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Submitted to the New York Times
July 23rd, 2006

Charles Chotkowski is director of research for the Holocaust Documentation Committee at the Polish American Congress.

Link to PDF of Submitted Letter

David Margolick begins his review of "Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz" by Jan T. Gross ("Postwar Pogrom," July 23) with an anecdote about an insulting remark by a Pole to Jews in Lodz in the late 1950's.

I could begin with anecdotes of insulting words, and worse deeds, by Jews against Poles in eastern Poland under Soviet occupation in 1939-41. I would then be accused of blaming all Jews for the actions of a few, and exploiting the stereotype of zydokomuna ("Judeo-Communism"). Yet Gross in his book and Margolick in his review unashamedly impute guilt for the 1946 Kielce pogrom and other crimes not only to the actual perpetrators, but to the entire Polish nation as well, utilizing the stereotype of Poland's anti-Semitism.

"Fear" is replete with unproven assertions and selective use of memoirs. Gross does not prove his theory that Poles felt guilt over "plundering" Jewish property, or should have. In a Poland devastated by war, any intact property had to be put to immediate use.

He does not prove that the pogrom victims were murdered because they had returned to Kielce to reclaim property, or that the killers held formerly Jewish property. Both are highly unlikely. He quotes memoirs of Jews who left Poland, but not of those who safely remained; memoirs of Jews who heard Poles mocking the ghetto fighters, but not of those who heard respect and admiration. Margolick fails to mention the little civil war raging in Poland in 1944-47, which cost 25,000 to 50,000 lives, as Communist rule was imposed on an unwilling population. Between 400 and 700 Jews (not 1,500) were killed then, a small fraction of the total.

He doesn't criticize the many lapses in "Fear," but does support the bigoted statement by Yitzhak Shamir "that Poles suck in anti-Semitism with their mothers milk." That alone should have disqualified Margolick as a reviewer.

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