or the Never-Existing Eastern European Confederation
Poland was stolen. It was stolen in a way that noone recognized it. Poland was vanished. It was believed to be in its original place but it was not. It passed out of sight.
It is August, 1914. The divided Poland has been under the authority of three empires since 1795. The so-called „Polish-question” has not been an issue at the international diplomatic arena for years now. The idea of an independent Poland is not in any of the empire's interests. Nevertheless the war breaks out which might lead to some changes in the European status quo.
On the part of Poland there are two main strategies which dominate its politics. The first strategy is based on the assumption that the war will be won by the Russians with their superior numbers, even if the costs in human life will be enormous. Poland's biggest enemies are the Germans, and their primal source of fear is germanization. As the strategy further belives, the Russian Tzar will realize that the Polish people constitute a natural shield against the agressive German invasion. Thus the Polish people shall fight for their autonomy side-by-side with the Russians. This „constitutional” thinking was promoted by the National Democratic Party, and by its leader, Roman Dmowski.
The premise upon which the second strategy is created is that the Tzarist Empire will destroy and assimilate the Polish people. The ongoing conflict between the Germans and the Russians provides the only possibility of survival for the Polish people. The war might weaken both great powers and an eventual impasse might lead to create a political vacuum in Poland. Till then the Poles shall be engaged in armed fights with their own legions organized in Galicia and in alliance with the Austro-Hungarian army. If the Russian establishment starts shaking, the Polish „Prometheus” could become the leader of the liberation army against the Moscovites. This strategy was proposed and promoted by the leader of the Polish Socialist Party, Józef Piłsudski.
There have always been antagonistic contradictions between the two main strategies. The future envisioned by the Germanphobic Dmowski is an ethnically homogenous Poland, as it was under the rule of the Piast dynasty in the Middle Ages. His primary interest are the lands in the West under Prussian rule. The idea of the Russiaphobic Piłsudski is the establishment of a multiethnic state, as it was under the rule of the Jagiellonians. He would never renounce claims to Belorussian, Ukrainian and Lithuanian lands. As long as it is possible, the extremely anti-semitic Dmowski belives in parliamentarism, while the socialist Piłsudski supports military actions.
Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, the newly appointed commander of the Russian forces, published on 14 August a manifesto to the Polish people promising them territorial unity and cultural, political as well as linguistic autonomy. Of course he did. The Empire needs Polish soldiers willing to fight under the Tsarist flag and also needs the support of its civilian population. However the promised autonomy, for which Dmowski has been fighting for many years, will never be realized. After all, the reason for the outbreak of the war is not because the Tsar intends to bestow rights on his subjects but because the xenophobic supporters of the war prevailed over the other. In other words, the supporters of Russification succeeded over the promoters of liberalization. Dmowski will realize it only 1,5 years later that nothing can be expected from the Russians on „constitutional” grounds.
Pilsudski' s situation is equally hard. His legendary First Brigade (Pierwsza Brigada) was defeated and scattered: his people in Russian lands (they carry their saddles and have to find a horse for them by themselves) escape from Kielce back to Galician territories and fail to win not just a battle but also the support of the Polish civilian population. The Polish Legions' military independence is coming to an end, temporarily. Piłsudski seeks to capitalize politically on the defeat: the military units gradually become subordinated to the German-Austrian forces.
A Federation Plan
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin has to deal not just with direct military goals but also with various future political concepts. However that idea for a state formation with which a lawyer from Cologne surprises the professional bureaucrats in the first days of August would never occure to them. The lawyer suggests to the German government the establishment of a League of East European States (Osteuropäischer Staatenbund) in case of victory which would also function as a puffer zone between Germany and Russia, from Riga to Odessa. Its territory would coincide with the Jews' Pale of Settlement, the so-called chertá osédlosti, andwould have a population of 30 Million people. Furthermore, it would be recognized as a multiethnic federation under German protection, its form of government would be monarchy, its capital Lublin and its ruler a Hohenzollern duke. This formation on the one hand would guarantee Germany`s safety from the East, on the other hand the approx. 1,8 Million German and 6 Million Jew, who would populate the area, would jointly perpetuate the presence of German culture and would balance out the political weight of the 8 Million Polish, 5-6 Million Ukrainian, 4 Million Belorussian and the 3,5 Million Latvian and Lithuanian. While the mothertongue of the Eastern European Jews, the Yiddish, is a dialect of German language, the Russian Jews could be considered as natural allies of Germany. Till then, the most important task is to communicate the message to all of them that is to welcome the German forces as liberators, by applying nicely wrapped propaganda tools.
History has already drawn on the map of Central Europe, Central Eastern Europe or In-Between Europe various state formations, however even more was dreamed upon it by politicians and intellectuals. For a wonder the architecture`s of Central Eastern Europe have thought about every kind of people from the Estonians to the Tartars of the Crimea from the 1840ies till the year 1914 apart from one people of in-between, the Jews. The Jews have never been listed under the concept of „constituent people”, as a matter of fact, they could not have been characterized as such: lack of sovereign territory (they were scattered worldwide); lack of language of the civilized world („Kultursprache”, Yiddish was not recognized); lack of army. Central-Eastern-Europe offered either assimilation or departure for the Jews considered as significant Others, either sink or swim. In those countries where liberalism in the 19th century granted individual rights and consequently career opportunities – for example: Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria, Prussia – Jewish assimilation was enhanced. Where individual rights were taken away from the Jews – for example: Russia, Romania – caused a dramatic increase in Jewish emigration. However the situation is not that simple since it is possible to assimilate entirely loosing all traces of Jewishness, or partly, keeping religion for instance, or in a way that is well-known among Jews: being a good Jew at home (keeping the Torah) and being a good person elsewhere (obeying to state law). All of this however is a matter of individual choice which does not effect the nature of collective pressure from which the Jewish communities suffer. However the end of the century seeks to soften the above-mentioned collective pressure with two utopias. One would couple emigration with the founding of a new state, thus would give the right for the Jewish people to establish their state. The other would aim to cease discrimination with social revolution. The first says that if there is a Jewish state then the Jews would find their home and would be able to protect themselves, while the other believes that in a classless society every man is equal. The first idea is Zionism, the second is socialism. Neither of them exist in their pure form and the Jews manage to formulate out of them unique constructions.
However conscious Zionists and revolutionaries make up only a small proportion of the Jews, the great majority follows their rabbis, is loyal to the community, respects the Tsar and is deeply religious. They are the victims of pogroms, the news in the international media. They are the ones who shall be saved by well-off Western European philantropists of Jewish denominations with aid programs which however keep drown in the mud of the Tsarist administration. They are the targets of top-down, angry, Russian antisemitism. They are that internal enemy who could be killed or looted from time to time with the help of the authority, without being accounted for it. This majority's only hope is that the Messiah will come.
The Lawyer from Cologne
The above mentioned lawyer from Cologne went first into public in 1891 in the age of 26 when he published a political pamphlet titled "Wither the Russian Jews?”. In the text he drafts the plan of a Colonial Company (Colonial Gesellschaft) which would provide projects on railroad construction as well as industrial and agrarian programms and succeed in settling down approx. a half Million Russian Jews in Syria-Palestina within one year with a capital of 10 Million pounds. The then Jewish magnates did not see any business opportunities neither in the Beirut-Gaza-Jerusalem railway line, nor in vineries on the Karmel hill, nor in the salt extraction from the Dead Sea, thus the necessary capital was missing for the start. Nevertheless, the lawyer from Cologne continued to care for the Russian Jews. A little bit later we can see him next to Theodore Herzl, as one of the founding fathers of German zionism. In 1898 he accompanies Herzl to the Middle-East: the four-people delegation gets under their influence Wilhelm II who visits the Turkish Empire. Their aim is to obtain Germany's protection with a quick diplomatic move in order to receive a charter from the Sultan which would then permit them the establishment of Palestinian Jewish settlements. They misunderstand high politics. The young archduke supports in theory the second „landtaking” of the Chosen People, however Turkey would not dare to stir up Palestinia. The empire is big, says the Sultan to Herzl, there is enough space elsewhere for the Russian Jews: let them dissolve gradually.
Max Isidor Bodenheimer, this is how the lawyer from Cologne is called, elaborates on the constitution of the World Zionist Organization, and he is elected member of the Action Committee. Furthermore as one of the first directors of the Jewish National Found he finances housing projects, afforestation and land buying in Palestine. One of his earliest memorandums has already brought the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs' attention to the Eastern European Jewish communities, to the relationship between Yiddish and German languages and to the two peoples common political interests: in the case Germany support the establishment of Palestinian settlements then they could capitalize on the Jewish settlers as Middle Eastern business partners and political mediators. Then, in the year 1902, they did not take into consideration his proposal.
Committee for East
Unlike now, in the middle of August, 1914, when he is called to go to Berlin. Not surprising since the proposal is not anymore about the fareway Palestine but about the war zone of strategic importance between Riga and Odessa. Bodenheimer has learned from past years' experiences that the establishment of settlements in Palestine would not happen in a short while thus the issue with urgency would be rather to initiate the protection of the staying Eastern European Jews. This is the primary aim his federation plan – assumingly it was improvised after the outbreak of the war – serves. He negotiates for weeks with the Polish referents of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin. In the meanwhile he cooperates with a few zionists and well-known Jewish intellectuals and establishes the Committee for the Liberation of the Russian Jews. The first tasks of the Committee are to win the support of the Russian Jewish population and to present the Germans in favour of the civil population's sight. Due to tactical reasons the Committee' name soon will be changed into the less militant-sounding: Komitee für den Ost (Committee for East).
Bodenheimer's action has not met with undivided success. Leaders of the non-zionist German Jewish association try to ignore and bagatellize it, thus represent the Zionists (who indeed enjoyed only a small public support) in the eyes of the German authorities as partners who are not worth negotiating with. Since the World Zionist Organization wants to stay neutral in the war, its leaders issue a resolution which obliges Bodenheimer to call the Committee's activity as humanitarian mission, further, not to undertake presidency as well as preferably avoid getting Zionists involved in the work. His conception on the Osteuropäischer Staatenbund were labelled naive and unthoughtful and collectively distanced themselves from them. He is warned that while he aspires to become the saviour of the Russian Jews he could easily do the most harm with his committedly pro-German activities.
And indeed: as the Eastern front line starts shifting between Silesia and Volyn, between Masuria and Lithuania local people suffer more and more. Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich wants immediately the pacification of the front zone and orders the deportation of the potential enemy, Jewish and German men of military age, to the hinterland. The deportees are packed in sealed wagons, the trains set off, the hinterland rejects them, not to mention that there is not any wagon and that trains with the deportees hinder the transportation of the troops to the front lines. Some places are in total logistical chaos. Hence NikolaiNikolaevich ordains to take Jews of distinguished families hostage and send them to the hinterland and in case any of the settlements proves disloyal the hostages will be executed at once. Either way whole cities will be deported later, on the whole making approx. 1 Million Jewish people homeless. The Tsarist command makes the Jewis people responsible for the first big defeat in the war: it is believed that the Jewish households were communicating over phone with the German headquarters and leaked out information about the Russian strategy. The Tsarist propaganda ignored the fact that the Germans used air scouting while the advancing Russian troops consistently failed to do the same as if apart from their own manoeuvres no other circumstance (for instance the manoeuvres of the enemy) would influence the outcome of the war: Jewish treachery caused the catastrophe at Tannenberg.
While the Russians continue the deportations on certain front lines accompanied by Cossak pogroms, the advancing German forces get in touch with the local people on the conquered lands. They has not come up yet with any specific plan concerning the region which makes any ideas, conceptions valuable to them. Bodenheimer's memorandum gets through to the General Staff, with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is October 1914, for the time being Russian troops threatening to attack Silesia and Berlin were pushed back. Ludendorff, Chief of Staff on the Eastern Front, invites Bodenheimer to the headquarters who brings along Franz Oppenheimer who is the head of the Committee and is a famous Professor of Sociology and Political economy in Berlin as well as the agrarian expert of the Zionist movement. Since Ludendorff did not inform them about the exact whereabout of the headquarters, Bodenheimer and Oppenheimer will have an adventurous travel. Trains are not safe anymore from Katowice. They get to Krakow by a Red Cross transport, from there they were carried further by a truck convoy jolting along the rough track through the Russian-Austrian border, passing huge, pravoslav village churches with golden domes, huts and gunfired buildings. In Kielce a junior officer, later turns out that he is Prince Joachim, the son of Emperor Wilhelm II., lends his car to them. Grenade and bomb craters surround their way and they see dead horse corpses, dogs, ravens, march of Russian war prisoners. In Radom the main street is crowded with people wearing black kaftans, black hats with looks of horror on their faces. The reason for the chaos: not so long ago, following the withdrawal of the Austrian-Hungarian troops three rabbis, accused by the Polish, were hanged in public by the Russians.
Ludendorff is pleased to welcome them, have a long discussion with Oppenheimer on food reserves of the powers at war and the assure Bodenheimer that the German troops hold strong positions and will never withdraw as the Austrian-Hungarian troops did. In the evening he introduces the gentlemen to field marshal Hindenburg who provides a written evidence of his support for their plan and activities. The lawyer and the professor feel deeply honoured to be accompanied by such heroes.
This is where the story ends. On the way back from Radom their car's windshield is shot out Cossaks hidden in the forest. Four weeks after the German army withdraws. Neither the headquarters nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs brings on again the idea of the Eastern European Federation. In the first half of November, 1914 it disappears from the political agenda, forever.
Paralell to the above the restoration of Poland's independence is gradually becoming an issue. The great powers are over-bidding each other with promises. In November, 1916 Germany establishes the Regency Kingdom of Poland with Warsaw capital. This will be that transitonal formation out of which, as a result of a political vacuum, Poland can rebirth.
Then who stole Poland if it is not vanished at all? The answer depends on our perspective. Forcing it into a federation as an amputated entity, teared from its Western and Galician lands (they would have remained in Prussian or Habsburg hands) placing it under German-Jewish supremacy – this could be equal to the degradation of a country. The idea to deprive a country form its sovereignty could only be conceived by a devil's advocate.
It was not realized in reality, yet in virtually. But for those who have eyesto see,let them see. As one of the prominent figures during the Age of Reform in Poland foresaw it already in 1817 that in Polish lands the Moshkos dynasty would reign, Warsaw would be called Moshkopolis, the Polish aristocracy would make ends meet as teamster or craftsmen, the capital would be muddy, Baroque palaces would smell as pubs, theatres would stage obscene pieces, the new upperclass, that is fat, smelly, dirty and seized the power with treachery or cunningness over a thousand years ago, would use a language that is French mixed with Yiddish.
Since Julian Ursus Niemcewicz' satirical narrative, The Year 3333, or An Incredible Dream, was published in 1858 the Jewish takeover of power is a recurrent phantasm in the imaginery of the Polish people. The idea of Judeopolonia was taken from Niemcewicz' pamphlet. Not so long ago, in 2001 there was a book published in Radom which in its title already suggests what it will be about: Judeopolonia. Żydowskie państwo w państwie polskim (Andrzej Leszek Szcześniak: Judeopolonia. Jewish State in the Polish State). On its cover there is the map of state-formation suggested by Bodenheimer. In Szcześniak's narrative the Jews are informers and spies for the Tsar, tightfisted hyenas and/or arrogant sassy people who oppress the Polish people, as we have already know it from Niemcewicz's narrative. Bodenheimer's stillborn private action will be the role model and frame for all kinds of Jewish political intentions, and the symbol of the perpetual danger threatening Poland.
Isidor Bodenheimer belonged to that late Romantic generation which believed in great personalities, in being chosen, in the strength of words and culture and intended to solve the burning issues of his age by convincing and gaining the support of the opinionleader circles. That historical fact that – contrary to the dominant political narrative of the region, that is the concept of the nationstate – he created a subsequent imperial structure, an in-between empire shows not only his outdated, 19th century views but also his lack of knowledge on the region and its peoples. Count Hutten-Czapski, his negotiaton partner in Berlin, an expert in Poland, rightly said that Bodenheimer's idea was doomed to failure. The Count, loyal to the Prussian court but a Polish patriot, was aware of the fact that the Germans would put more emphasis on supplying their army with Polish draftees than on paying attention how many Russian Jew speak German. As a real politician Hutten-Czapski was lobbying for the establishment of the Regency Kingdom thus paving the way of the Polish autonomy. Bodenheimer backed the wrong horse. This war could have been started, and dominated for a while by Germany, but could not have been won by it. Especially not for the sake of the Jews.
On the territory of the Bodenheimer-like state formation modern nationstates were born. Jews do not live here anymore however the myth of their conspiracy is even more alive. It says that even today they manage to economically bankrupt and destroy the peoples in Central Eastern Europe. The Jews, who are destroyed here already.
Translated by Anna Lujza Szász
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