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Rethinking Poles and Jews: Troubled Past, Brighter Future Paperback – June 1, 2007
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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, affiliated professor of the University of Haifa)
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.
Top customer reviews
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. Thomas Wood
"My Brother's Keeper: Recent Polish Debates on the Holocaust" by Antony Polonsky
"Polish-Jewish Relations During the Second World War" by Emanuel Ringelblum
"On the Edge of Destruction: Jews of Poland Between the Two World Wars" by Celia Stopnicka Heller
"The Convent at Auschwitz" by Wladyslaw Bartoszewski
"The Hidden Pope: The Untold Story of a Lifelong Friendship That Is Changing the Relationship Between Catholics and Jews - The Personal Journey of John Paul II and Jerzy Kluger" by Darcy O'Brien
"When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth-Century Poland" by Brian Porter
"Faith and Fatherland: Catholicism, Modernity, and Poland" by Brian Porter
"The Populist Radical Right in Poland: The Patriots" by Rafal Pankowski
"Rome's Most Faithful Daughter: The Catholic Church and Independent Poland, 1914-1939" (Polish and Polish American Studies) by Neal Pease
"Traitors & True Poles: Narrating A Polish-American Identity, 1880-1939" (Polish and Polish American Studies) by Karen Majewski
"The Catholic Church and Antisemitism: Poland, 1933-1939" by Ronald E. Modras
"The Jews in Poland" by Chimen Abramsky
"Imaginary Neighbors: Mediating Polish-Jewish Relations after the Holocaust" by Dorota Glowacka
"Sinners on Trial: Jews and Sacrilege after the Reformation" by Magda Teter
"From Assimilation to Anti-Semitism: The Jewish Question in Poland, 1850-1914" by Theodore R. Weeks
"Antisemitism And Its Opponents In Modern Poland" by Robert Blobaum
"The Jews of Poland Between Two World Wars" by Yisrael Gutman
"Unequal Victims: Poles and Jews During World War Two" by Israel Gutman
"Economic Origins of Antisemitism: Poland and Its Jews in the Early Modern Period" by Hillel Levine
"Forced Out: The Fate of Polish Jewry in Communist Poland" by Arthur J. Wolak
"The Crosses of Auschwitz: Nationalism and Religion in Post-Communist Poland" by Geneviève Zubrzycki
"Memory Offended: The Auschwitz Convent Controversy" by John K. Roth
"In the Shadow of the Polish Eagle: The Poles, the Holocaust and Beyond" by Leo Cooper
"No Way Out: The Politics of Polish Jewry, 1935-1939" by Emanuel Melzer
"The Politics of Hate: Anti-Semitism, History, and the Holocaust in Modern Europe" by John Weiss
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.
Robert Cherry demonstrates, through surveys, that Holocaust education teachers in the US tend to have anti-Polish biases.
Father John T. Pawlikowski is a Polish American priest and scholar who has been active in Polish-Jewish dialogue for decades. His essay offers a first-person account of his frontline experience, including at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Pawlikowski is frank in recording obstacles he met from both Poles and Jews. Elie Wiesel was wary of him because of his ethnicity. At the same time, Poles demanded why he should represent Polonia (112). Polish Americans often complain about their depiction in scholarship, journalism, and media. Rightly so. But Polish Americans have not done the hard work to correct the stereotypical depictions of Poles, or to educate the public about Poland's history and culture, or even to begin to honor that history and culture (114). Poles must not blame Jews or anyone else, Father Pawlikowski insists; rather, they must look to Poles' own organizing, Poles' own support of scholarship and cultural products. Bravo, Father Pawlikowski.
Lawrence Baron offers an interesting account of how Roman Polanski's "The Pianist," based on the life of Holocaust survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman, and Andrzej Wajda's "Korczak," based on the heroic doctor and child advocate Janusz Korczak, were received in world media. Bottom line: politics and prejudice, rather than aesthetic merit, played a role in the acceptance or rejection of these works of art.
Michael Shudrich, Poland's chief rabbi, speaks as a very visible Jew in today's Poland. He talks about young people in Poland who discover, or begin to invest in, their previously hidden or ignored Jewish roots, and he salutes non-Jews who commit themselves to preserving Poland's Jewish heritage. Shudrich cites Pope John Paul II and his philo-semitism as having a positive impact on Polish-Jewish relations.
There are a few contributions that cling to past hates, and do not offer a road, as the book's subtitle suggests, to a "brighter future." Shana Penn says that print media do not misrepresent Poles (56). Her evidence of this? She used to preside over very tall file cabinets full of clippings (49). Penn is simply wrong in her assertion; print media certainly do misrepresent Poles and Poland. One need only mention the frequently repeated phrase "Polish concentration camps" and absence of mention of Polish suffering under the Nazis, for example in a 12/23/2009 NYT article about the theft of the Auschwitz sign that failed to mention that Poles were interned at Auschwitz, while being sure to list other victims.
Joanna Michlic continues to attribute anti-Semitism to Polish, Catholic, peasant, folk, pre-modern, and patriotic identities. She adduces no evidence to support this assertion. Much evidence could be adduced to call Michlic's conclusion into doubt: the Holocaust, the worst expression of anti-Semitism in history, was inspired and facilitated by modern, scientific, atheistic, Pagan, Western, advanced, ideology and persons. Many Catholic, peasant, folk, pre-modern and patriotic Poles rescued Jews. Michlic needs to jettison her prejudices and go back to actual data.
Eli Zborowski's foreword is very much a throwback to the past, and not part of any movement toward a "brighter future." In his brief piece, Zborowski emphasizes that his family was victimized by Nazis and by Poles. Zborowski's family was helped by Poles; that help is not his focus. Zborowski does not mention, and the book does not emphasize, that Poles suffered during the Holocaust, and that that suffering must be understood in any Polish-Jewish dialogue. Zborowski's victimizatioin is tragic and wrong and his story needs to be attended to and sympathy and restitution must be extended. At the same time, the central placement, in the foreward, of Zborowski's victimization at the hands of evil Poles during the Holocaust is very much not part of any steps toward a brighter future; it skews the entire text and undermines its stated purpose. Steps toward a "brighter future" for Poles and Jews will include mention of Polish suffering under the Nazis, and fearless probing of the complex shared history that preceded the 1939-45 era.