Widely-Contradictory Estimated Numbers of Jews Who Survived the Holocaust Because of Polish Help: 20,000 to Over 100,000

Author Havi Dreifuss is identified as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University and the director of the Center for Research on the Holocaust in Poland at the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem.

  • Changing Perspectives in Polish-Jewish Relations During the Holocaust by Havi DreifussPublished 2012 by Yad Vashem

The title of this short book is misleading. It offers nothing new, and none of its content partakes of any kind of changing perspectives. Its only value is that it collates some recent works, and presents some data in a comparative format. For this reason, I give it two stars instead of one.


The most striking feature of the book is this: Havi Dreifuss attempts to undermine studies that tend to put Poles in a favorable light, but conspicuously avoids doing the same for studies that tend to put Poles in a less favorable light. Thus, she dissects Gunnar S. Paulsson and his SECRET CITY in minute detail. (pp. 32-on). She attempts to downgrade the number, of Warsaw Jewish children saved by ZEGOTA and Irena Sendler, from 2,600 to 600. (p. 94). She attacks historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz with almost-bizarre flippant remarks (p. 28), while accusing Gunnar S. Paulsson of misrepresenting the sources he cites. (p. 56). The farce is palpable! [For correction, just read the books of Chodakiewicz and see for yourself.]

In glaring contrast, Havi Dreifuss shows not as much as a glimmer of questioning of other sources that she cites. This includes dubiously-credible authors such as onetime Communist functionary Shmuel Krakowski.


As a further example, Dreifuss approvingly mentions Jan Grabowski vel Abrahamer and his JUDENJAGD (HUNT FOR THE JEWS). (p. 30, 74). Grabowski’s frankly-propagandistic work examines, and greatly exaggerates, the Polish denunciations of fugitive Jews. For a much better work on the survival of the Jews of Dabrowa County, please click on Krwawe Upiory (Polish Edition), and read the detailed English-language Peczkis review.

Interestingly, some of the data that Dreifuss cites elsewhere upends Grabowski’s contention that 10% of Poland’s Jews (that is, 250,000 of 2,500,000 Jews still alive in early 1942, at the start of the Holocaust itself), had fled the ghettos and thereby placed themselves at the mercy of the Poles.

The author cites Israel Gutman, who estimated that only 15,000-20,000 Warsaw Jews hid on the „Aryan” side throughout the war years. (p. 47). Since about 400,000 Jews had been packed by the Germans into the Warsaw Ghetto, Gutman’s figure implies that only 3.75%-5.00% of these Jews fled the ghetto. If this percentage can be generalized (and one must remember that the Warsaw Ghetto carries much statistical weight, as it was by far the largest concentration of Jews in German-occupied Poland), then Grabowski’s estimate of 10% is far too large, and, therefore, Grabowski’s inferred percentage of fugitive Jews who survived the war is far too small.


Dreifuss quotes a range of „several tens of thousands” to more than 100,000 (or more) Poles involved in the rescue of Jews. (p. 70). The quoted range of Poland’s Jews surviving the war because of Polish rescue efforts range from a low of 20,000-30,000 to more than 100,000. (p. 71).

Her figures, if accurate in terms of the equivalent credibility of the numbers cited, are a double-edged sword. They mean that, if the relative abundance of Polish rescuers of Jews cannot be proved, then also the extreme rarity of Polish rescuers cannot be proved either. In addition, Dreifuss stresses the fact that it is impossible to even approximate the frequency of Polish denouncers of fugitive Jews. (p. 72). This, too, is a double-edged sword. If the extreme rarity of Polish denouncers cannot be proved, so also the relative abundance of Polish denouncers (as asserted by Polonophobes) also cannot be proved.

However, the numbers are largely academic. The informed reader probably realizes that the facts and figures really do not matter. Poland is incessantly attacked by Jewish authors and journalists regardless of any statistics on Polish rescuers or Polish denouncers.


Finally, even if the lower numbers of Jewish survivors are the correct ones, they are subject to multiple interpretations. Do they mean that Poles were even more hostile and indifferent to the fate of fugitive Jews than previously supposed? Or do they instead mean that the perfidy and ruthlessness of German methods, of uncovering fugitive Jews and thwarting Polish efforts on behalf of Jews, were even more effective than previously supposed?

Jan Peczkis


Published with the author’s permission.


  • Title image: Hall of Names at Yad Vashem. Photo: Israel Ministry of Tourism / selected by wg.pco

Polish-Club-Online-PCO-logo-2, 2018.09.11.