During the first years of the Second World War, before knowledge of the extermination of Jews had reached the Allied capitals, Jewish and international observers expected that the war would end with millions of Jewish refugees. At the same time representatives of the Polish and Czech Governments in Exile shared with Jewish leaders their plans to deny citizenship to Jews after the war. These plans were developed in the context of a projected expulsion also of Germans and other minorities.
This talk will examine the vigorous and conflicting responses of Jewish leaders to these plans to exclude Jews. Many Jewish leaders campaigned against these plans, advocating for renewed group protections for Jews and other minorities after the war. Zionist leaders, however, argued that Jews would not be able to reintegrate into their prewar homes, and for the first time publicly endorsed a program for a majority Jewish ethnic nation-state in Palestine.
Connecting the histories of Eastern Europe and the Middle East, the talk will demonstrate how debates over the future of minorities in postwar Eastern Europe reshaped the terms of the Arab-Jewish conflict in Palestine.