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Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland Hardcover – October 9, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; First Edition edition (October 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253010748
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253010742
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Here is an absolutely essential addition to any Holocaust library or a read for anyone interested in Polish-Jewish relations." —AJL Reviews

"This book is a significant contribution to the scholarly and public debate on Polish-Jewish relations during the Holocaust.... All in all, Hunt for the Jews should become required reading for scholars
and students of Polish-Jewish relations." —Slavic Review

"In 1942 and 1943, thousands of Jews escaped transports to death camps and sought shelter in the Polish countryside. Few survivied until 1945. Using previously unexplored archival ducments, Canadian-Polish historian Jan Grabowski argues that the explanation lies not in German control of rural Poland. In fact, the greatest enemies of Poles attempting to save Jews were other Poles: watchful neighbors who denounced rescuers to the police. Grabowski's masterfully told and soberly argued study has helped drive a revolution in Holocaust studies that has gone largely unnoticed in the west, showing that the death machine needed complicity of local populations, based in bigotries inherited from earlier times, as well as fears and opportunities generated by the Nazi occupation. This book stands out for fresh and vital insights into problems that legions of historians have studied for decades. It constitutes a miletone in holocaust studies." —John Connelly, author of From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews

"In Poland, German occupation meant the obliteration of the central state, the mass murder of political elites, and the Holocaust of the Jews. This important book reveals how German power altered local societies in the countryside, mastering institutions and changing individual incentives so that some Polish policemen and some Polish peasants took part in the murder of Jews. Grabowski is alert to the difficulty of rescue and dedicates his book to the Polish rescuers. But his ultimate concern is the way people are brought over time to do great evil. This short book is perhaps the most important in the recent Polish debates about Polish responsibility for the Holocaust. But it is also an inquiry into human behavior in dark times from which all can learn." —Timothy Snyder, author of Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin

"Eschewing facile generalizations about latent or active anti-Semitism, Grabowski considers the motivations of both those who aided Jews and those who attacked them...Grabowski's highly detailed reconstruction challenges the conventional wisdom of dividing the population into victims, perpetrators, and bystanders...Recommended for all serious Holocaust collections." —Library Journal

"One concludes from Grabowski's important study that without the often unforced, and sometimes enthusiastic, support of non-German volunteers and helpers, the Germans would not have succeeded as completely as they did during the Holocaust.... Recommended." —Choice

"This important, often disturbing, exploration of how genocides happen is on par with works from Hannah Arendt and Gitta Sereny and is enriched by the author's clear compassion for those who were compromised or lost." —ForeWord Reviews

"...[A] grim, compelling work of research...The author followed the fates of 337 Jews who tried to survive in the county, of which 51 managed to hide until liberation, while 286 died between 1942 and 1945. Grabowski breaks down each group with meticulous research." —Kirkus Reviews

"This well-documented account of the fate of the Jews in Dabrowska Tarnowska, a rural county in southeastern Poland, during the Nazi occupation is a major contribution to our understanding of the last stage of the Holocaust in Poland, which took place after the liquidation of the ghettos in the large towns. In the smaller towns of Poland, the ghettos were more porous and many Jews were able to escape them. Jews who sought shelter among the local population often did not find it. They were often betrayed by the local population and, in some well-documented cases, murdered by Home Army units. How this process took place in this one district is examined in all its complex and often shocking detail in this path-breaking study. It is essential reading for all those interested in Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust in Poland." —Antony Polonsky, editor of Poli

"A path breaking book, opening new perspectives on how the wartime murder of Jews was carried out in Poland.... It is a lasting and extremely important contribution to Holocaust historiography." —Jan Tomasz Gross, author of Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland

"An important book, not only for the story that it tells but also for the penetrating analysis into human behavior.... Grabowski's enlightening analysis contributes much to our understanding of where escaped Jews tried to find aid and hide, and where, how, and by whom they were exposed, caught, and killed." —David Silberklang, Yad Vashem

"Now, in path-breaking research, Jan Grabowski... reveals what happened to those Jews who tried to hide in rural Poland after the Nazis violently emptied the ghettos." —Maclean's

"Hunt for the Jews bears the seeds of paradigm-shifting findings. The conclusions of the book are explosive and the book is likely to leave a mark on scholarship as a landmark study." —Tomasz Frydel, University of Toronto

About the Author

Jan Grabowski is Professor of History at the University of Ottawa and a founding member of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research. He is author (with Barbara Engelking) of The Contour of a Landscape: Rural Poland and the Extermination of the Jews, 1942-1945 (in Polish).72

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A sickening book. How the neighbors and townsfolk turned on the local Jews is nauseating. But you'll only put it down because it drains the life out of you. Then you'll come back for another few pages. The author has written possibly the finest book on the Holocaust; not about the Nazi death factories, but about people. Read this and weep for humanity.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Tom on November 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jan Grabowski's Hunt for the Jews is a significant contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust in Poland. Previous historical research primarily focused on the fate of Polish Jews in urban centers. In Hunt for the Jews, Grabowski examines how Jews fared in rural Poland by focusing on the county of Dabrowa Tarnowska.

Jews living in rural Poland faced the same resettlement to ghettos and deportation to extermination camps as urban Jews but there was greater opportunity for escape to the countryside and forests. Still, "fugitive" Jews were dependent on their Gentile neighbors for their long-term survival. The Germans actively pursued the fleeing Jews by staging Judenjagds, organized hunts for Jews. By examining firsthand testimonies of Jewish victims and survivors, Grabowski demonstrates that rural Poles were active participants in the Judenjagds, sometimes unwilling but often as volunteers. The motivation for participating Poles ranged from fear of German retaliation to greed to outright hatred. The Polish Blue Police often played a pivotal role in the Judenjagds.

Those who sheltered Jews did not always do so for altruistic reasons. Payment was often demanded and when the money ran out the Jews were more often than not forced out of their hiding spots or betrayed to the authorities.

Antipathy for Jews didn't suddenly appear in a vacuum in 1942. In the second chapter Grabowski discusses the popularity of anti-Semitism in Dabrowa Tarnowska as well as the entire country of Poland prior to the war. However, I wish the author had examined the rise of popular and institutionalized anti-Semitism in Poland during the interwar period a bit more deeply.

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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Dan on November 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Jan Grabowski is a Polish-born history professor in Canada whose Jewish father survived World War II with his parents passing as a Pole in so-called "Aryan" Warsaw. It is therefore not surprising that his well-documented book "Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland" focuses on the fate of Jews who tried to survive the Nazi final solution in Poland, but in this case in a rural county in southeastern Poland, Dabrowska Tarnowska, about 50 miles east of Krakow.

Dabrowa Tarnowska had a prewar population of some 66,000, of whom some 4,800 were Jewish. Through his research, Grabowski was able to determine that 337 Jews survived the Nazi liquidation of Jewish ghettoes in the county in 1942 and went into hiding in the area, but that only 51 survived until liberation in January 1945. What happened to the other 286 Jews who were also in hiding but didn't survive? He determined that only seven were killed by German police through their own actions, but that 98 were killed by German police as a result of denunciation by local Poles and that 115 others were killed by the collaborationist Polish "blue" police, mostly Jews again betrayed by local Poles to the police. So this then is the focus and theme of the book: the role of the local Polish population in the betrayal and murder of the vast majority of the Jews in hiding in Dabrowska Tarnowska.
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23 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Otis on October 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Hunt for the Jews was released originally in Polish as Judenjagd. Jan Grabowski an accomplished writer, scholar and teacher of Polish history during the time of WWII. This book makes reference to many historic documents and testimonies that are very specific to this area east of Krakow. It is a significant book for anyone interested in the events that occurred there. None of my Polish friends in Dabrowa Tarnowska have denounced this book. I just gave my copy to a Jewish survivor from Dabrowa, a friend whose testimony is referenced in the book. I hope to publish his comments soon.

The problem with the two negative reviews is that neither writer has any clue about the history in this very rural area. They are critical because they compare it with what they know and ignore the factual history. They probably have never heard of any one of the people mentioned. They may even doubt the existence of Gudzek. You give it one star, I give it five.

Let the reader decide what is and isn't true.

BTW, it is true that the restored Synagogue in Dabrowa Tarnowska was dedicated in June 2012, now the Center of Culture. We were present as speakers for our fallen and our history there, representing the (worldwide) Jewish Community of Dabrowa Tarnowska.
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