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The Holocaust in Occupied Poland: New Findings and New Interpretations

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Jan Tomasz Gross

New archival materials have provided the basis for rethinking the dynamic of the Holocaust in Poland. These historical sources consist primarily of court papers from postwar trials of Polish citizens. Using such files, historians are now better able to document and write the dramatic story of antagonism between Jews evading the Nazi dragnet, and a hostile rural populace which sometimes collaborated in persecution. Although important works on the Holocaust appeared earlier in Poland, only during the last several years has a scholarly milieu emerged in the country for taking the Holocaust out of its intellectual ghetto as a strictly «Jewish» subject, and repositioning it at the center of Poland’s wartime history.

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Agnieszka Haska: Discourse of Treason in Occupied Poland

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Agnieszka Haska Polish Center for Holocaust Research, Polish Academy of Sciences Discourse of Treason in Occupied Poland In January 1940, the underground magazine Polska Źyje! published one of the first articles on the subject of behavior guidelines for Poles under the occupa- tion. “Some people ask what attitude they should have toward enemy-organized events, German theaters or exhibitions, cinemas or locales, the press or books. It is obvious that a total boycott is recommended, avoiding everything German like the plague.”1 In reality, total avoidance of the occupier was impossible, not to mention the fact that had the issue of proper behavior been obvious, the guide- lines would have been unnecessary. Hence, from the very beginning of the occu- pation, underground organizations created a catalogue of behaviors that qualified as treason against the Polish nation. Later it would become the basis for judg- ments passed by underground courts. The rules were shaped and modified during the occupation period in an attempt to encompass all spheres of social, cultural, and economic life. The guides covered everyday behaviors as well as boycotts of the press, cinema, theater, and the German language. They also contained de- tailed conventions about notifying relevant authorities about instances of STDs and calls for boycotting aspirin, mineral water, and juice produced by the Helia company.2 These guidelines—appearing in both codified form and as articles and judgments printed in the press—constituted the discourse on treason in occupied Poland.3 The codes of civic morality, which were created beginning...

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