I was incommunicado on Shabat, so I'm answering some older posts:
can it be argued that traditional Jews saw Poland as a means to an end?
Jews saw Poland not as a means to an end, but as a means of survival, because it seemed to offer a more comfortable existence than Germany, Bohemia or Spain. That's the historian's answer, but the average Jew didn't think in those terms. For him Poland was simply the place he was born in because some unknown ancestor moved there from Germany (for example) to join a cousin who moved there before. That's the way migration works.
is the nation that provides the living area for the separate ethnic group required to accept that group unconditionally ("take us as you find us"), or, should that separate ethnic group through their own impetus, fit in - if not, why?
No nation is required to accept newcomers unconditionally. I understand why Poles would have been irritated by a large community of foreigners who maintain their own separateness. But a nation, and individuals are required to deal with that issue in a non-violent manner as long as the newcomers are non-violent. The Jews, it should be emphasized, never were a physical threat to any Polish town or city where they lived. There were no bands of Jewish rioters killing and burning Polish towns. So I can't fault a Pole back in those days for resenting Jews and trying to exclude them. I would definitely fault a Pole or anyone else for participating in a pogrom.
I think that over the centuries, even though Jews remained separate, they became an integral part of the make up of Poland, some of them being there for as long as the "ethnic Poles" were. So the resentment of the newcomer became less legitimate as time went on. Once the Jews had been a part of the country for hundreds of years, they could not be called "newcomers" or "foreigners" any more. At a certain point the ethnic Poles would have to accept that Polish Jews had the same right as the Christians to live their lives as they saw fit -- even if it meant that they spoke a different language and dressed differently.
Did the Jews have an obligation to try to fit in? To some extent, yes. They had to adapt to the local ways of doing things in social matters, business affairs and politics. And in these respects they did adapt. But an ethnic minority is not obligated to disappear.
Organized Israeli trips concentrate on the death sites without any help from Poles, and I believe consciously avoid any sites that speak about the life of Jews in pre-war (or for that matter today's) Poland. As an example, there is a small Jewish museum in the old synagogue in Oświęcim, but hardly anyone goes there, despite the droves of people visiting the camp. Warsaw has a small but lively Jewish community, but from what I know none of the Israeli tour organizers are very interested in showing that to the school kids they bring here.
The organized tours are now very aware of that problem and are trying to shift the emphasis to the centuries of Jewish life in Poland and not only on the destruction. Most of them now visit the Nozik synagogue in Warsaw, and some go to the museum at Oświęcim. I was there. There is also a Jewish culture festival in Krakow that is drawing more visitors each year. But it's hard to get around the fact that the few physical remnants of that vanished world are mostly in the cemeteries.
How can there be a debate about this being a good thing? Why would you want to be isolated and not considered an equal part of the sociaty you live in unless you convert to the dominante religion?
That of course is a good thing -- to be able to be accepted without having to convert. What I meant is: Is it a good thing for Jews to assimilate to the extent that they disappear as Jews?