New Interpretations in Polish-Jewish Studies
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
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