Poland

From the early 1800s to the beginning of World War II, approximately five million Polish people came to the U.S. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service estimates that fewer than 2,000 Poles emigrated during the first half of the 19th century. Thereafter, thousands left to escape conscription, to seek better economic opportunities, or to avoid religious persecution. Close to 2.5 million Poles passed through Ellis Island, many on their way to one of the New England states for textile, paper, steel mill, meatpacking, and construction jobs. After 1880, significant numbers of Jews in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe left home. While more than six million of the world’s 7.7 million Jews lived in Eastern Europe in the 1880s, only three percent lived in the U.S. In 1920, close to twenty-three percent of the world’s Jews called the U.S. home. Ten million Americans of Polish descent live in the U.S. today, making it the largest diaspora of Poles in the world.