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Encyclopaedia Judaica

4  Numerus clausus against the Jews in Poland

How national policies wanted quotas according to the population proportion - and the effects
from: Numerus clausus; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 12

presented by Michael Palomino (2007)

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Numerus clausus against Jews in Poland

[Figures of Jewish students in Poland 1921-1939]

<In Poland. The numerus clausus was one of the manifestations of the widespread anti-Semitism in Poland between the two world wars. the Polish government made use of the numerus clausus as a quasi-legal means to limit the number of Jewish students in the institutions of higher (col. 1266)

education to the minimum. The total number of students in Poland increased continuously between 1920 and 1935. From 34,266 students in 1921-22, it rose to 47,200 in 1935-36. In the same period both the number of Jewish students and their proportion in the total declined. In 1920-21 there were 8,526 Jewish students in Poland; in 1923-24 their number reached its peak figure of 9,579; but in 1935-36 their number dropped to 6,200, i.e., a decrease of about 35%. The proportion of Jewish students in the total number of students was 24.6% in 1921-22, 20% in 1928-29, and only 13.2% in 1935-36.

The results of the numerus clausus are especially instructive if the fluctuations in the number of Jewish students in the various faculties are noted. The most striking instance is the faculty of medicine. In 1923-24 there were still 1,402 Jewish medical students, forming 30.2% of the total. In 1926-27 their number dropped to 698 (18.6%) and in 1935-36 Jewish medical students formed only 13.8% of the total number. In the faculty of law their percentage in 1923-24 was 24.6%, while in 1935-36 it was only 12.5%.

In the humanities the numbers for the corresponding years were 35.4% and 18.3%, and in the faculty of chemistry 25% and 12%. This tendency to a continuous decrease in the number of Jewish students in all faculties, especially in the professions of medicine, law, and engineering, was an outcome of the numerus clausus policy. It hindered the admission of Jewish students to the institutions of higher education, although the number of Jewish applicants increased in Poland and a growing number of Jewish youths wished to enter academic professions.

In Poland up to World War II there were 14 state institutions of higher education, and nine nongovernmental (e.g., the Catholic University in Lublin; commercial colleges in Warsaw, Cracow, Lvov, Lodz, etc.). Almost all of these institutions applied the numerus clausus as the leading criterion in admitting new students, though some applied it more strictly than others. In the University of Lvov, for instance, the Jewish students comprised 46.6% of the total number of students in 1921-22, while in 1930-31 (there are no statistical data for later years) they comprised only 31.9%; in the University of Warsaw the figures for the corresponding years were 31.4% and 23.8%; in the Warsaw Polytechnic 15.5% and 10.2%; in the Veterinary College in Lvov 13% and 5.4%; and in the Institute of Dentistry, 70.4% and 19.7%.

the proportion of females among Jewish students throughout this period was higher than that among non-Jewish students. The percentage of Jewish females was 33.3% in 1923-24 and 39% in 1930-31, while the numbers among non-Jews for these years were 15% and 26%.

[Jewish female students often leave the university before graduating]

The authorities of the academic institutions were more willing to admit Jewish female students than Jewish males, since many left the universities before graduating. Another reason for not strictly applying the numerus clausus toward Jewish women was that the majority studied in the faculty of humanities (philosophy, history, literature), instead of the more demanding professions. Thus, for instance, in 1930-31, 50% of the male students studies law; 11% medicine; 16.4% philosophy; and 14.6% sciences, while 11% of the female students studied law; 3.4% medicine; 63.2% philosophy; and 1.7% sciences.

[since 1936 approx.: The system of Jewish benches]

In the last few years preceding World War II the authorities took even stronger discriminatory measures against the Jewish students. They introduced the system of "Jewish benches", which allocated special benches at the back of the auditoriums and classrooms to be used only by Jews. The Jewish students revolted against these regulations and refused to sit there. This frequently led to serious clashes in the universities, resulting in bloodshed and tragedy.

[SHA.L.]> (col. 1267)


-- S. Langnas: Zydzi a studja akademickie w Polsce (1933)
-- M. Mirkin, in: Yidishe Ekonomik, 1 (1938), 272-6
-- Polscki Rocznik statystyczny (1921-38)> (col. 1270)

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Encyclopaedia Judaica: Numerus clausus,
                            vol. 12, col. 1265-1266
vergrössernEncyclopaedia Judaica: Numerus clausus, vol. 12, col. 1265-1266
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Numerus clausus,
                            vol. 12, col. 1267-1268
vergrössernEncyclopaedia Judaica: Numerus clausus, vol. 12, col. 1267-1268

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