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Collected Essays on War, Holocaust and the Crisis of Communism


Jan Tomasz Gross

The author undertakes an intellectual journey into the hidden past of the Polish history after 1939. He deals with Holocaust, collaboration, totalitarian rule, crisis of communism in Eastern Europe as well as Polish-Jewish relations during the war. The author is a founding father of a new approach in Holocaust research in Poland in which he has taken it from out of its intellectual ghetto as a strictly Jewish subject and repositioned it at the center of Poland’s wartime history. Among other topics, the collection of essays deals with Jewish community in the Soviet annexed territories on the eve of the Holocaust, opportunistic killings and plunder of Jews by their neighbors and Poland’s development from a civil society to a political nation.
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2. Themes for a Social History of War Experience and Collaboration


2.  Themes for a Social History of War Experience and Collaboration*

As a preliminary to a wide-ranging inquiry into the problems of war and its aftermath in Europe, I propose that we conceive of a society’s experiences of war and occupation as if they were endogenous. This may not be a particularly original insight, but it departs from routine, prima facie approach where states or societies drawn into war or put under occupation are studied primarily as entities subject to external, imposed circumstances. As a result we are more likely to find in the literature political histories of wartime regimes than social histories of countries under occupation.

And yet all social systems at all times operate within constraints that they do not set and control, or cannot anticipate.5 This is a trivial point again, and one should be reminded that in some historical circumstances (such as war between states) these externalities might be uniquely nonnegotiable and intrusive. But then, conversely, we might also think of internal contingencies that are uniquely nonnegotiable and intrusive. And the impact of some such factors would be no less decisive and disruptive on the course of otherwise “normal” societal development. Pace assorted Marxist writings about the role of the individual in history, no serious student of the twentieth century would hesitate to list Hitler’s willfulness as a major force shaping German destiny, nor that of Stalin as a crucial force shaping the destiny of Russia.

Now, if we agree...

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