The first works written by Jews in the Polish
language date back to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth
centuries, and are associated with the Frankism movement. The teachings
of J. Frank, written by his pupils, have survived. The assimilationist
movement that developed in Poland in the nineteenth century promoted
publicistic writings and Jewish literature in Polish. These were
published, for example, in Dostrzegacz Nadwislanski - Der Beobachter an
der Weichsel [Polish and Yiddish/German, The Vistula Observer]
(1823-24), Izraelita Polski [Polish, The Polish Israelite] (1830-31),
Jutrzenka [Polish, Morning Star] (1861-63), and Izraelita [Polish,
Israelite] (1866-1915). D. Neufeld, the publisher of Jutrzenka,
translated the Jewish prayer book (mahzor) into Polish. Another
assimilationist, D. Rundo, translated selections from the Talmudic
midrashim, and I. Cylkow, rabbi from a progressive synagogue in Warsaw,
translated the Bible and mahzor, and published his own sermons in
Polish. M. Jastrow was one of the first to preach in a Warsaw synagogue
in Polish; he also published his sermons.
The Polish-language works of literature written by
nineteenth-century assimilationists, such as novellas by W. Feldman and
H. Nussbaum, did not survive the test of time, but remain an interesting
document from that period. A. Kraushar wrote poetry. The first female
Jewish writer in Poland was M. Meyersonowa, author of Dawid (Polish,
David) (1878) and the stories Z ciasnej sfery (Polish, From a Crowded
Sphere) (1878). Assimilated Jews translated literature from foreign
languages, primarily from German, thus helping to introduce those works
into Polish culture.
In the twentieth century, as Jews' political
awareness grew, and as increasing numbers gained access to education and
were becoming assimilated, Jewish literature began to be written in
Polish, as did works bordering on both cultures. Many assimilated
writers and poets were active whose works should be considered part of
Polish literature. The criterion differentiating these two types of
literature is their audience (whether the readership was Jewish or
Polish), as well as the authors' own self-identification. The
journalists and writers associated with the publications Nasz Przegl�d
(Polish, Our Review) (1923-39), Chwila (Polish, A While (1919-30) and
Opinia (Polish, Opinion) (1933-35), should be considered part of the
first group. Although they were published in Polish, they represented
the Jewish national point of view, and supported Zionism. Authors of
this group, among many, included Y. Appenshlak, M. Arnstein, I. Berman,
H. Hescheles and W. Shlengl. Their writing, not included in the Polish
national literary canon, has been all but forgotten. They made a
valuable contribution through their translations, which exposed Polish
culture to some of the masterpieces of modern Western literature, such
as the writings of F. Kafka.
Literary works addressed to Polish audiences
that were written by Jewish authors (or those of Jewish ancestry) are
regarded as an integral part of Polish literature. Some such authors
include J. Korczak, A. Rudnicki, J. Brzechwa (J. Lesman) and B. Lesmian
(B. Lesman); the Skamandrites: J. Tuwim, A. Slonimski, J. Lechon (L.
Serafinowicz), K. Wierzynski; the poets J. Wittlin, A. Wazyk (A.
Wagman), A. Wat (A. Chwat), W. Slobodnik; the author of cabaret texts,
M. Hemar (M. Hescheles); representatives of the avant-garde in
literature: B. Jasienski (B. Zysman), M. Jastrun (M. Agatstein), A.
Stern, B. Winawer and T. Peiper; and the contemporary writers J.
Stryjkowski and H. Grynberg.