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The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy Over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland Paperback – 14 Dec 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; New Ed edition (14 Dec. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691113068
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691113067
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.9 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,383,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review


This is a major addition to Holocaust studies for both popular and academic readers. . . . [C]omprehensive, compelling and thoughtful . . . Polonsky and Michlic have done a splendid job of collecting and arranging this material to highlight the inherent intellectual, moral and historical tensions. -- Publishers Weekly



As Polonsky and Michlic persuasively argue, the debate over "Neighbors" is more than an argument over the massacre of Polish Jews by their gentile countrymen. It is symptomatic of a greater debate over how Poland's history can, or should, be understood in the wake of the war and after the cultural vacuum created by decades of Communist rule. -- Library Journal


As Polonsky and Michlic persuasively argue, the debate over "Neighbors" is more than an argument over the massacre of Polish Jews by their gentile countrymen. It is symptomatic of a greater debate over how Poland's history can, or should, be understood in the wake of the war and after the cultural vacuum created by decades of Communist rule. -- "Library Journal

This is a major addition to Holocaust studies for both popular and academic readers. . . . [C]omprehensive, compelling and thoughtful . . . Polonsky and Michlic have done a splendid job of collecting and arranging this material to highlight the inherent intellectual, moral and historical tensions. -- "Publishers Weekly

A meritorious, comprehensive reference book revealing a spectral episode which still haunts Poland.--Adam LeBor "Jewish Chronicle "

"The Neighbors Respond" is both an important and disturbing book.--Jack Fischel "Jewish Book World "

This is an interesting, highly motivated engagement of a human tragedy reflective of social prejudice that is manifested in any group that premeditatedly considers its relationship with a distinctly different group. It is a telling tale of two peoples, one land, a common tragedy, whose appeal stretches beyond a village in Poland and provides a model for similar studies of other groups in conflict.--Zev Garber "Shofar "


"The Neighbors Respond" is both an important and disturbing book.--Jack Fischel "Jewish Book World "


A meritorious, comprehensive reference book revealing a spectral episode which still haunts Poland.
--Adam LeBor "Jewish Chronicle "



"The Neighbors Respond" is both an important and disturbing book.
--Jack Fischel "Jewish Book World "


This is an interesting, highly motivated engagement of a human tragedy reflective of social prejudice that is manifested in any group that premeditatedly considers its relationship with a distinctly different group. It is a telling tale of two peoples, one land, a common tragedy, whose appeal stretches beyond a village in Poland and provides a model for similar studies of other groups in conflict.
--Zev Garber "Shofar "

""The Neighbors Respond" is both an important and disturbing book."--Jack Fischel, "Jewish Book World"

"This is a major addition to Holocaust studies for both popular and academic readers. . . . [C]omprehensive, compelling and thoughtful . . . Polonsky and Michlic have done a splendid job of collecting and arranging this material to highlight the inherent intellectual, moral and historical tensions."--Publishers Weekly

"A meritorious, comprehensive reference book revealing a spectral episode which still haunts Poland."--Adam LeBor, Jewish Chronicle

"As Polonsky and Michlic persuasively argue, the debate over Neighbors is more than an argument over the massacre of Polish Jews by their gentile countrymen. It is symptomatic of a greater debate over how Poland's history can, or should, be understood in the wake of the war and after the cultural vacuum created by decades of Communist rule."--Library Journal

"The Neighbors Respond is both an important and disturbing book."--Jack Fischel, Jewish Book World

"This is an interesting, highly motivated engagement of a human tragedy reflective of social prejudice that is manifested in any group that premeditatedly considers its relationship with a distinctly different group. It is a telling tale of two peoples, one land, a common tragedy, whose appeal stretches beyond a village in Poland and provides a model for similar studies of other groups in conflict."--Zev Garber, Shofar

-This is a major addition to Holocaust studies for both popular and academic readers. . . . [C]omprehensive, compelling and thoughtful . . . Polonsky and Michlic have done a splendid job of collecting and arranging this material to highlight the inherent intellectual, moral and historical tensions.---Publishers Weekly

-A meritorious, comprehensive reference book revealing a spectral episode which still haunts Poland.---Adam LeBor, Jewish Chronicle

-As Polonsky and Michlic persuasively argue, the debate over Neighbors is more than an argument over the massacre of Polish Jews by their gentile countrymen. It is symptomatic of a greater debate over how Poland's history can, or should, be understood in the wake of the war and after the cultural vacuum created by decades of Communist rule.---Library Journal

-The Neighbors Respond is both an important and disturbing book.---Jack Fischel, Jewish Book World

-This is an interesting, highly motivated engagement of a human tragedy reflective of social prejudice that is manifested in any group that premeditatedly considers its relationship with a distinctly different group. It is a telling tale of two peoples, one land, a common tragedy, whose appeal stretches beyond a village in Poland and provides a model for similar studies of other groups in conflict.---Zev Garber, Shofar

From the Back Cover

"Jan Gross's revelations about the Jedwabne massacre have shaken Polish public opinion such as no other issue since the fall of communism. Now English-speaking readers will be able to sample the richness and complexity of that discussion."--Brian Porter, University of Michigan

"There was a wide range of responses to Jan Gross's Neighbors around the world, for the good reason that the book frankly astonished us when we learned what happened in a tiny Polish village during the Holocaust. Polish citizens murdered their innocent Jewish neighbors in the cold light of day. Reactions to the book in Poland have varied, but in addition to positive accolades, many journalists, clergy, and 'experts' disputed the book's findings and attacked its author. Until this incredibly important volume, most non-Polish speakers have not been able to follow the interesting debates that ensued. This book provides a wealth of information and translates many key Polish reviews and reactions to Neighbors. The editors' scholarship is first-class from beginning to end. There simply is no comparable book."--Robert Gellately, Earl R. Beck Professor of History, Florida State University

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What a load of anti-semitic trash
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Amazon.com: 2.9 out of 5 stars 6 reviews
11 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Contribution 31 Dec. 2008
By P. Earl Berg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is not an "easy read." For a historian it is a most impoirtant contribution to a discussion which in most probability will never end. Of course such a volume can not "round up" the entire subject - the willing, more or less, cooperation of "neighbours" in some of the most gruesome aspects of the Shoa, in its manifold aspects. Here the editors took a lot of trouble to be almost scientifically "even-handed", an obvious impossibility. My praise,admiration and thanks go to them wholeheartedly, as a Jew and as a historian specialising in East European history.
To every historian of the events, particularly to tose who followed the dicussion about J. T. Gross's work, an invaluable tool. To people with weak stomachs, an advice - avoid.
47 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Presentation of the Debate in Poland on the 1941 Massacre in Jedwabne 18 Jan. 2007
By Reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jan Tomasz Gross' book "Neighbors: the Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne" was first published in Poland in early 2000 (under the Polish title `Sasiedzi: Historia Zaglady Zydowskiego Miasteczka'), and appeared in 2001 in both American (English-language) and German editions. `Neighbors' describes how a massacre of a number believed to be 1,600 Jews on July 10, 1941, in the village of Jedwabne in northeastern Poland, which had hitherto been generally believed to be carried out by the German military, was actually carried out with Polish participation - according to Gross' account, it was organized and carried out by Poles, with German acquiescence.

`Neighbors' was spectacularly successful in provoking an intensive two-year debate in Poland on the subject of Polish-Jewish relations. An excellent collection of papers from that debate, in English translation, has now been published in the US under the title `The Neighbors Respond' edited by Joanna Michlic and Professor Antony Polonsky of Brandeis University. `The Neighbors Respond' (henceforth referred to as `NR') is not a rebuttal to `Neighbors', but examines the subject from many viewpoints - including a biting dissection of anti-Semitism in its Polish form by a Polish sociologist, Hanna Swida-Ziemba (NR, pages 103 - 113). Those who want to better understand the subject, including what anti-Semitism was, and was not, in Poland, will learn far more - and in far greater depth - from `The Neighbors Respond' than from reading `Neighbors' alone.

`The Neighbors Respond' does not attempt to summarize all that is now known about the Jedwabne massacre. Readers who want to understand the debate better may find the following useful.

The accusation that Poles were responsible for the Jedwabne massacre had an enormous impact on Polish public opinion. A Polish governmental commission, the Institute of National Memory (Instytut Pamieci Narodowej, IPN) was charged with conducting a detailed investigation. IPN's report was made public on July 9th, 2002. IPN's findings were detailed in a 1500 page two-volume study entitled `Wokol Jedwabnego' which unfortunately is presently available only in Polish. The number of American academics who read Polish is negligible, except for those of Polish descent, and the majority of Americans who refer to `the Polish report' have not read any of it.

An ACCURATE English-language version of IPN's principal findings, about 3 pages long, can be found on the Internet by going to `The Jedwabne Tragedy' at Buffalo University's `info-Poland' website, and then to `Jedwabne, July 10th, 1941: an interview with Prof. Pawel Machcewicz.' This also provides links to a host of discussion papers and informative articles. Unfortunately, the most extensive information is available only in Polish, but a large amount is in English. Notably, the Polish Catholic magazine `Wiez', offers on the Web a selection of articles by both Polish and Jewish authors, all in English, under the title `Thou Shalt Not Kill: Poles on Jedwabne.'

The American scholar Deborah Lipstadt described IPN's findings as follows: "a (Polish) government commission determined that not only did Gross get the story right, but...." This is inaccurate. While IPN confirmed Gross' finding that a group of Poles actively carried out the pogrom, IPN found that many details of Gross' account were inaccurate or unsupported, and that the massacre was carried out "under German inspiration." IPN, after interviewing 98 persons of whom about one-third were first-hand witnesses of at least some part of the events, concluded that "approximately at least forty men" were Polish perpetrators in the murder (but not "one half of the town" as stated on the fly-leaf of `Neighbors', which would have required over one thousand participants; Gross himself, in `Neighbors,' claims to have ninety-two names of Polish participants). Whether ninety-two according to Gross or "at least forty" in IPN's findings, the number of Polish participants in the Jedwabne massacre was not one-half of the village, but closer to one-twentieth.

IPN's findings do not lessen the guilt of those Poles who willingly participated in the massacre. But IPN's findings imply that Gross' presentation of the Germans as a moderating influence who tried to hold back the Poles, together with Gross' discussions of supposedly wider implications, is a complete distortion.

IPN's investigation did not corroborate Gross' account in several important respects. I will summarize only two of the more significant:

(1) "Jedwabne's 1,600 Jews" were murdered (this statement in Gross' `Neighbors' has been repeated many times). In fact, Jedwabne in 1941 did not have 1,600 Jews. An IPN historian, Jan Jerzy Milewski, historian of the Bialystok Division of the Institute of National Memory, found a 1940 Soviet NKVD document in the archive in Grodno showing that at that time in Jedwabne there were 562 Jews. Thus a year before the massacre, a Soviet census found the Jewish population of Jedwabne to be approximately one-third the number given by Jan T. Gross in `Neighbors'.

IPN's exhumation of the Jedwabne victims was interrupted at the request of the invited supervising Jewish rabbi that the remains of the victims not be further disturbed. The best estimate of IPN's chief forensic investigator, Prof. Andrzej Kola, was that there were between 300 and 400 victims. IPN concluded: `The figure of 1,600 victims or so seems highly unlikely, and it was not confirmed in the course of the investigation.'

(2) `The Germans' direct participation in the mass murder.....was limited, pretty much, to their taking pictures' (Jan T. Gross, `Neighbors'). This is false. In reality, IPN found, the day began "with the herding of Poles to the town square, which was done, according to witnesses, jointly by the German gendarmes, i.e. policemen, and the people from the collaborating administration. In the testimonials there is mention of the fact that German policemen hit some of the Jedwabne Poles in the face with rifle butts or their hands, which is evidence that some of them did not want to go to the town square." The Germans then distributed bats and clubs to the Poles, for use as weapons against the Jews. When Jews were brought to the town square and ordered to destroy the statue of Lenin, according to IPN it was the Germans who were in charge.

The Germans were not in Jedwabne just as photographers, as Gross would have readers believe. The Germans were in Jedwabne as organizers.
6 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Anti-Polonist Editors repeat Polish smears without sources. 15 July 2012
By White Eagle - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Polonsky is an extremely controversial figure due to serving as the editor of Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, a journal described by his academic peers as "having a large axe to grind" with the Poles with regard to their Jewish relations and history. Professor John Radzilowski has publicly accused Polonsky of being an ideological Neo-Stalinist who attempted to damage the academic reputation of Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, another Polish history professor, and have him banned from academic conferences because Chodakiewicz did not subscribe to Polonsky's opinion that Poland for the past 100 years has been nationalist in the extreme, anti-semitic, that Poles collaborated with Nazis in general and were complicit in the Holocaust, while ignoring Jewish collaboration with the Soviets during WWII against Poles, etc.

In this book, Polonsky continues his Anti-Polonism along with Israeli co-author Joanna B. Michlic, by repeating an Anti-Polonist smear that former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was "Polish-born" and that his father "was murdered by his former Polish acquaintances during World War II." Polonsky and Michlic give no source for the claim. The only known source for the claim is former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who was not in Europe during WWII. (He had left in 1935.) In the published quotation, Shamir never mentioned Poles, only villagers from Belarus. Israeli newspapers declared the killers Poles without any further evidence or witness. The Israeli press had declared that those who allegedly killed Shamir's father were his "childhood friends", even though Shamir's father was born and educated in Belarus.

Polonsky and Michlic are simply repeating this anti-Polonist smear without a source other than Shamir, who himself professed to hating Poles and claimed that Poles drank anti-Semitism with their mother's milk. Contrary to the claim of Polonsky and Michlic, in fact, Shamir was born in Ruzhany, in Imperial Russian Belarus before the rebirth of modern Poland in 1920. So Shamir could not be "Polish-born" as they wrote. Shamir only became Polish due to the change in borders from the 1920 Polish-Soviet war and the resulting Treaty of Riga. Any respectable Polish scholar knows this, yet Polonsky and Michlic insist that Shamir had been born in Poland even though he was not born in the Russian Kingdom of Poland. He was born in Russian Belarus.

The purpose of the false statement appears to be to reinforce the smear from the Israeli press, and somehow excuse Shamir's openly stated Anti-Polonism. Such false allegations of ethnic violence by Poles against Jews are intended to increase pressure on Poles to pay compensation to Jews who were victims of Nazi atrocities, even if Germans have already paid compensation, or to pay compensation for communist land grabs, even if non-Jewish Poles have never been compensated either.

If Polonsky and Michlic could not get Shamir's birth citizenship correct in order to continue an Israeli anti-Polonist smear, nothing else that they have written on the topic can have much integrity. Polonsky and Michlic have an agenda with this book, and it isn't a fair discussion of the issue at hand.
75 of 132 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Jedwabne's Jewish Victims: Rushing to Judgment on Poland. Unilateral Polish Guilt STILL Not Proved 20 April 2004
By Jan Peczkis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Preface: Before reading this book and my review of it, the reader should read the Peczkis review of the IPN (Instytut Pamieci Narodowej) Commission and what has been said, in the media, about it "proving Jan T. Gross right" about unilateral Polish guilt at Jedwabne. Please click on a scholarly analysis of the IPN investigation,The Massacre in Jedwabne, July 10, 1941: Before, During, After, and then, to read my actual review of the IPN Proceedings themselves, please go to the first Comment therein.
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My review is based on a Judeorealist approach to the events. This rejects the extremes of anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism.

One common but nonsensical theme in this Michlic and Polonsky anthology is the one about Poles being too conceited or too imbued with their heroism and victimization to face unpleasant facts about their history. In fact, Polish history freely acknowledges its dark chapters (e. g. Targowica). Polish WWII accounts often mention ignoble Polish conduct. Polish historical icons are subject to re-evaluation (e. g. the wisdom (?) of the Warsaw Uprising). Poles do recognize their character flaws (e. g. disunity). However, acceptance of unpleasant truths and the acceptance of unpleasant falsehoods are two different things.

The real reasons for Poles "defending their national honor" and resisting Gross' sensationalism include: 1) The long history of defamatory claims against Poland, 2) The exultation of Jewish suffering and virtual ignoring of Polish suffering, 3) The increasing conflation of Nazi German action with that of Christians and Poles, 4) The selective attention to anti-Semitism if it is Polish, 5) The lightning-fast embrace of Gross by the western media, and 6) The possible agenda-driven nature of tendencies #1-#5. As an example of #1, recall the widely heralded 1918 Polish pogroms, most of which turned out to be unfounded upon independent analysis. In recent decades, one inaccurate Polonophobic Holocaust material has followed another. Apropos to #2, complaints about Polish schools teaching a Polonocentric view of WWII ignore the fact that the rest of the world gets the Judeocentric view. Practically everyone worldwide, certain Muslim regions excepted, knows of the 6 million Jews, while the 3 million Poles are all but forgotten. As for #3. Christian anti-Semitism (e. g. the blood libel, "Christ killers", etc.) has existed for 2,000 years without ever once morphing into the eliminationist anti-Semitism characteristic of the secularist ideology of Nazism. Yet the Church continues to be held responsible for the Holocaust. Any attempt at comparing the systematic murder of 5-6 million Jews with some other murderous event is called an act of relativizing the Holocaust. But we are told that the (supposedly) willing killing of even 1,600 Jews, a drop in the ocean compared with 5-6 million by the Germans, now makes Poland a participant in the Holocaust. Talk about relativizing the Holocaust!

Judging by the volume of Jewish attention and anger, one could almost conclude that the Holocaust had been a Polish crime. Goldhagen's HITLER'S WILLING EXECUTIONERS is the exception that proves the rule. Placing blame for the Holocaust squarely where it belongs-on the Germans--it drew much Jewish criticism for implying collective German guilt. Far less Jewish effort is made to individualize Polish behavior. In Holocaust films, "good Germans" are incomparably more common than "good Poles". There are few if any Holocaust films about the Vichy French or the Danish SS of "those heroic Danes". Poles must always be the bad guys. As for #4, the search for Polish anti-Semitism under every stone contrasts with the relatively mild Jewish reaction to certain US black leaders who make vile anti-Semitic remarks worthy of Streicher and Goebbels. #5 needs no comment, and #6 requires elaboration beyond the book's cursory mention of infantile beliefs in "world Jewish conspiracies" and of Norman Finkelstein's work. There are in fact Jewish groups attempting to force Poland to pay for everything that once belonged to Polish Jews, even though German Holocaust reparations payments are supposed to cover Jewish property losses as well as the incalculable loss of Jewish lives.

Harsh prewar Polish statements on the overlordship of Jews (mentioned by Ana Bikont) ignore the fact that Poland's Jews, at 10% of the population, owned some 40% of Polish wealth. To polarize matters further, nascent Polish entrepreneurs faced considerable difficulty in competing against their long-established Jewish counterparts. In identifying the main source of Polish animosities against Jews, Strzembosz gives an eye-opening account of the earlier Jewish-Soviet collaboration. However, Strzembosz doesn't mention the long-term disproportionate Jewish involvement in Communism. Moreover, a large fraction of Polish Jews had always cast its lot with Poland's enemies (well back into the 19th century). Michnik's attempt to make something of the fact that modern Poles live in formerly Jewish houses overlooks the fact that Poles also live in Polish victims' former homes. Also, owing to forced territorial changes, Ukrainians live in formerly Polish homes while Poles live in formerly German homes.

Neo-Stalinist Jan T. Gross' attempt to discount recently filed testimonies (pp. 251-252; ones that tend to implicate the Germans) is especially ironic. In the US, eyewitness recollections given decades after the events have stood up in court as a major ground for the conviction of long-incognito Nazi war criminals (e. g., Frank Walus of Chicago).

We are told that Polish culpability at Jedwabne is established regardless of the degree of German leadership. I beg pardon. The law has always recognized the differing degrees of culpability of the chief perpetrator and the accomplice in a crime. Moreover, a coerced accomplice may be totally absolved of culpability. It is silly to suggest that Poles were free of coercion since there was no cordon of Germans surrounding Jedwabne (p. 182) and/or because Hermann Schaper's Gestapo unit supposedly wasn't there at the time. Surely the cruelties of the Germans were well known, along with certain knowledge of the fact that any large German unit could arrive in short order to wreak terror on Jedwabne's Poles for any act of disobedience. And even if Gross is right that there were "only" 10-12 armed Germans at Jedwabne on the fateful day (pp. 251-252), and they "only" stood in the background without pointing their guns at the Poles, it would have been enough to cow the Poles into the obedient roundup and possible killing of Jews. Surely it does not take a large armed force to control a group of unarmed civilians of a defeated nation! In any case, it is obvious that no one (including the Polish Commission) has proven consensual Polish involvement at beyond a reasonable doubt, and it is high time that various publications stop pretending that Polish culpability at Jedwabne is established fact.
3 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Racist Hate Book 8 Mar. 2013
By Jan Wlochowski - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Not worth reading.The hatefull rant of the authors reveal their anti-Polish attitude and is a hate crime by definition. The book is written by neo-Stalinist racists to demean Poles.
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