New Jan T. Gross-edited anti-Polish Book

Review of The Holocaust in Occupied Poland: New Findings and New Interpretations, edited by Jan T. Gross. 2012. Peter Lang. Frankfurt, Berlin
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
Nothing New. Dubious Sources and Scholarship. Not Objective
The reader, having seen the catchy title, and expecting something novel (as I initially did), will not find it. It hardly presents new findings and certainly no new interpretations. It is the same-old, same-old, written by the same small circle of mostly-Judeocentric authors. For instance, Jan Grabowski is honored with the Oppenheim Chair at Yad Vashem in Israel. (p. 127).
Scholars with differing viewpoints are systematically ignored, and their works are not even mentioned in the bibliographies. This is notably true of historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz. See, for example, the Peczkis review of: Golden Harvest or Hearts of Gold?: Studies on the Wartime Fate of Poles and Jews.
This work presents a stilted view of Poles who cooperated with the Germans in the apprehension of fugitive Jews. For a much more detailed–and decidedly more objective–work on this subject, see the free online book by Mark Paul, titled: PATTERNS OF COOPERATION, COLLABORATION, AND BETRAYAL.
A prominent theme of this book is acquisition of Jewish property as a major motivator in Polish denunciations of fugitive Jews. The drift is unambiguous. The perceptive reader may well ask if the Holocaust Industry, and its massive extortion of “reparations” money from Poland, are not far behind.
Most of the articles in this book are based on the trials of Poles at the hands of the immediate-postwar Soviet-imposed Communist puppet government. This deprives them of credibility. Even though the trials themselves were generally not Stalinist show trials, they nevertheless took place in an atmosphere of rampant Communist terror. Thousands of Poles were being arbitrarily arrested, incarcerated, or murdered at the time. All opposition to the Communist authorities had been outlawed. People (not only anti-Communists) were framed. Accusations of Nazi collaboration were a standard Communist technique for slandering and destroying Polish freedom-fighting organizations, such as the A. K. (Armija Krajowa) and the N. S. Z. (Narodowe Sily Zbrojne), and for intimidating the population in general. How could fair trials possibly exist under such circumstances?
Only a few of the authors allude to the dubious evidentiary value of the court records of the early-postwar Communist trials. Krzysztof Persak acknowledges that the Communist police (U. B., or Bezpieka) used brutal interrogation techniques, and that defendants’ complaints that they had been forced to testify after a beating cannot be ruled out. (p. 40). Andrzej Zbikowski notes that admission of guilt was indeed forced by the investigators “in a certain percentage of cases”. (p. 177). Alina Skibinska discusses a few of the many irregularities during the trials. (pp. 92-93). The defendants, in practice, were not in a position to remain silent. (p. 93). Usually, the defendants were the only eyewitnesses to the accused murders of Jews. (p. 109). This, of course, facilitated their lying against each other. However, the authors largely ignore or rationalize away the credibility-killing implications of all these facts.
The authors of this volume tend to avoid in-depth research, especially if it were to lead away from the dialectic blame-the-Pole, Jew-as-victim mindset. For instance, Jan Grabowski fails to analyze legitimate reasons for killing Jews as he describes the alleged, well-planned A. K. killing of a handful of Jews hiding in Redziny-Borek (Miechow District, Krakow area). After WWII, Boleslaw Krzyszkiewicz “Reginski” was charged with the crime, and imprisoned. He had pointed to the order coming from his superiors, and this was related to Jews robbing the people. (p. 121). Not surprisingly, Grabowski does not explore the frequent Jewish banditry against Poles (in part on their own, and as part of the “revolutionary banditry” of Communist GL-AL bands)–a banditry candidly discussed in many Jewish memoirs.
To be fair, some authors do briefly examine alternatives, but let us stress the word briefly. Thus, for instance, Barbara Engelking recognizes that Polish fear of draconian German reprisals, directed against whole villages, was valid, and a real factor in Polish denunciations of fugitive Jews. (p. 70, 114). Andrzej Zbikowski accepts the fact that the severe German impoverishing of Poles, especially after the Fall of 1942, and backed up with terror and the isolation of larger cities during harvest times, tended to drive Poles to obtain Jewish belongings and to rob Jews. (p. 175).
A rare piece of wisdom is provided by Omer Bartov, who warns that, “There is no reason to believe that official contemporary documents written by Gestapo, SS, Wehrmacht, or German administrative officials are any more accurate or objective, or any less subjective and biased, than accounts given by those they were trying to kill.” (pp. 132-133).
To the extent that the Communist court-case based findings are valid, the authors fail to put them into proper numerical perspective. Thus, for instance, the 92 Kielce-area defendants came from a relatively large base of population from five named counties and several adjoining villages. (Alina Skibinska, p. 87). In one of the villages in which Poles allegedly denounced Jews, the Poles doing this could be counted on the fingers of one hand with fingers to spare. Pointedly, the entire village had earlier known about the Jews being hidden, yet no one had betrayed them. (Skibinska, p. 105, 109). All of the foregoing are consistent with the unmentioned fact that Polish denouncers of Jews were very uncommon–some fraction of 1% of the Polish population. Even the cases of Polish Blue Police (POLICJA GRANATOWA) denouncing fugitive Jews, mentioned a number of times in this volume, must be put in context of the fact that there were already 9,600 Blue Police, along with 1,173 criminal police, in the GG, by March 1940. (Zbikowski, p. 166).
Some of the authors repeat the nonsensical mantra about Poles, in the past, having been too preoccupied with their heroic narrative of resistance to the Nazis (or Poland as the Jesus Christ of Nations). Fact is, Polish sources, including the most nationalistic ones, have always discussed Polish collaborators. Such rotten apples can be found in any nationality and in every war. This, too, is nothing new.
Joanna Takarska-Bakir (pp. 205-on) quotes a selection of remarks, allegedly made by Polish onlookers, during the Rzeszow and Kielce Pogroms. In addition to the remarks alluding to the strong Jewish overinvolvement in the new Communist puppet government, some of them accuse Jews of engaging in ritual murder. From this, Takarska-Bakir would have the reader believe that this proves that Poles at the time still widely believed in the blood libel, and that this motivated the pogroms. Her non sequitur ignores the fact that, during intense ethnically or racially charged conflicts, participants commonly make standard racist statements, as an expression of their anger, that they do not actually believe.
While describing a discussion on Polish-Jewish matters, Benjamin Frommer cites Antony Polonsky in downplaying the role of Jews in the Soviet NKVD. (pp. 234-235). The “purge” of Jews before 1940 had been far from complete and, regardless of the degree of direct Jewish complicity in the Katyn murders of Polish officers, this subject deserves objective attention. See the Peczkis review of: The Jewish Century.

By piotrbein