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Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland [Hardcover]

By Jan T. Gross (Author)
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Item description for Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland by Jan T. Gross...

One summer day in 1941, half of the Polish town of Jedwabne murdered the other half, 1,600 men, women, and children, all but seven of the town's Jews. "Neighbors" tells their story. This is a shocking, brutal story that has never been told and is an important study of Polish-Jewish relations during the Holocaust. 3 maps. 127 illustrations.

Publishers Description

One summer day in 1941, half of the Polish town of Jedwabne murdered the other half, 1,600 men, women, and children, all but seven of the town's Jews. "Neighbors" tells their story.

This is a shocking, brutal story that has never before been told. It is the most important study of Polish-Jewish relations to be published in decades and should become a classic of Holocaust literature.

Jan Gross pieces together eyewitness accounts and other evidence into an engulfing reconstruction of the horrific July day remembered well by locals but forgotten by history. His investigation reads like a detective story, and its unfolding yields wider truths about Jewish-Polish relations, the Holocaust, and human responses to occupation and totalitarianism. It is a story of surprises: The newly occupying German army did not compel the massacre, and Jedwabne's Jews and Christians had previously enjoyed cordial relations. After the war, the nearby family who saved Jedwabne's surviving Jews was derided and driven from the area. The single Jew offered mercy by the town declined it.

Most arresting is the sinking realization that Jedwabne's Jews were clubbed, drowned, gutted, and burned not by faceless Nazis, but by people whose features and names they knew well: their former schoolmates and those who sold them food, bought their milk, and chatted with them in the street. As much as such a question can ever be answered, "Neighbors" tells us why.

In many ways, this is a simple book. It is easy to read in a single sitting, and hard not to. But its simplicity is deceptive. Gross's new and persuasive answers to vexed questions rewrite the history of twentieth-century Poland. This book proves, finally, that the fates of Poles and Jews during World War II can be comprehended only together.

Awards and Recognitions
Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland by Jan T. Gross has received the following awards and recognitions -

  • National Book Critics Circle Award - 2001 Nominee - General Nonfiction category
  • National Book Awards - 2001 Nominee - Nonfiction category

Citations And Professional Reviews
Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland by Jan T. Gross has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Univ PR Books for Public Libry - 01/01/2002 page 95
  • New York Times - 04/08/2001 page 17
  • Publishers Weekly - 05/07/2001 page 230
  • Booklist - 05/01/2001 page 1659
  • Choice - 03/01/2002 page 1302

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Princeton University Press
Pages   261
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.63" Width: 4.8" Height: 0.98"
Weight:   0.75 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Apr 15, 2001
Publisher   Princeton University Press
ISBN  0691086672  
ISBN13  9780691086675  

Availability  3 units.
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More About Jan T. Gross

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Jan T. Gross is a professor of politics and European studies at New York University. He has written numerous academic and historical studies, including Revolution from Abroad: The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia. He is coeditor of The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and Its Aftermath.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Europe > Poland
2Books > Subjects > History > Jewish > Holocaust
3Books > Subjects > History > Military > World War II > General
4Books > Subjects > History > Military > World War II
5Books > Subjects > History > World > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland?

Book written with the scientific accuracy, uncovers what everybody in Poland knows and denies...  May 22, 2008
Poles did not need the Nazi's prodding to killed 1600 Jews". According to the evidence provided in the book, Poles needed no prodding, a permission at the best. The criminals exterminated Jews happily with the support of the MAJORITY of population. The few Jews who escaped the murder, were caught by the local peasants and brought back to Jedwabne to be murdered. The Polish woman hero, Pani Antonina Wyrzykowska, who saved a few Jews, was after the war beaten by the Polish antisemites and chased out of town, soon in the people of the second (larger) town, learned that she saved Jews during the war, and she was persecuted again. She moved to a larger town, a provincial capitol, however even there, after a few years the people learned that she saved Jews during the war and persecution started again. Only after she moved from her Polish motherland to Canada, was she able to find safety!

Neither was Jedwabne an isolated case. The book documents the murder of the Jews by the Poles in the neighboring Radzilow, and Lomza. Of course there was nothing special about the Jedwabne area, the Poles, Ukrainians, Lithuanians and other East-Europeans murdered Jews in multitudes of places. Unfortunately, there is a huge denial, of both antisemitism, and of the local complicity with genocide.

It is important to understand that Gross is not some "Poland-hating-Jew". His mother was ethnic Pole, both his parents fought against Nazis in the heroic Warsaw uprising. Gross grew up as a proud Pole, loving his country, it's heritage and the language. It is cheap and dishonest to dismiss Gross' scholarship calling him anti-Polish. The truth is that Poland (other East European countries) has centuries long history of intense antisemitism, pogroms and murder of Jews, only by facing the truth, can there be a change. Antisemitism is an illness of Polish soul, and this illness will continue until it is exposed to the full light.

Having spent my childhood in Poland I attest from personal experience that GREAT MAJORITY of Poland's population is from moderately to intensely antisemitic. Because of my Jewish descent, already as 6 years old child, I have been beaten by the older Polish kids, for the crime of "having murdered Jesus Christ". In my childhood in 1960s I have frequently heard Poles say that "Hitler was a monster, but he did one good thing: He cleaned Poland from Jews", and that "It's a shame that the war ended too soon not allowing Hitler to finish up the job of killing **ALL** the Jews."
The Fear That Still Haunts Poland  Mar 4, 2008
This slim volume, and Professor Gross' fuller, follow-up book, "Fear," are a graphic portrayal of the specter that still haunts eastern Europe - not Marx, not Stalin, but its own heart of human darkness.

Like another reviewer, I feel "Neighbors" is too short, and I disagree somewhat with Prof. Gross' historiography. But this little book delivers a devastating punch out of all proportion to its size. Professor Gross has done his country a great service in unflinchingly exposing the soulless criminality of both Jedwabne and, in "Fear," of Kielce; but of course he is a prophet without honor at home, at least for the current generation, which prefers to wrap itself in comforting myths of Poland as "the Christ of Nations" - not the crucifier of others.

I vary with his historical analysis, however. Not that Poland is alone in this violent racism in eastern Europe. Every eastern European nation has given its own bloody form of expression to this sickness, against Jews and other convenient scapegoats. What makes it especially disturbing in Poland, however, is its coincidence with Poland's own myth of martyrdom, and the devastating reality of Nazi occupation and mass murder on Polish soil. How could Poles inflict such suffering, given their own great suffering, and turn a blind eye to it? The answer is in the blind eye that Poles have turned to much of their real history.

While bemoaning its partition at the hands of Hitler and Stalin, its partisans have nicely ignored Poland's own partitioning of the Ukraine, Belorussia, and Lithuania in 1920 - also in league with the USSR. It was at this time that the myth of "Zydokomuna" was fully galvanized, leading to the same kinds of atrocities which erupted after 1945. The events of "Neighbors" were not special to the post-WW II period, but were endemic in the unsettled period after WW I, as the Goodhart mission to Poland fully documented.

But of course the actors in Jedwabne and Kielce are not following a ghost-written script, but engaged in actions with deeply personal meaning for themselves. While Professor Gross rationally deconstructs the myth of Zydokomunism, he sees these atrocities as a function of guilt complexes. I do not get that feeling from these perpetrators (who are much like other perpetrators with whom I have direct exposure.) These people sincerely believed in that myth, and targeting Jews was a conscious act, so they felt, of getting back at the "Bolshevik regime" foisted on them from the East. Poland was still a society in flux, still in the grip of wartime psychoses and the throes of guerrilla resistance, with all the attendant terrorism. To stike out at Jews was to hit not only a soft target but the "Judeo-Bolshevik regime's" soft underbelly, and as such was consciously encouraged by all those hoping to defeat the new regime. That the Communist Party backpedalled from its official humanism, ultimately embracing this anti-Semitism, was actually a victory for these forces. In this sense, Communism was defeated in 1956, not 1989.

But while I may differ with Professor Gross on Polish history, no one with a sense of humanity or justice can dispute the moral power of his works on postwar Poland. They are warnings on the dark side of humanity that stand above time and place, and must be heeded by all.
A Book of Pain and Wonderment  Mar 4, 2008

I was assigned this book to read for a graduate seminar I'm taking in Eastern European History. I was reluctant to take on the assigment; the Holocaust has never been a topic which interested me greatly and, furthermore, I've never been enthralled by modern European History.
By the end of the book, I was left wishing I hadn't read it; not because it was bad but, on the contrary, because it was too good. It is not often that a book has left me reduced to tears, and of the few which have managed, none have been History books (the dispassionate tone of most historians goes against any real great emotional investment in the topic).
There are many, I'm sure, who wish to claim that the events which detailed within these pages did not occur or, if they did occur, did so in a very different situation that that described. It would be, if not comforting, than atl east less disturbing to be able to pass all of the blame for the massacre onto the heads of the Nazi occupiers. And, although they certainly do bear some responsibility, one can not escape the horrifying conclusion that a small village in Poland, where Jews and Poles had lived peacefully together for centuries, went mad for a day.
The reason there are so many one-star reviews for this amazing book seems fairly obvious. It simply asks far too many questions about our own humanity, and the true depth of our 'civilization'. It is easy to blame an atrocity on an organized political or military force, as doing so removes much of the humanity from the attackers; we can stare in horror at their deeds, but take comfort in the knowledge that some ideological force was at work.
However, to see how quickly friends and neighbors can be transformed into the 'other' with only the smallest nudge from outside forces is both humbling and intensly frightening.
This book, no matter how unpleasent it must be, should be a must read for men and women of all stripes. It will make you question your culture, your community and, most importantly, yourself.
Questions from historian John Radzi³owski, Ph.D. for Jan T. Gross:   Jan 22, 2008
Questions from historian John Radzi³owski, Ph.D. for Jan T. Gross:

1) In Revolution from Abroad you discuss significant instances of Jews
welcoming and supporting Soviet forces as they entered eastern Poland in
1939. Yet in your last books, you take the opposite position and ignore
or dismiss instances of Jewish collaboration. Can you tell us why you
have contradicted your previous work without any explanation?

2) In Fear, you make no mention of Soviet repression of ethnic Poles during and after the war. Why do you consider the murder of nearly 1 million Poles and the deportation, torture, and imprisonment of many more to be so irrelevant?

3) In Fear, you use statistics for post-war Jewish deaths that originated
from post-war Polish communist sources and dismiss or ignore recent
scholarly studies by David Engel and Marek Jan Chodakiewicz showing a
significantly lower death toll. Can you explain why and explain the
statistical methodology by which you arrived at the higher figure?

4) In Fear, your thesis is that Polish trepidation over Jewish property
restitution was at the root of post-war violence against Jews. You also
claim your book is "comprehensively documented." The Kielce city
archives contain 279 volumes of court cases on post-war Jewish property
claims. You did not consult any of these cases, nor the recent history
of the Kielce Jewish community which does a preliminary analysis of
these cases. Can you explain why you did not and how your book can be
"comprehensively documented" if you did not look at a single property
restitution case in the very city where the event that is central to
your book occurred?

5) In Fear you claim that Jews who joined the communist party and its
security apparatus cannot be considered Jews and their actions are not
representative of the Jewish community. Yet you claim that the actions
of ethnic Poles who joined the communist party and its security
apparatus are representative of all Poles. Can you explain this

6) You previous book Neighbors was severely criticized by many scholars and recent investigations by IPN have raised significant factual problems
with the book. To date you have never addressed these criticisms in a
scholarly forum. Scholars have now raised serious concerns about your
current book. Do you plan to continuing ignoring the criticism and if so why?

The Piast Institute, a National Institute for Polish and Polish American Affairs,is a research center, Census Information Center and the only independent think tank in North America devoted to Polish and Polish American affairs.
The murderer in you and me  Jan 14, 2008
The reason why half a Polish village one day in 1941 killed the other half was -alledgedly- anti-Semitism. Actually it could have been any other reason, as it could have been any other place in the world. When hatred, envy, and the darkest in the human soul is countinuously aroused against a population, then these things happen, even today. This book serves as a warning to evil sowers of propaganda in their own political benefit, demogogues of all nationalities.

Just after the Second World War 1,600 Jews (all the population except for 7) in a small town in Poland were killed by their murderous neighbors. The author does the daring job of exposing the facts as a true historian must, without sentimentalism or sentationalism. Just plain facts. Interviews with neighbors who remember the facts well after so many years and who know where the guilt lies because they stood by while the killing took place; and the documents of the investigation which ended with only one person sentenced to death.

The Jews couldn't believe that the neighbors they met everyday in the street would dare to literally gather them together and burn them up in a barn (or kill them with forks, axes, sickels). But it did happen. Only one person in town would take the risk to hide 7 of the would-be victims in her house. Amazing.

What a warning for all of us: there's a killer sleeping inside of each one of us. Don't let the devil stir him up.

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