To The Editor
The New Yorker
4 Times Square, NYC, NY 10036
Fax: (212) 2865047Re: J.T. Gross: Neighbors Annihilation of the Shtetl Jedwabne (Sasiedzi)
Remarks by a historian about the book entitled Sasiedzi (Neighbors) by J.T. Gross
Professor Gross, although not a historian, made an attempt to write a book which is essentially a work of history. In doing so he has violated some of the basic principles of historic research.
1. He neglected to examine equally the depositions of all sides: Jewish, German and Polish. He based his conclusion almost exclusively on the accounts of just one Jewish witness of the crime, Szmul Wasersztajn who was a member of the communist secret police organization, the Office of Public Security (Bezpieka). Prof. Gross neglects completely German sources and quotes Polish ones only selectively. He claims to have experienced an epiphany listening to two second-hand accounts.
2. The author did not bother to go to Jedwabne to inspect the places where the crime was perpetrated and examine the surviving witnesses. Even a cursory glance at the local barns would show that all of them were to small to accommodate 1,600 people, allegedly burned in one of them.
3. Then there is the problem of the number of victims: according to one census there were no more than 1,400 Jewish inhabitants in Jedwabne. Since that time, by July 1941, their number must have diminished considerably: many Jews who had actively collaborated with the NKVD and other communist authorities during the period of the Soviet occupation (Oct. 1939 June 1941) fled together with the retreating Red Army; some Jews were hiding in the vicinity of the town, some were hidden by friendly Poles.
The author gives an exaggerated number of victims to dramatize the effect of his story.
4. Prof. Gross completely neglects the role of the Germans, while magnifying the role of the Poles. After all, the terrible crime in Jedwabne was committed within the program of German governmentıs terror apparatus. Germans were planners, organizers and at least co-perpetrators of the massacre: they confiscated the barn in spite of the protest of the lawful Polish owner; they provided the gasoline that was then a commodity in short supply; they terrorize some of the Polish inhabitants of Jedwabne to take a part in setting the barn on fire in front of movie cameras. Prof. Gross even admits that some of the Poles were too busy with their routine work to take a part in the extermination of their Jewish neighbors and some even tried to hide them in their homes, haw can one accuse the entire Polish population (spoleczenstwo) of Jedwabne to take a part in the crime?
5. The role of the Catholic Church in the whole affair is presented as tendentiously as the rest of the story; for instance Bishop Lukomski was not at home on the day when Jewish delegation from Jedwabne allegedly begged him for protection by offering silver candlesticks.
6. The cases of Jewish collaboration in Jedwabne with the Soviet Army and especially the NKVD is minimized in the book. Prof. Gross almost completely ignores the evidence of large scale collaboration, the proof of which are to be found in the Anders Archives, readily available at the Hoover Collection in Stanford, California.
In the view of the above, the book of Prof. Gross can not be considered as a serious scholarly work; it is rather a tendentious propagandistic pamphlet. He jumps to farfetched conclusions before examining the existing evidence.
Professor of History
Author of: History of Soviet Russia, 5th edition, Prentice Hall, 1996
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