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3.3 out of 5 stars21
3.3 out of 5 stars
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on 16 March 2016
You have to reconsider Poland, especially modern Poland and its reactionary political roots. No wonder thousands of Poles leave Poland and sadly bring their reactionary ideologies with them!
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on 3 December 2009
A good book to shake up the history genre with, though I disagree with its main conclusion. The book "Neighbours" by Jan Tomasz Gross accuses 1600 Poles of the town of Jewdwabne of, one day in July 1941 turning on their Jewish neighbours and in an outbreak of anti-Semtism murdering 1600 of their Jewish neighbours with no prompting by the occupying Germans. The author blames "traditional Polish Anti-Semitism". The main source for Gross's work is a person who was in the area at the time, but not a witness to the events. The fact that his statements were extracted from suspects by torture or that this person may have had a political agenda in presenting his own version of events, did not seem to bother the author.

Marek Chodakiewicz's work, "The Massacre in Jedwabne" .The Massacre in Jedwabne, July 10, 1941: Before, During, After, contains interviews with all known survivors of the event and all agree to the presence and an involvement of the German military in the town at the time of the massacre. All also agree on the presence of a limited number of Poles being coerced, some with threats, to take part in rounding up Jewish victims. None of these testimonies was used by Gross or even considered.

Marek Chodakiewicz's account takes a strictly academically rigourous approach, analysing all the available documents and records and using all these to construct a plausible account of what happened. Most of the criticism levelled at "Neighbours" is that this rigour is missing and Gross has concentrated on a few accounts which fit a certain viewpoint. More accurate research has shown the number of Jewish victims to number about 300, while the number of Polish participants to number 40-90.Himmler Order No.1 issued just after the outbreak of the German attack on the Soviet Union called for clandestine attacks against Jews to be made to appear as local initiatives. Himmler was in Bialystock when he issued this order, not far from Jedwabne. This order is not considered by Gross either.

This act was not spontaneous as there was no massacre of Jews when the Germans first entered Jedwabne, which would have been the most chaotic time. This is the time when a momentary political vaccum would have existed and the one when, by logic, any "score settling" would have taken place. In fact there was widespread "score settling" in the area with the majority of the victims being Poles. The massacre in Jedwabne took place some weeks later at a time when a number of similar incidences occured.

Some evidence of this massacre points to an action by the Nazi Einsatzgruppen which had attempted on this occasion to make use of limited local help, or as some witness have stated, to coerce locals - according to a Himmler order that stated that there should be an attempt to initiate local actions. As this was not repeated on any significant scale it would be safe to infer that it had been unsuccessful and far from being willing accomplices Poles were decidedly not willing to aid the Nazis in their murderous plans.

Further the trend in similar books blaming the nationalities with whom Jews were resident for their calamities as well as the German's ignores the collaboration of the Jews themselves with the German's in the period 1939-1942 when Jews established autonomous regions in occupied Poland. Polish-Jewish Relations 1939-1945: Beyond the Limits of Solidarity

The Polish point of view is ignored. Few people have an understanding of the complex issues (including the catastrophic effect of conflict with Communism for 80 years on Poland) involved in recent East European history and still less bother to find out and look past the "official line" that they are spoon fed. There is no realisation of the conflict between minorities in Poland or how they took advantage of Soviet and Nazi invasions to turn on and murder or persecute Poles. The number of Poles murdered by members of the Polish minorities may number as much 300,000. Inter-ethnic strife is covered in detail in Tadeusz Piotrowski's Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918-1947. This book covers the behaviour and inter-action of Poland's minorities before during and after WW2 in detail.

The fact that the genocide of 3 million Poles (virtually all Catholic) by the Soviets, many of whom were family members of the Poles that served under British command in WW2, such as the Battle of Britain, Monte Cassino and The Desert War is not covered by the 1991 British War Crimes Act should be of serious concern. This has blocked any Polish attempts at justice in this country. I won't mention the fact that the Poles fate at the hands of the Soviets was covered up after the war. For Your Freedom and Ours: The Kosciuszko Squadron - Forgotten Heroes of World War II
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on 11 July 2011
Those of you who may question the writing of history to influence contemporary events should try this book. Part historical research part biography it includes a short contemplation of the role of the historian in shaping the thinking of the here and now and raising the consciousness of society decades after the horrible events described. In Jedwabene 1941 over 1600Jews were murdered several in the grizzly climax being burnt alive in a barn at the edge of town. It was a family event ith good Polish citizens attending the mass killing arriving in cart loads to participate or just watch. The occupying Nazis were just there to maintain order. They did not or need to instigate the slaughter. Fifty years on from these events, Gross a son of a Jewish survivor of the Warsaw Uprising unviels the truth of these events long hidden by firstly the Communists and then the right wing acdemics in post Communist Poland. Gross argues that the Communists had everything to hide from submerging or reinterpreting this incident as a " Polish" tragedy rather than the slaughter of Jewish innocents as the perpetuators who collaborated with the Nazis would go on the fill positions within the local CP cadres. Other questions, philosophical ones about the nature of Polish antisemitism and of society at that time are asked but never answered. The book set off a virulent public debate which still has its consequences for Polish historical examination.
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on 8 February 2011
This is a lengthy historical essay, not a detailed monograph. Nevertheless, its main conclusions -- that the Poles in Jedwabne, without any significant help or coercion from the Germans -- murdered almost all their Jewish neighbours -- has stood the trial of a very heated debate in Poland and abroad. This is the book which started the debate about the darkest side of Polish-Jewish relations, and brought the issue in the consciousness of the mainstream Polish reader. Highly recommended.
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on 10 August 2013
I wouldnt recommend this book to anyone. I have read many books about the holocaust and this book didnt keep me from wanting to read on. Im not morbid but I like to understand what happened to the Jews during the holocaust how they were treated, its something that should never be forgotten. Very disappointing read, writer doesnt seem to know exactly what happened and has bits of information from people or families of the persons involved in the crimes. I gave up half way through the book.
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on 22 December 2009
I bought this book after having seen the play "Our Class" by Tadeusz Slobodzianek at the National Theatre. I went to the theatre with the standard expectations of anyone acquainted with holocaust history, i.e. that the play was about how the Jewish children who were all friends of their Catholic classmates, would end up dead.

As if that were not shocking enough, the play opened up a perspective which was even more shocking. It was based on the horrendous events researched and related in this book. The book is a difficult read, but it is very important for it to be read. By now, more than 60 years after the original event, unravelling the story was an extremely demanding task. Jan. T. Gross had to piece it together and at the same time cut through the many biases that overlaid it as a result of Poland's extremely complex and turbulent history.

I am not surprised that some of the Amazon reviewers are so hostile to Jan.T. Gross' account. Denial of responsibility is a standard response when favourite and widely held assumptions are challenged. A characteristic example of that response was the banning in France of Marcel Ophüls' documentary: "The Sorrow and the Pity". The Turkish government buried Franz Werfel's account of the genocide perpetrated against their Armenian population so successfully that it manages to deny it to this day. And so denial goes on, right now, in our time.

I do accept that the Poles have drawn a particularly short straw, having been mangled between the two totalitarian monsters of the 20th century. That makes it even more difficult for them to see themselves not only as victims but as perpetrators as well.

Even if this book is not likely to be widely read, it is important that the story has been told.
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on 18 September 2014
Very Impressed
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on 27 October 2015
Jedwabne was a tragedy for both Jewish & Polish nation. It's the black mark in the annals of Poland.
This book is not the history book. The only true and proven fact from it is the massacre itself. DO NOT buy and DO NOT read it for the true history information and facts.
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on 23 October 2014
The book is in almost perfect condition because the cover & spine were damaged, the rest is so good as new.
Yours sincerely,
Jaime Jorge Baum
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on 1 February 2009
In a small town half the population murdered the other half. Were the victims only jews, were the perpetrators only young males, how many exactly were involved, is it true that countrymen from miles around came to witness or assist in the killing, can the circumstances excuse the events?

Told as a straight history, this shocking story would be a horror film. But the author is wiser, and allows us to approach the horror by "mediating" (favourite academic word) the story through a study of historiography. He nearly succeeds -what could be more boring than the weight historians place on conflicting documents? - but the shame and horror still shine through.

We think that events in Poland, Rwanda, Bosnia and (insert...) are impossible here. Read this book, then read the mad polemics on the us site of amazon. then you'll be scared.
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