No Polish Complicity in the Holocaust: The Egregious Myth of a Voluntary Polish JUDENJAGD (Hunt for the Jews)

  • Review of Kto Dopomoze Zydowi…, By Bogdan Musial. 2019. Zysk i S-ka Wydawnictwo, Poznan


No Polish Complicity in the Holocaust: The Egregious Myth of a Voluntary Polish JUDENJAGD (Hunt for the Jews)

WHO WILL HELP THE JEW? is the title of this scholarly, Polish-language work. Author Bogdan Musial is a Polish historian active in Germany. His specialty is the Nazi German military and civilian administration of occupied Poland, and he is quite familiar with German documents (p. 6). In contrast, Jan Gross, Jan Grabowski, and Barbara Engelking have no such familiarity, and have no real understanding of what it was like for Poles to live under Nazi Germany. (pp. 11-14). Moreover, they manipulate facts. As we shall see, their blame-Poland approach is completely divorced from the realities of the German occupation of Poland.


In the USA and the West, the dominant narrative is that Poles were complicit in the Holocaust (whatever that means). (p. 15). Musial points out that there is no way of knowing even how many Jews fled the ghettos, though it is certainly in the “tens of thousands”. (p. 108). There is no factual basis for the media-quoted 200,000 figure. Grabowski has ascribed the 200,000 figure to Szymon Datner, but Datner never said that the Poles killed 200,000 Jews! (p. 234).

In addition, no one knows how many Poles denounced Jews for rewards (such as a bag of sugar, or 1/3rd of the Jews’ property). (p. 205). However, such conduct was despised by Polish society, and the fact that the Germans had to resort to terror (elaborated below), rather than incentive, indicates that it was not common. (p. 205).


In the movie, SCHINDLER’S LIST (SWINDLER’S LIST), there is a Polonophobic scene, viewed by an audience of over 120 million Americans, of a Polish girl giving a sarcastic farewell (Goodbye Jews!) while others were throwing mud at the German-apprehended Jews. Ironic to this mendacity, a German order expressly forbade Poles from gathering around to watch the Germans apprehending the Jews. In fact, Poles were commanded to go indoors, close windows, and otherwise avoid observing the transports. (p. 116).


Far from being indifferent to Jews, Poles had regularly performed such acts as smuggling food into the ghettos. Initially, Polish aid to Jews was considerable enough for the Germans to impose the death penalty for such aid. (p. 121). The first such order was on October 15, 1941, which was several months before the start of the Holocaust in German-occupied Poland. (p. 90). It ordered the death to any Jew that fled the ghetto, and to any Poles that gave him lodging. (p. 92).

Historian Musial (pp. 289-on), citing an impressive variety of German documents, shows that the German-imposed death penalty, for aid to Jews, subsequently became much more emphasized than commonly supposed. The German-caused “psychosis of fear”, imposed on the captive Polish population to inhibit rescue of fugitive Jews, was largely successful. (p. 228).


Jan Grabowski, in his JUDENJAGD (HUNT FOR THE JEWS), has portrayed Poles as willing participants in the apprehension of fugitive Jews. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although Musial does not use this term, it becomes obvious that Poles faced their own “choiceless choices” in what to do with the Jews.

Announcement about the death penalty for helping Jews.
Fig. WikiCom

On October 28, 1942, SS Leader Friedrich Wilhelm Kruger expanded the German-imposed death penalty not only to Poles aiding fugitive Jews, but even for failing to report them! (p. 13, 130; For example, see p. 193). Entire Polish families were held collectively responsible for the presence of a Jew. (pp. 130-131, 154).

At times, the Germans did not even bother with formalities. The simply took Polish villagers hostage, and unceremoniously threatened to kill them if they did not divulge the locations of any nearby fugitive Jews. (pp. 195-196).

The Polish village mayor (soltys) was automatically held liable in the event of the presence of fugitive Jews, for which he got the death penalty, or, if lucky, a concentration camp. (p. 168). In other words, the soltys was himself a hostage. (p. 196). If the Germans found a single Jew, the blame immediately fell on the soltys. (p. 198).

In conducting their sweeps of the countryside for fugitive Jews, the Germans grabbed the Polish volunteer firefighters (p. 202), forest workers, Blue Police (POLICJA GRANATOWA), etc. (p. 203), and forced them to take part in the search for the Jews. By no stretch of the imagination were the Poles volunteers! (p. 199, 202).

The Germans also formed village militias (the ORTSCHUTZWAHE/ORTSCHUTZ) out of local Poles. Their ostensible role of guarding the village against bandits and partisans was illusory, as their sole arms were pitchforks and axes. (p. 198). They were ordered to ferret out fugitive Jews, and, too, were subject to the death penalty. If the Germans found a single Jew, the entire ORTSCHUTZ unit would be held responsible. (p. 198).  


Polish and Jewish informants alike were motivated by enhancing one’s survivorship through the becoming of a German confidante, and by material gain, greed, and fear of punishments. (p. 189). Let us put this in broader context. Informing occurred on a staggering scale in the Third Reich, and later in the Soviet Union and East Germany. In Communist-ruled Poland, informants for the Communists were not limited to marginal members of society. They encompassed professors, artists, priests, and workers. (p. 190).

Developing the subject of denunciation further, historian Bogdan Musial cites this important paper, from which I quote below:

Patrick Bergemann. 2017. Denunciation and Social Control. AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW 82(2)384-406.

Bergemann writes,

“In Nazi Germany, for example, the Gestapo gathered most of their intelligence through the widespread participation of Germans willing to report deviance within their local communities. This is what led the Gestapo to be perceived as ‘omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent’ (Mallmann and Paul 1994), despite there being only one officer for every 10,000 residents (Ayçoberry 2000; Gellately 1990; Johnson 1997). Although most of the files have been destroyed, Mallmann (1997) reports that there were more than 17,000 denunciations in 1937 alone for violations against one of the many laws that a person could be denounced for violating. He also cites 3 to 5 million letters of denunciation sent to Vichy authorities in occupied France.” (op. cit., p. 384).

In what is particularly relevant to German-occupied Poland, Bergemann adds that, “Environments with authority-based incentives to denounce lead to denunciations that attempt to placate or appease those authorities…” (op. cit, p. 400).

If anything, Communism was even more repressive, “The Soviet Union, which implemented a coercive system, had one secret police officer for every 500 residents during the same time period (Gellately 1997).” (op. cit, p. 401).


Citing German documents, Musial shows that the early German extermination of the Polish intelligentsia (the INTELLIGENTZAKTION), in September-December 1939, and then in German-occupied West Prussia and Gdansk, was larger than commonly supposed. It took 52,794—60,750 victims. (p. 24).


Jan Blonski, hailed by the leftmedia and in Holocaust materials as a moral authority because of his self-appointed criticisms of “Polish indifference” to Jews, has a history of his own. It turns out that, in 1953, he added his signature to a statement that supported Communist accusations against the Krakow clergy. (p. 230). Moral authority indeed.

In his widely-quoted NEIGHBORS, post-Stalinist Jan T. Gross says that Stanislaus Sielawa was one of the most vicious Polish killers of Jews at Jedwabne. Impossible. Sielawa was an invalid. (p. 232).

In his HUNT FOR THE JEWS, Jan Grabowski paints Engelbert Guzdek a Polish collaborator. He was not. He was a German, and, besides killing fugitive Jews, he murdered entire Polish families that were found to be hiding Jews. (pp. 157-158).



Here are some additional English-language reviews of scholarly works that debunk the accusations of Jan T. Gross, Jan Grabowski, and Barbara Engelking:


Jan Peczkis

Published with the author’s permission.

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

The title image: German soldiers hunt for the Polish Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, March 1943. Fot. Unknown.


, 2019.06.30.