Poland: anti-Semitic Independence era 'pricelist' nickel-brass tallion, 1918
Item code: 0130286

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Poland: anti-Semitic Polish Independence era "pricelist" medallion, 1918; struck in nickel-brass; no marker/artist mark; size: 28mm, weight: 8.4g.

Obverse: depicts 3 well-dressed and full-bodied figures wrapped by a belt (of which the middle figure and possibly the one on the right, appears Jewish) above two younger and haggard working-class looking male and female figures.

The rhyming legend in Polish reads "Hej ramię do ramienia" and "od ogłodzonej warszawy w hołdzie 1918." [roughly translated: "Hey shoulder to shoulder from chilled Warsaw above [we bring] a tribute"].

Reverse: depicts a barren tree-stump surrounded by a belt (which is wider than the emaciated tree) with bare branches spreading out, and between them are written various food and consumer items, like tea, bread and soap, and their prices (in "marka" currency - a style similar to Johann Christian Reich's "Kornjude - Preisliste" jetons of 1770-72).

The obverse legend may be a parody of the great Slavic Lithuanian/Polish (his nationality is sparred over by both nations) Romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855), whose poem "Ode to Youth" includes a stanza with the same line "Hey! Shoulder to shoulder..." (another contemporary use of this line comes from the Russian-Soviet Jewish composer Isaak Osipovich Dunayevsky, 1900-1955, in his piece "Song of Friendship" - but this was produced much after 1918).

If a reference to Mickiewicz, this may be a sort of cruel pun, as Mickiewicz promoted Jewish emancipation to the point where in 1855, on the outbreak of the Crimean War, he left his under-age children in Paris and went to Istanbul, Turkey to organize Polish forces to be used in the war against Russia, and with his friend Armand Levy, a Romanian Jew, he set about organizing a Jewish legion, the "Hussars of Israel", comprising Russian and Palestinian Jews, to liberate Palestine - and died from illness during the attempt.

In October-November 1918, the independent Polish republic gradually came into being against a backdrop of military conflict with several foreign armies. Contrary to what many general histories relate to the time, anti-Semitism in Poland was rife and violent, as described here for example by Menachem Begin (Israel's former prime minister): "There is one key incident which remains engraved in my memory, even after so many years - one which directly concerned my father, who was secretary of the Jewish community. He and the Rabbi had been walking together in the street. One of the basest acts to be committed against Jews at that time - by Polish soldiers and civilians alike - was the attempt to cut off their beards. And so it came to pass that a sergeant in the Polish army approached the Rabbi and began this despicable act. My father did not hesitate: he struck the soldier's hand with his stick! In those days, striking a Polish sergeant would have been the signal for a pogrom. They arrested both the Rabbi and my father, took them down to the river Bug... and threatened to throw them in. They beat them bloody. My father returned home in serious condition, but pleased, I must admit. He said it was a sacred act to defend the honor of the Jewish People and a Jewish Rabbi."

At this time, Warsaw was the seat of the Polish State in the making, and its leader, Marshal Jozef Pilsudski was favorably disposed to the Jews. At this time too, other parts of the future Polish State were held by foreign armies: Lvov by the Ukrainians, north-west Poland by the Lithuanians and western Poland by the Soviet Red Army. As the tallion takes aim at Warsaw, it is possible that it originates with a region outside the fledgling Polish State, perhaps even "anti-Bourgeois" Polish Bolsheviks. In VF+ condition; some doubling on the text on obverse.

מילות מפתח: מדליות אנטישמיות סטיריות מאה 19 20 יודאיקה יודאיכה פולין