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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 6: Pogrom Cries

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Judging from the popularity of conspiracy theories regarding the postwar Polish pogroms against the Jews,1 Polish historians are less interested in the overt aspects of these pogroms than the hidden ones. For instance, very few studies have explored the character and the conditions of the aggression against the ← 221 | 222 → Jews, despite its obvious manifestation.2 In this chapter, I would like to use hitherto overlooked source material characterized by immediacy. The immediacy of sources appears in historical discourse when instead of paraphrasing the utterances of the participants, they are simply allowed to speak. A paraphrase is always anachronistic, whereas live speech recorded in sources is a kind of a fossil that transmits the voice of an era.

This chapter, inspired by Victor Turner’s anthropology of performance,3 analyzes a particular aspect of this voice: the cries of the mob gathered along the route taken on 12 June 1945 by the militia escorting Jewish tenants of the house at 3 Tannenbauma St.; the mob gathered on 11 August 1945 at 27 Miodowa St. in Kraków; as well as that at 7 Planty St. in Kielce on 4 July 1946.4 I will treat these cries as a source for the study of mentality. They allow us to view the three analyzed pogroms as a kind of a spectacle, which Turner calls “social drama”. Thanks to particular performative features, Pogrom Cries reveal, in historical events,

the “taxonomy” of social relations between actors (their family relationships,...

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