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A National Institute for Polish and Polish American Affairs

Analysis of Susan Suleiman's Review of FEAR
Suleiman's review appeard in the "Boston Globe" on July 2nd, 2006

Link to PDF of Article

Susan Suleiman’s review of FEAR is skeptical of the all-embracing character of Professor Gross’s explanation for postwar anti-Semitism and the Kielce pogrom, but she neglects in her critique to mention the largest and most powerful factor affecting postwar Poland: the postwar milieu.  For example, as several of the essays in this collection have pointed out, the reaction of workers in nearby factories to the events at Kielce, and the statements made by Catholic Bishops, were the products of a bitter and highly political postwar situation where the communist authorities were attempting to blame the pogrom on anti-communist and independent forces. 

Suleiman is also particularly interested in Professor Gross’s treatment of the issue of Judeo-communism.  Professor Gross argues that the majority of Jews were anti-communist, and that although some powerful and visible leaders of the Communist party and security services were Jewish, the anti-Semitism of Stalin largely negated any influence they had and, as a result, this could not have been a real factor in anti-Jewish feeling.  In totally embracing this argument, Suleiman, like Professor Gross, ignores the issue of the widespread perception of Jewish support for the new regime as a significant factor.  As Bozena Szaynok and other historians point out, this was a very complicated issue born out of the different experiences of these two peoples.  It began with the simple fact that Jews, unlike their Catholic compatriots, were likely to view the Soviet presence as a liberation, while Catholic Poles saw it as a new murderous foreign occupation.  As one can imagine, this distinction alone had the capacity to put these two peoples at significant odds.

There are a number of other points in Suleiman’s review that also deserve note:

  1. Most of the confiscations of property – both Jewish and Gentile – were done by the Nazi and Communist states.  Considerable Jewish property was returned to the original owners after the war as court records in cities such as Kielce itself demonstrate.  Given the want and barbaric destruction that war and occupation brought, there was little profit derived by anyone at war’s end.  Currently 80% of the claims for restitution are from gentiles and 20% are from Jewish claimants.
  2. There is no country in Europe today whose leadership in recent administrations has been as outspoken against anti-Semitism as Poland.  There is also no country in Europe which has been, since the fall of communism, as strongly supportive of Israel.  In fact, articles and editorials in leading Israeli newspapers have recently lauded Poland as “Israel’s new best friend.”
  3. Whatever view one has of Pope Benedict’s interpretation of World War II, Nazism and Shoah, there is no question that his speech at Auschwitz was a powerful denunciation, in quite specific details, of the Holocaust and the attempted destruction of the Jewish people by Nazi Germany.  He has strongly condemned anti-Semitism in several other major addresses as well, including a recent speech to the Italian Rabbinate.
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