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Baltimore Sun
July 8th, 2006

Thaddeus Radziloski is the president of the Piast Institute and the co-chairman of the National Polish-American - Jewish-American Council.  An edited version of this letter appeared in the Baltimore Sun.

Link to PDF of Submitted Letter

Jan Gross has written a flawed but not altogether unreliable history of the Kielce Pogrom of 1946 which he tops off, unfortunately, with a wholly unsupportable  interpretation of the event and of that period in Poland. Although his narrative breaks down in a number of places, in particular on his failure to research fully the role of the church, he does in general follow the work of Polish historians who have produced a considerable scholarly literature on the event as well as a two-volume documentary collection put out in the nineties by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN). His account, in fact, adds nothing substantially new to the narrative.

The review in the Sun (July 2) by Joan Mellen, however, goes well beyond the untenable conclusion that Gross urges without evidence on the reader in its hysterical and libelous assertions. It is remarkable that the Sun would choose a reviewer with obvious prejudices and no obvious knowledge of Polish history, Polish-Jewish relations or World War II and its aftermath. She would have profited from a prior reading of B. Weinryb’s The Jews of Poland, Michael Steinlauf’s Bondage to the Dead, and Joshua Zimmerman’s Contested Memories. She also could have used Bozena Szaynok’s article in English on  historiography of the Kielce Pogrom which examined carefully the evidence that the pogrom was engineered or at least abetted by communist security services. Any of these historians would have made a far better reviewer than she.

The story of Kielce belongs specifically to the history of Poland between 1944 – 1948. It was a country devastated by six years of war and occupation, the death of millions of its citizens (Jewish and Gentile) and the displacement even after the war of millions more. In many places in the land ordinary law and order had broken down. It was also nation betrayed by its allies and handed over to a second totalitarian occupier who was arresting, deporting and killing thousands of Poles. Finally, and most importantly, it was a country in the midst of a brutal civil war in which remnants of the underground fought a desperate battle for independence against the Stalinist occupation. As many as 50,000 people died in the postwar violence. About 2% of them were Jewish. Some of them were victims of antisemitic violence, others, like thousands of their gentile neighbors, died at the hands of marauding criminals, still others as bystanders or participants, fell as military casualties of the civil war. The Kielce Pogrom must be understood as one very terrible event in a terrible period that the western world, which shared some of the responsibility for it, has forgotten and ignored.

Thaddeus C. Radzilowski, Ph.D.
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