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Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

One summer day in 1941, half of the Polish town of Jedwabne murdered the other half, 1,600 men, women, and children, all but seven of the town's Jews. Neighbors tells their story.

This is a shocking, brutal story that has never before been told. It is the most important study of Polish-Jewish relations to be published in decades and should become a classic of Holocaust literature.

Jan Gross pieces together eyewitness accounts and other evidence into an engulfing reconstruction of the horrific July day remembered well by locals but forgotten by history. His investigation reads like a detective story, and its unfolding yields wider truths about Jewish-Polish relations, the Holocaust, and human responses to occupation and totalitarianism. It is a story of surprises: The newly occupying German army did not compel the massacre, and Jedwabne's Jews and Christians had previously enjoyed cordial relations. After the war, the nearby family who saved Jedwabne's surviving Jews was derided and driven from the area. The single Jew offered mercy by the town declined it.

Most arresting is the sinking realization that Jedwabne's Jews were clubbed, drowned, gutted, and burned not by faceless Nazis, but by people whose features and names they knew well: their former schoolmates and those who sold them food, bought their milk, and chatted with them in the street. As much as such a question can ever be answered, Neighbors tells us why.

In many ways, this is a simple book. It is easy to read in a single sitting, and hard not to. But its simplicity is deceptive. Gross's new and persuasive answers to vexed questions rewrite the history of twentieth-century Poland. This book proves, finally, that the fates of Poles and Jews during World War II can be comprehended only together.

Review:

"Poles of my generation, born around 1950, usually remember the moment when they learned of the existence of Jews. In my case, the moment occurred in March 1968, two months before my high school graduation. Students in Warsaw were demonstrating at the universities against censorship and for something that they called "pluralism" (democracy still did not dare to speak its name). The official press described the demonstrations as a "Zionist conspiracy," and it treated its readers daily to the "real" ? that is, Jewish-sounding ? names of some of the protest leaders, as well as the names of professors and intellectuals who had the temerity to defend them. It was then, during those exhilarating and surreal days, that I discovered that some of my best friends were, indeed, Jews.

Before this, there were no Jews, and certainly no "Zionists," in Poland. There were "people of Jewish origin," or (rather oddly) "Poles of Mosaic faith." The word Jew (Zyd) was usually written in lower case, which in Polish suggests a religion,..." Jaroslaw Anders, The New Republic (click here to read the entire New Republic review)

Review:

"Nothing could have prepared the 1,600 Jews in Jedwabne, a town in northeast Poland, for the hell of their final days in the summer of 1941. . . . It is an especially gruesome Holocaust horror story. But it is a tale that, 60 years later, has stunned Poland. For what Poles have learned recently is that the perpetrators in this case weren't Germans, though the Nazi occupiers clearly approved the slaughter. They were Poles, the Jedwabne neighbors of the Jews. And the revelation of their role has triggered a wave of agonized soul-searching since it emerged . . . in Neighbors, a slim, carefully researched book [that] has guaranteed that Poles will never see their wartime history in the same way. . . . The controversy over Neighbors is already spreading across the Atlantic." Andrew Nagorski, Newsweek

Review:

"Neighbors strikes squarely at Poland's accepted historical narrative . . . One Polish critic compares the gathering controversy to the uproar with which Germans greeted Hitler's Willing Executioners, Daniel Goldhagen's 1996 study of civilian participation in the Holocaust." John Reed, Financial Times

Review:

"The first question that leaps to mind is why the story of a massacre so monstrous, and of such historic significance, should surface only now, half a century after the fact. The answer to this question is both startling and complex. . . . A detailed account is provided by the sociologist and historian Jan T. Gross in his book. . . Gross's scrupulously documented study challenges another cherished myth: the noble attempts of most Poles to save Jews." Abraham Brumberg, Times Literary Supplement

Synopsis:

In the summer of 1941, half of the Polish town of Jedwabne murdered the other half - 16,000 of the town's Jews. This book pieces together eyewitness accounts and other evidence into a reconstruction of that horrific July day remembered well by locals but forgotten by history.

Synopsis:

"Neighbors is a truly pathbreaking book, the work of a master historian. Jan Gross has a shattering tale to tell, and he tells it with consummate skill and control. The impact of his account of the massacre of the Jews of Jedwabne by their Polish neighbors is all the greater for the calm, understated narration and Gross's careful reconstruction of the terrifying circumstances in which the killing was undertaken. But this little book is much, much more than just another horror story from the Holocaust. In his imaginative reflections upon the tragedy of Jedwabne, Gross has subtly recast the history of wartime Poland and proposed an original interpretation of the origins of the postwar Communist regime. This book has already had dramatic repercussions in Poland, where it has single-handedly prised open a closed and painful chapter in that nation's recent past. But Neighbors is not only about Poland. It is a moving and provocative rumination upon the most important ethical issue of our age. No one who has studied or lived through the twentieth century can afford to ignore it."--Tony Judt, Director, Remarque Institute

"This tiny book reveals a shocking story buried for sixty years, and it has set of a round of soul searching in Poland. But the questions it raises are of universal significance: How do 'ordinary men' turn suddenly into 'willing executioners?' What, if anything, can be learned from history about 'national character?' Where do we draw the line between legitimately assigning present responsibility for wrongs perpetrated by previous generations and unfairly visiting the sins of the fathers on the children? The author has no facile answers to these problems, but his story asks us to think about them in new ways."--David Engel, author of The Holocaust: The Third Reich and the Jews

"This is unquestionably one of the most important books I have read in the last decade both on the general question of the mass murder of the Jews during World War II and on the more specific problem of the reaction of Polish society to that genocide. All of the issues it raises are handled with consummate mastery. I finished this short book both appalled at the events it describes and filled with admiration for the wise and all-encompassing skill with which the painful, difficult, and complex subject has been handled."--Antony Polonsky, Brandeis University

Synopsis:

One summer day in 1941, half of the Polish town of Jedwabne murdered the other half, 1,600 men, women, and children, all but seven of the town's Jews. Neighbors tells their story.

This is a shocking, brutal story that has never before been told. It is the most important study of Polish-Jewish relations to be published in decades and should become a classic of Holocaust literature.

Jan Gross pieces together eyewitness accounts and other evidence into an engulfing reconstruction of the horrific July day remembered well by locals but forgotten by history. His investigation reads like a detective story, and its unfolding yields wider truths about Jewish-Polish relations, the Holocaust, and human responses to occupation and totalitarianism. It is a story of surprises: The newly occupying German army did not compel the massacre, and Jedwabne's Jews and Christians had previously enjoyed cordial relations. After the war, the nearby family who saved Jedwabne's surviving Jews was derided and driven from the area. The single Jew offered mercy by the town declined it.

Most arresting is the sinking realization that Jedwabne's Jews were clubbed, drowned, gutted, and burned not by faceless Nazis, but by people whose features and names they knew well: their former schoolmates and those who sold them food, bought their milk, and chatted with them in the street. As much as such a question can ever be answered, Neighbors tells us why.

In many ways, this is a simple book. It is easy to read in a single sitting, and hard not to. But its simplicity is deceptive. Gross's new and persuasive answers to vexed questions rewrite the history of twentieth-century Poland. This book proves, finally, that the fates of Poles and Jews during World War II can be comprehended only together.

About the Author

Jan T. Gross is Professor of Politics and European Studies at New York University. He is the author of, among other books, Revolution from Abroad: Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia (Princeton) and a coeditor of The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and Its Aftermath (Princeton).

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 3

Outline of the Story 14

Sources 23

Before the War 33

Soviet Occupation, 1939-1941 41

The Outbreak of the Russo-German War and the Pogrom in Radzilow 54

Preparations 72

Who Murdered the Jews of Jedwabne? 79

The Murder 90

Plunder 105

Intimate Biographies 111

Anachronism 122

What Do People Remember? 126

Collective Responsibility 132

New Approach to Sources 138

Is It Possible to Be Simultaneously a Victim and a Victimizer?143

Collaboration 152

Social Support for Stalinism 164

For a New Historiography 168

Postscript 171

Notes 205

Index 249

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691086675
Author:
Gross, Jan T.
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Author:
Gross, Jan T.
Author:
Gross, Jant T.
Location:
Princeton
Subject:
Eastern Europe - Poland
Subject:
History
Subject:
Jewish
Subject:
Jews
Subject:
Holocaust
Subject:
Holocaust, jewish
Subject:
Jedwabne
Subject:
Jewish - General
Subject:
European History
Subject:
Jewish studies
Subject:
Sociology
Subject:
Political Science and International Relations
Subject:
Jews - Poland - Jedwabne - History
Subject:
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Poland.
Subject:
World History-Holocaust
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Series Volume:
no. 9
Publication Date:
March 2001
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
Language:
English
Illustrations:
27 halftones, 3 maps
Pages:
216
Dimensions:
8 x 5 in 12 oz

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Military » World War II » General
History and Social Science » World History » Eastern Europe
History and Social Science » World History » Holocaust
Religion » Judaism » Holocaust

Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 216 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691086675 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Poles of my generation, born around 1950, usually remember the moment when they learned of the existence of Jews. In my case, the moment occurred in March 1968, two months before my high school graduation. Students in Warsaw were demonstrating at the universities against censorship and for something that they called "pluralism" (democracy still did not dare to speak its name). The official press described the demonstrations as a "Zionist conspiracy," and it treated its readers daily to the "real" ? that is, Jewish-sounding ? names of some of the protest leaders, as well as the names of professors and intellectuals who had the temerity to defend them. It was then, during those exhilarating and surreal days, that I discovered that some of my best friends were, indeed, Jews.

Before this, there were no Jews, and certainly no "Zionists," in Poland. There were "people of Jewish origin," or (rather oddly) "Poles of Mosaic faith." The word Jew (Zyd) was usually written in lower case, which in Polish suggests a religion,..." Jaroslaw Anders, The New Republic (click here to read the entire New Republic review)

"Review" by , "Nothing could have prepared the 1,600 Jews in Jedwabne, a town in northeast Poland, for the hell of their final days in the summer of 1941. . . . It is an especially gruesome Holocaust horror story. But it is a tale that, 60 years later, has stunned Poland. For what Poles have learned recently is that the perpetrators in this case weren't Germans, though the Nazi occupiers clearly approved the slaughter. They were Poles, the Jedwabne neighbors of the Jews. And the revelation of their role has triggered a wave of agonized soul-searching since it emerged . . . in Neighbors, a slim, carefully researched book [that] has guaranteed that Poles will never see their wartime history in the same way. . . . The controversy over Neighbors is already spreading across the Atlantic."
"Review" by , "Neighbors strikes squarely at Poland's accepted historical narrative . . . One Polish critic compares the gathering controversy to the uproar with which Germans greeted Hitler's Willing Executioners, Daniel Goldhagen's 1996 study of civilian participation in the Holocaust."
"Review" by , "The first question that leaps to mind is why the story of a massacre so monstrous, and of such historic significance, should surface only now, half a century after the fact. The answer to this question is both startling and complex. . . . A detailed account is provided by the sociologist and historian Jan T. Gross in his book. . . Gross's scrupulously documented study challenges another cherished myth: the noble attempts of most Poles to save Jews."
"Synopsis" by , In the summer of 1941, half of the Polish town of Jedwabne murdered the other half - 16,000 of the town's Jews. This book pieces together eyewitness accounts and other evidence into a reconstruction of that horrific July day remembered well by locals but forgotten by history.
"Synopsis" by ,

"Neighbors is a truly pathbreaking book, the work of a master historian. Jan Gross has a shattering tale to tell, and he tells it with consummate skill and control. The impact of his account of the massacre of the Jews of Jedwabne by their Polish neighbors is all the greater for the calm, understated narration and Gross's careful reconstruction of the terrifying circumstances in which the killing was undertaken. But this little book is much, much more than just another horror story from the Holocaust. In his imaginative reflections upon the tragedy of Jedwabne, Gross has subtly recast the history of wartime Poland and proposed an original interpretation of the origins of the postwar Communist regime. This book has already had dramatic repercussions in Poland, where it has single-handedly prised open a closed and painful chapter in that nation's recent past. But Neighbors is not only about Poland. It is a moving and provocative rumination upon the most important ethical issue of our age. No one who has studied or lived through the twentieth century can afford to ignore it."--Tony Judt, Director, Remarque Institute

"This tiny book reveals a shocking story buried for sixty years, and it has set of a round of soul searching in Poland. But the questions it raises are of universal significance: How do 'ordinary men' turn suddenly into 'willing executioners?' What, if anything, can be learned from history about 'national character?' Where do we draw the line between legitimately assigning present responsibility for wrongs perpetrated by previous generations and unfairly visiting the sins of the fathers on the children? The author has no facile answers to these problems, but his story asks us to think about them in new ways."--David Engel, author of The Holocaust: The Third Reich and the Jews

"This is unquestionably one of the most important books I have read in the last decade both on the general question of the mass murder of the Jews during World War II and on the more specific problem of the reaction of Polish society to that genocide. All of the issues it raises are handled with consummate mastery. I finished this short book both appalled at the events it describes and filled with admiration for the wise and all-encompassing skill with which the painful, difficult, and complex subject has been handled."--Antony Polonsky, Brandeis University

"Synopsis" by ,

One summer day in 1941, half of the Polish town of Jedwabne murdered the other half, 1,600 men, women, and children, all but seven of the town's Jews. Neighbors tells their story.

This is a shocking, brutal story that has never before been told. It is the most important study of Polish-Jewish relations to be published in decades and should become a classic of Holocaust literature.

Jan Gross pieces together eyewitness accounts and other evidence into an engulfing reconstruction of the horrific July day remembered well by locals but forgotten by history. His investigation reads like a detective story, and its unfolding yields wider truths about Jewish-Polish relations, the Holocaust, and human responses to occupation and totalitarianism. It is a story of surprises: The newly occupying German army did not compel the massacre, and Jedwabne's Jews and Christians had previously enjoyed cordial relations. After the war, the nearby family who saved Jedwabne's surviving Jews was derided and driven from the area. The single Jew offered mercy by the town declined it.

Most arresting is the sinking realization that Jedwabne's Jews were clubbed, drowned, gutted, and burned not by faceless Nazis, but by people whose features and names they knew well: their former schoolmates and those who sold them food, bought their milk, and chatted with them in the street. As much as such a question can ever be answered, Neighbors tells us why.

In many ways, this is a simple book. It is easy to read in a single sitting, and hard not to. But its simplicity is deceptive. Gross's new and persuasive answers to vexed questions rewrite the history of twentieth-century Poland. This book proves, finally, that the fates of Poles and Jews during World War II can be comprehended only together.

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