Jewish emigration from Poland
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
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 �migr�s 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