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Dyskusja o "Strachu"

Far From Truth

Piotr Gontarczyk 12-01-2008, ostatnia aktualizacja 31-01-2008 14:17
Redakcja poleca:

In evaluating „Fear” by Jan Tomasz Gross, only the research techniques and not the “therapeutic” features of the book are important. The author did not research the archives, passed over inconvenient, and applied different measures to evaluate Jewish and Polish testimonies.

The new book by Jan Tomasz Gross, „Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz”, is an attempt to describe the fate of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust. In the foreword from the editor, Henryk Woźniakowski stated that the topic raised by the author requires removal of spell cast: „How was anti-Semitism possible in Poland after the Holocaust? Anti-Semitism took various forms including the most tragic and terrifying ones—murders, of which the Kielce Pogrom of 1946 has the worst reputation”.

„Fear” ignores the history of Polish-Jewish relations and the Jews in communist Poland. There is only a distorted account of misdeeds committed by the Poles.

The book was published in 2006 in the United States and at that time aroused a lot of controversy, since the diagnosis presented in „Fear” is shocking. Gross believes that anti-Semitism in 1940s was driven by the fact that Poles universally, in various ways, participated in murdering and robbing Jews during WWII. The „Fear” of responsibility for these crimes and threat of Jews regaining their property (thus the book title) became a source of animus and aggression against Holocaust survivors and drove Poles to commit subsequent murders. Gross writes: „we have to recognise that there existed in Poland an unwritten social contract that suspended the norm „thou shall not kill” with reference to the Jews”; murdering Jews „did not lead to social sanctions”.

Gross’ book contains many more equally shocking statements. „The presented theses in the book are not up in the air,” writes Woźniakowski, “they are illustrated and supported with evidence, research of historians and brilliant argumentation”. He hopes that the book will stir up a national debate similar to that caused by „Neighbors”. Though Woźniakowski mentions that „Fear” contains controversial threads, however, they are supposed to reinforce mainly the book’s value: „In this painfully brutal or provocative character of the book one should be able to notice not only illuminating and educating values, but also therapeutic value”.

Although our knowledge about the post-war fate of Jews may be inadequate and distorted to a large extent and some shocking therapy may be required, before we proceed to such therapy, it would be worthwhile to check the advisability of such operation, viz. to verify major theses of the book in question. Because in fact only the research techniques rather than any „brilliance” or „therapeutical value” allow us to determine „Fear”’s credibility. In other words is the treatment proposed by Jan Tomasz Gross going to cure the society or is it going to turn out to be harmful?

Away from archives

The research performed by the author raises serious doubts. In the bibliographical notes at the end of the book Gross mentioned 11 archives that were supposed to be covered by his research. The trouble is that two of them, the archives of the Ministry of Public Administration and the archives of Central Committee of Jews in Poland, do not exist at all. Out of the remaining six archives that are in Poland Gross researched only the documents of the Jewish Historical Institute. The book reveals that no other serious research in the remaining archives was carried out. The same goes for the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN). I managed to establish that Gross examined several files in the city of Rzeszów, whereas anywhere else he most probably did not carry out any significant research at all.

For Gross what counts is not the reliability of a source, but birth certificate of the witness. All non-Jewish sources are not only inferior, but irrelevant for establishing the facts.

This is highly significant. In the IPN archives, as well as in the archives at the provincial level (Białystok, Wrocław, Szczecin, Gdańsk, Kielce, Bydgoszcz, Rzeszów, Łódź, and Katowice) there are important collections of records, which play a key role in establishing the whole picture of this period in history. These include the files of provincial authorities, county people’s councils, other government bodies and organizations operating in Poland as well as the files of the Secret Police, Citizens‘ Militia, courts of law and prosecutors’ offices. Generally speaking Gross does not have a clue about the content of the aforementioned records. If the preliminary research on a nationwide basis was too difficult, then he might have examined a significant body of documents at the Archiwum Akt Nowych in Warsaw. But Gross failed to carry out any significant research there. This fact shows in a peculiar light claims about the attitude to the Jewish question of the Citizen’s Militia, Secret Police, and Polish Workers’ Party and other bodies of the communist state. Gross writes, for example, that the stance of the Polish Workers’ Party and the Ministry of Public Security was „neutral” toward assaults on the Jews and that the issue of anti-Jewish violence is “absent or underestimated in the official correspondence on the national security status”. Similar statements of „Fear”’s author are deprived of any scholarly underpinning and are totally false.

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