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Yad Vashem Studies, Vol. 46:1 (2018)

Seven research and review articles in volume 46:1 analyze various aspects of the Holocaust in Poland. Four articles discuss attitudes toward Jews from the early war period through the war and the “Final Solution,” and into the early postwar years. Together they paint a grim picture that is consonant with the larger context of local attitudes toward Jews elsewhere in Europe. The other three articles on Poland address Jewish perspectives and survey comprehensive overviews of the Generalgouvernement. The issue also includes two articles on other topics – a research article by Götz Aly and a review article relating to Romania.

Abstract                                                                    

This article presents the results of research on Holocaust survivors’ depiction of Polish-Jewish interactions during the first few months of German occupation of Poland. Drawing on a close reading of diaries and memoirs collected by the Jewish Historical Commission in Poland (the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw – ŻIH Collection 302), the article follows the process of the “parting of the ways” that occurred between Poles and Jews as the Nazi terror was developing. The author distinguishes three categories to describe particular Polish reactions and phases of Polish-Jewish relations present in first-person genres of the 302 collection that appear as non-exclusive stages characterizing the growing divide between Polish and Jewish population. Analysis of these stages is placed within the context of classic historical accounts as well as more recent scholarship.

Abstract

In the autumn of 1939, approximately 300,000 Polish Jews fled eastward to Soviet territory. As revealed through postwar memoirs and testimonies, the decision to flee centered around family. This article opens with a discussion of the family and gender dynamics surrounding decision making. The situation of Jewish families in German-occupied Poland is compared to that of other Jewish communities facing similar, although not identical, dilemmas. The second section of the article examines different groups among the refugees: those who found refuge with family, and those who had to fend for themselves in an area that was foreign to them. The concluding section analyzes previous findings vis-à-vis the categories of family, gender, and choice. These accounts reveal that men and women placed a similar premium on family, but whereas men valued the nuclear family above all, women concerned themselves with extended family. Furthermore, rather than flee out of panic, many Polish Jews made carefully calculated decisions surrounding familial assistance abroad.

Abstract

The article discusses the activities of the so-called “Diamant Network,” a group ostensibly composed of Jewish Gestapo agents in Kraków. Much of the article is devoted to critical analysis of documents from the independence resistance in Kraków. The Diamant Network took on a mythical aspect and generated numerous legends, including the image of an armed group of Jewish Gestapo agents that aimed to stamp out the local resistance movement. In the eyes of the soldiers in the Kraków resistance, whose tales were steadily embellished with more and more details, it was an organized and dangerous network of Gestapo agents, an unparalleled entity responsible for most of the occupier’s actions against the resistance. Consequently, many crimes and acts of denunciation to the Gestapo were attributed to Jewish spies and collaborators in what has now become part of the Polish historical discourse. The article tackles the myth surrounding the network’s activities by deconstructing and reconstructing existing studies in order to recreate the activities of the members of this group as they really occurred.

Abstract

This article discusses the armed anti-Jewish violence and the events connected with it, which occurred in the Polish Tatra Highlands (southern Poland) during1945–1947. The number of Jewish victims exceeded thirty, including children from Jewish orphanages. Among the perpetrators of those acts of terror were partisans from the group commanded by Józef Kuraś ‘Ogień’ - one of the most important symbols of anti-communist resistance. This article is based the results of several years’ research and highly diverse sources, and its main purpose is to recreate those events, with particular attention given to the child victims of those acts of violence.

Abstract

Raul Hilberg’s 1955 manuscript of The Destruction of the European Jews remained unpublished for six years. German translation rights were acquired in 1963, but were terminated two years later, mostly as a result of a negative assessment from the Institut für Zeitgeschichte (IfZ; Insitute for Contemporary History). Documents from the IfZ archive reveal IfZ historians sought to thwart the publication of the German edition of Hilberg’s work for very clear personal interests. They cited historical problems, but the planned publication of IfZ’s own book clearly was a factor. In the meantime, the same IfZ scholars who rejected Hilberg’s translated publication used his research in their own studies.  The idea for a German translation arose again in the 1980s, but the IfZ then reasoned the translation was outdated. Until today the IfZ has not succeeded in bringing out a single monograph on the persecution of the Jews or any other important topic in National-Socialist history that can even approach the quality of the works of Hilberg, H.G. Adler, and (somewhat later) Saul Friedländer.

Reviews

Review of Daniel Reiser, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalmish Shapira, Derashot mi-shnot ha-za’am: Derashot ha-admor mi-Piaseczno be-geto Varsha, tash-tasab (Hebrew)

Abstract

Dr. Daniel Reiser presents the Holocaust-era sermons of the Piaseczno Rebbe in an accurate and annotated scientific edition. The first volume deciphers the manuscript anew, including introduction and indexes. Volume 2 lays a photocopy of the Rebbe’s manuscript side-by-side with a transcription that preserves the various stages of the writing.

The reader who consults this work discovers that the Rebbe continued to edit and proof his sermons in the ghetto after he wrote them. These proofs were incorporated into the first printing of the sermons, denying researchers who dealt with the topic the possibility of giving thought to the revisions that had been made within them. Thus, Reiser’s new edition opens a path to new studies on the thinking of the Piaseczno Rebbe during the Holocaust.

Review on Martin Winstone, The Dark Heart of Hitler’s Europe: Nazi Rule in Poland under the General Government. London: I.B. Tauris, 2015, 306 pp., 16 photos, 2 maps.

Dariusz Libionka, Zagłada Żydów w Generalnym Gubernatorstwie. Zarys problematiki. Lublin: Państwowe Muzeum na Majdanku, 2017, 291 pp., 7 photos, 1 map.

Abstract

Two comprehensive studies on the murder of the Jews of the Generalgouvernement in Poland have recently been published, both aiming at a wide audience. Martin Winstone’s Dark Heart of Hitler’s Europe is a highly readable treatment that in kind and scope, in view of a huge mountain of different research findings, offers a largely reliable account. Dariusz Libionka, on the other hand, provides a more academic viewpoint, though technically also reaching for a general readership. He impressively presents how much knowledge historians have been able to amass. Both syntheses should be used for further engagement, as there are still substantial research gaps.

Review on Łukasz Krzyżanowski, Dom, którego nie było: powroty ocalałych do powojennego miasta [Home which did not exist: returns to a postwar town]

Wołowiec: Wydawnictwo Czarne, 2016.          

Abstract

This sensitively crafted local history offers an in-depth analysis of everyday Jewish life in Radom with a focus on the interactions between survivors and their gentile neighbors in the first few years after the war. The author shows how Jewish return was impossible in “social terms” since the chasm between Jews and gentiles was so vast that a “real” return to society was impossible. Krzyżanowski superbly incorporates and meticulously analyzes a broad range of sources that allow him to draw a rich mosaic of communal and individual Jewish lives in postwar Radom.

Review article on Ion Popa, The Romanian Orthodox Church and the Holocaust. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2017, xi + 239 pp.

Abstract

The book focuses on the history of Romanian Orthodox Church’s involvement in the persecution of Jews before and during the Holocaust, as well as on the post-war Church-sanctioned historical amnesia and refusal to honestly confront its own moral failings. In spite of the Church’s refusal to open its archives, substantial evidence exists of its support and encouragement of Romanian governments’ antisemitic policies during this period, including violent deportations and, implicitly, murder of Jewish civilians. The author shows how as early as 1945 the Church’s apologists created a mendacious account erasing all references to the Church’s complicity in the Holocaust and emphasizing a few, and largely mythical, episodes of the expression of solidarity with the suffering of Jews supposedly made by ecclesiastical authorities. The author argues that, with the connivance of Romanian government, both communist and post-communist, this false narrative has dominated Romanian public space ever since.