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A National Institute for Polish and Polish American Affairs


Analysis of Thane Rosenbaum's Review of FEAR
Rosenbaum's review appeared in the "LA Times" on June 25th, 2006

Link to PDF of Article

The review by Thane Rosenbaum is an accurate summary of Jan Tomasz Gross’s main argument in FEAR. Mr. Rosenbaum, a novelist, does, however, present the argument in highly emotional and hyperbolic prose and he is given to exaggeration. His figure for the number of Polish Jews killed in the Holocaust creeps up by a few hundred thousand over the currently accepted number, for example.

In fact, Mr. Rosenbaum’s writing distorts history and truth by its exaggerations. Prominent examples include “Poland became a shooting gallery with Holocaust survivors as targets” and “It [i.e. the Kielce Pogrom] happened in broad daylight with great acquiescence and unanimity, as if Poland had been in rehearsal for centuries.”

Mr. Rosenbaum also introduces and distorts complex issues not discussed by Professor Gross, as when he asserts “Jewish children who had been given to Poles for safekeeping were not returned to their parents or relatives.” In fact, although separation between some Jewish children and their Christian protectors, who came to love the children, were difficult, in the end no child claimed by parents or even relatives remained in the Christian household that sheltered them.

The language of analysis used by Mr. Rosenbaum is in places anachronistically therapeutic. This language, born out the American self actualization movement, is hardly adequate to describe the reality of postwar Poland. The idea that the Holocaust gave “an artificial boost to peasant self-esteem” rings very strange indeed in light of the immediate history of postwar Poland. Except perhaps for members of the new communist apparatus, it is doubtful that in 1945-1946 anyone felt heightened self-esteem as a result of the effects of the Second World War.

Mr. Rosenbaum sums up the current situation in Poland by concluding that the Poles who witnessed the event are “stunningly unrepentant.” Aside from the oddity of calling on witnesses to repent, he fails to tell his readers of the significant scholarship on the Kielce affair that has developed since the fall of communism, of the public commemorations of the horrific event and the dedication of a new monument near its site.
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