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Baltimore Sun
July 15th, 2006

Janusz Reiter is Poland's ambassador to the United States.

Stereotypes distort debate on Poland

Like his earlier work Neighbors, Jan T. Gross' new book, Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz, is likely to give another stimulus to the discussion of the history of Polish-Jewish relations.

The subject will be debated by historians, who may agree or disagree with Mr. Gross' interpretations. I am not afraid of the debate. The only thing I do fear is an unhistorical perception on Polish-Jewish relations in the 20th century.

The review of the book by Joan Mellen that The Sun published confirms that this is likely to happen ("Poland's little Holocaust after the Holocaust," July 2).

Reading Ms. Mellen's remarks, I had the impression that the author was inclined to use Mr. Gross' findings to support a preconceived thesis.

Such an approach can only fuel existing stereotypes and prejudices. And referring to the killing of Jews in Poland after World War II as a "little Holocaust" is a very emotional accusation and an unjustifiable comparison.

The debate over Polish-Jewish relations, which intensified after the collapse of communism, has played a very important role in the process of reconstructing Poland's identity as a democratic and modern nation.

The yearly commemorations of the killings of Polish Jews in Jedwabne and Kielce, and the public discussion after the publication of Neighbors, demonstrated that Poland has been able to debate its history in an open and serious way.

We will continue to do so along with making consistent efforts to eradicate the remnants of anti-Semitism from Polish soil, while we support the revival of a small but vibrant Jewish community in Poland and build close ties with the state of Israel and those in the Jewish diaspora.
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