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Submitted to the New York Sun
July 12th, 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:

I regret that the review of “Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz” by Jan T. Gross was assigned to Susan Rubin Suleiman, a professor of comparative literature, rather than a historian with a good grasp of that place and time (“Aftershocks,” Books, July 2). Her review overlooks lapses in the book, and adds errors of its own.

Gross’s previous book, “Neighbors,” on the Jedwabne massacre, did not lead to the “creation” of Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), which has existed under four names since the end of World War II. The IPN investigation of the massacre found significant errors in Gross’s account: there were about 400 victims, not 1,600, and 40 perpetrators, not half the town. The IPN found two other towns, not “many,” with massacres of similar size.

Gross ignores a recent scholarly work on the same subject, “After the Holocaust: Polish-Jewish Conflict in the Wake of World War II” by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz (East European Monographs/Columbia University Press, 2003). Chodakiewicz counts between 400 and 700 Jews, not “approximately 1,000,” murdered in postwar Poland from various motives, not solely anti-Semitism.

Asserting that Polish “collusion” in Nazi-driven plunder of Jewish property generated postwar anti-Semitism, Gross cites the Kielce pogrom of 1946 as his case in point. Yet he never shows that the victims were former residents who had returned to Kielce to reclaim their property, or that the killers held formerly Jewish possessions. Exceptions like Jedwabne aside, there was little collaboration with the Nazis in Poland.

“Fear” does benefit from research into the Kielce pogrom by Polish scholars such as Bozena Szaynok of Wroclaw University. Their scholarship refutes the charge that Poland has failed to face up to its past. But Gross’s original contribution, an “essay in historical interpretation,” on the source of anti-Semitism after the war, is unsupported and contributes little to our understanding of that period in Polish history.


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