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After the Holocaust: Polish-Jewish Conflict in the Wake of World War II [Hardcover]

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 2003 East European Monograph (Book 613)
Tracing the roots of Polish-Jewish conflict after World War II, this work demonstrates that it was a two-sided phenomenon and not simply an extension of the Holocaust. The author argues that violence developed after the Soviet takeover of Poland amid postwar retribution and counter-retribution.

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"Chodakiewicz examines post-Holocaust hostilities between Poles and Jews, arguing that the two groups are trapped by past cliches from which neither has yet been able to escape... Recommended [for] college and public libraries." -- "Choice"

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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
The imposition of a Soviet puppet government was a painful chapter in Poland's history. In response to the usual anti-Polish bias of Holocaust materials, arguments fly back and forth, including that: 1) Jews supporting the Communists were few and far between, 2) Jews acting against the anti-German anti-Communist Polish independentist forces (the AK, NSZ, and their successor organizations) were simply taking revenge for earlier injustices and/or protecting themselves against Polish hostility, 3) Retaliatory attacks by Polish independentists against Jews were narrowly tailored against those Jews who supported Poland's enemies, 4) The Polish independentist forces formed and implemented a plan to "finish Hitler's job" by killing off all remaining Jews so that Poland would be Judenrein (free of Jews). 5) The explanation for Poles killing Jews, notably during property disputes, begins and ends with Polish anti-Semitism. As Chodakiewicz shows throughout this eye-opening book, all five premises are FALSE.
There is no evidence that Polish independentist forces were behind the Cracow and Kielce pogroms. Furthermore, the citation of a Soviet source that attributes these tragic events to staging by the Soviet secret police (for propaganda purposes, see p. 184) is intriguing, and calls for further research. So is a Jewish eyewitness report of the suspicious behavior of a Soviet commander stationed in Kielce at the time of the pogrom (p. 172). As for those local Poles who joined the anti-Jewish riots once in progress, one wonders where Polish anti-Semitism left off and where mob psychology began. Unfortunately, the relevant archives of the Polish Communist secret police were destroyed about the year 1989, raising obvious questions about these pogroms.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first rigorous treatment of the topic Sept. 11 2003
Format:Hardcover
Unfortunately, most authors who have explored the topic Polish-Jewish relations after the Second World War seem more interested in demagogery or apologetics than finding the truth. Finally, with Chodakiewicz, we have someone who has approached the matter as a scholar. With meticulous attention to detail and rigorous documentation, Chodkiewicz brings out the facts and destroys the myths perpetuaed by demagogues and apologists alike. The is a must read for anyone who brave enough to want to know what really happened.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A drop of objectivity in a sea of bias Oct. 25 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
In the field of Holocaust studies - particularly in its North American variety - received wisdom holds that the Poles are incurable congenital antisemites who continued killing Jews even after the defeat of the Third Reich. Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's new book puts a lie to this ubiquitous fallacy.
Chodakiewicz demonstrates convincingly that the Polish-Jewish conflict during and immediately after WW2 resulted from the fundamental political differences between the two ethnic groups. The Poles had two enemies - the Nazis and the Soviets, while the Jews supported the Soviet cause for reasons of their own. This support, of course, put them on a collision course with the Poles. The resulting clash had nothing to do with the Holocaust and very little to do with antisemitism.
Chodakiewicz's main achievement in "After the Holocaust" lies in his treating both the Poles and Jews as normal human beings prone to do good and evil alike, and not as the eternal, Manichaean "victims" and "oppressors". He discusses in depth the specific actions of Jewish groups and individuals which logically caused the Polish backlash. Separate chapters deal with the prominence of Jewish officers in the Communist terror apparatus in Poland and with the (often indiscriminate) revenge exacted by Jewish survivors on the Poles. Unlike many politically correct academicians who consider any mention of the Jewish pro-Communist involvement as an "antisemitic canard", Chodakiewicz deals with this topic in a commonsense and candid manner. He also stresses the importance of other factors, including common banditry and settling of the scores within the Jewish community itself.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seminal Analysis Corrects Holocaust-Related Distortions March 17 2004
By Jan Peczkis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The imposition of a Soviet puppet government was a painful chapter in Poland's history. In response to the usual anti-Polish bias of Holocaust materials, arguments fly back and forth, including that: 1) Jews supporting the Communists were few and far between, 2) Jews acting against the anti-German anti-Communist Polish independentist forces (the AK, NSZ, and their successor organizations) were simply taking revenge for earlier injustices and/or protecting themselves against Polish hostility, 3) Retaliatory attacks by Polish independentists against Jews were narrowly tailored against those Jews who supported Poland's enemies, 4) The Polish independentist forces formed and implemented a plan to "finish Hitler's job" by killing off all remaining Jews so that Poland would be Judenrein (free of Jews). 5) The explanation for Poles killing Jews, notably during property disputes, begins and ends with Polish anti-Semitism. As Chodakiewicz shows throughout this eye-opening book, all five premises are FALSE.
There is no evidence that Polish independentist forces were behind the Cracow and Kielce pogroms. Furthermore, the citation of a Soviet source that attributes these tragic events to staging by the Soviet secret police (for propaganda purposes, see p. 184) is intriguing, and calls for further research. So is a Jewish eyewitness report of the suspicious behavior of a Soviet commander stationed in Kielce at the time of the pogrom (p. 172). As for those local Poles who joined the anti-Jewish riots once in progress, one wonders where Polish anti-Semitism left off and where mob psychology began. Unfortunately, the relevant archives of the Polish Communist secret police were destroyed about the year 1989, raising obvious questions about these pogroms.
Anti-Semitic animosities were triggered much less by old folklores and traditional church teachings than by the large-scale Jewish support for Poland's enemies, most recently during the Soviet invasion of eastern Poland in 1939 and again in 1942-1947. Chodakiewicz cites a number of documents (pp. 42-43) that prove the fact that Jews, at 1% of Poland's postwar population, represented upwards of 50% of leadership positions in the dreaded Communist secret police, a force responsible for torturing and murdering tens of thousands of Poles. Jews were also strongly over represented in its lower levels, though not to as extreme an extent. While there was no grand Jewish-Communist conspiracy as such, it is difficult to imagine how the existing situation could have failed to inflame Polish-Jewish relations.
The cited testimony of Jan Dawid Landau (p. 77) is instructive in understanding how Stalin recruited Polish Jews to do the dirty work for him (also facilitating the tarring of independentists with the label of anti-Semitism once they fought back). Landau was told by a UB (Communist secret police) officer that he now had the opportunity to take revenge for everything he had suffered from the Polish people. This illustrates the typical left-wing technique of stirring up resentments ("victim consciousness") of one group against another. Landau did not join, and instead fled to the west. Chodakiewicz notes instances where Jews were perfectly justified in involving the Communist authorities. Others clearly were not. Perhaps the most odious episodes involved Jews turning against their erstwhile Polish benefactors and rescuers. Finally, those Jews who chose to join, or otherwise collaborate with, the Communist police itself must have known, based on the information in quotes cited by Chodakiewicz (p. 73, 78, etc.), that their actions would send multitudes of Poles innocent of anti-Jewish actions into the torture-and-death mills of the Soviets, and thus provoke an anti-Semitic backlash. Chodakiewicz provides a very minimal estimate, based on only the few local sources that he had access to, of 3,128 to 6,625 Polish victims of Jewish perpetrators (p. 223).
Polish independentists targeted both Communist Poles and Communist Jews, often killing family members in reprisal for the actions of a Communist relative. Yaffa Eliach's experiences, if accurately reported by her, can be understood in this light. In addition, totally innocent Jews in the area were sometimes targeted. Whether or not this actually happened depended partly on the decisions of low-ranking commanders as well as the extent and visibility of Jewish-Communist collaboration in a given area. Chodakiewicz says that "Alas, collectivistic thinking produced collectivistic reprisals." No doubt the Communist Jewish enmity directed collectively against Poles provoked a similar counter-response.
Nevertheless, the insinuation, periodically appearing in Holocaust materials, that the AK and NSZ were out to kill all remaining Polish Jews is totally baseless. In fact, Chodakiewicz provides instances where independentist forces did not kill known Jews (pp. 144-145) when they easily could have done so. Earlier, some AK and NSZ units had rescued and hid Jews (pp. 59-60, 189). Finally, Chodadiewicz cites numerous instances of Polish-Jewish cooperation and goodwill in the difficult postwar years. These provide a resounding rebuttal to the widespread mischaracterization of Polish society as being so anti-Semitic that Jews had no choice but to be the enemy of Poles.

Concerning those hundreds (NOT thousands) of Jews killed in property disputes with Poles, Chodakiewicz shows that most of these incidents stem from the widespread lawlessness that prevailed in the wake of the imposition of Communism over Poland (p.7, 13). Chodakiewicz could have made his case stronger by putting these Jewish deaths in numerical perspective. Considering the fact that there were over 300,000 surviving Jews, it follows that reclaimed Jewish properties must have numbered in the tens of thousands, meaning that less than 1% of property reacquisitions led to the killing of the Jewish claimants, in addition to the fact that most of the killers were motivated by common banditry, not anti-Semitism. Yet Holocaust materials (notably Maus) tacitly portray the killing of Jews by Poles as a normal and anti-Jewish occurrence, and it is high time that these inaccurate and inflammatory materials be withdrawn. Other Holocaust materials, which never tire of bringing up Polish anti-Semitism and the greatly exaggerated role of Christian teachings behind it, should be more forthright in mentioning and elaborating the large scale of Jewish collaboration with Poland's enemies that was the main driving force behind this anti-Semitism.
53 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A drop of objectivity in a sea of bias Oct. 25 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In the field of Holocaust studies - particularly in its North American variety - received wisdom holds that the Poles are incurable congenital antisemites who continued killing Jews even after the defeat of the Third Reich. Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's new book puts a lie to this ubiquitous fallacy.
Chodakiewicz demonstrates convincingly that the Polish-Jewish conflict during and immediately after WW2 resulted from the fundamental political differences between the two ethnic groups. The Poles had two enemies - the Nazis and the Soviets, while the Jews supported the Soviet cause for reasons of their own. This support, of course, put them on a collision course with the Poles. The resulting clash had nothing to do with the Holocaust and very little to do with antisemitism.
Chodakiewicz's main achievement in "After the Holocaust" lies in his treating both the Poles and Jews as normal human beings prone to do good and evil alike, and not as the eternal, Manichaean "victims" and "oppressors". He discusses in depth the specific actions of Jewish groups and individuals which logically caused the Polish backlash. Separate chapters deal with the prominence of Jewish officers in the Communist terror apparatus in Poland and with the (often indiscriminate) revenge exacted by Jewish survivors on the Poles. Unlike many politically correct academicians who consider any mention of the Jewish pro-Communist involvement as an "antisemitic canard", Chodakiewicz deals with this topic in a commonsense and candid manner. He also stresses the importance of other factors, including common banditry and settling of the scores within the Jewish community itself. In short, Chodakiewicz treats his subject without the overemotionalism and sentimental moralising which are trademarks of the majority of the Holocaust literature. Unfortunately, for every book like Chodakiewicz's there appear on the North American book market at least five hundred overemotional and moralising ones. Nevertheless, it is a promising beginning.
47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first rigorous treatment of the topic Sept. 11 2003
By Adam C. Kolasinski - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Unfortunately, most authors who have explored the topic Polish-Jewish relations after the Second World War seem more interested in demagogery or apologetics than finding the truth. Finally, with Chodakiewicz, we have someone who has approached the matter as a scholar. With meticulous attention to detail and rigorous documentation, Chodkiewicz brings out the facts and destroys the myths perpetuaed by demagogues and apologists alike. The is a must read for anyone who brave enough to want to know what really happened.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent Aug. 13 2008
By hanna - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Excellent book, also worth of reading on that subject is..."An Eye for an Eye" by John Sack and "The Generation - The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Communists of Poland"by Jaff Schatz.
4 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Polish POV Analysis Dec 11 2007
By R. L. Huff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
But it's interesting how the author's attempt at objectivity has been twisted into a drawn-out polemic rationalizating pogroms in post-war Poland. This was surely not his intent. A more incisive look at post-war Polish anti-Semitism, in my opinion, is to be found in Professor Jan Gross's "Fear."

Stalin lost not a wink of sleep over Jews killed in Poland before or after the war. By the "logic" of "they deserved it" alluded in some reviews - similar to traditional attitudes toward rape victims - one can as easily say Poland deserved 40 years of Communism for reveling in communal bigotry and violence in the name of anti-Communism. But as the case of Kielce shows, violence was instigated not in the name of fighting Communism, but over the ancient accusation of child ritual murder, a traditional canard long pushed by the Church and having nothing to do with wartime ethnic politics in Poland.

In spite of the distorted interpretations given this book by some, "After the Holocaust" does not say "they had it coming."
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