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Poland and Polin

New Interpretations in Polish-Jewish Studies


Edited By Irena Grudzińska-Gross and Iwa Nawrocki

The contributions in this volume reflect discussions and controversies during the Princeton University Conference on Polish-Jewish Studies (April 18–19, 2015). The debates examined the politics of history in Poland, as well as the scholarly and pedagogical need to move beyond national and diasporic narratives in researching and teaching Polish-Jewish subjects. They focused on the role and meaning of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
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The Holocaust as a Polish Problem


Rarely does an academic paper, such as this one, require an update between the time it is delivered and the time it goes to print. This, however, is one of these rare cases. At the same time – to the day – when this paper was being read (at the Polish-Jewish Studies Workshop held at Princeton University on April 18–19, 2015), James Comey, the director of the FBI, gave an important, moving speech at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Having visited the exhibition entitled “Some Were Neighbors,” which focused on the attitudes of so-called “bystanders” during the Holocaust, Comey went on to say:

Good people helped murder millions. And that’s the most frightening lesson of all – that our very humanity made us capable of, even susceptible to, surrendering our individual moral authority to the group, where it can be hijacked by evil. Of being so cowed by those in power. Of convincing ourselves of nearly anything. In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t do something evil. They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do. That’s what people do. And that should truly frighten us.1

One would think that the director of the FBI spoke with empathy and wisdom. That one could hardly take issue with any of the points raised above. Wrong. Comey’s words raised an immediate fury in Poland. Bronis...

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