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Rethinking Poles and Jews: Troubled Past, Brighter Future Paperback – June 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews


These probing essays make a profound contribution to enhanced understanding between today’s democratic Poland and the Jewish people. (David A. Harris, executive director, American Jewish Committee)

In a masterful fashion and with breathtaking reach, the authors in this collection both complicate and clarify the historically tense relationship between Jews and Poles. As stereotypes are replaced with facts by Jewish and non-Jewish authors alike, the powerful truth emerges: that without the work of Polish non-Jews the Polish Jewish historical and cultural heritage would be lost. The value of this conclusion will not be lost on readers whose work and lives depend on the preservation of that heritage. Robert Cherry and Annamaria Orla-Bukowska are to be congratulated on their stunning accomplishment. (Holli Levitsky, Loyola Marymount University, Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Poland, 2001-2002)

This collection of essays represents a compelling analysis of the complex, tortured, and often tragic relationship between Poles and Jews. Taken as a whole, the book exposes the distortions, inaccuracies and misunderstandings that have divided these two peoples in recent history. While exploring the roots of mutual antagonisms, the essays do not whitewash the real issues that continue to separate Jews and Poles, even today. While offering an honest, objective examination of persistent sources of Polish anti-Semitism as well as Jewish anti-Polanism, the authors nevertheless find many hopeful signs of improved relations...In sum, this new study is a welcome and most necessary curative to the high inflammatory dialogue that has often set Jews and Poles apart. (Donald Schwartz, California State University, Long Beach)

The authors of the essays written for this volume, Poles and Jews, are some of the most knowledgeable and committed participants in the contemporary Polish-Jewish dialogue. Their writings are a ray of light amidst the acrimonious and generally uninformed polemics that still dominate so much of Polish-Jewish relations today. (Michael C. Steinlauf, Gratz College; author of Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust)

As vast as they are vexed, controversies about the relationships between Polish Christians and Polish Jews continue to swirl long after the Holocaust, which intensified so many tensions between those communities. Robert Cherry and Annamaria Orla-Bukowska have performed an important scholarly and ethical service by enlisting highly qualified scholars to analyze those wartime relationships and their aftereffects. This carefully crafted book does more than clarify complex interactions. It shows how sound scholarship can improve human understanding. (John K. Roth, Edward J. Sexton Professor of Philosophy and director, Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights, Claremont McKenna College)

In my home town, Otwock, before WWII there used to be five synagogues and just one Roman Catholic church. Today there are ten churches and no Jews. But more and more ethnic Poles discover that our collective memory would be false without Jews. Unfortunately, Jewish-Polish relationships are full of stereotypes. If you want your opinions on the relations between these two ethnic groups to be based on facts, Rethinking Poles and Jews is a must. The authors precisely distinguish truth from misconceptions. (Zbigniew Nosowski, Editor-in-chief of the Warsaw Catholic monthly review WIEZ, Consultor of the Pontifical Council for the Laity (in the Vatican), Chairman of the Citizens' Committee for Remembrance of the Jews of Otwock and Karczew)

I strongly recommend Rethinking Poles and Jews: Trouble Past, Brighter Future edited by Robert Cherry and Annamaria Orla-Bukowska for a series of essays that pierce the stereotypes which have obscured historical reality. (Deborah E. Lipstadt, Emory University; author of Denying the Holocaust)

The contributors to Rethinking Poles and Jews are knowledgeable persons, experienced in Polish-Jewish dialogue, whose individual efforts over the years have helped to bring about the 'brighter future' foreseen in the subtitle. (The Polonia Portal)

The essays in this book attempt to demystify the claims and charges made, to shed some light on an emotional issue and to provide information and perspective in our search for understanding and reconciliation. The editors, Cherry and Orla-Bukowska, are to be commended for their efforts. (Jewish Book World)

About the Author

Robert Cherry is professor of economics at Brooklyn College. He has written dozens of articles and four books on discrimination, and has written extensively on the American Jewish community and the Holocaust. He is the author of Who Gets the Good Jobs? Combating Race and Gender Earnings Disparities, Prosperity for All? The Economic Boom and African Americans, Discrimination: Its Economic Impact on Blacks, Women, and Jews, and The Imperiled Economy: Macroeconomics from a Left Perspective. Annamaria Orla-Bukowska teaches in the sociology department at Jagiellonian University, Krakow.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (June 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742546667
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742546660
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,478,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Danusha V. Goska on April 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
Given this book's title, there is surprisingly little "rethinking" and "brighter future," and surprisingly much "troubled past."

One essay stands out for its freshness and courage. Jewish-American journalist Carolyn Slutsky unabashedly exposes almost unbelievable hostility to Poles nurtured by March of the Living: youngsters were told not to "leave any good Jewish money in Poland" (190); marchers were encouraged to view Poles living near camps as participants in genocide, though those Poles witnessed Polish non-Jews' internment, torture, and murder. In MOL ideology, Poland has been the "evil country" Slutsky says (190). Participants who had positive experiences with Poles, or assessments of Poland, were steered away from those experiences by MOL leaders (192). After her MOL experience, Slutsky went on to live in Poland, and soon met Poles whose family members had been victimized by the Nazis. Ewa, a Polish girl, reported that her grandfather had been killed in Majdanek. Slutsky says her head spun - she finally realized the other side of the story (195). Slutsky ends with an exhortation that MOL try harder to find truth (195).

Mieczyslaw Biskupski carefully outlines the cinematic version of the Holocaust in theatrical films, documentaries, and television miniseries including "Schindler's List," "Holocaust," "Uprising," "Sophie's Choice," "Shoah," and "Shtetl," and compares that depiction with historical fact. Verdict? Poles are now the perpetrators of the Holocaust. In scene after scene, historical fact is distorted to divert guilt from German Nazis and place it on the shoulders of Poles, especially Polish, Catholic, peasants. Please note: all these films are shown in high schools and colleges as Holocaust educational material.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Richard M. Tavan on June 16, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This collection of essays ranges from highly academic to deeply personal. It explores the difficult relationships among Jews and Poles, not only since World War II but also during the centuries prior when Poland was the largest, most vibrant part of the Jewish world. The authors make no attempt to gloss over the problems but they illustrate potential solutions and present evidence that new approaches are working. Co-editor and contributor Annamaria Orla-Bukowska is an American born professor of Polish parentage who lives in Poland and knows more about Jews and Poles than most Jews and Poles know about themselves and each other. After meeting and being impressed by her in Poland I bought the book and it further opened my eyes to the possibilities of creating new and stronger connections between these two peoples. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in post-Holocaust studies in particular or the sociology of strained inter-national relationships in general.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tom on April 13, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When Rethinking Poles and Jews was initially published in 2007 it received all kinds of favorable press in the Polish American media. I suspect this was because Pol-Am reviewers, who had yet to actually read the book, had caught wind that it included a section on anti-Polish stereotypes. While Rethinking Poles and Jews does present a balanced treatment of Polish-Jewish relations, it doesn't shy away from the pervasiveness and virulence of Polish Catholic anti-Semitism.

The two overly-critical customer reviews that you find here, one from an academic who specializes in anti-Polonisms and the other from a radical Dmowskian ethno-nationalist, translate into a very favorable recommendation for the objective and fair-minded reader.

Some other very good books which discuss Polish Catholic anti-Semitism:

"Poland's Threatening Other: The Image of the Jew from 1880 to the Present" by Joanna B. Michlic

"Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland" by Jan T. Gross

"The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland" by Antony Polonsky

"Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz" by Jan Tomasz Gross

"Contested Memories: Poles and Jews during the Holocaust and Its Aftermath" by Joshua D. Zimmerman

"Secret City: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw, 1940-1945" by Gunnar S. Paulsson

"Shtetl" by Eva Hoffman

"Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust" by Michael C. Steinlauf

"Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust" by E.
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9 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jan Peczkis on January 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
Anyone who questions the severity of anti-Polonism is in for a rude awakening upon reading this book. Robert Cherry's surveys of Holocaust academicians and others prompt him to conclude that: "The evidence presented strongly suggests that complaints in the Polish American community about the anti-Polish stereotypes found among non-Polish faculty who teach Holocaust-related courses are well-founded; not surprisingly, these stereotypes are strongest among non-historians." (p. 76).

Cherry is candid about the marginalization of the PolAm voice: "Jewish faculty teach Holocaust courses throughout the country, courses that enroll tens of thousands of students annually...By contrast, Polish academicians do not have a significant forum to promote their views to the general public...It is only within Polish American communities that their views dominate." (p. 77)

What about the American media? Biskupski's systematic analysis of Hollywood's decades-old portrayal of Poles relative to Jews is damning.

The quality of this book is variable; hence my 3-star rating. Novel features, besides the surveys, include the repudiation of the phrase "Polish concentration camps" by the American Jewish Committee (pp. 65-66). More-of-the-same aspects of this book include its transparent Judeocentrism. Poles are praised insofar as some of them agree with Jewish attacks on Poland (e. g., p. 57).

Although some Jewish authors are candid about Jewish prejudices against Poles, they don't seem to show the same degree of moral urgency that Poles do (or are supposed to do) relative to Polish prejudices against Jews. And many of Cherry's survey questions are clearly of the "Have you stopped beating your wife?" type.

There is the customary preoccupation with unequal victimhood (e. g.
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