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The Epilogue

Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz by Jan T. Gross

Reviewed by Ruth Franklin
The New Republic Online

"In spring 1945, not long after his liberation from Auschwitz, Primo Levi, traveling across southern Poland by train, got off in a small town to stretch his legs and immediately found himself at the center of a group of curious people, all speaking excitedly, and incomprehensibly, in Polish. 'Perhaps I was among the first dressed in "zebra" clothes to appear in that place,' he surmised, referring to the striped uniform of the death camp, in The Reawakening, his memoir of the journey home through the wreckage of Europe. Fortunately for Levi..." Read the entire New Republic Online review.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Reawakening: The Companion... Used Trade Paper $7.50

4 Responses to "The Epilogue"

    lionhead September 28th, 2006 at 8:46 am

    The Nazis controlled the everyday doings of the populace with force, then they controlled their ideas, then they persecuted and anhilated Jews. The people, for the most part, had come to accept that what the Nazis claimed about the Jews. (Those who rejected these ideas had, perforce, to conceal their disagreement.) Much later, as the rest of the world began to process the evil and idiocy and horror of what had happened, to those more or less intimately involved in it (as the people were who are described in Gross' book) had basically two choices to approach the phenonomena of the continuing persecution and killing of Jews: Admit that the pograms and attitudes toward Jews was wrong and that their people--Germans, and many others--had to recognize that (an extremely painful emotional state), or to believe somehow that what had been done in the pograms and camps had to be done, and therefore the stance toward Jews must continue along those lines in order to justify what had been done.

    This state of mind was described by Leon Festinger: Cognitive dissonance.

    The state of cognitive dissonance is extremely uncomfortable and will be avoide at almost any cost. The cognitive dissonance in the minds of non-Jews coming out of the horrors of the years of the Nazi concentration camps when the "moral" requirement (to save themselves) was to eschew, reveal the location of and even murder Jews, could not be magically turned around with the defeat of the Nazis and the revelations to the rest of the world of the concentration camps. Later, in the events described in Gross' book, many people apparently were seeking relief from their own cognitive dissonance by turning things around in their mind again to believe that their moral obligation was to eschew the Jews. This provided the consonance with the activities of their predecessors.

    The alternative--giving any Jews they knew, came to know and whom they came in contact with succor and asking forgiveness of them for how they or their predecessors had felt and acted decades earlier--would require doing something with that lingering cognitive dissonance. That is, if I am now able to treat Jews as human beings entitled to any and all of the rights and privileges to walk the earth as I have, then how can I possibly reconcile how I and my relatives and compatriots acted and felt toward them earlier?

    Mariana September 29th, 2006 at 12:23 am

    I can not imagine what it must have been like having to write this review. Thank you for giving us this information.

    Mike Wittle September 29th, 2006 at 2:30 am

    I am so glad to live in the United States of America where the self-righteous hatred and exploitation of "others" is not allowed to happen. Can't we do something about the Poles - especially since their attitudes obviously haven't changed with the times - invade maybe? Wait - do we have any secret prisons over there?

    Sayibu Ibrahim September 30th, 2006 at 12:34 am

    What are the citicisms of Powell's on W.W Rostow's stages of economic growth:Non-communist manifesto.

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