The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland

The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland

by Antony Polonsky
     
 

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Neighbors--Jan Gross's stunning account of the brutal mass murder of the Jews of Jedwabne by their Polish neighbors--was met with international critical acclaim and was a finalist for the National Book Award in the United States. It has also been, from the moment of its publication, the occasion of intense controversy and painful reckoning. This

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Overview

Neighbors--Jan Gross's stunning account of the brutal mass murder of the Jews of Jedwabne by their Polish neighbors--was met with international critical acclaim and was a finalist for the National Book Award in the United States. It has also been, from the moment of its publication, the occasion of intense controversy and painful reckoning. This book captures some of the most important voices in the ensuing debate, including those of residents of Jedwabne itself as well as those of journalists, intellectuals, politicians, Catholic clergy, and historians both within and well beyond Poland's borders.

Antony Polonsky and Joanna Michlic introduce the debate, focusing particularly on how Neighbors rubbed against difficult old and new issues of Polish social memory and national identity. The editors then present a variety of Polish voices grappling with the role of the massacre and of Polish-Jewish relations in Polish history. They include samples of the various strategies used by Polish intellectuals and political elites as they have attempted to deal with their country's dark past, to overcome the legacy of the Holocaust, and to respond to Gross's book.

The Neighbors Respond makes the debate over Neighbors available to an English-speaking audience--and is an excellent tool for bringing the discussion into the classroom. It constitutes an engrossing contribution to modern Jewish history, to our understanding of Polish modern history and identity, and to our bank of Holocaust memory.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jan Gross's 2001 history Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland (a National Book Award and an NBCC Award finalist) documented that the Jewish population of a small Polish town was barbarically slaughtered not by German troops but by their fellow-townspeople. Neighbors unleashed a series of popular and academic controversies not only because of his detailed narrative of the murders but because of the explicit charge that rife anti-Semitism allowed Poles to be complicit with the Holocaust. This comprehensive, compelling and thoughtful collection of articles, interviews, opinion pieces and transcripts of public discussions from Poland and elsewhere brings these controversies to a boil. Holocaust scholars Polonsky and Michlic have done a splendid job of collecting and arranging this material to highlight the inherent intellectual, moral and historical tensions. The editors lend context and clarity to a complex subject by breaking the controversy into seven sections-including the primary source material, the debate with the Polish Catholic church and responses from Jedwabne residents. Most of the disagreement here centers on three questions: Polish "collective responsibility" for the murders; the role of entrenched popular anti-Semitism in Polish culture; and what, if any, role Polish Jews' sympathy for the Soviet Union played in these events. Debating essays between Leon Wieseltier and Adam Michnik are gripping, and others are frequently shocking-as when Polish primate J zef Cardinal Glemp states, in a 2001 interview, that the Jews "knew how to take [economic] advantage of the Poles." This is a major addition to Holocaust studies for both popular and academic readers. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The publication of Jan Gross's Neighbors, which described the 1941 massacre of Jews in the Polish town of Jedwabne by gentile countrymen, caused a firestorm of controversy in Poland. Here, Polansky (Brandeis Univ.) and Michlic (Yad Vashem, Jerusalem) have assembled and translated a selection of material from Polish sources related to the ongoing debates spawned by the book. Essays detail initial reports of the massacre during the war and take an extensive look at the Polish government's official response to Gross's revelations. Of particular interest is the material on the Catholic Church's response to the massacre, which ranges from anti-Semitic to self-reflective, and insights from some of Jedwabne's inhabitants. A final section details the significance of the book outside Poland and its impact on Holocaust historiography in general. An extensive historiographical introduction, along with section introductions, places the controversies into their Polish contexts. As Polansky and Michlic persuasively argue, the debate over Neighbors is more than an argument over the massacre of Polish Jews by their gentile countrymen. It is symptomatic of a greater debate over how Poland's history can, or should, be understood in the wake of the war and after the cultural vacuum created by decades of Communist rule. Suitable for specialized collections and advanced students.-Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Jewish Chronicle
A meritorious, comprehensive reference book revealing a spectral episode which still haunts Poland.
— Adam LeBor
Jewish Book World
The Neighbors Respond is both an important and disturbing book.
— Jack Fischel
Shofar
This is an interesting, highly motivated engagement of a human tragedy reflective of social prejudice that is manifested in any group that premeditatedly considers its relationship with a distinctly different group. It is a telling tale of two peoples, one land, a common tragedy, whose appeal stretches beyond a village in Poland and provides a model for similar studies of other groups in conflict.
— Zev Garber
Jewish Chronicle - Adam LeBor
A meritorious, comprehensive reference book revealing a spectral episode which still haunts Poland.
Jewish Book World - Jack Fischel
The Neighbors Respond is both an important and disturbing book.
Shofar - Zev Garber
This is an interesting, highly motivated engagement of a human tragedy reflective of social prejudice that is manifested in any group that premeditatedly considers its relationship with a distinctly different group. It is a telling tale of two peoples, one land, a common tragedy, whose appeal stretches beyond a village in Poland and provides a model for similar studies of other groups in conflict.
From the Publisher

"This is a major addition to Holocaust studies for both popular and academic readers. . . . [C]omprehensive, compelling and thoughtful . . . Polonsky and Michlic have done a splendid job of collecting and arranging this material to highlight the inherent intellectual, moral and historical tensions."--Publishers Weekly

"A meritorious, comprehensive reference book revealing a spectral episode which still haunts Poland."--Adam LeBor, Jewish Chronicle

"As Polonsky and Michlic persuasively argue, the debate over Neighbors is more than an argument over the massacre of Polish Jews by their gentile countrymen. It is symptomatic of a greater debate over how Poland's history can, or should, be understood in the wake of the war and after the cultural vacuum created by decades of Communist rule."--Library Journal

"The Neighbors Respond is both an important and disturbing book."--Jack Fischel, Jewish Book World

"This is an interesting, highly motivated engagement of a human tragedy reflective of social prejudice that is manifested in any group that premeditatedly considers its relationship with a distinctly different group. It is a telling tale of two peoples, one land, a common tragedy, whose appeal stretches beyond a village in Poland and provides a model for similar studies of other groups in conflict."--Zev Garber, Shofar

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400825813
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
04/11/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
504
Sales rank:
1,259,384
File size:
8 MB

What People are saying about this

Brian Porter
Jan Gross's revelations about the Jedwabne massacre have shaken Polish public opinion such as no other issue since the fall of communism. Now English-speaking readers will be able to sample the richness and complexity of that discussion.
Brian Porter, University of Michigan
Robert Gellately
There was a wide range of responses to Jan Gross's Neighbors around the world, for the good reason that the book frankly astonished us when we learned what happened in a tiny Polish village during the Holocaust. Polish citizens murdered their innocent Jewish neighbors in the cold light of day. Reactions to the book in Poland have varied, but in addition to positive accolades, many journalists, clergy, and 'experts' disputed the book's findings and attacked its author. Until this incredibly important volume, most non-Polish speakers have not been able to follow the interesting debates that ensued. This book provides a wealth of information and translates many key Polish reviews and reactions to Neighbors. The editors' scholarship is first-class from beginning to end. There simply is no comparable book.
Robert Gellately, Earl R. Beck Professor of History, Florida State University

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