Poland suffered an exceedingly brutal Nazi occupation during the Second World War. Close to five million Poles were killed. Of these, more than half were Jews killed in the Holocaust. Ninety percent of the world's second largest Jewish community was annihilated. But despite the calamity shared by Poland's Jews and non-Jews, anti-Semitic violence did not stop in Poland with the end of the war. Jewish Holocaust survivors returning to their Polish hometowns after the war experienced widespread hostility, including murder, at the hands of their neighbors. The bloodiest peacetime pogrom in twentieth-century Europe took place in Kielce, Poland, a year after the war ended. Jan Gross's Fear is a detailed reconstruction of this pogrom and the Polish reactions to it that attempts to answer a perplexing question: How was anti-Semitism possible in Poland after the war?
Gross argues that postwar Polish anti-Semitism cannot be understood simply as a continuation of prewar attitudes. Rather, it developed in the context of the Holocaust and the Communist takeover: Anti-Semitism eventually became a common currency between the Communist regime and a society filled with people who had participated in the Nazi campaign of murder and plunder, people for whom Jewish survivors were a standing reproach. The Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz said that Poland's Communist rulers fulfilled the dream of Polish nationalists by bringing into existence an ethnically pure state.
For more than half a century, what happened to Jewish Holocaust survivors in Poland has been cloaked in guilt and shame. Writing with passion, brilliance, and fierce clarity, Gross at last brings the truth to light.
"Bone-chilling . . . [Fear] is illuminating and searing, a moral indictment delivered with cool, lawyerly efficiency that pounds away at the conscience with the sledgehammer of a verdict. . . . Fear takes on an entire nation, forever depriving Poland of any false claims to the smug, easy virtue of an innocent bystander to Nazi atrocities. . . . Gross' Fear should inspire a national reflection on why there are scarcely any Jews left in Poland. It's never too late to mourn. The soul of the country depends on it."--Thane Rosenbaum, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Ultimately, what's far more important than the 'why' of this story is the 'that': that a civilized nation could have descended so low, and that such behavior must be documented, remembered, discussed. This Gross does, intelligently and exhaustively."--David Margolick, New York Times Book Review
"This book tells a wartime horror story that should force Poles to confront an untold--and profoundly terrifying--aspect of their history. Fear relates, in compelling detail, how Poles from virtually all segments of society persecuted the poor, emaciated and traumatized Holocaust survivors. . . . After reading Fear, the next time I hear someone say the Poles were as bad as the Germans, I will probably still challenge that charge . . . but my challenge will be far less forceful."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"This is a brilliantly-written history that combines narrative power with analytical depth. Gross treats his readers with respect, offering every possible interpretation of the evidence before offering his own (often withering) judgment. The word 'genius' is carelessly thrown around these days, but with Fear, Gross genuinely deserves the accolade."--David Cesarani, Jewish Chronicle
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: POLAND ABANDONED 3
Chapter 2: THE UNWELCOMING OF JEWISH SURVIVORS 31
Chapter 3: THE KIELCE POGROM: EVENTS 81
Chapter 4: THE KIELCE POGROM: REACTIONS 118
Chapter 5: BLINDED BY SOCIAL DISTANCE 167
Chapter 6: ZYDOKOMUNA 192
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Jan T. Gross:
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File created: 4/27/2015