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Golden Harvest [Hardcover]

Jan T. Gross
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 2011
It seems at first commonplace: a photograph of peasants at harvest time, after work well done, resting contentedly with their tools, behind the fruits of their labor. But when one finally notices that what seemed innocent on first view becomes horrific: the crops scattered in front of the group are skulls and bones. Where are we? Who are the people in the photograph, and what are they doing? The starting point of Jan Gross's A Golden Harvest, this haunting photograph in fact depicts agroup of peasants - "diggers" atop a mountain of ashes at Treblinka, where some 800,000 Jews were gassed and cremated. The diggers are hoping to find gold and precious stones that Nazi executioners may have overlooked. The story captured in this grainy black-and-white photograph symbolizes the vast, continent-wide plunder of Jewish wealth. The seizure of Jewish assets during World War II occasionally generates widespread attention when Swiss banks are challenged to produce lists of dormantaccounts, or national museums are forced to return stolen paintings. The theft of this wealth was not limited to conquering armies, leading banks, and museums, but to local populations such as those pictured in the photograph. Based upon a simple group shot, this moving book evokes the depth and range, as well as the intimacy, of the final solution.

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"lucid and chilling book" --The New Yorker

"extraordinarily powerful account" --Neal Gendler, The American Jewish World

"[Golden Harvest] is a remarkable, stunning work." --Gila Wertheimer, Chicago Jewish Star

"Starting from a disturbed posed photograph of paesant gleaners in search of "post-Jewish" gold in the soil of Treblinka death camp, Jan Tomasz Gross and Irena Grudzinska Gross have created in this profoundly moving volume a chilling, sometimes shocking, passionate, and yet always balanced examination of the extent to which plunder of Jewish possesion was often a communal enterprise in wartime and post-war Poland." --Madeline G. Levine, Kenan Professor of Slavic Literatures Emerita, University of North Carolina

"Jan and Irena Gross guide us expertly through the "Heart of Darkness" that was wartime Poland. Using a single, deeply disturbing photograph, this book captures brilliantly the whole terrifying rapaciousness of Polish -- and European -- society as the Jews face the specter of elimination." --Norman M. Naimark, Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor of East European Studies, Stanford University

About the Author

Jan Gross is Professor of Politics and European Studies at New York University. He is the author of Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland, a National Book Award finalist. Irena Grudzinska Gross is Associate Research Scholar in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, at Princeton University.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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5.0 out of 5 stars Golden Harvest July 24 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is of the quality that one expects from Jan Gross.It is "bone and muscle" fat; nothing extraneous; unvarnished .Despite having read earlier works of this nature,I was devastated by motives and methods described by the authors
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Must read March 20 2013
By H. M. Hicks - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a book everyone should be required to read. It illustrates the effects on the human spirit of war, hatred, greed and cruelty. I think that is a lesson that is very apt for the times we are living in now, with it's glorification of greed and selfishness. This story is not about the Poles or the Ukrainians, or even about the Nazis. It is about people. It is about the depths to which we all can sink given the right circumstances.
8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jan Gross has now hit a Triple May 9 2013
By Jay A. Frogel - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is Jan Gross' third short book about the treatment of Polish Jews in Poland by the rest of the population during WW II and its aftermath. It's not a pretty picture. His other two books are "Neighbors" and "Fear". The focus of the books is confined to the expression of anti-semitism by the non-Jewish Poles - much of it extremely, violent, brutal, inhumane, and barbarous. It is important to keep this seemingly narrow focus in mind since many of the other reviewers deeply disliked this book as well as the other two by Jan Gross on the grounds, at least as they expressed it, that it (they) are so one-sided. For a more complete picture of, say, the Warsaw ghetto uprisings, the, acts of kindness expressed by some (too few unfortunately) non-Jewish Poles to their Jewish countrymen, etc one needs to turn elsewhere. But in this book and in his other two Gross presents a largely horrific picture of what the Polish Jews suffered not from the Nazi oppressors, but from their fellow Polish citizens. These are important books to read, well written and well researched. As Timothy Snyder pointed out in a review of this book and several others in the New York Review of Books in 2012 December, the contrast with these acts and what present day Poland has become after getting rid of the Communist government is remarkable. I have given a more detailed discussion of Gross' book and Snyder's review of it in a response I posted on 2013 May 8 to a review by "lawyerguy" that was posted in December of 2012. I will repeat one point here from my longer comments that is also important to bear in mind when reading the negative reviews that Gross' books have elicited: Because of Nazi policy the consequences of being caught aiding Jews in Poland could be fatal. But the point that Gross makes repeatedly, is that if Poles did NOTHING, that would have been far better than the SOMETHING that many of them did do, namely the violence, brutality, etc toward their Jewish compatriots.
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Your Typical Gold Diggers Nov. 25 2012
By Wynne Guglielmo - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Jan Gross has once again provided the reader with enticing yet horrifying acts committed against European Jewry. Even dead these poor people suffered injustices.
20 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth Hurts June 25 2012
By Arnie Singer - Author - Published on
A relatively tiny number of Poles actually helped jews survive during the Holocaust. My grandparents, father, aunt and uncles were hidden by a Polish farmer. Most Poles stood by and silently watched the destruction of the jews without shedding a tear. A significant number took part in the mass destruction by identifying the jews to the Nazis and by hunting them down in their hiding places and helping round them up and guard them. Once the jews were gone, who do you think took over their possessions?
Yes, the truth is very painful to both the perpetrators and the victims. But it must be told. The survivors won't be with us for much longer. All we'll be left with are their testimonies, and the history books. The facts speak for themselves. Read them and weep. And let's make sure it never happens again.
23 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It wasn't the Poles who committed genocide but... April 7 2012
By Tom - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Jan Gross shook the Polish nation and Diaspora with the publication of Neighbors (2001) regarding the massacre of Jews by Polish Catholics at Jedwabne in 1941 and Fear (2006), an examination of the 1946 Kielce pogrom. Both books challenged the widely-held stereotype of Poles as noble victims. While Gross was offhandedly vilified in conservative circles, the volumes sparked thoughtful discourse and reevaluation of Polish attitudes toward the Jewish "other."

Gross's newest book, Golden Harvest: Events at the Periphery of the Holocaust, is a valuable contribution to the ongoing Polish-Jewish discussion. Anti-Semitism was pervasive and becoming increasingly institutionalized in interbellum Poland and continued into the war years. While relatively few Poles participated directly in the German-orchestrated genocide of Jews in occupied Poland, many took advantage of the Jews' deadly circumstances in a variety of ways. Gross begins with a photograph of Poles posing before a pile of bones removed from a Jewish mass grave. Those who lived near former extermination camps often scoured remains for gold teeth. Other examples of Polish exploitation and malevolence are covered including appropriation of Jewish property accompanied by a sense of entitlement to that property, towns benefiting economically from their proximity to death camps, the murder of Jews by Poles for various reasons, blackmailing Jews in hiding, sheltering Jews for payment, and notable silence from the Polish Catholic Church in the face of the genocide.

Gross uses a large number of first-hand sources to piece together a mosaic of Polish opportunism and abuse. Anyone who has studied Polish-Jewish relations with any degree of objectivity will not be surprised with the information presented in Golden Harvest. There are no sensationalistic charges or revelations. But many traditionalist Poles will reflexively object to this book as yet another example of Gross's "lies" and his "bizarre hatred of Poles and Poland" (a claim made by the editor of a Polish American newspaper, as if examining Polish Catholic intolerance amounts to hatred). Traditionalist apologists such as Danusha Goska deceitfully emphasize the rescuers, Zegota, and Jan Karski as examples of philo-Semitism while they sweep the popular and radically anti-Semitic Endecja as far under the rug as possible. Traditionalist pundits cry foul at charges of anti-Semitism and then write enthusiastic reviews of books by Endecjan ideologues. The irony is striking but par for the course in American Polonia.

With Golden Harvest, Dr. Gross continues to advance the Polish-Jewish dialogue much to the displeasure of Polish conservatives. Poles' willingness to recognize the historical record regarding anti-Semitism has come quite a distance compared to fifteen years ago and some of that can be attributed to Gross's scholarship.

Below are books which discuss Polish Catholic anti-Semitism:

Antisemitism and Its Opponents in Modern Poland by Robert Blobaum

Between the Brown and the Red: Nationalism, Catholicism, and Communism in Twentieth-Century Poland by Mikolaj Stanislaw Kunicki

Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust by Michael C. Steinlauf

Boycott! The Politics of Anti-Semitism in Poland, 1912-1914 by Robert Blobaum

Bystanders, Blackmailers, and Perpetrators: Polish Complicity During the Holocaust by Jacob A. Flaws

Collaboration with the Nazis: Public Discourse after the Holocaust by Roni Stauber

Conflicts Across the Atlantic: Essays on Polish-Jewish Relations During World War I and in the Interwar Years by Andrzej Kapiszewski

Contested Memories: Poles and Jews during the Holocaust and Its Aftermath by Joshua D. Zimmerman

Difficult Questions in Polish-Jewish Dialogue by Jacek Santorski

Economic origins of Antisemitism: Poland and Its Jews in the Early Modern Period by Hillel Levine

Faith and Fatherland: Catholicism, Modernity, and Poland by Brian Porter

Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz by Jan Gross

Forced Out: The Fate of Polish Jewry in Communist Poland by Arthur J. Wolak

From Assimilation to Anitsemitism: The "Jewish Question" in Poland, 1850-1914 by Theodore R. Weeks

Golden Harvest: Events at the Periphery of the Holocaust by Jan Gross

Holocaust and Memory by Barbara Engelking

Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German Occupied Poland by Jan Grabowski (available 10/30/2013)

Imaginary Neighbors: Mediating Polish-Jewish Relations after the Holocaust by Dorota Glowacka

In the Shadow of the Polish Eagle: The Poles, the Holocaust, and Beyond by Leo Cooper

It's such a beautiful, sunny day . . . . The fate of Jews seeking help in the Polish countryside, 1942--1945 by Barbara Engelking

Jews and Heretics in Catholic Poland: A Beleaguered Church in the Post-Reformation Era by Magda Teter

Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust by E. Thomas Wood

Memory Offended: The Auschwitz Convent Controversy by John K. Roth

My Brother's Keeper: Recent Polish Debates on the Holocaust by Antony Polonsky

Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland by Jan Gross

Neutralizing Memory: The Jews in Contemporary Poland by Iwona Irwin-Zarecka

New Poland and the Jews by Simon Segal

No Way Out: The Politics of Polish Jewry, 1935-1939 by Emanuel Melzer

On the Edge of Destruction: Jews of Poland Between the Two World Wars by Celia Stopnicka Heller

Poland and the Jews: Reflections of a Polish Polish Jew by Stanislaw Krajewski

Poland's Threatening Other: The Image of the Jew From 1880 to the Present by Joanna B. Michlic

Poles and Jews: A Failed Brotherhood by Magdalena Opalski and Israel Bartal

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 8: Jews in Independent Poland, 1918-1939

Polish Politics in Transition: The Camp of National Unity and the Struggle for Power, 1935-1939 by Edward D. Wynot

Polish-Jewish Relations During the Second World War by Emanuel Ringelblum

Polish-Jewish Relations Since 1984: Reflections of a Participant by Antony Polonsky

Rethinking Poles and Jews: Troubled Past, Brighter Future by Robert Cherry

Rome's Most Faithful Daughter: The Catholic Church and Independent Poland, 1914-1939 by Neal Pease

Search and Research: Lectures and Papers, Vol. 18, Changing Perspectives on Polish-Jewish Relations During the Holocaust by Havi Dreifuss

Secret City: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw, 1940-1945 by Gunnar S. Paulsson

Shtetl: The Life and Death of a Small Town and the World of Polish Jews by Eva Hoffman

Sinners on Trial: Jews and Sacrilege after the Reformation by Magda Teter

Social and Political History of the Jews in Poland 1919-1939 by Joseph Marcus

Studies on Polish Jewry, 1919-1939: The interplay of social, economic, and political factors in the struggle of a minority for its existence by Joshua A. Fishman

Symbiosis and Ambivalence: Poles and Jews in a Small Galacian Town by Rosa Lehmann

The Catholic Church and Antisemitism: Poland, 1933-1939 by Ronald E. Modras

The Convent at Auschwitz by Wladyslaw Bartoszewski

The Crosses of Auschwitz: Nationalism and Religion in Post-Communist Poland by Genevieve Zubrzycki

The Hidden Pope: The Untold Story of a Lifelong Friendship That Is Changing the Relationship Between Catholics and Jews - The Personal Journey of John Paul II and Jerzy Kluger

The House at Ujazdowskie 16: Jewish Families in Warsaw after the Holocaust by Karen Auerbach (available June 26, 2013)

The Jews in Poland and Russia: Volume III: 1914 to 2008 by Antony Polonsky

The Jews in Poland by Chimen Abramsky

The Jews in Polish Culture by Aleksander Hertz

The Jews of East Central Europe between the World Wars by Ezra Mendelsohn

The Jews of Poland Between Two World Wars by Yisrael Gutman

The Legacy of Polish Jewry by Harry M. Rabinowicz

The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy Over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland by Antony Polonsky

The Populist Radical Right in Poland: The Patriots by Rafal Pankowski

There Once Was A World: A 900-Year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok by Yaffa Eliach

Thou Shalt Not Kill: Poles on Jedwabne

Together and Apart in Brzezany: Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians, 1919-1945 by Shimon Redlich

Traitors & True Poles: Narrating A Polish-American Identity, 1880-1939 by Karen Majewski

Understanding Ethnic Violence: Fear, Hatred, and Resentment in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe by Roger Peterson

Unequal Victims: Poles and Jews During World War Two by Israel Gutman

Warsaw Between the World Wars by Edward Wynot

When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth-Century Poland by Brian Porter
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