The Massacre in Jedwabne, July 10, 1941: Before, During, After by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz. 2005.
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis / My rating: 5 of 5 stars.
Noted Historian Challenges the Media Narrative of Solitary Polish Guilt for Jedwabne
In recent years, neo-Stalinist Jan T. Gross’ books, especially NEIGHBORS, FEAR, and GOLDEN HARVEST, have been widely publicized and quoted as fact by media and historians despite their very shoddy character. In fact, the media didn’t rush to judgment on Poland; it stampeded. To top it all off, the media has actually spun the results of a subsequent investigative IPN Polish commission as a confirmation of Gross–when it is almost the exact opposite!
A SOLID WORK: TAKING ALL EVIDENCE INTO ACCOUNT
This long-overdue book, by historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, is a painstaking analysis of the Jedwabne tragedy. It exposes the falsehood of the thesis that Poles murdered defenseless local Jews while the Germans only observed and photographed the act. Ironically, Gross’ thesis had already been considered and discarded by Jewish and Polish scholars decades ago (p. 7, 124)! Also: „Aware neither of most available primary sources nor the work of [Szymon] Datner or any other scholars, Gross considered a very limited pool of evidence through the prism of a single survivor testimony.” (p. 9).
Chodakiewicz begins by focusing on the good relations between the Poles and Jews before the war. He shows that, after the Soviet invasion, Jewish-Communist collaboration against Poles was very real and substantive. Later on, it is interesting that Germans referred to Poles as „superfluous” (p. 91), something supposed to be said only of the Jews. There are surprising details about various Polish guerrilla actions, including reprisal raids against German villages in East Prussia (p. 93), as well as continued resistance for many years after the imposition of the Soviet puppet state (by the ZOLNIERZE WYKLECI).
JEDWABNE: IN NO SENSE A SPONTANEOUS VILLAGE POGROM
The Jedwabne massacre bears all the hallmarks of known German atrocities elsewhere. As a start, the torching of a building into which victims had been herded is a characteristically German technique of mass murder. Forensic evidence alone practically refutes solitary Polish guilt in the massacre. The killing had clearly been preplanned and organized, occurring in two stages. This is utterly foreign to spontaneous pogroms, as are the facts that there were virtually no broken bones in the victims and their personal valuables had not been stolen. (So much for Gross’ furor on Polish greed against their Jewish neighbors!) There were around 300 Jewish victims, not 1,600.
THE PREPONDERANCE OF TESTIMONIES, OF BOTH POLES AND JEWS, POINT TO THE GERMANS AS PERPETRATORS
In contrast to Jan T. Gross, Chodakiewicz has studied all known witnesses. The available testimonies do NOT reduce to a Poles’-word vs. Jews’-word situation. To the contrary, and to summarize: „As we have seen, some Jewish accounts square with the majority of the Polish recollections which blame the Germans. A few testimonies blame the Poles alone for the massacre. Most suggest that the Germans carried out the crime with some Polish assistance.” (p. 138).
Aside from some VOLKSDEUTSCHE (Polish-speaking Germans) and known prewar Polish criminals, it is unclear to what extent Poles „freely” collaborated with the Germans. It has been argued that the Polish participation must have been voluntary because there was no cordon of German troops around the village. How naïve! Chodakiewicz (pp. 78-81) presents repeated examples of how easy it was for the Germans to terrorize both Poles and Jews into submission through the use of purely verbal threats and through remote supervision. Finally, the Germans were not looking for volunteers. They forced the Poles out of their homes and enforced obedience by threatening them and by employing kicks and whips (pp. 134-135). Right then and there (p. 135), and many times elsewhere, the Germans threatened Poles with death for the slightest assistance to Jews.
DEALING WITH GROSS’ GROSS EXAGGERATIONS (PARDON THE PUN)
The number of Poles involved with the Germans at Jedwabne was several tens (not hundreds; nowhere near „half the town”), and even this reduced number held only during the initial roundup of Jews in the market place (where Jews were humiliated through the mock funeral of Lenin’s bust, but without any indication of impending death). How many Poles, if any, remained involved,
„consensually” or not, in the later torching of the Jew-filled barn, is not indicated by credible evidence (p. 164, 169).
Chodakiewicz evaluates ALL Polish conduct. After the massacre, and in the German apprehensions of Jews for extermination in later years, the Poles very commonly aided fugitive Jews, but also sometimes betrayed them. While not elaborated by Chodakiewicz, the fact of near-starvation conditions in the countryside (p. 90), caused by the draconian German requisitions of feedstuffs, helps the reader understand why some Poles, fearing Jewish thefts of food, went as far as betraying them.
JAN T. GROSS MANIPULATES EVIDENCE
The ease by which Jan T. Gross dismisses evidence not to his liking is positively breathtaking. He disregards testimonies (that demonstrate widespread Jewish-Communist collaboration), from the Hoover Institution archives, because in Gross’ self-serving opinion, they are anti-Semitic. (pp. 201202). It gets even better. Gross explains away the obviously-false Jewish claim that Poles alone killed the Jews of nearby Wizna as just a false „perception” (p. 129). Gross egregiously rejects no less than 20 Jewish and Polish postwar testimonies (none of which were coerced, and one which even came from Palestine), all of which identify the murderers of Jedwabne’s Jews as Germans (pp. 131-132), on the whimsical notion that they merely adhered to some sort of template of blaming Germans (p. 243). How convenient! Following Gross, it would be even easier to dismiss the few mostly-hearsay Poleblaming testimonies in existence by fingering the Polonophobic motives, leitmotifs, and false perceptions of the accusers.
Historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz stresses the need for further research into seldom-explored topics. As an example, he cites the well-documented massacres of Poles in the villages of Naliboki and Koniuchy. (p. 159).
Professor Chodakiewicz has written an invaluable work. Would that the media grant even 1% of the coverage to Chodakiewicz that it gives to neo-Stalinist Jan T. Gross and his minions! Instead, the persistent adulatory coverage given to Jan T. Gross, for all his demonstrably false claims and clearly invalid thesis, cannot be dignified as mere Judeocentric bias. It is nothing less than a shocking lack of integrity in the media.
Published with the author’s permission.
The title image: Entrance to Jedwabne. Source: Worldpress.org, August 3, 2016. / Selected by wg.pco