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Out of the Inferno: Poles Remember the Holocaust Hardcover – September 21, 1989
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From Publishers Weekly
Lukas, author of Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under German Occupation , here assembles oral histories by 60 Christian Polish men and women who survived the Nazi occupation. Told in plain language, their moving testimonies recount the sadism, mass murders, deportations and imprisonment which Poles suffered at the hands of Hitler's invading army. These first-person narratives demonstrate that thousands of Poles courageously rescued Jews, at great risk to their own lives. One point of controversy is Lukas's intention with this oral history to refute the "stereotype" that Poles were anti-Semites who "at a minimum were indifferent to the Germans' treatment of the Jews. . . ." Yet, in an introductory essay, he supportively quotes comments about the "unresisting attitude" and "passivity" of Jewish victims of Nazism. In this treatment, he largely ignores the torrent of anti-Semitic legislation, daily brutality and prejudice that many Polish Jews faced prior to the German occupation.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Korbonski was a prominent leader of the Polish underground resistance to German occupation during World War II, and, since leaving Poland in 1947, he has been a major figure among Polish political exiles in the United States. He provides a rapid-fire review of efforts by the Polish underground to assist Jews and to inform the Western allies of the destruction of Polish Jews. The second half of the book contradicts postwar charges of Polish anti-Semitism and reproduces statements and documents emphasizing Polish assistance to Jews. This vigorous partisan contribution to the ongoing debate about Polish attitudes and actions during the Jewish Holocaust is a valuable statement by a leading participant. For collections specializing in these subjects. Lukas presents a selection of oral and written memoirs of some 60 Polish men and women who lived through the German occupation of Poland in World War II. The contributors derive from a wide social and political background and their recollections, ranging from a few paragraphs to a dozen pages, are highly episodic rather than analytic or evaluative. Most discuss some aspect of the Jewish Holocaust, and some describe their efforts on behalf of Jews. Only a few refer candidly to animosities between Poles and Jews. There is a long litany of the brutalities of the occupation, only occasionally relieved by isolated acts of heroism and generosity. Unfortunately, almost no contributors report on the parts of Poland under Soviet occupation. Recommended for World War II and Holocaust collections.
- James B. Street, Santa Cruz P.L., Cal.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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This book includes mention of seldom-discussed factors tending to limit Polish aid to fugitive Jews. This not only includes the German-imposed death penalty for the slightest Polish assistance to Jews, but also the danger of fugitive Jews denouncing both would-be Polish rescuers and other Jews currently being hidden (Jackowski, p. 77; Kierszniewski, p. 90).
The careful (or even cursory) reader of this book can easily see that it has been egregiously misrepresented by he Publisher's Weekly review posted above. The claim that prewar and interwar Polish anti-Semitism had been ignored can be dispelled just by looking in the index (p. 194) which shows it discussed in no less than ten pages! The claim that prewar Polish Jews experienced "daily brutality and prejudice" is very much debatable. Based on direct personal experience, Januszewski (p. 79) points out that, while anti-Semitic legislation and incidents definitely occurred, most Poles got along well with Jews. He is of the opinion that prewar Polish anti-Semitism had been exaggerated. Wolinski, widely respected in both Polish and Jewish circles, is of the opinion that Polish anti-Semitism tended to die down in the face of common misfortunes caused by the German occupant (p. 178).
Of course, when they occurred, Polish-Jewish prejudices had been mutual, as candidly admitted by one Jewish scholar cited by Lukas (p. 9). Elsewhere, the Dubiks (p. 64) suggest that Polish anti-Semitism had been fueled by the prewar Jewish dominance of commerce and by the postwar Jewish over-representation in the hated Communist police establishment. Jackowski (p. 76) suggests that Polish anti-Semitism had been much stronger in eastern than in central Poland owing to the large number of Jews who had collaborated with the invading Soviet Communist forces. In fact, Czelny (p. 40) provides an eyewitness account of a group of Jewish militiamen guarding a group of Polish soldiers who had been disarmed by the invading Soviet armies.
The Publisher's Weekly review insinuates that Lukas was expressing an anti-Semitic opinion by suggesting that Jews were largely passive during the Holocaust itself. In fact, Jewish passivity has been discussed by numerous authors, including Jewish ones. For instance, the eminent Jewish psychiatrist, Bruno Bettelheim, cited by Lukas (p. 11), came out strongly against Jewish passivity. Does this make Bettelheim an anti-Semite in spite of himself? Furthermore, none of the authors of this volume presents Jewish passivity in any sort of pejorative manner other than perhaps the fact that most Jews seemed to be in denial about what was happening to them for a long time. Martin (pp. 117-118) discusses her experiences with Jews in this regard. Also, for a long time, Jews had tended to think of Germans as a cultured people (p. 47) for whom acts of genocide would be unimaginable. The Poles, in contrast, knew immediately what the Germans had in store for them, as Poland had been the recipient of German aggression for at least the last thousand years. For this reason alone, Poles were more prone to take up arms than the Jews.