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The Massacre in Jedwabne, July 10, 1941: Before, During, After Hardcover – 3 Mar 2006
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[This volume is] coherently structured and well edited. -- Philip Ther Slavic Review Spring 2008
About the Author
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is research professor of history at the Institute of World Politics.
Top customer reviews
This book needs to be read by anyone with an interest in the massacre in Jedwabne 1941 as it looks at all known accounts of what happened in the town in WW2. This is in contrast with many other books which unashamedly only make use of selective sources and these are used uncritically ie confessions extracted from Poles by torture. It clearly makes use of the historical rigour required when looking at these kind of sources.
A must read for those with a genuine interest in the history of Polish Jewish relations.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
This long-overdue book, by historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, is a painstaking analysis of the Jedwabne tragedy. It exposes the falsehood of the thesis that Poles murdered defenseless local Jews while the Germans only observed and photographed the act. Ironically, Gross' thesis had already been considered and discarded by Jewish and Polish scholars decades ago (p. 7, 124)! Also: "Aware neither of most available primary sources nor the work of Datner or any other scholars, Gross considered a very limited pool of evidence through the prism of a single survivor testimony." (p. 9).
Chodakiewicz begins by focusing on the good relations between the Poles and Jews before the war. He shows that, after the Soviet invasion, Jewish-Communist collaboration against Poles was very real and substantive. Later on, it is interesting that Germans referred to Poles as "superfluous" (p. 91), something supposed to be said only of the Jews. There are surprising details about various Polish guerrilla actions, including reprisal raids against German villages in East Prussia (p. 93), as well as continued resistance for many years after the imposition of the Soviet puppet state.
The Jedwabne massacre bears all the hallmarks of known German atrocities elsewhere. As a start, the torching of a building into which victims had been herded is a characteristically German technique of mass murder. Forensic evidence alone practically refutes solitary Polish guilt in the massacre. The killing had clearly been preplanned and organized, occurring in two stages. This is utterly foreign to spontaneous pogroms, as are the facts that there were virtually no broken bones in the victims and their personal valuables had not been stolen. (So much for Gross' furor on Polish greed against their Jewish neighbors!) There were around 300 Jewish victims, not 1,600.
In contrast to Jan T. Gross, Chodakiewicz has studied all known witnesses. The available testimonies do NOT reduce to a Poles'-word vs. Jews'-word situation. To the contrary, and to summarize: "As we have seen, some Jewish accounts square with the majority of the Polish recollections which blame the Germans. A few testimonies blame the Poles alone for the massacre. Most suggest that the Germans carried out the crime with some Polish assistance."(p. 138). [For readily-available English-language testimonies of Jews that finger the Germans, not Poles, as the main killers of Jedwabne's Jews, please see the first comment.]
Aside from some VOLKSDEUTSCHE (Polish-speaking Germans) and known prewar Polish criminals, it is unclear to what extent Poles "freely" collaborated with the Germans. It has been argued that the Polish participation must have been voluntary because there was no cordon of German troops around the village. How naïve! Chodakiewicz (pp. 78-81) presents repeated examples of how easy it was for the Germans to terrorize both Poles and Jews into submission through the use of purely verbal threats and through remote supervision. Finally, the Germans were not looking for volunteers. They forced the Poles out of their homes and enforced obedience by threatening them and by employing kicks and whips (pp. 134-135). Right then and there (p. 135), and many times elsewhere, the Germans threatened Poles with death for the slightest assistance to Jews.
The number of Poles involved with the Germans at Jedwabne was several tens (not hundreds; nowhere near "half the town"), and even this reduced number held only during the initial roundup of Jews in the market place (where Jews were humiliated through the mock funeral of Lenin's bust, but without any indication of impending death). How many Poles, if any, remained involved, "consensually" or not, in the later torching of the Jew-filled barn, is not indicated by credible evidence (p. 164, 169).
Chodakiewicz evaluates ALL Polish conduct. After the massacre, and in the German apprehensions of Jews for extermination in later years, the Poles very commonly aided fugitive Jews, but also sometimes betrayed them. While not elaborated by Chodakiewicz, the fact of near-starvation conditions in the countryside (p. 90), caused by the draconian German requisitions of feedstuffs, helps the reader understand why some Poles, fearing Jewish thefts of food, went as far as betraying them.
The ease by which Jan T. Gross dismisses evidence not to his liking is positively breathtaking. He disregards testimonies (that demonstrate widespread Jewish-Communist collaboration), from the Hoover Institution archives, because, in Gross' self-serving opinion, they are anti-Semitic. (pp. 201-202). It gets even better. Gross explains away the obviously-false Jewish claim that Poles alone killed the Jews of nearby Wizna as just a false "perception" (p. 129). Gross egregiously rejects no less than 20 Jewish and Polish postwar testimonies (none of which were coerced, and one which even came from Palestine), all of which identify the murderers of Jedwabne's Jews as Germans (pp. 131-132), on the whimsical notion that they merely adhered to some sort of template of blaming Germans (p. 243). How convenient! Following Gross, it would be even easier to dismiss the few mostly-hearsay Pole-blaming testimonies in existence by fingering the Polonophobic motives, leitmotifs, and false perceptions of the accusers.
Historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz stresses the need for further research into seldom-explored topics. As an example, he cites the well-documented massacres of Poles in the villages of Naliboki and Koniuchy. (p. 159). [Chodakiewicz has subsequently published a detailed study, Intermarium: The Land between the Black and Baltic Seas, that proves large-scale Jewish complicity in the mass murder of unarmed Polish men, women, and children. Please click on the item and read the detailed Peczkis review.]
I cannot agree with Chodakiewicz's equation of Gross and the Holocaust Industry with Gross and the revival of feudalism in Poland (p. 157). Unlike the former, the latter has exactly zero chance of fulfillment. In fact, the efforts of the Holocaust Industry, to extort "reparations" (actually, tribute) money from Poland, have only intensified in the decade following the publication of this scholarly study.
Chodakiewicz has written an invaluable work. Would that the media grant even 1% of the coverage to Chodakiewicz that it gives to neo-Stalinist Jan T. Gross and his minions! Instead, the persistent adulatory coverage given to Jan T. Gross, for all his demonstrably false claims and clearly invalid thesis, cannot be dignified as bias. It is nothing less than a shocking lack of integrity in the media.
This definitive work on Jedwabne is invaluable reading to anyone wanting to know what happened in 1941 in more detail.
While it would be almost impossible to write exactly what occured in Jedwabne, this scholarly work picks through all the known information to construct a plausible scenario.
The work goes into great detail and does not sensationalise, but presents all the known evidence. He also reveals how Poles had their property grabbed by Soviet collaborators. The Wawernia family were threatened with arrest after a Jewish family took their apartment and possessions. The Catholic priests were thrown out of their home which was taken over the Communists. There is ample evidence of betrayal of Poles by their neighbours to the NKVD. He debunks the story about the Bishop of Lomza taking money then refusing to help Jews, pointing out that the Bishop was in hiding at the time and no one knew his location.
Every single of the 28 depositions submitted by nineteen persons before the court in 1947-49 blamed the Germans. Poles were not mentioned by any of the witnesses as instigating the crime. The depositions were given freely, one being sent from Palestine.
"...the Germans coming...from Lomza. They were the gendamerie, four or five trucks...The Germans swarmed out and chased the Poles out of their houses. When they collected over a dozen persons , they took them along...they placed Poles on both sides of the street. Every dozen meters or so there was a German with a rifle ready to shoot so no Jew could escape. And this way it turned out that the Poles were doing it. Not the Germans.."
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