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Secret City: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw, 1940-1945 Hardcover – March 1, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
a model of clarity for the handling of so intricate a topic -- Guillaume de Syon, History Teacher, November 2004
a model of studying the relatively neglected topic of evasion during the Holocaust ... a passionate call for historical engagement -- Tim Cole, IHR Online Reviews, April 2004
diversified sources and convincing methods ... quite novel approach ... a most significant addition to the immense Holocaust literature. -- Shimon Redlich, American Historical Review, April 2004
impresses with its careful scholarship and restrained presentation of [some] controversial ... propositions ...[tells] a very moving and important story -- Anita Shelton, History: Review of New Books, 9/22/2003
Top Customer Reviews
"Secret City" tells the stories of Jews who escaped from the Nazis and lived outside the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Poles who aided them. Accounts of human endurance and skill, virtue and surrender to the demonic in one of history's worst manmade hells, are the core of the book. Endurance is a universal theme; as such, this book deserves a much wider audience than Holocaust scholars. Gambling for one's own life is a gripping motif. Some Jews, without allies, approached complete strangers and received aid and shelter. Others met horrific deaths. No sign separated Poles who would act as saints or demons. The façade of an aristocrat or a peasant, a student or a priest, even one's fellow Jew, might hide salvation or denunciation. The reader puzzles over what makes one man good, and another evil. In cases like that of Borys Pilnik (150-51), I'll be wondering how one man could save some Jews, and profit financially from the ruin of others.
Merely by taking up the topic of escape, Paulsson risks censure. He cites two superstar Holocaust scholars: Hilberg, associated with an assessment of Jewish response as "passive," and Arendt, associated with an assessment of Jewish response as "compliant" (7-8). Paulsson innovates in emphasizing "evasion." Asking, as Paulsson does, why relatively few Jews escaped leads to several problems.Read more ›
Further development needs to be made of the theme, based on quotes from Germans (p. 240) that German hatred of Poles was natural, whereas German hatred for Jews was "according to orders". If accurate, it undercuts the special victim status that many Jews claim relative to Poles, as it underlines the eventual genocidal intentions that Germans had for Poles. Parenthetically, the sentiments are probably mutual, which helps explain why Jewish hostility towards Poles appears, to this day, to be much more common and intense than Jewish hostility towards Germans.
The belittling of Polish aid to Jews, typical of Holocaust materials and discussions, evaporates in the face of Paulsson's analysis, which indicates an unexpectedly high 7%-9% Polish participation rate in the substantial aid to Jews. Pointedly, this figure would be even higher had 1) More Jews fled the ghetto (p. 35, 248), 2) There been no death penalty for aiding Jews, and 3) The privations of Aryan Warsaw had not been so severe (p. 248). Oft-repeated insinuations that Polish indifference and/or betrayals (see below) had been THE limiting factors of Jewish survival are clearly incorrect and inflammatory, and must be withdrawn.
We keep hearing of fugitive Jews as having almost zero chance of survival owing to numerous fanatically anti-Semitic Poles determined that not a single Jew escape the Holocaust. By contrast, Paulsson estimates that 6 in 7 fugitive Warsaw Jews were NOT betrayed.Read more ›
Many readers may find his conclusions surprising or at least unexpected. But I find his logical approach based on solid data very convincing. A lot has been written about the heroic efforts of many Poles helping the Jews, and on the other end of the spectrum criminal elements killing or denouncing the Jews hiding from the Nazis. Secret City in a very logical way demonstrates that the vast majority of the Polish population of Warsaw, even if generally negatively biased towards the Jews actually did nothing to deliberately harm them.
The conclusions of the book are based on rigorous statistical analysis of the available documents and data.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
well reaserched, great book. One of the best I ever read on this topic
Congatulations to the writer 1 2
A word of warning: this book is very heavy on numbers, and it is not a good book to read if you don't already have a good grounding on the Holocaust in Poland and the Warsaw... Read morePublished on August 26, 2012 by Meaghan