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Submitted to the
New York Sun
July 1st, 2006

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

Link to PDF of Submitted Letter

To the Editor:

Adam Kirsch, reviewing “Fear” by Jan T. Gross (“Storms of Brutality,” June 28), correctly notes that Gross’s analysis of postwar Polish anti-Semitism is “imaginative” and “unorthodox.” He should have added unproven, as Gross makes no attempt to prove his thesis.

Gross believes “it was widespread collusion in the Nazi-driven plunder, spoliation, and eventual murder of the Jews that generated Polish anti-Semitism after the war.” He uses the Kielce pogrom of July 4, 1946 as his case in point.

But he doesn't show that the victims of the pogrom were former residents who had returned to Kielce to reclaim their properties, or that the perpetrators were plunderers of Jewish possessions.

It’s doubtful he could make that showing. The murdered Jews had arrived from the Soviet Union, and presumably came originally from the eastern Polish borderlands, not Kielce.

Gross’s analysis is numerically implausible. A substantial majority of the over 20 million surviving ethnic Poles couldn’t possibly be plunderers of the properties of the 3.3 million Jews in prewar Poland.

The Kielce pogrom has been the subject of historical investigation since the fall of Communism in Poland, and a careful reader of “Fear” will recognize that its reconstruction of events owes much to Polish historiography – the work of Bozena Szaynok, Stanislaw Meducki, Zenon Wrona, and the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), which investigates and prosecutes crimes against the Polish nation.

Mr. Kirsch calls the pogrom “a spontaneous massacre carried out in peacetime.” But Poland in 1946 was not at peace: it was in a civil war as Communist rule was imposed by force on an unwilling population, at a cost of 25,000 to 50,000 lives.

The failure of commanders of the army, police, and state security to quell the riot, and the attempt by the government to blame the violence on the non-Communist opposition, breed suspicion that the massacre was not spontaneous.

IPN official Jan Zaryn, editor of a recent book, “About the Kielce Pogrom,” says regarding its inspiration “the most comprehensive and logical is the concept of Soviet or Security Office provocation.”

Mr. Kirsch employs the pernicious concept of “passive complicity,” as if simply viewing the genocide of 3 million Polish Jews made the Poles guilty bystanders. Remember the Nazis also murdered 2 million non-Jewish Poles, and imposed the death penalty on Poles who helped Jews.

“Fear” is based on the doubtful premise that one may know “the true character of wartime Polish Jewish relations” from the worst pogrom in postwar Europe. When all Jews are judged by the worst among them, it’s called anti-Semitism; Gross’s book betrays itself as an exercise in anti-Polonism.


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