SECRET CITY: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw, 1940–1945

Gunnar S. Paulsson, Author . Yale Univ. $29.95 (328p) ISBN 978-0-300-09546-3

This amazing and moving study sheds new light on details of the Holocaust that have up until now not been examined. Under the German occupation, "ninety-eight percent of the Jewish population of Warsaw"—480,000 Jews—perished in WWII. But while the conditions of the infamous Warsaw Ghetto and its insurrection have been detailed numerous times, this study focuses on a new area of scholarship: Jews who evaded detection or fled the ghetto. Using diaries, witness testimony, and quantitative analysis (in which he tries to ascertain the precise numbers of people in the various groups he is writing about) Paulson draws a vibrant portrait of the complexity of Warsaw life, and especially of what he calls the "secret city," a collection of 28,000 Jews not confined to the ghetto, "together with the many non-Jews who helped hide them, and the criminal element that ceaselessly hunted them." Detailing a wealth of incident—from Jews involved in complex networks of survival to those who passed for non-Jewish but were sent to work camps for being Polish—the author argues that both Jewish and non-Jewish life in Warsaw was far more complicated than has been thought. Paulson, a fellow at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, explains that this material was not examined earlier because of a "stigma attached to flight" and a valorization of resistance, such as the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. While this is more a scholarly than popular account, it is an important and fascinating analysis that calls for serious thought and reevaluation of Holocaust studies. 16 illus. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/23/2002
Release date: 03/01/2003
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