Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz
Jan T. Gross, Author . Random $25.95 (303p) ISBN 978-0-375-50924-7
Rarely does a small book force a country to confront some of the more sordid aspects of its history. Jan T. Gross's
The book was greeted with a terrible outcry in Poland. A government commission determined that not only did Gross get the story right but that many other cities had done precisely the same thing.
Now Gross has written
Gross builds a meticulous case. He argues that this postwar persecution is "a smoking gun," which proves that during the war Poles not only acquiesced but, in many cases, actively assisted the Nazis in their persecution of the Jews. Had they been appalled by Germany's policies toward the Jews or tried to help the victims, Poles could never have engaged in such virulent anti-Semitism in the postwar period. Gross notes that when the Germans were trying to put down the Warsaw ghetto uprising, Poles—including children—not only cheered as Jewish snipers were spotted and killed but gleefully showed the Germans where Jews were hiding. Those Poles who helped Jews were often persecuted or even killed by their neighbors.
I am troubled by references to "Polish death camps." They were not Polish death camps but camps the Germans placed in Poland. I have taken even stronger issue with the opinion voiced by many Jews that the "Poles were as bad as—and maybe worse than—the Germans." I argue that while there was a strong tradition of anti-Semitism in Poland, Poles never tried to murder Jews in a systematic fashion. After reading
Reviewed on: 05/29/2006
Release date: 06/01/2006