Emigration of Jews

The mass emigration of Jews from the Polish lands began in the nineteenth century. A wave of pogroms and the May laws contributed to the sharp increase in emigration from the Russian partition. From 1871 to 1880, about 40,000 Jews left; during the years 1881-1890, the figure was 135,000; in 1891-1900, this number grew to 280,000. They left primarily to North and South America, particularly to the United States, though increasing numbers were leaving for Israel towards the end of the century.

The Austrian partition was second among the three partitions in terms of Jewish emigration. Approximately 240,000 people emigrated from the Austrian partition during the years 1881-1910, mainly for economic reasons.

After the First World War, the trends in Jewish emigration changed. After the Balfour Declaration in 1917, emigration to Palestine increased, while the number of Jews leaving for the United States diminished, the result of limits imposed on immigration from Europe, particularly during the Depression (1929-1933). Emigration to Palestine grew further during the years 1924-1928, when approximately 30,000 people left, primarily due to the difficult economic situation in Poland. The next wave of emigration took place in 1933-1936 as a result of the worldwide economic depression and growing anti-Semitism. Most of the émigrés chose to go to Palestine. In the late 1930's, the number of people emigrating legally to Palestine decreased because only a limited number of certificates was issued. (The British mandate authorities were responsible for granting permission for emigration to Palestine.) The worsening Arab-Jewish relations were also a factor.
At that time, Zionist organizations began organizing illegal emigration; in 1932-1933, twenty-two thousand illegal immigrants arrived in Palestine. During the Second World War, Jewish emigration ceased.

Immediately following the war, many Holocaust survivors left Poland through the "green border". Illegal departures from the Soviet Union and Poland during 1944-1950 were organized by the Zionist Coordination, which was known by its cryptonym Bricha [Hebrew, "Escape"]. They left through Czechoslovakia and Romania, and later through Germany as well, where they stayed in refugee camps. From there, they then left for Palestine, the United States, or other countries. (In 1945 and 1946, this amounted to about 20,000 people a year.)

After the Kielce pogrom on July 4, 1946, emigration intensified. At that time, Jewish organizations had the government's tacit permission for Jews to leave through the Czech border and Szczecin to Western Europe. Thanks to the efforts of the Zionist Coordination organization during the period 1944 to 1947, one hundred forty thousand people left Poland. At the same time, it was also possible to leave legally, arranged by the Emigration Department of the Central Committee of Jews in Poland, HIAS, and by Pal-Amt.

After 1947, these institutions took responsibility for emigration efforts. In 1947 and 1948, about 12,000 Jews left Poland with passports legally. Independent emigration was also significant.
After the state of Israel was proclaimed, legal emigration was restricted to a large extent by the communist authorities. It was only in 1949 that Polish Jews were allowed to leave on a "one-time" basis. They were issued specially "travel documents", allowing them to cross the border once, without the right to return. Those who left automatically lost their Polish citizenship. About 30,000 people received such permission to leave; many others were refused.

Over the coming years, Jewish emigration fell, and it was only during the period 1956 to 1960 that these restrictions were eased. At that time, over 30,000 Jews emigrated, including most of the Jews who had been repatriated from the Soviet Union. 

The last wave of Jewish emigration from Poland was sparked by the events of March 1968. Anti-Semitic harassment during the years 1968-1970 meant, for example, that many Jews were fired from their jobs. As a result, about 15,000 to 20,000 Jews left Poland, most of whom had strong ties to Poland. See aliyah and Jewish emigration associations in Poland. 


The text comes from the Diapozytyw Portal, formerly owned by the Instytutu Adama Mickiewicza.
The following text comes from the book entitled "Historia i kultura Żydów polskich. Słownik", by Alina Cała, Hanna Węgrzynek and Gabriela Zalewska, published by WSiP
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