Response to Sarasota Herald Tribune
Prof. I. C. Pogonowski

 
Neighbors by I. T. Gross
Sarasota Herald Tribune, Assoc. Press, p.9, March 13, 2001.

Some years ago Professor Jan Tomasz Gross wrote a well-documented book entitled Revolution from abroad: The Soviet Conquest of Polandís Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia. In this work, published by Princeton University Press, Gross gave substantial evidence of the complicity of some Polish Jews in the murder of thousands of Polish Catholics by the Soviet forces who occupied much of Poland in September of 1939 during the joint Soviet-Nazi invasion of that country. This extensively footnoted book was received with stony silence by the journals, which might have been expected to review it, from the professional quarterly Slavic Review to the New York Times. Indeed, professor Gross was essentially put in a state of hostile isolation by many persons in the literary and professional Slavic community.

Apparently Professor Gross has now worked his passage back into "politically correct society" with his recent Neighbors, also published by Princeton University Press. Relying principally on recollections of a Polish-Jewish Communist official (Szmul Wasersztajn aka "Calka"), Gross has produced a thin argument to the effect that In 1941 Polish civilians from the village of Jedwabne drove 1600 Jews into a barn and burned them to death. The geometrical improbability of the spectacle aside (the farmer who owned the barn owned only four acres), one wonders how such a scantily researched book can receive the instant cachets of the same journals which had simply ignored Revolution from Abroad

There seems to be a pattern of alleging murders of Jews in areas of Poland, which shifted from Soviet to German control in- June of 1941. The widespread collaboration of some Jews in fingering priests, schoolteachers, Landowners, physicians, sat other professionals (spoken of by Gross in his earlier works) certainly led to retribution against the guilty dining Soviet withdrawals. This does not translate into genocidal pogroms, which were staged by the Germans. That the Polish Underground Army did retaliate against collaborators either with the Nazis or the Soviets is not denied. That innocent perished with the guilty in such retaliations is commonplace in wartime conditions, but for anyone to mistake such retaliations as anti-Semitic rage whenever the collaborators were Jews is simply absurd.

Furthermore, nobody denies that there were evil individuals in the Polish population who did murder Jews during the War. But they carried out their crimes understanding that they were explicitly forbidden by the Polish Underground government and carried the death sentence from that government.

In Israel, within a short walk of the Yad Vashem memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, is the site of Deir Yassin, where the Stem Gang/Irgun activists of Yitsak Shaniir and Menachem Begin (later Prime Ministers of Israel) slaughtered all the men, women and children in the unfortunate Arab village on April 9, 1948. This is an example of an organized atrocity against civilians committed by an official national body. Nothing like that was ever carried out by any official organization of Polish Catholics during the horrific years of World War II (in which over three million Polish Catholics died at both Soviet and German-Nazi hands).

We have long passed the time when Poles should feel they have to dedicate time and energy to answering "national guilt" charges like those made in Neighbors. After a fifty-year occupation of Poland by the Soviets, we can simply observe that during this entire wretched period the probability of a crime committed by a Polish Catholic against a Polish Jew was much less than a crime committed by a Polish Jew against a Polish Catholic. There are many evidences that this is so, Including the earlier work by Professor Gross as well as John Sackís An Eye for an E~ The leadership of the dreaded US (communist secret police) by Jakub Berman (of which Szmul Wasersztajn, the chief source of Neighbors was a member) is a matter of record. The collaboration between the "Jewish committees" and the NKVD in Soviet occupied Poland is also a matter of record. The last memory of Poland by many a Polish Catholic before the door was slammed shut on a boxcar bound for Siberia was that of a Jewish militiaman slamming the door. There was no similar collaboration between Polish Catholics and the Nazis. Nevertheless, Polish Catholics do not seek reparations, moral or financial, from Jews. They hope that mutual respect can replace the rather counterproductive charge and countercharge pattern which Neighbors engenders. Enough is definitely enough.

I. C. Pogonowski

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