Polish Jews uncovering their hidden identity

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WARSAW, Oct 25 (Reuters) An increasing number of Polish Jews who hid their background because the Nazi occupation and the communist government's anti-Semitic campaign are now rediscovering their identity, Poland's chief rabbi says.

Poland had the biggest Jewish population in Europe until World War Two. But after the murder of millions in the Holocaust by the occupying Germans only few remained.

Those who survived the war faced harsh anti-Semitic propaganda by the communists who accused them of taking over top state posts as part of a Jewish lobby.

Only a few thousand Jews stayed in the country after the climax of the anti-Semitic campaign in 1960s. Poland, like many other communist states broke off relations with Israel after it defeated Soviet-aligned Arab states in the 1967 West Asin war and occupied swathes of land.

Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich said democratic changes which took place after communism's downfall in 1989 had helped the country to become more tolerant and multicultural.

''Poland has established its democratic system,'' Schudrich told Reuters yesterday. ''People are not ashamed or afraid any more to admit that they're Jewish.'' The number of members of the Jewish community has grown rapidly thanks to people who rediscover their Jewish roots.

''We cannot expects a rebirth of the Jewish population as it was before the war,'' Schudrich said.

''The Nazis have exterminated the Polish Jews but we are hopeful that there will be more and they will show that the Jewish population is still alive.'' Poland has been trying to shake off its anti-Semitic reputation in recent years and authorities have launched a campaign to remind the world that thousands of Poles risked their lives during the war to rescue Jewish families.


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