisemitism) sentenced the Left Po'alei Zion to a relatively minor role among the Jewish proletariat, though its influence among the intelligentsia was by no means negligible.

Two other Jewish parties deserve mention. The Polish Mizrachi, representing the Zionist Orthodox population, enjoyed a very large following (eight of its representatives sat in the Sejm in 1922). The Mizrachi usually cooperated with the General Zionists, though its particular mission was to safeguard the religious interests of its followers in Ereẓ Israel and in the Diaspora. The *Folkspartei, on the other hand, never managed to make an impression on political life in Poland, though its intellectual leadership was extremely influential on the cultural scene. Both anti-Zionist and anti-Socialist, it could never attain a mass following.

The economic collapse of Polish Jewry, together with the rise of virulent antisemitism, led to the radicalization of Jewish politics in Poland. Extreme solutions to the Jewish question gained more adherents as the parliamentary approach clearly failed to lead anywhere; hence the growth of the pioneering Zionist movements – *He-Ḥaluẓ, HeḤaluẓ ha-Ẓa'ir, *Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir, and others – resulting in the large-scale emigration to Ereẓ Israel in the mid-1930s, and also the inroads of Communism among the Jewish youth. Another symptom of this radicalization was the great success of the Bund in the 1930s; by the late 1930s the Bund had "conquered" a number of major kehillot and was probably justified in considering itself the strongest of all Jewish parties. This spectacular success did not occur as a result of any apparent party success, since the efforts to improve the lot of the Jewish proletariat and to forge a bloc with the Polish left had failed. Rather, the Bund's success may be attributed to the rising protest vote against attempts to mollify the regime and in favor of an honorable defense, no matter how unavailing, of Jewish interests. Within the Zionist movement the process of radicalization was very clearly illustrated by the decline of the General Zionists and the rise of the Socialists and the Revisionists. In the elections to the 18th*Zionist Congress, held in 1933, the labor Zionists of Central Poland received 38 mandates and the General Zionists only 12. The same congress seated 20 Polish Revisionists, whose growing strength faithfully reflected the mood of Polish Jewry. In short, a transformation may be discerned of what might be called the politics of hope into the politics of despair. The slogans of ḥaluẓiyyut ("pioneering"), evacuation, and Communist ideology became more and more palatable as the old hopes for Jewish autonomy and the peaceful advancement of Jewish life in a democratic Poland disappeared.

By the late 1930s the handwriting was clearly on the wall for Polish Jewry, though no one could foresee the horrors to come. The rise of Hitler in Germany was paralleled by the appearance of Fascist and semi-Fascist regimes in Eastern Europe, not excepting Poland. A new wave of pogroms erupted along with a renewed anti-Jewish boycott, condoned by the authorities. The Jewish parties were helpless in the face of this onslaught, especially as the disturbances in Ereẓ Israel resulted in a drastic decline in aliyah. The political dilemma of Polish Jewry remained unresolved; finding no allies, Jewish parties could do little to influence the course of events. It should be recalled, however, that the role of these parties was greater than the narrow word "political" implies. Their work in raising the educational standards of Polish Jewry was remarkable, and the Jewish youth movements were able to supply to the new generation of Polish Jews a sense of purpose and a certain vision of a brighter future.

Polish Jewish history, from 1772 to 1939, reveals an obvious continuity. The Jews remained a basically urban element in a largely peasant country, a distinct economic group, a minority whose faith, language, and customs differed sharply from those of the majority. All attempts to break down this distinctiveness failed, and the Jews naturally suffered for their obvious strangeness. A thin layer of assimilated, or quasi-assimilated, Jews subsisted throughout the entire period, but the masses were relatively unaffected by the Polish orientation. In the end all suffered equally from Polish antisemitism. There were also several basic discontinuities. The rise of an exclusively national Polish state in 1918 was a turning point in the deterioration of the Jews' position, though the signs of this deterioration were already visible in the late 19th century. The rise of a native middle class, encouraged by state policy, put an end to the Jews' domination of trade and forced them into crafts and industry, resulting in the emergence of a large Jewish proletariat. Politically speaking perhaps the greatest change was the triumph within the community of Jewish nationalism, whether Zionist, Bundist, or Folkist, at the expense of the traditional assimilationist or Orthodox leadership. In this sense Polish Jewry followed the same course of development as the other peoples of Eastern Europe. It was a tragic paradox that these nationalist parties, which extolled the principle of activism and denounced the passivity of the Jewish past, also depended for their effectiveness on outside forces. Neither the Polish government nor the Polish left proved to be possible allies in the struggle for survival.

[Ezra Mendelsohn]

holocaust period

The outbreak of the war (Sept. 1, 1939) and the invasion of Poland by German troops were marked by immediate heavy loss of civilian (especially Jewish) life and material damage. Military operations caused the death of 20,000 Jews, while bombing destroyed some 50,000 Jewish-owned houses, factories, workshops, and stores in about 120 Jewish communities, in some of which 90–95% of the houses went up in flames. In Warsaw alone, in the first month of the war, 30% of the Jewish buildings were destroyed when entire Jewish neighborhoods burned down. A tremendous stream of refugees sought shelter in the large cities, particularly in Warsaw. Subsequently, tens of thousands of Jewish enterprises not destroyed in the bombing were now lost in liquidation measures, bringing the total amount of Jewish property and business concerns lost or destroyed to an estimated 100,000. Jewish losses on the battlefield totaled 32,216 dead (officers and enlisted men) and another 61,000 taken prisoner, the majority of whom died in captivity.

Military operations were still going on when the German army and sd Einsatzkommandos undertook a campaign of bloody repression (see *Holocaust, General Survey). They usually arrested a group of Jews or Poles, who were kept as hostages and eventually shot. Sometimes mock executions were staged, in which the victims stood for hours in suspense anticipating execution. Pious Jews had their beards removed by blunt instruments, which tore their skin, or had their beards burned off. Swastikas were branded on the scalps of some victims; others were subjected to "gymnastics," such as "riding" on other victims' backs, crawling on all fours, singing and dancing, or staging fights with one another. The Nazis took a special sadistic pleasure in violating religious feelings, deliberately choosing Jewish religious holidays on which to carry out their assaults.

They instituted a special campaign of burning down synagogues, or, after destroying their interiors, turned them into stables, warehouses, bathhouses, or even public latrines (see *Synagogues, Desecration and Destruction of). At *Bedzin the synagogue at the old market place was set on fire on Sept. 9, 1939. The flames spread to the neighboring Jewish houses, and as the area was cordoned off by soldiers and ss-men who did not permit anyone to escape or to fight the fire, 56 houses were burned down, and several hundred persons were burned to death. In some places, e.g., *Wloclawek and *Brzeziny, the president or rabbi of the community was forced to sign a "confession" that the Jews themselves started the fire and to pay heavy fines as punishment for the "arson." The tenants of the houses burned down were brought before a military court. Any Jew who tried to enter a burning synagogue in order to save the Torah scrolls was either shot or thrown into the flames. In many places the military staged autos-da-fé of Torah scrolls, Hebrew books, and other religious articles, and forced the Jews to sing and dance around the flames and shout that the Jews were to blame for the war. The Jewish communities were also compelled to bear the cost of tearing down the remaining walls of the houses and clearing the rubble. It is estimated that several hundred synagogues were destroyed in the first two months of the occupation.

At the same time, mass arrests of Jews were carried out in which thousands of men, women, and children were interned in "civilian prison camps" set up in synagogues, churches, movie houses, and the like, or put behind barbed-wire fences on open lots and exposed to the soldiers' cruelty and torture. Afterward the prisoners were sent on foot to larger centers (such as *Wegrow, *Lomza, *Sieradz, *Tomaszow Mazowiecki), where some were set free and others put on forced labor or deported to Germany. In the latter instance their transport to Germany was used for propaganda purposes, as in the case of groups of Jews from Kalisz and Wieruszow who were borne around German towns in trucks bearing the inscription: "These are the Jewish swine who shot at German soldiers."

Precise instructions issued by the High Command of the Wehrmacht on July 24, 1939, for the internment of civilian prisoners provided for the arrest of Jews and Poles of military age at the outset of the invasion. In practice, however, a wild huntdown of Jews was made, without regard to age. In the campaign of terror that followed, hundreds of civilians, Poles, and Jews (in *Czestochowa, *Przemysl, *Bydgoszcz, and Dynow) were slaughtered outright or imprisoned in buildings which were sealed and then set on fire or blown up, the imprisoned dying a horrible death (in Dynow, Lipsk-Kielecki, Mszczonow). No precise figures are available on the number of victims in this period of terror. In the rampage of persecution throughout Poland, people were taken off the streets or dragged from their homes and put on forced labor. They were tortured and beaten, and deprived of their human dignity when forced to perform such acts as cleaning latrines with their bare hands or, in the case of women, washing the floor with their own underwear. Normal life was paralyzed by the arbitrary arrests for forced labor even at a later stage, when forced labor was "regulated" and the still-existing communities or the Judenraete (see *Judenrat) had to provide labor contingents on the basis of an understanding reached with the various German offices or commands.

The systematic robbery of Jewish property involved the closing of all the Jewish shops in many towns, or enforced sale of the wares at nominal prices or against worthless receipts. To facilitate the identification of Jewish property, the chief of the civilian administration attached to the army, Hans *Frank, issued an order (Sept, 8, 1939) for all Jewish stores to display a Star of David or other appropriate inscriptions on their stores by the following day. Practically all Jewish communities were also forced to make large "contributions" of money, gold, silver, and jewelry. In many towns compulsory contributions were paid several times over. Large sums were extorted from wealthy individuals under threat of imprisonment. Whenever a Nazi "visit" to the offices of the communities took place, all the money in their safes was confiscated, e.g., in Warsaw on Oct. 5, 1939, when 100,000 zlotys ($20,000) were taken in this manner. "Legal" forms of robbery were also instituted. The civilian administrators attached to the occupation forces issued orders restricting the sums Jews could hold in their bank accounts, while the accounts themselves were blocked. Restrictions were also placed on the amount of cash a Jew could keep in his home. Jewish-owned property was frozen, Jews were prohibited from engaging in the textile and leather business, and their inventories were registered with the Nazi authorities. Any infringement entailed heavy punishment, including death.

Two decrees by Hitler (Oct. 8 and 12, 1939) provided for the division of the occupied areas of Poland into the following administrative units: (a) Reichsgau Wartheland, which included the entire Poznan province, most of the Lodz province, five Pomeranian districts, and one county of the Warsaw province; (b) the remaining area of Pomerania, which was incorporated into the Rechsgau Danzig-Westpreussen; (c) Regierungsbezirk Zichenau (Ciechanow) consisting of the five northern counties of Warsaw province (*Plock, *Plonsk, Sterpe, *Ciechanow, *Mlawa), which became a part of East Prussia; (d) Regierungsbezirk Kattowitz – or unofficially Ost-Oberschlesien (East Upper Silesia) – which included *Sosnowiec, Bedzin, *Chryzanow, and *Zawiercie counties and parts of *Olkusz and Zywiec counties; (e) the General Government of Poland, which included the central Polish provinces and was subdivided into four districts, Warsaw, Lublin, *Radom, and Cracow.

The areas listed under (a)–(d) were incorporated into the Reich. After the outbreak of the Soviet-German War, the Polish territories previously occupied by the Russians were organized as follows: (f) Bezirk Bialystok, which included the Bialystok, *Bielsk Podlaski, *Grajewo, Lomza, *Sokolka, *Volkovysk, and Grodno counties and was "attached" (not incorporated) to East Prussia; (g) Bezirke Litauen und Weissrussland – the Polish part of White Russia (today western Belorussia), including the Vilna province, which was incorporated into the Reichskommissariat Ostland; (h) Bezirk Wolhynien-Podolien – the Polish province of Volhynia, which was incorporated into the Reichskommissariat Ukraine; and (i) East Galicia, which was incorporated into the General-Government and became its fifth district.

The Jewish population of this entire area was 3,351,000, of whom 2,042,000 came under Nazi rule and 1,309,000 under Soviet occupation in September 1939. The ultimate fate of the Jewish population under Nazi rule was the same in all the areas, though the various administrative areas differed in the degree and pace of persecution, depending on local leadership (a Nazi principle of administration).

Reichsgau Wartheland

The area was subdivided into three Regierungsbezirke ("administrative districts") – Poznan, *Inowroclaw, and Lodz. On Sept. 1, 1939, it had 390,000 Jews (including 4,500 in Poznan, 54,090 in Inowroclaw, and 326,000 in the Lodz district – 233,000 in the city of Lodz). Like all Polish areas incorporated into the Reich, Wartheland was from the beginning designated to become "judenrein" (*Heydrich's "Schnellbrief " of Sept. 21, 1939). In a secret order to the *rsha (Reichssicherheitshauptamt – Reich Security Main Office) and the high *ss and police officials, issued on Oct. 30, 1939, *Himmler fixed the period of November 1939–February 1940 for clearing the incorporated areas of their entire Jewish population and the majority of their Polish population as well. A similar decree was issued on Nov. 4, 1939, by Wartheland's Gauleiter Arthur Greiser.

Arrangements were made for the transfer of 100,000 Jews from its territory during this period. In fact, more than 50 Jewish communities were deported wholly or in part to the Lublin district between the fall of 1939 and May 1940; the larger communities among those deported were Poznan, Kalisz, Ciechocinek, *Gniezno, Inowroclaw, Nieszawa, and *Konin. In some towns the deportation was carried out in stages, with a small number of Jews remaining, engaged in work for the Nazi authorities. In some instances, the regime of terror drove the Jews to desperation, so that they chose "voluntary" exile. This happened in *Lipno and in Kalisz, where many Jews, unable to withstand the persecution, fled from the city in October and November 1939. In Lodz, over 10,000 Jews, including most of the Jewish intelligentsia, were deported in December 1939. For weeks the deportees were kept at assembly points, and had to supply their own means of subsistence, though they had been deprived of all their valuables. Large assembly points were located at Kalisz, Sieradz, and Lodz. There, the Selektion ("selection") took place in which able-bodied men, aged 14 and over, were sent to labor camps which had been established in the meantime, while women, children, and old men were deported in sealed freight cars to the Lublin and *Kielce areas. This occurred in the severe winter of 1939–1940, and upon arrival at their destination, some of the deportees were dead, others nearly frozen, or otherwise seriously ill. The survivors were bereft of clothing, food, and money. A few found refuge with relatives or friends, but most of them had to find places in the crowded synagogues and poorhouses. For the Jewish communities of the Lublin and Radom districts, the influx of deportees was a very heavy burden. Most of the deportees perished before mass deportation began.


At this time, a second campaign was launched to concentrate the Jewish population in ghettos. The first ghetto in Wartheland was established at Lodz, on orders given by Polizeipraesident (Chief of Police) Johannes Schaefer (Feb. 8, 1940). By the latter half of 1940, all the Jewish communities that had survived the mass deportations were sealed off in ghettos. Lodz ghetto had a population of 162,000 on the day of its establishment (May 1, 1940). The large ghettos in Wartheland included *Pabianice (with about 8,500 persons), *Kutno (7,000), *Belchatow (5,500), *Ozorkow (4,700), *Zelow (4,500), *Zdunska Wola (10,000), Wloclawek (where 4,000 were left after the deportations), and *Wielun (4,000). Lodz became a central ghetto (Gaughetto) for the entire province, absorbing Jews sent from ghettos that were liquidated or reduced in size, as well as from the Reich, *Vienna, and *Prague. Between Sept. 26 and Oct. 9, 1941, 3,082 Jews from Wloclawek and the vicinity arrived at Lodz Ghetto, and between Oct. 17 and Nov. 4, 1941, approximately 20,000 arrived from Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Cologne, Emden, Duesseldorf, and Luxembourg. From May to August 1942, 14,440 "selected" Jews from liquidated ghettos arrived at Lodz.

From the end of 1942 until its liquidation in August 1944, Lodz was the only remaining ghetto in Wartheland. Its comparatively long existence was due to the fact that it became one of the largest industrial plants working for the Wehrmacht or private contractors. In August 1943, some 76,000 workers (about 85% of the entire ghetto population) were employed in 117 warehouses. According to the Nazi Ghettoverwaltung ("ghetto administration"), the total wages and production in 1942 reached a value of 27,862,200 rm ($5,572,440). Large tailor shops also existed at Pabianice, Belchatow, Ozorkow, and other ghettos in the Lodz district. Lodz Ghetto bore the imprint of its Judenaeltester ("Jewish elder") Mordecai *Rumkowski, who at an early stage imposed his rule over the ghetto. The ghetto was administered by division of the population into various socio-economic groups, each with a different status, in accordance with their status in the ghetto hierarchy or their usefulness for the war industry. In those areas of ghetto life in which the Nazis allowed the Jews autonomy, Rumkowski held absolute power.

physical annihilation

Partial liquidation actions affecting certain categories of Jews, such as the sick and the old, began in Wartheland as early as the fall of 1940 (in Kalisz). In September or October 1941, experiments in the murder of Jews were carried out in Konin county, where Jews were forced into ditches and covered over with wet quicklime. On Dec. 8, 1941, the murder camp at *Chelmno began operation. On Jan. 2, 1942, Greiser's Erlass, die Entjudung des Warthelands betref-fend ("Decree on Clearing all Jews from the Wartheland") was issued. In December 1941, the remaining Jews from *Kolo and Dabie were deported to Chelmno, followed in January 1942 by the inmates of the ghettos of Izbica Kujawska and other places. From Jan. 16 until mid-May 1942, numerous transports of Jews were dispatched from Lodz Ghetto to Chelmno. By May some 55,000 were murdered there. Between March and September 1942, all the remaining ghettos, with the exception of Lodz, were evacuated. Lodz ghetto was the scene of a bloody "action" against children under 10 years of age, the old, and the sick, resulting in the murder of 16,500 persons.

In mid-1943, Himmler and Albert Speer (Reich Minister for Armament and War Production) entered a long-drawnout contest over the disposition of Lodz Ghetto. Himmler sought to incorporate the ghetto industries into the ss camp combine in the Lublin district, while Speer tried to retain a monopoly over this important industrial center. Their rivalry prolonged the existence of Lodz Ghetto until the summer of 1944, by which time Germany's strategic situation had deteriorated to such an extent that the evacuation of Poland was imminent. In August 1944, Lodz, the only ghetto still left in Europe, was liquidated and all its inmates, some 68,500 Jews, were deported to *Auschwitz.

Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreussen

This area, with a total Jewish population of 23,000, had few and small Jewish communities; e.g., *Danzig, *Torun, and *Bydgoszcz. The province became "judenrein" at a comparatively early stage. The Jews and Poles were exposed to a campaign of terror from the very beginning, which resulted in the massacre of part of the Jewish inhabitants. Others fled from the area, and the rest were deported to the General Government. The last transport of Jews (some 2,000 persons) from Danzig and Bydogszcz, including the surviving Jews of *Koenigsberg, arrived at the Warsaw Ghetto on March 10, 1941.

Regierungsbezirk Zichenau (Ciechanow)

According to the 1931 census, there was a Jewish population of 80,000 in the area of this newly created administrative district. In the first weeks of the occupation, a large number of Jews from the towns near the German-Soviet demarcation line, e.g., *Ostrow Mazowiecka, Przasnysz, *Ostroleka, and *Pultusk, were forced to cross over to the Soviet zone. Their expulsion was accompanied by acts of terror, such as forcing the Jews to cross the Bug or the Narew rivers and opening fire on them, so that some people drowned or were shot to death. This group shared the fate of all the other Polish refugees in the Soviet Union. At the end of February 1941, about 10,000 Jews from Plock and Plock county were driven out, first passing through the Dzialdowo transit camp, where they were tortured and robbed, and from there to various towns in the Radom district, where within a year most of them died of starvation and disease. In Ciechanow, Mlawa, Plonsk, Strzegowo, and Sierpc, the Jews were segregated into ghettos, along with the few Jews left in towns whose Jewish populations had largely been expelled to the Soviet Union in the fall of 1939. These ghettos situated in the administrative area of East Prussia, ruled by the notorious Erich Koch, endured particularly harsh and bloodthirsty treatment, and the murder of members of the Judenrat and ghetto police was a frequent occurrence. In the fall of 1942 the ghettos were liquidated and the Jews dispatched to *Treblinka.

Regierungsbezirk Kattowitz (East Upper Silesia)

According to statistics published by the "Central Office of the Councils of Elders of the Jewish Communities in East Upper Silesia," comprising 32 communities, a Jewish population of 93,628 existed in these communities in March 1941. The largest among these were Bedzin (25,171), Sosnowiec (24,149), Chrzanow (8,229), Zawiercie (5,472), *Dabrowa Gornicza (5,564), and *Oswiecim (6,454). Jews played an important role in the life of this highly industrialized region (in mining, metallurgy, and textiles), and were heavily hit by the early-instituted "Aryanization" process.

A special office, the Dienststelle des Sonderbeauftragten der rrss und Chefs der deutschen Polizei fuer fremdvoelkischen Einsatz in Oberschlesien, headed by Gen. Albrecht Schmelt (and commonly referred to as the Schmelt Organization), was in charge of sending the comparatively large number of skilled Jewish workers to German firms in Silesia and the Reich. No German firm was permitted to employ Jewish workers without the consent of the Schmelt Organization, and the latter maintained complete control over the Jewish "work effort." The German firms paid the Jewish workers at the normal rate (in this the Katowice (Kattowitz) area differed from the other occupied areas), but the workers received only a part of their wages and the firms had to submit the remainder to the Dienststelle. In 1942 the Schmelt Organization controlled 50,570 Jewish workers. When the evacuation of Jews from East Upper Silesia took place (starting May–June 1942), the Jewish workers were deported to Auschwitz, which was the major concentration camp as well as the largest industrial combine in Silesia.

The chairman of the Central Office of the Councils of Elders in Sosnowiec, Moshe Merin, exercised a decisive influence on the internal affairs of the Jewish communities and had considerable authority over the Judenraete (the Jewish councils). The formal ghettoization of East Upper Silesia did not take place until a comparatively late date. In Bedzin and Sosnowiec, for example, a closed ghetto was not established until May 1943, but it was liquidated by August 1943. These ghettos also absorbed the Jews left over from previous Aussiedlungen ("evacuation actions"). Merin was a consistent protagonist of the strategy of "rescuing" Jews by voluntarily providing the Nazi Moloch with contingents of victims to give others the chance of survival. He carried out this policy to its extreme, lending his own active cooperation, as well as that of the ghetto police, to the Aussiedlungsaktionen.

General Government

Originally, the General Government consisted of four districts, Warsaw, Lublin, Radom, and Cracow. When the district of Galicia was added, the Jewish population reached 2,110,000. The transfer of the administration from military to civilian authorities, which took place at the end of October 1939, did not alleviate the harsh conditions, for the uncontrolled terror of the first period was then replaced by "legally" imposed restrictions and persecution. The first proclamation, issued by General Governor Hans *Frank on Oct. 26, 1939, stated that "there will be no room in the General Government for Jewish exploiters," and from the very first day of his rule, Frank inundated the Jewish population with a flood of anti-Jewish measures. The personal rights of Jews were severely curtailed in all spheres of private and social life. Jews were deprived of freedom of movement, the right to dispose of their property, exercise their professions, and benefit from their labor. They were denied social and medical insurance benefits (which the antisemitic regime in Poland had granted them), religious observance (ritual slaughter and public worship), and a normal school education for their children. Finally, they lost the right to dispose of their own persons. Jews could no longer associate freely and Jewish societies, institutions, and organizations were disbanded and their property confiscated. The Judenrat, a quasi-representative body of the Jews, was established in their place by the Nazi authorities.

warsaw district

This district was divided into 10 counties, Warsaw, Garwolin, *Grojec, *Lowicz, *Skierniewice, *Sochaczew, Blonie, Ostrow Mazowiecki, *Minsk Mazowiecki, *Siedlce, and *Sokolow Podlaski. In the first half of 1940 the total Jewish population of this district was 600,000, of whom 400,000 lived in Warsaw. Its Jews were concentrated into ghettos in the western counties in 1940, and in the eastern counties in the fall of 1941. The Warsaw Ghetto was established on Nov. 15, 1940. The ghettos in the western part were of short duration. From the end of January to the beginning of April 1942, 72,000 Jews from this area were brought into the Warsaw Ghetto, where they lacked even the most rudimentary means for existence. With their arrival, the total number of refugees in the ghetto rose to 150,000, but the population was being constantly decimated by starvation and disease.

In the fall of 1941, the Jews in each of the eastern counties were concentrated into between five and seven ghettos. This step was in fact in preparation for Aussiedlungsaktionen which began with the Warsaw Ghetto on July 22, 1942, and continued until Oct. 4–6, 1942. In the General Government these actions, under the code name of "Einsatz Reinhard," were always carried out by special commando units (see Reinhard *Heydrich and *Holocaust, General Survey), headed by the ss and police chief of the Lublin district, Odilo *Globocnik. A decree issued by Frank on June 3, 1942, transferred the civilian authority's jurisdiction over the Jewish population in the General Government to Wilhelm Krueger, its chief of ss and police.

On the eve of its destruction, the Warsaw Ghetto contained 450,000 Jews, of whom approximately 300,000 were deported to Treblinka by Sept. 21, 1942. Officially, 35,639 Jews remained in Warsaw as workers in German factories, employees of the Judenrat, or policemen. In fact, some 60,000 were left, including those in hiding. It is to be noted that Himmler's order to Krueger of July 19, 1942, formally fixed the date of Dec. 31, 1942, as the final date for "cleansing" the General Government of the Jews. Between July 19 and 24, 1942, the Jews of *Otwock, Minsk Mazowiecki, and Siedlce were deported. Between September 22 and 27, most of the ghettos in the Sokolow Podlaski, Wegrow, and Minsk Mazowiecki counties were liquidated, followed, in the last days of October, by the remaining ghettos in the Warsaw district. Small groups of Jews tried to hide out on the "Aryan" side or in the countryside. In order to lull the intended victims into a false sense of security, Krueger issued a decree (Oct. 28, 1942) when the annihilation of the Jewish population in the district had been almost completed, providing for "residential quarters" in Warsaw and Siedlce. His aim was to influence the Jews in hiding to believe that these "newly established ghettos" which had already passed through a partial liquidation would now be a safe haven for the survivors. In this he was largely successful. The intolerable conditions in which the Jews found themselves, hiding out in the forests amid a hostile population, induced them to seek out and settle in the new "residential quarters." Only a short while later they were deported. The "new" Siedlce Ghetto, for example, did not last a month, and by November 25, Siedlce was judenrein. In November, too, the liquidation of most of the Jewish labor camps was begun and after "selections" the workers were deported to the Warsaw Ghetto. In the course of the Aktion on Jan. 18–19, 1943, the ss men met with armed resistance from the Jewish Fighting Organization and were forced to cease action for the time being. The Warsaw Ghetto, according to Himmler's decree (Feb. 16, 1943), was to be liquidated at the earliest possible date, and the workers and machinery were to be transferred to the Lublin ss camps.

lublin district

The 10 counties in the Lublin district – Lublin, *Biala Podlaska, *Bilgoraj, *Chelm, *Hrubieszow, *Janow Lubelski, *Krasnystaw, *Pulawy, *Radzyn, and *Zamosc – had a Jewish population of 250,000 in March–April 1941, including 55,000 refugees and deportees. In the beginning, the eastern part of the Lublin district was regarded as a "Jewish reservation" and Jews from parts of Poland that had been incorporated into the Reich, as well as from the Reich itself, from the Czech Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia, and from *Austria were deported there on a systematic basis. Jozefow, lzbica Lubelska, Krasnystaw, and Zamosc were some of the towns which served as concentration points for these deportees. The local population was also displaced, generally in order to make room for the new arrivals. Even after this plan for the "Jewish reservation" had been given up, tens of thousands of Jews deported from Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Austria continued to stream into the district, to be "evacuated" to the *Belzec death camp, whose murder installations began functioning in March 1942.

The Nazi ideologists also regarded Lublin as a reservoir of "World Jewry," which presumably maintained secret links with Jewish communities everywhere (see *Hitler). As a result, the Lublin district was turned into an experimental station for various Nazi schemes for the annihilation of Polish Jewry. It was the headquarters of "Einsatz Reinhard" from where its "action groups" began their destructive march through the General Government. The first ghetto in the district was set up in the city of Lublin in April 1941. Since the area designated for the ghetto was too small to hold the approximately 45,000 Jews who were in Lublin at the time, the Nazi authorities forced over 10,000 to leave the city "voluntarily" and move to other towns in the district. The restricted area of the ghetto and its dense population caused epidemics and a high rate of mortality. In November and December 1941 there were 1,227 cases of typhus and the mortality rate that year was three times that of a year before the war (40.8 per 1,000).

In the second half of 1940, about 50 forced labor camps for Jews were established in the Lublin district for local Jews and Jews from other districts. In the winter of 1940–41, there were over 12,000 Jews in these camps. Many succumbed to the intolerable living and working conditions – starvation; wretched accommodations (usually in decrepit old barracks, stables, and barns); lack of hygiene; strenuous work (regulating rivers, draining swamps, and digging canals); and inhuman treatment by the camp commanders. In Osowa camp, 47 inmates were shot in July 1941 after two or three of them had contracted typhus. The Judenraete in ghettos from which the workers had come organized aid for them. The Warsaw Judenrat, for example, spent 520,000 zlotys ($104,000) in aid to the camps in 1940, and the Lublin Judenrat, 150,000 zlotys ($30,000). The "evacuation" campaign in this district preceded those in other parts of the General Government. In the period from March 17 to April 20, 1942, 30,000 Jews from Lublin Ghetto were deported to Belzec and murdered there, while 4,000 others were deported to the Majdan Tatarski Ghetto close to Lublin, which existed until Nov. 9, 1942. In the same period, 3,400 Jews from Piaski and 2,200 from Izbica were dispatched to Belzec, preceded by about 17,000 Jews from Pulawy county (May 6–12). The ghettos which had thus been made judenrein became temporary collection points for Jews deported from the Reich, the Protectorate, and Vienna, and after a short stay there they were sent on to Belzec to be murdered.

Krueger's decree of Oct. 28, 1942, set up eight ghettos in the Lublin district, and like the ghettos in the Warsaw district, their existence was of short duration. By Dec. 1, 1942, five ghettos were left (Piaski, Wlodawa, Izbica, *Lukow Lubelski, and Miedzyrzec Podlaski) and the last of these was liquidated in July 1943. The Jewish workers remained in the concentration and labor camps until November 1943. On Nov. 3–7, 1943, 18,000 Jews were murdered in *Majdanek concentration camp, over 13,000 in the Poniatowa camp, and approximately 10,000 in the Trawniki camp, to which several thousands of Jews had been deported from Warsaw after the ghetto revolt in April 1943.

cracow district

The Cracow district, consisting of 12 counties (Cracow, Debica, *Jaroslaw, *Jaslo, *Krosno, Miechow, *Nowy Sacz, Nowy Targ, *Przemysl, *Sanok, and *Tarnow), had a prewar Jewish population of over 250,000. By May 1941 this number dwindled to 200,000, in spite of the additional influx of 20,000 refugees and deportees from the incorporated areas, including Silesia, Lodz, and Kalisz, in the fall of 1939 and spring of 1940. The expulsion of Jews from the Cracow district, where the General Government capital was situated, was accelerated. In the first few months, Jews living in the border towns along the San River were expelled to the Soviet zone. From the spring of 1940 to November 1941, Jews living in the spas and summer resorts in Nowy Sacz and Nowy Targ counties were expelled, and from May 1940 to April 1941, 55,000 Jews left Cracow voluntarily or were driven out. The Jewish population thus became concentrated in an ever-decreasing number of places – in Cracow county, in seven townships and 10 villages, in Nowy Sacz in five places, and in the Nowy Targ county in seven.

The first ghetto was established in March 1941 in the Podgorze quarter of Cracow. A wall sealed it off from the rest of the city and the gates of the wall had the form of tombstones. The first "evacuations" took place in Cracow Ghetto, which underwent three such actions, on May 30–31, October 28, 1942, and March 13–14, 1943. In the final evacuation, 2,000 Jews were murdered on the spot, about 2,000 were deported to Auschwitz, and approximately 6,000 were sent to the nearby camp in *Plaszow, located on the site of two Jewish cemeteries. The first Aktion in Tarnow took place on June 11–13, 1942, involving 11,000 Jews. The Jews of Przemysl county were murdered on July 27–August 3 (after 10,000 Jews from the county had been concentrated in the city). At the beginning of August, the Jews from Jaroslaw were deported to Belzec, followed at the end of that month by deportation of the Jews from Cracow county, where at an earlier date the Jews from the ghettos in *Bochnia, *Wieliczka, and Skawina had been concentrated. In September 1942 approximately 11,000 Jews from Sanok county (earlier concentrated at a camp at *Izyaslav (Zaslav) were deported to Belzec or shot in the surrounding forests. That month the ghettos in Tarnow county were finally liquidated.

Krueger's decree of Oct. 28, 1942, setting up six ghettos in the Cracow district (Cracow, Bochnia, Tarnow, Rzeszow, Debica, and Przemysl), was immediately followed by murder "actions" there. From June to November 1942, a total of over 100,000 Jews were murdered, and by Jan. 1, 1943, according to official figures, 37,000 destitute Jews were left in "residual ghettos" and a number of camps. There were over 20 labor camps in the Cracow district, the largest at *Mielec (with 3,000 Jewish inmates on the day of its liquidation, Aug. 24, 1944) – and others in Pustkow (1,500), Rozwadow (1,200), Szebnie (2,000–2,500), and in Plaszow with two branches in Prokocim and Biezanow. Plaszow, a collection point for the Jews who survived the liquidation of ghettos and camps in the entire district, had 20,000 imprisoned there in the fall of 1943. In March 1944, large transports were sent from Plaszow to Auschwitz, Stutthof, Flossenburg, and *Mauthausen, while the 567 Jews left were liquidated in January 1945 together with the rest of the Jewish survivors from the Cracow district.

radom district

The newly created Radom district, comprising the larger part of the Kielce province and parts of the Lodz and Warsaw provinces, had a Jewish population of about 360,000 on Sept. 1, 1939. In this district too the evacuation of the Jews proceeded at a rapid pace. First of all, the district had been heavily bombarded, and there were cities and towns in which up to 80% of the Jewish population had lost their homes and sought refuge elsewhere. Secondly, the deportations from the incorporated areas, the Protectorate (an undetermined number from Prague), and Vienna brought into the district large numbers of homeless Jews – 4,000 from Wartheland, about 10,000 from the Plock county, and 4,000 from Vienna. In 1941, the total number of refugees and deportees reached 70–75,000 (over 20% of the local Jewish population). In 1940–41, a kind of internal expulsion process went on in the district, e.g., in December 1940, when 2,000 Jews were expelled from Radom, and in October 1941, when several thousand were driven out from Tomaszow Mazowiecki.

The ghettos in this district were created at an earlier stage than in other parts of the General Government – in *Piotrkow at the end of October 1939, and in *Radomsko at the end of December that year. Ghettos were set up in March–April 1941 in the three large cities of the Radom district – in Radom (which in January 1941 had 28,000 Jews), Czestochowa (36,000), and Kielce (20,000). At the end of 1940 the ghetto of Tomaszow Mazowiecki was established (this town had 16,500 Jews in June 1940), divided into three different sections (the Radom Ghetto also consisted of two sections in two different quarters of the city). Many places were in ruins, causing severe overcrowding in the ghettos, and in some of the smaller ghettos there were as many as 12–30 persons to a room. In order to prepare for the Aussiedlungen, the Nazis concentrated the Jews in a few ghettos. In the first stage, the Jews who were still living in villages were expelled to the neighboring towns. In the second stage, the Jewish population from the smaller towns was concentrated in the large ghettos, and each of the 10 counties had several concentration points assigned to it. At the end of this stage, over 20,000 Jews were living in a few large, heavily guarded ghettos.

The first deportation, to Treblinka, took place on Aug. 5, 1942, in Radom. The Kielce Ghetto inhabitants were deported on August 20–24, and the Czestochowa Ghetto inhabitants, between Sept. 2 and Oct. 5, 1942. By Nov. 7, 1942, most of the Jews had been deported to Treblinka. On Jan. 1, 1943, according to a German source, there were only 29,400 Jews left in the four ghettos ("residential districts") in Radomsko, Sandomierz, *Szydlowiec, and Ujazd, provided for in Krueger's second decree (Nov. 10, 1942). These ghettos came to an end in January 1943. Only the Jewish slave laborers in the labor camps were left, mainly near the industrial concerns of Radom, Kielce, Czestochowa, Ostrowiec-Swietokrzyski, Skarzysko-Kamienna, Blizyn, Piotrkow, Tomaszow Mazowiecki, and other towns. These were in fact concentration camps run by the district ss and police chiefs, to whom the German factory owners directly paid the fees for exploitation of Jewish manpower (as was the case in the other districts also). Some of these camps went through a series of transfers and "selections" but continued to exist until the second half of 1944. The German Hasag factories in Czestochowa were still functioning as late as January 1945.

galicia district

The district of Galicia, established in August 1941, comprised the *Stanislav and *Tarnopol provinces and the eastern part of the Lvov province, and consisted of 16 counties. The 1931 census report indicated a Jewish population in this area of 500,000. As a result of the great influx of refugees from Nazi-occupied Poland in the fall of 1939, the number of Jews had considerably increased, and it is estimated that at the outbreak of German-Soviet hostilities, there were 600,000–650,000 Jews in the area, taking into account the natural increase from 1931 to 1941. The German invasion was accompanied from the very beginning by the mass murder of Jews, initiated and perpetrated by local Ukrainians with the support and participation of the Einsatzkommandos and the German army. Pogroms took place in Lvov (on the "Petlyura Days," July 25 and 27), in Tarnopol, *Zolochev, and *Borislav. Many of the Jews living in the countryside, about 25% of the total Jewish population, were murdered in this period.

In the part of Galicia temporarily occupied by the Hungarian army (Kolomyya, Borshchev, and *Gorodenka), the situation was quite different, the Hungarian commanders taking the Jews under their protection and preventing murders from taking place. During the short period of German military occupation, until Aug. 1, 1941, when its civilian administration took over, several tens of thousands of Jews were killed. The civilian administration immediately introduced the anti-Jewish legislation applying to the General Government. In fact, some of the provisions of this legislation were applied even before a "legal" framework was created. The first ghettos were set up in the beginning of October at Stanislav (for about 30,000 Jews) and Tarnopol (18,000). These were followed in the spring of 1942 by ghettos in Kolomyya and Kolomyya county, and at *Chortkov. By the second half of 1942, ghettos existed in all the cities and towns, and a large part of their population had already been deported to Belzec. The last ghetto to be established was the one at Lvov, in August–September 1942, after several postponements. This came after the great Aussiedlung action, 36,000 surviving out of a population of about 150,000. Krueger's decree of Nov. 10, 1942, provided for 32 ghettos in the Galicia district, in Lvov, Stanislav, Tarnopol, Chortkov, *Stry, *Drogobych, *Sambor, Borshchev, *Zholkva, *Brody, Rava-Russkaya, *Rogatin, and *Skalat.

Large-scale physical extermination campaigns began in the second half of 1941 and were initially directed mainly against Jews in the professions and intellectuals. During the High Holiday period, on Oct. 12, 1941, about 10,000 Jews were shot to death at the Jewish cemetery of Stanislav. In November numerous executions took place in Lvov, when the first attempt was made to organize a ghetto there, and mass shootings occurred in Kolomyya county in December of that year. This is only a partial listing and it is estimated that some 100,000 Jews were murdered in July 1941–March 1942. In the latter month, the extermination camp at Belzec went into operation and from then until the end of 1942, about 300,000 Jews – 50% of the Jewish population of the district – were deported to Belzec or shot on the spot, or taken away for execution in the forests. The others remained for a short while in the ghettos and labor camps, and by June 1943 they were all liquidated. According to ss-GruppenfuehrerFritz *Katzmann's report on the "Final Solution" in Galicia, only 21,000 Jews were left in Galicia, distributed in over 21 camps, the largest of which was the Janowska Street camp in Lvov. Selected workers from liquidated ghettos were transferred to this camp in Lvov, while those who were no longer fit for work were executed in the vicinity. In the second half of 1943, nearly all the Jewish labor camps were liquidated and their inmates murdered. In this period, several thousand Jews who had been engaged in agricultural work were also murdered.

Bezirk Bialystok

This district, created in July 1941, was attached to but not incorporated in East Prussia. The chief of the East-Prussian provincial government was also appointed head of the civilian administration of the Bialystok district and the central provincial organs at Koenigsberg were responsible for all district affairs. The area of the district, practically identical with Bialystok province, was divided into seven counties: Bialystok, Grodno, Bielsk Podlaski, Grajewo, Lomza, Sokolka, and Volkovysk. The Bialystok district suffered two eruptions of war, on Sept. 1, 1939, and June 22, 1941. The first German occupation was restricted to the western part of the district and lasted only a fortnight, after which the area was turned over to the Soviets. The Soviet occupying forces imposed far-reaching changes in the economic, social, and political life of the Jews. The Jewish population of the district in September 1939 was estimated at 240,000–250,000. Later on, the district was flooded by a stream of refugees from the western and central part of Poland. Among the officials and specialists brought in from the Soviet Union, there were also a considerable number of Jews, and the total increase in population is estimated at 100,000. It may therefore be assumed that in June 1941 the district had a Jewish population of about 350,000.

The second German invasion was accompanied by mass murders, carried out by the Einsatzkommandos comprising Tilsit police battalions. These operated in the rear of the army and caused the destruction of entire communities (Jedwabne, *Kolo, Stawiski, *Tykocin, and others). In Bialystok, over 6,000 Jews were murdered between June 27 and July 13, 1941. The great synagogue was burnt down and at least 1,000 Jews who had been forced into it perished in the flames. Special murder campaigns were instituted against Jewish intellectuals. Antisemitic elements within the local Polish and Belorussian population, as well as among the Polish police which continued to serve under the occupying power, took an active part in the mass murder of Jews. (Even before the war, the influence of the Polish antisemitic parties had been especially strong in this area.) Most of the ghettos were established in August 1941. The larger among these were Bialystok (over 50,000), Grodno (25,000), *Pruzhany (12,000), Lomza (10,000), *Sokolka (8,000), and Bielsk Podlaski (7,000). Grodno Ghetto consisted of two parts, one inhabited by artisans and skilled workers and their families, and the other by the rest of the Jewish population. Each had its own Judenrat and ghetto police, but the chairman of the Judenrat of the artisans' ghetto had the title of Generalobmann ("chief chairman") and represented both parts vis-à-vis the authorities.

While the ghettos were in the process of formation, "selections" and mass slaughter of Jews often took place. In Szczuczyn, for example, the ghetto was inhabited almost entirely by women and children, most of the men having been killed. The overcrowding in the ghettos was phenomenal. In Czyzow, for example, 200 persons were squeezed into seven tiny houses. Systematic mass annihilation began on Nov. 2, 1942. In a single day, most of the ghettos were wiped out (except for Bialystok, Pruzhany, the first part of the Grodno Ghetto, *Krynki, and Sokolka). Before reaching their final destination at the extermination camp of Treblinka, the deportees were kept in assembly camps for a period of three to 10 weeks, during which many of them succumbed to the inhuman conditions. In November, 120,000–130,000 Jews were killed in the murder campaign. The Aktionen were renewed in February 1943, after the liquidation of the Pruzhany, Sokolka, and Krynki ghettos. In Bialystok Ghetto, the first "action" took place on Feb. 5–12, 1943, resulting in the deaths of 13,000 Jews, of whom 1,000 were killed on the spot. Over 40,000 persons were killed in the third phase of the extermination campaign. Bialystok Ghetto was the last in the district to be liquidated (Aug. 16, 1943). Armed resistance, organized by the Jewish Fighting Organization (see Mordekhai *Tenenbaum), was suppressed by German military forces, including tanks. Over 30,000 Jews were deported to Treblinka, Majdanek, and Auschwitz.

Generalbezirk Litauen and Weissrussland (Lithuania and Belorussia)

The Polish parts of these districts, which belonged to Reichkommissariat Ostland, consisted of almost the entire Vilna and Novogrudok provinces and of the northern portion of Polesie province. In 1931 this area was inhabited by over 230,000 Jews. From September to December 1939, a large number of refugees arrived in the area, especially in Vilna. For nearly 11 months (from Oct. 10, 1939, until the end of August 1940), Vilna and its environs formed a part of Lithuania. In August, the entire country was absorbed by the Soviet Union. Under Soviet occupation, thousands of Jews were arrested and deported to distant parts of the Soviet Union, but several thousand escaped to the United States, Palestine (see *Beriḥah), and *Shanghai. It is therefore impossible to determine the size of the Jewish population in June 1941. The larger communities in the Lithuania district were Vilna, Vileika, *Oshmyany, Svienciany, and Trakai (*Troki); in the Belorussian district they were *Novogrudok, *Baranovichi, *Lida, *Slonim, *Molodechno, and *Stolbtsy. Like everywhere else in "Ostland," the military invasion brought in its wake large-scale murder by the Einsatzkommandos, in this case Einsatzgruppe A. In many places they had the assistance of locally recruited "Hiwis" (Hilfswillige – local volunteer units). On July 11–Dec. 24, 1941, 45,000 Jews were killed in Vilna (which in 1931 had a total Jewish population of 55,000). At approximately the same time, 9,000 Jews were slaughtered in Slonim; 5,000 in Vileika; 4,000 in Molodechno; 2,500 in Novogrudok; 1,800 in *Volozhin, and other places. During the murder campaign, or a short while later, ghettos were established where further mass executions took place (Vilna Ghetto was set up on Sept. 6, 1941). Many small communities were completely wiped out.

Ghettos continued to exist in Vilna, Vileika, Oshmyany, Novogrudok, Lida, *Glubokoye, Slonim, and Baranovichi, and in a few smaller communities from which Jews were dispatched to larger ghettos in the summer of 1942, in preparation for the second phase of the annihilation program. Vilna Ghetto was also used for this purpose. Jacob Gens, chief of the Vilna Ghetto and of the ghetto police, had some measure of jurisdiction over the smaller ghettos in "Wilnaland," and the Vilna ghetto police participated in the Aktion that took place in Oshmyany at the end of October 1942. In Belorussia the same procedure was initiated of concentrating the Jewish population of a certain area in one of the larger ghettos in preparation for murder "actions." Here there was an almost continuous murder campaign, with breathing spells only between one Aktion and the next. The longest such period of respite was granted to Vilna Ghetto, lasting from early 1942 until September 1943.

The final phase extended from August 1942, when the ghetto in Slonim was destroyed, until September 1943, when the Jews of Vilna, Novogrudok, and Lida were sent to their deaths. In the course of August and September 1943, about 10,000 Jews were deported from Vilna Ghetto to concentration camps in Estonia. Six thousand were murdered on September 23, and the ghetto was liquidated. Several thousand Jewish workers employed outside the ghetto were exterminated later (July 1944). Specialists and skilled workers were sometimes concentrated in certain houses in the liquidated ghetto or sent to labor camps. Such camps, containing the pitiful remnants of the liquidated ghettos of Belorussia, were located at *Koldychevo (near Baranovichi) and Kelbasin. They too ceased to exist at the end of 1943.

Generalbezirk Wolhynien-Podolien

Of the Polish territories, this district, which formed part of the "Reichskommissariat Ukraine," contained the larger part of the Polesie province and the entire Wolyn (Volhynia) province belonging to prewar Poland. The 1931 census of the population in this area indicated about 300,000 Jews. The larger communities were Pinsk, Brest, *Kobrin, *Kovel, *Dubno, *Rovno, *Lutsk, *Ostrog, *Kremenets, and *Vladimir-Volynski. Here too, a large influx of refugees came from Poland shortly after the outbreak of the war, while a certain number of Jews were moved by the Soviets to other parts of the U.S.S.R., so that it was impossible to determine the size of the population in June 1941. A mass slaughter in this district was carried out mainly by Einsatzgruppe C, commencing with the German invasion. The murder action at *Rovno was carried out on Nov. 5–6, 1941, when 15,000 Jews were shot. In general the local Ukrainian population cooperated in the annihilation campaign against the Jews.

Only a few communities escaped in the initial phase (one of these was Kovel). As was the case elsewhere, the surviving Jews were herded into temporary ghettos. Dubno Ghetto was among the first to be liquidated (May 27, 1942), and 5,000–7,000 Jews were killed. The first Aktion took place on May 10, 1942, and the handful of Jewish workers who survived it were shot on May 23, 1942. In Kovel the "city" ghetto was destroyed on June 2, 1942, with 8,000–9,000 victims, while the "workers'" ghetto in the city was liquidated on Sept. 18, 1942. Lutsk Ghetto came to an end on Aug. 20, 1942 (17,000 people murdered). In Kremenets, the ghetto's agony lasted for two weeks, starting on Aug. 10, 1942, in the course of which 19,000 Jews went to their deaths. In September, it was Vladimir-Volynski's turn (18,000 victims) and from October 28 to 31, the Jews of Pinsk Ghetto were murdered. As in "Ostland," the mass executions took place in the vicinity of the ghettos, in front of prepared mass graves, and were marked by extraordinary manifestations of sadism. The Ukrainian police displayed a murderous zeal in their cooperation with the Nazis. In the course of December 1942, the Jewish workers who had survived the mass executions were also liquidated. In a report on a trip in the Ukraine in June 1943, Hans Joachim Kausch of the Propaganda Ministry stated that the Jews of that area had been "completely" liquidated and throughout his entire stay there he had found only four Jews, working as tailors in an sd camp.

Demographic Total

Up to September 1939 Poland had a Jewish population of 3,351,000. Exact figures on the number killed between September 1939 and 1944 are not available, but the following account is a relatively well-founded estimate. Shortly after the end of the war, the Central Committee of Polish Jews began registering all surviving Polish Jews and by June 15, 1945, 55,509 had registered. Since some people registered several times with different local committees a round figure of 55,000 is assumed, which included a certain number of Jews who succeeded in returning to Poland from the Soviet Union. To this must be added 13,000 Jews in the Polish army formed in the U.S.S.R. in 1941, and approximately 1,000 Jews (out of 2,000) who had saved themselves by posing as "Aryans" and had not registered with the Jewish committees, bringing the total to 69,000. The number of Polish Jews who were saved by fleeing in September 1939 to the Soviet Union, to certain European countries, to Palestine, or to North and South America, or who survived the camps in Germany, is estimated at a maximum of 300,000 (250,000 of whom had fled to the U.S.S.R.). The sum total of surviving Polish Jews is therefore about 369,000, i.e., 11% of the prewar population, while 2,982,000 Jews were killed.

Jewish Resistance

Nazi plans called for a campaign of repression utilizing legal and economic restrictions and hard labor to bring about a rapid reduction of the Jewish population by pauperization, starvation, and epidemics. The Jews developed a system of self-defense to thwart the rapid achievement of the plans for their destruction, or at least succeeded in slowing down the realization of the Nazi program. Jewish resistance applied to all spheres of life – economic and spiritual; on an individual as well as on a collective basis; and in the final stage, when the Nazis resorted to the "Final Solution" (physical annihilation) of the Jews, it took the form of armed insurrections. In the economic sphere, the Jews succeeded in circumventing the regulations designed to isolate them from the gentile society, due to the fact that large numbers of Jews were put to work outside the ghetto. They established secret industries in the ghetto itself, by which they staved off rapid starvation and carried on business with the "Aryan" market. Foodstuffs were also smuggled into the ghetto by various means, often displaying astounding inventiveness. Jewish industrialists and artisans managed to obtain substitutes for all kinds of raw materials. In Warsaw Ghetto, for example, the export of wares produced in the ghetto workshops under orders of the German "Transferstelle" was in no proportion to that of articles produced in secret and exported without the knowledge of the official German office. The considerable gap between legal and illegal economic activities became characteristic of the economic situation in all the occupied areas. Officially the Jews were given the opportunity of working for the German economy only, military as well as civilian, for as long as this served the German war effort. In practice, many of the Jews, inured by a long tradition of existence under harsh conditions of persecution, and fortified by a powerful will to live, were able to break out of the economic straitjacket into which the Nazis had forced them and to surmount the dangers of the ghetto walls.

The Nazis were disappointed by the ability of the ghettoized Jews to adapt themselves to the abnormal conditions of their existence, and surprised that "so few" Jews were dying from "natural" causes and that there were no mass suicides. At a meeting of Nazi officials, held in Cracow on Aug. 24, 1942, General Governor Frank openly admitted: "By the way, I wish to state that we have sentenced 1,200,000 Jews to death by starvation; the fact that the Jews are not dying from hunger will only serve to speed up enactment of further anti-Jewish decrees." Thus, the Jews' vitality served to frustrate partially the biological war that the Nazis waged against them and was one of the causes for the Nazis' decision to resort to the "Final Solution."

Jewish aid organizations which existed before the war, such as the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (jdc), *toz, and *centos, the Yidishe Sotsiale Alaynhilf (yisa) founded in May 1940, and, after liquidation of the last in Oct. 1942, the Juedische Unterstuetzungsstelle (jus), established formally in March 1943, were permitted by the General Government to carry on their activities in its area. The yisa set up a highly diversified system of social and medical assistance. Almost every ghetto provided some form of public assistance, such as soup kitchens and accommodation for deportees and refugees. As early as May 1940, according to an incomplete list, some 200 welfare committees were sponsored by the Judenraete, and their budgets were provided mainly by the jdc. These committees also collected funds, clothing, and other articles among local Jews. By the end of 1941 the yisa organization was active in over 400 localities in the General Government, maintaining 1,500 social and medical institutions and serving 300,000 adults and 30,000 children. This, of course, was not enough to cope with the demands posed by the constantly growing pauperization of the Jewish population and the continual influx of new arrivals (in some ghettos, 60% of the population was dependent on public assistance). The constant lack of nourishment and hygiene in the ghettos, which the Nazis set up in the most dilapidated parts of the towns, resulted in diseases and epidemics to which the entire Jewish population might have easily succumbed. However, health and sanitary departments were set up and maintained by the Judenraete and toz which in turn subsidized 117 hospitals and 123 out-patient clinics and sanitary posts. To prevent the spread of the epidemics to the "Aryan" city quarters, the Nazi authorities used police measures, the results of which were even worse than the epidemics. In fact the ghetto population was so weakened that a large loss of life could not be avoided. In Warsaw, Lodz, Lublin, and Kutno, 15–20% of the Jewish population died in the two or three years of the ghettos' existence.

The Jews also displayed moral resistance to the starvation and debilitating forced labor, whereby the Nazis hoped to divest the Jews of all interest in spiritual life and dehumanize them. Moral resistance took varied forms. Pious Jews convened in secret for prayers, disregarding the dangers thus incurred; yeshivah students continued their studies and held clandestine minyanim to which they took the orphans to recite kaddish for their deceased parents. They also abstained from using the public soup kitchens which under ghetto conditions were not kept kasher, despite the greater suffering this entailed for them. Nonobservant Jews had their own means of moral resistance. Teachers established clandestine student groups and conducted classes in private homes. Persons who had been active before the war in cultural societies established secret libraries, choirs, orchestras, and dramatic groups, and held lectures and celebrations of important historical anniversaries. The Judenraete also established schools, wherever the Nazi authorities did not put obstacles in their way. (According to a decree issued by Frank on Aug. 31, 1940, the Judenraete were to be permitted to run elementary and vocational schools, but with few exceptions were prevented from actually doing so by the local Nazi authorities.)

Intensive cultural and educational activities were carried on in the Warsaw ghetto by the Yidishe Kultur-Organizatsye and the centos, and in Vilna Ghetto by the cultural department of the Judenrat. Lodz Ghetto also maintained a large network of schools until the summer of 1941 (45 schools with 500 teachers and an average monthly attendance of 10,300 children). In most ghetto schools the emphasis was placed on Jewish studies. The teaching of history and geography was prohibited. Cultural activities fulfilled the dual purpose of protecting the inhabitants of the ghetto, especially the youth, against the demoralizing atmosphere of the ghetto created by the Nazis, and of strengthening their resistance to Nazi attempts to deprive them of their human dignity.

Organized physical and armed resistance was closely linked to political activities in a number of ghettos, and took various forms. Illegal publications, including pamphlets, were issued periodically or singly, and were either handwritten or duplicated. (In Warsaw Ghetto, for example, incomplete reports indicate that from mid-1940 to April 1943, 40 illegal periodicals were issued by various illegal movements representing every shade of political opinion.) Organized secret listening-in to foreign broadcasts, to reduce the Jews' isolation from the outer world, provided information on the political and military situation, and served as a source of hope and encouragement. In some ghettos, political parties – particularly workers' parties, e.g., the Bund, Po'alei Zion, and the communists – actively opposed the Jewish ghetto administration, i.e., the Judenraete and the ghetto police. (In Lodz Ghetto, opposition to Rumkowski's regime took the form of street demonstrations and strikes in the ghetto workshops.) Opposition to the Judenraete was also voiced in the underground press. The parties' youth movements conducted a cultural education campaign among their secret membership.

At a later stage, when the mass deportations began, the movements made preparations for armed resistance to the deportation "action." It was on the basis of organizing armed resistance that the political parties began to cooperate. Thus, in Warsaw Ghetto, a Jewish Coordinating Committee was set up in October 1942, composed of representatives of all the Zionist parties (with the exception of the Revisionists) – who were united in the Jewish National Committee – and of representatives of the Bund. On Oct. 27, 1942, the Jewish Fighting Organization (zob) was established which united the above-mentioned Jewish parties and the communists under one command. The heroic revolt of Warsaw Ghetto (which lasted from April 19 until the end of May 1943) was the result of the collective, self-sacrificing efforts of the youth of almost all political parties. The Revisionist Jewish Military Organization took an active part in the fighting. Similarly, in Bialystok Ghetto, a united fighting organization was set up on the eve of the revolt that broke out on Aug. 16, 1943.

In Czestochowa, the planned revolt was frustrated when an unexpected deportation "action" (on Sept. 21, 1942) barred access to the bunkers where the arms were hidden. During the liquidation of Bedzin Ghetto, underground fighters of the Zionist youth movements fought against vastly superior Nazi armed forces from fortified bunkers until they all fell. In Cracow Ghetto, the fighting organization, consisting of Zionist and Communist youth, carried out acts of sabotage and direct attacks on the Germans (such as the armed attack against German officers in the Cyganeria Café on Dec. 23, 1942). In Vilna Ghetto, a United Partisans Organization was founded in January 1942, comprising in later stages members of all the political movements. Following the Gestapo demand for the surrender of the Vilna underground commander, Yiẓḥak *Wittenberg, in July 1943, the leadership of the organization was forced to give up the struggle inside the ghetto, and smuggled its members into the forests, where they set up a partisans' group under the name of Nekamah ("Revenge").

Revolts broke out in the extermination camps of Treblinka (on Aug. 2, 1943) and Sobibor (Oct. 14, 1943) in which large numbers of prisoners managed to escape (most of whom were later killed). These insurrections later brought the murder installations in those camps to a halt. An armed revolt of the Jews in the "Sonderkommando" in Auschwitz took place on Oct. 7, 1944.

[Isaiah Trunk]


The guerilla warfare in Poland (i.e., within the area designated by post-World War ii boundaries) was confined to the territories of the so-called General-Government and the province of Bialystok. The first Jewish attempts to organize partisan units we undertaken by the resistance movement of the *Warsaw Ghetto in spring 1942, but these, as well as some other early attempts, failed due to lack of experience and the lack of support from the local population. In July 1942, the Germans began to implement the so-called Operation Reinhard. At that time, mainly in the provinces of Lublin and Kielce, there began a spontaneous movement of thousands of Jews fleeing the townlets to the forests to escape deportation. Many of them formed groups that offered active resistance to the Nazis. Although numerically strong, they had very few arms and no supply bases at all. Those who managed to hold out through the winter of 1942/43 came in contact with the Polish underground, as in the course of spring and summer 1943 a number of Polish partisan units began to operate from the forests.

The attitude of the Polish partisans toward the Jews depended upon the political framework to which they belonged and the goodwill of local commanders. The closest relations were between the Jewish partisans and the Communist-dominated People's Guard (Gwardia Ludowa). About a dozen Jewish partisan units were subordinated to the command of that organization and later acted as its units. Among them were: partisan detachment "Chil" (known also as the Second Company of the "Holod" battalion), under the command of Yehiel Grynszpan, which operated in the eastern part of the Lublin province; detachment "Emilia Plater," under the command of Samuel Jegier, and detachment "Kozietulski," under the command of Mietek Gruber, in the northern parts of the Lublin province; detachment "Berek Joselewicz," under the command of Forst, in the southern part of the Lublin province; detachment "Lwy" ("Lions"), under the command of Julian Ajzenman (Kaniewski), in the northern part of the Kielce province; detachment "Zygmunt," under the command of Zalman Fajnsztat, in the southwestern part of the Kielce province; detachment "Iskra" ("Spark"), under the command of Lejb Birman, in Rzeszow province; and detachment "Mordecai Anielewicz" commanded by Adam Szwarcfus, Mordecai Growas, and Ingac Podolski, in the forests near Wyszkow (northeast of Warsaw) which was organized after the Warsaw Ghetto uprising by remnants of the Jewish Fighting Organization. Jews also constituted a significant percentage in a number of other units of the People's Guard.

Remnants of the fighters in the *Bialystok Ghetto uprising formed the partisan unit "Forwards" ("Foroys"), which was later part of a Soviet partisan brigade under the command of General Kapusta. The attitude of the Armia Krajowa (Home Army), sponsored by the Polish government-in-exile residing in London, and of the Peasants' Battalions ("Bataliony Chłopskie") were different. These organizations did not accept Jewish units, but some of them accepted individual Jewish fighters, while others often took part in the murder of Jews. The extreme right-wing National Armed Forces ("Narodowe Siły Zbrojne") were strongly hostile toward Jews, organized attacks against Jewish partisans, and murdered all Jews they found hiding in the forests. Some Jewish units managed to operate independently of any Polish underground organization. The greatest of them was the unit in the Doleza forests under the command of Abraham Amsterdam.

A number of Jews won great fame in various Polish partisan units, mainly in those belonging to the People's Guard. Among the best known are: Colonel Ignacy Robb-Rosenfarb (Narbutt), commander of the People's Guard in the Kielce region; Colonel Robert Satanowski, commander of a partisan brigade; Colonel Niebrzydowski, commander of the Peasants' Battalions in the Miechow region; Major Menashe Matywiecki, member of the general staff of the People's Guard; Alexander Skotnicki, commander of the "Holod" battalion; Yehiel Brewerman, commander of the detachment "Bartosz Glowacki," and Captain Lucyna Herz, the only Polish woman officer parachuted into the woods for partisan activity. Jews also played a significant role in the Special Attack Battalion, which organized parachute units for guerilla warfare in the rear of the German army. The commander of that unit was the Jewish officer Lieutenant Colonel Henryk Toruńczyk. Four of the 12 units parachuted into the forests during the summer and autumn of 1944 were commanded by Jewish officers: Robert Satanowski, Julian Komar, Joseph Krakowski, and Zygmunt Gutman (later known as one of the best partisan commandersin the Kielce province). The significant feature of the Jewish partisan movement in Poland was that almost all Jewish partisans started their guerilla activity at a very early period (second half of 1942), when the Polish partisan movement hardly existed; thus Jews constituted in the early period a high proportion of the partisans and guerilla fighters. Among the first nine partisan detachments organized at the beginning of 1943 in the Kielce province, four were Jewish units, with a number of Jews present in all other units. Later in spring 1944, when the partisan movement in Poland grew rapidly, thanks to the great flow of arms from England (for the Armia Krajowa) and from the Soviet Union (for the left-wing guerillas), the Jewish communities were already destroyed and there were no more Jewish youth who could fill the partisan ranks. (See also: *Partisans.)

[Stefan Krakowski]

Jewish-Polish Relations during the War

Relations between Jews and Poles in occupied Poland were complicated in nature, especially in the Polish underground movements. The entire Polish population was vehemently anti-German, but the vast majority of people were also violently antisemitic. In the first month of the war, antisemitism seemed to have completely disappeared out of hatred for the Nazis, but it reemerged soon afterwards.

The Polish political parties' attitude to the Jews before the war generally remained much the same during the entire period of occupation. The right-wing parties, led by the Narodowa Demokracja (Endecja) officially denounced Hitler's barbaric methods, but in fact remained antisemitic and regarded the Nazi "solution of the Jewish problem" in Poland with quiet satisfaction. The extreme right-wing radicals, the Obóz Narodowo-Radykalny (onr) and the Falanga, rejoiced over Hitlerism and approved of the Nazi murders. They contended that the victims were no better than murderers, and deserved their fate. The Polish Socialist Party (pps), on the other hand, and especially its left wing (rpps) and the reorganized Communist Party (ppr) condemned the murder of the Jews in their illegal publications, took part in campaigns to aid Jews, and appealed to the Polish people to assist. A similar stand was taken by the Democratic Party and the People's Party, although the latter, formerly an important party, did not have a uniform approach. In general it identified itself with the stand taken by the Polish government-in-exile represented inside Poland by the Delegatura. The Delegatura also maintained contact with the Jewish National Committee and the Jewish Coordinating Commission. Through the Delegatura these Jewish bodies were able to keep in touch with Jewish political movements and organizations abroad.

Relations between the Jews and the Delegatura, initially quite friendly, deteriorated in the course of time. This was due to the Delegatura's negative attitude in regard to supplying the Jewish Fighting Organization with sufficient quantities of arms. It was not until the resistance of the Jewish Fighting Organization in Warsaw in January 1943 that the fighters at last received a small quantity of arms from the Delegatura. The strained relations with the Delegatura were partly the result of the reactionary and antisemitic groups' influence within the Polish underground, which grew in strength as the German front moved back toward Poland and a general anti-Soviet attitude came to the fore. (Anti-Soviet feelings among the Poles were also heightened by the story of the Katyn massacre, and the resulting break in Soviet-Polish diplomatic relations in the summer of 1943.) Anti-Jewish agitation among the Polish population was also fed by the reports of the situation of the Jews in Eastern Poland under the Soviet occupation, when Jews were appointed to official positions. The Delegatura also adopted a negative attitude to the Jewish partisan movement, refusing to support it or even to recognize its existence.

As the Soviet army drew near the Polish frontier, a rapprochement took place between the Sanacja (the ruling party of Pilsudski's successors) and the Endecja and between the Sanacja and such outright Fascist organizations as the onr, whose military arm, the National Armed Forces (nsz), was recognized in March 1944 as a component of the Delegatura's underground army, the Armia Krajowa. The nsz went so far as to murder Jewish partisans and Jews who had succeeded in escaping from the slaughter taking place in the ghettos. More and more, an anti-Jewish tendency made itself felt in the official underground publications issued by the Delegatura.

The Nazi propaganda machine cleverly exploited the antisemitism existing among the Polish population. Reviving the old Polish slogan of "Żydo-Komuna," they identified Jews with Communism and succeeded in further poisoning the prevailing anti-Jewish feelings among the Poles. As a result, Jews who had been in hiding on the "Aryan" side were denounced to the Nazis. In many places Poles not only assisted in the search for Jews, but joined the Nazis in torturing and killing them as well. The Polish police, with hardly any exception, took part in the "actions" and on several occasions were themselves in charge of rounding up the Jews and dispatching them to the death camps.

There were, however, some social groups and individuals, from all segments of the population, who helped Jews at the risk of their own lives. The activities of the "Council for Aid to Jews," which provided "Aryan" documents and shelter in Polish houses, rescued children, and extended financial aid, helped some 50,000 Jews. There were more than a few individual Poles who had the moral strength to overcome the fear of death (the punishment for giving refuge to Jews) and the pressure exerted on them by the prevailing anti-Jewish climate of opinion, to stretch out a helping hand to the persecuted Jews. Some of these Poles, along with their families, had to pay with their lives for the courage they displayed in aiding Jews.

It may be concluded that the attitude of the Poles to the Jews was marked by both active participation in the murder of Jews and rescue efforts at great risk. The motives for these attitudes also varied from religious, humanitarian, or simply materialistic considerations, to a "biological" hatred of Jews. Of all the occupied countries, the percentage of Jews saved in Poland was the smallest, since the predominant attitude was hostile, while rescue was an exception to the rule.

[Isaiah Trunk]

after world war ii

Rescue of Jewish Children

When Poland was liberated in 1945, thousands of orphaned and abandoned Jewish children were wandering through villages and in the streets of the towns. Many were found in Polish homes and in convents. Some had been baptized, and some had been exploited by the peasants as a source of cheap labor. The official Jewish committees (komitety) established institutions for homeless children. Jewish parents applied to the Jewish organizations for help in finding children, who had been entrusted to non-Jewish families in order to save their lives but later disappeared without trace. Some Poles refused to return Jewish children, either because they had become attached to them or because they demanded financial remuneration for maintaining the child and for the risk they had incurred in hiding Jews from the Germans. There were a few cases of Jewish children living under conditions of starvation and terror. With the mass repatriations from the Soviet Union, 31,700 children under 14 years of age returned to Poland, including many hundreds of orphans, who also needed immediate care. Three separate bodies worked to save Jewish children. The first of these, the official Jewish committees, acting under the auspices of the authorities, maintained 11 boarding schools with a total of 1,135 orphans, and day schools and nurseries which cared for about 20,000 children. The youth department of the committees cared for about 7,700 boys and girls. Material conditions were good, but education was oriented toward Polish assimilation. The second, the Jewish Religious Council (Kongregacja), sent people to redeem children from Polish homes, particularly at the request of religious relatives. These children were delivered to their relatives abroad, or sent to be adopted by Jewish families in the United States, Great Britain, and other countries. The third organization was established by the Zionist movement, and given the abbreviated name of the "Coordination" (Koordynacja). Its emissaries wandered through Poland to rescue children, very often risking their lives in doing so. The Koordynacja established four children's homes, which housed hundreds of children aged between two and 12. The older children were sent to "children's kibbutzim" of the youth movements. Funds were supplied mainly by the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (jdc). The special psychological problems of the Holocaust period, such as fear and hatred of Jews, necessitated the establishment of a special seminary for educators at Lodz. The Koordynacja systematically sent children abroad, with the intention of finally enabling them to reach Palestine. By the end of 1947, more than 500 children had been taken out of Poland. Together with their teachers and educators they entered *Youth Aliyah institutions in Germany, Austria, and France, most of them settling later in the State of Israel. Scores of Jewish children are believed to have remained in Poland, mainly in Catholic institutions and convents.

[Sara Neshamith]

Renewal of Jewish Life

The first attempts to renew Jewish life took place in Lublin, the seat of the Polish Committee of National Liberation. In a manifesto issued on July 20, 1944, this committee published a solemn declaration assuring equal rights and full rehabilitation to the survivors of Polish Jewry. The Jewish Committee was formed to extend emergency aid to Jews converging on Lublin from the liberated parts of Poland. This group included adults who returned from the forests and other hiding places or who miraculously survived the concentration camps, and children who found refuge in convents or with individual Polish families. In October 1944 the Jewish Committee was renamed the Central Committee of the Jews in Poland and moved to Warsaw when the Polish capital was liberated. The committee was composed of representatives of the various Jewish parties and was presided over by the Zionist Emil *Sommerstein. At first it was primarily concerned with providing material assistance to the Jewish survivors and facilitating their return to a productive life. Before long, however, the committee extended the range of its activities to social and cultural spheres.

By 1945 it comprised 10 districts (wojewódstwa), two subdistricts, and about 200 local committees. Several dozen Jewish cooperatives, in a variety of trades, and 34 Jewish farms run by several hundreds of Jewish agricultural laborers were founded. A considerable number of Jewish weeklies and biweeklies, representing every shade of Jewish political opinion, made their appearance. Among them was the organ of the Central Committee, Dos Naye Lebn. An elementary school having Yiddish as the language of instruction with Hebrew as a compulsory subject was established in Lodz. There was also a society of Jewish writers, journalists, and actors in that city, while in Lower Silesia the Jewish Society for Art and Culture was formed. After the Zionist pioneering youth movements were reorganized, they established hundreds of training farms, children's homes, etc., and prepared their members for aliyah. In July 1945 the jdc entered the Jewish scene in Poland. Through the Central Committee, it subsidized a variety of social welfare agencies, emphasizing the care of children, the aged, and the sick. In addition the jdc provided food, clothing, and medicine to educational and cultural institutions, and supported a variety of plans to help able-bodied men and women become productive again. The following year, *ort began its work in Poland, creating a network of vocational schools. In the medical field toz provided the assistance. At the beginning of 1946, this organization was running eight mobile clinics, seven hospitals, and medical aid stations in all major cities.

In addition to the 80,000 Jews already in Poland, over 154,000 Polish Jews were repatriated from the U.S.S.R. in the summer of 1946, bringing the total Jewish population of Poland close to 250,000. The Polish government and the Communist-dominated ruling party (the Polish Workers' Party – ppr) encouraged the Central Committee in its social and cultural activities and lent support to the Jewish efforts to establish new economic foundations and restore communal life. At the same time, the government placed no obstacles in the path of Jews who wished to emigrate. It permitted the Zionist movement to exist and displayed a friendly attitude to the aspirations of the yishuv in Palestine and later to the State of Israel. Polish government support (or at least tolerance), aid from world Jewry, and, especially, the growth of the community by mass repatriation from U.S.S.R., led many Polish Jews in the immediate postwar period to believe that the conditions being created in the "new" Poland would enable them to live a free and full Jewish life.

Cultural, Religious, and Economic Life

At first these hopes had some basis in fact. In 1946–47 two Yiddish theaters were founded – in Lodz and Wroclaw – and employed some 80 actors. In 1950 they joined forces as the Jewish State Theater with a government subsidy under the direction of Ida *Kaminska. The theater discontinued its activities after 1968, when most of the Jews emigrated from Poland. A publishing house and a literary monthly came into being. The Society for Art and Culture founded Jewish libraries, promoted amateur societies in various cultural fields, and arranged public lectures. The *Jewish Historical Institute embarked upon a program of collecting and publishing historical material on the Holocaust. According to figures published in the anniversary edition of Dos Naye Lebn (1945–47), the Central Committee's Board of Education served 34 Jewish schools staffed by 179 teachers and attended by 2,874 children. Jewish religious life was renewed in every town where Jews resettled. In prewar Poland there had been 2,000 rabbis, 8,000 ritual slaughterers and religious teachers, and 10,000 yeshivah students. Of these, only a few dozen rabbis, slaughterers, and about 100 yeshivah students survived the war, mainly in the U.S.S.R., but only a few of them refrained from emigrating and remained in postwar Poland. Nevertheless, the Union of Religious Communities was established, comprising some 30 communities. The Union attended to Jewish religious needs by refurbishing and using two synagogues which had not been destroyed – one in Warsaw and the other in Wroclaw – establishing prayer-houses in all the communities, providing maẓẓot for Passover, arranging for the supply of kasher meat, and founding kasher public kitchens. In cooperation with the Central Committee, the Union rededicated Jewish cemeteries and reburied according to Jewish rite the victims of Nazism buried in mass graves.

In mid-1948, the Union of Religious Communities formally joined the Central Committee of Jews in Poland. The cooperation between the two bodies, however, lasted only into the early 1950s, when the Stalinization taking place in the country also affected Jewish life and made the cooperation of secular and religious bodies impossible. By the end of 1960, there were 23 member communities in the Union, and by 1966 the number was reduced to 18. The number of individual members varied greatly from one community to another; thus, in Warsaw, there were only 20 registered members, while in Katowice there were 1,200 and in Wroclaw 2,000. The Union of Religious Communities was still in existence in 1969, but the mass emigration of 1968–69 reduced its membership severely. At the end of 1947, there were 200 Jewish cooperative societies, with a membership of 6,000. About 15,000 Jews were employed in communal institutions, coal mines, heavy industry, textile factories, and a variety of government and private factories; 124 Jewish families were employed on farms. By the end of 1946, ort was conducting 49 different vocational courses staffed by 81 instructors and attended by over 1,100 pupils. Contact with Jewish communities outside of Poland was maintained by both the Central Committee and by the various Zionist groups which were active in the early postwar years. In the beginning of 1948, the Central Committee joined the *World Jewish Congress and participated in its meetings and conferences.

The Flight from Poland

The revival of a sound Jewish community life in Poland was the declared aim of those Jews who had been Communists before the war. They believed that the conditions were now ideal for the renewal of Jewish life and argued that a revived Jewish community would both demonstrate the vitality of the Jewish people and the failure of Nazism and other forms of antisemitism. The majority of Polish Jews, however, including those who were being repatriated from the Soviet Union, did not want to reestablish their lives in Poland, where the Nazis had found thousands of collaborators among the local population eager to cooperate in the extermination of the Jews. Moreover, pogroms continued even after the Nazi occupation ended. To most Polish Jews it was unthinkable to renew their life on the Polish soil soaked with the blood of millions of Jews. Thus tens of thousands of Polish Jews who fled from the U.S.S.R. and Poland made their way to Romania and Germany in the hope of reaching Palestine. After the *Kielce pogrom this exodus took on an organized and semi-legal character. A coordinating committee for aliyah was formed from representatives of all Zionist groups to make arrangements for up to a thousand persons a day to cross the Polish border at three points in Lower Silesia near Kudowa. The operation lasted about six months, until the end of 1946 (see *Beriḥah). Thereafter, Jews encountered difficulties in leaving Poland, but emigration did not come to a stop. In 1949, when the Zionist parties were disbanded, all former Zionists were permitted to leave for Israel, and some 30,000 people took advantage of this opportunity. Thus, mass emigration continually depleted Polish Jewry from 1944 to 1950. The Central Committee, which did all in its power to combat this movement, was forced to accept the reality of a drastic decrease in the Jewish population.

Anti-Jewish Excesses

Jewish emigration from Poland was motivated not only by the recent tragic past and by prewar Zionist education, but also by the continuation of a clear and present danger to the Jews. There were murderous attacks upon Jews on Polish roads, railroads, buses, and in the towns and cities. The murders were committed by members of Polish reactionary organizations, such as the nsz (Narodowe Sily Zbrojne). In cruelty and inhumanity, their crimes often equaled those committed by the Nazis. Beginning in 1945 the assaults upon Jews swiftly assumed mass proportions. In two pogroms – one in Cracow on Aug. 11, 1945, and the other in Kielce on July 4, 1946 – thousands of Polish men, women, and children ran amok in the Jewish quarters, killing in Kielce 42 Jews and wounding 50 others. The attacks spread throughout the country, and in 1945 alone 353 Jews were reported murdered. The wave of anti-Jewish excesses continued well into 1946 and reached its climax in the Kielce pogrom. The government and the ruling party issued declarations designed to placate the Jews and there were public protests against antisemitism by intellectuals and large parts of the working class. Above all, the Jewish Communists and the Central Committee of Jews in Poland tried to reassure the Jews that the government would stamp out the antisemitic underground. The Jews, however, did not heed the exhortations and raced for the borders. By the end of 1947, only 100,000 Jews remained in Poland.

The Soviet Example

A second factor discouraging any hope for a viable Jewish community in Poland was the rising tide of antisemitism in the U.S.S.R. Soviet antisemitism was at first disguised as a campaign against "rootless cosmopolitans." This was followed by the judicial murder of leading Jewish writers and artists and the total liquidation of Jewish cultural life in the Soviet Union. The campaign culminated in the so-called *Doctors' Plot (see *Antisemitism, in the Soviet Bloc). These Soviet developments had an immediate effect on the Polish scene. In 1948 the central committee of the ruling party, the ppr, on Moscow's initiative, accused its first secretary, Wladyslaw Gomulka, and his associates of rightist-nationalist deviation, and Poland became, more than ever, a Soviet satellite. The entire country was overrun by the Soviet secret police. Under these circumstances Poland's attitude toward its Jews could not be substantially different from the Soviet model.

Nevertheless, Stalinist antisemitism was effected in Poland without bloodshed and mass arrests. It was the cultural activities of Polish Jewry that were immediately affected, reduced in their scope, and adapted in their content to the new spirit. The Stalinization of Poland was carried out by a variety of measures. The existing workers' parties were merged into a single party, and all other parties were liquidated. The Soviet Union was glorified and its policies in internal and foreign affairs were slavishly copied. In all creative activities "socialist realism" became the rule. In the Jewish sphere, "unifications" and liquidations were carried out. The first to be liquidated were the Zionist parties and the Bund in November 1949. This was followed by a ban on the operation of the jdc and ort, in spite of the assurance given by the Polish Committee of National Liberation in its manifesto of July 20, 1944, and the appeal in December 1945 by the Polish provisional government for foreign aid to be extended to Polish Jews. Similarly, the recognition of the jdc's work expressed in November 1946, when jdc director, Joseph *Schwartz, was awarded a high decoration by the government, no longer had any meaning.

An act of liquidation by "unification" affected the Union of Jewish Cooperative Societies, representing 200 societies, 15,000 workers, and substantial assets (originally financed by the jdc) which was forced to merge with the general Polish Union of Cooperatives. On May 16, 1949, a "recommendation" was made to the Central Committee of the Jews in Poland to secede from the World Jewish Congress. Finally, the Central Committee itself, whose continued existence as a seemingly independent representative body was not in harmony with the new trend, was ordered to merge with the Jewish Society for Art and Culture. The new organization bore the name Cultural-Social Association of the Jews in Poland (Kultur-Gezelshaftlekher Farband fun di Yidn in Poyln). All Jewish schools were nationalized in the 1948–49 school year, resulting in the further reduction of Jewish studies. Yiddish as the language of instruction and the teaching of Hebrew had already been eliminated. Such organizations as the Jewish Agency came to be regarded as "agents of imperialism," and any contact with them was highly suspect. The spiritual life of Polish Jews was now restricted to preoccupation with the "progressive" tradition. The mass emigration had resulted in a radical reduction in the number of district and local Jewish committees. Their total number dropped to 30. The largest concentrations of Jews were in Warsaw (about 8,000), Wroclaw (about 6,000), Lodz (about 5,000) and Szczeczin, Katowice, Cracow, Legnica, and Walbrzych.

In spite of these far-reaching quantitative and qualitative changes, the leaders of the Cultural-Social Association and the other Jewish establishments (such as the Historical Institute, the theater, the publishing house, the literary journal, and the newspaper Folksshtime), both in Warsaw and the provinces, did all in their power to maintain at least a modest level of Jewish activity. In fact, in the period 1950 to 1957, Jewish life in Poland was relatively stable. Even so, there were those in the association who, encouraged by the ruling party, sought to promote assimilation and achieve results.


Stalin's death in 1953 resulted in an easing of tension, but Gomulka's assumption of power, in 1956, completely transformed the Jewish scene in Poland. Revelation of the innumerable crimes committed in the U.S.S.R. during the period of Stalin's rule enabled the Jewish newspaper Folksshtime to publish a passionate protest against Soviet antisemitism and its destruction of Yiddish literature and culture. In Poland it was once more possible to foster Jewish literature and to reestablish contact with Jewish organizations abroad. The jdc and ort returned to devote themselves primarily to the approximately 25,000 Polish Jews who were being repatriated from the U.S.S.R. under an agreement between Gomulka's government and the Soviet Union (along with hundreds of thousands of people who had been Polish citizens in 1939 but for some reason had not been repatriated after the war). Once again the jdc extended aid to the sick, the aged, and children. It also assisted various cultural institutions, including schools. ort, for its part, reestablished its network of vocational training schools.

The great majority of Jews repatriated from the U.S.S.R. did not, however, have any intention of staying in Poland. Even before their departure from the Soviet Union, most of them resolved to move on from Poland, primarily to Israel. Similarly, thousands of long-established Jews now decided to leave Poland for good. Their decision was influenced by the antisemitic incidents that occurred soon after Gomulka's rise to power. Poland again allowed Jews to emigrate, and some 50,000 people left the country in 1958–59. In some cases, whole towns were emptied of their Jewish population, and the Jewish community in Poland was now reduced to about 30,000 people. Of those who remained some 3,000 were too old or too sick to earn their livelihood and were supported by the jdc, as were various children's homes, camps, and clubs. In addition, the jdc financed the Historical Institute, the Cracow Jewish Museum, cultural enterprises, the reestablishment of Jewish cooperatives, and the construction of a Jewish home for the aged.

The Jewish cooperative movement, revived after 1957 with help from the government and the jdc, was soon able to stand on its own feet and to transfer 20% of its yearly profits – ranging from one to two million zlotys – to the Jewish Cultural-Social Association. This situation prevailed until 1967.

Final Liquidation

In 1968–69, a fourth mass emigration of Jews from Poland took place, resulting in the virtual dissolution of the Jewish community as an identifiable and creative group. It also spelled the final disillusionment of those Jews who hoped the Gomulka regime would differ from the Soviet Union in its approach to the Jews. The Six-Day War (1967) and the March 1968 student riots in Polish university towns were seized by the Polish government as the opportunity to utilize popular antisemitism for its own political purposes. When the party faction called the Partisan Group, led by Minister of Interior Mieczyslaw Moczar, initiated antisemitic action in an attempt to oust Gomulka from power, the Polish Communist leader adopted a clearly defined anti-Jewish policy. In March 1968 Gomulka publicly declared those Jews whose loyalty wavered between Poland and Israel to be "rootless cosmopolitans" unworthy of holding public office. He reiterated, however, the principle that Israel-oriented Jews should be allowed to immigrate to the Jewish state. In the course of 1968, Jewish youth camps, schools, and clubs were disbanded. Jews were dismissed from whatever public positions they still held, and the Cultural-Social Association was reduced to a mere paper existence. Restrictions were placed even on the status of Yiddish, a language which had been used in Poland almost as long as Polish itself. Yiddish was declared a foreign language, with the result that any publication in Yiddish had first to be translated into Polish before it could be released for distribution. In practice this signified the end of the Yiddish publishing house "Yidish Bukh" and of Yidishe Shriften, the literary journal. The Yiddish newspaper Folksshtime, which formerly appeared four times a week, was now restricted to a weekly appearance. The jdc and ort were again forbidden to operate in Poland, and the Jewish cooperatives were again handed over to the general Cooperative Union. The Jewish home for the aged, financed by the jdc, was turned into a general institution.

The liquidation of all organized forms of Jewish life was accompanied by a relentless antisemitic campaign carried through the press, radio, and television. The majority of Polish Jews, the tragic remnant of a community that had once numbered over 3,250,000 people, reacted to these events by choosing to emigrate. Since the Polish authorities allowed Jewish emigration only to Israel, and then only upon renunciation of Polish citizenship, many Jews who intended to immigrate to other countries (Canada, Australia, Scandinavia) ostensibly applied for papers and visas to Israel. Efforts to assure the continued existence of Jewish life in Poland were in vain. Young Jews, most of whom left the country, were especially shocked by the antisemitism displayed by leading Polish Communists. The few Jewish institutions still in existence in 1971 were devoid of all creative content and had been stripped of all authority. (See also *Cooperatives; *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; *ort; *oze; *Beriḥah.)

[David Sfard]

Later Developments

In the following two decades the Jewish population of Poland stabilized at around 6,000. There remained only a single synagogue in Warsaw and in the whole country there was no rabbi. The Jewish cemetery in Bialystok was transformed into a public garden and the famous Jewish cemetery in Warsaw was repeatedly desecrated by gangs who stole the marble from the graves.

The Social and Cultural Society of Jews in Poland came under the full control of the Ministry of Interior and almost all of its social functions were terminated. After the Jewish cooperatives were liquidated, the Polish government began to defray the rather modest budget of the society.

In 1976–77 the Jewish issue again became a motif in the official propaganda campaign which came on the heels of the Polish workers' protest movement against rises in food prices and the activities of the "Committee for the Defense of the Workers" and dissidents.

The prolonged instability of the situation resulted in intensified exploitation of the Jewish issue, and the press directly attacked and ridiculed Jewish religion, tradition, and customs with the result that Jewish life was compressed into a lifeless framework which, nevertheless, still continued to function. The Jewish Cultural-Social Committee remained in existence, as did the Jewish Historical Institute and the Jewish Theater. The newspaper Folksshtime also continued to appear. The institute received permission to resume publication of the academic journal Yidishe Bletter, whose publication had ceased several years earlier.

In the latter part of 1977 the Poles took several tactical steps to improve their image with regard to Jewish matters. In October and December 1977 the chairman of the Organization of Former Jewish Partisans and Fighters in Poland (Stefan-Shalom Greik, an Israeli), the chairman of Yad Vashem (Dr. Yitẓḥak Arad), and a representative of Kibbutz Loḥamei ha-Getta'ot (Ẓevi Schneir) were invited to Poland in connection with the implementation of a plan to establish a Jewish exhibit hall in the former extermination camp at Auschwitz. It was the first time that the authorities in Poland displayed a readiness to permit Israeli institutions to participate in the implementation of the plan, and even to be assisted by the advice of Israeli experts. The Warsaw Institute of Jewish History was also invited to assist in drawing up the plan. The pavilion was opened at a ceremony held on April 17, 1978, in the presence of Polish authorities and Jewish delegations from Israel and the Diaspora. Its official name was "The Destruction and the Struggle of the Jews in Occupied Europe." In June, however, it was closed to the public, although it was claimed that the closure was only temporary to improve the amenities there, and that it would be opened to individuals on request.

A definite anti-Zionist, anti-Jewish tone was expressed in government propaganda used in its fight against the increased strength and demands of Solidarity in 1980 and 1981, although the current demographic distribution of Jews in Poland certainly did not warrant any such attacks. Individual Jews did participate in the Solidarity movement.

Poland's transition to a democratic system of government and a market economy which began in 1989 after nearly five decades of Communist rule took place against the background of economic crisis and industrial unrest. At the same time, the new freedom experienced by Polish society had an invigorating effect on the small, mostly elderly Jewish community that remained in the country. A significant renewal of Jewish cultural and religious life took place, and people previously estranged from Jewish tradition, especially among the young, began to acknowledge their Jewish identity. Communal and cultural activities were strengthened and encouraged by the renewal of ties with Israel and increasing contacts with world Jewry. Two important events exemplify this positive trend: The community acquired its first resident rabbi in over 20 years, and a Coordinating Commission of Jewish Organizations, which represented and acted on behalf of the whole community, was established. The new body brought together the Jewish Social and Cultural Association, the Mosaic Religious Association, the Jewish Historical Institute, the Jewish Theater, and the bi-weekly paper Dos Yiddishe Wort (formerly Folkssztyme).

A range of educational and cultural activities was provided by the Social and Cultural Association (tskz), which had branches in 15 cities. Courses in Jewish history and Yiddish as well as song and dance classes were held. The Jewish Historical Institute conducted research and published scholarly papers and books on the history of Jews in Poland. Welfare activities were carried out with the financial support of the jdc.

On the positive side of Polish-Jewish relations was the continuing interest in the history and culture of Polish Jews among the Polish intelligentsia. The awareness of the need to preserve the Jewish heritage and recognize the Jewish contribution to Polish culture originated in liberal Catholic, Protestant, and opposition circles in the 1980s.

Among the initiatives taken were annual weeks of Jewish culture, seminars on Jewish subjects, festivals of Jewish films, exhibitions as well as efforts to restore and maintain Jewish cemeteries and monuments. From the mid-1980s, in an attempt to improve their image abroad the Communist authorities encouraged Jewish studies. The Institute for the Study of the History and Culture of the Jews in Poland was created at Cracow's Jagellonian University in 1986. A number of conferences and symposia were held with the support of the state and the participation of Western, including Israeli, scholars. A large number of books on Jewish subjects were published to meet the growing demand. In post-Communist Poland, state authorities continued to support a range of cultural activities. A foundation called Eternal Memory was set up by the treasury for the restoration and preservation of Jewish cultural monuments.

The community, however, experienced a rising tide of antisemitism. The change to a pluralist democracy opened up opportunities for extremist nationalist groups using antisemitism as a tool in the political struggle. Their propaganda identified Jews with the Communist regime and blamed them for all the shortcomings of Polish life. The removal of restraints on freedom of expression meant that antisemitism was now openly voiced in public and everyday life with grass-roots antisemitism well attested in public polls.

Government and Solidarity personalities became targets of anti-Jewish campaigns, which drew attention to their real or alleged Jewish origins. At the time of the 1990 presidential and 1991 parliamentary elections these tactics were freely used even by the mainstream political groups. Antisemitic publications, including reprints of the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, were distributed widely. Acts of vandalism at Jewish institutions, synagogues, and cemeteries multiplied as Polish skinheads sought to emulate their Western counterparts. The need to obtain economic assistance from the West, which acted as a brake on political antisemitism during 1980s, prompted President Walesa's initiative in 1991 to create a Council on Polish-Jewish Relations. An advisory body attached to the president, its function was to promote better understanding between Poles and Jews by drawing-up educational programs for Polish youth, organizing events and exhibitions, and providing a reaction to antisemitic incidents.

The continuing dispute over the Carmelite convent at Auschwitz had been at the center of the crisis in Catholic-Jewish relations from 1984 (see *Auschwitz Convent). The controversy was widely debated in the Polish press: a range of views from openly antisemitic to liberal was expressed revealing a disquieting level of prejudice and a lack of understanding between Poles and Jews. The crisis was finally resolved in 1993 with the relocation of the nuns at the convent.

While some elements within the Catholic Church supported right-wing Christian parties with known antisemitic tendencies, the Polish bishops, in an effort to improve relations, issued an unprecedented statement taking a clear stand against all manifestations of antisemitism. The episcopal letter, read in churches on January 21, 1991, presented Vatican ii teachings on the relations between the two faiths and dealt with a number of controversial issues such as Polish responsibility for the Holocaust, alleged Jewish responsibility for Communism, and antisemitism past and present. At the same time the Catholic Seminary in Warsaw published a book on Judaism and the Jews for school teachers written in a similar spirit.

[Lena Stanley-Clamp]

By the mid-1990s most of the Jewish communities in Poland – Warsaw, Cracow (Krakow), Lodz, Stettin (Szcecin), Danzig (Gdansk), Kattowitz (Katowice), and Breslau (Wroclaw) – had synagogues. The eastern part of the country, once teeming with Jewish life and with great centers such as Lublin and Bialystok, probably had no more than 50 Jews. The Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in the Polish Republic (kkozrp) coordinated activities of the various Jewish bodies. Under the auspices of the Lauder Foundation, a club was established which organized many events for young people including Jewish summer camps and athletics. The Jewish groups included persons orphaned in the Holocaust and brought up by non-Jews and a veterans' organization. An important item on the agenda was the preservation of synagogues and cemeteries throughout the country. Many of these were in a state of disrepair or being used for secular purposes. Poland had a chief rabbi whose seat was in Warsaw and another rabbi for youth. A primary school and kindergarten were opened in Warsaw. Jewish courses were offered at the universities in Warsaw and Cracow. Warsaw's Jewish Historical Institute was an important archive and venue for cultural events while Cracow had a Center for Jewish Culture. The Warsaw Yiddish Theater was the only regularly functioning Yiddish theater in the world. Most of the actors were non-Jews. Poland was the scene of considerable Jewish tourism including pilgrimages to Holocaust sites, which bring many Jewish youth groups, such as the March of the Living.

In the early years of the 21st century, around 8,000 Jews were registered with the community, but it was estimated that as many as 30,000–40,000 had some Jewish ancestry.

relations with israel

Poland was among the first countries to recognize Israel (May 18, 1948). During the period preceding the establishment of Israel, Poland was unstinting in its support for the yishuv. At a convention of Soviet-bloc foreign ministers, the Polish foreign minister introduced a resolution congratulating Israel and condemning Arab aggression. Polish public opinion also strongly supported Israel and its struggle, as evidenced by resolutions passed by various public institutions, including the National Conference of Polish writers. Israel also received practical aid. In 1948, before the declaration of independence, a Haganah camp was set up in Poland, where 1,500 young Jews underwent preparatory military training before leaving for Israel. During the actual fighting, shipments of wheat were brought to Israel by a Polish boat. In August 1948 an Israel legation was established in Poland, one of Israel's first diplomatic missions.

The Change of 1950

The cooling of U.S.S.R.-Israel relations from 1950 affected relations between Poland and Israel. A certain ambivalence characterized Poland's attitude toward Israel, for, together with criticism of Israel on the international scene, particularly at the un, there was also understanding and sympathy for Israel's problems and a courteous attitude in official relations, in contrast to the attitude of other member states of the Eastern bloc, even in 1950–55, which were particularly difficult years for Israel relations with East Europe. The change, which started to make itself felt at the beginning of 1950, was reflected in a decrease in the number of exit permits issued, although emigration from Poland never ceased altogether. Polish authorities began to display animosity toward the Israel legation, with a view to minimizing its contacts with Polish Jewry. During this period there were mass arrests and staged trials in a number of Eastern European countries, and, while the situation did not reach such proportions in Poland, police measures were intensified there and the Israel legation was put under police surveillance. A sharp turn of events occurred in 1953, when the Israel minister in Warsaw, A.L. Kubovy, who was stationed in Prague, was declared persona non grata as a result of a similar action taken against him by the Czechoslovak government after the *Slánský trial. Thereafter two other Israel diplomats were expelled.

Improved Relations in 1956

Wladyslaw Gomulka's ascension to power as secretary of the Communist Party in the fall of 1956 ushered in a liberalization in Poland's internal regime and a more independent foreign policy. Relations toward Israel improved primarily through an open emigration policy. Israel's problems were given more objective treatment in the press. In 1956 Israel again appointed a resident minister in Warsaw after a three year period during which a chargé d'affaires headed the Israel legation. In 1963 the mission was elevated to the level of an embassy. After 1956 there was also a broadening of cultural and scientific relations in the form of reciprocal visits by individuals and delegations. Nevertheless, the Polish government maintained a constant reserve and did not respond to all of Israel's initiatives, sometimes even failing to implement plans they themselves had suggested. Thus, for example, cultural and scientific relations were not established on a formal basis, although such a step would have been justified by the extent of these activities. Nor was a Polish-Israel Friendship League set up in Poland, although an Israel-Polish Friendship League functioned in Israel.

Nevertheless, Poland was undoubtedly foremost among the East European countries in fostering relations with Israel, especially in the areas of culture, science, and information. Israel artists participated regularly in international music festivals in Poland, and many Polish performers appeared in Israel. Radio musical programs were exchanged. Exhibitions of Hebrew books were held in Poland, and Polish books were distributed in Israel. Regular exchanges of scientific publications took place, and individuals and figures in public life paid reciprocal visits. Exhibitions of graphic art were organized in Poland and in Israel. Of special note during the period between 1956 and 1967 were the tour of a Polish medical delegation in Israel; the visit to Israel of the chairman of the Polish Academy of Sciences; and the visit of the Israel ministers of health and welfare to Poland. After 1956 Israel participated regularly in the International Fair in Poznan. An information bulletin distributed by the Israel embassy influenced public opinion, and the Polish press often drew upon it.

In the political arena (e.g., in voting at the un), Poland continued to identify with the U.S.S.R. but nevertheless was willing to support the election of Israelis for various functions in international agencies. Its spokesmen would point out that Poland's guiding principle was to foster relations both with Israel and with the Arab states, but neither at the expense of the other. An event in May 1966 seemed to herald a marked improvement in Polish-Israel relations and a development in Israel's relations with the entire Communist bloc: A convention of Israel diplomatic representatives in Eastern Europe was held in Warsaw with the participation of Foreign Minister Abba Eban. It was the first time that such a convention was held in a capital of the Eastern bloc, and Warsaw was willing to serve as its venue; it was also the first visit in an East European capital by an Israel foreign minister. Eban held discussions with the Polish foreign minister, Adam Rapacki, who displayed the attitude usually accorded an official foreign visitor.

The Six-Day War

Fairly normal relations were maintained between the two countries when the U.S.S.R. began escalating the Middle East crisis, which resulted in the Six-Day War. Significantly, a visit to Poland at the end of April by the Israel minister of welfare, heading a delegation for the establishment of the Auschwitz memorial, was handled in a way that reflected a change for the worse in Poland's attitude. The fact that the visit was not mentioned in the press was interpreted as one expression of the attempt to minimize the Jewish character of the Holocaust. In the first half of May, Polish newspapers and communications media were still presenting a balanced view of the Middle East crisis. A sharp change occurred, however, during the second half of the month. The press began to give unilateral coverage to the Arab-Soviet position. Grotesque accusations with antisemitic overtones were leveled against Israel and its leaders. On May 28 the president of Poland sent a message to Nasser expressing "full support for the struggle of the Arab nations." After that time, Poland's statements were characterized by an animosity toward Israel even more venomous than in other East European countries.

According to all indications, Polish public opinion generally supported Israel in its struggle for survival, but in the hands of groups competing for power in the party and in the Polish government, the Middle East crisis became a weapon for infighting, with the declared intent of displacing Jews from public positions. On June 12, 1967, following the Soviet Union's example, Poland notified Israel that diplomatic relations between the two countries were being severed, and inimical demonstrations against the Israel diplomats initiated by the authorities took place in sight of the diplomatic staff that came to take leave of the Israelis at the Warsaw airport. The Dutch embassy, which represented Israel's interests in Poland from that time, strongly protested against this behavior.

Emmigration to Israel

In 1948 there were approximately 70,000–80,000 Jews in Poland. This number was swollen by thousands of Jews who returned from the U.S.S.R. in 1956–57 under the Polish-Soviet repatriation agreement. One of the major tasks of the Israel legation in Poland was the struggle on behalf of the majority of Jews who wished to migrate to Israel. Despite accusations leveled periodically by Polish authorities at the Israel legation and its staff for propagandizing and organizing the Jews for migration to Israel, there was continuous emigration. Between 1948 and 1949 the Polish authorities were issuing several hundred passports a month to Jews wishing to emigrate, especially to the aged, handicapped, and women left alone. Between 1949 and 1956 the number of passports issued decreased to a few dozen per month. The major years of Polish Jewish immigration to Israel were 1956–60 with their numbers reaching around 52,000. The peak year was 1957, during which some 31,000 Jews migrated to Israel. Despite the breakdown in diplomatic relations in June 1967, the Polish government continued to issue exit permits for emigration to Israel, but the motivation for this policy became more and more an antisemitic intent to "purge" Poland of its Jewish population.

Trade Relations

A trade agreement signed between Poland and Israel in 1954 was renewed annually until 1968. The numerous industrial and agricultural products traded were valued at approximately $4 million in both directions. Major Israel exports were citrus fruit and tires, with Poland exporting frozen meat, sugar, iron and steel products, and chemicals. Two Israel exports added in the later years were potash and cotton, which then exceeded the citrus export. During 14 years the scope of the agreement had doubled, in effect, and in certain years it had tripled. A shift in the trade balance in Israel's favor occurred in the first months of 1966 and continued thereafter due to a steep increase in the export of potash. Upon the severance of diplomatic relations, Poland was in debt to Israel for over $5 million, but despite its hostile attitude toward Israel it did not revoke the trade agreement of 1954, and it was automatically renewed in 1968. By then, however, the agreement was meaningless, with Israel having discontinued its exports to Poland to avoid increasing the Polish debt, which was, in effect, a credit extended to Poland without interest. In June 1968 the Israel government informed the Polish government of the revocation of the trade agreement. Poland's debt to Israel, then $2.7 million was repaid thereafter.

[Moshe Avidan]

Following the severing of commercial ties between Israel and Poland in 1968, the first exchange of goods between the two countries was renewed in 1976. Israel exported citrus to Poland ($834,000) and imported books ($5,000). In 1977 goods in the value of $1.5 million were exported to Poland and $600,000 worth of merchandise was exported from Poland to Israel.

In 1986 Poland was the first of the Communist bloc countries to re-open low-level diplomatic relations with Israel which had been severed since the Six-Day War. Interest sections dealing with visa regulations and cultural and economic ties were established in Warsaw and Tel Aviv. Full diplomatic relations were restored in 1990. A framework for the promotion of good relations was provided by the establishment of the Polish-Israeli Friendship Society. There was a steady growth in cultural exchanges and trade expansion. Poland has shown a strong interest in acquiring Israeli technology in the fields of agriculture, telecommunications, health, and hotel industry. There was an unparalleled growth in tourism, facilitated by direct air links, with Israelis visiting Poland in great numbers. President Walesa visited Israel in 1991 and President Herzog visited Poland in 1992. By 2003 Israel's exports to Poland had grown to around $95 million, with imports at $60 million.

[Lena Stanley-Clamp]


G.D. Hundert and G.C. Bacon, The Jews in Poland and Russia: Bibliographical Essays (1984); poland (until partition): Dubnow, Hist Russ, 1 (1916), 13–305; R. Mahler, Toledot ha-Yehudim be-Polin (1946); A. Polonsky (ed.), The Jews in Old Poland, 1000–1795 (1993); I. Halpern (ed.), Beit Yisrael be-Polin, 2 vols. (1948–54); Istoriya yevreyskogo naroda: Istoriya yevreyev v Rossii, 11 (1914); I. Schiper, Studya nad stosunkami gospodarczymi Żydów Polsce podczas śedniowiecza (1911); idem, Kultur-Geshikhte fun di Yidn in Poyln beysn Mitlalter (1926); idem, Dzieje handlu żydowskiego na ziemiach polskich (1937); T.B. Heilikman, Istoriya obshchestvennago dvizheniya yevreyev v Polshe i Rossii (1930; rev. ed. of Geshikhte fun der Gezelshaftlekher Bavegung fun di Yidn in Poyln un Rusland, 1926); H.H. Ben-Sasson, Hagut ve-Hanhagah (1959). add. bibliography: A. Eisenbach, I. Pogonowski, Jews in Poland: A Documentary History (1993); A. Eisenbach, The Emancipation of the Jews in Poland, 1780–1830: Tradition and Change in a Liberal Society, (1979). after partition: Dubnow, Hist Russ; S. Segal, The New Poland and the Jews (1938); B. Johnpoll, The Politics of Futility (1967); W. Gliksman, A Kehilah in Poland during the Inter-War Years (1970); J. Shatzky, in: yivoa, 7 (1962), 146–74; M. Mishkinsky, ibid., 14 (1969), 27–52; Y. Gruenbaum, Milḥamot Yehudei Polin (1941); idem (ed.), eg, 1 (1953); idem, Ne'umim ba-Sejm ha-Polani (1963); J. Lestschinsky, Oyfn Rand fun Opgrunt (1947); idem, in: Yidishe Ekonomik, 1 (1937); 2 (1938); M. Linder, ibid., 1 (1937); J. Shatzky, Geshikhte fun Yidn in Varshe, 3 vols. (1947–53); idem, in: yivo Bleter, 36 (1952), 24–62; I. Halpern (ed.), Beit Yisrael be-Polin, 2 vols. (1948–54); N.M. Gelber (ed.), Ha-Yehudim ve-ha-Mered ha-Polani (1953); R. Mahler, Ha-Ḥasidut ve-ha-Haskalah (1961); idem, Yehudei Polin bein Shetei Milḥamot ha-Olam (1968); idem, Divrei Yemei Yisrael, Dorot Aḥaronim, vol. 2 bk. 1 (1970); A. Tartakower, in: Velt-Federatsye fun Poylishe Yidn, Yorbukh, 3 (1970); Sbornik materialov ob ekonomicheskom polozhenii yevreyev v Rossii, 2 vols. (1904); M. Wischnitzer, Perezhitoye, 1 (1908), 164–221; J. Kirszrot, Prawa Żydów Królestwie polskiem (1917); I. Schiper, Żydzi Królestwa polskiego w dobie powstania listopadowego (1932); idem, Dzieje handlu żdowskiego na ziemiach polskich (1937); idem, in: Miesięcznik Żydowski, 1 (1931), 513–29; 2 no. 4 (1932), 311–27; idem et al. (eds.), Żydzi w Polsce odrodzonej, 2 vols. (1932–33); L. Halpern, Polityka żydowska w Sejmie i Senacie Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej (1933); P. Friedman, Dzieje Zydów w Łodzi od początków osadnictwa do roku 1863 (1935); E. Ringelblum, Żydzi w powstaniu kościuszkowskiem (1938); S. Bronsztejn, Ludność żydowska w Polsce (1963); A. Eisenbach et al. (eds.), Żydzi a powstanie styczniowe (1963); idem, in: Społeczeństwo Królestwa polskiego, 2 (1966), 177–316. add. bibliography: C.S. Heller, On the Edge of Destruction: Jews in Poland Between the Two World Wars, (1977); I. Lewin, The Jewish Community in Poland: Historical Essays (1985); L. Dobroszycki and B. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Image Before My Eyes: a Photographic History of Jewish Life in Poland 1864–1939 (1977); holocaust period: Bernstein, in: Algemeyne Entsiklopedye: Yidn, 6 (1963), 165–242; Brustin-Bernstein, in: Bleter far Geshikhte, 1, nos. 3–4 (1948), 125–64; 3, no. 2 (1950), 51–78; 4, no. 2 (1951), 103–22; 6 no. 3 (1953), 45–153; Rutkowski, ibid.: 12 (1959), 75–118; Rutkowski and Brustin-Bernstein, in: bzih, 38 (1961), 28–38; Winkler, in: Bleter far Geshikhte, 1 nos. 3–4 (1948), 3–40; Trunk, ibid., 1 no. 1 (1948), 114–69; 1, no. 2 (1948), 14–45; 2 (1949), 64–166; idem, in: yivoBleter, 37 (1953), 58–100; idem, Geshtalten un Geshenishn (1962), 127–261; idem, Lodzer Geto… (1962), preface, conclusion, and list of documents in English; Żydowski Instytut Historyczny, Dokumenty i Materiały, 3 vols. (1946); P. Friedman, Zagłada Zydów polskich w okresie okupacji hitlerowskiej 1939–1945 (1947); Podhorizer-Sandler, in: bzih, no. 30 (1959), 37–108; Datner, ibid., no. 60 (1966), 3–29; J. Kermisz, Akcje i wysiedlenia (1946); A. Eisenbach, Hitlerowska polityka zagłady Żydów (1961); idem, Di Hitleristishe Politik fun Yidn-Farnikhtung, 2 vols. (1955); T. Berenstein et al. (eds.), Eksterminacja Żydów na ziemiach polskich w okresie okupacji hitlerowskiej (1957). for further reading in english: G. Reitlinger, The Final Solution (19622), 143–53, 260–319 and passim, includes bibliography; R. Hilberg, Destruction of European Jews (1961), index; American Federation for Polish Jews, Black Book of Polish Jewry (1943); American Jewish Black Book Committee, Black Book (1945); Central Commission for War Crimes, Warsaw, German Crimes in Poland, 2 vols. (1946–47); M. Muszkat, Polish Charges against War Criminals (1948); A. Melezin, Demographic Processes among the Jewish Population of Poland 1939–1945 (1948); J. Tenenbaum, In Search of a Lost People (1949); idem, Underground, the Story of a People (1952). partisans:Sefer Milḥamot ha-Geta'ot (19542 = The Fighting Ghettos, partial trans. by M. Barkai, 1962); J. Tenenbaum, Underground (1952); Y. Suhl (ed.), They Fought Back (1968). rescue of jewish children in poland: N. Orelovitch-Reznik, Imma, ha-Muttar Kevar Livkot? (1965); L. Kuchler-Silberman, One Hundred Children (1961); E. Mahler, Yad Vashem Bulletin, no. 12 (Dec. 1962), 49–56; J. Goldman, Rabbi Herzog's First Rescue Journey (1964), passim; S. Nishmit, Dappim le-Ḥeker ha-Sho'ah ve-ha-Mered, 2 (1952); Tetikeyts-Baricht fun Tsentral-Komitet fun di Yiden in Poyln (1947); Farn Yidishn Kind (1946); after world war ii; P. Lendvai, Communism without Jews (1971), 89–239.


views updated Jun 11 2018



Republic of Poland

Rzeczpospolita Polska

CAPITAL: Warsaw (Warszawa)

FLAG: The national flag consists of two horizontal stripes, the upper white and the lower red.

ANTHEM: Jeszcze Polska nie zginela (Poland Is Not Yet Lost ).

MONETARY UNIT: The zloty (z) is a paper currency of 100 groszy. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 groszy and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 zlotys, and notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, and 5,000 zlotys. A currency reform on 1 January 1995 replaced 10,000 old zlotys with 1 new zloty. z1 = $0.31348 (or $1 = z3.19) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Labor Day, 1 May; National Day, 3 May; Victory Day, 9 May; All Saints' Day, 1 November; Christmas, 2526 December. Movable holidays are Easter Monday and Corpus Christi.

TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.


Situated in Eastern Europe, Poland has an area of 312,680 sq km (120,726 sq mi), extending 689 km (428 mi) ew and 649 km (403 mi) ns. It is bounded on the N by the Baltic Sea, on the n and e by Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine, on the s by Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and on the w by Germany, with a total land boundary of 2,788 km (1,794 mi) and a coastline of 491 km (305 mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Poland is slightly smaller than the state of New Mexico.

Before World War II, Poland encompassed a territory of nearly 390,000 sq km (150,600 sq mi). On 11 July 1920, an armistice mediated by Britain in a Polish-Soviet conflict established the "Curzon line" (named for George Nathaniel Curzon, the British statesman who proposed it), conferring the former Austrian territory of Galicia to the Soviet side. However, under the Treaty of Riga (1921), all of Galicia was assigned to Poland, and a boundary well to the east of the Curzon line prevailed until World War II. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the Allies accepted Soviet claims to eastern Poland, with a border running approximately along the Curzon line.

On 21 April 1945, a Polish-Soviet treaty of friendship and cooperation was signed, followed by a new agreement on the Polish-Soviet border. To compensate for the loss of 46% of Poland's territory to the USSR, the Potsdam Conference of JulyAugust 1945 placed former German territories east of the Oder (Odra) and western Neisse rivers under Polish administration, pending a final determination by a German peace treaty. On 6 August 1950, an agreement was signed between Poland and the GDR according to which both parties recognized the frontier on the Oder-Neisse line. The Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) recognized this boundary under the terms of a treaty signed with Poland on 7 December 1970 and ratified by the FRG on 23 May 1972.

Poland's capital city, Warsaw, is located in the east central part of the country.


Poland's average altitude is 173 m (568 ft); 75.4% of the land is less than 200 m (656 ft) above sea level. The highest point, Mount Rysy (2,499 m/8,199 ft), is located in the Tatra Mountains on the Slovakian border. The principal topographic regions are an undulating central lowland with a crystalline platform and warped bedrock; the Baltic highland in the north, a glaciated region with many lakes and sandy soils; and the coastland, a narrow lowland with promontories, bays, and lakes. The southern uplands are marked by rich loam and mineral deposits.

Several important navigable rivers drain into the Baltic Sea, among them the Vistula (Wisla), the Oder, the Bug, and the Warta. There are over 6,000 lakes in the northern lake region. Good harbors have been developed on the Baltic Sea.


Poland has a continental climate, conditioned especially by westerly winds. Only the southern areas are humid. Summers are cool, and winters range from moderately cold to cold. The average mean temperature is about 7°c (45°f); temperatures in Warsaw range, on average, from -6° to -1°c (2130°f) in January and from 13° to 24°c (5575°f) in July. Precipitation is greatest during the summer months, lasting 85 to 100 days. Annual rainfall ranges from about 50 cm (20 in) in the lowlands and 135 cm (53 in) in the mountains; the overall average is about 64 cm (25 in).


Coniferous trees, especially pine, account for 70% of the forests; deciduous species include birch, beech, and elm. Lynx, wildcat, European bison, moose, wild horse (tarpan), and wild goat are among the few remaining large mammals. Birds, fish, and insects are plentiful. As of 2002, there were at least 84 species of mammals, 233 species of birds, and over 2,450 species of plants throughout the country.


Poland's environmental situation has improved since the ousting of its communist regime, which has been accompanied by decreased emphasis on heavy industry and increased government awareness of environmental issues. However, Poland has yet to recover from the overexploitation of forests during World War II and the loss of about 1.6 million hectares (4 million acres) of forestland after the war. As of the mid-1990s, 75% of Poland's forests have been damaged by airborne contaminants and acid rain. In 2000, about 29.7% of the total land area was forested.

Pollution of the air, water, and land was the most significant environmental problem facing Poland in the 1990s. Air pollution results from hazardous concentrations of airborne dust and chemicals, including carbon dioxide, nitrogen compounds, fluorine, formaldehyde, ammonia, lead, and cadmium. In 1992 Poland had the world's 12th highest level of industrial carbon dioxide emissions, which totaled 341.8 million metric tons, a per capita level of 8.9 metric tons. In 1996, the total rose to 356 million metric tons. However, some measures for reduction must be working, since in 2000, the total of carbon dioxide emissions was at 301.3 million metric tons. Industry-related pollution affects particularly the Katowice region, where dust and sulfur dioxide emissions exceed acceptable levels.

Water pollution in the Baltic Sea is 10 times higher than ocean water. Poland has 54 cu km of renewable water. Eleven percent of the annual withdrawal is used to support farming and 76% is for industrial purposes.

The nation's wildlife has also suffered from degeneration of its habitats. As of 2003, 12.4% of Poland's total land area was protected. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 12 types of mammals, 12 species of birds, 3 species of fish, 1 type of mollusk, 14 species of other invertebrates, and 4 species of plants. The cerambyx longicorn and rosalia longicorn are among the endangered species. The wild horse has become extinct.


The population of Poland in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 38,163,000, which placed it at number 32 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 13% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 17% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 94 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be stagnant at 0.0%, a rate the government viewed as too low. The fertility rate, at 1.6 births per woman in 2005, has been below replacement level since the mid-1990s. The projected population for the year 2025 was 36,661,000. The population density was 118 per sq km (306 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 62% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.18%. The capital city, Warsaw (Warszawa), had a population of 2,200,000 in that year. Other large metropolitan areas and their estimated populations were Katowice, 2,914,000; Lódz, 943,000; Gdańsk, 851,000; and Kraków (Crakow), 822,000.


Large-scale emigration from Poland took place before World War II, with the heaviest exodus in the decades before World War I. Between 18711915, a total of 3,510,000 Poles, Polish Jews, and Ukrainians emigrated, about half of them to the United States. Emigration diminished greatly during the interwar period, when France became the chief country of destination. From 192138, some 1,400,000 Poles emigrated, while 700,000 returned. Poland suffered a net population loss of nearly 11,000,000 between 193949 through war losses, deportations, voluntary emigrations, and population transfers arising out of territorial changes. An estimated 6,000,000 Germans left the present western territories of Poland when these territories came under Polish jurisdiction, and since the end of World War II more than 7,500,000 Poles have settled in the area. From the 1950s through the 1980s, Germans leaving for Germany constituted the bulk of emigrants; Jews also left in substantial numbers for Israel, both in the immediate postwar years and during the 1950s and 1960s. Another emigration wave occurred after the imposition of martial law in December 1981. In 2000, the total number of migrants was 2,088,000. In 2003, total remittances to Poland were $2.8 billion. In 2005, the Polish Ministry of Labor reported that 500,000 Poles were legally employed in 15 EU countries. Amongst these, Germany was the chief destination for Polish migrant labor, 350,000 legally admitted workers, including 90% employed seasonally in agriculture.

Since 1989, Poland has been open to refugees. However, while tens of thousands of people transit Poland every year, the number of recognized refugees has been rather limited. As of 2004, there were 2,507 recognized refugees. Since 1997, there has been a significant increase in the number of asylum applicants, from some 800 in 1995 to 3,743 in 2004. The main country of origin was the Russian Federation, with smaller numbers from India and Pakistan. In that same year, 340 Poles sought asylum in Canada. In 2005, the net migration rate was -0.49 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


Before World War II, over 30% of the people living within the boundaries of Poland were non-Poles. As a result of World War II, and of the boundary changes and population transfers that followed, Poland today is a predominantly homogeneous state with only about 3% of the population being non-Polish. According to the most recent census (2002), Poles constitute about 98% of the total population. Germans make up 0.4%, Ukrainians account for 0.1%; and Belarussians, 0.1%. There are about 50,000 Lithuanians in the country. There is also a significant number of Roma.


Polish is one of the western Slavic languages using the Latin alphabet and the only major Slavic language to preserve the old Slavic nasal vowels. It is easily distinguishable from other Slavic languages by the frequent accumulation of consonants. In addition to the letters of the English alphabet, it has the following letters and diphthongs: a, ch, ci, cz, dź, dzi, e, l, ń, ni, ó, rz, ś, si, sz, z, ż, ź, and zi. It has no q, v, or x. Among the several dialects are Great Polish (spoken around Poznań), Kuyavian (around Inowroclaw), Little Polish (around Cracow), Silesian (around Katowice and Wroclaw), and Mazovian (around Warsaw and extending north and east). Some philologists consider that Kashubian, spoken along the Baltic, is not a Polish dialect but a separate language.

Many Poles speak English, French, German, or Russian, and understand other Slavic languages in varying degrees. By law, ethnic minorities have the right to be taught in their own language.


Poland has historically been one of the world's most strongly Roman Catholic countries. During the period of Communist domination that began in 1945, that church suffered extensive repression by the state. A change in party leadership in October 1956, however, brought about a new relationship between church and state, which included voluntary religious instruction in schools and other guarantees to the Roman Catholic Church. In 1974, the Polish government established permanent working contacts with the Holy See. The position of the Church was further enhanced when the archbishop of Cracow, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, became Pope John Paul II in 1978. In 1989, the Roman Catholic Church was finally granted legal status and control of its schools, hospitals, and its university in Lublin. A concordat was signed with the Vatican in 1993 and ratified by parliament in 1998.

It is estimated that over 96% of Poles are nominally Roman Catholics. About 509,700 people, about 1.3% of the population, are registered members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, 82,000 are Greek Catholics, 124,294 are Jehovah's Witnesses, and 79,050 are Lutherans (Augsburg). Other established Christian denominations include Old Catholic Mariavits, Polish-Catholics, Pentecostals, Seventh-Day Adventists, Baptists, Methodists, the Church of Christ, Reformed Lutherans, Mormons, and the New Apostolic Church. About 109 people are registered members of Muslim associations; there are, however, many more Muslims in the country who are not officially registered with a group. About 895 people are registered Hare Krishnas. A 2001 poll indicated that only 58% of the entire population were active practitioners of their chosen faith.

On the eve of World War II, an estimated 3,351,000 Jews lived in Poland, more than in any other country; they constituted about 10% of the Polish population and nearly 20% of world Jewry. During the course of the Nazi occupation (193945), nearly 3,000,000 Polish Jews were killed, many of them in extermination camps such as Auschwitz (Oświecim), near Cracow. Most of the survivors had fled to the USSR; at the end of the war, only about 55,000 Jews remained in Poland. Repatriation raised the total Jewish population to 250,000 in 1946. However, the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, combined with a series of anti-Semitic outbreaks in Poland (including a government-led campaign in 196869), induced most Jews to emigrate. As of 2003, Poland had only about 20,00030,000 Jews living in the country.


In 2004, Poland's operational rail network totaled 23,852 km (14,835 mi) of broad and standard gauge rail lines, of which 11,962 km (7,440 mi) were electrified. Of all lines in use, standard gauge accounts for nearly all at 23,223 km (14,445 mi). In terms of line length the Polish State Railways (PKP) is the third-largest railway system in Europe. However, equipment and service is far behind EU countries. In 2000 PKP began privatization of passenger, cargo and infrastructure.

There is a dense road and highway network. Improvement and repair have not kept up with the increased usagean 80% increase in freight and a 1,800% increase in passenger transport between 1950 and 1970, and a 60% increase in freight traffic and a 70% increase in passenger transport during 1971-82. In 2001 out of a total of 364,697 km (226,842 mi) of roadways, 249,088 km (154,932 mi) were paved roads, including 399 km (248 mi) of expressways. In 2003, there were 11,243,800 passenger cars and 2,274,600 commercial vehicles.

As of 2005, Poland had seven merchant ships of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 154,710 GRT. Before World War II, Polish merchant marine operations were mainly with the Western countries, especially the United States, but much of the current traffic is with Asian and African countries. The major ports are Szczecin, Gdynia, Gdánsk, and Swinoujáscie. The ports were badly damaged during World War II but have since been rehabilitated and enlarged. As of 2003, there were 3,812 km (2,369 mi) of navigable rivers and canals. The principal inland waterways are the Oder, with Szczecin near its mouth, the Wista, and the Warta.

In 2004, Poland had an estimated 123 airports. As of 2005, a total of 84 had paved runways, and there were also two heliports. Polish Air Transport (Polskie Linie Lotnicze-LOT), organized in 1922 and reorganized after World War II, is a state enterprise, with Warsaw's Okecie International Airport as the center. In 2003, about 3.252 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.


The land now known as Poland was sparsely populated in prehistoric times. The oldest preserved settlements, most notably at Biskupin in northwest Poland, date back to 1000 bc. A lack of Roman conquest and settlement delayed early urbanization in relation to the territories of Western Europe such as Germany and France. Slavic tribes, from whom modern Poles are descendants in terms of language and culture, began settling Poland in the fourth and fifth centuries AD after the Hunnic invasions and mass migrations of peoples from Asia to Europe. By ad 800, the population was probably around one million and stabilized into permanent settlements. Rulers of the Piast dynasty united the Polish tribes of the Vistula and Oder basins about the middle of the 10th century. In 966, Mieszko I, a member of this dynasty, was baptized, and consequently Poland became a Christian nation. Thirty-three years later, his eldest son and successor, Boleslaw I "the Brave" (9921025), whose military campaigns took him as far east as Kiev, secured recognition of Polish sovereignty and received a royal crown from Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, becoming the first king of Poland.

During the next three centuries, Poland was continually embroiled in conflicts with the Germans to the west and with the Eastern Slavs and Mongol invaders to the east, while developing cultural relations with Western civilizations. Foreign penetration and internal difficulties led to the division of Poland among members of the Piast dynasty. Under Casimir III "the Great" (13331370), the last of the Piast rulers, Poland was restored to unity and greatness. Casimir made peace with the Teutonic Knights, added Galicia to the realm, and welcomed Jewish refugees from the west; internally, law was codified, administration centralized, and a university was established in Kraków in 1364. In 1386, a Polish-Lithuanian federal union was created through a dynastic marriage, which also gave birth to the Jagiellonian dynasty, named for Jagiello, grand duke of Lithuania, who ruled Poland as Ladislas II (13861434). The union extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea and held control over other territories in Central Europe, notably West Prussia and Pomerania. The combined forces of the union annihilated the Teutonic Knights in 1410, in the Battle of Grunwald. The 16th century, known as Poland's Golden Age, saw the flourishing of the arts, scholarship, and architecture, most notable examples of which are the poetry of Jan Kochanowski, the revolutionary astronomical work of Nicolaus Copernicus, and the Renaissance architecture of old Kraków. During this time Poland was the largest state in Europe and a regional military power. In order to preserve the union during the reign of Sigismund II (154872), the last of the Jagiellonians, provisions were made for an elective monarch and a single parliament (Sejm) for Poland and Lithuania. The fact that kings were elected by the Polish/Lithuanian gentry (szlachta ) and the ratification of the first constitution in Europe in 1792 are often mentioned to support the claim that Poland is a pioneer of European democracy.

Unfortunately, many of the political reforms contributed to the nation's subsequent decline. The szlachta had progressively gained influence and power at the expense of the king. Meeting in the Sejm, the gentry adopted the legislative practice whereby a single dissenting voice was sufficient to block passage. Such policies prevented any decisive action by the government with the gentry cementing their position of power in an economy based on agricultural serfdom. The nobility imposed such far-reaching limitations upon the monarchy that national unity and integrity could not be maintained. Internal disorders, including the Cossack and peasant uprising (164849) led by Bogdan Chmielnicki against Polish domination of the Ukrainea revolt that struck with particular ferocity against Polish Jews, many of whom had served as agents of the nobility in administering Ukrainian landsfurther weakened the nation, as did the very destructive Swedish invasion in 165560. In 1683, Polish troops led by John III Sobieski (167496) rescued Vienna from a Turkish siege, but this was perhaps the last great military victory of an increasingly weakened and war-weary state.

The decline of Poland's power was taken advantage of by its neighboring states. A Russian, Prussian, and Austrian agreement led to the first partitioning of Poland in 1772; the second (1793) and third (1795) partitions led to the demise of Poland as a sovereign state. Galicia was ruled by Austria-Hungary, northwestern Poland by Prussia, and the Ukraine and eastern and central Poland by Russia, which extended its domains to include the Duchy of Warsaw, reconstituted as the Kingdom of Poland (under Russian imperial rule) at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The Poles rebelled in 1830 and 1863 against the tsarist rulers, but each insurrection was suppressed. However, the peasants were emancipated by Prussia in 1823, by Austria in 1849, and by Russia in 1864. Galicia, which won partial autonomy from Austria following the Habsburg monarchy's constitutional reforms, became the cultural center of the Poles.

With the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the defeat of the Central Powers in World War I, Poland regained its independence. On 18 November 1918, Jozef Pilsudski, leader of the prewar antiRussian independence movement, formed a civilian government. Dispute over the eastern borders of the re-born state led to a military clash with the Soviet Union. The conflict, in which the Bolshevik hope of spreading socialist revolution beyond Poland to Germany and France was dashed by a fortuitous Polish counterattack near Warsaw, ended with the Treaty of Riga in 1921, under which Galicia was restored to Poland.

In the next two decades Poland was plagued by economic difficulties and political instability, and by increasingly menacing pressures from its Soviet and German neighbors. Following the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939, Germany invaded Poland on 1 September, occupying Warsaw four weeks later. Meanwhile, the USSR began occupation of the eastern half of the country on 17 September, despite nonaggression treaties Poland signed with both the USSR and Germany. Almost immediately Nazi forces began to brutally oppress large segments of the Polish population and loot Poland's industrial sector and major resources such as timber, coal, and wheat. Ghettos for Jews were set up in Warsaw and other cities, and numerous concentration camps were established on Polish territory, including the extermination camp at Auschwitz, where at least one million people perished between 1940 and 1944. Poland suffered tremendous losses in life and property during World War II. An estimated six million Poles were killed, half of them Jews; 2.5 million were deported for compulsory labor in Germany; more than 500,000 were permanently crippled; and the remaining population suffered virtual starvation throughout the Nazi occupation. Losses in property were evaluated at z258 billion (more than us$50 billion).

The seeds of Poland's postwar political history were sown long before the war ended. A Polish government-in-exile was set up in France and later in the United Kingdom. Units of the Polish army fought together with the Allies while in Poland underground groups, organized along political lines, maintained resistance activities. The Home Army (Armia Krajowa ) was the major nonCommunist resistance group and took its orders from the government-in-exile in London. Although formally allied to the Soviet Union, relations between Moscow and the London-based Polish government continued to deteriorate, especially after the discovery of mass graves of thousands of Polish officers murdered by the Soviets in 1940. In July 1944, the Polish National Council, a Soviet-backed resistance group, set up the Polish Committee of National Liberation as a provisional government in liberated Lublin, declaring the émigré Polish government illegal. In August 1944 the Home Army in Warsaw rose against the Nazis in hopes of liberating the capital in step with the Soviet military advance. In the events that followed and still breed controversy to this day, the Red Army halted its advance and allowed the Nazis to use their remaining forces to brutally suppress the rising and completely destroy the city. It was only on 17 January 1945 that the Red Army entered Warsaw and installed the provisional pro-Soviet government. At Yalta, the Allies agreed to accept the Curzon line, thereby awarding the USSR nearly half of former Polish territory (including Galicia) in return for a Soviet agreement to broaden the political base of the provisional government with the addition of non-Communist Polish leaders. After subsequent negotiations, the Provisional Government of National Unity was formally recognized by the United States and Britain in July 1945.

Despite Stalin's promises of free elections, a bloc of four parties dominated by the Communists emerged victorious in the elections of January 1947. The Communists and the Socialists merged in December 1948 to form the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR). The PZPR consistently followed a pro-Soviet policy. Domestically, the party pursued a reconstruction program stressing agriculture and industrial development. It shunned the Marshall Plan and, in its first two decades, renounced all dealings with the Western powers.

The first decade of Communist rule was dominated by Stalinist repressions, tensions with the Roman Catholic Church, and a strong-handed Soviet influence, as practiced by Konstantin Rokossovsky, a Soviet general of Polish birth, who became Poland's defense minister in 1949 and served as deputy prime minister from 1952 until his resignation four years later. Rising nationalist sentiment, heightened by stagnating economic conditions, led to worker riots in Poznan on 2829 July 1956. In response to the unrest, a new Polish Politburo, headed by Wladyslaw Gomulka (who had been purged from the PZPR in 1949 and subsequently imprisoned because of his nationalist leanings), introduced liberalizations, including the abolition of farm collectivization, and improved relations with the Church. Conditions improved from those immediately after the war, but by the late 1950s, the reform movement had been halted, and the government took a harder line against dissent. In 1968 there were student demonstrations against the government in the university centers; the Gomulka regime countered with a political offensive in which many government officials and party members accused of anti-Socialist or proZionist sentiments were removed from office, and an estimated 12,000 Polish Jews left Poland.

Two years later, following a drought in 1969 and an exceptionally severe winter, demonstrations by shipyard workers in Gdańsk broke out on 16 December 1970 to protest economic conditions, the privileges of the Communist party elite, and an announced rise in food prices. The government responded with military force and after widespread violence, with soldiers firing on striking workers, at least 44 people were killed. The unrest led to the removal from power of Gomulka and the installation of Edward Gierek as the first secretary of the politburo on December 20. Under continued pressure from strikes, Gierek's government postponed the controversial incentive system and froze prices at their new levels. After receiving a substantial long-term Soviet grant (estimated at $100 million), the Polish government rolled back prices to their pre-December 1970 levels, and labor peace was restored. In a move to bolster his support, Gierek reinstated Church control over thousands of religious properties in northwestern Poland to which the government had held title since 1945.

During the 1970s, Gierek's government vigorously pursued a policy of détente with the West. Three US presidents visited Poland and Gierek himself traveled to the United States and to several West European countries. Peace agreements governing the Oder-Neisse line and formally recognizing Polish sovereignty in former German territories were concluded with West Germany, and trade pacts were signed with the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Austria, and other nations. With a bold plan of creating a "second Japan," Gierek secured huge loans (several billion dollars) from the West in hopes of building an industrial export economy and improving living conditions, which were at this point glaringly inferior to those in the capitalist world. Although many ambitious projects were undertaken, including the building of an oil refinery in Gdańsk and a new steel works plant in Katowice, mismanagement and the inefficiency of the socialist economy crippled real economic output and the prospects of repaying the foreign debts became increasingly dim. In 1976, the government announced food price increases but had to rescind them after the workers responded by striking. During the next several years, the economic situation kept deteriorating, and Polish nationalism, buoyed in 1978 by the election of the archbishop of Kraków to the papacy as John Paul II, continued to rise. In July 1980, new meat price increases were announced, and within a few weeks, well-organized workers all over Poland demanded a series of economic and political concessions, including the right to organize independent trade unions outside of the Communist party. The center of labor activity was the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, where in a public ceremony on 31 August, government officials agreed to allow workers the right to organize and to strike. The independent labor movement Solidarity, headed by Lech Walesa, the leader of the Gdańsk workers, and strongly supported by the Roman Catholic clergy, soon claimed a membership of about 10 million (about a fourth of the population), with its ranks filled not only with workers but also intellectuals. That month, Stanislaw Kania replaced Gierek as first secretary.

For more than a year, the government and Solidarity leaders negotiated, with Catholic Church officials often acting as mediators. As Solidarity became more and more overtly politicaldemanding, for example, free parliamentary electionsPoland's Communist leaders came under increasing pressure from the USSR to stop the "anti-Socialist" and "anti-Soviet" forces. On 18 October 1981, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, prime minister since February, replaced Kania as first secretary. On 13 December, after union leaders in Gdańsk called for a national referendum on forming a nonCommunist government in Poland, Jaruzelski set up the Military Council for National Salvation and declared martial law. To what extent Jaruzelski's abrupt crackdown was carried out to prevent direct Soviet military intervention is still unclear, although evidence suggests that the Kremlin had not drawn up any plans for a military intrusion into Poland. Almost the whole leadership of Solidarity, including Walesa, was arrested, and the union was suspended. Despite further strikes and rioting, which resulted in several deaths, the military had soon gained complete control. More than 10,000 people were arrested and detained for up to 12 months, and all rights and freedoms gained in the preceding year and a half were abolished. In January 1982, the United States imposed sanctions against Poland, including withdrawal of most-favored-nation status, veto of Poland's entry into the IMF, and suspension of fishing rights in US waters and of LOT flights to the United States. Protests and rioting continued sporadically into 1983, and some Solidarity leaders remained active underground, but these disturbances did not seriously threaten the military regime. On 22 July 1983, the government formally ended martial law and proclaimed an amnesty, but a series of legislative measures had meanwhile institutionalized many of the powers the government had exercised, including the power to dissolve organizations, forbid public meetings, and run the universities.

The internal political situation stabilized to such a degree that in July 1984 the government proclaimed a general amnesty, and the United States began to lift its sanctions the following month (the last sanctions were lifted in early 1987). When an outspoken priest, Father Jerzy Popieluszko, was kidnapped and subsequently murdered by two secret police officers, the government, in an unprecedented step, permitted a trial to take place in February 1985 in the result of which four security officers were convicted and sentenced. Another amnesty was proclaimed in September 1986, leading to the release of all remaining political prisoners. Economically, however, the country was spiraling out of control. Continued declines in standards of living and shortages of even basic necessities led to waves of strikes throughout Poland in spring and fall 1988, essentially paralyzing the nation. By November 1987 public antipathy had been so widespread that the government called for the first public referendum to be held in Poland in more than 40 years; this was also the first open election to be held within the Warsaw Pact. Although the ballot itself asked only for public support of an accelerated economic reform package, the people of Poland understood the referendum to be a vote of confidence in the government itself. The final tally was approximately two-thirds in support of the government, but because of a Solidarity-inspired voter boycott, only 67% of the eligible voters cast their ballots, which meant that the referendum failed to pass, a first-ever defeat for the government.

In autumn 1988, the entire government resigned and it became clear that talks with labor activists were inevitable. The negotiations leading up to the so-called "round-table talks," which finally opened in February 1989, were as delicate and prolonged as the talks themselves. However, in April 1989 agreement was reached on a number of unprecedented concessions: Solidarity was recognized as a legal entity; the post of president was created, to be filled by legislative appointment; some independent media were permitted to operate; and the Catholic Church was given full legal status. In June 1989 came perhaps the most far-reaching change, the establishment of a senate, complementing the existing Sejm, with the seats to be filled by open election. In addition, 35% of the seats in the Sejm were also made subject to direct election.

The government did all it could to make it difficult for opposition candidates to run: only two months were allowed in which candidates could gather the petitions necessary to get on the ballot, and the ballots themselves listed candidates alphabetically, with no indication of party affiliation. Despite those efforts, Solidarity won a decisive victory; 99 of the 100 seats in the Senate went to Solidarity members. Moreover, many government candidates in the Sejm lost seats because voters crossed out the names of unopposed government candidates, thus denying them the necessary 50% of the total votes cast.

In June 1989, the newly elected parliament named General Wojciech Jaruzelski Poland's president by the slenderest of margins. Two months later, Solidarity pressed to balance Jaruzelski's post of president with a non-Communist prime minister and at this point the discredited PZPR could do little but comply. Although it was widely expected that Lech Walesa might lead the first Solidarity government, he demurred, instead putting forward Tadeusz Mazowiecki, who took office on 24 August 1989, as the first non-Communist prime minister in the Eastern Bloc. That autumn, motivated at least in part by the events unfolding in Poland, a wave of "velvet revolutions" spread across Eastern Europe culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall. These events further accelerated the de-Sovietization of Polish government. In September 1990, Jaruzelski resigned, opening the way for new elections.

The election of Walesa as president was the formal end to Poland's Communist rule, with Poland rejoining the community of democratic nations. In what would become known as "shock therapy," the previously Socialist economy was abruptly opened to free market forces. Although initially inflation sky-rocketed and economic output continued to fall, by 1997 Poland was attracting large amounts of foreign investment and enjoying the highest growth rates in Europe. At the same time, not everyone enjoyed economic prosperity and political discord continued to grow. The number of political parties ballooned, making it difficult to undertake such complex and contentious issues as large-scale privatization, economic rationalization of Soviet-era giant industry, and fundamental constitutional revision. The October 1991 election saw 69 parties competing, with 29 actually winning seats, none of them with more than 14% of the vote. Inevitably, this resulted in coalition governments without clear mandates, giving Poland five prime ministers and four governments in 199193. This proliferation of parties reflected disparities among the electorate that emerged once the Communists had been removed as a unifying focus for opposition.

In the September 1993 election, the two most popular parties, the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) and the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) were made up largely of ex-Communists or other figures from the governments of the past. The apparent rejection of the gains of Solidarity and the return of the vanquished ex-Communists was variously interpreted as a rejection of "shock-therapy" economic transformation, the electorate's nostalgia for the more ordered life of the past, and a vote against the Catholic Church, or at least its social agenda of asserting close control on social issues such as abortion, school curriculum, and women's role in society.

Fears associated with the return of the many ex-Communists to power proved unfounded. Although differing from their predecessors on the pace of Poland's economic transformation, the government of Polish Peasant Party (PSL) leader Waldemar Pawlak, and his Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) partner, Aleksander Kwasniewski, remained generally committed to Poland's course of democratization and economic transition. The Constitution Commission proposed a new constitution that passed the National Assembly in April 1997, and was approved in a national referendum on 23 May 1997.

The parliamentary elections of 1997 saw the return to power of centrist and right of center Solidarity legacy parties, with Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW) forming a coalition with Jerzy Buzek as prime minister. The Buzek government presided over many successful reforms, including reorganization of local and regional administration, but an economic downturn and rising unemployment caused the voters to resoundingly return the reigns of power to the post-Communist SLD in 2001.

In 2005 the power pendulum swung again to the right with the scandal ridden SLD achieving less than 12% of the vote and the right of center Law and Justice (PiS) and centrist Civic Platform (PO) gaining the majority. The constant and almost predictable shift of power can be interpreted as a political maturation of the young democracy or as the failure of either side to address the main economic issue of unemployment, which reached its maximum level of 20% in December 2004. The exception to the changing political tides has been the reformed Communist Aleksander Kwasniewski of the SLD, who beat Walesa to be elected president in 1995 and won a second term in 2000.

It has been on the international scene that Poland has made its most visible strides since the end of Communist rule. In 1997, NATO invited Poland, along with the Czech Republic and Hungary, to join the alliance, and the three countries became members in March 1999. In May 2004 Poland became a member of the European Union (EU) and is now the organization's sixth most populous member. Poland asserted itself as a close American ally by being one of the few countries to participate in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequently administering an Iraqi occupied zone with the initial involvement of 2,400 of its own troops. Poland has also attempted to play a leading role in the politics of eastern and central Europe and has invested its political capital in encouraging democratization in Belarus and supporting the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine in December 2004.

Since joining the EU, investment and economic growth picked up, with new manufacturing jobs coming from Western Europe. However, corruption, inefficient bureaucracy and weak infrastructure continued to be problems and slowed economic growth. Unemployment began to drop, but at 17.9% it still remained the highest in the European Union.


Until 1997, the form of government in Poland was in the midst of a protracted transformation, which left a number of its important features unclear. Without a formal constitution, Poland had been functioning on a much-amended form of its Communist-era constitution. The most important modifications were the Jaruzelski government's concessions of April 1989, which created both the Senate and the office of president, and a package of amendments passed in October 1992 which are collectively called the "Little Constitution." Another important modification was the agreement of 1990, which made the presidency a popularly elected post, rather than parliamentary appointment.

The president is directly elected, for a term of five years. The post has traditional executive obligations and powers, such as the duty to sign into law or veto legislations, but also retains substantial legislative powers, including the right to introduce bills and draft legal amendments.

During his tenure, Lech Walesa fought to widen the powers of the presidency, arguing that at least during the transition period Poland required a strong president able to resolve impasses and disputes on the basis of "practical experience," rather than on points of legal niceties.

Walesa's successor, Aleksander Kwasniewski, succeeded in putting forth a new constitution in 1997.

The parliament consists of two houses, the Sejm, or lower house, with 460 seats, and the Senate, with 100 seats. The members of both houses serve four-year terms. Seats are filled on the basis of party lists; there is a minimum national vote threshold of 5% for parties, or 8% for coalitions, with the votes for parties which fail to reach those minimums assigned to victorious parties. The prime minister proposes, the president appoints, and the Sejm approves the Council of Ministers or cabinet. The president, who is elected by popular vote for a five-year term, appoints the prime minister, who is then confirmed by the Sejm.


After the political poverty of its Communist past, Poland initially saw a proliferation of political parties ranging across the full political spectrum, from the rabidly xenophobic nationalism of the Polish National Front (whose leader, Janusz Bryczkowski, invited Russian extremist Vladimir Zhirinovsky to Poland in 1994) to the socialist party, Union of Labor (UP). In between were special interest and even quirky parties, of which the best example may be the Polish Beerdrinkers' Party. Overall, 69 parties participated in the 1991 parliamentary elections, of which 29 gained seats, none with more than 14% of the total vote. By 1993, however, the political scene was stabilizing. Only 35 parties participated in that election; perhaps more significantly, only five received seats.

The local elections of 1994 showed the emergence of three basic political orientations shaped by shifting coalitions of parties, with the parties themselves often dissolving and reorganizing under new names. The Polish political spectrum slightly deviates from the traditional notions of right and left in part because in contrast to most countries where labor movements are associated with the political left, the Polish right has its roots in the Solidarity labor movement.

The Polish far right was initially represented by several coalitions: the Alliance for Poland, which included the Christian National Union, the Center Alliance, the Movement for the Republic, Peasant Alliance, and the Conservative Coalition, and the 11 November Agreement, which included the Conservative Party, the Party of Christian Democrats, the Christian-Peasant Alliance, and the Real Politics Union (a radical laissez-faire party). These parties generally favored a major role for the Catholic Church, and tended to draw their support from Poland's rural sectors; in 1994, they did best in the eastern districts. The religious right is represented by the League of Polish Families (LPR), which has a social platform based on traditional Catholic values and was not in favor of Polish membership in the EU. LPR won 7.97% of the vote in the October 2005 elections.

The mainstream right was represented in the years 1997-2001 by Elective Action Solidarity (AWS). AWS led the government in coalition with UW. However, after a resounding defeat in 2001 AWS dissolved and its members eventually migrated to either the centrist Civic Platform (PO) or the right of center Law and Justice (PiS). PiS supports continuous but careful economic reforms, is in favor of raising retirement benefits, and remains socially conservative, as evidenced by the prohibition of a gay pride parade in Warsaw by its leader Lech Kaczynski in 2005. Another important aspect of the PiS is a strong stand against corruption. In the recent parliamentary elections in October 2005 PiS was the most popular party with 26.99% of the vote.

The center was dominated by Freedom Union (UW), which was formed in April 1994, when the Liberal Democratic Congress merged with the Democratic Union. The centrist position derives largely from the intellectual wing of the original Solidarity, favoring radical economic transformation, while being less concerned with immediate impact upon workers. UW formed a coalition with AWS as the junior partner in 19972000. UW's most prominent member was Leszek Balcerowicz, the architect of the "shock therapy" economic reform and president of Poland's National Bank. After the elections of 1997 UW largely dissolved, with its members joining the newly formed Civic Platform (PO), which also absorbed politicians from AWS. Both the UW and PO draw much of their support from smaller cities and university centers, such as Kraków, and the prosperous regions of western Poland. In the last parliamentary election in October 2005, PO's platform included a proposal for a 15% flat tax. PO was the second most popular party with 24.14% and was set to rule in a coalition with PiS.

The left, which was almost entirely discredited in 1991, has shown remarkable resilience. Through the 1990s, the two major parties were the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), both descendents of elements of the old Communist party and its affiliates. The far left (some would argue far-right) is dominated by Self-Defense (SO) headed by Andrzej Lepper. Lepper's party is in favor of protectionist agriculture and sometimes anti-western isolationist foreign policy. In 2001 the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) in coalition with the Labor Union (UP), a minor left-wing party, won a decisive victory and formed a government under Leszek Miller. Although Miller's government presided over Poland's entry into the European Union, it became increasingly unpopular due to a series of scandals involving corruption and bribery, and failure to accelerate economic growth. With Miller himself forced to resign amid scandal in May 2005, SLD continued to rule as a minority government under Marek Belka until the elections in October 2005. Unhappy with Miller's leadership of the party, many members withdrew from SLD in 2004 and formed a new leftist party called Polish Social Democracy (SDPL). In the October 2005 elections SLD won 11.31%, SO 11.41% and PSL 6.96%. SDPL failed to make the 3% threshold to enter the parliament.

In addition to the major parties, a German Minority Party is active with most of its support from the Opole region in southwest Poland.

In the 1995 presidential elections, Aleksander Kwasniewski of SLD beat Lech Walesa by a small margin (51.7% to 48.3%) to become president for a five-year term. He was reelected in 2000 with 53.9% of the vote to nonparty candidate Andrzej Olechowski's 17.3% and AWS chairman Marian Krzaklewski's 15.6%. In a striking reversal, Walesa finished seventh with 0.8% of the vote.

Constitutionally limited to only two terms, Kwasniewski did not run again in 2005. The October presidential elections saw 14 candidates compete. In the first round the top five contenders were Donald Tusk (PO) with 36.33% of the vote, Lech Kaczynski (PiS) with 33.10%, Andrzej Lepper (SO) with 15.11%, and Marek Borowski (SDPL) with 10.33%. The SDL candidate withdrew from the election due to a scandal. In the second round, which included only the top two candidates, Tusk and Kaczynski, Kaczynski won with 54.04% of the vote to Tusk's 45.96%. Kaczynski's term as president extended to 2010.


Poland had been divided into 49 administrative districts, or voivodships, which were the basic administrative units under the Communists. In 1989 Solidarity government replaced that system with one in which the basic unit was the gmina, or local authority, which owned property and had responsibility for its own budget. The gmina elected a council, which appointed the executive officials actually responsible for day-to-day administration of the locality.

In 1994, there were 2,383 such local councils, with a mixed system of election. In districts containing more than 40,000 people, of which there were 110 in 1994, council representation was proportionally determined, based upon party affiliation. In the smaller districts, council representatives were elected by direct majority vote.

Originally these gmina councils were similar in makeup to the Solidarity Citizens Committees, from which they originated. Increasingly, however, the councils differentiated themselves, some becoming controlled by national parties, others remaining dominated by personalities who responded primarily to local issues.

Changes in local government structure were introduced in 1999, transforming Poland's 49 provinces into 16 new ones. A three-tier division of government was established: municipalities/communes, 308 counties (powiaty ), and 16 provinces (wojewodztwa ). Each of these divisions is governed by a council. Council members are directly elected, and appoint and dismiss the heads of the municipalities/communes (wojt ), the town mayors, the starosta or head of the county, and the speaker of the provincial councils.


There is a four-tiered court system in Poland: regional, provincial, appellate divisions, and a Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, the highest judicial organ, functions primarily as a court of appeal. The Supreme Court and lower courts are divided into criminal, civil, military, labor, and family chambers. Judges are nominated by the National Judicial Council and are appointed by the president for life.

There is also a Constitutional Tribunal which offers opinions on legislation and exercises authority of judicial review. Constitutional Tribunal judges are appointed to nine-year terms by the Sejm.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and have the right to appeal. Although the judiciary is independent, it suffers from inefficiency, lack of resources and lack of public confidence.


Polish armed forces numbered 141,500 active personnel in 2005, with reservists numbering 234,000. Army personnel numbered an estimated 89,000 members, equipped with 947 main battle tanks, 435 reconnaissance vehicles, 1,281 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 33 armored personnel carriers, and 1,482 artillery pieces. The army's aviation arm included 65 attack and 80 support helicopters. Naval manpower in 2005 totaled 12,300, including 2,000 naval aviation personnel. Equipment included three tactical submarines, one destroyer, three frigates, four corvettes, 19 patrol/coastal vessels, and 22 mine warfare vessels. The naval aviation wing was supplied with 18 combat capable aircraft and a total of 30 helicopters for use in search and rescue, antisubmarine warfare and for support missions. The air force had 30,000 active personnel and 142 combat capable aircraft, including 28 fighter and 53 fighter ground attack aircraft, as well as 53 transport and 220 training aircraft. Poland also had a paramilitary force of 21,400 personnel, of which 14,100 were border guards and 7,300 police. Poland provided troops and observers to 13 different nations or regions as part of UN, NATO or European Union missions. The defense budget in 2005 amounted to $5.16 billion.


Poland is a charter member of the United Nations, having signed on 24 October 1945; it participates in ECE and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IAEA, the World Bank, UNESCO, UNIDO, and the WHO. Poland was admitted to NATO on 12 March 1999. The nation is also a member of the Council of Europe, the Council of the Baltic Sea States, the EuroAtlantic Partnership Council, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the OECD, and the OSCE. Poland became a member of the European Union in 2004. The country has observer status in the OAS.

Polish troops have supported UN missions and operations in Kosovo (est. 1999), Lebanon (est. 1978), Western Sahara (est. 1991), Ethiopia and Eritrea (est. 2000), Liberia (est. 2003), Georgia (est., 1993), and the DROC (est. 1999), among others. In 2003, Poland assumed command of division of multinational forces working on peacekeeping and stabilization efforts in Iraq.

Poland is part of the Australia Group, the Zangger Committee, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group), and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In environmental cooperation, Poland is part of the Antarctic Treaty, the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Air Pollution, Ramsar, CITES, the London Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change and Desertification.


Until 1990, Poland had a centrally planned economy that was primarily state controlled. Agriculture, however, was only partly socialized, with state farms and cooperatives accounting for 23% of the country's total farmland in 1984. Since World War II, agriculture's predominance in the economy has been waning; in 1990, it accounted for 16.2% of the NMP, compared to 22.7% in 1970. In 2004, its contribution to GDP was an estimated 2.9%, although it continued to employ about 24% of the labor force. Poland, with its sizable coastline, has become a maritime nation of some note, having developed three major ports on the Baltic and a greatly expanded shipbuilding industry, which in 1991 produced 53 ships. In 2003, yearly production was reported as 50 ships, about one-tenth of the number of ships produced by South Korea and Japan, the industry leaders. However, in June 2002 the Szczecin Shipyards, considered an example of successful privatization, declared bankruptcy. Poland has rich coal deposits, but it lacks some important natural resources, such as petroleum and iron ore.

During 197175, Poland's NMP increased by about 12.8% annually; the growth was, to a substantial degree, the result of loans from the West. After 1975, however, Poland's economic performance deteriorated because of excessive investments, internal market problems, several bad harvests, the worldwide recession, and the political upheaval of 198081. An economic growth rate of 2.5% annually during 197678 was followed by declines of 2% in 1979, 4% in 1980, 12% in 1981, and 5.5% in 1982, while the debt to Western governments reached nearly $25 billion by 1983, rising to $33 billion in 1991, when the total hard-currency debt reached $52.5 billion. During 198091, the GNP grew at an annual average rate of only 1.2%. Inflation averaged 54.3% annually in the 1980s.

With Poland subjected to the "shock therapy" of a transition to a market economy, GDP fell 31.5% from 199092 and consumer prices shot up almost sixfold. However, the economy did not stay down long and it soon became one of the most robust in Eastern and Central Europe thanks to the government's tight fiscal and monetary policies. The economy grew by just under 7% in 1995, and by 5.5% in 1996 and 1997, for an average of over 5% a year 1994 to 1997. Most of the growth since 1991 came from the booming private sector, by 1997 accounting for about 70% of GDP (up from 50% in 1992), due in large part to the creation of new private firms. Poland's pace of growth declined after 1998, as the economy was impacted by the Russian financial crisis and then the global economic slowdown in 2001. In 1998, growth fell to 4.8%; in 1999, 4.1%; in 2000, to 4%; and in 2001, to 1%. Signs of economic recovery began to be seen in 2003. In 2002 GDP grew at 1.4%, but in 2003 at 3.8% and reached an impressive 5.3% in 2004, when Poland joined the EU. Similarly, inflation shot up to 10.1% in 2000 with the recovery of oil prices, but in 2001 moderated to 5.5%. In 2002 inflation was only 1.9%, in 2003 0.8%, in 2004 3.6% and in 2005 3.2%. The growth of the economy was accompanied by privatization. About 72% of the economy had been privatized by 2002, and the government has continued to privatize state-owned industries in recent years by successfully utilizing the Warsaw Stock Exchange to this end. The goal is to achieve the ownership structure similar to that of other EU member states, where private ownership is close to 80%.

The major problems facing the economy are unemployment and persistently high fiscal deficits. Unemployment increased to 13% in 1999, to 15% in 2000, to 16% in 2001, to 17% reaching 20% in 2002, before it started to fall again, to 19% in 2004 and 17.3% in 2005. On 7 June 2003, 75% in a vote with a 57.34% turnout (above the 50% minimum turnout required) voted "yes" to the referendum of Poland's joining the EU. Poland became a member of the EU on 1 May 2004. Economists estimate that it will take decades for per capita average income in Poland, which was about $4,800 in 2002 ($9,500 in purchasing power parity terms), to reach the EU average. In 2004 per capita average grew to $12,000.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Poland's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $489.3 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $12,700. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 3.3%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 2.1%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 2.8% of GDP, industry 31.7%, and services 65.5%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $2.314 billion or about $61 per capita and accounted for approximately 1.1% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $1.2 trillion or about $31 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.6% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Poland totaled $136.49 billion or about $3,573 per capita based on a GDP of $209.6 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 4.7%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 28% of household consumption was spent on food, 19% on fuel, 6% on health care, and 1% on education. It was estimated that in 2003 about 17% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


The labor force in 2005 totaled an estimated 17.1 million persons. As of 2003, agriculture accounted for 18.4% of the workforce, with industry at 28.6% and 53% in the services sector. In 2005, the estimated unemployment rate was 18.3%, with considerable underemployment as well.

Unions have the right to strike and bargain collectively, although union officials report that workers in the private sector are encouraged not to join unions by their employers and workers organizing unions often face discrimination. According to press reports, 17% of Poland's workforce was unionized.

The labor code prohibits employment for children under the age of 15. There are strict rules governing the work standards for those between 15 and 18 years old, however these are not regularly enforced. The minimum wage in state-owned enterprises was around $300 per month as of 1 January 2006. However, a large number of construction and seasonal agricultural workers earn less than the minimum wage. The legal standard workweek is 40 hours with 35 hours of uninterrupted rest per week. Overtime is subject to premium pay rates. The labor code defines occupational safety and health standards but they are not consistently enforced.


In 2003, agriculture engaged 18.4% of the Polish labor force (as compared with 53.5% in 1948 and 39.9% in 1967). About 62% of Poland's land is agricultural; of this area, 78% is cultivated. Overall agricultural output during 198090 fell by nearly 0.4% annually. Between 1990 and 2000, agricultural production dropped by 0.2% annually. Crop output was valued at nearly 5.76 billion in 2003. During 200204, crop output was down 8.5% compared with 19992001. In 2005, agriculture accounted for 5% of GDP, down from 14.5% in 1985.

The transition from an agricultural economy is due partly to territorial changes resulting from World War II (193945); largely agricultural areas were transferred to the USSR, whereas the areas acquired in the west were predominantly industrial. During the war, approximately one-third of the Polish farms were completely or partly laid waste, and five-sixths of the hogs and two-thirds of the cattle and sheep were destroyed, leaving farmers almost without draft animals and fertilizer. At the same time, population transfers delayed cultivation in the areas of resettlement.

Land redistribution followed both world wars but was much more extensive after World War II. A 1944 decree expropriated all holdings larger than 100 hectares (247 acres); land belonging to Germans or collaborators was also expropriated. Attempts at collectivization were generally resisted; after 1956, most collective farms were disbanded and their land redistributed. During the 1990s, about 3.7 million Poles were engaged in small plot farming (with an average farm size of 6 hectares/15 acres) on 2.1 million private farms, which produced about 75% of agricultural output. In 2003, Poland had over 2,172,000 agricultural holdings and the largest number of full-time agricultural employment in the 25-nation EU, at over 1,048,000 workers, and another 3,248,000 part-time agricultural workers that year.

In 2004, principal crops and their estimated yields (in thousands of tons) were potatoes, 13,746; sugar beets, 11,471; wheat, 9,450; rye, 4,129; barley, 3,476; triticale, 3,349 (highest in the world); and oats, 1,462. Yields have been poor because of infertile soil, insufficient use of fertilizers, and inadequate mechanization, in addition to the drought. There were 1,310,500 tractors in 1997, up from 620,724 during 197981. Although grain production has been Poland's traditional agricultural pursuit, since World War II, Poland has become an importerinstead of an exporterof grains, particularly wheat.

Poland grows an assortment of fruits and vegetables. Fruit and berry yields (in thousands of tons) for 2004 included: apples, 2,500; currants, 192; strawberries, 185; raspberries, 42; plums, 119; and pears, 77. Field vegetable production in 2004 (in thousands of tons) included: cabbage, 1,370; carrots, 928; onions, 866; cucumbers, 256; cauliflower, 206; and tomatoes, 213.


Pastures covered about 10.7% of the total land area in 2003. The government has encouraged the development of livestock production through increased fodder supply and improvement in breeding stock and partial tax relief for hog raising. Emphasis has been placed on the raising of hogs and sheep. In 2005, there were 18.1 million pigs, 5,483,000 head of cattle, and 316,000 sheep. In 2005 there were an estimated 90 million chickens, 5 million ducks, 3 million geese, and 600,000 turkeys.

Estimated livestock production in 2005 included (in thousands of tons): pork, 1,923; beef and veal, 304; poultry, 984; mutton, 1.6; and milk, 11,401. Butter production in 2005 was 190,000 tons; cheese, 595,000; and honey, 12,500.


Most of the fishing industry has been brought under state ownership. Sea fishing is conducted in the Baltic and North seas and in the Atlantic (Labrador, Newfoundland, and African waters), and there are inland fisheries in lakes, ponds, and rivers. The 2003 saltwater catch was 160,260 tons, predominantly sprat, herring, and cod; freshwater fishing yielded about 54,520 tons. Aquaculture in 2003 produced 54,000 tons. Exports of fish products amounted to $313.2 million in 2003, with processed and preserved fish and caviar accounting for $100 million.


As of 2003, 28.4% of Poland's land was forested. Pine, larch, spruce, and fir are the most important varieties of trees. Polish forests are subject to difficult growing conditions such as wide temperature fluctuations in winter, hurricane strength winds, and unusually high temperatures in summer. Most Polish forests grow on highly degraded sandy soils that hold little moisture. Moreover, much of Poland suffered from drought during the 1990s. Almost 50% of forests are young trees; only 17% of the stand can be cut. The Wielkopolski National Forest, a reservation in Rogalin, is famous for its thousand-year-old oak trees.

Despite the adversity, the forest products industry was one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the Polish economy in the 1990s. Since 1992, output of value-added products has doubled, excluding sawn timber. Wood processing occurs in the Biala Podlaska region, while large areas of forest in the Zamosc region foster development in the furniture industry. In 2004, exports of furniture were valued at $3.4 billion (mainly to Germany), making it a leading export commodity. In 2004, over 80% of furniture production was exported, compared to 17% in 1989. The timber cut in 2004 was estimated at 28 million cu m (1 billion cu ft) of roundwood. The annual allowable cut is typically around 28.7 million cu m (1.01 billion cu ft), equivalent to 33% of annual growth. Poland was once an exporter of timber, but given the booming construction of private homes, domestic production does not meet local demand. In 2004, imports of forestry products exceeded exports by $233.2 million.

The government has been attempting to offset losses from territorial redistribution and wartime destruction by afforestation. During 19902000, the forested area increased in size by an annual average of 18,000 hectares (44,500 acres) per year. Although land is being returned to forests, industrial pollution and pests are still causing deterioration. As of 2004, 31% of commercial forests were plantation or regrowth forests.


Poland ranked third globally in mined zinc, sixth in silver, seventh in coal and sulfur (a major export commodity), among the top ten in mine copper (3% of world output, and second in Europe and Central Eurasia), and was a leading producer in Central Eurasia and Europe of lead, lime, nitrogen, and salt. Poland had 9% of world sulfur reserves, about 6% of world copper ore reserves, and had significant resources of bituminous coal, salt, silver, and lead and zinc ores. The mining and quarrying sector, which included mineral fuels and processing, accounted for around 2% of Poland's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2002, which grew by 2.3% in that year from 2001. Total sales by the mining and quarrying sector contracted by 3% in 2002, with sales by the coal, lignite and peat mining industries falling by 5.8% in that same year.

Mine output of metals in 2002 included: mined zinc, 171,200 metric tons, down from 172,300 in 2001; silver (refined, primary), 1,229 metric tons; copper (ore and concentrate by metal content), 1,071,000 metric tons; and lead (by total mine content), 120,400 metric tons, down from 121,600 metric tons in 2001. All copper ore was mined by KGHM S.A., in the Lubin area; the government's share in KGHM's stock was 52%. Total copper reserves were 2,300 million tons containing 44 million tons of metal. Lead and zinc resources totaled 184 million tons; limestone and marl, 17,450 million tons; and gravel aggregates, 14,600 million tons. No gold was mined in 2003. Important industrial minerals produced in 2003 included hydraulic cement (10.948 million metric tons), glass sand (1.6 million tons), and sulfur (native [Frasch)], by-product, and from gypsum), 1.195 million tons. Also produced in 2002 were palladium, platinum, selenium, anhydrite, diatomite, feldspar, fuller's earth, fire clay, kaolin, gypsum, magnesite ore (crude), nitrogen, foundry sand, filing sand, lime sand, quartz, quartz crystal, sodium compounds, dolomite, limestone, and crushed and dimension stone. Barite mining, at Boguszow, was stopped in 1997, because of large-scale flooding.

Poland's mining and mineral-processing industry was extensive and appeared well positioned to respond to the country's rising needs for all forms of raw materials, especially those consumed by the construction sector. A major trend in Poland's nonferrous metals sector was the denationalization program that encompassed the aluminum, copper, and zinc industries. The acquisition of former German territories in 1945 enriched Poland with hard coal and, to a lesser extent, zinc and lead. Iron ore was found around Czestochowa, in south-central Poland, but in deposits of low metal content. Uranium deposits occurred in Lower Silesia.


Poland has only modest reserves of crude oil and natural gas. The country's main domestic energy sources are coal, lignite, and peat; and rivers remain a largely untapped source of power.

As of 1 January 2004, Poland had proven reserves of crude oil estimated at 96.4 million barrels and proven natural gas reserves estimated at 5.83 trillion cu ft. In 2003, oil production was estimated to average 23,500 barrels per day, while consumption in that year was tentatively placed at 424,000 barrels per day. As a result, Poland was a net importer of oil, most of which comes from Russia. Poland has the largest crude oil refining capacity in NorthCentral Europe, estimated at 350,000 barrels per day, as of 1 January 2004.

With natural gas reserves estimated at 5.83 trillion cu ft, as of 1 January 2004, Poland was North Central Europe's largest natural gas producer. In 2002, Poland produced an estimated 196 billion cu ft of natural gas, which accounted for 41% of domestic consumption, and came to an estimated 479 billion cu ft.

Coal, as previously noted, is Poland's most abundant energy source. Proven coal reserves at the beginning of 2003 amounted to 24.4 billion tons (of which about two-thirds are anthracite and bituminous), and are the largest in North Central Europe. In 2002, production of all types of coal was estimated at 177.8 million short tons, with demand at an estimated 149 million short tons in that year. Poland's hard coal reserves are concentrated in Upper Silesia, near the border with the Czech Republic. Other major coal basins are located in Lower Silesia and Lublin. Although the coal industry is one of the country's largest employers, a major restructuring of the industry has been initiated. From 1998 through 2002, employment in the industry went from 248,000 to 140,000 by the close of 2002. In addition, a further restructuring was planned for the period 2003 through 2006, and involves further reductions in employment and the closing of inefficient mines.

In 2002, Poland's electric power generating capacity was estimated at 29.307 million kW, of which 28.404 billion kW of capacity was dedicated to conventional thermal fuel plants. Hydroelectric capacity in 2002 was put at 0.868 billion kW, followed by geothermal/other at 0.035 billion kW. Electricity production in 2002 came to 133.980 billion kWh, of which 97.6% was from fossil fuels, 1.6% from hydropower, and less than 1% from other renewable sources. Consumption of electricity in 2002 was 117.533 billion kWh. In 2001, coal accounted for 93% of Poland's primary energy production. However, consumption had declined 23% between 1993 and 2002.

Poland has been gradually deregulating its power market since 1998. Each year an increasing number of companies are allowed to choose their own electricity provider. By 2006 the sector will be completely open.


Leading industries in Poland include food processing, fuel, metals and metal products, automotive parts, chemicals, coal mining, glass, shipbuilding, and textiles. Industrial production increased by 14.5% annually during 197175, but in the late 1970s, the growth rate began to fall. During the 1980s, it grew at an annual rate of 1.1%. With the destabilizing effects of the dissolution of the Soviet bloc and central planning, industrial production initially fell by 26% in 1990 before returning to positive growth between 199198. Poland produced 10 million tons of steel per year in the mid-1990s. Sulfur is another important industrial commodity; and its production totaled 1,901 tons per year. The cement industry turned out 12.3 million tons during the same period.

Light industries were long relegated to a secondary position but, since the 1970s, Poland has increased its production of durable household articles and other consumer goods. In the mid-1990s, Poland produced 401,000 automatic washing machines, 584,000 refrigerators and freezers, 841,000 television sets, 307,000 radios, and 21,000 tape recorders and dictaphones per year.

Currently Poland is among the top 10 world producers of coal, copper and sulphur, and among the top 20 producers of sulphuric acid, cement, television sets, passenger cars, buses and trucks, and power engineering. Poland is also a leading world producer of some food stuffs such as rye, sugar beets, meat, milk barley, wheat, sugar, and eggs.

Since the accession to the EU, there has been a rapid increase in exports as well as in relocation of production facilities such as car and truck assembly plants and household appliances plants from Western Europe to Polish commercial zones such as Lódz and Wroclaw. In addition, there have been many investments from non-European countries such as plans to build an LCD factory near Wroclaw by the South Korean concern LG Electronics.


Destruction of the Polish scientific community, buildings, and equipment during World War II was nearly total, requiring a tremendous rebuilding program. Attached to the various university faculties and government bodies are institutes, laboratories, and clinics devoted primarily to research, but some offering advanced instruction. In 1952, the Polish Academy of Sciences, established in Warsaw, replaced the old Polish Academy of Sciences and Letters of Cracow; it has sections of biological sciences; mathematical, physical, and chemical sciences; technical sciences; agricultural and forestry sciences; medical sciences; and earth and mining sciences. As of 1996, 54 scientific and technological research institutes were affiliated with the Academy of Sciences, and there were 101 scientific and technological research institutes attached to government ministries. In Warsaw are located a botanical garden and museums devoted to zoology, technology, and the earth. The Polish Maritime Museum is located in Gdańsk. The Nicholas Kopernik Museum in Frambork includes exhibits on the history of medicine and astronomy.

Research and development (R&D) expenditures in 2002 amounted to $2.4 trillion or 0.59% of GDP. Of that amount, 61.1% came from government sources, followed by the business sector at 31%. Higher education, private nonprofit groups and foreign sources accounted for 2.9%, 0.3% and 4.8%, respectively. Personnel engaged in R&D in that same year included 1,469 scientists and engineers and 296 technicians per million people. High technology exports in 2002 totaled $915 million, or 3% of the country's manufactured exports.

In 1996, Poland had 50 universities offering courses in basic and applied sciences. In 19871997, science and engineering students accounted for 28% of university enrollment. In 2002, of all bachelor's degrees awarded, 16.3% were in the sciences (natural, mathematics and computers, engineering).


In 1990, Poland replaced its 40-year old centrally planned economy with a free market system. Most small enterprises were privatized, bringing an end to chronic shortages of consumer goods. At the end of 1996, the share of private enterprises in retail trade exceeded 90%. The resulting increase in domestic demand was a primary factor in strengthening the business cycle. In the past few years, the trend in retail establishments, particularly in major cities, has moved from small, independent shops to international supermarket chains, hypermarkets, and large specialty stores. However, small business-owners have been forming associations aimed at promoting and preserving local, independent retailing.

Offices are open from 8 or 9 am to 4 pm Monday through Friday. Food stores are open from 6 or 7 am to 7 pm; other stores, from 11 am to 7 or 8 pm; and banks, from 9 am to 4 pm Monday through Friday, and 9 am to 1 pm on Saturday. The most important trade exhibition is the annual Poznan International Fair, which takes place in June.

According to World Bank report published in 2004, Poland is among the top 10 countries improving their operating climate for enterprises. There were over 90 franchises in operation, with national firms as well as foreign firms represented. The number of foreign enterprises has been growing constantly. According to GUS (the Central Statistical Office), in 2002, about 1012% of the retail market was operated by foreign firms, particularly through chain stores providing a range of goods from food and apparel to furniture and hardware supplies; in the first half of 2004, the number of foreign enterprises exceeded 50,000 an increase of 1,034 companies. The attractiveness of Poland is connected with its advantageous geographical location, EU membership, low labor costs and a high number of people with higher education. The largest inflow of foreign direct investment has been recorded by the manufacturing sector, especially by the automotive and electronic equipment and pharmaceutical branches.


Until recently, foreign trade was a state monopoly under the control of the Ministry of Foreign Trade. After World War II, the orientation of Polish trade shifted from Western and Central European countries to Eastern Europe. This changed with the dissolution of the Soviet-bloc CMEA in 1991. In December of that year, Poland signed an association agreement with the EC (now the EU) and by 2000, 70% of its exports and 61% of its imports were going to EC members. Poland also fosters trade through its membership in the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), which includes Hungary, the Czech Republic, and the Slovak Republic. Since gaining full membership in the EU in 2004, Polish exports to the West have continued to increase faster than imports. Trade with the countries to the east has recently recovered to the levels from before the 1998 Russian financial crisis, although it is often stifled by minor frictions with Russia and Belarus, for example the controversial restrictions on Polish meat exports to Russia in the fall of 2005.

Poland's export commodities are a mixture of manufactured goods including furniture (7.0%), garments (6.1%), motor vehicles (4.6%), iron and steel (3.9%), and ships (3.3%). Export commodities

Italy-San Marino-Holy See3,057.75,752.0-2,694.3
United Kingdom2,676.12,495.8180.3
Czech Republic2,136.32,300.7-164.4
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account-4,603.0
   Balance on goods-5,725.0
   Balance on services527.0
   Balance on income-3,639.0
   Current transfers4,234.0
Capital Account-46.0
Financial Account8,734.0
   Direct investment abroad-196.0
   Direct investment in Poland4,123.0
   Portfolio investment assets-1,296.0
   Portfolio investment liabilities3,740.0
   Financial derivatives-870.0
   Other investment assets-1,838.0
   Other investment liabilities5,071.0
Net Errors and Omissions-2,879.0
Reserves and Related Items-1,206.0
() data not available or not significant.

formed from natural resources include wood (2.5%); coal, lignite, and peat (2.3%); and copper (2.3%).


Measured in terms of commodity trade figures, negative balances have been the rule in Poland in the postWorld War II period. In 1991, the collapse of exports to the Soviet Union dealt a sharp blow to overall export performance. The requirement to exchange by means of hard currency for Soviet raw materials and energy prevented a repeat of the 1990 trade surplus. Poland attracted approximately $50 billion of foreign direct investment between 1990 and 2000. Net official reserves have increased in recent years, due to large capital surpluses due to foreign direct investment and portfolio inflows.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2002 the purchasing power parity of Poland's exports was $32.4 billion while imports totaled $43.4 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $11 billion.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in 2001 Poland had exports of goods totaling $41.7 billion and imports totaling $49.3 billion. In 2005 imports totaled 50.9 billion and exports totaled 45.0 billion.


The Banking Law of 1 July 1982 substantially reformed the Polish banking system by giving banks an effective role in setting monetary and credit policy, thereby allowing them to influence economic planning. The Council of Banks, consisting of top bank officers and representatives of the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Finance, is the principal coordinating body.

The National Bank of Poland (Narodowy Bank Polski-NBP), created in 1945 to replace the former Bank of Poland, is a state institution and the bank of issue. It also controls foreign transactions and prepares financial plans for the economy. On 1 January 1970, the National Bank merged with the Investment Bank and has since controlled funds for finance and investment transactions of state enterprises and organizations. The function of the Food Economy Bank and its associated cooperative banks is to supply short and long-term credits to rural areas. The national commercial bank, Bank Handlowy w Warszawie (BH), finances foreign trade operations. The General Savings Bank (Bank Polska Kasa Opieki-PKO), a central institution for personal savings, also handles financial transfers into Poland of persons living abroad.

In March 1985, two types of hard-currency accounts were introduced: "A" accounts, bearing interest, for currency earned in an approved way; and "B" accounts, for other currency, bearing no interest. "B" accounts can be converted into "A" accounts after one year. Major enterprises in Poland conduct their business by interaccount settlements through the National Bank rather than by check, and wages are paid in cash. Banking laws in 1989 opened the country's banking system to foreign banks.

A fundamental reorganization of the banking sector took place between 1990 and 1992. The NBP lost all its central planning functions, including holding the accounts of state enterprises, making transfers among them, crediting their operations, and exercising financial control of their activities. The NBP thus became only a central bank, and state enterprises competed with other businesses for the scarce credits available from commercial banks. Nine independent (so-called commercial), although state-owned, regional banks were created.

In 1993, the first of these, the Poznan-based Wielkopolski Bank Kredytowy (WBK), was privatized. A second highly controversial privatization took place in early 1994 with the sale of the Silesian Bank (Bank Slaski). Also, the Krakow-based Bank Przemyslowo-Handlowy (BPH) was disposed of at the start of 1995 and Bank Gdanski was sold in late 1995. With four major banks privatized, five remained to be sold off in a process that was supposed to have been completed by 1996. With no real hope of meeting this deadline, the Polish government returned in 1996 to proposals for "bank consolidation" prior to privatization. A major round of privatization was due to begin in 1998-99 beginning with the sale of Pekao, the country's largest commercial bank. This sale finally put over half of the industry's holdings in private hands. At the same time, foreign investment in Polish banks continued to increase. Citibank, ING, Commerzbank, Allied Irish Bank, and J.P. Morgan were leading foreign investors in 1998. In 2001, Bank Handlowy w Warszawie SA merged with Citibank (Poland) SA, but retained its historic name.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $23.0 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $82.8 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 16.2%. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 14%.

In early 1991 important legislation was introduced to regulate securities transactions and establish a stock exchange in Warsaw. At the same time, a securities commission was formed for consumer protection. A year later, the shares of 11 Polish companies were being traded weekly on the new exchange. Restructuring the

Revenue and Grants223,659100.0%
    Tax revenue127,20356.9%
    Social contributions69,50431.1%
    Other revenue26,52611.9%
    General public services81,29430.8%
    Public order and safety8,5923.3%
    Economic affairs11,9884.5%
    Environmental protection
    Housing and community amenities5,3252.0%
    Recreational, culture, and religion1,8610.7%
    Social protection135,61551.5%
() data not available or not significant.

financial market not only was necessary for increasing the overall efficiency of the economy and accelerating privatization, but also was a precondition for the rapid influx of Western capital critical to economic development.

When the Warsaw Stock Exchange opened in April 1991, it had only five listed companies, but by September 1996 that figure had increased to 63. Into 1998, the market still suffered growing pains similar to those afflicting other emerging markets. In particular, the high liquidity of Polish stocks made Poland particularly vulnerable to panic selling. Market capitalization in 2001 was $26 billion, down 17% from the $31.3 billion level of 2000. The WIG All Share Performance Index was at 13,922.2 in 2001, down 22% from 17.847.6 in 2000. As of 2004, a total of 225 companies were listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, which had a market capitalization of $71.102 billion. In 2004 the WIG All Share Performance Index rose 27.9% from the previous year to 26,636.2.


In 1948, all insurance other than social insurance was included in a centralized State Insurance Bureau, with the former reinsurance organization, Warta, continuing its activity. In 1994, Warta was privatized and was one of three major insurers who, together, controlled over 90% of Poland's insurance market. In 1999, 54 licensed insurance companies competed in the Polish market.

Insurance is dominated by a state concern, PZU, but a number of Western companies, including the United Kingdom's Commercial Union (CU), have been tempted into joint ventures in the life insurance end of this underdeveloped market. CU began its Polish operations in cooperation with the Wielkopolski Bank Kredytowy (WBK) bank. It sold around 130,000 policies in its first four years. PZU was privatized in 1999. In Poland, third-party auto liability, farmer's liability, fire insurance, workers' compensation, and nuclear liability are all compulsory. For 2003, the value of direct premiums written totaled $6.258 billion, of which nonlife premiums accounted for $3.946 billion. In 2003, Poland's top nonlife insurer was PZU, while PZU Zycie was the nation's leading life insurer, with gross written nonlife and life insurance premiums of $1.86 billion and $1.32 billion, respectively.


The annual budget is presented to the Sejm in December and becomes effective for the fiscal year beginning on 1 January. A new set of economic reforms, announced in early 2002, aim to improve the country's investment climate and public finances. Privatization in the former Eastern bloc nation has been fairly successful, with approximately two-thirds of GDP now coming from the private sector. By the early 1990s, Poland was the first formerly planned economy in Eastern Europe to come out of recession and experience economic growth.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Poland's central government took in revenues of approximately $52.7 billion and had expenditures of $63.2 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$10.4 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 47.3% of GDP. Total external debt was $123.4 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were z223.6 million and expenditures were z263.58 million. The value of revenues was us$54.6 billion and expenditures us$65.6 billion, based on a market exchange rate for 2001 of us$1 = z4.0939 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 30.8%; defense, 3.4%; public order and safety, 3.3%; economic affairs, 4.5%; housing and community amenities, 2.0%; health, 0.8%; recreation, culture, and religion, 0.7%; education, 4.8%; and social protection, 51.5%.


Personal income tax in Poland in 2005 is progressively structured with a top rate of 40%, although under certain circumstances, an individual may opt to be taxed at a flat 19% rate on business income. Individuals realizing capital gains from the sale of land, a building, or dwelling not used for business purposes is subject to a 10% rate.

Poland has a general corporate profits tax rate of 19%. Capital gains and branch operations are each taxed at the corporate rate. Dividends and interest paid to residents and nonresidents are taxed at a flat 19% rate. Income from interest, fees and royalties are subject to a 20% withholding rate, unless other rates have been agreed to in bilateral tax treaties (BITs). Poland has BITs with at least 66 countries. In the BIT with the United States, withholding rates are 0% on interest income, 10% on income from royalties, and 5% on dividend income if the receiving company owns at least 10% of voting shares.

The main indirect tax is a system of value-added taxes (VATs). There are four VAT rates: 22% on most goods and some services; 7% on processed foodstuffs and construction materials; 3% on unprocessed foodstuffs; 0% on exported goods and services, and "VAT-exempt" applied to several groups of services, including financial services, insurance and health care. Excise taxes are charged on alcohol, cars, petrol, and tobacco products. There is also a civil transactions tax.


Poland uses the Harmonized System of Classification. Products are divided into three categories to determine which rate they receive: developing nations, WTO members, and countries with which Poland has a special trade relationship such as a bilateral preferential trade agreement. Under the terms of a 1992 agreement, Poland uses the EU Nomenclature System of Tariff classification and has granted duty-free status to over 1,000 line items from EU countries. Tariffs range from 0% to nearly 400%. In addition, all goods are subject to a 5% import tax, an excise tax on luxury items, and a VAT of 0%, 3%, 7%, or 22%, depending on the commodity. As a result of its efforts to join in the next round of EU expansion, Poland is bringing its trade regulations in line with EU standards.


Prior to World War II, considerable foreign capital was invested in the Polish economy, particularly in petroleum and mining, which were mostly foreign owned. A nationalization decree in 1946 confiscated foreign properties and nationalized Poland's industries, eliminating foreign investments completely. The decree provided for no compensation procedures and foreign governments involved negotiated directly with Poland. The first joint venture with Western counterparts (one Austrian and one US company) was formed in early 1987 to build a new airport terminal in Warsaw. In mid-1991, there were 4,100 foreign registrations, worth $506 million, and in 1993 another $2 billion in foreign investment entered Poland. Among the industrial companies sold to Western interests were Polam-Pila (lightbulbs) to Phillips, Polkolor (TV sets) to Thomson, Pollena-Bydgoszcz (detergents) to Unilever, and Wedel (confectioneries) to Pepsico Foods.

In 199697, Poland continued to invite foreign investors to help the government turn some of its banks and oil, arms, and telecommunications companies over to the private sector. In October 1996 President Aleksander Kwasniewski stated that the government's campaign to shed costly state-owned enterprises had been successful, with the private sector now accounting for about 70% of the goods and services produced in the economy. Total foreign direct investment (FDI) reached nearly $27.3 billion in 1998. FDI inflow in 1998 was $6.3 billion, up from nearly $5 billion in 1997, and increased to $7.2 billion in 1999, undeterred by the effects of the Russian financial crisis. Annual FDI inflow peaked at over $9.3 billion in 2000, having grown at an average rate of 44% a year since 1991 to 2000. Total FDI stock was over $42 billion in 2000. In 2001 and 2002, the economic slowdown, and, particularly, the worldwide decline in foreign investments, helped reduce annual FDI inflows into Poland to $8.3 billion in 2001 and to $6.06 billion in 2002. Cumulative FDI as of 2002 was $61.45 billion.


After World War II, the economy of Poland was centrally planned and almost completely under state control, especially in nonagricultural sectors. The nationalized industries and businesses operated within the national economic plan and were governed by the directives issued by the pertinent ministries. After 1963, however, centralized planning and management were somewhat relaxed, and state-owned enterprises gained more freedom in the design and implementation of their programs. Private undertakings were confined to personal crafts and trades and agriculture.

Under the three-year plan for 194749, principal emphasis was placed on the reconstruction of war-devastated areas and industries, in order to raise production and living conditions at least to their prewar levels. Economic planning followed Soviet lines, setting production goals that determined tasks for each sector on a long-term basis. Under the six-year plan for 195055, the emphasis continued to be on heavy industry, and the housing, transport, agriculture, and consumer sectors lagged. The five-year plan for 195660, originally cast along the same lines, was modified after the 1956 disturbances. It called for a lessened rate of industrial expansion and for increases in agricultural output, housing, consumer goods, and social services. Under a long-range plan for 196175, which governed the three five-year plans falling within that period, emphasis was placed on a direct improvement in living standards. The first and second of these plans (196165 and 196670) were oriented toward investments intended (1) to develop the raw-material base of the country, especially the newly discovered resources of sulfur, copper, and lignite; (2) to secure employment opportunities for the rapidly growing population of working age; and (3) to improve Poland's international trade balance. The five-year plan for 196165 reached its industrial targets but fell short in the areas of agriculture and consumer goods. The period 196670 witnessed two poor agricultural years in addition to export lags, and there were shortages of basic food commodities in 196970.

In late 1970, violent protests erupted over the government's stepped-up efforts to increase production. After the change in political leadership from Gomulka to Gierek, government emphasis shifted from heavy industry to light, consumer-oriented production. In addition, through a concentration of investment in mechanization, fertilizers, and other farm improvements, the government sought and achieved a 50% increase in food production. Overall, the 197175 five-year plan achieved its main targets by a wide margin, with industrial production up about 73%. The 197680 plan, which aimed at a 50% increase in industrial production and a 16% increase in agricultural output, ran into difficulty almost from the beginning, and by 1979 the economy had entered a period of decline and dislocation that continued into 1982. An economic reform stressing decentralization of the economy was introduced in January 1982, but it failed to produce any significant improvements. With price rises and consumer goods shortages continuing to fuel popular discontent, the government in March 1983 announced a three-year austerity plan for 198385. Its aims included a general consolidation of the economy, self-sufficiency in food production, and increased emphasis on housing and the production of industrial consumer goods. By 1986, the economy had rebounded. The 198690 plan expected the national income to grow 33.5% annually, industrial output to increase by 3.2% each year, and exports to grow by 5% (in fixed prices) annually. These goals were not reached. A "second stage," proclaimed in 1986, called for more autonomy for individual enterprises and for more efficient management, with top jobs filled without regard to political affiliations.

The Economic Transformation Program adopted in January 1990 aimed to convert Poland from a planned to a market economy. Measures were aimed at drastically reducing the large budget deficit, abolishing all trade monopolies, and selling many state-owned enterprises to private interests.

The slow pace of privatization picked up somewhat in 1995, as 512 smaller state enterprises were transferred to private National Investment Funds under the Mass Privatization Program, but large-scale industry remained largely under state control. However, the government subsequently made an attempt to privatize such large-scale sectors of the economy as banks and oil, arms, and telecommunications. Poland in the early 2000s was in the process of bringing its economic policies in line with EU standards. These policies promise even further liberalization and foreign investment into the Polish economy. Poland officially joined the EU in May 2004. In 2002, the government announced a new set of economic reforms, including improving the investment climate (particularly for small- and medium-sized enterprises), and improving the country's public finances to prepare the way for the adoption of the euro. Recently, the government has focused utilizing the EU funds to improve Poland's infrastructure.


A social insurance institute administers social security programs through a network of branch offices, under the provision of new legislation passed in 1998 and implemented in 1999. Social security, including social insurance and medical care, covers virtually the entire population. Old age, disability, and survivors' pensions are provided, as well as family allowances, sickness benefits, maternity benefits, workers' compensation, and unemployment. The system is funded by contributions from employers and employees and government subsidies. In 2004 a revised universal system of family allowances funded by the government covers all residents.

The constitution establishes that all citizens are equal, regardless of gender, but discrimination persists. Women participate actively in the labor force, but are concentrated in low-paying professions and earn less than men on average. Also, women are more likely to be fired and less likely to be promoted than men. Violence against women and domestic abuse remain a widespread problem. The law does not provide restraining orders, and even convicted abusers generally go unpunished. As of 2004, there were not enough shelters for battered women. Sexual harassment in the workplace is slowly being addressed.

The Romani minority living in Poland faces discrimination by local authorities. Anti-Semitic harassment, vandalism, and violence persist. The judicial system is hampered by inefficiency and budget constraints, and there are marginal restrictions on freedoms of speech and press.


As of 2004, there were an estimated 220 physicians, 490 nurses, and 30 dentists per 100,000 people. The same year, the total health care expenditure was estimated at 6.2% of GDP.

Poland's birth rate was an estimated 10.3 per 1,000 people as of 2002. Approximately 75% of married women (ages 15 to 49) used contraception. Poland immunized children up to one year old against tuberculosis, 94%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 98%; polio, 96%; and measles, 97%.

Life expectancy in 2005 averaged 74.74 years and infant mortality was 7.36 per 1,000 live births. The general mortality rate was 10 per 1,000 people.

There were many cases of tuberculosis as part of the spread of the disease throughout much of Eastern Europe. The heart disease mortality rate for Polish men and women was below average for high development countries. The likelihood of dying after 65 of heart disease was 240 in 1,000 for men and 201 in 1,000 for women. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 14,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 100 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


Almost 40% of all urban dwelling space was destroyed during World War II. Although investment in public housing has increased, and credits have been assigned for cooperative and private construction, the housing shortage remained critical five decades later. The average wait for an apartment ranged from 1015 years. In 1984 there were 10,253,000 dwelling units; an additional 193,000 dwelling units were constructed in 1985. In 2002, there were about 12.5 million dwelling units registered in the census serving about 13.3 million households; about 93.9% of these were occupied dwellings. About 67.6% of all dwellings were in urban areas. About 55.2% of all dwellings were owned by private individuals. The average number of persons per dwelling was 3.25. At least 76.2% of all dwellings were built after 1944. The housing deficit in 2002 was estimated at about 1,567,000; an estimated 6.5 million people were living in substandard housing.


Primary, secondary, and most university and other education is free. State and local expenditure on education is, therefore, substantial. Lower schools are financed by local budgets, higher and vocational schools from the state budget. As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 5.6% of GDP, or 12.8% of total government expenditures.

Since 1999, the school system, which is centralized, consists of an six-year primary school followed by a three-year lower secondary general education school. Students then have an option to enroll in a four-year technical school, a three-year upper secondary school, or a two- to three year vocational school. Vocational schools are attended by students studying technology, agriculture, forestry, economy, education, health services, and the arts. The academic year runs from October to June.

In 2001, about 49% of children between the ages of three and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 98% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 91% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 98.5% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 13:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 14:1.

Higher learning is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Higher Education and other ministries. A matriculation examination, which is common for all students, is required for admission to institutions of higher learning. As of 2004, there were 128 state institutions of higher learning and 304 nonstate institutions. Jagiellonian University, among the oldest in Europe, was established at Cracow in 1364. Other prominent universities are the Warsaw University; the Central School of Planning and Statistics (Warsaw); the Higher Theater School (Warsaw); the Academy of Fine Arts (Cracow); and the Adam Mickiewicz University (Poznań). During the communist era the Roman Catholic University at Lublin was the only free private university in the Socialist bloc. Evening and extramural courses are available for anyone who is interested and is not a part of the school system. Foreign students are also welcome to study in Poland, either as regular students or at their summer schools. In 2003, about 60% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program; 50% for men and 71% for women. The adult literacy rate for 2003 was estimated at about 99.8%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 5.6% of GDP, or 12.8% of total government expenditures.


The National Library, established in Warsaw in 1928, is the second-largest in Poland, with about 2.8 million items, including periodicals, manuscripts, maps, illustrations, and music. Other important libraries are the Public University and the government departmental libraries in Warsaw; Poland's largest library, the Jagiellonian University Library in Cracow, which has 3.5 million volumes; and the Ossolineum Library in Wroclaw. There are over 9,000 public libraries in the country. Lax security at Poland's libraries poses a challenge to the preservation of rare documents: in 1998, a scientific library in Cracow reported the theft of a rare book by Nicholas Copernicus, and in 1999, the Jagiellonian University Library reported the theft of an indeterminate number of rare manuscripts.

Of the more than 500 museums in Poland, the foremost is the National Museum in Warsaw, which has an extensive and important art collection as well as a collection of Polish art from the 12th century to present day. Other important museums are the National Museum in Cracow, notable for its collection of Far Eastern Art, and the National Museum in Poznań, which has a celebrated collection of musical instruments. Cracow also has an important collection of European decorative arts at the Wawel Royal Castle, housed in a 16th century manor house, and the Czartoryski Museum, a world-class collection of antiquities and contemporary artifacts including 35,000 prints, drawings, and paintings. Warsaw has dozens of museums, including the Center for Contemporary Art, founded in 1986, in Ujazdowski Castle; the Museum of Independence, founded in 1990, chronicling Poland's pivotal role in the collapse of the Soviet Empire; the Museum of Polish Emigration to America; the Frederick Chopin Museum, chronicling the life of one of the country's best-known composers; the Marie Curie Museum, housed at her birthplace; and the Museum of the Jewish Historical Institute.


In 2003, there were an estimated 319 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 500,000 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 451 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

In 2004, the government-owned Polish Television (TVP) was the most widely viewed network with four channels accounting for about 54% of the broadcasting market share. The main privately held competitors were the TVN and Polsat networks. Cable television and various satellite services are available. As of 1998, there were 14 AM and 777 FM radio stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 523 radios and 229 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 94 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 142 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 232 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 565 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

The largest Polish daily newspapers, with circulation as noted, are: Trybuna Slaska, 800,000 in 2002; Gazeta Wyborcza, 558,000 in 2004; 460,000 (weekend edition in 2005); Express Wieczorny, 400,000 in 2002; Zycie Warszawy, Express Illustrowany, 370,000; Gazeta Poznanska, 320,000 (weekend edition); Gazeta Robotnicza, 315,000; Fakt, 300,000 in 2003; Czas Krakowski, 260,000 in 2002 (weekend edition); Nasz Dziennik, 250,000 in 2005; Sztandar Mlodych, 250,000 in 2002; and Rzeczpospolita, 244,000 in 2004.

Though the constitution provides for free speech and a free press, there are some restrictions on these rights. The Penal Code prohibits speech which publicly insults or ridicules the Polish state or its principal organs; it also prohibits advocating discord or offending religious groups. Though the media are not censored, they may be subject to prosecution under these and other penal codes.


The Polish Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Foreign Trade promote foreign trade by furnishing information, establishing or extending commercial relations, and arranging for Polish participation in trade fairs, and exhibitions abroad. The most important worker's organization in Poland is Solidarity, founded in 1980 by Lech Welesa. There are a number of professional associations and trade unions representing a wide variety of occupations.

The P.E.N. ClubPoland is based in Warsaw. The Frederick Chopin Society is a multinational organization promoting the life and works of this Polish composer and pianist. Several professional associations, such as the Polish Medical Association, also serve to promote research and education in specific fields.

There are also many cultural, sports and social organizations in Poland. National youth organizations include the European Federalist Youth, Junior Chamber, Polish Students' Union, Polish Environmental Youth Movement, Union of Young Christian Democrats, The Polish Scouting and Guiding Association, and YMCA/YWCA. There are numerous sports associations promoting amateur competitions in a wide variety of sports for athletes of all ages. There are organizations affiliated with the Special Olympics and the Paralympic Committee, as well as the Olympic Committee.

National women's organizations include the Democratic Women's Union and the Polish Association of University Women. Other social action groups include the Helsinki Human Rights Foundation and Fundacja Stefana Batorego, a group which promotes a democratic and open society. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, Habitat for Humanity, UNICEF, and Amnesty International.


The main tourist attractions include the historic city of Cracow, which suffered little war damage; the resort towns of Zakopane, in the Tatras, and Sopot, on the Baltic; and the restored Old Town in Warsaw, as well as the capital's museums and Palace of Science and Culture. Camping, hiking, and football (soccer) are among the most popular recreational activities.

Foreign visitors to Poland must have a valid passport. All visitors are required to carry a visa except citizens of over 30 nations including the United States and members of the European Union.

There were approximately 52 million visitors who arrived in Poland in 2003, about 99% of whom came from Europe. Hotel rooms numbered 68,588 with 134,323 beds and an occupancy rate of about 36%. The average length of stay was three nights. That year tourism receipts totaled $4.7 billion.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Warsaw at $286 per day. Elsewhere in Poland, daily travel expenses were estimated to be between $139 and $221.


Figures prominent in Polish history include Mieszko I (fl.10th century), who led Poland to Christianity; his son and successor, Boleslaw I ("the Brave," d.1025), the first king of sovereign Poland; Casimir III ("the Great," 130970), who sponsored domestic reforms; and John III Sobieski (162496), who led the PolishGerman army that lifted the siege of Vienna in 1683 and repelled the Turkish invaders. Tadeusz Andrzej Bonawentura Kościuszko (17461817), trained as a military engineer, served with colonial forces during the American Revolution and then led a Polish rebellion against Russia in 1794; he was wounded, captured, and finally exiled. Kazimierz Pulaski (174779) fought and died in the American Revolution, and Haym Salomon (174085) helped to finance it. The reconstituted Polish state after World War I was led by Józef Pilsudski (18671935), who ruled as a dictator from 1926 until his death. Polish public life since World War II has been dominated by Wladyslaw Gomulka (190582), Edward Gierek (19132001), and Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski (b.1923), Communist leaders, respectively, during 195670, during 197080, and after 1981. Important roles have also been played by Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski (190181), Roman Catholic primate of Poland, archbishop of Gniezno and Warsaw, and frequent adversary of the postwar Communist regime; Karol Wojtyla (19202005), archbishop of Cracow from 1963 until his elevation to the papacy as John Paul II in 1978; and Lech Walesa (b.1943), leader of the Solidarity movement during 198081, Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1983, and President of Poland from 1990 to 1995.

The father of Polish literature is Nicholas Rey (150569), one of the earliest Polish writers to turn from Latin to the vernacular. Poland's golden age is marked by the beginning of literature in Polish; its greatest poet was Jan Kochanowski (153084). Notable among 19th-century poets and dramatists was Adam Mickiewicz (17981855), whose The Books of the Polish Nation and of the Polish Pilgrimage, Pan Tadeusz, and other works exerted a paramount influence on all future generations. Other leading literary figures were the poets and dramatists Juliusz Slowacki (180949) and Zygmunt Krasiński (181259), whose Dawn breathed an inspired patriotism. Józef Kraszewski (181287), prolific and patriotic prose writer, is considered the father of the Polish novel. The leading late-19th-century novelists were the realists Aleksander Glowacki (18471912), who wrote under the pseudonym of Boleslaw Prus, and Henryk Sienkiewicz (18461916), Poland's first Nobel Prize winner (1905), whose The Trilogy described the 17th-century wars of Poland; he is internationally famous for Quo Vadis. Another Nobel Prize winner (1924) was the novelist Wladyslaw Reymont (18671925), acclaimed for The Peasants. A Pole who achieved stature as an English novelist was Joseph Conrad (Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, 18571924). Other important literary figures around the turn of the century were the playwright and painter Stanislaw Wyspiański (18691907), the novelist Stefan Zeromski (18641926), and the novelist Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (18851939). The best-known modern authors are novelist and short-story writer Isaac Bashevis Singer (190491), a Nobel Prize winner in 1978 and a US resident after 1935; the satirist Witold Gombrowicz (190469); science-fiction writer Stanislaw Lem (b.1921); the dissident novelist Jerzy Andrzejewski (190983); the poet Czeslaw Milosz (19112004), a Nobel Prize winner in 1980 and resident of the United States after 1960; and novelist Jerzy Kosinski (193391), who lived in the United States after 1957 and wrote in English.

The greatest Polish composer was Frédéric Chopin (181049), born in Warsaw, who lived in Paris after 1831. A popular composer was Stanislaw Moniuszko (181972), founder of the Polish national opera and composer of many songs; he influenced such later composers as Wladyslaw Zeleński (18371921), Zygmunt Noskowski (18461909), and Stanislaw Niewiadomski (18591936). Other prominent musicians include the pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski (18601941), also his country's first prime minister following World War I; the great harpsichordist Wanda Landowska (18771959); the renowned pianist Arthur Rubinstein (18871982); the violinist Wanda Wilkomirska (b.1929); the conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski (b.1923); and the composers Mieczyslaw Karlowicz (18761909) and Karol Szymanowski (18831937). Witold Lutoslawski (191394) and Krzysztof Penderecki (b.1933) are internationally known contemporary composers.

The first Polish painters of European importance were Piotr Michalowski (180055) and Henryk Rodakowski (182394). In the second half of the 19th century, Polish realism reached its height in the historical paintings of Jan Matejko (183893), Artur Grottger (183767), Juliusz Kossak (182499), and Józef Brandt (18411915), as well as in genre painting and the landscapes of Wojciech Gerson (18311901), Józef Szermentowski (183376), Aleksander Kotsis (183677), Maksymilian Gierymski (184674), Aleksander Gierymski (18491901), and Józef Chelmoński (18491914). Feliks Topolski (190789), who lived in London after 1935, is well known for his oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings. Andrzej Wajda (b.1926), Roman Polański (b.1933), an expatriate since the mid-1960s, Krzysztof Zanussi (b.1939), and Krzysztof Kieślowski (19411996) are famous film directors, and Jerzy Grotowski (19331999) was a well-known stage director.

The outstanding scientist and scholar Nicolaus Copernicus (Mikolaj Kopernik, 14731543) is world renowned. Among Poland's brilliant scientists are Maria Sklodowska-Curie (18671934), a codiscoverer of radium and the recipient of two Nobel Prizes, and Casimir Funk (18841967), the discoverer of vitamins. Oskar Lange (190466) achieved renown as an economist.


Poland has no territories or colonies.


Eckhart, Karl, et al (eds.) Social, Economic and Cultural Aspects in the Dynamic Changing Process of Old Industrial Regions: Ruhr District (Germany), Upper Silesia (Poland), Ostrava Region (Czech Republic). Piscataway, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2003.

Frucht, Richard (ed.). Eastern Europe: An Introduction to the People, Lands, and Culture. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2005.

Hoshi, Iraj, Ewa Balcerowicz, and Leszek Balcerowicz (eds.). Barriers to Entry and Growth of New Firms in Early Transition: A Comparative Study of Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Albania, and Lithuania. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003.

McElrath, Karen (ed.). HIV and AIDS: A Global View. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Otfinoski, Steven. Poland. 2nd ed. New York: Facts On File, 2004.

Reuvid, Jonathan, and Marat Terterov, (eds.). Doing Business with Poland. Sterling, Va.: Kogan Page, 2003.

Rose-Ackerman, Susan. From Elections to Democracy: Building Accountable Government in Hungary and Poland. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Sanford, George. Historical Dictionary of Poland. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2003.

Steinlauf, Michael. Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1997.

Tworzecki, Hubert. Parties and Politics in Post-1989 Poland. Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1996.

Walesa, Lech. The Struggle and the Triumph: An Autobiography. New York: Arcade, 1992.

Women in Polish Society. Edited by Rudolf Jaworski and Bianka Pietrow. Boulder, Colo.: East European Monographs, 1992.

World Bank. Understanding Poverty in Poland. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1995.


views updated May 08 2018


Basic Data
Official Country Name:Republic of Poland
Literacy Rate:99%
Number of Primary Schools:18,911
Compulsory Schooling:8 years
Public Expenditure on Education:7.5%
Foreign Students in National Universities:5,202
Educational Enrollment:Primary: 5,021,378
 Secondary: 2,539,138
 Higher: 720,267
Educational Enrollment Rate:Primary: 96%
 Secondary: 98%
 Higher: 25%
Teachers:Primary: 325,601
 Secondary: 121,301
 Higher: 75,432
Student-Teacher Ratio:Primary: 15:1
 Secondary: 22:1
Female Enrollment Rate:Primary: 95%
 Secondary: 97%
 Higher: 29%

History & Background

Educational activity began in Poland in the eleventh and twelfth centuries with the appearance of cathedral schools at bishops' sees and collegiate schools at the richest churches in Poznan, Plock, Wroclaw, Wloclawek, Cracóów, Sandomierz, Wislica, Leczyca, Glogóów, Legnica, and Brzeg. At the beginning of thirteenth century, parish schools appeared in newly founded villages and towns as a result of the so-called German Law and resolutions of the fourth Lateran Council.

The Jagiellonian University in Cracóów, founded in 1364 by King Kazimierz the Great, became one of Europe's great early universities and a center of intellectual tolerance. In need of trained lawyers, Kazimierz the Great founded the university with a law faculty or department, but without a theological faculty. The university was reorganized by King Wladyslaw Jagiello in 1400 and modeled largely on those of Bologna and Padova with four faculties. The university attracted students from many countries.

In 1519 Jan Lubranski, the bishop, founded an "academic gimnazjum" in Poznan called the Lubranski Academy (Akademia Lubranskiego ) where activity focused on the humanities. Dissident schools founded in sixteenth century became centers of avant-garde thought. The Jesuit Collegia in Wilno and Lwóów established two universities; in 1579 King Stephen Batory founded Wilno Academy (Akademia Wilenska ) and in 1661 King Jan II Kazimierz founded the Lwóów Academy (Akademia Lwowska ). In 1595 Jan Zamoyski founded a high school called the Zamoyski Academy (Akademia Zamojska ).

In 1741 the Piarist Father and Catholic Priest Stanislaw Konarski founded the Collegium Nobilium, a school in Warsaw for the young men of ruling families, hoping that his pupils would be inspired to effect badly needed constitutional reforms. His emphasis on patriotic education, the purity of the Polish language, and the natural sciences finally resulted in the Jesuits in Poland reforming their own schools accordingly. Konarski's patriotic attitude also influenced the education system in Poland.

In 1765 King Stanislaw August established the Knights' School (Szkola Rycerska ) for young men of noble families. After the dissolution of the Jesuit order in 1773, he established his Commission on National Education, the world's first state ministry of education. It allowed a complete reorganization of the Polish educational system. This body set up a uniform national system emphasizing mathematics, natural sciences, and language study. The commission also stressed standardizing elementary education, integrating trade and agricultural skills into the elementary school curriculum, and improving textbooks at all levels. In 1775 the Commission on National Education established the Society for Elementary Books (Towarzystwo do Ksiag Elementarnych ), which prepared many textbooks, regulations, and decrees.

The partitioning of Poland by foreign governments challenged the work of the Commission on National Education; Germany, Austria, and Russia sought to destroy Polish national consciousness by germanizing and russifying the education system. After 1802 schools in the Russian sector received certain liberties. The educational district in Wilno had been chaired by Prince Adam Czartoryski and seen as a model for educational reform in Russia. Czartoryski, with a group of associates (Stanislaw Kostka Potocki, Tadeuz Czacki, Jan Sniadecki, and Jedrzej Sniadecki), attempted to develop the achievements of the Commission on National Education. One of the most successful centers was the University in Wilno.

During the first 30 years of the nineteenth century, Polish education expanded freely in the Duchy of Warsaw and, after the Congress of Vienna, in the Congress Kingdom of Poland. In 1807 the so-called Educational Chamber (Izba Edukacyjna ) was established in the Duchy of Warsaw. In 1812 it evolved into the Management of National Education (Dyrekcja Edukacji Narodowej ), and then, after 1815, it became the Government Committee for Religion and Public Enlightenment (Komisja Rzadowa Wyznan Religijnych i Oswiecenia Publicznego ). In 1816 the Academy of Mining (Szkola Akademiczna Górnicza ) in Kielce was established, as was Warsaw University with five faculties. By the November Uprising against Russia in 1830-1831, the University had educated 1,254 students.

In 1819 in Marymont, near Warsaw, the Forestry School, the Agronomy School, and the Veterinary Institute were created. In Warsaw the Civil Architecture School appeared in 1819, and in 1826, the Polytechnic Institute's Preparatory School opened. After the defeat of the November Uprising, the university was closed, and the entire educational system was subjected to an intensive russification policy. The Russian language became the teaching language. Institutions established after this time included the Real School (Szkola Realna ), which stressed mathematics, science, and biology (1841), the Medical and Surgical Academy (Akademia Medyko-Chirurgiczna 1857), and the Agronomy School (Instytut Agronomiczny ).

During the 123-year period of partition, teaching and publishing in Polish continued in pockets of resistance, and some innovations such as vocational training schools appeared. In general, the Austrian sector had the least developed education system, whereas the least disruption in educational progress occurred in the Prussian sector.

During the Spring of the Nations, as the wave of uprisings in Eastern and Central Europe in the 1840s was called, the germanization strategy in the Prussian sector was reduced. Teaching of the Polish language was permitted in elementary schools and the lower classes of some gymnasia. Especially important in the area was Ewaryst Estkowski's activity. In 1848, he established the first Polish Pedagogical Association and the first pedagogical journal in the Polish language, Polish School.

Another surge of germanization started in the mid-nineteenth century. The Polish language was removed from secondary schools and peasant schools, and students suffered political surveillance. In 1901 religious education in the German language began. This caused a children's strike in Wrzesnia that spread to other places in Great Poland and Pomerania. The strike was continued intermittently until 1907.

Polish consciousness was strengthened by many educational associations. Karol Marcinkowski's Association for Teaching Help (Towarzystwo Naukowej Pomocy ), for instance, was established in 1841, and the Association of Peasant Libraries (Towarzystwo Czytelni Ludowych ) founded libraries in small villages and towns and gave lectures and public performances. In 1861, in the Congress Kingdom of Poland, the Government Committee on Religion and Public Enlightenment (Komisja Rzadowa Wyznan Religijnych i Oswiecenia Publicznego ) was established with Count Aleksander Wielopolski as the principal. In 1862 the tsar approved a decree concerning education in the kingdom that allowed Polish language as a teaching language, partial autonomy of schools, and the opening of four year secondary schools and seven year primary schools. University-level schools were also founded, including the Main School in Warsaw (Szkola GlównaGlówna Warszawska ) and the Agriculture and Forestry Institute (Instytut Rolniczo-Lesny ) in Pulawy.

The defeat of the January Uprising in 1863-1864 put an end to autonomy of education. The Main School in Warsaw was turned into a Russian university in 1869, elementary schools were reduced, and secondary schools were subjected to intense ideological control. In 1897 illiterates composed about 69.5 percent of the whole population in the Congress Kingdom of Poland. The only escape lay in underground teaching. Two such institutions were the so-called Flying University (Uniwersytet Latajacy ), operating between 1887 and 1905, and the Peasants' University (Uniwersytet Ludowy ). New private schools, especially for girls, were also established.

During the Revolution of 1905 the state Russian schools on Polish territory were boycotted. The protests continued until 1914. The Agriculture University evolved into the Public University (Uniwersytet dla Wszystkich ), and the Flying University became the Higher Education Courses (Wyzsze Kursy Naukowe ). In 1906 the private Kronenberg High Business School (Wyzsza Szkola Handlowa ) was founded. Elementary education was developed by the Association of Teaching Courses for Adult Illiterates (Stowarzyszenie Kursów dla Analfabetów Doroslych ). After receiving autonomy in Galicia in 1866, the National School Board (Rada Szkolna Krajowa ) was established to manage secondary schools. Because of a lack of funds, those schools developed very slowly.

Schools in Galicia used the Polish language as a teaching language but their spirit was Austrian. The Polish students opposed that situation, especially after 1905. The Universities in Kraków and Lwów, restored to their former status between 1870 and 1874, reached the highest standard of education. In 1866, women received the right to study (except under the law faculty). In 1878 Lwówthe High Agriculture Academy (Wyzsza Akademia Rolnicza ) was established in Dublany near Lwów. The Polytechnic School in Lwów was also approved. In the latter years of the nineteenth century, teachers' associations started their activity, and publications concerning teaching methods and programs appeared.

In the beginning of the twentieth century the problems of educational programs and management were discussed intensively. Some perspectives underscored the role of religion in common education. An opposing viewpoint was held by the activists of the Polish Teachers' Association (Polski Zwiazek Nauczycielski ) in the Congress Kingdom of Poland and the National Peasant Teachers' Association (Krajowy Zwiazek Nauczycielstwa Ludowego ). They insisted on secular education, which was also free and accessible to every student, taking into consideration the needs of the whole country.

After the rise of the independent Second Polish Republic in 1918, the most important task was the standardization of the educational system. This process lasted until 1920. Between 1918 and 1939 the newly independent Poland faced the task of reconstructing a national education system from the three separate systems imposed during the time of foreign control by Germany, Austria, and Russia. One of the first legislative achievements was the law "Concerning School Obligation" (O obowiazku szkolnym ) of 7 February 1919. It mandated compulsory attendance of the 7 year primary school from ages 7 to 14. Schools were to be free and accessible for all children.

Common education was intensively developed especially between 1922 and 1929 but needs in this area were greater than the reform efforts. In the grammar schools an eight year system existed, which was divided into two stages. During the first three years, the schools took the general (comprehensive) approach, teaching all students the same material. During the next five years, students were grouped into specialized areas of study for part of their schooling. The school diploma opened up the prospects of further studies. Independent grammar schools were accessible after the five year primary school, and they prepared students for education in the secondary schools. Secondary and high schools remained barely accessible because of high tuition fees.

Among the educational accomplishments of the inter-war period was the establishment of state universities in Craców, Lwów, Poznan, Warsaw, and Wilno; the polytechnic schools in Warsaw and Lwów; the Veterinary Medicine Academy (Akademia Medycyny Weterynaryjnej ) in Lwów; the Warsaw Agricultural University (SGGW ); and the University of Mining and Metallurgy (Akademia Górniczo-Hutnicza ) in Craców. Also established during this period were private schools including the Academy of Fine Arts (ASP ) in Craców and the Catholic University of Lublin (Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski ). The High School of Economics (Wyzsza Szkola Handlowa ) evolved into the Warsaw School of Economics (Szkola Glówna Handlowa ).

In 1938 there were 25 universities, upper schools, and polytechnic schools. There were numerous specialized secondary schools as well, such as the High School of Engineering (Wyzsza Szkola Inzynierska ) established in Warsaw in 1895, the National Technical School (Panstwowa Szkola Techniczna ) in Wilno (established in 1922), and high pedagogical schools (in Katowice and Kielce). Specialized arts and military schools also existed, as did special elementary, technical, and high schools.

The 1932 decree of Janusz Jedrzejewicz brought important changes. This decree kept the obligatory seven year primary school for children but also introduced different levels: I level (four-year school), II level (six-year school), or III level (seven-year school). The grammar school was accessible after the six-year primary school. A six-year primary school prepared for a grammar school; a seven-year primary school was intended for those who did not want to continue their education. A four year grammar school, called the gimnazjum, offered a unified comprehensive teaching program, so in every school pupils were taught the same types of material. Two-year secondary schools (arts, mathematics, physics, and natural classes) prepared for high studies.

Vocational schools were of great importance. Young working people had to supplement their education in three year schools based on I-level and III-level of primary schools. The lower vocational schools were based on I-level primary school. Vocational grammar schools were equivalent to common grammar schools; vocational schools entitled their graduates to study in high technical schools. The five year pedagogical seminar schools were replaced by three year pedagogical schools, based on four year grammar schools.

In the 1920s, national trends connected with the National Democrats dominated. Tradition, patriotism, and religious attitude played very important roles in education. After the May 1926 coup established the sanacja government, a national education curriculum was introduced. The pedagogical activity put the emphasis on respect and responsibility to the state. A decree published 15 March 1933 increased the education minister's powers to control.

In the Second Polish Republic, education for minority populations was not sufficient and did not satisfy the needs and ambitions of those groups. In 1929 and 1930 the Ukrainians had 790 primary schools, 24 grammar schools, and 1 pedagogical seminar with Ukrainian as a teaching language. Attempts to establish a university in Lwów were defeated. Jews were treated as a religious minority, not an ethnic minority. They owned private primary and secondary schools in which Yiddish, Hebrew, and Polish were the teaching languages. During this same time period, Belorussians had 26 primary schools using their mother tongue. In 1934 and 1935 Germans had 394 primary schools, out of which 203 had classes with Polish and German as teaching languages, and 15 grammar schools (including 2 state schools).

After the military defeat in September 1939, all Polish territory came under Nazi occupation. In the territories annexed to the Third Reich, that is Great Poland, Pomerania, and Silesia, the Polish education system was completely eliminated. Teachers, professors, and the whole intelligentsia were displaced or arrested. In the central region, called the General Government, the Nazis permitted only primary and vocational schools with significantly limited curricula, which had been stripped of all Polish content. All secondary and higher schools were closed to Poles.

The most spectacular event in the destruction of the Polish education system was the so-called Sonderaktion Krakau. On 6 November 1939 research workers of the Jagiellonian University and the University of Mining and Metallurgy in Kraków were invited to a meeting, arrested, and taken away to extermination camps. In response, an extensive underground teaching movement developed under the leadership of the Polish Teachers' Association, which had been established in December 1939. In 1940 the Department of Education and Culture was established to represent the Polish government in exile. The underground movement supplied students with teaching aids and textbooks that were published by underground publishing houses. This unofficial education effort spread through the whole territory of the General Government, Greater Poland, Pomerania, and Silesia. The most important center of these education activities was Warsaw, where the Poznan University was operating as the University of Western Poland. Underground teaching appeared in almost all secondary schools, even in ghettoes. An estimated 90,000 students attended underground secondary classes, 10,000 were in illegal vocational classes, and 7,000 were in the resistance's higher education classes. Nowhere else in Europe was underground teaching as extensive as in Poland.

Nazi control exacted a heavy toll on Poland's education infrastructure. Between 1939 and 1940 about 9,000 teachers and 640 professors were murdered. Approximately 6,480 primary schools, 203 secondary schools, 295 vocational schools, and 80 schools for teachers' education were destroyed or damaged. Almost all high school and university property was destroyed or seized.

Where the Soviets controlled Polish territory in the east, starting in late September 1939, education took on diverse forms. In December 1939 the Vilnius authorities closed the Stephen Batory University. At the beginning of 1940 the new authorities nationalized all private schools and closed schools managed by the church. New curricula, consistent with the Soviet system, was introduced. Emphasis on history, literature, and geography was significantly reduced. The teaching language depended on the local conditions; in multinational communities, Russian became the teaching language. Many Belorussian and Ukrainian schools were established.

Between 1944 and 1947, as Poland regained independence from the Nazis and the Second World War ended, schools quickly resumed their activity. During this period all levels of the Polish education system were plagued by shortages of buildings and teachers. In June 1945, a Nationwide Convention in Lódz established the main principles of education, which were closely related to political goals and principles.

The massive task of postwar education reconstruction emphasized the opening of institutions of secondary and higher education to the Polish masses and the reduction of illiteracy. The system of schooling was standardized, and attendance in an eight year primary school was compulsory and tuition-free. Nursery school expenses were shared by the government and parents. The state built dormitories and established scholarships. Young people up to age 18 continued their education in secondary schools. Various types of secondary schools offered basic vocational training, technical training, and general college-preparatory education. Primary schools were unified, and the remnants of the 1932 Decree were abolished.

Due to the lack of qualified staff, new pedagogical lycea were established to educate new teachers. The variety of teachers' training options satisfied temporary needs but shortcomings in the area were noticeable for a long time. In 1945 and 1946 all Polish high schools in the territory of the former Second Polish Republic were opened. New high schools, especially in LódzLódz, Torun, and Lublin, with approximately 55,000 students, were also established.

During the early post-war years, the curriculum was modified only slightly. In 1945 minor changes in Polish language teaching were introduced, concerning knowledge of World War II, social sciences, and working and rural classes. Teaching of foreign languages was commonly introduced. In spite of the breaking of the concordat with the Holy See, religious education in state or council schools was obligatory.

In January 1947, major ideological changes were initiated. Education was infused with the principles of Marxism-Leninism. The educational system depicted the Soviet Union as the country's main partner and ally, and learning the Russian language learning became obligatory. Private schools were closed, and religious education was gradually eliminated. Many educational institutions fell under government control, and many disappeared.

In 1948 the eight year primary schools were evolved into seven year primary schools that were the base for four year lyceum or vocational schools. This change and workers' training were the educational system's most important tasks. In 1955 about 90 percent of pupils were taught in primary 7-year schools. Between 1949 and 1951 about 80,000 teachers were involved in the education of 1,500,000 illiterates from ages 14 to 15. As a direct consequence, illiteracy was virtually eliminated. This was Communism's single, unquestioned contribution to Polish life.

After 1954, two-year vocational schools and four-year technical schools were established. Industrialization drew much of the population to the cities. A decree of July 1958 mandated school attendance to age 18. As a result, training schools were established at factories. These schools were too specialized though and did not satisfy practical requirements. The number of universities, polytechnic schools, academies, and specialized colleges was considerably increased. The introduction of three-year vocational colleges, four-year vocational colleges, and two-year master's studies, with the exception of medical colleges, came about in 1947.

Some faculties (medical, forest, and agricultural) were moved to independent colleges. After theological faculties were taken from universities and colleges in 1954, the Academy of Catholic Theology (Akademia Teologii Katolickiej ) and Christian Theological Academy (Chrzescijanska Akademia Teologiczna ) were established. The former was composed of the theological faculty of Warsaw University, which had been separated from it by the Communist authorities to form the state-supported, Catholic, university-level institution. Because it was financed by the state, the bishops looked at it with suspicion. They feared its teachers might be loyal to the state, rather than the church. Priests were also employed by the Academy of Catholic Theology. In 1999 the institution was renamed Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University after one of the most respected, influential, and prominent figures in Polish religious and public life. The other religious university, the Christian Theological Academy, was for the protestant and orthodox churches. Lectures on Marxism-Leninism were obligatory in all types of schools, beginning in 1948 in evening technical colleges and in 1950 at part time colleges. The 1956 decree restored the importance of the pedagogical council and moderated discipline regulations.

The Law on the Development of Education Systems, passed on 15 July 1961, established formal principles that reiterated the goals of the educational system. An 8 year primary school was introduced and attendance to age 17 was mandated. Schools of all types and on all levels were free. The system of schooling was standardized. Schools were secular in nature, but the church was permitted to establish a network of separate religious education centers to compensate for this restriction. This reform in primary and secondary schools was completed between 1963 and 1971.

In 1971 new models of education were introduced. One of the most important tasks was developing a common secondary education system. The decree of 1973 established 10-year secondary schools with 2-year vocational schools to prepare students for employment or 2-year preparatory colleges, permitting students to take university entrance exams. In 1981, for lack of suitable funds, this educational reform initiative was rejected. Access to education still varied from place to place, depending on social conditions. The end of Soviet rule in 1989 brought many changes to Poland's educational system, including autonomy for local school administrations and comprehensive upgrading of material support. Nursery schools and public schools introduced religious education, according to a directive from the Ministry of National Education.

Between 1991 and 1996, primary schools were taken over by local governments. By law the number of lessons per week decreased from 199.5 in 1989 to 184 in 1993. In 1996, more than 95 percent of primary school graduates continued on to some form of secondary education. Between 1993 and 1994, only 27.9 percent of pupils completing primary school went to lycea (1561 schools with 601,854 pupils). Teachers were educated at universities and colleges. Between 1992 and 1993, approximately 7,000 teachers supplemented their education, despite the fact that tuition was high at both state and private schools. The Office of Innovation and Independent Schools was established to create the legislative basis for government support of private schools established by individuals and civic organizations. Education in the non-public schools was paid, and, with the exception of non-public college-level schools, state subsidies were set at 50 percent of the state's per-student cost. Schools for minorities also appeared, serving mainly Ukrainians, Belorussians, and Lithuanians.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The Polish educational system is currently based mainly on four laws. These are: the Constitution of the Republic of Poland of 17 October 1997; The Act of Sections of Governmental Administration of 4 September 1997; The Act of the System of Education of 7 September 1991; and the Education Act of 26 January 1982, as amended on 18 February 2000 (known as the Teachers' Charter).

The Constitution grants parents full rights over their children, and the role of teachers is described as supportive. Article 48, part 1, states that "parents shall have the right to rear their children in accordance with their own convictions. Such upbringing shall respect the degree of maturity of a child as well as his freedom of conscience and belief, and also his convictions." The Constitution, in Article 72, states, "everyone shall have the right to education. Education to 18 years of age shall be compulsory. The manner of fulfillment of schooling obligations shall be specified by statute." According to Section 4 of the same Article, "public authorities shall ensure universal and equal access to education for citizens. To this end, they shall establish and support systems for individual financial and organizational assistance to pupils and students." Article 72 also declares that "the Republic of Poland shall ensure protection of the rights of the child. Everyone shall have the right to demand of organs of public authority that they defend children against violence, cruelty, exploitation, and actions which undermine their moral sense." This protection relates to all state organs, including the Ministry of National Education.

The Act of the Sections of the Government Administration of 4 October 1997, orders in Article 20 that the separate section of administration called "education and rearing" be established and be responsible for "the matters of educating and rearing children and the youth." On 1 January 1999, schools and public educational institutions were turned over to local administration units. Therefore councils are responsible for kindergartens, primary schools, and grammar schools. Districts are responsible for educational institutions of regional character, designated by the Council of Ministers orders, as well as institutions for teachers' development and adult education.

The financing of schools and educational institutions depends on the administrative division. Consequently, all territorial self-government units perform their own educational tasks and finance them. Government subventions, however, constitute a substantial part of their educational budgets.

Educational SystemOverview

Compulsory Education & Age Limits: Education is compulsory for all children ages 8 to 16. The most recent reform of education raised the upper age limit to 18. Primary school starts at age 7 and ends at 13. Currently, reformed secondary education still consists of two systems. According to the old one, education starts at age 16 and finishes at age 19 or 20 for technical schools, and, according to the new, the age range is from 16 to 18.

Enrollment as of the 1999-2000 School Year:

Nursery Schools: The total number of nursery schools during the 1999-2000 school year was 8,733, serving 719,611 children, which included 6,763 who had some disability. In towns, such schools contained 575,736 children, 6,358 of whom were disabled. In the countryside, schools served 144,875, including 405 disabled.

Preschool Education: During the same period, Poland had 10,152 preschools, containing 199,506 toddlers, which included 1,180 disabled. In towns, the children totaled 53,866, including 941 disabled. In the country, the figures were 145,640 and 239.

Primary Schools: This system contained 17,743 schools that were attended by 3,957,986 pupils, 1,919,281 of whom were girls. In the 1999-2000 school year, the system graduated 656,245 students of whom 320,645 were girls. Public (state) primary schools totaled 17,375 and served 3,926,577 pupils. Of these 1,904,719 were girls. During the same school year, 651,862 students were graduated, including 318,725 girls. The far smaller non-public (private) primary schools numbered 368, having 31,409 students, of whom 14,652 were girls. This system graduated 4,383 children, including 1,920 girls. The total number of primary school repeaters, not including those in special schools, was 29,789, of whom 6,983 were girls. Repeaters in towns totaled 20,535, including 4,986 girls. Rural repeaters numbered 9,254, among them 1,997 girls. Special primary schools for the disabled numbered 801. They contained 59,397 pupils, of whom 22,654 were girls. Some 13,143 were graduated, including 4,772 girls.

Gymnasium: Polish schools at this level totaled 6,121, serving 615,328 pupils, of whom 296,256 were girls. Public schools numbered 5,766, and held 609,414 children, including 293,648 girls. There were 355 non-public schools. They contained 5,914 students, of whom 2,608 were girls. The nation had 709 special gymnasiums to meet the needs of 14,948 children, including 5,534 girls.

Secondary Schools: Polish schools at this level totaled 2,156. They held 864,091 students, of whom 551,531 were girls. During the 1999-2000 school year, 173,917 students graduated, including 115,973 girls. Public schools numbered 1,715 and served 823,049 children, including 530,463 girls. The system contains 439 nonpublic secondary schools of public school status; they teach 40,986 pupils, including 20,947 girls. There are also two non-public secondary schools, teaching 56 students, of whom 21 are girls. Finally, there were 24 special secondary schools. They held 1,198 adolescents, including 630 girls.

Technical & Vocational Schools: Schools of this type numbered 8,066. They taught 1,552,350 pupils, including 651,235 girls. Of a total of 379,566 graduates, 164,063 were girls. Most of these technical and vocational schools or 7,749 were public; they instructed 1,526,089 students, including 636,778 girls. The system contained 306 nonpublic schools of public school status. They taught 25,905 pupils, of whom 14,326 were girls. Poland had 11 non-public technical schools, which served 356 students, including 131 girls. There were also 353 special technical schools, holding 30,954 students; 12,866 of these were girls.

Complementary Secondary Schools: Schools in this category numbered 2,328. They taught 205,538 students, including 133,686 girls. Of these complementary secondary schools, 925 were public. They served 100,731 pupils, of whom 71,695 were girls. Another 1,072 nonpublic schools of public school status existed. They held 83,393 youths, including 50,347 girls. Non-public schools of this type numbered 331, training 21,414 students, which included 11,644 girls.

Academic Year: The school year for all types of primary and secondary schools begins on 1 September and finishes in June. The exact closing date is not prescribed, but the year must contain at least 42 weeks. It contains two semesters. There are three major holiday periods: Christmas break (usually one week), winter holiday (two weeks), and Easter recess (one week). The winter holiday period is usually in late January or early February, but exact dates are defined by regional education authorities. National holidays and Teachers Day (14 October) are free by law.

The academic year for university-type institutions starts usually in October, but the decision is left to the university rector who may move it to late September. It is usually divided into 2 semesters, each 15 weeks long. Some private three year colleges have trimesters, depending on decisions by college authorities. Holiday periods at universities vary and are decided by their governing bodies. Typically, they fall at the same periods as nonuniversity schools. Rectors may decide about an extra day off for students and faculty (called Rector's Day), which is usually the Academic Year Inauguration Day, or any other day that should be free for important reasons. In both types of institution, winter holiday marks the end of the winter semester and beginning of the summer (spring) semester.

Language of Instruction: The language of instruction is Polish in schools for Poles and in minority schools the language is the minority's language. According to Oswiata i wychowanie w roku szkolnym 1999/2000, during the 1999-2000 academic year, there were 429 primary schools of this type. Belorussion was the language of instruction in 31 schools, serving 2,220 students. Sixteen Kashubian institutions instructed 980 youth. Thirteen Lithuanian programs affected 528 students. German schools, numbering 273, taught some 25,545 young people. Eleven Slovakian establishments reached 303 students. Ukranian institutions (76) instructed 1,919 students, and 8 Lemk schools taught 66 youth. That same year there were 25 pupils studying the Hebrew language as their mother tongue.

In 1999-2000 there were 91 gymnasium-type schools for 3,383 ethnic minority pupils. Ten Belorussian institutions reached 354 students. Two Kashubian schools instructed 144. Two Lithuanian establishments taught 73 young people. The nation had 49 German language schools with 2,588 pupils. Slovakian speakers (29) studied at three schools, while 190 who spoke Ukranian learned at 23 schools. Finally, 2 Lemk programs reached 14 students.

That same year there were 10 lycees for 2,214 ethnic minority pupils. Two Belorussian schools reached 1,046 students. One Kashubian institution instructed 346; a Lithuanian establishment, 128; a German, 111; and a Slovakian, 53. Four Ukranian schools taught 530 pupils. There were no Lemk lycee.

Grading System & Examination: Polish education marks students from one to six. One means failure; two is poor; three signifies satisfactory; four good; five very good; and six excellent. The grading system is not considered effective, and many believe it should be modernized in accordance with European standards. Grading rigor varies widely, and marks on school certificates are not always legible. In the reformed system of education, the Matura examination and school certificate are expected to be external and standardized, comparable with the European Committee. The latter arrangement affords graduates better opportunities at higher education or employment.

Currently, pupil progress is assessed internally by each school. Detailed examination requirements are designed by a teacher and approved by a Pedagogical Council and headmaster. Pupils and their parents are informed about these requirements. The requirements must not violate the Ministry of National Education directive of 19 April 1999, which delineates principles of public school evaluation, examination, grading, and promotion. Other external assessment standards are provided by Regional Examination Commissions and by State Examination Commissions, which are established by the Ministry of National Education.

The Polish system mandates standard testing at various levels. After primary school, students take an aptitude examination. After the gymnasium, they are given an orientation examination. After the profiled lyceum they take an exit examination, known as the Matura. Upon completing the program at a vocational school, students are tested in the appropriate trade. After a supplementary lyceum, they may take the Matura examination. During the 1998-1999 school year, at the general secondary school level, 172,216 students took the Matura examination (99.1 percent of the total). The vast majority, 163,977 (94.4 percent), passed it. For the same time period, in technical and vocational schools, 176,402 students took the Matura. Again most, 151,309 (85.8 percent), succeeded. University candidates take entrance examinations for their chosen institution. The education reform that has introduced the Matura produced agreement from university authorities that it would serve as the entrance examination.

Private & Religious Schools: In Poland all non-public schools are considered private. The word "private" might be part of a school's name, but it is not used in official documents. Consequently, all religious schools are private, because the state generally does not support them financially. On the other hand, Lublin Catholic University receives state financial support from time to time. Twice a year a collection for LCU is taken in Polish churches. There is a Catholic state university, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw, but it is not subsidized by the church. Another church institution is the Papal Academy of Theology in Craców. Religious primary and secondary schools may be subsidized by state money. Seminaries, which prepare students for the priesthood, are maintained by the diocese.

Education of Pupils Needing Special Care: Special courses and curricula for gifted students try to take into consideration the student's social skills and attitudes. A new experimental gymnasium and academic lyceum are being considered. Also, plans include a Nationwide Center for Supporting Gifted Pupils (Ogolnopolskie Centrum Wspierania Uczniow Wybitnie Uzdolnionych ) that would be based on a local institution in Torun.

Polish schools are available for everyone, including pupils suffering from physical, emotional, or other disabilities. Such students comprise about 3 percent of the nation's children. In recent years the disabled have been integrated into the mainstream. Today, a typical class may have 15 to 20 students, plus 3 to 5 possessing handicaps. As much as is possible, all participate in common activities, and act together to solve common problems. Some of the disabled, such as the blind and the deaf, receive individual lessons with specialists, making use of sign language, Braille, and exercises to help develop a sense of direction. As of 1997, approximately 3,590 pupils attended integrated classes. Children and youth who need special care but lack the opportunity to attend integrated classes make use of special education.

Instructional Technology: Schools use computers as instructional aids. No exact number is available. The goal is to have a computer laboratory with Internet access in every school. The subject "informatics" informatyka ) teaches computer skills. Many schools participate in a program called "Internet for Schools."

The new, reformed educational system needs textbooks that are consistent with the programming basics. Teachers have the right to choose the most appropriate textbooks from a list compiled by the Ministry of National Education. Listed books are those deemed appropriate in content, methodology, and reading level. They must be constitutional, consistent with the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights, non-racist, respectful of children's rights, and not at variance with international textbook principles. Beyond the Ministry of National Education's list, schools may add experimental textbooks that comply with the legal system.

Foreign Students: During the 1999-2000 academic year, there were 6,025 students in Poland from the following countries: Ukraine (1,073); Belarus (831); Lithuania (515); the Czech Republic (265); Kazakhstan (363); Russia (262); the United States (270); Vietnam (168); Germany (147); and Bulgaria (127).

Preprimary & Primary Education

Preschool education (Wychowanie przedszkolne ) is part of the formal system of education in Poland. There is a well-established network of state preschools that children may attend between ages three and six. Formal school education before age 7 is not compulsory, but currently 97 percent of the nation's children attend. Preschool education is designed to aid child development, promote personal independence, and instill a sense of confidence in one's self and abilities. Preschool education helps those between the ages of three and five develop communication and social skills, so they can cope with any situation. Parents may participate in arranging activities.

Programming is based on assumptions that: children expect approval and safety; they need to develop communication and social skills; they should be encouraged to explore and understand their environment and the larger world; they should examine their creative nature; they need to know how to recognize and express emotions; they must learn how to live in a group; and they must also learn to act independently. Polish teachers are expected to generate situations whereby children can realize their innate potential.

Polish education features a so-called zero year (Zerowka ) for six-year-olds, which helps children make a fluid transition from preschool to primary school. Beyond this transitional nature, however, preschools have educational value. Preschools measure a child's progress. They can help recognize the child's potential and alert professionals to any need for specialized intervention. Preschool teachers help children understand themselves and the outside world, develop relationships with peers, and build their own system of values.

From seven years of age, all children must attend primary school, which is divided into two teaching stages. The first is integrated teaching, classes I-III (Szkola podstawowa I etap ) for children aged seven to nine. The second is block teaching, classes IV-VI (II etap ) for children between 10 and 13.

The first stage of primary education should develop literacy and an understanding of numbers; teach children how to use simple tools; help them become independent and self-confident; develop sensitivity; strengthen cultural, historical, national, and ethnic identity; and teach children to explore their environment and the world. Integrated education takes advantage of children's experiences in family life and other situations.

At this stage teachers give lessons, which follow the established curriculum. The routine is adapted to pupils' ability and includes physical exercises every day, totaling approximately three hours per week. Class I has a minimum of 20 lessons per week. Fifteen of them are general in nature and mandated by law. Another three lessons per week are assigned at a tutor's or the headmaster's discretion. Compensatory activities, in accordance with appropriate regulations, make up another two lessons a week. Beyond these, additional lessons may include religion or ethics (two per week) and corrective gymnastics (two per week). Class II is structured in the same manner with the minimum lesson number raised to 21. Class III features a minimum of 23 lessons weekly.

The second stage of primary education (II etap ) features classes IV to VI. Education at this level is designed to help students gain adequate knowledge and skills; promote curiosity and stimulate intellectual activity; develop sensitivity toward and empathy for disabled persons; instill proper social attitudes; and teach appropriate behaviors. Schools strive to create the necessary conditions for gaining knowledge and skills. The curriculum includes thematic blocks covering: patriotic and social education; preparation for family life; health care education; and public relations.

Beginning with class IV, a considerable degree of structure appears. Students receive at minimum 26 lessons per week. Six are in culture, the Polish language, history, and social science. Another six are in mathematics and biology. Foreign language training accounts for three, fine arts and technical activities for two and physical education for three. One lesson per week takes place with a tutor, and five per week are at the tutor or head-master's discretion. An extra two lessons per week in religion and ethics are set by special regulations but are not counted toward the number of compulsory lessons. This structure is identical for classes V and VI.

After finishing six years of primary school, children take aptitude examinations, which are administered and assessed by the school's internal board. Such testing measures achievement and informs both parents and teachers. Results are communicated to the next level of schooling, the gymnasium.

Secondary Education

Gymnasium: The gymnasium, the secondary stage of general education, is compulsory in Poland for pupils aged 13 to 16. Education at this level is designed to help pupils develop adequate knowledge and skills; take advantage of human achievements; fully master their mother tongue; become independent, confident in themselves and their abilities, and prepared to become responsible individuals; participate in cultural activity; develop sensitivity toward and empathy for disabled persons; solve the problems of adolescence; and learn how to work well with others.

In each of the 3 classes of the gymnasium, students must take a minimum of 28 lessons per week. Four are devoted to the Polish language. Another four are divided among history, traditional culture, and civic education. Three lessons per week are devoted to mathematics and three to foreign language study. Five lessons per week are divided among biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and geography. Two per week cover computer sciences, technical education, music, or fine arts. Physical education makes up three lessons weekly. One lesson per week is determined by the student's tutor and another three by the tutor or headmaster. Two lessons per week of religion and ethics are required but not counted toward the total. All of the aforementioned subjects prepare students for higher education. They are supplemented by interdisciplinary lessons, which include preparation for family life; healthcare education; ecological education; philosophy; the culture of public relations; and civil defense.

Post-Gymnasium Secondary Education: At age 16, the gymnasium graduate chooses to prepare for higher education or to begin training for a vocation. Those seeking the former attend a three year profiled lyceum. Completion of this program leads to the Matura certificate, which confers entitlement to enter a university. Other students choose a two year vocational school, which ends with a vocational examination. The graduate of this school may elect to go on to a supplementary lyceum, which is a two year school that prepares one for the Matura examination. Passing that examination permits entry to academies.

Profiled Lyceum: The profiled lyceum (liceum profilowane ) is a three year secondary school following the gymnasium. At this level, 80 percent of education in Poland is comprised of general courses, which follow a basic curriculum. About 20 percent is "profiled" or specialized education in academic or vocational subjects. Five profiles exist: academic; technology; agriculture and environment; social work and services; and culture and arts. The academic profile is made up of traditional college-preparatory courses and is designed for both those eventually seeking higher education and students whose precise future plans remain unclear. The technology profile deals with industrial production and features courses in: construction; chemistry; electricity and electronics; mechanics; the media; woodworking; food preparation; textiles; and biotechnology. The agriculture and environment profile is built around natural resource management and provides curricula that include: landscaping; forestry; horticulture; environmental protection; and related areas. The social work and services profile stresses the management and organization of social services. Its offerings include: economics and administration; trade; delivery of medicine; promotion and marketing; transportation; tourism; catering and hotel management; defense; and others ranging from beautician's training to insurance. A final profile concerns culture and the arts. It is aimed at those interested in organizing and managing cultural activities. Its courses include: European and regional culture; theatre and film; artisanship and monument restoration; fashion and interior design; and sports.

Despite this broad range of choices, most of a student's time in the profiled lyceum is spent taking mandated courses. Students have 15 lessons per week in the study of the Polish language. They take 10 a week in their primary foreign language and 6 in another. History and civics make up another six. Ten lessons every week are in mathematics. The science component is strong. Students must have four weekly lessons in physics and astronomy; three in chemistry; and three in biology. Rounding out the required courses are three lessons per week in geography; two in entrepreneurship; two in national defense; and nine in physical education. Every student's week also includes three lessons with a form tutor; three at the headmaster's discretion; and six in religion/ethics, though the latter do not count toward required totals.

Vocational Education: Vocational schools are two-year schools based on the gymnasium model and preparing graduates for employment. The certificate confirms their vocational knowledge and skills. In vocational schools, about 35 percent of the lessons stress general knowledge and social skills and aim to develop proper adult attitudes. The remaining lessons impart intensive vocational knowledge and skills to raise the graduate to the journeyman (or entry-level) employee. Education at this level strives to maintain a careful awareness of the labor market and local employers' expectations. The curriculum provides 12 lessons per week in the area of general education, including a foreign language and preparation for family life. Two lessons per week are spent with the form tutor. (Groups of students have a permanent mentor known as the form tutor.) Usually this time is spent on class bureaucracy, behavior problems, and arranging parental conferences. National Defense takes up two lessons a week and physical education six. Two lessons are reserved for entrepreneurship. A full 40 lessons per week are devoted to vocational training. Conditions vary from institution to institution, but in no case do theoretical approaches exceed 25 percent; the great bulk of these lessons are grounded firmly in the practical. For underage students, the number of vocational lessons is determined by the Labor Code.

Students who pass all subjects receive a graduation certificate. It proves the acquisition of both general and vocational knowledge and skills, which is confirmed by an authorized examination center appointed by the Regional Examination Commission. Special care is taken to protect juveniles. Their examinations are conducted by a craft guild or a trade commission. The under-aged graduate receives journeyman vocational entitlements, according to a professions register. Pupils who have served a suitable six month apprenticeship may also receive vocational degrees.

Supplementary Lyceum: The supplementary lyceum (liceum uzupelniajace ) is a two-year general school, which is designed mainly for vocational school graduates who want to supplement their education. This school prepares students for the Matura examination and should thereby create an equal chance for all students to pursue the highest levels of education in the Polish system. Such education takes the form of daily or evening courses. Supplementary lycea concentrate approximately 85 percent of the lessons on compulsory subjects. Graduates may continue their education, including higher education.

The supplementary lyceum curriculum typically consists of 15 lessons per week on the Polish language and 10 on a foreign language. History and civic education require 6, and mathematics consumes another 10. Again a strong science component appears: physics receives four lessons per week; chemistry three; and biology three. There are three geography lessons; nine optional classes; and two at the headmaster's discretion.

Upper Secondary Specialized Lyceum: A specialized lyceum (szkola policealna ) educates lycea graduates and makes possible vocational skill acquisition at the secondary level. This school is designed for graduates who possess the Matura certificate. The curriculum is quite flexible. Students take 437 lessons per semester in vocational training. They spend nine lessons studying the market economy and labor economy of their chosen field. Physical education accounts for 19 lessons, and 10 are devoted to topics at the headmaster's discretion. Vocational training in the secondary specialized lyceum is a combination of theoretical and practical courses. It is difficult to say how important the specialized lycea will be in the future. Graduates from the profiled lycea can choose from employment, supplementary education, and higher education. The main advantage the specialized lyceum provides is the acquisition of professional qualifications.

Higher Education

The academic year lasts 30 weeks, is divided into 2 semesters, and in most cases begins with Matriculation Day, 1 October. Graduates from institutions of higher education may receive the Bachelor's and Master's degrees and the professional title of engineer. The Bachelor's degree (licencjat ) is awarded following at least three years of professional training. Engineer (inzynier ) comes after a minimum of three and a half years of professional training. The Master's degree (magister ) can be awarded to those with four and a half years in a program of study in a given discipline. The degree can also be obtained by completing a two year supplementary Master's program, for which holders of the title of engineer are eligible. Some universities and the Polish Academy of Sciences award the Ph.D. degree. Doctorate studies take the form of daily courses and last approximately four years. They require, among other things, that applicants possess master's degrees in their field and write at least two articles and a dissertation. In Poland, as in many continental systems, a post-doctoral degree, known as Doctor Habilitated (doktor habilitowany ), can be attained. Persons write and successfully defend a second dissertation, which is usually publishable, and complete a complicated five step process, assuring that they are among the finest scholars in the land.

Types of Institutions: As of December 2000, the rapidly growing higher education sector included: 15 universities; 18 technical universities; 2 maritime schools; 5 academies of economics; 9 high pedagogical schools; 7 academies of agriculture; 12 academies of medicine; 7 academies of theology; 11 military academies; 8 music schools; 6 schools of art; 3 theatre schools; and 6 academies of physical education. Legislation creating the current system includes the Education System Act; the Higher Education Act; and the Scholarly Degrees and Titles Act, supplemented with more detailed regulations by the Ministry of National Education.

Scholarly research is conducted by the 51 scientific institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PANPolska Akademia Nauk ), 29 research units of PAN, and 4 foreign research institutions. In 1991, the Committee for Scientific Research, a government agency, was set up to bring back direct government financing of science. Fundamental principles include financing projects, not institutions, granting financial support on a competitive basis, and granting statute research according to the ranked quality of state educational institutions. Foundations for scientific research, however, have very limited funds. The government-run Foundation for Polish Science, also established in 1991, plays an important role as well. Its chief objectives are financing scientific research and projects through nearly 100 loans, subventions, and stipends per year for young scientists. In 1992 the Foundation Award for exemplary scientific achievements was initiated. It is granted in three main fields: the humanities and social sciences; medicine and the natural sciences; and technical and exact sciences.

Admission Standards: To qualify for admission to an institution of higher education, the applicant must hold the secondary school certificate or the professional title of Bachelor's degree or meet requirements determined autonomously by a specific high school.

Faculty: Lectures and other classes are conducted by research workers: professors, associate professors, senior lecturers (adiunkt ), and assistants. Classes are also taught by senior lecturers, lecturers, and instructors. The post of professor is an appointed position for persons who have been granted the degree of professor. The post of associate professor is given to persons who have received at least the degree of reader (doktor habilitowany ) and corresponds to the United States position of associate professor. In the high vocational school, which grants the professional title of bachelor's degree or engineer, the associate professor post is given to persons who have obtained the degree of doctor and possess the necessary professional experience gained outside high schools or the educational system. In a higher maritime school, associate professor is an appointed position for those who have obtained the degree of doctor and possess the highest naval degree. The post senior lecturer is for persons who have attained at least the title of doctor. Assistant is given to those who have obtained at least the master's degree or its equivalent. Senior lecturers are persons who have attained the professional title of doctor or master (or its equivalent) and have the necessary professional experience.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

In Poland, public schools of all types are free because tuition costs are covered by the state. In non-public schools, tuition fees depend on maintenance costs and vary widely. In higher education, all day courses are free, but students have to pay for evening, part-time, and postgraduate courses. In addition, Ph.D. candidates pay for doctoral examinations and review costs, unless they are employed in a teaching capacity by the university.

The following examples reveal the high cost of part time and evening course costs. To put them in perspective, it may help to note that a nominated teacher with 10 years' experience earned 1,100 Polish zloties (PLN) per month in 2001, when one U.S. dollar was worth four PLN. Similarly, an assistant professor with a Ph.D. and 8 years experience received 1,200 to 1,300; members of the Polish Academy of Sciences made even less, as they did not have teaching duties.

For courses in economy and management: The Academy of Economy in Poznan charged 2,100 PLN for part time winter semester courses and 1,900 PLN in the spring. Evening course fees were 2,500 and 2,300. Courses toward the Master's degree charged 2,200 for the winter semester and 2,000 for the spring. Warsaw University's Department of Economy charged 3,600 per semester. The Roman Kudlinski Higher School of Banking, Finance, and Management in Warsaw, a private school, charged 5,300 per year for day courses and 4,400 for part time.

For courses in law: Jagiellonian University in Cracow charged 5,000 PLN for part time courses and 3,000 for each subsequent year. The Higher School of Commerce and Law in Warsaw, a private institution, levied 2,400 per semester, plus an additional 300 enrollment fee, for day and part time courses.

For computer science courses: Wroclaw University required 2,100 PLN per semester. The Polish-Japanese Higher School of Computer Techniques, a private institution, charged 980 per month for 10 months for day courses and 760 for evening courses.

For courses in pedagogy: Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan charged 1,200 PLN per semester. The private Higher School of Humanities and Economy in Lódz required 320 per month for 12 months, plus 500 as a yearly enrollment fee for day courses. Its part time courses were 280 PLN per month for 12 months with a 540 enrollment fee.

For political science courses: Maria Sklodowska Curie University in Lublin charged 2,100 PLN per year.

For courses in psychology: Warsaw University charged 3,900 PLN per semester for evenings. Lublin Catholic University's evening courses cost 1,700 for the winter semester and 1,500 for the spring.

For courses in Sociology: Warsaw University charged 1,750 PLN per semester for evening courses.

Educational Budget: In 2001, Poland's educational budget projected expenditures in the following manner: teachers' salaries, 70 percent; administrative salaries, 10 percent; repairs and maintenance, 14 percent; teaching aids, 2 percent; teachers' development, 3 percent; and curricula, 1 percent.

Nonformal Education

Adult Education: Currently, the most important continuing education institutions are the Continuing Education Centers (Centra Ksztalcenia Ustawicznego ) and the Practical Education Centers (Centra Ksztalcenia Praktycznego ). Figures as of December 1999 showed 109 adult elementary schools, 108 of them full time. They held 5,777 students, including 1,106 women. They graduated 4,259 persons, 783 of them women. Adult gymnasiums totaled 21, with 20 of them full-time day schools. They served 710 students, of whom 89 were women. There were no graduation figures for this level. The nation had 754 adult secondary comprehensive schools, 353 day and 401 part time. Total students numbered 205,708 of whom 67,644 were women. They graduated 24,181, including 13,719 women. Secondary vocational and technical schools were greatest in number. There were 1,829 of them, 1,078 day and 751 part-time. They held 205,708 students, which included 67,644 women.

In Poland's reformed system, adult education will be extremely important. Presently, formal elementary education of adults is not necessary. The tendency is to study extramurally, without attending courses, and then to take the required examinations. For this reason it will be necessary to establish a proper accreditation system for schools and examination commissions. It is anticipated that public schools will take on three major adult education functions. First, they will impart the general knowledge that children obtain through the three year profiled lyceum and the two year supplementary lyceum. Second, they will provide vocational knowledge and skill training for adults. Third, they will be responsible for the supplementary education of youths who gained skills during an apprenticeship or in voluntary units, the so-called OHP (Ochotniczy Hufiec Pracy ).

Open University & Distance Learning: The open university concept was tried in 1994-1995 but failed. The idea has never been resurrected. Aside from distance language and vocational courses, distance education does not exist. Indeed, the concept is associated with the great open spaces of Australia, and there is little enthusiasm for it in Poland.

Teaching Profession

Education of Teachers: Teachers are trained in two systems: higher education and the other schools. Higher education includes universities, high pedagogical schools and pedagogical academies, and academies of physical education. The other schools in the department of education, culture, and health care train teachers in vocational subjects or general education subjects. These other schools include schools of polytechnics, academies of music, and academies of art. They also include colleges for teachers (who will work some day in preschool education, primary schools, and educational institutions) and foreign languages colleges that train teachers for primary and secondary schools. Training courses in colleges are consistent with subjects to be taught or activities to be executed. The goal is the acquisition of the knowledge and skills necessary to employment in a given job.

High schools educate teachers in accordance with regulations of the Central Accreditation Council and are compatible with academic subjects. In the present register of courses, only some courses are purely educational in nature: special pedagogy, physical education, music education, and technical education. For this reason, education follows special guides. If the university does not possess such guides, teachers are trained under an optional pedagogical college course. In most cases, the high school offers single specialization courses. Teachers who have specialized in one subject have an opportunity to gain another specialization through postgraduate two year programs of study. In compliance with the regulations of the education act Karta Nauczyciela, the student teacher gives lessons at schools and educational institutions or operates in special educational institutions. Specialists who help with education (speech therapists and psychologists) are also considered teachers.

This same act established five stages of teacher promotion. At the entry level is the "trainee," who teaches for one or two years. Success at this level, plus an interview before a committee consisting of the trainee's mentor, school's director, faculty chair of the subject, and a trade union representative selected by the trainee, elevates the trainee to the level of "contract teacher." Here he or she works for at least three years. Thereafter, passing an examination raises him or her to the status of "nominated teacher." Three good years must be completed at this level, plus an interview with a committee consisting of the school's director or assistant director, three experts from the Ministry of Education, and a trade union representative. The fourth level, "certified teacher," is where most careers end. Some, however, manage to reach the fifth level, which is honorary, "professor of education."

Academic Teachers in Institutions of Higher Education: As of the 1999-2000 school year, a total of 77,821 faculty members, including 29,908 women, worked in Polish higher education. There were 15,530 professors of whom 2,873 were women. Predictably, there were far fewer doctors habilitated, 8,963. Of this figure, 1,388 were female. Associate professors numbered 596, and among them were 120 women. Of this figure 391 held the scientific degree of doctor habilitated, including 80 women. Tutors possessing at least the doctorate, called adiunkt, were counted at 2,768 with 715 females. Out of this total, 885 possessed the scientific title of doctor habilitated. Assistants, holders of the M.A. degree, totaled 18,138 and among them were 8,511 women. Other teachers numbered 15,861, of them 8,689 were female.

Teacher Unions: There are two main teachers unions, the Polish Teachers Union (Zwiazek Nauczycielstwa Polskiego ) and Solidarity's Teachers Section (Sekcja Nauczycielska NSZZ Solidarnosc ).


Free Poland inherited from the era of Soviet domination an excellent public education system. In some ways that system has been made even better. Since 1989, Marxist-Leninist dogma has been removed, and, in addition, the curriculum has been made more practical and less encyclopedic. Today a wide selection of textbooks is in use. Polish schools now demand even more from teachers, who have been forced to develop their skills more fully. New pedagogical methods are in use, and parents now play a greater role in the education of their children. Poland has responded eagerly to the technological revolution of the 1990s, and stress on computers and the Internet is heavy. In addition, new facilities have been built. Poland's system for busing school children is quite efficient.

Not all change has been positive. In the pell-mell rush to embrace capitalism, Poland, like many nations of the former East Bloc, has badly neglected its public sector employees. In just a decade, low wages have produced a visible generation gap. University graduates are not attracted to teaching, but instead the most talented are lured into business. Below the college-teaching level, the profession has experienced a feminization found frequently in nations that support public education in an inadequate manner. Likewise, low investment in school equipment, such as teaching aids,plagues the system. Post-Communist creation of a new level of schools, the gymnasium, has caused school bureaucracies to expand, even as funds have not kept up with growth. The closing of small, rural schools in the name of efficiency has caused some children to be bused great distances to the chagrin of parents. Indeed, the very selection of which schools to shut has led to ugly rhetoric in parts of the Polish countryside.


Bruckner, Aleksander. Dzieje kultury polskiej t 1-4. Warszawa: Wiedza Powszechna, 1991.

Gazeta Szkolna On-Line. Available from http://www.gazetaszkolna.infor.pl.

Gimazjum. Available from http://www.gimnazjum.

Liceum. Available from http://www.liceum.pl.

Oswiata i wychowanie w roku szkolnym 1999/2000. Warszawa: Glowny Urzad Statystyczny, 2000.

Raport o stanie o wiaty w PRL. Warszawa, 1973.

Republic of Poland Ministry of Education (Ministerstwo Edukacji Narodowej). Scientific and Academic Activities of Polish Universities and Other High Schools. Available from http://www.men.waw.pl.

Statistical Yearbook of the Republic of Poland. Warszawa: Glowny Urzad Satystyczny, 2000.

Wroczynski, Ryszard. Dzieje oswiaty polskiej do roku 1795. Warszawa: Panstwowe Wydawn, 1983.

Dzieje oswiaty polskiej 1795-1945. Warszawa: Panstwowe Wydawn, 1980.

Dorota Batog, Wlodzimierz Batog, and James G. Ryan


views updated May 14 2018


Republic of Poland

Rzeczpospolita Polska



Located in Central Europe, Poland is bordered on the west by Germany, in the north by the Baltic Sea, in the north-east by Russia and Lithuania, in the east by Belarus and Ukraine, and in the south by Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Poland covers a total area of 312,685 square kilometers (120,728 square miles), making it slightly smaller than the state of New Mexico. The capital city, Warsaw, is situated in the center of the country.


The population of Poland was estimated at 38,653,912 in July 2001. In 2001 the birth rate stood at 10.2 per 1,000 and the death rate at 9.98 per 1,000. After a period of uninterrupted growth that began in 1946, the population registered a slight decrease of 0.03 percent in 2001, reflecting a net migration rate of 0.49 people per 1,000. Negative population growth is expected over the next few years, before an upward turn that should see the population reach 39,065,000 in 2015. These projections could change with the arrival of immigrants of Polish descent from central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan, a law having been passed in 2000 to facilitate such immigration .

In 1990, Poland's population was primarily of Polish European descent (97.6 percent). Small minority groups included Germans (1.3 percent), Ukrainians (0.6 percent), and Byelorussians (0.5 percent). Prior to World War II (1939-45) the population of Poland was multi-ethnic, but 5 years of Nazi occupation resulted in heavy loss of life, and it is estimated that more then 6 million Polish citizenssoldiers and civilians combinedwere killed. The heaviest losses were suffered by Poland's Jewish population, the vast majority of whom perished in extermination camps. Many citizens of Polish descent also died in concentration camps, labor camps, prisons, or during forced labor. The demographic profile of Poland at the end of World War II demonstrated the effect of the war on population distribution: by 1945, the number of young men and women who could have been expected to produce children was considerably diminished, although a subsequent baby boom partially improved the situation.

In 1999, approximately 19 percent of the total population was aged 14 or younger, while 12 percent were older than 64. The majority of people live in urban areas. Life expectancy for men is 69.1 years, significantly shorter than for women (77.7 years). Thus, while the genders are more or less equal in number between the ages of 14 and 64, among people aged 65 and older women outnumber men. Despite a well-organized health care service, compulsory vaccination programs against major childhood diseases, and public health information, substantial numbers of Poles die prematurely of smoking-related illnesses. Alcohol consumption has decreased in the past decade, with low alcohol beverages preferred to spirits, but the Polish diet favors red meat, dairy products, and animal fats. Accordingly, Poles are subject to coronary heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer, all of which are thought to relate to the nation's eating habits. In recent years, emphasis has been placed on the development of healthy eating and physical exercise as a preventive measure against such illnesses.


The main revenue-producing sector of the Polish economy is the service sector, which generated approximately 60 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2000. Industry, much of it connected to the mining of mineral wealth, is next in importance at nearly 37 percent of GDP. Except for the rivers traversing Poland from the mountains in the south to the Baltic Sea in the north, the country's topography is free of any major obstacles to freedom of movement and the country has provided a natural network of east-west trade links for Europe dating back to ancient Roman times. Polish cities benefitted from trade for centuries, though numerous wars and military campaigns repeatedly destroyed the infrastructure and depleted the country's periodically accumulated wealth. The last wave of devastation was caused by World War II (1939-45).

Traditionally, Poland has been a large agricultural producer, with the broad, open valleys of the Oder and Vistula rivers providing excellent farmland. However, in recent years, due to a combination of changing farming methods, stiff competition, and environmental hazards such as soil erosion and water pollution, agricultural activity has declined significantly and accounted for only 3.8 percent of GDP in 2000.

In the 1600s, Poland was the main grain supplier in Europe and the country prospered considerably through the grain trade. By the late 1700s, however, the country fell victim to aggressive treaties between its neighbors, Russia, Austria, and Prussia, and ceased to exist as an independent state. The country was divided into thirds, annexed by its neighbors, and absorbed into their territories. Consequently, for 123 years, until the end of World War I in 1918, Poland was developed within separate economic and political entities. Reconstituted as an independent nation under U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's peace plan in 1918, the country had to deal with the legacy of 3 foreign economic systems and uneven levels of infrastructure.

The worldwide effects of the Great Depression of the 1930s and the devastating consequences of World War II hampered Polish economic growth in the first half of the 20th century. Freed from Nazi occupation by the spring of 1945, the country then fell into the sphere of the Soviet Union's influence. From the late 1940s until 1989, Poland's economy was again controlled by foreign dictate, which poured the country's resources into the creation of a huge industrial complex. Coal mining, steel manufacture, and other capital-intensive enterprises were built to satisfy the needs of the centrally planned system imposed by the Soviet Union on countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The Soviet program deprived other economic sectors of resources, caused environmental pollution, and lowered the quality of life in Poland. The unpopularity of the economic policies led to organized protests by the Solidarity labor movement that began in the summer of 1980 and resulted in the eventual defeat of the pro-Soviet government in 1989. Subsequent negotiations between the authoritarian regime and the democratic opposition brought political and economic change, and the non-democratic state-controlled economy gave way to the free market system.

Widely known as "shock therapy," the economic policy adopted by the newly elected democratic government early in 1990 was directed at balancing the national budget. A number of simultaneously implemented reforms liberalized prices and international trade, eliminated political censorship, restored private ownership, and began the privatization of state-owned assets. After an initial period of accelerated inflation in early 1990, the economy stabilized by the end of 1992. Between 1993 and 2000, Poland experienced a run of robust economic growth, offsetting the effects of economic contraction suffered in the 1980s and the early 1990s.

The private sector is now the country's primary job provider and, by 1999, employed 71 percent of the labor force , compared with 1990 when state-owned enterprises employed 52.1 percent of workers. However, the 1999 employment total of 16.069 million workers showed a drop of about 2.5 percent from 1990, although the number of self-employed people had grown by 12.8 percent to 5.6 million. Also, the number of farmers increased by about 10 percent, reflecting structural changes in the economy that reduced the labor force engaged in heavy industry and providing employment in some rural areas, particularly in southern and southeastern Poland.

In general, the Polish labor force is relatively well educated and literacy rates are high (99 percent for men and 98 percent for women). Only 15 percent of the total Polish population have had no more than a primary education, and a significant proportion of those are aged 55 and above. Among the 55-64 age group, nearly 19 percent have had a college education. In recent years, the demand for higher education has increased dramatically and about a third of those in their early twenties are enrolled in public or private colleges.

Sustained economic growth has continued despite frequent changes of government since 1989. Though governments have alternated between conservative and leftist, they have all shared a strong commitment to democracy and free market principles. Unemployment has remained relatively high, about 15 percent in 2000, largely because of the continuing structural adjustments to the economy that are necessary after decades of Soviet mismanagement. The government now attempts to focus on maximizing the use of the country's resources to assure the highest possible standard of living. For example, with the closing of a number of coal mines and a slowing down of heavy industry, with a consequent loss of jobs, new sectors such as telecommunications, banking, and insurance are developing. Growth is nonetheless steady, and this factor, combined with a large domestic market, attracts foreign direct investment . Recent years have witnessed rapid growth in retailing, food and hotel services, and communications.

Poland is negotiating for membership in the European Union (EU), but the question of agricultural subsidies is proving one of the most difficult areas on which to reach agreement. Although a date had not yet been set for joining the EU by 2001, the majority of Poles expect to become EU citizens within the first decade of the 21st century.


Since the change to the political system in 1989, Poland has been governed by alternating periods of right and left-oriented governments. Tadeusz Mazowiecki became prime minister in September 1989, leading the country's first democratic government since the end of World War II. In January 2001, a minority government took power, led by Election Action Solidarity (EAS), an umbrella organization of right-wing parties and the Solidarity trade unions. Despite several changes of government since 1989, democratic, free market, and pro-Western policies have remained unchanged. The large number of political parties established around 1990 has been reduced to 4 major players. The EAS, the moderate Freedom Union (FU), the Polish Peasant Party PPP), and the Liberal-Democratic Alliance, or SLD. From 1997 until late 2000, the SLD, a conglomerate of left wing and social democratic parties, formed a coalition government with the PPP, supporting private ownership, democratic principles in political life, and freedom of expression.

The executive branch of Polish government consists of the prime minister, the cabinet, and the president of the Republic of Poland. The president signs all bills passed by parliament, participates in formulating the annual government budget, and is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president serves a 5-year term and can only be elected to 2 terms of office. Presidential appointees represent the office in numerous government agencies, including the Council of Monetary Policy, an autonomous body that sets targets for the money supply and for interest rates on loans made by the central bank to commercial banks, and establishes guidelines for foreign exchange rates . The former Solidarity leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Lech Walesa, was the first president of post-Soviet Poland.

Poland's parliament consists of a lower and an upper chamber (the Sejm and the Senate) which, together, form the National Assembly. There are 460 members of parliament in the Sejm and 100 in the Senate, all of whom are elected to serve a 4-year term. Candidates for the Senate must be at least 25 years old. The voting age is 18.

The third branch of government is the judiciary, which consists of the courts of law and a number of specially constituted bodies such as the Constitutional Tribunal. The Tribunal monitors and rules on matters alleged to be unconstitutional, protects the rights of individuals, and interprets the laws passed by the National Assembly with respect to rights defined by the Constitution. Labor disputes between employee and employer are heard by the Main Administrative Court, which was established exclusively to deal with non-criminal labor issues and deliver speedy judicial decisions. Cases considered in these courts cannot be considered in other courts.

The Criminal Code and the Civilian Code regulate the conduct of individuals and companies. The European-style legal system is strongly rooted in rules and regulations established by the National Assembly. Poland has abolished the death penalty and the longest prison sentence is 25 years, with life sentences an option only for crimes of particular gravity. However, because of public anxiety over crime, new laws were passed in 2000 approving stiffer penalties in a number of instances. The Civilian Code regulates contractual agreements and presides over divorce cases. It assigns parental custody and sets alimony payments, which are mandatory for all children up to age 18 and for those aged 18 and over who are still enrolled full-time at school. The amount of alimony is based on parental earnings.

In recent years, the Polish government has undertaken several major reforms needed to ensure both economic growth and efficient government administration. Such reforms include redrawing the boundaries of administrative districts, reducing the country's 50 provinces to 16, and the reintroduction of counties. Executive powers have been delegated from the central government to the provinces where elected legislative bodies have been established, thus reducing the number of government departments. This administrative streamlining has coincided with education reform, placing responsibility for the school system in the hands of local authorities. The Polish school system consists of grade, middle, and high schools. Important reforms in health care and social security have decreased government involvement in the provision of medical services and brought in the privatization of pension funds.

Taxes are the major source of government revenue in Poland. Businesses pay a tax of 28 percent on profits, while individuals are taxed on earned income calculated in bands of 19, 30, or 40 percent. Personal income tax accounted for 20.5 percent of all tax revenues in 1999. Over the past several years, tax rates have changed several times. Despite strong pressure from business-oriented leaders, including Leszek Balcerowicz who implemented the economic "shock therapy" of the early 1990s, the rates have not been lowered for some time. Parliamentary debate on this vital economic issue is expected to continue for some time. Excise taxes , representing 22.4 percent of all tax revenue, are collected on tobacco, alcohol, and lottery winnings, while a value-added tax (VAT), introduced some years ago in line with EU countries, supplies 43.3 percent of total tax revenue. The VAT is set at different rates for differing commodities.

The legislative and executive branches of government influence the economy through fiscal and monetary policies. The annual government budget is formulated by discussion of proposals put forward by the prime minister and the president, with additional policies introduced by legislators. Once approved, the budget sets short-term goals related to estimated income and expenditure and the project budgetary deficit or surplus. The economy is managed in line with these projections and, if the deficit figure is exceeded, the shortfall must be covered either through additional public borrowing or increased revenues. However, additional borrowing must have parliamentary approval, not always easily obtained, while additional taxation is limited by public opposition to increases. Consequently, the government may resort to raising excise taxes on selected goods such as alcohol, but more often obtains extra revenue by reducing or liquidating its ownership of companies owned by the Treasury. The privatization of such assets is implemented by opening the companies to bids from all interested parties. The selling off of state-owned enterprises to private companies is fiscally prudent, strengthening the private sector and reducing the necessity for government to compete directly in the financial markets.

The last Soviet troops left in 1994 and Poland, which had actively pursued membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) since the restoration of democracy, became an official member in March 1999 and joined the NATO peacekeeping forces in Kosovo shortly afterwards.


Poland has a good road and rail network, although its density varies across regions. Although the country had 251,004 kilometers (156,000 miles) of paved roads by 1999, these proved insufficient to cope with the explosion of car ownership and trucks in the country. The number of vehicles traveling on Polish roads increased to 13.2 million between 1990 and 1999, a growth of 47 percent (76 percent for passenger cars). The dated infrastructure is being modernized, but is not keeping pace with the acceleration in road traffic. Because of its location and topography Poland serves as a major route between western and eastern European countries. In recent years, trucks have become major carriers of goods from France, the Netherlands, Germany and other EU members, through Poland to Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, and Ukraine.

New multi-lane limited access highways are under construction across Poland and will increase the efficiency of the transport system. The construction of the limited access highway linking Berlin with the Polish capital, Warsaw, and extending to the border with Belarus, has been given priority. In southern Poland, a similar highway will link the western border with Germany through the city of Wroclaw in the Silesian region, and Cracow to the eastern border with Ukraine. A north-south link between Gdansk and the southern border crossings into the Czech Republic and Slovakia is also planned.

By 1999, Poland had 230,087 kilometers (143,000 miles) of well-developed railroad networks. With the increasing competition from buses and trucks, many unprofitable rail routes (12.7 percent between 1990 and 1999) have been closed. The state-owned railroad monopoly is being privatized, and the modernization of major railway lines undertaken in recent years has begun to reap benefits in shortened travel time. With the price of gasoline increasing, railways are once again becoming a competitive mode of passenger transport.

Poland has several well-known seaports. Starting from the northwest corner, the ports of Szczecin and Swinoujscie handle cargo, including coal exports and imports of fertilizer. The smaller ports of Kolobrzeg and Ustka mostly serve fishing fleets and coastal shipping, and handle cargo originating from, and destined for, other Baltic Sea ports. Further east, several small ports are used by fishermen and recreational sailors. Gdansk is the largest seaport. In 1999, 18.8 million tons of cargo37 percent of all Polish cargo both incoming and outgoingwas loaded or unloaded at Gdansk. Next to Gdansk is Gdynia, Poland's youngest port, which was built as a matter of economic necessity in the 1920s. It handles various cargoes, including container shipping. East of Gdansk, the port of Elblag can only be accessed by a narrow strait belonging to Russia, and ships bound for Elblag can only pass through without delay by negotiated agreement with the Russians.

Several major rivers, including the Vistula, Oder, Warta, and Notec, are used for barge navigation. The total length of rivers and channels suitable for barge navigation was 3,813 kilometers (2,370 miles) in 1999. Through its system of channels and rivers, Poland is linked with the inland waterways of Western Europe. The economic importance of the west-east barge traffic is small because it cannot compete effectively with truck and rail shipments. However, the north-south barge traffic is competitive, plying goods between Poland's southern industrial towns and farms and the Baltic ports of Szczecin, Swinoujscie, and Gdansk.

CountryNewspapersRadiosTV Sets aCable subscribers aMobile Phones aFax Machines aPersonal Computers aInternet Hosts bInternet Users b
United States2152,146847244.325678.4458.61,508.7774,100
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Warsaw's Okecie airport is the largest in Poland. All major European air carriers operate services to Warsaw, while the Polish national airline, Lot, connects the capital with many cities in Europe, North America, the Middle East, and Asia. Airports in Gdansk, Poznan, and Cracow also offer international connections. Airports of domestic importance are located in Szczecin, Katowice, and Wroclaw.

About 95 percent of the country's electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels. Public opposition in the early 1990s put an end to the construction of a proposed nuclear power plant in Zarnowiec, which was converted to conventional fuels instead. Hydroelectric power is also generated, mostly in southern Poland, where the mountainous topography offers opportunities to construct dams. Since much of the country's terrain consists of open plains, there is some expectation of being able to harness wind power in the future. In 1999, Poland generated a total of 134.351 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy, enough to meet domestic needs and export demand.

The country operates a very well-established postal service with 8,380 post offices in 1999, 58.8 percent of them located in rural areas. There is no weekend mail delivery, but many post offices in towns stay open in the evening and large cities typically have one 24-hour post office. Nearly 26,000 mailmen are employed in the daily delivery of mail. Courier services are provided by the post office and by private companies, which include branches of international couriers DHL and Federal Express.

Telecommunications services are undergoing rapid modernization. After years of neglect, new switchboards are constantly being installed and the number of telephone subscribers has increased substantially. The nation has enthusiastically adopted wireless communications and cellular phones, with the number of wire telephone subscribers exceeding 10 million in 1999 (more than treble the figure in 1990), while cellphone users increased from 75,000 in 1995 to almost 4 million in 1999.


Agriculture is the smallest of Poland's 3 major economic sectors, contributing just 3.8 percent of GDP in 1999. The industrial sector is significant and wide-ranging and contributed 36.6 percent of GDP, but the largest and fastest-growing economic sector is services, which provided 59.6 percent of GDP in 1999.

The total labor force in Poland stood at 17.2 million at the end of 1999, an increase of 1.2 percent since 1995. Men make up 64.3 percent of the workforce as against 49.7 percent of women, and the share of the working population is slightly higher in rural areas (57.2 percent) than in urban areas (56.3 percent), reflecting some increase in the number of farmers during the 1990s. In 1999, 1.434 million women and 1.207 million men were unemployed. Overall, 44.4 percent of Poles were employed in 1998, more than in Italy (40.7 percent) or Spain (41.6 percent), but less than in Germany (48.7 percent) or the United Kingdom (49.4 percent). The majority of Poland's workers50.4 percentwere employed in the services sector in 1999, while 27.5 percent were employed in the agricultural sector and 22.1 percent in industry.

The value of foreign direct investment (FDI) amounted to US$26 billion in 1999, a 332 percent increase since 1995. Many foreign companies operate in Poland. Hormel is investing in the meat processing industry, Coca-Cola and Pepsico have expanded their operations, and fast food chains including McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell, and Dunkin' Donuts are now familiar names. Other major international corporations operating in Poland include GM, Daewoo, Volkswagen, and Fiat in the automotive industry. Power generation, petrochemicals, and telecommunications are other sectors that attract foreign investors since demand is high. While economic restructuring had already modernized a number of industries (paper and packaging, for example), foreign direct investment has led to a sizable increase in imports of technologically advanced machinery and equipment designed to speed up modernization.


About 2 million family farms, employing approximately 27.5 percent of the labor force, supply Poland's agricultural output. As a result of land reforms in the 1940s, when the country's large estates were divided up under communist rule, Polish farms are generally small, averaging about 15 acres. This is changing as much bigger farms are being developed, but the majority of farmers are unable to earn sufficient income through agriculture and must take outside jobs in order to support their families. Agriculture contributed only 3.8 percent of GDP in 1999, a major change in a country that, before World War II, was primarily an agricultural economy.

Poland is among the world's leading producers of rye, potatoes, and apples, as well as pork and milk. The length of the growing season varies regionally according to climate, being much shorter in the northeast where a harsh continental climate prevails. Although the exports of certain produce (potatoes, apples and other fruits, frozen ducks and geese, and sugar) has declined over the years, Poland exports grains, sugar, pork, processed meats, and dairy products. The upwards of 150-year-old sugar industry faces stiff price competition from overseas producers and is under pressure to restructure itself as the quantities of unsold sugar mount. Similarly, the once enormous potato production has been substantially reduced by changes and improvements to the feeding of livestock. Farmers face tough competition from imported commodities and food products, and are dissatisfied by the lack of sufficient export markets. It is expected that, within a decade, there will be no more than 700,000 farms in Poland. They will be large, specialized, and commercially geared, replacing the small, diversified, but often inefficient agricultural producers. Restructuring of the farming sector is a major issue in negotiating Poland's access to the EU.

Pork and dairy farmers remain competitive. Milk and pork production have recovered from the transition from the centrally planned system of fixed prices to the market economy. Dairy plants that had been organized as cooperatives have successfully adopted modern processing and packing technologies, and planned development of dairy products has helped maintain market demand.

Even before the 20th century, deforestation occurred as a result of clearing trees in order to expand the land available for farming. This has led to problems of soil erosion caused by winds blowing across the treeless land. In recent years, the government has offered reforestation incentives to farmers, granting them exemption from land tax if they plant trees on their least productive land. Polish farmers only use pesticides in conditions of extreme necessity and the use of chemical fertilizer is also comparatively low, but there is always the threat of water pollution, mainly caused by nitrogen and phosphorus runoff in livestock production. Farmers are being educated to the dangers, and practices are changing. Local governments, too, have been using central government grants to plant trees along streams and creeks to establish a biological barrier between fields and surface water. Further progress in farming techniques will require additional investment in manure storage facilities, and the government will continue to support environmental programs relating to agriculture in order to meet EU standards.



The mining sector employed 271,000 workers in 1999, representing 2.8 percent of the workforce. Since 1995, however, the employment decreased in this sector by 27.5 percent. Mining accidents were a constant threat and resulted from gas explosions, gas poisonings, or rock collapsing on miners working underground.

Coal mining has been a traditional employer of thousands living in the regions of Upper and Lower Silesia. Poland has long produced in excess of 140 million tons of coal annually. In 1999, the country mined 112 million tons, placing it seventh among the top 10 world coal producers. New coal fields were brought into production in eastern Poland in the 1980s, but the decreasing importance of steel production and coal exports led to the reduction of the number of mines. In 2000 the government offered coal miners an incentive program encouraging early retirement and re-training because of the diminishing profitability and efforts to reduce the environmental degradation in Silesia, the primary coal mining region.

Poland is also mining lignite, used as a fossil fuel for power generation. The 1999 production was 60.8 million tons, about 10 percent lower than in 1990. Large lignite deposits have been mined in central Poland around the town of Konin and in the southwestern corner of Poland near Turoszow, where the borders of Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic come together. Because lignite contains less energy per unit of weight than coal it is chiefly used in the immediate vicinity of the mine for power generation. Poland was the world's fourth largest lignite producer in 1999.

Sulphur mines are located in the area of Tarnobrzeg, northeast of Cracow, near the Vistula river. Poland is the third largest sulphur producer in the world and produced 1.247 million tons in 1999, roughly a quarter of what was produced in 1990. Sulphur and sulfuric acid are major exported commodities. In western Poland, around the town of Lubin, copper is mined. In 1999, the region produced 28.388 million tons of copper ore. High quality copper is smelted there as well as other ores typically found with copper such as silver. Poland was the world's eighth largest copper producer in 1999 and copper is a major export commodity, but the slowing world demand does not encourage further expansion of mines in Poland. Sodium chloride, or salt, has been mined for centuries in Poland and some of the world's oldest salt mines can be found in Wieliczka near Cracow. Today Poland continues to mine salt mostly in the central plains. In 1999, Poland produced 4.128 million tons of salt. Natural gas reserves are significant and several fields are being operated on plains in central and western regions. Oil reserves are limited and satisfy only a fraction of the domestic demand.


The manufacturing sector has been undergoing major restructuring since 1990. Following the changes in the political and economic system, many industries were forced to compete on the market rather than having their production and prices set by the government. Many plants found it difficult to compete on the basis of quality and cost-effectiveness. After a period of attempts to adjust, many plants closed because they were using obsolete technology or because they lost their primary markets. The closings most affected the heavy industry producing machinery and equipment for the mining industry, steel mills, smelting, shipbuilding, and railroad equipment.

Steel manufacturing continues at modernized mills near Cracow and in Silesia in southern Poland. Demand for steel comes from the automotive industry and shipbuilding. Several car plants including the Italian Fiat and GM are located in Silesia. Daewoo operates a plant in Warsaw, while Volkswagen operates a new plant in Poznan. Between 1990 and 1999, car production increased by 244 percent. The shipbuilding industry, although considerably smaller than in decades past, continues to build vessels in Szczecin, Gdynia, and Gdansk located on the Baltic Sea. After a period of adjustment in the mid-1990s, the shipbuilding industry increased production in the late 1990s. The rail car industry shrunk substantially, but a plant continues to produced modernized equipment in Wroclaw. Large demand for steel is represented by the construction industry. Besides steel, Poland also produces aluminum, lead, and zinc.

Silesia is also the center for coke produced from coal and crude petroleum processing. Plock, located in central Poland, refines crude oil imported from Russia, and a refinery in Gdansk processes oil imported by sea from the Middle East and Africa. Fuel oil, gasoline, and lubricants are some of the products produced by the oil processing industry.

Fertilizers are produced at several locations. Phosphorus fertilizers are produced near Szczecin, while a plant in the town of Pulawy, southeast of Warsaw, produces nitrogen fertilizers. Another fertilizer plant is in Tarnow, east of Cracow in the southern part of the country. Fertilizer production increased in the late 1990s despite a decrease in the domestic demand for fertilizers caused by the decrease in food consumption and imports of competitively priced feed components.

The chemical industry produces a number of goods, including sulfuric acid, synthetic fibers, synthetic organic dyes, and caustic soda. The production of plastics increased by about 50 percent between 1995 and 1999, while synthetic rubber production decreased slightly. Chemical industry plants are located in Silesia and several major cities. Lacquer product production increased substantially during the 1990s. The production of tires for cars more than tripled between 1990 and 1999 in response to the increased demand resulting from increased car ownership.

The production of construction materials showed mixed trends in the 1990s. This is the result of dramatically changing technology using different materials, lighter constructions, and new insulating materials. Although the production of cement increased, plate glass production shrunk. Also, brick production decreased by nearly one-half.

Lodz and surrounding towns in central Poland have been for more than a century producing high quality yarn, fabrics, and ready-to-wear clothing. However, once price controls were lifted and the large market represented by the Soviet Union disappeared, the industry was forced to reduce production and employment. Many female workers were laid off because, with the outdated technology and relatively high labor costs, some textile factories were unable to compete with goods from Asia and Central America. Textiles are also produced in the city of Bialystok in the northeastern part of Poland.

The production of consumer durables is located in major cities. Poland increased the production of refrigerators, automatic washing machines, computer systems, and electronic calculating equipment and television sets in the 1990s. The increase in the production of television sets amounted to 687 percent between 1990 and 1999. The production of furniture increased by 334 percent during the same period.



Poland's retail sector had been severely under-developed by central planners. The allocation of resources by the Soviet-backed regime gave priority to industrial development and, under the fixed-price system, made retailing a secondary concern. Furthermore, with private property ownership perceived as highly undesirable, the only companies that could operate retail stores were state-owned or cooperative enterprises. Three major organizations were virtual oligopolists (businesses which greatly affect the market by virtue of the scarcity of other businesses) in the retail sector. Two of them were transformed cooperatives: one operated grocery stores in towns and cities, and the other dominated retailing in rural areas. The government planners distributed goods according to priorities set by the government administration and in response to political influence rather than in response to the needs and actual demand.

The transition to a market-oriented economy at the end of 1989 led to the rapid re-birth of the private retail sector. Within a couple of years almost all retail trade was privatized. The old distribution system collapsed, and a new system slowly emerged. The instant effect of price liberalization and the introduction of private property was the increase in the number of retail outlets. Initially, new outlets were mostly small grocery stores, but over time specialty stores appeared, including clothing stores, shoe stores, drug stores, books and paper product outlets, stores with electronics, home furnishings, and others. The number of grocery stores continued to increase in the late 1990s, although at a decreasing rate. In 1999, the number of grocery stores was 16 percent higher than in 1995, but in 1998 the number of new stores increased by only 159, reaching a total of 147,366.

The newest trend in the retail food sector is the emergence of supermarket chains. In the first half of the 1990s, large supermarkets located in the largest cities. Although some of them were established by foreign retail corporations, others were operated by Polish entrepreneurs. Knowing the needs and preferences of Polish consumers, Polish chains located in residential neighborhoods or in areas of dense housing. The stores were medium size, offered self-service areas and serviced meat, fish, and bakery departments. In recent years, a number of large supermarkets has been constructed on the outskirts of large urban areas. They located at the intersections of major highways and depend heavily on shoppers traveling in their own vehicles. Given the rapid increase in car ownership, these new stores appeal to the new and growing middle class. Because these stores are largely operated by chains from Germany, France, Belgium, and other countries, they also brought with them the new concept of the hypermarket, which sells both groceries and non-food items ranging from cosmetics and detergent to clothing and household items.

Retail shops employed 1.35 million workers in 1999, or 13.9 percent of all employed in the economy. The employment in this sector increased by 20 percent between 1995 and 1999. However, the next few years will bring a restructuring of the food retail segment because large supermarkets operating for long hours had begun to force the closure of small shops in their area. Therefore, some jobs will be transferred from small owner-operated shops to large corporate-owned supermarkets. The process will vary across regions reflecting variability in population density and income.


The rapidly increasing number of cars in Poland led to the development of a new service sector that includes car dealerships, repair services, and gasoline stations. Car dealerships numbered 13,453 in 1999 and increased by 28.6 percent between 1995 and 1999. However, the growth rate decreased substantially over this period, reflecting the saturation of the market and the slackening demand for new cars. Although Poland's new car demand was the highest in Europe in 1998 and 1999, sales figures for 2000 were substantially lower. Increasing gasoline prices caused by higher energy prices worldwide and excise taxes made ownership less attractive. Furthermore, the increase of the short-term interest rates by the National Bank of Poland to curb inflation increased the cost of credit used by the majority of buyers to finance a purchase.

The number of gasoline stations continues to increase at a healthy pace. Between 1995 and 1999 the number increased by 42 percent. The growth in 1999 alone was almost 5 percent. With the construction of new highways and the establishment of new shopping centers on the outskirts of towns, the demand for gasoline will continue to grow. Also, the anticipated growth in cross-country transit traffic will encourage the construction of new gasoline stations in the near future. Many of the new stations are built by international corporations, e.g., Shell and BP, and include a convenience store and a fast food restaurant. McDonald's Corp. in particular joins many gasoline retailers located at major highways.


The banking industry was underdeveloped at the end of the 1980s. Credit was used to finance government investment projects and was provided by state-owned banks. Credit for consumer spending was very limited. Housing cooperatives constructing and maintaining apartment complexes received government-subsidized credits. Since the change in government, the private banking industry has emerged and foreign banks opened branch offices.

The financial sector employed 287.4 thousand people at the end of 1999, 2.9 percent of the workforce and more than the mining industry. Employment grew by about one-fifth between 1995 and 1999. Revenues from operations increased for the comparable period of time by 268 percent. The gross profit rate of financial service businesses amounted to 15.5 percent in 1995 and dropped to 7.1 percent in 1999. However, the net profits were 9.9 percent in 1995, 4.2 percent in 1998, and 4.5 percent in 1999. Credit and debit card use has increased dramatically and ATMs have been installed in public access areas, facilitating customer use of their money.

In 1999 and 2000 a number of foreign banks increased their presence in Poland. Also, several major mergers were concluded strengthening the banking sector and increasing its capital. Foreign portfolio investment in Poland increased from US$9.4 billion in 1995 to US$14.2 billion in 1999. The foreign portfolio investment can choose between the bond and the stock market. In recent years, because of the growing economy, the stock market offered very good returns.


This sector was particularly underdeveloped prior to 1989. The government was not interested in such investment because, under the system of controlled food prices, there was no economic incentive to operate restaurants. Instead, the government-owned companies, schools, universities, and hospitals operated cafeterias. Eating privileges were tied to employment or enrollment in the school program. The majority of cafeterias served the main meal of the day at mid-day. The food was often perceived as lacking taste, but it was convenient, saving the trouble of shopping and cooking upon returning home.

The restoration of private ownership encouraged a large number of entrepreneurs to open eating establishments. At the end of 1999, the number of restaurants was 73,099, and about 95 percent of them were privately owned. The distribution of restaurants by type indicates that the most popular among consumers and entrepreneurs were self-service restaurants, which represented 44.3 percent of all restaurants at the end of 1999. Food stands were the second most prevalent type of food service facility, representing 39.1 percent of all establishments, but their number grew very slowly between 1995 and 1999. Tablecloth restaurants represented 8.8 percent of all restaurants, but their number increased by 24.4 percent between 1995 and 1999. This growth is most visible as these restaurants locate in prime shopping or tourist areas. The fastest growth was among cafeterias, whose numbers expanded 36.4 percent between 1995 and 1999. The revenues in the food service sector as a whole doubled between 1995 and 1999. The growth was generated mostly by food sales rather than by alcohol sales.


Slightly over 89 million foreigners visited Poland in 1999. The growth was fully attributable to the growth in visits of citizens of neighboring countries, who represented 95.4 percent of foreign tourists. However, the short-term trends in the direction from which tourists arrive is changing. In the second half of the 1990s, the number of Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and Belarusian visitors increased, while the number of tourists from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Russia decreased. Czech and German tourists dominate the tourist traffic in Poland. In 1999, 53.8 million tourists came from Germany and 13.5 million tourists from the Czech Republic. The number of visiting German tourists steadily increases.

Tourists arriving from countries not bordering with Poland come mostly from the Netherlands, the United States, Sweden, Hungary, Italy, and Great Britain. Among them, the number of American tourists showed the largest gains between 1995 and 1999. Although Poland offers great tourist sites for those interested in history or nature, the climate is not conducive to all types of activities sought by tourists. The large, sandy beaches of the Baltic Sea are wonderful for walking, but sun bathing and swimming are reserved only for summer months.

The expanding hotel sector and improved quality of accommodations and service will eventually attract more tourists. The hospitality industry (hotels and restaurants) employed a total of 158.3 thousand people in 1999, or 1.6 percent of the workforce. This figure grew by more than 24 percent since 1995, showing a robust expansion of the sector. With improving access through a better highway system, faster train service, and more air connections, the tourist industry is poised for moderate growth.


During the last decade of the 20th century, international trade was fully liberalized. The direction of Poland's trade has changed substantially as the result of the breakup of the Soviet bloc of countries. Today, Poland's major trading partners are located mostly in Western Europe and North America and not in the former

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Poland
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

Soviet bloc states. Prior to World War II, the main trading partner in both exports and imports was Germany, receiving 31.2 percent of Polish exports and providing 27.3 percent of imports in 1928. The second and the third trading partners were the United States and Great Britain.

Following World War II and the installation of the Soviet Union-controlled regime in Poland, trade flow patterns changed. In 1950, the Soviet Union was the largest importer of Polish goods (28.8 percent) and the largest exporter to Poland (24.3 percent). Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) were the other 2 most important trading partners. By 1990, the trade flow patterns continued to reflect the economic re-orientation of Poland. The 2 main trading partners were East Germany (20.1 percent and 25.1 percent of imports and exports, respectively) and the Soviet Union (19.8 percent and 15.3 percent of imports and exports, respectively).

After 1990, however, trade patterns changed dramatically. The Soviet Union peacefully disintegrated and was replaced by Russia and 14 other independent countries. By 1999, a re-unified Germany had become the major trading partner, taking 36.1 percent of Poland's exports and providing 25.2 percent of its imports. Other major markets for Polish exports were Italy (6.5 percent), the Netherlands (5.3 percent), France (4.8 percent), the United Kingdom (4.0 percent), and the Czech Republic (3.8 percent). Major importers to Poland in 1999 include Italy (9.4 percent), France (6.8 percent), Russia (5.8 percent), the United Kingdom (4.6 percent), and the Netherlands (3.7 percent).

Poland formed together with Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic a free trade area in the early 1990s and became a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). However, the main goal has been to gain access to the European Community (EC) market because of its size and the demand structure. Poland's agricultural products had particularly difficult access to EC markets because of the quota system imposed by the EU. An agreement between the 2 parties signed in September 2000 opened the trade in agricultural products and set the pace leading to full liberalization of agricultural trade between Poland and the EU within the next few years. It is expected that Poland will increase exports of milk and dairy products, pork, some fruits and vegetables, potato products, confections, and, perhaps, sugar, while increasing imports of poultry, fresh fruits and vegetables, wine, and processed foods.

Imports are associated with the rapid growth and direct foreign investment. Among some of the main types of goods imported to Poland are machinery and industrial equipment, electronics, cars and car parts, and construction materials. Oil and gas are large import items. Oil is imported from Russia and Middle Eastern countries, while gas is imported from Russia. Poland wants to import gas from Norway, but not until a pipeline link is constructed. In recent years Poland's appetite for imported goods exceeded exports. In 2000, the value of imports stood at US$42.7 billion while the value of exports stood at US$28.4 billion.


From the end of World War II until 1990, the exchange of the Polish currency, the zloty, was suspended. The government established an elaborate system of several exchange rate regimes. The Polish zloty was valued differently against the same foreign currencies depending on the type of a transaction. For example, western tourists were forced to exchange their currency at a rate making the zloty very expensive, but foreign importers were attracted by competitively priced goods in zlotys. This system of multiple exchange rates ended in the late 1980s.

The liberalization of economic controls during the early 1990s caused the zloty to lose much of its value. By the mid-1990s, US$1 was worth in excess of 10,000 zlotys. Therefore, the National Bank of Poland decided to exchange the banknotes by introducing new coins and banknotes on 1 January 1995. The new Polish zloty was equal to 10,000 old Polish zlotys. The original exchange rate was posted at US$1:2.434 Polish zloty in January 1995. For a time, both the new and the old banknotes were in circulation. Today, old banknotes are no longer accepted for payment.

The National Bank of Poland (NBP) is the sole supplier of money in the economy. Its mission is to implement the monetary policy consistent with maintaining the low inflation rate needed for sustained economic growth. The primary tool used by the NBP was the manipulation of the short-term interest rate charged on loans made to commercial banks. The NBP is independent from the executive branch of government. Its leadership received high praise for its focused approach and has been credited with the high levels of economic activity.

With the adoption of the market economy, Poland opened its stock exchange. The Warsaw Stock Exchange

Exchange rates: Poland
zlotys per US$1
Dec 20004.3126
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

was, ironically, located in the building built specially as the headquarters of the Polish United Workers Party (a Soviet-style communist party). The increasing popularity of the stock exchange, the growing number of traded stocks, and the volume traded have forced it to move to a new, bigger facilities in recent years. Besides stocks of individual companies, several mutual funds have been established. Their popularity has increased because capital gains and dividends are tax-free in Poland.

At the end of 1999, the number of companies listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange was 119, more than twice the number of those traded in 1995. The value of transactions more than tripled in the same time period. An average number of transactions per session on the main market was about 4,100 in 1999. The main market requires that companies exist for a minimum period of time and meet standard capital requirements. The parallel market trades shares of companies unable to meet the main market requirements, but which issue enough shares to guarantee liquidity . A total of 61 companies were listed on this market at the end of 1999. Finally, the free market trades shares of companies which meet similar, but less rigorous requirements than those expected from companies traded on the other 2 markets. At the end of 1999, this market listed 26 companies after 2 years in existence.

The Warsaw Stock Exchange Index (WIG) relates the current market value of companies listed on the main market to the value of companies quoted on the first session of the stock exchange on 16 April 1991. The initial level of the index was 1,000 and rose to 18,083.6 at the end of 1999.

Poland also has an active bond market. The government began issuing securities to finance the budget deficit in the early 1990s and gradually introduced short-, medium-, and long-term fixed rate treasury bonds. Variable rate bonds have been also introduced. Over time, the government has been issuing mostly variable rate bonds. This trend is reflected in changes in volume traded. In 1995, for example, the majority of transactions involved 5-year fixed rate bonds, but in 1999 the majority involved 3-year variable bonds. Overall, during that period, the government issued less bonds and the value of traded bonds in 1999 was roughly one-fourth of that in 1995. Traders and the public preferred trading at the stock exchange.


Although not a poor country, the amount of wealth accumulated by Poland's citizens is limited. The loss of independence, the control by foreign powers of economic and political life, and 2 world wars brought destruction and depleted any accumulated wealth. Since the end of World War II misguided economic policies further wasted the efforts of millions of people. Only since 1990

GDP per Capita (US$)
United States19,36421,52923,20025,36329,683
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

has the country had its first real opportunity to utilize its talents and skills. It will take time, however, before the effects will be widely visible.

The implementation of market-oriented reforms caused the whole nation to suffer during the period of transition. The previous system of widely spread subsidies for food consumption, transportation, and other areas of life could not be sustained because of the gaping hole in the government budget. Particularly hard hit by budget cuts were places of culture including museums, galleries, theaters, symphony orchestras, and other artists who had benefitted from government sponsorship. Slowly, as the economy has improved, private sponsors increased their contributions and the government budget has allocated more funds to support arts and sciences.

The new economic system offers unemployment benefits. The benefits expire after several months. However, local governments operate offices assisting the unemployed in finding jobs. In some parts of the country it is difficult to match the person with given skills to the job. Retraining programs are offered for those who lack job skills, such as high school graduates who pursued general education, or those whose skills are obsolete because of the changing economy.

Poland's health care system has been recently reformed, but everybody has access to medical services. A

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Poland
Lowest 10%3.0
Lowest 20%7.7
Second 20%12.6
Third 20%16.7
Fourth 20%22.1
Highest 20%40.9
Highest 10%26.3
Survey year: 1996
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].
Household Consumption in PPP Terms
CountryAll foodClothing and footwearFuel and power aHealth care bEducation bTransport & CommunicationsOther
United States139946851
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

person must register with a family doctor of his or her choice. This general physician is the primary care provider. Should any additional services be required, the primary care provider directs a patient to a specialist. The health care system is organized into several regional organizations which receive government grants to finance their services. The organizations negotiate contract prices with hospitals and clinics, both private and operated by local governments. Destitute people also receive health care services and the cost of treatment is paid by grants from local or central governments. Although the system pays for psychiatric help, it does not include dental care services.

Poland has a public school system. All citizens are guaranteed education through grade 12. In recent years, private schools have been permitted, but their number remains small. Schools are operated by local governments, but the central government provides grants on a per-pupil basis. Because schools often lack funds for periodic maintenance services such as painting or decorating classrooms, parents often either collect additional funds or provide labor to complete these tasks. Fund raisers are also held to finance class trips and other special projects.

High school graduates who would like to pursue a university degree can choose from a number of private colleges and public universities. Many of these schools focus on educating students in a single area, for example, insurance, journalism, marketing, or economics and management. They offer a baccalaureate degree after 3 years of studies. Two additional years and a thesis are required to complete an MS degree. The government provides low-interest loans for students lacking funds to study at a university. Public universities do not charge tuition, but to be accepted the candidate must pass an entrance exam or graduate from high school with a high GPA.

Because economic conditions vary across regions, the government developed some programs focusing on the needs of areas lagging behind the general level of development. These areas receive additional funds for the construction of local infrastructure projects including water and sewage treatment facilities, school construction and renovation, etc. A portion of the funds is provided by the EU.

Although lifestyles between the poor and the wealthy have not yet had time to fully differentiate, some differences are visible. Besides differences in food consumption, some of the noticeable differences are in the use of vacation time. Although the number of people participating in tourist trips increased from 53 percent in 1990 to 63 percent in 1999, the percentage of those spending 5 or more days on a trip stayed roughly the same. In 1990, 34 percent spent 5 or more days on a trip, while in 1999 36 percent did so. However, the number of non-travelers decreased from 47 percent to 37 percent in the same time period. The length of a typical vacation tends to be shorter now than the standard 2 weeks prior to 1989.

The change of the economic system to one rewarding the suppliers of labor negatively affected families with a large number of small children. These families tend to spend particularly large amounts of their income on food and basic necessities, while having fewer opportunities to allocate more time to work. Government welfare programs provide additional support, but it seems that the needs of large families are increasing. Whether this situation discourages childbearing and contributes to the stagnation of the population growth has not yet been determined.


Government policy aims at sustaining economic growth as the way to solve the problem of unemployment. In 1999 an estimated 12 percent of Poland's work-force of 17.2 million were unemployed. Poland is a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and participates in all major world and European treaties protecting personal freedoms, rights of expression, and free association. The tradition of independent trade union organization started with Solidarity, which was a major force behind the transition to democracy and a market-oriented economy.

Workers continue to be organized in 2 major trade union organizations: Solidarity, which continues the traditions of the organization born in the summer of 1980; and the trade union organizations formed from the former government-sponsored and controlled unions that predated Solidarity. There is also a very aggressive teachers' union, which was opposed to the government-sponsored school reforms and the associated performance-based evaluation. Part of the reform included the change of the retirement age from 55 years of age to 60 years. However, none of the changes violated any domestic or international legal standard.

Disputes resulting from employment contracts are handled by special courts. These courts deal only with conflicts between employers and employees. Children under 16 years of age are not allowed to work. On farms, however, some children may help parents with regular chores or at harvest. However, no widespread use of underage children is required because many farms are small and they are relatively well equipped with machinery. Pregnant women receive special treatment. After delivery, a woman can take up to 12 months of unpaid leave, while her job is protected.

Increasingly, education influences the type of job and pay a person receives. The link between education and pay explains the increasing demand for education and the rapidly growing number of college and university students.


966. Poland's Duke Mieszko I is baptized and Poland accepts Christianity.

1025. Boleslaw is crowned the first king of Poland.

1385. The commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania is created through a treaty.

1683. King Jan Sobieski III defeats the army of the Ottoman Empire in the battle of Vienna.

1772. Poland is partitioned (divided) by Russia, Austria, and Prussia.

1795. Polish-American hero Tadeusz Kosciuszko leads an insurrection against Russia, one of many that occur as Poland loses all the functionings of an independent state as it is subsumed into the partitioning countries. Poland ceases to exist as an independent nation until 1918.

1918. Poland is reborn at the end of World War I; Ignacy Paderewski becomes the first prime minister.

1920. Poland fights a war with the Soviet Union and successfully defends itself against the Red Army.

1939. On 1 September Nazi Germany invades Poland signaling the beginning of World War II; on 17 September Russian leader Josef Stalin orders the Red Army to enter Poland in accordance with the secret treaty between the Soviet Union and Germany; Poland is occupied until 1945.

1940. The Polish government-in-exile formed in the United Kingdom organizes a system of military and civilian communication in occupied Poland.

1945. Warsaw is liberated and Poland is freed of Nazi occupation.

1948. The Soviet Union installs a communist government in Poland, leading to over 40 years of centrally-planned economic organization.

1956. In June, protests against Soviet control in the city of Poznan end with nearly 80 dead; by October, the ruling regime installs new leadership and temporarily relaxes some controls.

1970. The December protests of shipyard workers against food price increases lead to violent action by government security forces in the Baltic cities of Szczecin, Gdynia, and Gdansk.

1976. Following another wave of protests, the Polish opposition forms the Committee for Workers' Defense and begins to organize the underground publication of officially banned writers and intellectuals.

1979. Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cracow, is elected Pope John Paul II.

1980. The independent trade union "Solidarity," led by Lech Walesa, is born in Gdansk.

1981. Martial law is introduced on 13 December, and there are widespread arrests of Solidarity activists.

1989. Negotiations lead to a peaceful transfer of power to the opposition; the first free elections are held in Poland since the end of World War II.

1997. A new constitution is adopted in a nationwide referendum.

1999. Poland joins the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).


Poland entered the 21st century as a member of NATO and a candidate for the early accession into the European Union. The country has been firmly committed to democracy and a market economy after the implementation of economic, political, administrative, and social reforms following the collapse of communist control in 1989. The pace of changes during the 1990s moved the country from stagnation to a period of steady economic growth. The country is posed to continue its growth. Although the unemployment rate will, at least in the short run, remain relatively high, the government's macroeconomic policies are intended to assure long-term economic growth. The primary objective will remain the need to manage the supply of money to the economy so as to balance the need for growth with the need to assure stable prices.

In the coming years the most important economic issues facing Poland will likely include efforts to lower unemployment, while keeping inflation at bay. Furthermore, issues in regional differences in economic activity will come to the forefront. Although labor mobility in Poland is low because of prevailing attitudes, those who want to move to an area where the demand for labor is high face the problem of finding affordable housing.

Political stability has been achieved as governments alternate between right and left orientation, but within constitutionally defined boundaries. Although not all reforms have been popular, all of them have been necessary to assure the sustainable growth in decades to come. The transfer of many responsibilities from the central to local government strengthens the participatory democracy, allowing the people to voice their opinions and influence policies.

Within the next few years, a young, well-educated labor force will enter the labor market. Because the quality of human capital is increasingly important in today's economy, future graduates are expected to be productive and competitive contributors to further economic growth.


Poland has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Poland. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Embassy of Poland, Washington, D.C. <http://www.polandembassy.org>. Accessed September 2001.

Holmes, Leslie T., and Wojciech Roszkowski, editors. Changing Rules: Polish Political and Economic Transformation in Comparative Perspectives. Warsaw: Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, 1997.

National Bank of Poland. <http://www.nbp.pl/home_en.html>. Accessed September 2001.

OECD Economic Outlook. Paris: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Vol. 68, December 2000.

Polish Official Statistics. <http://www.stat.gov.pl/english/index.htm>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Poland. <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_guides/2001/europe/index.html>. Accessed September 2001.

Wojtaszczyk, Konstanty Adam, editor. Poland in Transition. Warsaw: Dom Wydawn, ELIPSA, 1999.

Wojciech J. Florkowski




Polish zloty (Z). One Polish zloty equals 100 groszy. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 groszy, and 1, 2, and 5 zlotys. There are notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 zlotys.


Machinery and transport equipment, intermediate manufactured goods, miscellaneous manufactured goods, food and live animals.


Machinery and transport equipment, intermediate manufactured goods, chemicals, miscellaneous manufactured goods.


US$327.5 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$28.4 billion (f.o.b., 2000). Imports: US$42.7 billion (f.o.b., 2000).


views updated May 14 2018


Republic of Poland

Major Cities:
Warsaw, Kraków, Poznań, Łód Ź, Wrocław

Other Cities:
Bielsko-biala, Bydgoszcz, Częstochowa, Gdańsk, Kielce, Szczecin


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated April 1997. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


POLAND 's geography and the national struggles marking its long history of unrest have made it a country of contradictions, ideologically and emotionally torn between East and West. The Polish people, still haunted by a century-and-a-half of partition, the holocaust of the Second World War, and life under Communist rule, are vigorous and patriotic, and eager for a better life.

Since the end of Communist party rule in 1989, Poland has undergone tremendous political and economic change. Under privatization, factories have closed. Unemployment has risen, income has dropped, and prices of consumer goods has increased. Despite these hardships, the Polish people continue to show support to their government and commitment to their new way of life.



Warsaw, with a metropolitan population of about 1.6 million, is situated in eastern Poland on the banks of the Vistula River (in Polish, Visła). More than 80 percent of the city was destroyed during World War II, and the extent to which it has recovered is a tribute to the spirit and patriotism of the Polish people. Many old sections of Warsaw have been rebuilt in styles reminiscent not only of the prewar period, but also of earlier eras, and a remarkable amount of new construction has taken place. Few ruined buildings or rubble remain. In winter, the lack of sunshine and the smoke from the soft coal burned for heat combine to make Warsaw somewhat drab. However, in contrast, the many parks, squares, and tree-lined boulevards come alive in spring and summer, giving the city a cheerful appearance.

Postwar Warsaw is characterized by a profusion of large buildings which house government ministries and enterprises. Many new apartment blocks have been built, but urban housing still is in chronically short supply. Hotel space remains inadequate in spite of several good, new hotels. A new highway and bridge were completed in recent years to provide additional access for the growing population on the east bank of the Vistula. Buses and streetcars remain the principal means of public transport around the city. Service is frequent and routes extensive.

The Old Town, with its famous market square (Rynek Starego Miasta), was almost totally destroyed during World War II. It was painstakingly reconstructed in 17th-and 18th-century style from old architectural plans. On the south side of Old Town is Castle Square, dominated by a granite column with a statue of King Sigismund III Vasa. The Royal Castle, which stood on the east side of this square, has been rebuilt by the voluntary contributions of millions of Poles as a symbol of Polish national pride.

Warsaw (in Polish, Warszawa) was founded as a city in 1300, but the first settlement on the site dates to the 11th century. The city was an important trade center in the Middle Ages; it came under Polish rule in 1526, and was made the capital of Poland in 1596. Throughout its history, it has suffered at the hands of Sweden (destroyed by Charles X Gustavus of Sweden in the mid-17th century); of Russia, by fire and massacre, and by occupation; and of Germany, by whom it was occupied during both World Wars. Warsaw endured almost total destruction from bombing in World War II. Of the 400,000 Jews who lived in the city in 1939, and who comprised nearly one-third of the population, only 200 remained at the war's endthe vast majority had been exterminated in Nazi gas chambers. Many thousands more perished in the ghetto uprising of 1943, or died during incarceration. In all, between 600,000 and 800,000 Warsaw residents died in the occupation years between 1939 and 1944.

Schools for Foreigners

The American School of Warsaw, which opened in 1953, is partly financed by U.S. Government grants. It offers instruction from kindergarten through twelfth grade, following an American curriculum and using American textbooks and standard tests. A program emphasizing individualized instruction is in use at all levels.

American School has staff specialists in reading, math, computer science, and learning disabilities. Special curricular activities include art, chorus, photography, and computer instruction. Extracurricular activities are drama, gymnastics, dance, instrumental music, computers, student council, yearbook, newspaper, and field trips. Scouting programs are offered for boys and girls.


Citizens of Warsaw are justly proud of their many large, open parks which afford extensive opportunity for rest and relaxation. A variety of tame animal life abounds in the woods and ponds of these parks. Children can play in a number of playgrounds and fields while their parents hike along miles of fine paths, enjoy an open-air concert, lunch at a restaurant in the park, or just relax on a convenient bench.

Fishing is possible in many rivers and lakes. Tackle, boats, and related items can be bought locally at moderate prices. Licenses are required, but membership in a group or club is not necessary.

Camping is growing in popularity, especially with families. Many excellent campsites are both in the Warsaw vicinity and in other parts of the country. The most beautiful are in the lake region near Augustów, about 155 miles northeast of Warsaw, and in the Mazurian lake region, about 185 miles to the north. These two lake belts, situated in forests, offer many lake-side cottages, boats for rent, and excellent fishing and water-skiing. Camping equipment is available locally.

Tennis and swimming are popular sports during summer, although swimming in the Vistula River is not recommended because of strong currents and pollution. Many expatriates enjoy skating at outdoor rinks or at the Torwar Stadium in winter. The Torwar management sets aside a special hour on Sunday afternoons for the exclusive use of the diplomatic and foreign business community.

Skiing is excellent at Zakopane, a noted mountain resort town, and in the Karkonosze Mountains. Both skiing and climbing are possible in parts of the Tatra and Beskidy Mountains, about 280 miles from Warsaw. Many of these areas have well-equipped shelter houses, but ski lifts are not always available.

The Baltic coast, 230 to 330 miles from Warsaw, has a wealth of sea resorts with beautiful sandy beaches although the water is too polluted for swimming. The most famous of the Polish seaside resorts, Sopot, hosts a variety of international festivals.

About 150 miles east of Warsaw is an interesting nature preserve, Puszcza Białowieska, which has the last remaining herd of rare European bison, a virgin forest with 1,000-year-old oaks, and other attractions.


Cultural life in Poland offers something for just about everyone. Annual festivals include jazz in October and serious contemporary music (Warsaw Autumn) in October. Warsaw has a choice of grand opera, chamber opera, a richly-varied symphony season that usually includes one or two major visits (the Israeli Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh Symphony, Joan Sutherland), or lighter entertainment provided in the musical theatermost of which is American in origin.

Spectator events, such as ice shows, soccer, track and field, boxing, cycling, basketball, and horse racing, are held regularly.

Local museums have frequent exhibitions of art, handicraft, books, and related subjects. Warsaw's National Museum holds international exhibits. A Chopin museum is located at the composer's birthplace in Żelazowa Wola, about 40 miles from the capital. Distinguished Polish and foreign pianists give Sunday recitals there and in Łazienki Park in Warsaw during the summer.

In addition to Polish films, cinemas here show many American and other imports, usually in the original language with Polish subtitles.

Warsaw restaurants vary considerably with regard to menus, atmosphere, and decor, and several are very good. Sidewalk and indoor cafés are popular meeting places, and two or three nightclubs offer dancing. A large shopping center, with several department stores, is located on Marszałkowska Street. Close by is the central railway station.

Roadside picnics are popular during fair weather. Many picturesque forest and riverside sites are only a short distance from the city.


The name Kraków (Cracow in English, but Polish form is more commonly used) first appeared in written records in the year 965, when the town was already an active east-west trade center. Despite the Tatar invasions, one of which destroyed the city, Kraków continued to grow, and became the capital of Poland in 1320. King Casimir the Great opened his realm to Jews and, in 1364, founded the city's Jagiellonian University, the second oldest in central Europe.

The 15th and 16th centuries marked Kraków's golden age; the Jagiellonian dynasty rejuvenated the university and encouraged the arts and sciences. While the distinguished astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) studied at the university, Polish and Italian artists were giving the city the Renaissance flavor which characterizes it even today.

After the capital was moved to Warsaw in 1596, Sweden twice invaded and burned Kraków. Following the first partition of Poland in 1772, hard times continued for the city. For the next 150 years, first the Prussians and then the Austrians occupied Kraków. Tadeusz Kosciuszko, hero of the American Revolution's turning-point Battle of Saratoga in 1777, returned to Poland in 1784. During the next five years he became increasingly involved in his country's struggle to save itself from the Russian invaders. In 1794, Kosciuszko took an oath in Kraków's Great Square (Rynek Gïówny), swearing to lead the nation to the end in the fight for liberty, integrity, and independence. His heroic efforts ended in October of that year when, betrayed by Prussian entry into the conflict, he was wounded and captured by the Russians. Thomas Jefferson wrote of Kosciuszko, "He is as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known, and of that liberty which is to go to all, and not to the few or the rich alone." Kosciuszko is buried in Kraków's Wawel Cathedral.

During a short period of oppression and revolts (1815-1846), the Austrians shared their rule of the "Republic of Kraków" with the Prussians and the Russians. Under the relatively mild Austrian rule in the latter part of the 19th century, however, the city flourished as a center of Polish culture, the only place in Europe where Polish civil rights were recognized. The governor-general was a Pole, and the Polish language was used in schools, courts, and government offices. In this fertile atmosphere, Jan Matejko, Stanisław Wyspiański, Helena Modjeska (Modrzejewska), and other outstanding 19th-century artists flourished.

At the beginning of World War II, the Nazis made Kraków the capital of their general government. Prominent Kracovians were arrested and sent to concentration camps, the largest of which, Auschwitz-Birkenau (Oswiecim), stands 25 miles west of the city. Four million people, including Kraków's entire Jewish population, perished there.

Despite this massacre of its population, Kraków escaped the physical destruction suffered by other Polish cities during World War II. Although it received only a small share of postwar reconstruction funds, a new town, Nowa Huta, was built around the Lenin Steel Works in 1947 and eventually was incorporated within the city limits. This plant, until recently the largest of its kind in Poland, and the city's chemical industry have changed the face of Kraków, adding an aspect of bustling, grimy, 20th-century industrialism to the traditional calm of a thousand-year-old cultural center. The current population is around 740,000.

Recently civic and environmental concerns have emerged to demand that the city's social needs and the preservation of its unique academic, cultural, and historical character be given overriding priority in modifying and developing its industry. Active steps are now underway to preserve the city's many monuments and reduce air pollution levels. With its Wawel museum, where most of Poland's greatest heroes are interred, Kraków remains a shrine of Polish identity and nationalism.

The province of Katowice, contains about 3 million inhabitants. According to official statistics, almost half of those gainfully employed in the 10 voivodships (administrative centers) work in industry although, traditionally, areas such as Opole, Rzeszów, and Przemyśl have been considered primarily agricultural. In Katowice, the country's most heavily populated voivodship, most workers are employed in the mines and mills. The southeastern provinces of Poland have, for many years, been centers of emigration to the U.S. and many in the area, especially the górale, or highlanders, have relatives in America.

Kraków lies in a shallow basin on the Vistula River, some 50 miles east of the Katowice-Gliwice industrial area. A "city voivodship" of 1.028 square miles, it is the meeting place of three geographic regions: the Carpathian uplands, the Małopolska highlands, and the Vistula lowlands.

A point of interest to Americans is Kraków's American Children's Hospital, which was built and organized with U.S. assistance. Facilities and services at this hospital are good, and adults are also treated in emergencies.

Schools for Foreigners

Polish Government schools at all levels may accept American children, but knowledge of the Polish language and parental willingness to provide supplementary schooling at home are required. Normally, children of high-school age are sent to private (or U.S. Defense Department-run) schools in Western Europe.

Kraków's large and prestigious Jagiellonian University is the home of the Polonia Institute, which offers year-round courses in Polish language, history, and culture. Private tutoring in music and language is also available.


With its beautiful medieval monuments, Kraków is Poland's leading tourist center. The city annually draws hundreds of thousands of foreign and Polish visitors to its historic churches, museums, and palaces. A visit to the Wawel Castle and the Cathedral (scene of coronations and resting place of royalty) forms part of every Polish child's education in the country's great artistic and political achievements.

Numerous sites are also within an easy drive of the city. Both the Ojcow National Park and the famous Wieliczka salt mines are close to downtown Kraków. Within an hour of the city is the Dunajec gorge with its well-known raft ride. The former concentration camp at Oswiecim (Auschwitz), now a museum, is also one hour from Kraków. Farther away are the Shrine of the Black Madonna Częstochowa in Katowice Province, and the palaces in Lancut and Baranów in Rzeszów voivodship. Prague, Vienna, and Budapest are within a day's drive of Kraków. Czechoslovak visas may be obtained in Katowice.

Spectator sports are popular in Kraków. Wisła, the city's soccer team, is one of the best in Poland, and the annual Rajd Polski (Polish automobile rally) originates in Kraków.

Swimming, fishing, and camping in the nearby mountains, forests, and national parks are the principal outdoor activities. Ice skating, tennis, and indoor swimming are also available in the city.

Skiing is the main attraction at mountain resorts just south of Kraków. The most popular of these, Zakopane, is about one-and-a-half hours from the city. It has a good ski lift and many excellent hotels, villas, and restaurantsall set in the breathtaking scenery of the Tatras. Zakopane is usually crowded, particularly at Christmas and in March.

Farther east, about four hours from Kraków, the virgin forests of the Bieszczady offer some of the best camping in Poland, especially around Lake Solina.


Kraków's theater has a fine reputation, but language remains a barrier for most Americans. In addition to the Old Theater (Stary Teatr ) and Słowacki Theater, both of which present innovative stagings, some interesting semi-professional and student playhouses are available.

The city's opera gives relatively few performances, and is no rival to Warsaw's. However, the philharmonic orchestra season is long and varied, including frequent performances with guest artists and choirs; chamber music and jazz events are also offered. A light opera company presents Broadway-type musicals. The city's Higher School of Music is probably Poland's best. Kraków's political cabaret is famous, but requires native-speaker language competence to be enjoyed.

Katowice, only one-and-a-half hours from Kraków, has one of the country's finest symphony orchestras, the Katowice Radio and Television Orchestra.

Several American or English films are shown regularly in the city's theaters, most of them in English with Polish subtitles; tickets must be purchased in advance to ensure entry. In early June, Kraków hosts an international short-film festival. An art-film theater in town features classic moviesoften American or British.

Kraków is a center for the plastic arts and the home of several world-famous painters and sculptors. Numerous galleries and museums in the city have a constantly changing variety of offerings.

Kraków has a few good restaurants, including the Wierzynek, reputedly the best in Poland, and boasting a 600-year history. The Nowinna, eleven miles south of the city, also rivals any restaurant in the country. The restaurants in the Hotel Francuski, Holiday Inn, and Cracovia Hotel feature Polish and international cuisine. The Balaton serves spicy Hungarian dishes. The Pod Korza Stopka specializes in poultry dishes, and the Staropolska offers a variety of Polish specialties. In a slightly lower-price category are the Hawalka and Hermitage, featuring Polish dishes, and the Dniepr, a Ukrainian restaurant. The Francuski, Cracovia, Pod Strzelnica, and Dniepr have dancing, and the city's two nightclubs feature floor shows. At all restaurants, standards are lower than those found in the U.S. or Western Europe.

Social contact among Americans in Kraków tends to be frequent and informal. There is a small U.S. Consulate staff, a small group of Fulbright scholars and professors, and some American students enrolled at local universities. Members of the French Consulate General and the French Institute, and visiting professors and students are often included in social functions. A knowledge of Polish adds immeasurably to the enjoyment of activities in Kraków.


Although more than half of Poznań was destroyed during World War II, the city today shows few signs of war damage. Much new building and restoration is in progress. The Opera House, Palace of Culture (formerly the Kaiser's Palace), Poznań University, and many impressive public buildings and churches give an elegant appearance to the city. The renaissance Old Square and City Hall, destroyed during the war, have been handsomely rebuilt. A large and attractive part of the city surrounding the old town center consists of turn-of-the century buildings. Apartment houses are going up in the suburbs, but the exteriors of some are left unplastered and give a rough, unfinished appearance to these sections. Most new construction is of apartment complexes rather than detached houses.

Poznań has a population of 578,000, and is located about 120 miles east of the Polish-German border. The city is 266 feet above sea level and, although generally in the same northern continental climatic zone as Warsaw, seems to have somewhat milder weather. The Warta River, which runs through the city, is Poland's third largest waterway and carries barge traffic for half its length. The area surrounding Poznań, generally flat with a few rolling hills, contains several large lakes, some narrow streams, and forested areas.

Covering the western third of the country, the Poznań (U.S.) consular district contains 17 of Poland's 49 provinces (województwa ). The area is about 56,600 square miles in size. The Baltic provinces of Szczecin (Szczcecińskie), Koszalin (Koszalińskie), and Słupsk (Słupskie) have long coastlines with some fine beaches. The large port city of Szczecin (population 417,000) is at the point where the Odra River flows into Szczecin Bay, about 40 miles inland from the Baltic coast port of Świnoujście. Szczecin and Świnoujście together form one large port complex under a single port administration. Koszalin and Słupsk provinces are largely rural and sparsely settled. With gently rolling terrain, many lakes, and large areas of mixed coniferous and deciduous forests, the region generally is reminiscent of northern Minnesota or Wisconsin.

The provinces surrounding Poznań comprise a rich agricultural area of flat to gently rolling terrain with many small lakes and forests. The area to the south, which includes the important industrial, academic, and cultural center of Wrocław, ranges from flat and rolling plains to the Sudeten Mountains along the Czech border.

Altitudes in the district vary from 75 feet above sea level in Szczecin to 1,100 feet in the southwestern city of Jelenia (Zielona) Góra. A few miles south of here is 5,200-foot Śnieżka Mountain, the highest point in the consular district.

The number of Americans and other foreigners in the city increases as preparations for the annual Poznań Trade Fair get under way each spring. A variety of American official, scientific, and cultural representatives visit throughout the year. A large influx of visiting Americans occurs in August, at the time of the three-week summer seminar in English.

Schools for Foreigners

A Polish Government preschool has accepted many American children, and most parents have been satisfied with this arrangement.

Private tutoring, inexpensive by U.S. standards, is available in music.


Poznań is replete with historical monuments and museums. The Old Town is authentically restored, and the Renaissance town hall here is one of the monuments which withstood wartime devastation; built in the mid-16th century, it is among the most valuable structures of its kind in central Europe. The cathedral on Ostrów Tumski island contains centuries-old relics and tombs. Other beautiful churches here date from the 12th through the 18th centuries, and museums abound throughout the city.

Several areas of touring interest are near Poznań. Kórnik, a small town about 10 miles southeast of the city, is the site of a 16th-century castle which is now a museum. It has a moat and contains an unusual picture gallery; beautiful polished floors; fine old furniture; porcelain stoves and appointments; Polish handicrafts; archaeological and nature collections; and a 100,000-volume library, including old manuscripts and prints. The museum contains not only collections from the Działynski and Zamojski families who formerly lived in the castle, but also such Polish artistic work as a magnificent collection of embroidered sashes and costumes. The park surrounding the castle-museum is planted in a variety of trees, shrubs, and hedges, and has numerous paths.

At Rógalin, near Kórnik, is an 18th-century palace which is now a museum and gallery containing valuable historical objects and paintings by 19th-century Polish artists. Rógalin also is noted for a stand of 1,000-year-old oak trees.

Other country palaces, recently restored, are within a half-hour's drive of Poznań. Some have restaurants or coffee houses. Gniezno, about 30 miles northeast of Poznań, was Poland's first capital. This 1,000-year-old city contains an ancient cathedral with paintings, sculpture, medieval tombs, and a set of bronze doors dating from the 12th century. It also has relics of St. Adalbert (in Polish, Wojciech), patron saint of Poland. St. John's Church, in 14th-century Gothic style, is also of unusual interest.

Biskupin, not far from Gniezno, is one of the largest prehistoric settlements in Europe. It dates from 700 to 400 B.C., and Poles assert that it shows the historic predominance of a Slavic culture in the region. The site, excavated and partially restored, includes a museum with a collection of prehistoric ceramics and tools.

Roads to these places of interest are narrow, but in good condition. A personal car is the best mode of transportation, although train and bus service is available to most of the cities mentioned. Public transportation generally is crowded.

Large lakes in forest settings near Poznań provide ample opportunities to swim, fish, picnic, or camp. In some cases, these activities can be combined with visits to nearby places of interest. Arrangements also can be made to use good tennis courts.

A large municipal outdoor ice rink in Poznań is available for skating six months of the year. In addition, ice skating on the lakes is possible during the coldest periods of winter. Sledding is possible on a few hills in town and in the nearby countryside. Poznań has two heated indoor swimming pools.

Skiing is good around the tourist centers of Karpacz and Szklarska Poręba in the Sudeten Mountains southwest of Wrocław. Tow facilities are crowded, but are being expanded each year. A shortage of hotels and restaurants still exists in both places, so reservations should be made well in advance. Depending on winter driving conditions, the area is about five hours from Poznań. Although Zakopane is 300 miles from Poznań, it is a more popular ski area because of its extensive facilities.

The Baltic coast north and northeast of Szczecin offers excellent beaches and swimming. Unfortunately, in recent years pollution has posed periodic problems. The resort city of Kołobrzeg has a good hotel, and nearby beaches are wide and sandy. Summer weather is usually sunny and breezy here. Lifeguards are on duty during the season, and swimming is good. The drive from Poznań to Kołobrzeg takes about four hours and passes through some scenic countryside.


Poznań has an extensive opera, operetta, concert, and theater season. The opera company is uneven, but enjoyable. The Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra, a source of great local pride, has a distinguished record of performance, and often features fine Polish and foreign guest artists. The Struligrosz and Kurczewski Boys' Choirs are outstanding. The ballet troupe is considered quite good. Two dramatic theaters present a varied program of Polish and foreign works, and the quality usually is high. Local student theaters often produce experimental works. A puppet theater also is available.

Both Polish and foreign films (often excellent) are shown in the city's movie theaters, but English soundtracks are rarely left intact. American movies are popular. Movie tickets, like tickets for opera, concert, and ballet, are not expensive.

Although Poznań has some good restaurants, menu selection is often limited because of food shortages. Some nightclubs feature floor shows. A discotheque and cabaret theater also are available.

Social contact with Poles is possible, and a good knowledge of their language is an asset in Poznańeven more so than in Warsawfor developing acquaintances. A knowledge of German is also helpful.


Łódź, with a population of 807,000, is Poland's second largest city and the capital of Łódź Province. It is located in the central part of the country, about 75 miles west-southwest of Warsaw, and is an important industrial city and the center of Poland's textile industry.

Chartered in 1423, Łódźwas ceded to Prussia in 1793, then passed to Russia in 1815, reverting to Poland in 1918. During its years of Russian domination, it was developed into a prosperous industrial center. The Nazis incorporated Łódź at the beginning of World War II, renaming it Litzmannstadt and subjecting it to aggressive Germanization.

Today, aside from textiles, Łódź manufactures machinery, electrical equipment, chemicals, and metals. It is an episcopal see, and has a technical university which was founded in 1945. Its Central Weaving Museum has amassed an impressive collection of tools, machinery, and documents relating to the history of the textile industry. The city also has museums of art and archaeology, and is the site of a physics research center affiliated with Warsaw's Polish Academy of Sciences.


Wrocław, known as Breslau when it was under German authority, is the capital of the province of the same name in the southwestern region of Lower Silesia. Originally a Slavic settlement, the city became the capital of the duchy of Silesia in 1163. It was sacked by the Mongols in 1241, but was rebuilt by German settlers, and passed to Bohemia in 1335. Breslau was ceded to the Hapsburgs in 1526 and to Prussia in 1742. It grew into a prosperous trade center in the 19th century. After World War II, when the city was a Nazi-held fortress, the German inhabitants were expelled.

Today Wrocław, with a population of 638,000, is a river port and railway center manufacturing machinery, iron goods, textiles, railroad equipment, and food products. Its historic sites include a 13th-century cathedral and several Gothic churches in the old island districts of Ostrów Tumski and Ostrów Piaskowy. The city houses a noted university, founded in 1811.

There are several schools of higher education here, including the Ossolineum, a scientific institute founded in the Ukrainian city of Lvov in 1817, and transferred to Wrocław in 1947.

Numerous museums of art, natural history, and mineralogy display impressive exhibits. International programs of vocal music and a festival of jazz are held here regularly; the latter is known as "Jazz on the Odra," in recognition of the river (in English, Oder) which flows through the city.

Wrocław is the site of a large zoo; the botanical gardens within the park exhibit a broad variety of plant life. Several small cities of historical interest are situated in the vicinity of WrocławSobótka, Oleśnica, Trzebnicaas are a number of popular health and recreation resorts. There is skiing in the Karkonosze range of the Sudetic Mountains.


BIELSKO-BIALA (in German, Bielitz) has been an important wool center since at least the Middle Ages. Situated in the far south, 190 miles southwest of Warsaw, this city of some 180,000 residents was formed in 1950 when two towns on opposite sides of the Biala River merged. In World War II, German forces took over Bielsko-Biala's mostly Jewish-owned plants. The region declined after Soviet annexation of Polish land following the war. The economy is still dependent upon the production of high-grade woolen textiles.

BYDGOSZCZ (in German, Bromberg) is the capital of Bydgoszcz Province, located about 150 miles northwest of Warsaw. It serves as a vital water-transport route and railroad junction linking Upper Silesia with the Baltic Sea. The city had its beginnings as a frontier outpost and, later, was seized by the Teutonic Knights. Bydgoszcz prospered in the 1700s after the building of the Bydgoszcz Canal, which connected the Vistula and Oder Rivers. The city received the Grunwald Cross in 1946 for its fierce resistance to Nazi attack seven years earlier. Today Bydgoszcz has a population of approximately 387,000. It has higher institutions of agriculture and engineering.

CZĘSTOCHOWA is a major religious center, located about 70 miles northwest of Kraków in the south. With a population of roughly 257,000, this is the destination for Poles making pilgrimages to the Jasna Góra monastery. The noted painting of "Our Lady of Częstochowa" (or "The Black Madonna") is displayed here, along with rare frescoes. The city began as two regions, Old Częstochowa, dating to the 13th century, and Jasna Góra ("shining mountain" in Polish), founded 100 years later. The monastery became the stronghold for Polish forces in the Swedish invasions of 1655 and 1705. This is also a major industrial city of mills and manufacturing plants.

GDAŃSK , formerly known as Danzig, is one of the chief Polish ports on the Baltic Sea and an important industrial center. Established as the Free City of Danzig under the League of Nations, this municipality of approximately 459,000 is the capital of Gdańsk Province in northern Poland. Its shipyards were made famous by an uprising against the Communist regime in 1970, and as the site of the birth of Solidarity (Solidarnoõé) in 1980. Gdańsk was annexed to Germany during World War II, and suffered the destruction of many of its landmarks during hostilities. Ninety percent of the city lay in rubble. The Allies unconditionally returned the city to Poland in 1945. There is an annual film festival in Gdańsk and the live productions of the Teatr Muzyczny in Gdynia, ten miles northwest of Gdańsk, are not to be missed.

KIELCE , located 90 miles south of Warsaw in the south-central region, is an industrial center and provincial capital. This railroad junction of 212,000 residents has landmarks such as a castle and 12th-century cathedral. Kielce was founded in 1173 by the bishop of Kraków. Russian and German forces battled here several times in World War I; German troops occupied the city in World War II.

SZCZECIN , known in German as Stettin, is a major Baltic port and industrial center in northwestern Poland. It has a population of about 417,000. The city was heavily damaged by repeated bombings in World War II, and taken by Soviet troops in late April 1945 after a long and devastating battle. Szczecin, which is the capital of the province of the same name, is the birthplace of Czarina Katarina II of Russia (Catherine the Great).


Geography and Climate

Postwar Poland, including the lands placed under Polish administration at the Potsdam Conference (1945), covers about 120,000 square miles, an area about the size of New Mexico. Poland ranks seventh in Europe in area and population, with an estimated population of 38,654,000.

Most of the country consists of lowland plains. In the north are the Baltic Sea coast and a broad belt of lake land. In the center are broad, low-lying plains and vast forest belts. To the south, the land passes into chains of mountainsthe Sudetic (in Polish, Sudety) in the west and the Carpathians in the east. These mountains combine to form the southern boundary of Poland. The Tatra Mountains, a part of the Carpathian chain, are the highest in Poland; Rysy mountain rises 8,212 feet above sea level. At the foot of the Tatras lies the town of Zakopane, a famous winter sports center.

Poland is bordered by the Baltic Sea and a small section of the Russian Federation to the north, Lithuania, Belarus, and the Ukraine to the east, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south, and Germany to the west.

One main seaport, Szczecin, is near the German border. Poland's two other major port cities, Gdańsk and Gdynia, lie about 170 miles farther east at the mouth of the Vistula River. Many summer resorts with beautiful beaches lie along the Baltic coast (although the water is too polluted for swimming). About 200 miles north of Warsaw, surrounded by the greatest forest in the country, is a belt of lakes stretching from Olsztyn to Augustów. Good camping and fishing abound.

The main rivers are the Vistula (Wisła), on which Warsaw and Kraków are situated; the Odra or Oder, whose northern course forms a part of the border with the Germany; the Narew, in northeastern Poland; the Warta, on which Poznań is located; and the Bug, which partially forms Poland's eastern boundary.

Poland has a continental European climate. Winters can be severe, with heavy snows possible from December to March. Winter temperatures in Warsaw average about 32°F. The lowest temperature in recent years was recorded at-22°F. Spring is usually cold and rainy, and summer relatively cool. The highest temperature recorded recently in Warsaw was 94°F. Autumn is usually cloudy and can be quite cold. Yearly rainfall averages about 23.5 inches.

Poland has no diseases caused by climate, and mildew is not a problem because humidity is usually low. Earthquakes do not occur, and snowslides in the mountains normally are not hazardous.


Poland's population is predominately Polish. Small German, Ukrainian, Byelorussian, and Jewish minorities, and even smaller Lithuanian, Czech, and Slovak colonies exist. Warsaw's population is about 1,618,000.

95 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. Church attendance is high, and Catholic holy days are strictly observed by most of the people.


Poland is organized as a parliamentary democracy according to the constitution adopted in 1992. Poles enjoy largely unfettered rights to free speech, press, and assembly, as well as other commonly accepted Western human rights.

Poland has a bicameral parliament, comprising a lower house and upper house. Within the legislative branch of the government, the lower house has most of the power; the upper house may only suggest amendments to legislation passed by the lower house. Both parties are democratically elected. The President may dissolve the parliament and call new elections if it fails a vote of confidence or does not approve a budget within a set period of time.

The Polish Prime Minister, currently Leszek Miller, is nominated by the President, currently Aleksander Kwasniewski, and must propose a government that could win a vote of confidence in the lower house. He chairs the Council of Ministers and serves as Poland's chief of government. There are 18 cabinet members, 3 of whom serve as deputy prime ministers, mostly drawn from the governing coalition parties. There are a few ministers with no party affiliations.

Poland's president, who serves as the country's head of state, has a five-year term. The Polish president is the commander of their armed forces and may veto legislation passed by Parliament.

Poland is divided into 49 provinces, each of which is headed by a provincial governor appointed by the central government. There are also independent locally elected city and village governments.

The flag of Poland displays equal horizontal bands of white (above) and red.

Arts, Science, Education

Polish intellectual and cultural life has preserved much of its traditional vigor and creativity despite years of communist rule and the political difficulties of recent years. Historically, Poland's cultural ties have been with the West rather than with the East, although there had been sporadic attempts in the postwar years to force Polish creativity into orthodox communist and Soviet-model structures. Poland has formal cultural exchange agreements with many countries from both East and West, ensuring a fairly steady flow of Polish artists and intellectuals abroad and of foreign performers to Poland.

In the period following the proclamation of martial law on December 13, 1981, many Polish actors, directors, writers, filmmakers, and other intellectuals boycotted government-sponsored cultural activities as a sign of protest. Now, with the communists out of power, cultural life is showing greater independence. Cultural and intellectual associations are forming, and these have begun to support and invigorate creative activities.

Commerce and Industry

Poland is undergoing a profound transformation as the government rapidly introduces a free-market system to replace the centrally planned economy. During 1990, the economic reform program stopped hyperinflation, stabilized the currency, brought an end to chronic shortages of consumer goods, and produced a sizable trade surplus. At the same time, however, the economy suffered a recession, with sharp declines in industrial production and real incomes and steadily increasing unemployment. The United States and other Western countries supported the growth of a free enterprise economy by providing direct economic aid, restructuring the debt and rescheduling payments, and encouraging private investment in Poland.

By the mid-1990s, Poland's economy was one of the strongest in Eastern and Central Europe as a result of its government's fiscal policies. Most growth since 1991 has come from the emerging private sector.

Nearly 30 percent of Poland's work force is engaged in agriculture, and 51 percent in services. Unlike the industrial sector, Poland's agricultural sector remained largely in private hands during the decades of communist rule.

Production of wheat, feed-grains, vegetable oils, and protein meals is insufficient to meet domestic demands. However, Poland is a leading producer in Eastern Europe of potatoes, rape seed, sugar beets, grains, hogs, and cattle. Attempt to increase domestic feed grain production are hampered by the short growing season, poor soil, and the small size of farms.

Before World War II, Poland's industrial base was concentrated in the coal, textile, chemical, machinery, iron, and steel sectors. Today it extends to fertilizers, petrochemicals, machine tools, electrical machinery, electronics, and shipbuilding. Accordingly, exports have become more diversified, including those to hard-currency markets; meat, coal, and copper remain important export commodities.

Poland's industrial base suffered greatly during World War II, and much of the investments in the 1950s were directed toward reconstruction. The need to rebuild existing capacities and the orthodox communist economic system imposed on Poland in the late 1940s resulted in the intense centralization of industries. Large and unwieldy economic structures operated under detailed central command. In part because of this systemic rigidity, with the emphasis on central planning, the economy performed poorly even in comparison with other economies in Eastern Europe.

A vital element of the economic reform is the privatization of state-owned enterprises. Enabling legislation was passed by the Sejm in July 1990. A Ministry of Ownership Transformation was been created to oversee the conversion of state enterprise into private firms and prepare guidelines for the creation of a stock market. The challenge facing the Polish government is how to privatize thousands of state enterprises, while preventing profiteering and cushioning the work force against unemployment as many large, unprofitable state firms face bankruptcy.

As a result of the economic reform program, prices for consumer goods have risen in response to market forces. Demand has been dampened by falling real wages, whose growth is tied to increases in productivity. The serious consumer shortages that were once endemic to the Polish economy have now largely disappeared.

Poland maintains a Chamber of Foreign Trade at Skyrtla Pocztowa 361, Warsaw (Trebacka, 4).


Warsaw is served by a number of airlinesLOT, Swissair, Aeroflot, Sabena, SAS, Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, British Airways, and othersto most European capitals. Airline tickets for international travel must be purchased with hard currency.

LOT operates several daily flights from Warsaw to Kraków and Poznań. It also is possible to travel by rail or auto directly to Vienna, Prague, Munich, and Berlin.

A daily car-ferry service is available between Õwinoujõcie (about one hour's drive north of Szczecin) and Ystaad, Sweden. The crossing takes about seven hours. Reservations should be made well in advance, especially during the summer tourist season.

Most main roads in Poland are good all-weather roads by European standards. Important towns and places of interest are served by inexpensive trains. Principal cities also are served by the national airline (LOT) at moderate fares. A countrywide network of bus lines exists, but buses are usually crowded and uncomfortable and are rarely used by Americans. Tickets for travel in Poland are reasonable and may be purchased for z ï otys (the unit of currency). Warsaw buses and streetcars can be crowded and slow during rush hours. Cabs are available at stands, or sometimes can be hailed.

Public transportation in Kraków and Poznań is not extensive and is crowded at rush hour. Most Americans in these cities travel by personal car.

Motorists must obey signs that close roads to traffic or indicate restricted areas, and should be alert to emergency vehicles with flashing lights, since these vehicles always have the right-of-way. Ambulances are beige with a red or blue cross on the side, fire trucks are red, and police vehicles usually are grey or blue with "MILICJA" printed in large letters on the doors.

An international driver's license obtained outside Poland is valid for one year after entering the country and is recommended for all new arrivals. Polish licenses are issued based upon valid foreign permits and an oral examination conducted by a Polish traffic office. Traffic moves on the right. Motorists must exercise extreme caution while driving, since numerous horse-drawn carts, tractors with wagons, trucks, and pedestrians are constant hazards on both highways and streets. Night driving is dangerous.

Owning an automobile can be expensive here. Rough cobblestone roads subject cars to heavy wear and tear. Vandalism is a problem; foreign cars seem to be prime targets.

Although adequate work can be done on some foreign cars, repair service for American makes is hard to arrange and seldom satisfactory. No parts for American vehicles are available in Poznań or Kraków, or in the other large cities, except Warsaw. American cars must be driven to Western Europe for major maintenance. Poznań has authorized repair facilities for many major West European makes, but stocks of spare parts are limited. A fully licensed Volkswagen repair shop at Leszno, 50 miles south of Poznań, has a good supply of spare parts and performs required maintenance and periodic checks.

Polish law requires cars to have directional signals and mud flaps. U.S. officials in Poland recommend export-grade, heavy-duty shock absorbers and springs, snow tires for winter, and an engine that can run on regular gas. Emission controls are not required, and cars appear to run better in Warsaw without such controls. Major repairs to automatic transmissions must be done in Germany.

The Polish State Insurance Company (WARTA) sells third-party liability insurance (required in Poland) at nominal cost. WARTA also offers collision, fire, theft, and other special coverage, both inside and outside Poland, but rates for foreign-made cars are high. Insurance is also available from a few American or Western European agencies which insure vehicles in Poland.

Most resident Americans have Polish liability coverage, and supplement it with international "green card" insurance for trips outside the country. The U.S. Embassy strongly emphasizes the importance of insurance coverage and careful driving.


Telephone and telegraph service is available to Western Europe and the U.S. Service is slower and less reliable than in America, but is adequate in emergencies. Rates within Poland are inexpensive; standard world rates usually are charged for international calls.

International mail via Polish (PTT) facilities is unreliable. Bad weather and canceled flights frequently result in turnaround times of over one month from the date a letter is mailed to Warsaw from the U.S. until a reply is received. Turnaround time for Kraków, Poznań, and other cities is even longer.

Polish radio and television have proliferated since 1993, when the government began for the first time to award broadcast licenses to private stations. Polish viewers can now choose from broadcasting all over the world with cable. Like most European countries, Poland has a state-owned national television system which broadcasts in both color and black-and-white. Polish TV frequently shows British and American films dubbed in Polish, as well as some old American TV series.

The conversion of American TV sets is costly and not always satisfactory. Sets can be rented in Poland.

Poland has hundreds of radio stations on AM and FM bands. Daytime shortwave reception of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is good. Voice of America (VOA) English broadcasts usually can be heard without difficulty morning and evening. U.S. Armed Forces Network (AFN) broadcasts from Germany cannot be heard most of the time in either Warsaw or Kraków. Shortwave radio is rarely listened to any longer.

Poland's print media are among the most interesting and informative in Eastern Europe. Time, Newsweek, USA Today, and other Western periodicals are sold at major hotels.

The American and British embassies together produce a daily English-language summary of the Polish press.


Arrangements can be made for medical consultations and for treatment in local hospitals. U.S. officials, however, discourage the practice except in emergencies. Some Americans are satisfied with the available services but, in most cases, go to Western Europe for serious medical problems and major dental work. Eye care can be obtained locally.

Medical services of all types are more limited and of lower quality in Kraków than in Warsaw. However, services at American Children's Hospital are good; adults are treated in emergencies.

Air pollution is a problem in Kraków. It is caused by industries in and near the city, and by its location in a basin.

Poland's community sanitation is generally satisfactory. Flies are a problem, even though most U.S.-owned and-leased apartments and houses are screened. Rest rooms in restaurants, theaters, hotels, and other public places are usually below American standards of sanitation and cleanliness, although some upgrading has been evident in recent years with the marked increase in tourist trade.

Colds, bronchial ailments, sinusitis, and intestinal flu are common, especially in winter. A form of gastroenteritis is prevalent in spring and summer. Poland is considered a "jaundice area." Inoculation against typhoid is desirable, especially for those who plan to travel to remote parts of the country. Gamma globulin is recommended.

Raw fruits and vegetables require careful washing or peeling. The water purity is questionable, and it is recommended that all water for human consumption be boiled for 20 minutes. Some Americans resident in Warsaw drink one brand of locally pasteurized milk which is considered safe, but which often sours within a day or two.

Clothing and Services

Heavy coats and hats are needed for Poland's winters. Ski suits or warm jackets and slacks and heavy socks are useful for outdoor activities; warm underwear is a necessity for all family members.

A good supply of shoes and boots (tennis and dress shoes, sandals, rubber rain boots, and lined winter boots for children) should be part of every wardrobe. It is difficult to purchase suitable footwear locally.

Men's woolen suits worn in the U.S. are satisfactory for winter, but some men prefer heavier suits and vests during the coldest months. Fur hats, purchased locally, are popular. For summer, lightweight suits are adequate.

Women wear woolen clothing of various weights throughout most of the year, although lighter clothing worn with sweaters or jackets is good for summer. Leotards, heavy-weight stockings, pantsuits, sweaters, warm jersey blouses, and wool slacks are suggested for the coldest months. It is advisable to bring a supply of nylon pantyhose from home; they are available locally, but sizes and colors are limited. Polish women and resident foreigners are fashion conscious.

Children need the usual wool, corduroy, and other heavy clothing. A Mid-Atlantic wardrobe, supplemented by heavy sweaters, is suitable for Warsaw. Flannel pajamas are desirable most of the year. Availability of children's clothing on the local market is limited, making it necessary to have a good initial supply. School uniforms are not worn.

Tailors and dressmakers are generally satisfactory in the large cities of Poland, and also are fairly inexpensive. A few do excellent work copying from fashion magazines. Yard goods, especially linen, silk, and wool, are often scarce, and quality sewing notions also are difficult to find. Shoe repair services suffer from lack of materials.

Warsaw has several good beauty shops which keep pace with the latest styles. Similar shops, although fewer in number, are also available in other major cities.

Repairs on appliances are adequate and reasonably inexpensive, but sometimes slow. Supplies of personal and household items are generally available, although brands vary. Stationery and gift wrappings are difficult to find locally, and often costly. Christmas decorations are lovely and inexpensive here.

Domestic Help

Hard-working and dependable domestic help is available, and most resident Americans employ at least one domestic. Singles often hire part-time help. Cooks who are familiar with French and American cuisine are a rarity, but some who have worked for families from the U.S. can prepare American dishes.

Salaries vary according to responsibility. The social security scheme, which covers health insurance, must be paid for by the employer; if uniforms are desired, those are also the responsibility of the employer. Meals are provided for all domestics. Some apartments and homes have domestics' living quarters. Few domestics speak English, so it is helpful to learn numbers, a few cooking phrases, and as much shopping vocabulary as possible before moving here.


Jan. 1New Year's Day


Mar/Apr.Easter Monday*

May 3Labor Day

May 3Constitution Day

May/JuneCorpus Christi Day*

Aug. 15 Assumption of the Virgin Mary

Nov. 1All Saints' Day

Nov. 11Independence Day

Dec. 25Christmas Day

Dec. 26Boxing Day



Several international air carriers serve Poland. The most frequently traveled auto route is from Frankfurt to Berlin, and from there on Highway E-8 to Poznań and Warsaw. Other routes are from Nuremberg to Prague to Cieszyn (on the Polish border) and north to Warsaw, or from Vienna north through Brno to Warsaw. Check visa requirements. Travel by train through Prague or Vienna also is possible. When driving in Eastern Europe, one should add about 50 percent more time than would normally be expected, since time is lost at border crossing points, in auto servicing, and in passing through small towns and villages.

There are no quarantine requirements for pets. Health certificates and proof of rabies inoculation (within six months, and not less than six weeks before arrival) are the only necessary documentation.

Only those holding diplomatic passports may import, buy, or own firearms and ammunition.

Poland is predominantly Roman Catholic, and churches are numerous throughout the country. In Warsaw, one Catholic church has an English mass every Sunday. The city's Methodists have Sunday services in Polish. The one synagogue has traditional services year round, and Christian Scientists and other denominations have regular services except during summer. An Anglican clergyman visits Warsaw several times a year, and holds communion services for all Christians. Interdenominational services are held on special occasions in an auditorium at the U.S. Embassy.

Kraków has more than 85 Roman Catholic churches. There also are a Lutheran and a Baptist church (services in Polish), and a synagogue (without a rabbi) which holds Sabbath services. Kraków is the headquarters of ZNAK, a club of Catholic intellectuals, some of whom speak English. Poznań has many Catholic churches, and four Protestant churches representing different denominations. No English church services are available, and Poznań does not have a synagogue.

The time in Poland is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) plus one.

The basic unit of Polish currency is the z ï oty. Import and export of z ï otys is prohibited.

Poland uses the metric system of weights and measures.


The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Blazyca, George, and Ryszard Rapacki, eds. Poland into the 1990s. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991.

Davies, Norman. Heart of Europe: A Short History of Poland. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Dobroszycki, Lucjan, and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. Image Before My Eyes: A Photographic History of Jewish Life in Poland. New York: Schocken Books, 1987.

Dunford, Martin. Real Guide: Poland 1991. New York: Prentice-Hall General Reference & Travel, 1991.

Kaminski, Bartlomiej. The Collapse of State Socialism: The Case of Poland. Princeton University Press, 1991.

Kemp-Welch, A. The Birth of Solidarity, 2nd ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991.

Latawski, Paul, ed. The Reconstruction of Poland, 1914-1923. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.

Michener, James A. Poland. New York: Random House, 1983.

Sanford, George, ed. & tr. Democratisation in Poland, 1988-1990: Polish Voices. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.

Sein, Dominique. Poland. Countries of the World Series. New York: French & European Publications, 1992.

Shen, Raphael. The Polish Economy: Legacies from the Past, Prospects for the Future. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing, 1992.

Swick, Thomas. Unquiet Days: At Home in Poland. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.


views updated Jun 27 2018


Culture Name


Alternative Names

Polanie, Polen, Poliane, Pologne, Polonia, Polska, Republic of Poland, and Rzeczpospolita Polska


Identification. Polanie was derived in the tenth century from the name of a Slavonic tribe near Poznan. It means dwellers or people of the field, meadow, or plain.

There are five Polish regional cultural traditions with associated dialects. Poles residing abroad could be considered as a sixth group. Regional cultural differences, identification, and dialects are becoming increasingly less noticeable and less important.

Location and Geography. Poland is located in Central Europe. It covers 120,700 square miles (312,680 square kilometers). On the north Poland is bordered by the Baltic Sea, Russia, and Lithuania; on the east by Belarus and Ukraine; on the south by Slovakia and the Czech Republic; and on the west by Germany. Originally, the capital was Cracow (Kraków), but in 1611 it was moved to Warsaw (Warszawa), the current seat of government.

Seventy-five percent of the land lies below 650 feet (200 meters). The Baltic Sea forms a natural northern border, and the Sudetes and Carpathians form the southern border. Poland does not have any natural borders on the east or west. Polish wars and large scale changes in the borders, both ethnically and politically, have been to the east and west while the northern and southern borders have changed little over the past one thousand years.

Demography. In 2000, the estimated population was about 39.4 million. Of this, 38.1 to 38.5 million were ethnic Poles. Worldwide there are an additional 13 million Poles who live abroad. Due to Poland's history of shifting borders and the changes over time in the ethnic policies pursued by both foreign and Polish governments, it is difficult to establish the exact size of ethnic groups. Many individuals have the right to claim membership in several groups while others may not wish to have their ethnic affiliation recorded.

The largest ethnic minorities include approximately 400,000 Germans and perhaps an equal number of Ukrainians, followed by 275,000 Belarussians, then 25,000 Roma (Gypsies), and 13,500 Lithuanians. The over three million people of the Jewish population that inhabited Poland before World War II has been reduced to some six thousand to ten thousand people.

Linguistic Affiliation. Polish belongs to the west Slavic group of languages of the Indo-European language family, which in turn is part of the Nostratic macrofamily. Poles use the Latin alphabet. Literary Polish developed during the sixteenth century and is based on the speech of educated city people, upper class usage, and the Great Polish and Little Polish Dialects. Starting in the nineteenth century, technological and cultural changes introduced a new vocabulary. During the 1920s and 1930s, there was an attempt to coin and introduce a Polish-derived vocabulary for the newly diffused technology. Otherwise, the new vocabulary is taken from German, Latin, Russian, and English. The spelling of diffused words is changed to reflect the Polish alphabet.

Geographical areas have distinct speech patterns. Most Poles can identify people's places of origin by their speech. The major dialects are: Great Polish in the northwest centered on Poznań; Kuyavian, east of "Great Poland"; and Little Polish, around Cracow. Kashubian, with about 200,000 speakers along the Baltic coast, has its own orthography and literature. The Slovincian dialect of Kashubian could be considered a separate language. A similar linguistic separation can be made regarding the Górale, or "Highlanders," of Podhale. The Mazurians and Silesians, in areas that before World War II were politically separated from Poland, spoke an archaic Polish with many words and expressions borrowed from German. Starting in 1918 with the regaining of Polish independence, the leveling influences of school, the military, mass media, urbanization, and mass migration of population have reduced the differences between regional dialects so that spoken and written language is nearly standardized.

Symbolism. Poland's flag consists of two equal-sized horizontal bars. The upper bar is white and the lower red. The coat-of-arms is a white eagle on a red field. Legend has it that while hunting the first king of the Poles encountered a huge white eagle making a strange cry and hovering over a nest of young. Such white birds were not known in the land and the King took it as an omen. The national anthem, Jeszcze Polska nie Zginȩła ("Poland Has Not Yet Perished"), was written in 1797 by an émigré soldier-poet, Józef Wybicki, serving in the Polish legions of Napoleon Bonaparte's army in Italy. It was adopted in 1918.

Polish identity is rooted in its past. Some see Poland as the bulwark of Christendom. If the Poles had not defeated the Muslim Crimean Tatars and Turks during King Jan III Sobieski's raising of the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683, Christianity would have been supplanted by Islam. Poland's role as guardian of western European civilization against the Russians and later the Bolsheviks is commemorated by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the center of Warsaw.

Others view Poland as the suffering Christ among nations raising the torch of liberty and independence for themselves and others. This position is exemplified in the slogan "For your freedom and ours" and popularized by Polish romantics such as authors Zygmunt Krasiński, Adam Mickiewicz, and Juliusz Slowacki, as well as musician Frédéric Chopin and political leaders such as Józef Pilsudski.

There is an emotional bond between the Catholic Church and Poles. This bond was formed because for the last several centuries Poland's main enemies were Orthodox Russians and Protestant Germans. In this context, a Pole was a Catholic and a Catholic was a Pole. The bond was strengthened because individuals persecuted by the authorities could seek succor and solace from the Church. Further, during communist times, the Church was the one institution that presented an independent voice.

History and Ethnic Relations

Poland is an example par excellence of the imagined community and of the ability of nationalism to shape the world. Poland exists because individuals voluntarily fought for a free and united Poland. History is one of the themes used to create a commonality and a feeling of pride. Poles consider themselves to be members of a community.

Emergence of the Nation. No one knows when or where the ancestors of modern Poles originated. It is clear that they were living somewhere on the Eurasian continent and diverged from other Slavs. However, there is no certainty regarding their presence east of the Elbe and Oder Rivers before the eighth century.

The traditional date for the founding of the Polish state is the beginning of written Polish history in 956 c.e., when Prince Mieszko I married a Bohemian princess and accepted Christianity. Mieszko's son, Boleslaw Chrobry (Boleslaw the Brave), was the first crowned Polish king. His armies reached Prague and Kiev and exemplified the next one thousand years of Polish history. At times, the Poles fought with the Swedes and Balts to the north, and the Czechs and Turks to the south, but there was almost constant strife with the Germans to the west and the Russian states to the east. Sometimes the wars were between only two enemies, and sometimes two would join in attacking the third. In 1226, Prince Conrad of Mazovia, Poland, invited the Teutonic Knights, a primarily German crusading order, to help fight the Prussians, a group of Balts living in what eventually became East Prussia. In 1382, the Lithuanian Grand Duke Jagiello (Jogailo) married Jadwiga of Anjou, a Polish princess who was crowned king [sic] in Cracow in 1385. This marriage joined Lithuania and Poland in a personal union, wherein one individual rules two states. The Treaty of Lublin, 1569, created the Republic of Poland-Lithuania. At its peak in 16341635, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonweath stretched from the Baltic to the Black Seas and encompassed Latvia, Lithuania, and much of present day Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, and Estonia, as well as scattered territories in some other countries. Political and territorial decline then set in.

The nobility held absolute power of life and death over the serfs tied to their land. The clergy, merchants in the cities (the burghers), and the Jews were protected by royal charters, but were a minuscule portion of the population. After 1572, Poland's kings were elected viritim ; that is, they were voted upon directly by the mounted assembly of the entire nobility. The kings acted more like managers than rulers. In 1652, the Sejm, Poland's parliament, introduced the liberum veto, which mandated that all legislation had to pass unanimously. The country lost independence and unity when Austria, Prussia, and Russia divided the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth among themselves. The country was divided on three occasions, in 1772, 1793, and 1795.

For brief periods, there were two small Polish states under foreign domination. The first Polish state was the Duchy of Warsaw, 1807-1813, created by Napoleon from Prussian territory inhabited by Poles. The second, with limited territory and sovereignty, was established at the Congress of Vienna. The Congress Kingdom, 18151864, was ruled by the Russian czar in a personal union. After an unsuccessful insurrection, it was incorporated into Russia as a province.

Poland declared independence in 1918. World War I was ending and the partitioning powers were collapsing. Austria disintegrated and Imperial Germany was weakened. Russia had survived two revolutions and was in the midst of a civil war. The Poles defeated the Germans and the Federal Socialist Republic of the Russian Soviets, the precursor of the Soviet Union. Between 1918 and 1939, the Polish government worked to unify the country economically, politically, socially, and ethnically.

On 1 September 1939, Germany attacked Poland and, seventeen days later, so did the Soviet Union. The zones of occupation had been demarcated in the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 23 August 1939. Most of the Polish military personnel became prisoners of war. However, some escaped to neutral countries, and others were able to reach England or France where they continued fighting against the Germans. Some stayed in Poland and became guerilla fighters, forming the nucleus of the Home Army (AK) with allegiance to the government in exile in London.

Both occupying powers ruled harshly. The Germans attempted to kill all Roma, Jews, and educated Poles. The Nazi intent was to reduce Poles to unskilled laborers. The Soviet killed twenty-two thousand Polish officers and deported 1.5 million civilians, primarily the educated and business people, to Siberia.

After Germany attacked the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, the Soviets raised a Polish army. Two divisions totaling seventy-five thousand men transferred to the Middle East in 1942 and eventually fought in Italy. Others founded the army of Communist Poland.

In 1944, the Polish Home Army staged an uprising in Warsaw. Receiving no Soviet assistance, the uprising was crushed. The Germans then razed much of Warsaw, singling out structures of historical importance.

In 1945, Poland regained political unity, albeit as a Soviet satellite. The country had to cede some of its eastern territory to the Soviet Union and, as compensation, acquired territory that had been German in 1939. Poland, for the first time in its history, did not have significant ethnic and religious minority populations. In 1989, the Soviets no longer supported the Polish Communist government, and the Poles began a shift to democracy and a market economy.

National Identity. Polish nationalism fed on the country's history of deprivation and want. It has a militant and even truculent attitude. There is a feeling that Poles have been suffering unduly.

The first manifestation of Polish nationalism was during the Confederation of Bar in 1768 when there was an attempt to reform the political system. In the Constitution of 3 May 1791, the burghers were enfranchised to expand the definition of the nation. General Tadeusz Koéciuszko's Manifesto of Polaniec in 1794 took the first steps to include the largest group of the population, the peasants.

Until 1795, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had to integrate and unify a state made up of many ethnic and religious groups. The term nation was used to refer only to the politically powerful multi-ethnic nobility. Since the nobles constituted some 8 to 12 percent of the population, this meant that the vast majority was excluded.

In 1795, the issue became how to leave multiethnic empires, on what basis to form and determine the boundaries of the reconstituted state, and how to govern it. Because of repression and unsuccessful revolts, many Poles, in order to escape imprisonment or to obtain a university education, went abroad and were exposed to French and German ideas. Many adopted the position that a nation is like a kin group with common descent, language, and culture, and that it has a right by primordial occupancy to its native soil. They adopted the ideology that ethnic groups have a right to an independent state, that a state's population should be composed of members of a single nation, and that a state should encompass all members of the ethnic group.

The Nationalists, led by Roman Dmowski, conceived the nation as a distinct ethnic community which had an inalienable right to its ancestral territory. They saw the German empire as the principal enemy and were prepared to accept national autonomy under Russian suzerainty. Domestically they were strident, harsh, and intolerant, especially to other ethnic groups.

The independence camp, led by Pilsudski, conceived the nation as a spiritual community united by culture and history. They were prepared to fight all who stood in the way of Polish independence. They saw Russia as the principal enemy and were prepared to cooperate with Austria and Germany. Domestically they were relatively mild and tolerant.

Today the popular feeling is that a Pole is anyone who has Polish ancestry and exhibits Polish cultural traits, speaks Polish, and acts according to Polish norms.

Ethnic Relations. After 1939, due to the Soviet and German genocides, changes in the country's boundaries, migration, and the expulsion of ethnic peoples by the Communist government of Poland, the country became an almost monoethnic society. Current estimates of the combined non-Polish ethnic populations range between less than one million to more than two million, or between 2 and 5.5 percent of the country's inhabitants.

Some fifteen ethnic groups are numerous enough to be recognized and to appear in statistics. The Germans, Belarussians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, and Jews have states where members of their nationality are the majority and can be appealed to for political help.

The Belarussians and Lithuanians are the indigenous people in Poland's northeast. Both groups have adjacent states where their ethnic group constitutes the majority. Both groups have schools that teach in their respective languages. Because of a history of emigration, many Lithuanians have relatives in the United States.

For the past one thousand years, Germans and Poles have at times fought wars and ruled one another. In 1945, the Poles expelled five million Germans living in areas which were formerly part of Germany. The Germans remaining in Poland are the largest physical presence and most important political minority in the country.

For centuries, the Poles have ruled territories inhabited by the Ukrainians. In 1947, as a way of crushing the Ukrainian resistance movement, the majority of the population was transferred from their homeland in southeastern Poland to scattered locations in the western territories taken over from Germany. As a result, many Ukrainians assimilated into Polish society.

The Roma came to Poland in the sixteenth century. They were one of the groups the Nazis attempted to exterminate. In 1994, the Association of the Roma in Poland organized an observance of the Nazi actions at the Auschwitz concentration camp. A growing number of Roma have entered Poland since 1990.

The earliest record of a Jew in Poland is in a letter written in 977 c.e. from the Pope instructing the king not to be overly friendly to a Jew. The first ghetto in Poland was created in the fourteenth century when Jews from Spain and Western Europe immigrated and asked for a sector of the city where they could live according to their religion and laws. The request was granted by King Kazimierz III. Until the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was tolerant toward the Jews and even invited them to come and settle. The relationship deteriorated as the fortunes of the Commonwealth declined, and there was a massive immigration of Jews from Germany, and later, from Lithuania and Russia. Relations were exacerbated by the Russian czarist policy of discrimination against Jews and stirring up ethnic antagonisms. The first organized anti-semitic pogrom was in 1881. The last one was on 4 July 1946 in Kielce when forty-two Jews were killed. During World War II, the Soviet Union deported people to central Asia and the Nazis operated death camps. Of the more than three million Jews in Poland in 1939, ninety thousand were left by the end of the war. The government-sponsored anti-semitic campaign of 19681969 drove out most of those who remained.

Prior to 1989, the Communist government at times denied the very existence of national minorities in Poland. When minorities were recognized, each acknowledged minority could be represented by only one organization and with one publication. As a result, between 1956 and 1981, there were only six organizations. After 1989, the right to free association resulted in the establishment of approximately two hundred ethnic organizations. There is legislation establishing the right to study and be taught in one's native language. Likewise, minorities have the right to access mass media, including local public radio and television, and to use their native language in broadcasting.

Since 1993, minority parties are exempt from the requirement that political parties must get a specified percentage of votes to obtain membership in the Sejm. On the local level, minorities have the right to participate in self-government. Little is known about how the laws and regulations are actually implemented.

As of 1995, there are a half million illegal aliens in Poland. Most of them came from eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The vast majority of the urban population lives in apartments and relies on mass transportation. The increasing ownership and use of private automobiles has produced associated traffic and parking problems.

In most Polish cities, there are three types of areas or "cities." The "socialist city" was constructed after World War II to accommodate the influx of people caused by industrialization. The general appearance of this city was heavily influenced by what was in practice in the Soviet Union. The city has broad streets and large public spaces. Housing consists of four- or five-story apartment buildings. Typically, construction was shoddy. Apartments commonly consist of two or three rooms plus a kitchen and a bathroom. All apartments have access to gas, electricity, and municipal water and most have central heating. There is minimal space for parking and children's play. The center of the city is devoted to government buildings, not to commercial outlets and the service sector. Places of employment, especially industry, are located some distance from dwellings.

The "capitalist/industrial city" was constructed during the nineteenth century and up to 1939. Architecturally, western European influences are noted. One difference from the "socialist city" is that the buildings represent a great variety of architectural characteristics. The interior space is much less standardized. Much space is devoted to commercial activities and, in the older parts of the city, industrial plants abut residential areas.

The "medieval city" was built during the feudal period. Building styles and town plans reflect practices and theories current in western Europe at that time. Most of the surviving structures are palaces or public buildings. Only a very few houses of merchants or people of modest means still exist.

Polish cities suffered heavy damage during World War II. Some, such as Gdańsk, Szczeczin, and Wroclaw, were heavily damaged by fighting, and the Germans deliberately razed most of Warsaw. Consequently, buildings and areas that appear ancient are often products of post-World War II construction. This was done by the Communist government to emphasize the nation's will to survive despite attempts to destroy it.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The mainstays of the Polish diet are meat, bread, and potatoes. For many Poles, dinner is not dinner without meat, primarily pork. Bread is consumed and treated with reverence. In the past, if a piece of bread fell on the ground, it was picked up with reverence, kissed, and used to make the sign of a cross. Peasants trace a cross on the bottom of a loaf of bread with a knife before slicing it. Poles consume three-hundred pounds of potatoes per capita per year. Vegetables consumed are local cool weather crops such as beets, carrots, cabbage and legumes (beans, peas, lentils). Another important source of nutrition is milk in various forms such as fresh or sour milk, sour cream, buttermilk, whey, cheese, and butter.

The Polish daily meal sequence is dependent upon the family and the season; however, typically it starts with a substantial breakfast eaten between five and eight a.m.. Eggs, meat, bread, cheese, and cold cuts may be served. Between nine and eleven in the morning, people may have a second breakfast similar to an American bag lunch. Dinner, the main meal of the day, is served between one and five in the afternoon and contributes 40 to 45 percent of the calories for the day. It consists of a large bowl of soup, a main course, and dessert. Salads, when served, are eaten with the main course. On Sundays, appetizers may start the meal. The last meal of the day is a light supper eaten between six and eight in the evening. It may be a repeat of the breakfast menu or include cold fresh water fish, aspic dishes, and cooked vegetable salads. Additionally, there may be a sweet dish such as pancakes or rice baked with apples or other fruit.

Tea and coffee are served after meals. People differentiate between tea made from tea leaves and that made from herbs or fruits. In many dialects, the two types of teas have different names. Tea is consumed more frequently and coffee is viewed as slightly special. Vodka was first distilled in Poland in the sixteenth century and is consumed with food, commonly sausage, dill pickles, or herring, as a chaser.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Namedays and weddings center on individuals. Because common first names are noted in published calendars along with holidays, people know when to acknowledge an individual's nameday. Such celebrations typically feature poultry, cakes, and other party foods. At weddings, the bride and groom are greeted with bread and salt (the essentials of life) upon their return from church.

The Christmas season is the traditional time for baking cookies, honey-spice cakes, and cheese-dough apple cakes. Among the oldest and most traditional Christmas treats are honey-rye wafers and poppy seed or nut crunch. Babka, a cake, is another traditional dish that must be taller than it is wide and it must be narrower at the top than at the bottom.

The most solemn family gathering of the year is the Christmas Eve supper. Family gather to share the oplatek, a thin white wafer sometimes called angel bread, followed by an odd number of meatless dishes. However, fish is permitted. Traditional dishes include noodles with poppy seeds and wheat pudding.

For Christmas Day dinner, many feel that game adds a special touch of the outdoors and make a special effort to obtain half a hare for the pâté.

Pączki (Polish style donuts) are the traditional pastry eaten on Shrove Tuesday and on Fat Thursday (the beginning of the pre-Lenten Mardi Gras season). At Easter the tradition is to consume food blessed on Holy Saturday. One standard item is hard-boiled eggs. Easter breakfast features fresh meat, game, and smoked meats. There is a tradition of roasted suckling pig with a red egg in its snout.

During fall harvest festivals, the fruits of the fields are blessed, and cereals and bread made from freshly threshed wheat are eaten as well as placed on graves on All Saint's Day. On Saint Martin's Day, the traditional food is a goose.

Basic Economy. Poland is changing from an economy where the state sector, dominated to one where the economy is controlled privately. In 1989, 95 percent of those employed were in the state sector, which generated 90 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and received 85 percent of individuals' investment funds. By 1997, 67 percent of those employed were in the private sector, which was producing 63 percent of the GDP. In 1999, the private sector, generated about 70 percent of economic activity.

In 1996, 44 percent of those employed were in service occupations, 30 percent in industry and construction, and 26 percent in agriculture. The latter produces only 5 percent of the GDP. Polish farms are small, inefficient, lack capital, and have surplus labor. The main products are potatoes, fruits, vegetables, wheat, poultry, eggs, pork, beef, milk, and cheese. The average farm sells most of its products and buys about a fourth of the food consumed by the family.

Land Tenure and Property. While a few state farms remain, the vast majority of farm land is privately owned. City apartments are being privatized. Most of the industrial enterprises in the politically "sensitive sectors" such as coal, steel, telecommunications, aviation, and banks are still owned by the government.

Commercial Activities. Poland produces agricultural products, minerals, coal, salt, sulfur, copper, manufactured, goods, glass, textiles, beverages, machinery, and ships.

Major Industries. Between 1945 and 1989, the government's centralized planning system mobilized resources but could not ensure their efficient use. It made huge strides in helping to develop heavy industry but neglected farming, consumer goods, and housing. Their efforts also hurt the environment. After 1989, there was a reduction of the state-owned sector balanced by the development of the private. Poland has privatized medium and small state-owned enterprises and passed a liberal law for the establishment of new companies. The major industries are machine building, iron and steel, coal mining, chemicals, shipbuilding, food processing, glass, beverages, and textiles.

Trade. Since 1989, the main effort has been to shift Poland's international trade from countries that were part of the Soviet Union and its erstwhile satellites to other countries, especially member states of the EU.

By 1997, Poland exported mainly to Germany, Russia, Italy, Ukraine, the Netherlands, and France. Its main exports are manufactured goods, chemicals, machinery and equipment, food, and live animals, and mineral fuels. It imports primarily from Germany, Italy, Russia, France, United Kingdom, and the United States. Poland's main imports are manufactured goods, chemicals, machinery and equipment, mineral fuels, food, and live animals.

Division of Labor. In the cities, both men and women are employed outside the home. However, there is a male bias in employment. Proportionately, more women are unemployed than men. In rural areas, women participate fully in farm work, both in the fields and in the house. Additionally, women operate a large number of farms.

Polish women perform "the second shift"; the phenomenon of simultaneously managing an external job and a household. Shopping, especially for groceries, and housework are considered women's jobs. A man will do almost anything not to cook, wash dishes, or clean house.

Social Stratification

The strong and rigid social stratification that marked Poland prior to 1939 has all but disappeared. This has happened because during World War II, both the Nazis and the Communists deliberately killed educated Poles. At the end of the war, the intelligentsia was greatly reduced in numbers. For forty-five years, the Communist government pursued policies intended to reduce social classes. They fostered education and the economic and educational advancement of peasants and workers. With the government's success in creating industrial jobs, there has been a great movement of rural people to cities.

Classes and Castes. Currently there are six strata or groupings: peasants, workers, intelligentsia, szlachta (nobles or gentry), the nomenclatura (the ruling group during the existence of the communist government), and a nascent middle class. The workers and intelligentsia have increased both numerically and proportionately. The ruling class that held power during Communist rule is fighting to regain political power and maintain economic power. The szlachta may still constitute some 10 to 15 percent of the population, but their significance has been practically eliminated. People starting businesses are just beginning to differentiate themselves.

Symbols of Social Stratification. During Communist rule, the general population assumed many of the customs of the szlachta. Thus, the common way of addressing someone is as pan (male) or pani (female), terms that formerly were used among and toward members of the szlachta. For people who are above the peasant and worker classes, men kiss women's hands and follow current fashions in dress. Since social status does not necessarily correlate with high income, there is a discrepancy between status and consumption. The educated and the szlachta stress politeness and social graces to differentiate themselves from the uneducated and the newly rich.

Political Life

Government. The highest law is the Constitution of 16 October 1997. The Polish government is divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. The executive branch includes a president, a prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, and a cabinet or council of ministers. The president, who is the chief of state, is elected by a popular vote for a five-year term. The prime minister and the deputy prime ministers are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Sejm. The prime minister nominates and the president appoints the members of the council of ministers who are then approved by the Sejm.

The legislative branch consists of two houses: the one hundred seat Senate whose members are elected for four-year terms by a majority vote from the provinces, and the four hundred sixty-seat Sejm whose members serve four years and are elected to ensure proportional representation. Four seats are constitutionally reserved for ethnic German parties.

Leadership and Political Officials. There are a great many political parties. Most of them are still in the process of being formed, developing ideologies, and establishing a solid basis among the voters. Ideologically some are successor parties of the Communist party and others are post-Solidarity parties. In addition, there are a great many minor parties; some have an ideological basis and some reflect the ambitions of a popular individual.

Social Problems and Control. The Polish legal system is a combination of the continental system of law (Napoleonic Code) and holdovers from Communist legal theory. Under the continental civil law, interpretation of the law by judges is not a major factor and the rule of precedent is not an important element.

Since 1989, the Polish legal system has undergone significant transformation as part of a larger democratization process. There is some judicial review of legislative acts and court decisions can be appealed to the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg, France. Poland has a commercial code that meets the European Union (EU) standards and, on 26 May 1981, Poland ratified The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG).

A still controversial issue is the treatment of former Communist government officials, especially the members the secret police. Debate centers around barring them from holding public office or positions of trust and whether Communist government officials who committed crimes should be held accountable now.

An issue gaining in importance is the treatment of people with different sexual orientation. The legal system, the society, and especially the Catholic Church are intolerant toward them. Yet there is a world-wide trend to legitimize these types of minorities and incorporate them into society with full civil and legal rights.

Military Activity. Poland is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It has an army, a navy, and an air defense force. In 1998, Poland spent 2.2 percent of its GDP (3.3 billion dollars) on the military. At the end of the twentieth century Poland had no serious military threats or international disputes.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The government's social welfare system is insufficiently funded and needs a comprehensive overhaul to adjust to changing political and economic conditions.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are involved in aiding children, family and general social welfare. In 1984, Poland was the first central/eastern European country to pass a law making NGOs possible. They have about two million members. By 1998, about twenty-six thousand NGOs were operating. NGOs may register as either associations or foundations. Both types of organizations may provide services.

There is a NGO support industry. In 1993, an informal coalition of Polish NGOs, the Forum of Nongovernmental Initiatives (FIP), was created, and the Network of Information and Support Center for the Nongovernmental Organizations (SPLOT) was established in 1994.

In general, NGOs try to satisfy local needs. More than 90 percent of Poland's NGOs are active in education (including social as well as general education); social welfare; and family, children and young people. Most of their funding comes from donations by corporations and individuals, the central government, international NGOs, and their own business activities.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Traditionally, the woman's place was in the home, and her rule in household matters was absolute. By 1979, women were 43.4 percent of the work force, in 1988, 45 percent, and in 1996, 46 percent. According to a study, women employed outside the home averaged 6.5 hours on the job and 4.3 hours on housework, while women without jobs spent 8.1 hours on housework.

The socialist government offered women opportunities for higher education and employment. In 1990, for every 100 males who completed higher education there were 89 women. On average, women and men have accumulated the same 11.1 years of education. However, women's earnings are lower. Between 1982 and 1993, women earned only 66 to 67 percent of men's wages. This was due in part to women choosing careers in badly paid sectors of the economy. Seventy percent of the women worked in health, social security, finance, education, and retail sales, but only 15 percent of graduates in technical subjects were women. Even in the better paid sectors of the economy, women were primarily in administration or worked as semiskilled workers.

Women operate a significant percentage of farms; in 1992 they operated 20 percent of farms. Almost 70 percent of female farmers were single and more than 40 percent were age 60 or older. Usually the children have moved away and the husband has died or is unable to farm.

The reorientation of Poland's economy from a socialist command model to a capitalistic market driven one has had a disproportionate impact on women. Despite the fact that women make up less than 50 percent of the workforce, 55 percent of the unemployed are women.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Women live in a male-oriented society with few groups working to change the national attitudes. They are subject to family violence at home and sexual harassment in the work place. They also have less access to credit and jobs. Very few women have achieved top leadership positions in politics, business, and the professions. They are excluded from leadership in the Catholic Church.

Among the peasants and workers, there is a strong patriarchal ideology and the husband is apt to regard himself as superior and the master. The wife is expected to make it clear that her husband is the head of the family. However, a man will not make important decisions without consulting his wife. In upper class and intelligentsia families the relationship is more equal, and a man places great value on his wife's opinions and counsel.

One area where there is significant disagreement and change is regarding women's reproductive rights. Under socialist governments, sex education in schools was minimal and, while contraceptive devices and medication and abortions were available, their accessability varied over time and from place to place. During socialist times abortions were common and, at times, their numbers approached those of live births. After 1989, severe restrictions were imposed, especially on abortions. The law of 20 November 1996 allows abortions in the first trimester and beyond the twelfth week in cases of rape or incest, provides for free abortions to women meeting specified conditions, and enjoins the Ministry of Education to enforce sexual education programs in schools.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. People typically married before age twenty. Unmarried women over twenty were considered spinsters, and bachelors in their late twenties were subjected to public censure and mockery. Both men and women expect to marry, have children, and have only one spouse for a lifetime. Marriage has always been viewed as a holy responsibility, and it is commonly believed that the unmarried or the never married cannot be really happy and will have difficulty obtaining salvation.

Traditionally, most marriages were arranged to improve family fortunes. Love was not important. Formal divorce was difficult. However, one way to escape was for one member of the couple to move, ostensibly to earn money in a distant locale, and to not return.

Domestic Unit. Ideally, the domestic unit is a three-generation extended family consisting of the married couple, their children and the husband's parents. However, in 1991, over 6 percent of families consisted of a single mother with one or more children. Ten percent of all mothers are single, and many of them have never been married.

Inheritance. Traditionally, a father could divide the inheritance any way he saw fit. Now there are legal restrictions, especially on the division of real estate. The rural inheritance system does not work well. Often properties are inherited by several heirs. One heir takes possession and is expected to make cash payments to the others. Because of frequent changes in governments and in legal and monetary systems, this generates ill will and interminable arguments regarding equitable division of inheritances.

Kin Groups. Poles recognize kinship through both genders and use the same kin terms for both father's and mother's relatives, but differentiate between genders and generations. When individuals attempt to manipulate the formal economic and political systems, they try to utilize kin ties to do so. Groups of relatives assemble for formal occasions, especially for funerals and weddings.


Infant Care. According to Polish tradition, a pregnant woman should not look at the disabled, mice, or fire in order not to damage the infant. Pregnancies are hidden as long as possible, and people avoid talking about them to guard against jealousy, witchcraft, and the evil eye. There are no professional midwives. An older respected womanbabka or baba aids in the delivery. Breast-feeding is seen as beneficial and healthy. In the Lublin area, boys are fed for three years, and in Kujawy, all infants for two. Newborns sleep with the mother until they are christened, usually three or four weeks, with six weeks being the usual maximum. Afterwards infants sleep in a cradle. Selection of godparents is important, because the child is assumed to acquire the characteristics of the same sex godparent. The godfather provides the swaddling cloth. The infant is clothed in a shirt, cap, and diapers and then wrapped in the cloth. For boys, an important event is the first haircut, usually at about three years.

Child Rearing and Education. Poles emphasize good manners and etiquette. Children who misbehave are called "impolite." Boys, in particular, are raised to be brave, independent, self-reliant, and tough. Patriotism is also stressed. Farming people and workers use physical punishment while upper classes tend to rely on psychological sanctions. The father is the stern disciplinarian, an authoritarian who should be respected and obeyed. In the middle and upper class, the mother is in charge of the children's education, and the development of their patriotism. Ideally, the mother is kind and nurturing, and mediates between the father and the children. In many urban families both parents are employed outside the home and the grandparents play an important role in raising the children.

Having established the National Education Commission in 1770, Poland has a long tradition of formal schooling. Education suffered after the country was partitioned. The partitioning powers tried to impose their culture and language on the Poles. The Germans devoted the most attention to education and, by 1911, illiteracy had been eliminated in their territory. In the Russian-controlled areas, schools were relatively few, children were taught in Russian, and Polish was treated as a foreign language.

With the reestablishment of independence in 1918, there was a concerted effort to educate the population. By 1939, illiteracy had been reduced to 12 percent and was less than 1 percent in 2000. There are nursery schools, eight-year primary schools, secondary schools, and universities. Secondary schools offer basic vocational training, vocational and technical training, and general college preparatory education. State schools at all levels are free and attendance to age eighteen is obligatory.

Higher Education. The Cracow Academy was founded in 1364 (called the Jagiellonian University after 1400) and is one of the oldest universities in Europe. By 1939, Poland had six universities, including the Catholic University in Lublin, which later became the only private university in the Communist block. By 1989, the country had ten universities and a number of specialized schools geared to the needs of agriculture, industry, medicine, and teaching.


There is great stress on being polite and courteous. Men are expected to kiss ladies' hands and to behave with decorum. An acceptable gift for women is an odd number of flowers, regardless of whether a woman is the recipient or presenter. Most men consider themselves judges of a fine drink, and for men the standard gift is alcohol. One must always drink from a glass, never directly from a bottle.


Religious Beliefs. Approximately 95 percent of Poland's inhabitants are Roman Catholics, with about 75 percent attending church services regularly. The other 5 percent are Eastern Orthodox, Protestants and other Christian religions. Judaism and Muslim are the largest non-Christian religions.

Religious Practitioners. There is a hierarchy of priests, monks, and nuns as appropriate in the Roman Catholic Church along with ministers of other Christian denominations. On rare occasions, one may still encounter witches and fortune tellers.

Rituals and Holy Places. The Catholic church has formal religious services and practices, and it encourages preservation of folk culture, such as the common roadside shrines built and maintained by the people and the large annual pilgrimages to shrines such as Czȩstochova, Kalwaria, Lanckorona, and Piekarnie Śląskie. Traditionally on the Feast of the Purification, 2 February, the priests bless the gromnica, the candle used to ward off lightning, sickness, and general misfortune.

In rural areas, there are religious practices based on the annual cycle of the growing seasons and associated farming practices and to ensure good luck. When cleaning house in preparation for Christmas, a corner is left unswept lest some happiness is thrown out. There are many local variations of Christmas activities, but one common thread is bringing samples of crops into the house and sharing food with animals. The ubiquitous custom is the evergreen, or fir tree, found even in Orthodox Jewish homes during the feast of Hanukkah.

Easter was the time of Resurrection both of Christ and of nature. A common rural custom is to sprinkle water on the ground to ensure a bountiful harvest. A popular extension of this practice is the dousing of people with water. In many areas, there are follow-up festivities on Easter Monday, dyngus day.

In celebration of the shortest night of the year on Saint John's Eve, 23 June, people build bonfires and jump over them to gain purification and protection from evil. In many areas, people float flower garlands in rivers. Traditionally, haying also starts about this time and 29 June was a time for fairs.

In the fall, 28 October is devoted to Saint Jude, the patron of things most difficult to achieve and solutions to problems that seem hopeless. During World War II, Saint Jude was the patron of Underground Poland and is still considered the protector of Polish exiles and homeless wanderers worldwide. On All Saints' Day, 1 November, and All Souls' Day, 2 November, people place candles in cemeteries and at places of torment and execution.

Death and Afterlife. Death is visualized as a tall, slender woman dressed in a white sheet and carrying a scythe. Nothing could stop her, but animals could warn of her approach. People preferred that death be speedy and painless and that it come as a result of illness rather than without warning. The dying individual was placed on the ground, and doors and windows were opened so that the soul could go to heaven. The dead may be buried in their Sunday best.

Traditionally, a house where someone died was considered unclean and was marked with a cloth nailed to the door, black if the deceased was an older married man or woman, green if a young man, and white if a young girl. White cloth and flowers were considered symbols of mourning. Survivors did not wear red. The casket was made from boards with no knots from an evergreen tree. The deceased was placed on a plank or in the coffin between two chairs in the main room of the house. Coins were placed in the hand, mouth, or left armpit so that the deceased has been paid and has no reason to return. Candles were lit and left burning, especially the first night. It was believed that the soul stays around the body so food and drink were left in the open. The wake pusta noc involved singing and wailing to keep away any bad spirits. It was the beggars' job to do the majority of lamenting. If an enemy came to the wake, it was considered to be a pardon.

At the funeral, people said goodbye, women by putting their hand on the coffin and men by placing their cap on it. The coffin was closed with wooden pegs. The coffin was taken out of the house feet first, and the cattle and bees had to be notified of their master's demise. Once the coffin was in the grave those present (except family members) threw dirt in the grave. The soul went to the Creator then returned to the body until the priest threw dirt on the coffin. At that point, the soul went to Saint Peter to find out its fateheaven or hell.

Tombstones were for important people. The common marker was a birch cross giving the name, date, and prayer requests as well as a shrub or a plant. Kasza (porridge) was featured at the funeral feast along with vodka with honey. Beggars were fed as well. Masses were said for the dead on the third, seventh, ninth, and fortieth day after death. On the first anniversary of death, there was a large meal for relatives, friends, and beggars.

Medicine and Health Care

In cases of illness, people use both modern and folk medicine and seek help from practitioners of both. Reliance on folk medicine has been lessening, and modern medicine with physicians, nurses, clinics, pharmacies, and sanatoria is the norm. A recent development is the addition of the speciality of family physician.

Formally, there are two types of modern health care. One is provided by dentists and physicians in private practice on a fee basis to those able to pay. The other is by the national and regional governments. This system is in trouble due to insufficient and shrinking resources and is considered unsatisfactory by the patients, the health care workers, and the state. Patients complain of no continuity of treatment and care, difficult access to specialists, and problems meeting various legal requirements. All health care workers, from the physicians to the lowest employee, complain of low salaries and prestige.

Secular Celebration

The national holidays are Constitution Day, 1 May (1791) and Independence Day, 11 November (1918).

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. In the last ten years, there has been a fundamental shift in the constraints faced by artists. Before 1989, art was heavily subsidized by the state, but demands were made on artists to produce propaganda materials. In addition, art was subject to political censorship. Certain topics and ways of presenting works of art were forbidden and, if violated, could expose the artist to legal sanctions, including prison sentences. Some artists never displayed their art publicly. With the fall of socialism, both state support and censorship, except in certain areas such as pornography, have disappeared. Consequently, artists are more free politically but have fewer resources.

Literature. Oral literature was the earliest genre. In the preliterate days and among the peasants much later, folk songs, legends, poetry, jokes, and riddles were important artistic expressions. Folk songs dealt with universal themes such as love, sorrow, and lack of freedom. Tales and legends dealt with the doings of kings, contests between knights and dragons, and the exploits of ancient robbers and bandits as well as with the lives of saints. Political jokes and stories and urban legends deal with current events and circulate nationwide.

Initially, Polish literature was written in Latin and can be said to have begun with the annals of the tenth century. Literature in Polish began and enjoyed a "golden age" in the sixteenth century with the writing of Mikolay Rej, who wrote exclusively in Polish and has been called the father of Polish literature, and Jan Kochanowski, the first genuine and great Polish poet. In the seventeenth century, Wespazjan Kochowski wrote the first messianic interpretation of Poland's destiny, a theme developed during the romantic period by Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Slowacki, and Zygmunt Krasiński. In the twentieth century, three Polish writers were awarded Nobel prizes: Henryk Sienkiewicz, 1905; Wladyslaw Reymont, 1924; and Czeslaw Milosz, 1980. Between 1940 and 1989, there were severe political restrictions on what could be published. At the end of the twentieth century the main constraint is economical, based on what the public will buy.

Graphic Arts. The Poles have participated in all the great art movements of Western culture. One of Poland's early notable sculptors, Wit Stwosz (Veit Stoss), lived during the fifteenth century. The wooden altar tryptich in the Church of the Virgin Mary in Cracow is his most famous work. The first noted painter was the Italian, Bernardo Bellotto, who in the late eighteenth century painted Polish life. Painting developed in the second half of the nineteenth century with Jan Matejko and Henryk Siemiradzki being the best known. The portraitist Stanislaw Wyspiański was also active in drama and design.

Performance Arts. Theater and movies have a special potency in Polish society. People tend to see their own life and history as filled with drama and romance, and they love theater. Attending a performance, whether a play, a movie, a concert or ballet, is an important social activity, and people tend to see it as a serious and edifying experience rather than mere entertainment.

The first public theater in Poland was established in 1763. This spurred great popularity of drama and especially comedy in the second half of the eighteenth century. There were some very influential and important playwrights. Franciszek Zablocki produced very high level comedies. His best known is the "Flirting Dandy." Mickiewicz's Dziady ("Forefathers' Eve") combined folklore and mystic atmosphere to create a new kind of romantic drama and offered a new formula for national destiny. Its visionary third part was published in 1832. Franciszek Bohomolec satirized the aristocracy and Wojciech Boguslawski wrote a popular national comic opera. During the nineteenth century almost all poets wrote poetry in dramatic form. Some of the most important dramatists were Aleksander Fredro, Slowacki, and Stanislaw Wyspianski. During the twenty years between the world wars, there were no major dramatic developments. The best plays were written by novelists. After World War II, the Communist government attempted to use the theater for propaganda purposes, with indifferent success. There has been a revival since 1989.

Polish ballet was built on folk dances but is primarily an urban enjoyment. Between the world wars, it generally had low standards. After World War II, it received considerable state support and much was done to improve it. It emphasizes classical and folk dancing, but some modern ballet themes are present.

Music has had few official constraints. It is founded on the rhythms and melodies of folk music adapted for performance in gentry homes and reaches back to the middle ages. A distinctive Polish church music was flourishing during the Renaissance. The first major Polish opera was staged in 1794. The famous composer Frederic Chopin is considered the musical embodiment of Polishness. After World War II, there was a lively revival of music in Poland. All branches of music are well represented. Popular music is strongly influenced by western styles. Polish jazz is excellent and has a reputation for experiment.

Polish cinema goes back to 1909, but it began to attract international attention only after World War II. The directors best known abroad are Andrzej Wajda and Roman Polanski. After 1989, people tended to curtail consumer spending and movie audiences shrank. In the 1970s, there were two-thousand five hundred movie theaters but by 1992, there were fewer than one thousand. Foreign films have great appeal. In 1992, of 122 new titles shown, fifteen were Polish and eighty-nine were recent American films. The remainder were of Australian, English, Finnish, French, German, and Japanese productions. Since 1989, about one half of the films have been co-productions with foreign partners.

Radio and television are attractive sources of entertainment and information. Television provides quality cinema and a wide variety of programs in several languages through cable, local channels, and satellite hookups. Most families own a VCR. In 1990, over 6,000 companies sold and rented video cassettes. There is legislation to curb video piracy and an association has been formed to protect copyrights.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Over the centuries, Poles have made notable contributions to the sciences, including the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (Mikolaj Kopernik); Alfred Korzybski, the founder of general semantics; economists Oscar Lange and Michael Kalecki; Nobel Prize winner Maria Curie-Skodowski; and the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski.

Between 1945 and 1989, the social sciences were subjected to severe restrictions and neglect. There was censorship of publications and restrictions were placed on travel and research topics. Topics of research were circumscribed and certain areas could not be investigated. Since 1989, the political constraints have been lifted and the main problem is to obtain funding for research and publication.


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Andris Skreija


views updated May 29 2018


Compiled from the October 2003 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Poland




Area: 312,683 sq. km. (120,725 sq. mi.); about the size of New Mexico.

Cities: (2001) Capital—Warsaw (pop. 1,609,810). Other cities—Lodz (790,197), Krakow (741,841), Wroclaw (633,887), Poznan (573,814), Gdansk (456,284).

Terrain: Flat plain, except mountains along southern border.

Climate: Temperate continental.


Nationality: Noun—Pole(s). Adjective—Polish.

Population: 39 million.

Annual growth rate: Increasing slightly.

Ethnic groups: Polish 98%, German, Ukrainian, Belarussian, Lithuanian.

Religions: Roman Catholic 90%, Eastern Orthodox, Uniate, Protestant, Judaism.

Language: Polish.

Education: Literacy—98%.

Health: (2000) Infant mortality rate—8.1/1,000. Life expectancy—males 70 yrs., females 78 yrs.

Work force: 17.0 million. Industry and construction—25.3%; agriculture—28.7%; trade and business—28.0%; government and other—18.0%.


Type: Republic.

Constitution: The constitution now in effect was approved by a national referendum on May 25, 1997. The constitution codifies Poland's democratic norms and establishes checks and balances among the president, prime minister, and parliament. It also enhances several key elements of democracy, including judicial review and the legislative process, while continuing to guarantee the wide range of civil rights, such as the right to free speech, press, and assembly, which Poles have enjoyed since 1989.

Branches: Executive—head of state (president), head of government (prime minister). Legislative — bicameral National Assembly (lower house—Sejm, upper house—Senate). Judicial—Supreme Court, provincial and local courts, constitutional tribunal.

Administrative subdivisions: 16 provinces (voivodships).

Political parties: (in Parliament) Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), Citizens Platform (PO), Self-Defense (Samoobrona), Law and Justice (PiS), Polish Peasant Party (PSL), League of Polish Families (LPR), Union of Labor (UP), Conservative Peasant Alliance (SKL).

Suffrage: Universal at 18


GDP: (2002)$188.5 billion.

Per capita GDP: (2002)$4,882.

Rate of inflation: (2002) 1.9%.

Natural resources: Coal, copper, sulfur, natural gas, silver, lead, salt.

Agriculture: Products—grains, hogs, dairy, potatoes, horticulture, sugarbeets, oilseed.

Industry: Types—machine building, iron and steel, mining, shipbuilding, automobiles, furniture, textiles and apparel, chemicals, food processing, glass, beverages.

Trade: (2002) Exports—$33.0 billion: furniture, cars, ships, coal, apparel. Imports—$43.3 billion: crude oil, passenger cars, pharmaceuticals, car parts, computers.


Poland today is ethnically almost homogeneous (98% Polish), in contrast with the World War II period, when there were significant ethnic minorities—4.5 million Ukrainians, 3 million Jews, 1 million Belarussians, and 800,000 Germans. The majority of the Jews were murdered during the German occupation in World War II, and many others emigrated in the succeeding years.

Most Germans left Poland at the end of the war, while many Ukrainians and Belarussians lived in territories incorporated into the then-U.S.S.R. Small Ukrainian, Belarussian, Slovakian, and Lithuanian minorities reside along the borders, and a German minority is concentrated near the southwest city of Opole.


Poland's written history begins with the reign of Mieszko I, who accepted Christianity for himself and his kingdom in AD 966. The Polish state reached its zenith under the Jagiellonian dynasty in the years following the union with Lithuania in 1386 and the subsequent defeat of the Teutonic Knights at Grunwald in 1410. The monarchy survived many upheavals but eventually went into a decline, which ended with the final partition of Poland by Prussia, Russia, and Austria in 1795.

Independence for Poland was one of the 14 points enunciated by President Woodrow Wilson during World War I. Many Polish Americans enlisted in the military services to further this aim, and the United States worked at the postwar conference to ensure its implementation.

However, the Poles were largely responsible for achieving their own independence in 1918. Authoritarian rule predominated for most of the period before World War II. On August 23, 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov nonaggression pact, which secretly provided for the dismemberment of Poland into Nazi and Soviet-controlled zones. On September 1, 1939, Hitler ordered his troops into Poland. On September 17, Soviet troops invaded and then occupied eastern Poland under the terms of this agreement. After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Poland was completely occupied by German troops.

The Poles formed an underground resistance movement and a government in exile, first in Paris and later in London, which was recognized by the Soviet Union. During World War II, 400,000 Poles fought under Soviet command, and 200,000 went into combat on Western fronts in units loyal to the Polish government in exile.

In April 1943, the Soviet Union broke relations with the Polish government in exile after the German military announced that they had discovered mass graves of murdered Polish army officers at Katyn, in the U.S.S.R. (The Soviets claimed that the Poles had insulted them by requesting that the Red Cross investigate these reports.) In July 1944, the Soviet Red Army entered Poland and established a communist-controlled "Polish Committee of National Liberation" at Lublin.

Resistance against the Nazis in Warsaw, including uprisings by Jews in the Warsaw ghetto and by the Polish underground, was brutally suppressed. As the Germans retreated in January 1945, they leveled the city.

During the war, about 6 million Poles were killed, and 2.5 million were deported to Germany for forced labor. More than 3 million Jews (all but about 100,000 of the Jewish population) were killed in death camps like those at Oswiecim (Auschwitz), Treblinka, and Majdanek.

Following the Yalta Conference in February 1945, a Polish Provisional Government of National Unity was formed in June 1945; the U.S. recognized it the next month. Although the Yalta agreement called for free elections, those held in January 1947 were controlled by the Communist Party. The communists then established a regime entirely under their domination.

Communist Party Domination

In October 1956, after the 20th ("de-Stalinization") Soviet Party Congress in Moscow and riots by workers in Poznan, there was a shakeup in the communist regime. While retaining most traditional communist economic and social aims, the regime of First Secretary Wladyslaw Gomulka liberalized Polish internal life.

In 1968, the trend reversed when student demonstrations were suppressed and an "anti-Zionist" campaign initially directed against Gomulka supporters within the party eventually led to the emigration of much of Poland's remaining Jewish population. In December 1970, disturbances and strikes in the port cities of Gdansk, Gdynia, and Szczecin, triggered by a price increase for essential consumer goods, reflected deep dissatisfaction with living and working conditions in the country. Edward Gierek replaced Gomulka as First Secretary.

Fueled by large infusions of Western credit, Poland's economic growth rate was one of the world's highest during the first half of the 1970s. But much of the borrowed capital was misspent, and the centrally planned economy was unable to use the new resources effectively. The growing debt burden became insupportable in the late 1970s, and economic growth had become negative by 1979.

In October 1978, the Bishop of Krakow, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, became Pope John Paul II, head of the Roman Catholic Church. Polish Catholics rejoiced at the elevation of a Pole to the papacy and greeted his June 1979 visit to Poland with an outpouring of emotion.

In July 1980, with the Polish foreign debt at more than $20 billion, the government made another attempt to increase meat prices. A chain reaction of strikes virtually paralyzed the Baltic coast by the end of August and, for the first time, closed most coal mines in Silesia. Poland was entering into an extended crisis that would change the course of its future development.

The Solidarity Movement

On August 31, 1980, workers at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, led by an electrician named Lech Walesa, signed a 21-point agreement with the government that ended their strike. Similar agreements were signed at Szczecin and in Silesia. The key provision of these agreements was the
guarantee of the workers' right to form independent trade unions and the right to strike. After the Gdansk agreement was signed, a new national union movement—"Solidarity"—swept Poland.

The discontent underlying the strikes was intensified by revelations of widespread corruption and mismanagement within the Polish state and party leadership. In September 1980, Gierek was replaced by Stanislaw Kania as First Secretary.

Alarmed by the rapid deterioration of the PZPR's authority following the Gdansk agreement, the Soviet Union proceeded with a massive military buildup along Poland's border in December 1980. In February 1981, Defense Minister Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski assumed the position of Prime Minister as well, and in October 1981, he also was named party First Secretary. At the first Solidarity national congress in September-October 1981, Lech Walesa was elected national chairman of the union.

On December 12-13, the regime declared martial law, under which the army and special riot police were used to crush the union. Virtually all Solidarity leaders and many affiliated intellectuals were arrested or detained. The United States and other Western countries responded to martial law by imposing economic sanctions against the Polish regime and against the Soviet Union. Unrest in Poland continued for several years thereafter.

In a series of slow, uneven steps, the Polish regime rescinded martial law. In December 1982, martial law was suspended, and a small number of political prisoners were released. Although martial law formally ended in July 1983 and a general amnesty was enacted, several hundred political prisoners remained in jail.

In July 1984, another general amnesty was declared, and 2 years later, the government had released nearly all political prisoners. The authorities continued, however, to harass dissidents and Solidarity activists. Solidarity remained proscribed and its publications banned. Independent publications were censored.

Roundtable Talks and Elections

The government's inability to forestall Poland's economic decline led to waves of strikes across the country in April, May, and August 1988. In an attempt to take control of the situation, the government gave de facto recognition to Solidarity, and Interior Minister Kiszczak began talks with Lech Walesa on August 31. These talks broke off in October, but a new series, the "roundtable" talks, began in February 1989. These talks produced an agreement in April for partly open National Assembly elections. The June election produced a Sejm (lower house), in which one-third of the seats went to communists and one-third went to the two parties which had hitherto been their coalition partners. The remaining one-third of the seats in the Sejm and all those in the Senate were freely contested; virtually all of these were won by candidates supported by Solidarity.

The failure of the communists at the polls produced a political crisis. The roundtable agreement called for a communist president, and on July 19, the National Assembly, with the support of some Solidarity deputies, elected General Jaruzelski to that office. Two attempts by the communists to form governments failed, however.

On August 19, President Jaruzelski asked journalist/Solidarity activist Tadeusz Mazowiecki to form a government; on September 12, the Sejm voted approval of Prime Minister Mazowiecki and his cabinet. For the first time in more than 40 years, Poland had a government led by noncommunists.

In December 1989, the Sejm approved the government's reform program to transform the Polish economy rapidly from centrally planned to free-market, amended the constitution to eliminate references to the "leading role" of the Communist Party, and renamed the country the "Republic of Poland." The Polish United Workers' (Communist) Party dissolved itself in January 1990, creating in its place a new party, Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland. Most of the property of the former Communist Party was turned over to the state.

The May 1990 local elections were entirely free. Candidates supported by Solidarity's Citizens' Committees won most of the races they contested, although voter turnout was only a little over 40%. The cabinet was reshuffled in July 1990; the national defense and interior affairs ministers—hold-overs from the previous communist government—were among those replaced.

In October 1990, the constitution was amended to curtail the term of President Jaruzelski. In December, Lech Walesa became the first popularly elected President of Poland.

Poland in the 1990s

Poland in the early 1990s made great progress toward achieving a fully democratic government and a market economy. In November 1990, Lech Walesa was elected President for a 5-year term. Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, at Walesa's request, formed a government and served as its Prime Minister until October 1991, introducing world prices and greatly expanding the scope of private enterprise.

Poland's first free parliamentary elections were held in 1991. More than 100 parties participated, representing a full spectrum of political views. No single party received more than 13% of the total vote. After a rough start, 1993 saw the second group of elections, and the first parliament to actually serve a full term. The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) received the largest percentage of votes.

After the election, the SLD and PSL formed a governing coalition. Waldemar Pawlak, leader of the junior partner PSL, became Prime Minister. Relations between President Walesa and the Prime Minister remained poor throughout the Pawlak government, with President Walesa charging Pawlak with furthering personal and party interests while neglecting matters of state importance. Following a number of scandals implicating Pawlak and increasing political tension over control of the armed forces, President Walesa demanded Pawlak's resignation in January 1995. In the ensuing political crisis, the coalition removed Pawlak from office and replaced him with the SLD's Jozef Oleksy as the new Prime Minister.

In November 1995, Poland held its second post-war free presidential elections. SLD leader Aleksander Kwasniewski defeated Walesa by a narrow margin—51.7% to 48.3%. Soon after Walesa's defeat, Interior Minister Andrzej Milczanowski accused then-Prime Minister Oleksy of longtime collaboration with Soviet and later Russian intelligence. In the ensuing political crisis, Oleksy resigned. For his successor, the SLD-PSL coalition turned to Deputy Sejm speaker Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz—who was linked to, but not a member of, the SLD. Polish prosecutors subsequently decided that there was insufficient evidence to charge Oleksy, and a parliamentary commission decided in November 1996 that the Polish intelligence services may have violated rules of procedure in gathering evidence in the Oleksy case.

In 1997 parliamentary elections two parties with roots in the Solidarity movement—Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW)—won 261 of the 460 seats in the Sejm and formed a coalition government. Jerzy Buzek of the AWS was the Prime Minister. The AWS and the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) held the majority of the seats in the Sejm. Marian Krzaklewski was the leader of the AWS, and Leszek Miller led the SLD. In June 2000, UW withdrew from the governing collation, leaving AWS at the helm of a minority government. Poland's September 2001 parliamentary elections saw the center-left Democratic Left Alliance (SLD—successor to the communist party twice removed), triumph and form a coalition with the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) and leftist Union of Labor (UP), with Leszek Miller (SLD) as Prime Minister. On March 1, 2003, the PSL left the ruling coalition and the SLD-UP continues to govern as a minority government.


The current government structure consists of a council of ministers led by a Prime Minister, typically chosen from a majority coalition in the bicameral legislature's lower house. The president elected every 5 years is head of state. The judicial branch plays a minor role in decisionmaking.

Former SLD leader Aleksander Kwasniewski was re-elected President in October 2000. Kwasniewski received in the first round 53.9% of the popular vote. In second place was Andrzej Olechowski —17.3%. President Kwasniewski has supported Polish membership in NATO and the EU and backed the SLD's legislative agenda on issues such as redrafting the constitution and abortion liberalization.

The parliament, consisting of 460 members of the Sejm and 100 members of the Senate, was elected in September 2001 in free and fair elections in which 15 political parties participated. The new Constitution and the reformed administrative division (as of 1999) required a revision of the election ordinance (passed in April 2001). The most important changes were liquidation of a national list (all deputies were elected by voters in constituencies) and introduction of a new method of calculating seats (the modified St. Lague method replaced the d'Hondt method, thus eliminating the premium for the top parties). The law stipulated that with the exception of guaranteed seats for small ethnic parties, only parties receiving at least 5% of the total vote could enter parliament. As of October 2001, eight parties and the German minority are represented in the Sejm.

Currently, Poland is led by the minority SLD-UP coalition, headed by Prime Minister Leszek Miller. The government maintains generally pro-market economic policies, has made EU accession and bringing Poland's financial house in order its priorities, and is committed to a democratic political system. The ruling SLD-UP government holds 193 seats in the Sejm and 75 seats in the Senate.

Along with SLD, other parties represented in Parliament are Citizens Platform (PO), Self-defense (Samoobrona), Law and Justice (PiS), Polish Peasant Party (PSL), League of Polish Families (LPR), Union of Labor (UP), and Conservative Peasant Alliance (SKL). Poland's next parliamentary elections and presidential election are scheduled for 2005.

Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 1/30/04

President: Kwasniewski, Aleksander

Prime Minister: Miller, Leszek

Chief, Office of the Prime Minister: Wagner, Marek

Govt. Spokesman: Tober, Michal

Dep. Prime Min.: Hausner, Jerzy

Dep. Prime Min.: Pol, Marek

Dep. Prime Min.: Olesky, Jozef

Min. of Agriculture: Olejniczak, Wojciech

Min. of Culture: Dabrowski, Waldemar

Min. of Economy, Labor, & Social Policy: Hausner, Jerzy

Min. of Education: Lybacka, Krystyna

Min. of Environmental Protection: Sleziak, Czeslaw

Min. for European Affairs: Huebner, Danuta

Min. of Finance: Raczko, Andrzej

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Cimoszewicz, Wlodzimierz

Min. of Health: Sikorski, Leszek

Min. of Infrastructure: Pol, Marek

Min. of Internal Affairs & Administration: Oleksy, Jozef

Min. of Justice: Kurczuk, Grzegorz

Min. of National Defense: Szmajdzinski, Jerzy

Min. of Science: Kleiber, Michal

Min. of Treasury (Acting): Hausner, Jerzy

Min. Without Portfolio (Coordinator of Special Services): Mroz, Arkadiusz

Speaker, Sejm (Parliament): Borowski, Marek

Pres., Polish National Bank: Balcerowicz, Leszek

Ambassador to NATO: Towpik, Andrzej

Ambassador to the US: Grudzinski, Przemyslaw

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Stanczyk, Janusz

Poland maintains an embassy in the United States at 2640 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-234-3800/3801/3802); the consular annex is at 2224 Wyoming Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-234-3800). Poland has consulates in Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles.


Poland's top national security goal is to further integrate with NATO and other west European defense, economic, and political institutions via a modernization and reorganization of its military. Polish military doctrine reflects the same defense nature as its NATO partners.

Poland maintains a sizable armed force currently numbering about 175,343 troops divided among an army of 96,733, an air and defense force of 39,649, and a navy of 15,980. The Ministry of Defense has announced that the armed forces of Poland will number 150,000 by 2006. Poland relies on military conscription for the majority of its personnel strength. All males (with some exceptions) are subject to a 12-month term of military service. The Polish military continues to restructure and to modernize its equipment. The Polish Defense Ministry General Staff and the Land Forces staff have recently reorganized the latter into a NATO-compatible J/G-1 through J/G-6 structure. Budget constraints hamper such priority defense acquisitions as a multi-role fighter, improved communications systems, and an attack helicopter.

Poland continues to be a regional leader in support and participation in the NATO Partnership for Peace Program and has actively engaged most of its neighbors and other regional actors to build stable foundations for future European security arrangements. Poland continues its long record of strong support for UN Peacekeeping Operations by maintaining a unit in Southern Lebanon, a battalion in NATO's Kosovo Force (KFOR), and by providing and actually deploying the KFOR strategic reserve to Kosovo. Polish military forces have served in both Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Poland assumed command of a multinational division of stabilization forces in Iraq (MDN-CS) on September 3, 2003, contributing 2,300 troops.


The Polish economy grew rapidly in the mid-1990s, but growth has slowed considerably in recent years. The gross domestic product (GDP) grew by a mere 1.3% in 2002, but is expected to increase to about 2.8% in 2003. Slowing growth has boosted unemployment, which stood at 18.1% at the end of 2002. Tight monetary policy and slow growth have helped temper inflation, which was down to 1.9% in 2002. Likewise, Poland's current account deficit, which grew rapidly in the late 1990s, fell to 3.6% of GDP in 2002. The budget deficit remains a source of concern: the slowing economy drove up the deficit to an estimated 5.1% of GDP in 2002.

Throughout the 1990s the United States and other Western countries supported the growth of a free enterprise economy by reducing Poland's foreign debt burden, providing economic aid, and lowering trade barriers. Poland graduated from USAID assistance in 2000. Poland is currently expected to join the European Union on May 1, 2004.


Agriculture employs 28.7% of the work force but contributes only 3.4% to the gross domestic product (GDP), reflecting relatively low productivity. Unlike the industrial sector, Poland's agricultural sector remained largely in private hands during the decades of communist rule. Most of the former state farms are now leased to farmer tenants. Lack of credit is hampering efforts to sell former state farmland. Currently, Poland's 2 million private farms occupy 90% of all farmland and account for roughly the same percentage of total agricultural production. These farms are small—8 hectares (ha) on average—and often fragmented. Farms with an area exceeding 15 ha accounted for only 9% of the total number of farms but cover 45% of total agricultural area. Over half of all farming households in Poland produce only for their own needs with little, if any, commercial sales.

Poland is a net exporter of confectionery, processed fruit and vegetables, meat, and dairy products. Processors often rely on imports to supplement domestic supplies of wheat, feed grains, vegetable oil, and protein meals, which are generally insufficient to meet domestic demand. However, Poland is the leading producer in Europe of potatoes and rye and is one of the world's largest producers of sugarbeets. Poland also is a significant producer of rapeseed, grains, hogs, and cattle. Attempts to increase domestic feed grain production are hampered by the short growing season, poor soil, and the small size of farms.

Pressure to restructure the agriculture sector is intensifying as Poland prepares to accede to the European Union, which is unwilling to subsidize the vast number of subsistence farms that do not produce for the market. The changes in agriculture are likely to strain Poland's social fabric, tearing at the heart of the traditional, family-based small farm as the younger generation drifts toward the cities.


Before World War II, Poland's industrial base was concentrated in the coal, textile, chemical, machinery, iron, and steel sectors. Today it extends to fertilizers, petrochemicals, machine tools, electrical machinery, electronics, and shipbuilding.

Poland's industrial base suffered greatly during World War II, and many resources were directed toward reconstruction. The communist economic system imposed in the late 1940s created large and unwieldy economic structures operated under a tight central command. In part because of this systemic rigidity, the economy performed poorly even in comparison with other economies in central Europe.

In 1990, the Mazowiecki government began a comprehensive reform program to replace the centralized command economy with a market-oriented system. While the results overall have been impressive, many large state-owned industrial enterprises, particularly the railroad and the mining, steel, and defense sectors, have remained resistant to the change and downsizing required to survive in an open market economy.

Economic Reform Program

The economic reforms introduced in 1990 removed price controls, eliminated most subsidies to industry, opened markets to international competition, and imposed strict budgetary and monetary discipline. Poland was the first former centrally planned economy in central Europe to end its recession and return to growth in the early 1990s. Since 1992, the Polish economy has enjoyed an accelerated recovery, although growth has recently slowed. The private sector now accounts for over two-thirds of GDP.

As a result of Poland's growth and investment-friendly climate, the country has received over $65 billion in direct foreign investment since 1990. However, the government continues to play a strong role in the economy, as seen in excessive red tape and the high level of politicization in many business decisions. Investors complain that state regulation is not transparent or predictable; the economy suffers from a lack of competition in many sectors, notably telecommunications. In early 2002, the government announced a new set of economic reforms, designed in many ways to complete the process launched in 1990. The package acknowledges the need to improve Poland's investment climate, particularly the conditions for small and medium-sized enterprises, and better prepare the economy to compete as an EU member. The government also aims to improve Poland's public finances to prepare for eventual adoption of the euro.

Foreign Trade

With the collapse of the ruble-based COMECON trading bloc in 1990, Poland scrambled to reorient its trade. As early as 1996, 70% of its trade was with EU members, and neighboring Germany today is Poland's dominant trading partner. While membership in the EU is Poland's primary goal, it has fostered regional integration and trade through the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), which includes Hungary, the Czech and Slovak Republics, and Slovenia.

Most of Poland's imports are capital goods needed for industrial retooling and for manufacturing inputs, rather than imports for consumption. Therefore, a deficit is expected and should even be regarded as positive at this point. Poland, a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), has been steadily lowering tariffs in line with its WTO and EU commitments. Most products from EU countries now enter Poland duty-free; while Poland will apply the EU's common external tariff to goods from other countries—including the U.S.—upon EU entry, it continues to maintain higher tariffs in advance of accession. The Polish Government has agreed to lower tariffs on selected U.S. products to address this differential. Most Polish exports to the United States receive tariff benefits under the generalized system of preferences (GSP) program.

Opportunities for trade and investment continue to exist across virtually all sectors. The American Chamber of Commerce in Poland, founded in 1991 with seven members, now has more than 300 members. Strong economic growth potential, a large domestic market, prospective EU membership, and a high level of political stability are the top reasons U.S. and other foreign companies do business in Poland.


Poland became a full member of NATO in March 1999 and has set an objective of joining the European Union in 2004. Poland promoted its NATO candidacy through energetic participation in the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program and through intensified individual dialogue between Poland and NATO. Poland was invited in the first wave of NATO enlargement at the July 1997 NATO Summit in Madrid.

Poland also has forged ahead on its economic integration with the West. In 1996 Poland achieved full OECD membership. It became an associate member of the European Union (EU) and its defensive arm, the Western European Union, in 1994. In the June 2003 national referendum, the Polish people approved EU accession by an overwhelming margin, and Poland will enter the EU on May 1, 2004.

Changes since 1989 have redrawn the map of central Europe, and Poland has had to forge relationships with seven new neighbors. Poland has actively pursued good relations with all its neighbors, signing friendship treaties replacing links severed by the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. The Poles have forged special relationships with Lithuania and particularly Ukraine in an effort to firmly anchor these states to the West.


The United States established diplomatic relations with the newly formed Polish Republic in April 1919. After Gomulka came to power in 1956, relations with the United States began to improve. However, during the 1960s, reversion to a policy of full and unquestioning support for Soviet foreign policy objectives and anti-Semitic feelings in Poland caused those relations to stagnate. U.S.-Polish relations improved significantly after Gierek succeeded Gomulka and expressed his interest in improving relations with the United States. A consular agreement was signed in 1972.

In 1974 Gierek was the first Polish leader to visit the United States. This action, among others, demonstrated that both sides wish to facilitate better relations.

The birth of Solidarity in 1980 raised the hope that progress would be made in Poland's external relations as well as in its domestic development. During this time, the United States provided $765 million in agricultural assistance. Human rights and individual freedom issues, however, were not improved upon, and the U.S. revoked Poland's most-favored-nation (MFN) status in response to the Polish Government's decision to ban Solidarity. MFN status was reinstated in 1987, and diplomatic relations were upgraded.

The United States and Poland have enjoyed warm bilateral relations since 1989. Every post-1989 Polish Government has been a strong supporter of continued American military and economic presence in Europe and has identified membership in NATO, the European Union, and other Western security and economic structures as Poland's principal foreign policy priority. Poland served successfully as the Chairman in Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 1998. It has done a superb job as the formal protector of American interests in Iraq since the Gulf war and cooperates closely with American diplomacy on such issues as nuclear proliferation, human rights, regional cooperation in central and eastern Europe, and UN reform.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Warsaw (E), Aleje Ujazdowskie 29/31 00-054 Warsaw Pl • Dept. of State, 5010 Warsaw Pl., Washington, D.C., 20521-5010 (pouch address), Tel [48] (22) 504-2000, after-hours Tel 504-2000, 625-0133, 629-0638, or 629-3651, IVG Operator 504-0000; EXEC Fax [48] (22) 504-2951; POL Fax 504-2613;ECO Fax 504-2744; CON Fax 504-2532; MGT Fax 504-2226; HR Fax 504-2265; BUD/FISC Fax 504-2443; GSO Fax 504-2484; MED Fax 504-2719; PAS Fax 504-2364; RSO Fax 504-2197; mail room Fax 504-2688, IVG x2340; Telex 817771.

AMB:Christopher R. Hill
AMB OMS:Margie J. Douglas
DCM:Cameron P. Munter
POL:Gerald C. Anderson
ECO:Richard Rorvig
COM:Edgar D. Fulton
CON:Michael D. Kirby
MGT:Richard E. Jaworski
HR:Marianne Kompa
GSO:Marcia E. Cole
RSO:Dean Devilla
IMO:Clifford E. Brzozowski
ISO:Glenn W. Miller
PAO:Andrew C. Koss
DAO:COL Henry Nowak
AGR:Wayne P. Molstad
ORA:Ronald J. Czarnetzky
LAB:John L. Armstrong
DEA:Robert Mangiamele (res. Berlin)
FAA/FSIDO:Chris Glasgow (res. Frankfurt)
IRS:Margaret J. Lullo (res. Berlin)
CLO:Adrianne Treiber
LEGATT:Joel G. Irvin
CUS:Donald J. Fanning (resident in Berlin)

US Commercial Service (Warsaw), Aleje Jerozolimskie 56C, Ikea Building, 2nd Fl., 00-803 Warsaw • Dept. of State, 5010 Warsaw Pl., Wash., D. C., 20521-5010 (pouch address), Tel [48] (22) 625-4374, Fax 621-6327.

DIR:Edgar D. Fulton

Krakow (CG), Ulica Stolarska 9, 31-043 Krakow • Dept. of State, 5140 Krakow Pl., Wash., D.C., 20521-5140 (pouch address), Tel [48] (12) 424-5100, Fax 424-5103.

CG:Siria R. Lopez
POL/ECO:Kenneth Wetzel
CON:Patrick W. Walsh
MGT:David C. Grier
PAO:Leslie C. High

Poznan (CA), Paderwskiego 8, 61-770, Poznan, Tel [48] (61) 851-8516, Fax 851-8966.

CA:Urszula Dziuba

Last Modified: Thursday, November 06, 2003


Consular Information Sheet
August 12, 2003

Country Description: Poland is a stable, free-market democracy. Tourist facilities are not highly developed in all areas, and some services taken for granted in other European countries may not be available in some parts of Poland, especially in rural areas. The U.S. Embassy's website is www.usinfo.pl.

Entry Requirements: A valid passport is required. U.S. citizens do not need visas for stays up to 90 days for tourist, business or transit purposes. Americans should ensure that their passports are date-stamped upon entry. For further information on entry requirements, please contact the consular section of Embassy of the Republic of Poland at 2224 Wyoming Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 232-4517 or (202) 232-4528, or the Polish consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles or New York. The Polish Embassy can also be contacted via its website at http://www.polandembassy.org.

Dual Nationality: In addition to being subject to all Polish laws affecting U.S. citizens, individuals who also possess the nationality of Poland may be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on citizens of that country. For additional information, see the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.

Poland requires Polish citizens (including American citizens who are or can be claimed as Polish citizens) to enter and depart Poland using a Polish passport. Americans who are also Polish citizens or who are unsure if they hold Polish citizenship should contact the nearest Polish consular office for further information.

Safety and Security: For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

The Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747 can answer general inquiries on safety and security overseas. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by dialing 1-317-472-2328.

Crime Information: While Poland generally has a low rate of violent crime, the incidence of street crime, which sometimes involves violence, is high. Warsaw, Krakow, and other major cities have higher rates of crime against residents and foreign visitors than other areas. The tri-cities area of Gdynia, Sopot and Gdansk has a high incidence of muggings, sometimes in broad daylight, some of which have involved aggravated assault.

Organized groups of thieves and pick-pockets operate at major tourist destinations, in train stations, and on trains, trams and buses in major cities. Thefts have occurred on overnight trains. Most pickpocketing on trains occurs during boarding; in the most common scenario, a group of well-dressed young men will surround a passenger in the narrow aisle of the train, jostling/pickpocketing him or her as they supposedly attempt to get around the passenger.

Car thefts, theft from cars and car-jackings are commonplace. Drivers should be wary of people indicating they should pull over or that something is wrong with their cars. Often, a second car or person is following, and when the driver of the targeted car gets out to see if there is a problem, the person who has been following will get in and drive off with the vehicle. Drivers should never get out of the car to check for damage without first turning off the car and removing the keys from the ignition. There also has been an increasing incidence of thieves opening or breaking passenger-side doors and windows in slow or stopped traffic to take purses or briefcases left on the seat beside the driver. Those traveling by car should remember to keep windows closed and doors locked.

Racially motivated verbal and occasionally physical harassment of Americans and others of non-Caucasian ethnicity does occur. Most of the incidents that have occurred were perpetrated by groups of young males generally identified as skinheads.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad," for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Medical Facilities: Adequate medical care is available in Poland, but hospital facilities and nursing support are not comparable to American standards. Physicians are generally well trained but specific emergency services may be lacking in certain regions, especially in Poland's small towns and rural areas. Younger doctors generally speak English, though nursing staff often does not. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/medical.html or via autofax at (202) 647-3000.

Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Poland is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in every particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair

An International Driving Permit (IDP), available from AAA (in the United States only), must accompany a U.S. driver's license. Roadside services, while not at Western levels, are rapidly improving. Polski Zwiazek Motorowy Auto-Tour has multilingual operators and provides assistance countrywide; they can be reached by calling 981 or 9637. The police emergency number is 997, fire service is 998, and ambulance service is 999. Mobile phone users can dial 112 for roadside assistance. Seat belts are compulsory in both the front and back seats, and children under the age of 10 are prohibited from riding in the front seat. Headlights must be used at all times from October through March and are recommended year-round. Use of cellular phones while driving is prohibited, except for "hands-free" models.

The number of cars on the road in Poland has increased substantially. Driving, especially after dark, is hazardous. Roads are generally narrow, badly lit, frequently under repair (especially in the summer months), and are often also used by pedestrians and animals. The Ministry of Transportation has a program called "Black Spot" (Czarny Punkt), which puts signs in places where the number of accidents and casualties are particularly high. These signs have a black spot on a yellow background, and the road area around the "black spot" is marked with red diagonal lines. Alcohol consumption is frequently a contributing factor in accidents. Polish laws provide virtually zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol, and penalties for drunk driving (defined as a blood alcohol level of 0.05 or higher) include a fine and probation or imprisonment for up to two years. Penalties for drivers involved in accidents can be severe. If an accident results in injury or death, the penalty can be imprisonment from six months up to eight years.

Within cities, taxis are available at major hotels and designated stands or may be ordered in advance. Some drivers accept credit cards and/or speak English. Travelers should be wary of hailing taxis on the street, especially those that do not have a telephone number displayed, because these may not have meters, and many of them charge more.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For information about Polish driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Polish National Tourist Organization Office in New York by telephone at (212) 338-9412, by fax at (212) 338-9283 or via its website at http://www.polandtour.org or see the U.S Embassy's Consular Section web page at http://www.usinfo.pl.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Poland's civil aviation authority as Category Two – not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Polish air carrier operations. While consultations to correct the deficiencies are ongoing, Polish air carriers currently flying to the United States will be subject to heightened FAA surveillance. No additional flights or new service to the United States by Polish air carriers will be permitted unless they arrange to have the flights conducted by an air carrier from a country meeting international safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.

The Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD by telephone at (618) 229-4801.

Customs Regulations: Polish customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary import and export of items such as works of art, particularly those created before 1945. Works produced by living artists after 1945 may be exported with permission from the Provincial Conservator of Relics. Some works of art produced after 1945 may still be subject to a ban on exportation if the artist is no longer living and the work is considered of high cultural value. Contact the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C., or one of the Polish consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Polish customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212) 354-4480, send an email to [email protected], or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Polish laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Poland are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Special Circumstances: Upon entry into Poland, visitors must request a form to declare currency, traveler's checks and other cash instruments in amounts in excess of 5,000 Euros (please check the exchange rate for the approximate dollar amount at the time of travel). The declaration form must be stamped by Polish customs and retained by the traveler for presentation on departure. Undeclared cash may be confiscated upon departure, and visitors carrying undeclared cash may be subject to criminal penalties. Most major banks now cash traveler's checks. ATM machines are readily available in all major cities and credit cards are becoming increasingly accepted.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone the Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) call center at 1-888-407-4747. The OCS call center can answer general inquiries regarding international adoptions and will forward calls to the appropriate country officer in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by dialing 1-317-472-2328.

Registration/Embassy and Consulate Locations: Americans living in or visiting Poland are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw or U.S. Consulate General in Krakow and obtain updated information on travel and security within Poland. The U.S. Embassy in Warsaw is located at Aleje Ujazdowskie 29/31. The Consular Section entrance is located around the corner at Ulica Piekna 12. The Embassy's telephone number is (48)(22) 504-2000; fax (48)(22) 504-2688; consular fax (48)(22) 627-4734 (consular fax only checked during normal business hours). The U.S. Consulate General in Krakow is located at Ulica Stolarska 9. The Consulate General's telephone number is (48)(12) 424-5100; fax (48)(12) 424-5103; after-hours cellular phone (for emergencies only) 601-483-348. A Consular Agency providing limited consular services in Poznan is located at Ulica Paderewskiego 7. The Consular Agency's telephone number is (48)(61) 851-8516; fax (48)(61) 851-8966.

International Parental Child Abduction

The information below has been edited from the report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, American Citizen Services. For more information, please read the Guarding Against International Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at travel.state.gov

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction came into force between the United States and Poland on November 1, 1992. Therefore, Hague Convention provisions for return would apply to children abducted or retained after November 1, 1992. Parents and legal guardians of children taken to Poland prior to November 1, 1992 may still submit applications for access to the child under the Hague Convention.

The Polish Central Authority
Ministerwo Sprawiedliwosci Department
1 Prawa Europejskiego
Wydzial Prawa Miedzynarodowego
Al. Ujazdowskie 11, 00-950
Warszawa, Polska
Telephone/Fax: 011[48](22) 628-09-49


views updated May 17 2018



Compiled from the November 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Republic of Poland



Area: 312,683 sq. km. (120,725 sq. mi.); about the size of New Mexico.

Cities: (2004) Capital—Warsaw (pop. 1,690,821). Other cities—Lodz (776,297), Krakow (757,957), Wroclaw (636,854), Poznan (573,003), Gdansk (460,524).

Terrain: Flat plain, except mountains along southern border.

Climate: Temperate continental.


Nationality: Noun—Pole(s). Adjective—Polish.

Population: (July 2006) 38.5 million.

Annual growth rate: Unchanging.

Ethnic groups: Polish 98%, German, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Lithuanian.

Religions: Roman Catholic 90%, Eastern Orthodox, Uniate, Protestant, Judaism.

Languages: Polish.

Education: Literacy—98%.

Health: (2006) Infant mortality rate—7.2/1,000. Life expectancy—males 71 yrs., females 79 yrs.

Work force: 17.2 million. Industry and construction—29%; agriculture—16%; services—54%.


Type: Republic.

Constitution: The constitution now in effect was approved by a national referendum on May 25, 1997. The constitution codifies Poland's democratic norms and establishes checks and balances among the president, prime minister, and parliament. It also enhances several key elements of democracy, including judicial review and the legislative process, while continuing to guarantee the wide range of civil rights, such as the right to free speech, press, and assembly, which Poles have enjoyed since 1989.

Government branches: Executive—head of state (president), head of government (prime minister). Legislative—bicameral National Assembly (lower house—Sejm, upper house—Senat). Judicial—Supreme Court, provincial and local courts, constitutional tribunal.

Political subdivisions: 16 provinces (voivodships).

Political parties: (in parliament) Civic Platform (PO), Law and Justice (PiS), Left and Democrats (LiD) and the Polish People's Party (PSL).

Suffrage: Universal at 18.


GDP: (2006) $265.4 billion.

Real GDP growth: (2006) 5.3%.

Per capita GDP: (2006) $14,100.

Inflation: (2006) 1.3%.

Natural resources: Coal, copper, sulfur, natural gas, silver, lead, salt.

Agriculture: Products—grains, hogs, dairy, potatoes, horticulture, sugarbeets, oilseed.

Industry: Types—machine building, iron and steel, mining, shipbuilding, automobiles, furniture, textiles and apparel, chemicals, food processing, glass, beverages.

Trade: (2006) Exports—$110.7 billion: furniture, cars, ships, coal, apparel. Imports—$113.2 billion: crude oil, passenger cars, pharmaceuticals, car parts, computers.


Poland today is ethnically almost homogeneous (98% Polish), in contrast with the World War II period, when there were significant ethnic minorities—4.5 million Ukrainians, 3 million Jews, 1 million Belorussians, and 800,000 Germans. The majority of the Jews were murdered during the German occupation in World War II, and many others emigrated in the succeeding years.

Most Germans left Poland at the end of the war, while many Ukrainians and Belorussians lived in territories incorporated into the then-U.S.S.R. Small Ukrainian, Belorussian, Slovakian, and Lithuanian minorities reside along the borders, and a German minority is concentrated near the southwest city of Opole.


Poland's written history begins with the reign of Mieszko I, who accepted Christianity for himself and his kingdom in AD 966. The Polish state reached its zenith under the Jagiellonian dynasty in the years following the union with Lithuania in 1386 and the subsequent defeat of the Teutonic Knights at Grunwald in 1410. The monarchy survived many upheavals but eventually went into a decline, which ended with the final partition of Poland by Prussia, Russia, and Austria in 1795.

Independence for Poland was one of the 14 points enunciated by President Woodrow Wilson during World War I. Many Polish Americans enlisted in the military services to further this aim, and the United States worked at the postwar conference to ensure its implementation.

However, the Poles were largely responsible for achieving their own independence in 1918. Authoritarian rule predominated for most of the period before World War II. On August 23, 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov nonaggression pact, which secretly provided for the dismemberment of Poland into Nazi and Soviet-controlled zones. On September 1, 1939, Hitler ordered his troops into Poland. On September 17, Soviet troops invaded and then occupied eastern Poland under the terms of this agreement. After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Poland was completely occupied by German troops.

The Poles formed an underground resistance movement and a government in exile, first in Paris and later in London, which was recognized by the Soviet Union. During World War II, 400,000 Poles fought under Soviet command, and 200,000 went into combat on Western fronts in units loyal to the Polish government in exile.

In April 1943, the Soviet Union broke relations with the Polish government in exile after the German military announced that they had discovered mass graves of murdered Polish army officers at Katyn, in the U.S.S.R. (The Soviets claimed that the Poles had insulted them by requesting that the Red Cross investigate these reports.) In July 1944, the Soviet Red Army entered Poland and established a communist-controlled “Polish Committee of National Liberation” at Lublin.

Resistance against the Nazis in Warsaw, including uprisings by Jews in the Warsaw ghetto and by the Polish underground, was brutally suppressed. As the Germans retreated in January 1945, they leveled the city.

During the war, about 6 million Poles were killed, and 2.5 million were deported to Germany for forced labor. More than 3 million Jews (all but about 100,000 of the Jewish population) were killed in death camps like those at Oswiecim (Auschwitz), Treblinka, and Majdanek.

Following the Yalta Conference in February 1945, a Polish Provisional Government of National Unity was formed in June 1945; the U.S. recognized it the next month. Although the Yalta agreement called for free elections, those held in January 1947 were controlled by the Communist Party. The communists then established a regime entirely under their domination.

Communist Party Domination

In October 1956, after the 20th (“de-Stalinization”) Soviet Party Congress in Moscow and riots by workers in Poznan, there was a shakeup in the communist regime. While retaining most traditional communist economic and social aims, the regime of First Secretary Wladyslaw Gomulka liberalized Polish internal life.

In 1968, the trend reversed when student demonstrations were suppressed and an “anti-Zionist” campaign initially directed against Gomulka supporters within the party eventually led to the emigration of much of Poland's remaining Jewish population. In December 1970, disturbances and strikes in the port cities of Gdansk, Gdynia, and Szczecin, triggered by a price increase for essential consumer goods, reflected deep dissatisfaction with living and working conditions in the country. Edward Gierek replaced Gomulka as First Secretary.

Fueled by large infusions of Western credit, Poland's economic growth rate was one of the world's highest during the first half of the 1970s. But much of the borrowed capital was misspent, and the centrally planned economy was unable to use the new resources effectively. The growing debt burden became insupportable in the late 1970s, and economic growth had become negative by 1979.

In October 1978, the Bishop of Krakow, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, became Pope John Paul II, head of the Roman Catholic Church. Polish Catholics rejoiced at the elevation of a Pole to the papacy and greeted his June 1979 visit to Poland with an outpouring of emotion.

In July 1980, with the Polish foreign debt at more than $20 billion, the government made another attempt to increase meat prices. A chain reaction of strikes virtually paralyzed the Baltic coast by the end of August and, for the first time, closed most coalmines in Silesia. Poland was entering into an extended crisis that would change the course of its future development.

The Solidarity Movement

On August 31, 1980, workers at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, led by an electrician named Lech Walesa, signed a 21-point agreement with the government that ended their strike. Similar agreements were signed at Szczecin and in Silesia. The key provision of these agreements was the guarantee of the workers' right to form independent trade unions and the right to strike. After the Gdansk agreement was signed, a new national union movement—“Solidarity”—swept Poland.

The discontent underlying the strikes was intensified by revelations of widespread corruption and mismanagement within the Polish state and party leadership. In September 1980, Gierek was replaced by Stanislaw Kania as First Secretary.

Alarmed by the rapid deterioration of the PZPR's authority following the Gdansk agreement, the Soviet Union proceeded with a massive military buildup along Poland's border in December 1980. In February 1981, Defense Minister Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski assumed the position of Prime Minister as well, and in October 1981, he also was named party First Secretary. At the first Solidarity national congress in September-October 1981, Lech Walesa was elected national chairman of the union.

On December 12-13, the regime declared martial law, under which the army and special riot police were used to crush the union. Virtually all Solidarity leaders and many affiliated intellectuals were arrested or detained. The United States and other Western countries responded to martial law by imposing economic sanctions against the Polish regime and against the Soviet Union. Unrest in Poland continued for several years thereafter.

In a series of slow, uneven steps, the Polish regime rescinded martial law. In December 1982, martial law was suspended, and a small number of political prisoners were released. Although martial law formally ended in July 1983 and a general amnesty was enacted, several hundred political prisoners remained in jail. In July 1984, another general amnesty was declared, and 2 years later, the government had released nearly all political prisoners. The authorities continued, however, to harass dissidents and Solidarity activists. Solidarity remained proscribed and its publications banned. Independent publications were censored.

Roundtable Talks and Elections

The government's inability to forestall Poland's economic decline led to waves of strikes across the country in April, May, and August 1988. In an attempt to take control of the situation, the government gave de facto recognition to Solidarity, and Interior Minister Kiszczak began talks with Lech Walesa on August 31. These talks broke off in October, but a new series, the “roundtable”talks, began in February 1989. These talks produced an agreement in April for partly open National Assembly elections. The June election produced a Sejm (lower house), in which one-third of the seats went to communists and one-third went to the two parties which had hitherto been their coalition partners. The remaining one-third of the seats in the Sejm and all those in the Senat were freely contested; virtually all of these were won by candidates supported by Solidarity.

The failure of the communists at the polls produced a political crisis. The roundtable agreement called for a communist president, and on July 19, the National Assembly, with the support of some Solidarity deputies, elected General Jaruzelski to that office. Two attempts by the communists to form governments failed, however.

On August 19, President Jaruzelski asked journalist/Solidarity activist Tadeusz Mazowiecki to form a government; on September 12, the Sejm voted approval of Prime Minister Mazowiecki and his cabinet. For the first time in more than 40 years, Poland had a government led by non-communists.

In December 1989, the Sejm approved the government's reform program to transform the Polish economy rapidly from centrally planned to free-market, amended the constitution to eliminate references to the “leading role” of the Communist Party, and renamed the country the “Republic of Poland.” The Polish United Workers' (Communist) Party dissolved itself in January 1990, creating in its place a new party, Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland. Most of the property of the former Communist Party was turned over to the state.

The May 1990 local elections were entirely free. Candidates supported by Solidarity's Citizens' Committees won most of the races they contested, although voter turnout was only a little over 40%. The cabinet was reshuffled in July 1990; the national defense and interior affairs ministers—holdovers from the previous communist government—were among those replaced.

In October 1990, the constitution was amended to curtail the term of President Jaruzelski. In December, Lech Walesa became the first popularly elected President of Poland.

The Republic of Poland

The Republic of Poland in the early 1990s made great progress toward achieving a fully democratic government and a market economy. In November 1990, Lech Walesa was elected President for a 5-year term. Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, at Walesa's request, formed a government and served as its Prime Minister until October 1991, introducing world prices and greatly expanding the scope of private enterprise.

Poland's first free parliamentary elections were held in 1991. More than 100 parties participated, representing a full spectrum of political views. No single party received more than 13% of the total vote.

Since 1991, Poland has conducted six general parliamentary elections and four presidential elections—all free and fair. Incumbent governments have transferred power smoothly and constitutionally in every instance to their successors. The post-Solidarity center-right and post-Communist center-left have each controlled the parliament and the presidency since 1991. Most recently, Poles elected Law and Justice (PiS) candidate and Mayor of Warsaw Lech Kaczynski to a 5-year term as President. Kazcynski narrowly defeated Civic Platform (PO) candidate Donald Tusk and was sworn in December 23, 2005.

PiS was also the top vote-getter in September 25, 2005, parliamentary elections. After coalition talks with runner-up PO collapsed, PiS alone formed a minority government under Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz. Frustrated by its inability to achieve its legislative program alone, PiS formed a formal coalition government with Self-Defense (SO) and the League of Polish Families (LPR) in April 2006. In July 2006, Prime Minister Marcinkiewicz resigned and was replaced by PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski as Prime Minister. Parliamentary elections were held again in October 2007, and Donald Tusk became Prime Minister in November 2007.


The current government structure consists of a council of ministers led by a Prime Minister, typically chosen from the majority coalition in the bicameral legislature's lower house (Sejm). The president, elected every five years for no more than two terms, is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The judicial branch plays a minor role in decision-making.

The parliament consists of the 460-member Sejm and the 100-member Senat, or upper house. The new constitution and the reformed administrative division (as of 1999) required a revision of the election ordinance (passed in April 2001). The most important changes were liquidation of a national list (all deputies are elected by voters in electoral districts) and introduction of a new method of calculating seats (the modified St. Lague method replaced the d'Hondt method, thus eliminating the premium for the top parties). The law stipulated that with the exception of guaranteed seats for small ethnic parties, only parties receiving at least 5% of the total vote could enter parliament.

Parties represented in the newly elected Sejm are Civic Platform (PO), Law and Justice (PiS), Left and Democrats (LiD), and the Polish People's Party (PSL).

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008


Prime Min.: Donald TUSK

Dep. Prime Min.: Waldemar PAWLAK

Dep. Prime Min.: Grzegorz SCHETYNA

Min. of Agriculture & Rural Development: Marek SAWICKI

Min. of Culture & National Heritage: Bogdan ZDROJEWSKI

Min. of Economy: Waldemar PAWLAK

Min. of Education: Katarzyna HALL

Min. of Environment: Maciej NOWICKI

Min. of Finance: Jacek ROSTOWSKI

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Radoslaw SIKORSKI

Min. of Health: Ewa KOPACZ

Min. of Infrastructure: Cezary GRABARCZYK

Min. of Internal Affairs & Admin.: Grzegorz SCHETYNA

Min. of Justice: Zbigniew CWIAKALSKI

Min. of Labor & Social Policy: Jolanta FEDAK

Min. of National Defense: Bogdan KLICH

Min. of Regional Development: Elzbieta BIENKOWSKA

Min. of Science & Higher Education: Barbara KUDRYCKA

Min. of Sport: Miroslaw DRZEWIECKI

Min. of Treasury: Aleksander GRAD

Chief, Office of the Prime Min.: Tomasz ARABSKI

Pres., Polish National Bank: Slawomir SKRZYPEK

Ambassador to the US: Janusz REITER

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Andrzej TOWPIK

Poland maintains an embassy in the United States at 2640 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-234-3800/3801/3802); the consular annex is at 2224 Wyoming Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-234-3800). Poland has consulates in Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles.


The Polish economy grew rapidly in the mid-1990s, slowed considerably in 2001 and 2002, and returned again to healthy growth rates in 2003. Poland's gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an annualized rate of 5.2% in the first quarter of 2006. Faster growth has begun to reduce persistently high unemployment, from nearly 20% in the middle of 2004 to 16.5% in May 2006. Tight monetary policy and dramatic productivity growth have helped to hold down inflation, which was 2.1% in 2005. Likewise, Poland's current account deficit, which grew rapidly in the late 1990s, has since moderated to 1.4% of GDP in 2005. The 2005 budget deficit was 27.5 billion zloty, or 2.8% of GDP in 2005, and the government pledged to restrain the 2006 and 2007 budgets at 30 billion zloty.

Throughout the 1990s, the United States and other Western countries supported the growth of a free enterprise economy by reducing Poland's foreign debt burden, providing economic aid, and lowering trade barriers. Poland graduated from U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) assistance in 2000 and paid the balance of its U.S.-held Paris Club debt in 2005. Poland officially joined the European Union (EU) on May 1, 2004.


Agriculture employs 16.1% of the work force but contributes only 5% to the gross domestic product (GDP), reflecting relatively low productivity. Unlike the industrial sector, Poland's agricultural sector remained largely in private hands during the decades of communist rule. Most of the former state farms are now leased to farmer tenants. Lack of credit is hampering efforts to sell former state farmland. Currently, Poland's 2 million private farms occupy 90% of all farmland and account for roughly the same percentage of total agricultural production. These farms are small—8 hectares (ha) on average—and often fragmented. Farms with an area exceeding 15 ha accounted for only 9% of the total number of farms but cover 45% of total agricultural area. Over half of all farming households in Poland produce only for their own needs with little, if any, commercial sales.

Poland is a net exporter of confectionery, processed fruit and vegetables, meat, and dairy products. Processors often rely on imports to supplement domestic supplies of wheat, feed grains, vegetable oil, and protein meals, which are generally insufficient to meet domestic demand. However, Poland is the leading producer in Europe of potatoes and rye and is one of the world's largest producers of sugarbeets. Poland also is a significant producer of rapeseed, grains, hogs, and cattle. Attempts to increase domestic feed grain production are hampered by the short growing season, poor soil, and the small size of farms.

Pressure to restructure the agriculture sector intensified as Poland prepared to accede to the European Union, which is unwilling to subsidize the vast number of subsistence farms that do not produce for the market. The changes in agriculture are likely to strain Poland's social fabric, tearing at the heart of the traditional, family-based small farm as the younger generation drifts toward the cities. Nonetheless, dramatically increasing agricultural exports to the EU-15 (38% growth in 2005) and payments to farmers from Brussels following accession have enriched Polish commercial farmers and dramatically increase support for EU membership in Poland's rural areas.


Before World War II, Poland's industrial base was concentrated in the coal, textile, chemical, machinery, iron, and steel sectors. Today it extends to fertilizers, petrochemicals, machine tools, electrical machinery, electronics, and shipbuilding.

Poland's industrial base suffered greatly during World War II, and many resources were directed toward reconstruction. The communist economic system imposed in the late 1940s created large and unwieldy economic structures operated under a tight central command. In part because of this systemic rigidity, the economy performed poorly even in comparison with other economies in central Europe.

In 1990, the Mazowiecki government began a comprehensive reform program to replace the centralized command economy with a market-oriented system. While the results overall have been impressive, many large state-owned industrial enterprises, particularly the railroad and the mining, steel, and defense sectors, have remained resistant to the change and downsizing required to survive in an open market economy.

Economic Reform Program and Direct Foreign Investment

The economic reforms introduced in 1990 removed price controls, eliminated most subsidies to industry, opened markets to international competition, and imposed strict budgetary and monetary discipline. Poland was the first former centrally planned economy in central Europe to end its recession and return to growth in the early 1990s. The private sector now accounts for over two-thirds of GDP.

In early 2002, the government announced a new set of economic reforms known as the Hausner Plan, designed in many ways to complete the process launched in 1990. The package acknowledged the need to improve Poland's investment climate, particularly the conditions for small and medium-sized enterprises, and better prepare the economy to compete as a European Union (EU) member. The government also aimed to improve Poland's public finances to prepare for eventual adoption of the euro. Though the government was able to enact only portions of the Hausner Plan, those successes coupled with successful monetary efforts to strengthen the zloty, have put Poland within reach of the National Bank's goal of Euro accession in 2008-2009.

As a result of Poland's growth and investment-friendly climate, the country has received over $85 billion in direct foreign investment (DFI) since 1990, with roughly $7 billion in 2004 alone. According to a recently publish report by Ernst and Young, Poland is tied with Germany as the most attractive destination for foreign investment in Europe. The availability of cheap land and a large, relatively skilled labor force are among Polish strengths. However, the government continues to play a strong role in the economy, as seen in excessive red tape and the high level of politicization in many business decisions. Investors complain that state regulation is not transparent or predictable, and the economy suffers from a lack of competition in many sectors, notably telecommunications.

Foreign Trade

With the collapse of the ruble-based COMECON trading bloc in 1990, Poland scrambled to reorient its trade. As early as 1996, 70% of its trade was with EU-15 members, and neighboring Germany today is Poland's dominant trading partner. Most of Poland's imports are capital goods needed for industrial retooling and for manufacturing inputs, rather than imports for consumption. Therefore, a deficit is expected and should even be regarded as positive at this point. Poland, a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and European Union, applies the EU's common external tariff to goods from other countries—including the U.S.

In the year after it joined the EU, Poland experienced an overall growth in exports of 30%. This growth was not confined to trade among EU partners: while exports to EU countries rose by 27%, exports to developing countries rose by 46%, and exports to Russia rose an unexpected 77%. Poland's trade balance continued to improve, with export growth significantly outpacing import growth. Opportunities for trade and investment continue to exist across virtually all sectors. The American Chamber of Commerce in Poland, founded in 1991 with seven members, now has more than 300 members. Strong economic growth potential, a large domestic market, EU membership, and political stability are the top reasons U.S. and other foreign companies do business in Poland.


Poland became an associate member of the EU and its defensive arm, the Western European Union, in 1994. In a June 2003 national referendum, the Polish people approved EU accession by an overwhelming margin, and Poland gained full membership in May 2004.

Changes since 1989 have redrawn the map of central Europe, and Poland has had to forge relationships with seven new neighbors. Poland has actively pursued good relations, signing friendship treaties replacing links severed by the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. The Poles have forged special relationships with Lithuania and particularly Ukraine in an effort to firmly anchor these states to the West.

Poland became a full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in March 1999 as part of the first wave of enlargement outlined at the July 1997 NATO Summit in Madrid. Poland's top national security goal is to further integrate with NATO and other west European defense, economic, and political institutions while modernizing and reorganizing its military. Polish military doctrine reflects the same defense posture as its Alliance partners.

Poland maintains a sizable armed force currently numbering about 140,572 troops divided among an army of 87,877, an air and defense force of 31,147, and a navy of 21,548. Poland relies on military conscription for the majority of its personnel strength. All males (with some exceptions) are subject to a 12-month term of military service. The Polish military continues to restructure and to modernize its equipment. The Polish Defense Ministry General Staff and the Land Forces staff have recently reorganized the latter into a NATO-compatible J/G-1 through J/G-6 structure. Although budget constraints remain a drag on modernization, Poland has been able to move forward with U.S. assistance on acquiring 48 F-16 multi-role fighters, C-130 cargo planes, HMMWVs, and other items key to the military's restructuring.

Poland continues to be a regional leader in support and participation in the NATO Partnership for Peace Program and has actively engaged most of its neighbors and other regional actors to build stable foundations for future European security arrangements. Poland continues its long record of strong support for UN peacekeeping operations by maintaining a unit in Southern Lebanon, a battalion in NATO's Kosovo Force (KFOR), and by providing and actually deploying the KFOR strategic reserve to Kosovo. Polish military forces have served in both Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Poland assumed command of a multinational division of stabilization forces in Iraq (MDN-CS) on September 3, 2003. Poland and its MND-CS partners have worked effectively since then to stabilize south central Iraq while working to train Iraqi forces to take over MND-CS responsibilities and operate independently.


The United States established diplomatic relations with the newly formed Polish Republic in April 1919. After Gomulka came to power in 1956, relations with the United States began to improve. However, during the 1960s, reversion to a policy of full and unquestioning support for Soviet foreign policy objectives and anti-Semitic feelings in Poland caused those relations to stagnate. U.S.-Polish relations improved significantly after Gierek succeeded Gomulka and expressed his interest in improving relations with the United States. A consular agreement was signed in 1972.

In 1974 Gierek was the first Polish leader to visit the United States. This action, among others, demonstrated that both sides wished to facilitate better relations.

The birth of Solidarity in 1980 raised the hope that progress would be made in Poland's external relations as well as in its domestic development. During this time, the United States provided $765 million in agricultural assistance. Human rights and individual freedom issues, however, were not improved upon, and the U.S. revoked Poland's most-favored-nation (MFN) status in response to the Polish Government's decision to ban Solidarity. MFN status was reinstated in 1987, and diplomatic relations were upgraded.

The United States and Poland have enjoyed warm bilateral relations since 1989. Every post-1989 Polish government has been a strong supporter of continued American military and economic presence in Europe. As well as supporting the Global War on Terror, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and coalition efforts in Iraq, Poland cooperates closely with American diplomacy on such issues as democratization, nuclear proliferation, human rights, regional cooperation in central and eastern Europe, and UN reform.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

WARSAW (E) Al. Ujazdowskie 29/31, APO/FPO Unit 5010, DPO AE 09730-5010, 48-22-504-2000, Fax (48) (22)504-2226, INMARSAT Tel Planetl voice 761-245-812, fax 761-245-813, data 761-245-814, Work-week: M-F, 8:30-5:00, Website: http://POland.usembassy.gov.

DCM OMS:Pamela Ash
AMB OMS:Diana Hall
CG OMS:Paula Costantino
ECO:Richard Rorvig
FM:Rodney Schellack
HRO:Christine Stockman
MGT:Michael S. Tulley
AMB:Victor Ashe
CG:Philip A. Min
DCM:Kenneth M Hillas
PAO:Edward Kulakowski
COM:John McCaslin
GSO:Jack Hinden
RSO:John P. Davis
AGR:Eric Wenberg
CLO:Susan Prusinski
DEA:Charles Tomaszewski
EEO:Laura Greismer
FMO:Scarlet Feller
IMO:Howard Copeland
IPO:Aaron Bascue
ISO:Sam Berardi
ISSO:John George
LEGATT:John Bienkowski
POL:Mary Curtin

KRAKOW (CG) ul. Stolarska 9, APO/FPO Unit 5010/ box 0950, DPO AE 09730-0950, +48-12-424-5100, Fax +48-12-424-5103, INMARSAT Tel 38-313-2944, Workweek: M-F, 8:00-17:00, Website: http://krakow.usconsulate.gov.

MGT:Linda Rosalik
POL ECO:Duncan Walker
CG:Anne Hall
CON:Steve Barneby
PAO:Susan Parker Burns
GSO:Linda Rosalik
RSO:John P. Davis
IPO:Linda Rosalik
IRS:Susan Stanley
ISO:Linda Rosalik


Consular Information Sheet

August 24, 2007

Country Description: Poland is a stable, free-market democracy. Tourist facilities are not highly developed in all areas, and some services taken for granted in other European countries may not be available in some parts of Poland, especially in rural areas. On May 1, 2004, Poland became a member of the European Union (EU).

Entry Requirements: A valid passport is required. Be sure to check your passport's validity—Poland will not admit you if your passport is expired. (Remember that U.S. passports for persons under 16 are valid for five, not ten, years) Americans should ensure that their passports are date-stamped upon entry. American citizens do not need a visa to travel to Poland for business or pleasure for up to 90 days. That 90-day period begins with entry to any of the “Schengen group” countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden. Multiple visits to Schen-gen countries may not exceed 90 days in any 6 month period.

Note: Although European Union regulations require that non-EU visitors obtain a stamp in their passport upon initial entry to a Schengen country, many borders are not staffed with officers carrying out this function. If an American citizen wishes to ensure that his or her entry is properly documented, it may be necessary to request a stamp at an official point of entry. Under local law, travelers without a stamp in their passport may be questioned and asked to document the length of their stay in Schengen countries at the time of departure or at any other point during their visit, and could face possible fines or other repercussions if unable to do so.

Polish immigration officials may ask travelers for proof of sufficient financial resources to cover their proposed stay in Poland. The general rule-of-thumb is 100 zlotys per day. Additionally, citizens of non-EU countries, including the United States, should carry proof of adequate medical insurance in case of an accident or hospitalization while in Poland. Polish immigration officials may ask for documentation of such insurance or proof of sufficient financial resources (at least 400 zlotys per day) to cover such costs. Those who lack insurance or access to adequate financial resources may be denied admission to Poland. Medicare does not cover health costs incurred while abroad.

Poland requires Polish citizens (including American citizens who are or can be claimed as Polish citizens) to enter and depart Poland using a Polish passport. Americans who are also Polish citizens or who are unsure if they hold Polish citizenship should contact the nearest Polish consular office for further information. For further information on entry requirements, please contact the consular section of Embassy of the Republic of Poland at 2224 Wyoming Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 234-3800, or the Polish consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles or New York. Visit the Embassy of Poland web site at http://www.polandembassy.org for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security: For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site, where the current Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: While Poland generally has a low rate of violent crime, the incidence of street crime, which sometimes involves violence, is moderate. Major cities have higher rates of crime against residents and foreign visitors than other areas.

Organized groups of thieves and pickpockets operate at major tourist destinations, in train stations, and on trains, trams, and buses in major cities. Theft has occurred on overnight trains. Most pick-pocketing on trains occurs during boarding; in the most common scenario, a group of well-dressed young men will surround a passenger in the narrow aisle of the train, jostling/pick-pocketing him or her as they supposedly attempt to get around the passenger. Keep an eye on cell phones; they are prized by thieves. Beware of taxi drivers who approach you at the airport or who do not display telephone numbers and a company name; these drivers usually charge exorbitant rates. Order your taxi by telephone and at the airport use only taxis in the designated taxi ranks.

Car thefts and car-jackings are experiencing a significant decline; however, theft from vehicles remains a constant concern. Drivers should be wary of people indicating they should pull over or that something is wrong with their cars. When such drivers pull over to see if there is a problem, they may find themselves suddenly surrounded by thieves from a second vehicle. Therefore, if drivers encounter someone indicating that there is trouble with their car and the problem is not apparent, they should continue driving until they find a safe spot (a crowded gas station, supermarket, or even police station) to inspect their vehicles. There also have been incidents of thieves opening or breaking passenger-side doors and windows in slow or stopped traffic to take purses or briefcases left on the seat beside the driver. Those traveling by car should remember to keep windows closed and doors locked. Extremist youth gangs are a threat, particularly in urban areas. There has been verbal harassment and physical attacks directed against members of racial minorities or those who appear to be foreign, particularly those of Asian or African descent. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Adequate medical care is available in Poland, but hospital facilities and nursing support are not comparable to American standards. Physicians are generally well trained but specific emergency services may be lacking in certain regions, especially in Poland's small towns and rural areas. Younger doctors generally speak English, though nursing staff often does not. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Medications are generally available, although they may not be specific U.S. brand-name drugs.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's internet site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: Polish immigration law requires travelers either to carry adequate medical insurance in case of accident or hospitalization while in Poland or to be able to document access to sufficient financial resources (at least 400 zlotys per day) to cover such medical emergencies. Failure to carry insurance or the inability to provide documentation of sufficient financial resources if requested may result in a traveler being denied admission to Poland. Medicare does not cover Americans in Poland. The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Poland is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

An International Driving Permit (IDP), obtained prior to departure from the U.S., must accompany a U.S. driver's license. A U.S. driver's license without an IDP is insufficient for use in Poland, and Americans cannot obtain IDPs in Poland. Only two U.S. automobile associations—the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA)—have been authorized by the U.S. Department of State to distribute IDPs. Polish roadside services, while not at Western levels, are rapidly improving. Polski Zwiazek Motorowy Auto-Tour has multilingual operators and provides assistance countrywide; they can be reached by calling 9281 or 9637 preceded by the city code (outside of Warsaw 022-9281). The police emergency number is 997, fire service is 998, and ambulance service is 999. Mobile phone users can dial 112 for emergency assistance. Seat belts are compulsory in both the front and back seats, and children under the age of 10 are prohibited from riding in the front seat. Headlights must be used at all times, day and night. The use of cellular phones while driving is prohibited, except for "hands-free” models.

There has been a substantial increase in the number of cars on Polish roads. Driving, especially after dark, is hazardous. Roads are generally narrow, poorly lit, frequently under repair (especially in the summer months), and are often also used by pedestrians and cyclists. The Ministry of Transport and Construction has a program called "Black Spot” (Czarny Punkt), which puts signs in places with a particularly high number of accidents and/or casualties. These signs have a black spot on a yellow background, and the road area around the “black spot” is marked with red diagonal lines.

Alcohol consumption is frequently a contributing factor in accidents. Polish laws provide virtually zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol, and penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol (defined as a blood alcohol level of 0.02 or higher) include a fine and probation or imprisonment for up to two years. Penalties for drivers involved in accidents can be severe. If an accident results in injury or death, the penalty can be imprisonment from six months up to eight years.

Within cities, taxis are available at major hotels and designated stands or may be ordered in advance. Some drivers accept credit cards and/or speak English. Travelers should be wary of hailing taxis on the street, especially those that do not have a telephone number displayed, because these may not have meters, and many of them charge more. Do not accept assistance from "taxi drivers" who approach you in the arrivals terminal or outside the doors at Warsaw Airport. Travelers availing themselves of these "services"often find themselves charged significantly more than the usual fare. Use only taxis at designated airport taxi ranks.

Visit the website of Poland's National Tourist Office at http://www.polan-dtour.org and Poland's Ministry of Transport responsible for road safety, at http://www.mt.gov.pl.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Poland's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Poland's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Visitors importing more than 10,000 Euros should, as part of the arrivals process, complete a form to declare currency, traveler's checks, and other cash instruments. This form should be stamped by Polish Customs and retained by the traveler for presentation on departure. Undeclared cash may be confiscated upon departure, and visitors carrying undeclared cash may be prosecuted. Most banks now cash traveler's checks, ATMs are readily available, and credit cards increasingly accepted. Polish customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the export of items such as works of art, particularly those created before 1951. Works produced by living artists after 1951 may be exported with permission from the Provincial Conservator of Relics. Some works of art produced after 1951 may still be subject to a ban on exportation if the artist is no longer living and the work is considered of high cultural value. If you are importing an item or work of art like those described above, even if only temporary (i.e. for an exhibit or performance) you should declare it to customs upon entry and carry proof of ownership in order to avoid problems on departure. Contact the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C., or one of the Polish consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Poland does not recognize (although it does not prohibit) dual nationality. A person holding Polish and U.S. citizenship is deemed by Poland to be a Pole and subject to Polish law.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subjec to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Polish laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Poland are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Poland are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Poland.

Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Warsaw is located at Aleje Ujazdowskie 29/31. The Consular Section entrance is located around the corner at Ulica Piekna 12. The Embassy's telephone number is (48) (22) 504-2000. This number can be called 24 hours/day: for emergencies after business hours, press “0.” The Embassy's fax number is (48)(22) 504-2688 and the fax number for the Consular Section is (48)(22) 627-4734 (consular fax only checked during normal business hours). The U.S. Consulate General in Krakow is located at Ulica Stolarska 9. The Consulate General's telephone number is (48)(12) 424-5100; fax (48)(12) 424-5103; after-hours cellular phone (for emergencies only) 601-483-348. A Consular Agency providing limited consular services in Poznan is located at Ulica Paderews-kiego 8. The Consular Agency's telephone number is (48)(61) 851-8516; fax (48)(61) 851-8966. The Embassy's web site is at http://poland.usembassy.gov.


views updated May 17 2018


Basic Data

Official Country Name:Republic of Poland
Region (Map name):Europe
Literacy rate:99.0%
Area:312,685 sq km
GDP:157,739 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers:59
Total Circulation:1,157,000
Circulation per 1,000:28
Number of Nondaily Newspapers:460
Total Circulation:963,000
Circulation per 1,000:23
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts:836 (Zloty millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures:10.80
Number of Television Stations:179
Number of Television Sets:13,050,000
Television Sets per 1,000:337.8
Number of Cable Subscribers:3,583,620
Cable Subscribers per 1,000:92.6
Number of Satellite Subscribers:2,500,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000:64.7
Number of Radio Stations:792
Number of Radio Receivers:20,200,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000:522.9
Number of Individuals with Computers:2,670,000
Computers per 1,000:69.1
Number of Individuals with Internet Access:2,800,000
Internet Access per 1,000:72.5

Background & General Characteristics

General Historical Description

Poland reached the pinnacle of its influence in the sixteenth century, when it became one of the most important powers in Europe. At that time, Poland's territories stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

When the sixteenth century Jagiellonian dynasty came to an end, the Poles introduced the heretofore-untried governmental strategy of an elected monarchy of kings chosen from royal families. Notable was the Polish introduction of a parliamentary voting system called the liberum veto. In this system any member of parliament could veto a law with a single vote.

The seventeenth century was a turbulent time in Polish history. The Swedes first invaded Poland, then the nation fought a war with the Turks. Poland also experienced a Cossack rebellion in the southeastern territories. Poland slowly crumbled and eventually, at the end of the eighteenth century, Russia, Austria and Prussia divided Poland into three sections.

Poland continued to be occupied during the nineteenth century, despite two uprisings in 1830 and 1863. Independence finally arrived with the end of World War I. Unfortunately, after Poland gained independence it was soon overrun by Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II.

Poland's postwar fate was decided by the Allies at the Yalta Conference held in February 1945. There was no Polish representation at the conference. A Provisional Government of National Unity, made up of members of the pro-Soviet government and émigré politicians was established. Free elections were to be held shortly after the end of the war, but those elections did not occur. A government in exile formed, and Britain and the United States withdrew their support and diplomatic recognition of Poland due to Soviet actions within the country.

Polish borders were greatly altered after the Allied conference in Potsdam, Germany, in 1945. The Soviet Union retained control of the territories it had obtained in 1939, while Poland gained large areas of former German territory in the west including the industrial region of Upper Silesia, the ports of Gdansk and Szczecin, and a long Baltic coastline.

Political strife and labor turmoil in the 1980s led to the formation of the independent trade union Solidarity. Solidarity soon gained a strong political following and with the advent of glasnost in the Soviet Union, was able to rapidly become a robust political entity. After the collapse of the Soviet empire, Solidarity swept parliamentary elections and the presidency in the 1990 elections.

An important role was played by the media in shaping social attitudes that led to the Solidarity movement. Despite censorship and administrative interference, the evolution of the Polish film school in 1956 helped bolster freedom of thought through art. Also of importance to the loosened fetters of censorship was the political, literary and scientific activity pursued by people in exile. Radio Free Europe played a significant role in molding public opinion. Similar roles were played by the Paris-based periodical Kultura and a number of similar publications.

In 1988 Poland experienced a large number of strikes. By 1989 roundtable talks between the authorities and the opposition were arranged and were held with the mediation of the Church. The talks were bolstered by a new world politic. Perestroika in the USSR and the support of the Western states for reforms in Poland helped Polish negotiators bargain.

In June 1988, elections were held that had been agreed upon in the roundtable contract. The Communist Party did not even win the votes of its own members, and retained with difficulty only those offices that had been allocated to it beforehand by the contract with the opposition. The efforts of Lech Walesa and other leaders brought about the first non-communist government in the Soviet bloc.

Privatization programs during the early 1990s enabled the country to transform its economy into one of the most vigorous in Central Europe, boosting hopes for acceptance to the EU. Poland joined the NATO alliance in 1999.

General Characteristics of the Population

About 38 million people live in Poland, and the yearly rate of increase is 4.8 people per 1,000. World War II was cataclysmic to the country as 6 million peopleor about one-sixth of the populationdied, including nearly 3 million Polish Jews in Nazi death camps.

Around 60 percent of Poles live in a city. There are a number of large cities, including Warsaw with a population of around 1.7 million.

Poland has made significant progress in education. In 1970 about half of the population had a primary education or less. By 1997 that number had dropped to one-third. Also during that time span, the number of college-educated people increased from 2 percent to nearly 10 percent. Educational advancement has been gender-based. Men improved their education largely through vocational training while women tended to obtain a general secondary education. As a result, 57 percent of working women now have at least a general secondary education while 43 percent of working men have a basic technical education.

Although improvement has taken place, Poland still needs to augment its educational system to meet the needs of the twenty-first century. Poland's people still lack skills in information technologies, new ways of organizing industry and job elasticity.

An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Adult Literacy Survey illustrated the gap between Poland and other European countries. The survey revealed that more than 70 percent of Poles did not reach a moderate level of competency, while in all other countries only 32 to 44 percent of respondents failed to do so. The low level of adult literacy in Poland is prevalent for those living in rural areas. Polish farmers had scores 40 percent lower than Polish respondents of other professions. In other OECD countries, farmers' disadvantage was between 9 and 10 percent. Low adult literacy rates in Poland are largely explained by the poor performance of two sizeable groups of Polish respondents, namely farmers and people with basic technical education. These two groups represent about 63 percent of the total working-age (15 to 64) population.

Attempting to obtain higher educational standards entails major effort. The school system in Poland seems to be substandard. The country is characterized by qualms on the final shape of educational reform. In addition, ambiguity about its financing and lack of lucidity on the separation between the state, local communities and other educational partners concerning responsibilities remains problematic. Socio-economic disparity between social groups and regions also may create difficulty in achieving elevated educational norms.

Media History

Transformation in the Polish media sphere began immediately after the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989. On April 11, 1990, Polish parliament passed an anti-censorship act that modified the Press Act of 1984 implemented by the previous communist administration. The structure of Poland's media also was reformed by the Polish legislature. Economic reforms in the print arena gave journalists who had previously worked for state-owned newspapers the opportunity to take over ownership. In addition, foreign investors were allowed to enter the Polish media market.

Electronic media also experienced reformation. First, the transformation of the state-owned broadcasting apparatus into a public company was implemented. Second, policies encouraging commercial radio and television stations were instigated. The Polish government modeled the organizational framework of Poland's electronic media after the French Conseil National dÁAudiovisuel.

Poland enjoys a strong tradition of newspaper publishing. The Press Research Center at Jagiellonian University in Krakow reports that about 5,500 print media periodicals are published in Poland. A menagerie of daily and weekly newspapers of various qualities offers an assortment of opinions to Polish citizens.

Generally, periodicals in Poland can be separated into pre-and post-1989 categories. Papers existing before 1989 established under Communist rule have been privatized and sold to investors, often foreign. Publications that came into being during or after the change of the political system often reflect the values of post-communist Poland.

A strong characteristic of Polish newspapers is they do not attempt to disguise their political sympathies and readers can expect the opinions of editors to be explicitly expressed. In addition, Polish papers often do not separate news from opinions.

Gazeta Wyborcza is the most widely read newspaper in Poland. It was launched as a venture of the Solidarity movement in 1989. The newspaper was, at conception, owned by the Polish company Agora. Agora was a Polish company founded by the anti-communist movement in Poland. Eventually it was partially purchased by the U.S.-based media conglomerate, Cox Communications. The paper has a circulation of around 600,000.

Other larger dailies in Poland include: the Rzeczpospolita, Super ExpressDziennik Sportowy, Nasz Dziennik, and Trybuna.

Local newspapers in Poland benefit from a circulation of between 7 to 8 percent of the total circulation figures. Poland's industrial regions serve as the crux of the local press industry. Pomorze'Pomerania; Wielkopolska'Major Poland; and Slask'Silesia operate as hubs for the majority of local newspapers that have circulations between 1,000 and 3,000.

Publishers in Poland also distribute 78 regional journals. In addition, a budding magazine sector is gaining readership. Notable, however, is that many major magazines are owned by foreign concerns: Gruner & Jahr/ Bertelsmann, Axel Springer, H. Bauer, Hachette Filipacchi. There are a few local publishers, including: Agencja Wydawniczo-Reklamowa WPROST, Proszynski, S-ka and POLITYKA Spoldzielnia Pracy. Polityka andWprost are two of the most prestigious news magazines and each has a circulation of around 300,000. Another competitor in the magazine market is the Polish edition of Newsweek. Magazines currently account for about 12 percent of the money spent on advertising, with the European average around 20 percent.

Most sales of newspapers, periodicals and magazines occur at kiosks. Subscriptions represent less than 4 percent of total sales.

The local media in Poland has expanded at a rapid rate since 1989. Three periods may be noted. The first was founded upon widespread support for Solidarity. The second phase was rooted in the dissolution and disbanding of the anti-communist forces. Finally, local media is now based upon profit rather than political thought.

Tendencies in the print media in Poland have been similar to those in other developed countries; however a few differences should be noted. First, there has been a marked drop in the number of readers and circulation of newspapers since 1985. This has been true across Europe with the exception of Portugal, where the starting point for the number of readers was quite low. Magazines have had a different history. The largest difference is the magazine industry's tendency to address specialized, particular products rather than aiming for a mass audience. The number of titles in Polish magazines has increased dramaticallyan estimated 200 percent since 1990 however, the circulation rate per magazine has decreased. The specialization of magazines can be expected to continue as new products create new opportunities for creation of magazines.

Until 1989 Poland had only one broadcaster 'Polish Radio and Television' which was operated by the state. After the fall of the Communist government, television and radio structure changed. First, Polish Radio was separated from Polish Television and both were reconstructed into public service organizations. Commercial interest in radio and television has grown and foreign investment has surged, albeit lower than in print media. This can be explained by legal limitations on Polish media which stipulates that broadcasting companies may not have more than 33 percent foreign ownership.

Economic Framework

Following a period of intense reform efforts in the early 1990s, Poland's was the initial economy in the region to recover to pre-1989 levels of economic output. Growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) since 1993 historically has been strong, averaging more than 5 percent annually, and making the Polish economy among the most robust in Europe. OECD admitted Poland as a member in 1996. Additionally, Poland has met nearly all of the conditions for European Union membership and is expected to be admitted within a few years.

Poland's economic performance has remained relatively good when compared to other post-transition economies. Poland's insistence in engaging in a reform strategy has led to the nation becoming one of the most prosperous in the region. Policies allowing privatization of state-owned companies and statutes allowing the establishment of new business have been followed by rapid development in the private sector.

Key industrial areas including coal, steel, railroads, and energy have undergone restructuring and privatization. However, further progress in public finance depends on privatization of Poland's remaining state sector.

Although Poland's economy is better and more stable than its counterparts in Central and Eastern Europe, the GDP per capita remains inferior when compared to its Western neighbors. Recent analysis indicates that Poland's GDP is little better than half the level of the poorest European Union members. Also notable is that Poland's GDP has leveled in recent years. In the first half of 2000 the GDP was 5.4 percent higher than in the previous year, in the second half that had fallen to 2.7 percent, and dropped again to a lowly 1.8 percent in the first half of 2001.

Poland's economic situation has impacted Polish media. The last half of the 1990s witnessed a number of newly established quality newspapers disappearing from the media market due to harsh economic realities. Their situation was significantly worse in comparison to older, pre-existing newspapers that received higher profits from advertisements. Ironically, the public adjusted to placing advertisements in "old" newspapers even when the circulation of new newspapers was similar. Further, Poland's new government does not subsidize the press, which makes capital from advertising essential to survival.

Press Laws

Since the fall of communism, the major legislation in broadcast media is the Broadcasting Act (Radio and Television Act) of 1992, as well as the Regulation of National Council of Radio and Television which grants and revokes licenses required for broadcasting radio and television programs. The Broadcasting Act of 1992 establishes the National Council of Radio and Television. This institution is designed as an independent body whose most important tasks are to grant and revoke licenses for broadcasting stations, appoint members of supervisory boards for public radio and television, and control and evaluate practice in the audiovisual field. The National Council is patterned after French Conseil National dÁudiovisuel, and its members are elected for six-year terms.

The National Council has granted dozens of licenses both on the national level and the local level. The license procedure is transparent and open to the public. Complaints concerning granting or refusing a license may be brought before the Supreme Administrative Court.

The primary legislation governing the printed press is still the Press Act of 1984 as amended several times, especially in 1990. The Press Act of 1984 now states that the only requirement necessary to start the publishing of a newspaper is registration by the Regional Court. The act also stipulates that state institutions, economic entities, and organizations must provide the press with information. Only when it is required to keep state secrets may entities refuse to provide information.

The Church has attempted to influence broadcast law. Agreements with the government and Polish Radio and Television gave the church favorable access to electronic media as early as mid-1989. The Church pays less than commercial stations for its radio licenses. An ill-defined clause enshrining "respect for Christian values" was controversially forced through by the Church's supporters in parliament as part of the new Radio and Television broadcasting bill passed in December 1992. Poland's government can therefore revoke licenses according to vague criteria about safeguarding Christian values. In the present absence of state censorship, the Church has to take recourse to the rather sparse provisions provided by the press and penal codes. The Church is concerned with prohibiting pornography and obscenity over the airwaves. In August 1995, Trybuna reported that pressure was being exerted by municipal authorities against newstands to restrict the sale of pornographic magazines.


There exists a history of censorship in Poland. Before the pre-1918 liberation censorship of materials was common. After liberation in November 1918, censorship was curtailed. However, the state of emergency prevailing over much of Poland, due to numerous wars waged during the first few years of independence, provided rationalization to suspensions of democratic freedoms of the press. The 1920 war against Soviet Russia also brought about the introduction of censorship in defense of military secrets.

Between the two world wars, Poland tended to display little censorship of the press. Legislation in interwar Poland initially granted publishers the ability to print a wide variety of opinion. Furthermore,