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Pogrom Cries – Essays on Polish-Jewish History, 1939–1946

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Joanna Tokarska-Bakir

This book focuses on the fate of Polish Jews and Polish-Jewish relations during the Holocaust and its aftermath, in the ill-recognized era of Eastern-European pogroms after the WW2. It is based on the author’s own ethnographic research in those areas of Poland where the Holocaust machinery operated. The results comprise the anthropological interviews with the members of the generation of Holocaust witnesses and the results of her own extensive archive research in the Polish Institute for National Remembrance (IPN).

«[This book] is at times shocking; however, it grips the reader’s attention from the first to the last page. It is a remarkable work, set to become a classic among the publications in this field.»

Jerzy Jedlicki, Professor Emeritus at the Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences

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Chapter 1: The Unrighteous Righteous and the Righteous Unrighteous

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1

It is said that both Polish and Jewish memories are clouded by two forms of denial.2 According to the self-exonerating version of their history, in which they present themselves as righteous, the Poles deny that any members of their nation murdered Jews during the period of German occupation. On the other hand, Jews, with their post-Holocaust anguish, seem to reflexively deny that any Poles helped or saved Jews. In this book, written in Poland six decades after the Holocaust, I seek to explore these perceptions in a manner that steers clear of both forms of denial.

The source material for this study comprises several hundred testimonies of Holocaust survivors and in some cases also of people who assisted and saved Jews – these people are referred to as the Righteous. The testimonies were given after the war before the Committee for Historical Documentation in Łódź and Kraków, and in individual cases also in Przemyśl and Białystok.3 The accounts ← 13 | 14 → come from Jews and Poles who survived the Holocaust together, albeit under different conditions. Here I focus on the material from the Kielce and Kraków Provinces, and to a lesser extent from the Białystok Province. Since this evidence is limited and in no way constitutes a statistically representative sample (but no such sample is possible given that most witnesses were murdered before they could testify), the conclusions can only be tentative, based on a presumption that these cases are typical of...

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