Atypical Jewish Fairness to Poles on the Question of Postwar Killings of Jews By Poles

Applebaum examines many different matters related to the imposition of Communism: the wartime devastation, Yalta, religion, culture, and much more.


  • Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956 by Anne ApplebaumPublished October 30th 2012 by Doubleday & Company, Inc. Edition Language: English. Lionel Gelber Prize Nominee (2013), Arthur Ross Book Award for Silver Medal (2013), Duke of Westminster Medal for Military Literature (2013), National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction (2012), Cundill History Prize (2013)


The 1939-1941 pact between the USSR and Nazi Germany, which ended only when Nazi Germany suddenly turned on its erstwhile Communist ally, had been excused by some as a clever, insincere, time-stalling move by Stalin. In actuality, the alliance was genuine, and its implications substantial. Applebaum provides some information. (p. 56). There was extensive trade of sensitive materials (oil, grain, etc.) between the two. There was a prisoner exchange between the two totalitarian powers. The Soviet Union offered Nazi Germany the use of a submarine base at Murmansk.


Contrary to the misrepresentations of another reviewer, this work is not a repeat of Cold War motifs. For instance, Applebaum examines–and debunks–the notion that the totalitarian aspects of Communism were overstated, or had been a delayed reaction to western hostility or „greed”. She realizes that Communism could only be imposed in stages. It could not happen all at once. (pp. xxii–xxxii). In addition, the hardening of Communism, in the Eastern bloc about 1948, occurred in part because Stalin did not trust his European followers (p. 250), and because part of the local culture, up to that time, was incompletely steeped in Communist ideology. (p. 337).


Applebaum cites information otherwise not available in the English language. For instance, the post-WWII anti-Communist Polish guerrilla organization WiN (WOLNOSC I NIEZAWISLOSC–Freedom and Independence), peaked at 20,000-30,000 members, despite the dogged and systematic Communist efforts to destroy this organization. (p. 100).


The author shows an atypical sensitivity to the sufferings of non-Jews. She realizes that the Germans considered Slavs to be subhumans [UNTERMENSCHEN], ranked not much higher than the Jews. (p. 7).


Unlike many other Jewish authors, Applebaum is relatively objective when it comes to Polish-Jewish relations. She goes beyond the likes of Jan T. Gross, recognizing the findings of other scholars. For instance, she cites and uses the works of historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz. [Please click on, and read, the detailed Peczkis reviews of: After the Holocaust: Polish-Jewish Conflict in the Wake of World War II (East European Monograph), and Poland’s Transformation: A Work in Progress] She realizes that the postwar killings of Jews may have been motivated primarily by criminality and political differences instead of anti-Semitism. (p. 137). She also realizes that the scale of these killings may have been greatly exaggerated, amounting to no more than 400-700 Jewish victims. (p. 493). [In any case, consuming far less than 1% of Poland’s Holocaust-surviving Jews.]

Applebaum also places the Polish killings of Jews, and various appropriations of Jewish properties, in the proper context of the social demoralization caused by the brutalities of the German and Soviet occupations (quote) During the occupation, respectable citizens ceased to regard banditry as a crime…Taboos about property broke down and theft became routine, even patriotic…But most of the looters were utterly indiscriminate in their targets, attacking the property of Gentiles and Jews alike…Though the looting eventually subsided in Poland and elsewhere, it may well have helped build tolerance for the corruption and theft of public property that were so common later on. (unquote) (p. 14).

As to the murders of Jews commonly blamed–without evidence–on the Polish Underground AK and NSZ (a myth repeated by another reviewer), Applebaum realizes that (quote) Not all of the violence was ethnic or political…Weapons were still available, murder rates were high. In many parts of Eastern Europe armed gangs roamed the countryside, sometimes calling themselves resistance fighters even when they had no connection to any organized structures of resistance, living by thieving and murder. Gangs of disoriented former soldiers operated in all the cities of Eastern Europe…Institutional collapse accompanied the moral collapse. (unquote)(p. 15).


It is unfortunate that Anne Applebaum has, in recent years, as connected with her attitudes towards Poland’s freely-elected PiS government, drifted into a more typical Jewish Polonophobic mindset.


Jan Peczkis

Published with the author’s permission.


– More reviews by Jan Peczkis on PCO  ….. .

  • Title image:  Anne Applebaum. Source: , May 23, 2018. / selected by wg.pco

Polish-Club-Online-PCO-logo-2, 2018.11.17.