Fear by Jan Gross
Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz

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Synopsis

Poland suffered an exceedingly brutal Nazi occupation during the Second World War. Close to five million Polish citizens lost their lives as a result. More than half the casualties were Polish Jews. Thus, the second largest Jewish community in the world–only American Jewry numbered more than the three and a half million Polish Jews at the time–was wiped out. Over 90 percent of its members were killed in the Holocaust. And yet, despite this unprecedented calamity that affected both Jews and non-Jews, Jewish Holocaust survivors returning to their hometowns in Poland 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 the Polish town of Kielce one year after the war ended, on July 4, 1946.

Jan Gross’s Fear attempts to answer a perplexing question: How was anti-Semitism possible in Poland after the war? At the center of his investigation is a detailed reconstruction of the Kielce pogrom and the reactions it evoked in various milieus of Polish society. How did the Polish Catholic Church, Communist party workers, and intellectuals respond to the spectacle of Jews being murdered by their fellow citizens in a country that had just been liberated from a five-year Nazi occupation?

Gross argues that the anti-Semitism displayed in Poland in the war’s aftermath 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 in which many had joined in the Nazi campaign of plunder and murder–and for whom the Jewish survivors were a standing reproach.

Jews did not bring communism to Poland as some believe; in fact, they were finally driven out of Poland under the Communist regime as a matter of political expediency. In the words of the Nobel Prize—winning poet Czeslaw Milosz, 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 the Jewish Holocaust survivors in Poland has been cloaked in guilt and shame. Writing with passion, brilliance, and fierce clarity, Jan T. Gross at last brings the truth to light.

 

About Jan Gross

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Jan T. Gross was a 2001 National Book Award nominee for his widely acclaimed Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. He teaches history at Princeton University, where he is a Norman B. Tomlinson '16 and '48 Professor of War and Society.From the Hardcover edition.
 
Published December 18, 2007 by Random House. 320 pages
Genres: History, Travel, Religion & Spirituality, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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In most events, Gross concludes, Jews were perceived as dangerous and frightening, “not because of what they had done or could do to the Poles, but because of what Poles had done to the Jews.” The Jews were witnesses, motive enough to silence them.

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The New York Times

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And while the Nazis killed millions of Jews, Poles killed thousands — most famously, as Gross related in “Neighbors” (2001), a book that caused an uproar in Poland, 1,600 of them in the town of Jebwabne in July 1941 — crimes little noted at the time nor since remembered in Polish history books.

Jul 23 2006 | Read Full Review of Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland...

Project MUSE

the Righteous Poles who were afraid of the consequences if their neighbors knew they had hidden Jews during the war (the neighbors might have murdered them in hopes of digging up the mythic Jewish wealth their neighbors must have appropriated);

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Tucson Citizen

Gross, a Princeton professor and winner of the 2001 National Book Award for his widely acclaimed “Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland,” attempts to answer a perplexing question in his most recent book: How was anti-Semitism possible in Poland after the war?

Aug 03 2006 | Read Full Review of Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland...

Reviews in History

Gross differentiates between hardships which Jews would have suffered in common with the Polish community-a general sense of insecurity which dominated daily life in war-torn Polish territories-and those that were experienced by Jews alone;

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