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Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland Hardcover – Apr 15 2001

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1st Edition edition (April 15 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691086672
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691086675
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 12.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #185,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

From Amazon

"One day, in July 1941, half of the population of a small east European town murdered the other half--some 1,600 men, women and children." This short sentence summarizes the subject of Neighbors, historian Jan Gross's account of a massacre that occurred in Jedwabne, in northeastern Poland. Gross describes the atrocities of Jedwabne in almost unbearable detail. Men and women were hacked to death with knives, iron hooks, and axes. Small children were thrown with pitchforks onto a bonfire. A woman's decapitated head was kicked like a football. Historians before now have blamed the massacre on the Nazis--whose participation in and responsibility for these crimes has been exaggerated, Gross says. In fact, he argues, a virulent Polish anti-Semitism was liberated by German occupation. Instead of explaining the horrors of Jedwabne, which would be impossible, Neighbors sets the record straight as to the identity of the criminals. In doing so, Gross has ensured that future histories of the Holocaust, particularly in Poland, will be more honest, because future historians will be answerable to his argument that the evil of the Nazis was not only forced on the Poles. In places such as Jedwabne, it was welcomed by them. --Michael Joseph Gross

From Publishers Weekly

Claude Lanzman's myth-shattering documentary film Shoah demonstrated that some Polish peasants were keenly aware of the Nazis' mass murder of Jews on Polish soil. This volume takes the real-life horror story a step further, documenting how nearly all of the Jews of Jedwabne, Poland, were murdered on one day most of them burned alive by their non-Jewish neighbors. Drawing on testimony that prompted and emanated from a 1949 Polish trial, Gross carefully describes how apparently normal citizens terrorized and killed approximately 1,600 Jewish villagers. Gross, a professor of politics and European studies at New York University, also attempts to place this heinous crime in historical and political context, concluding that he can explain but not fully understand. How to understand the Polish villagers, led by their mayor, exceeding the July 10, 1941, command of conquering German soldiers to annihilate the Jews but spare some tradesmen? Immediately,according to Gross, local townsmen-turned-hooligans grabbed clubs studded with nails and other weapons and chased the Jews into the street. Many tried to escape through the surrounding fields, but only seven succeeded. The thugs fatally shot many Jews after forcing them to dig mass graves. They shoved the remaining hundreds of Jews into a barn, doused it with kerosene and set it ablaze. Some on the outside played musical instruments to drown out the victims' cries. Yet Neighbors isn't as terrifying as one might expect, since Gross, a Polish ‚migr‚ himself, guides the reader along an analytical path. By de-emphasizing the drama, he helps readers cope with the awful incident, but his narrative occasionally bogs down in his own thoughts. Still, he asserts hopefully that young Poles are "ready to confront the unvarnished history of Polish-Jewish relations during the war." (May)Forecast: The always heated question of the role of Poles in the Holocaust comes to a head here. The book is bound to generate controversy (it has already garnered mention in the New York Times), though its sales will probably be limited.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Sept. 18 2002
Format: Hardcover
"Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne,
Poland" is a controversial book whose reputation suffers the more
independent research is done on it. Gross' number of 1600 victims has been reduced to 400 or less, as the mass graves were investigated by authorities with Rabbis standing by.
(In comparison 3,000,000 Polish-Jews were killed in the rest of Poland by Nazis. Notably also 2,000,000 (half by Soviets) non-Jewish Poles died at the same time. How many at the hands of the hundreds of (well documented) Jewish Commissars? Probably many times more than 400.)
By his own admission in recent interviews; Gross concludes that his exploration of the evidence was "incomplete", as the presence of German soldiers everywhere was brought out by witnesses some from as far away as Israel. What was the purpose of this book - one could speculate - self hatred?
It's a narrowly (amateurishly) researched book, long on drama short on verity. Many exist significantly more broadly based.
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Format: Hardcover
I first became aware of the controversy over this historically based event with a report on "60 Minutes" a number of months ago in which the author of the book and a variety of various participants, victims' relatives, and others were interviewed some fifty years after the fact about the murderous events that transpired in Jedwabne, Poland in 1941. Of course, Polish authorities deny any such event took place, or that fellow villagers were among those who brutally and systematically murdered more than a thousand of their neighbors with savage efficiency, in some cases using clubs spiked with nails to bludgeon their victims to death. This is truly one of the signal events of the era, serving to illustrate beyond all doubt how much pent-up envy, hostility, and craven greed motivated many of the people who participated in the massacre.
As was common elsewhere in Europe during the years leading up to the Holocaust, the neighbors of local indigenous Jews were all too ready, willing, and able not only to help in the swift and brutal dispatch of so many innocent people who lived among them, but were also swift in redistributing all of the earthly possessions of the victims, from the houses, farms, and apartments to furniture, clothing, bank accounts, and the rare automobile. Since quite often the local Jewish victims were prominent in the local community, victimizing them usually meant a hefty payday in terms of the material dividend of the acts of wanton murder. Obviously recalling such avarice, lack of remorse, and savage disregard for others is a painful prospect, so Polish authorities are quick to either deny or attempt to explain away any evidence of a local rampage by citizens against their Jewish and Bohemian neighbors.
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By A Customer on July 24 2002
Format: Hardcover
This very important small book by Gross (political science, New York Univ.), an expert on Poland, further refutes the myth that the Holocaust may be entirely attributed to the Nazis and their henchmen. Following recent research that implicates the regular German army and military police, this study conclusively proves that in the town Jedwabne the local Polish population--when given permission, but not orders--massacred 1,600 local Jews, virtually all of their Jewish "neighbors." (Seven Jews were hidden by a Polish family.) At least half of the adult men participated in decapitating some, piercing others with sharp spikes, and cremating the majority alive in a barn that was doused with kerosene. The Nazis simply stood by and took pictures. This thoroughly documented volume also gives powerful evidence that primitive methods and ancient antisemitic motifs based on religion (such as the ritual murder libel) played a role alongside mechanized destruction and Nazi racial doctrine. Gross further puts to rest the myth that Jews, in particular, were connected with the Soviet regimes before the Nazi invasion of the USSR and after the war. The evidence suggests that it was the antisemites who opportunistically collaborated with the Soviet regimes.
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Format: Hardcover
In the small Polish city of Jedwabne, a stone monument notes that some 1600 Jedwabne Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II. Professor Jan Gross' concise and convincing monograph, "Neighbors," marshalls direct historical evidence and a creative historiography to prove "beyond reasonable doubt, and as Jedwabne citizens knew all along, it was their [Polish] neighbors who killed them." Gross, with excruciating detail, dissects the July 10, 1941, murder of practically every Jewish man, woman and child in that small Polish city. What makes Gross' research important is that this slaughter was not Nazi-inspired, but initiated, orchestrated and celebrated by Poles themselves. This direct indictment of Polish involvement (not mere complicity or helpless bystanding) shatters a half-century of Polish myth-making about that nation's alleged victimhood during World War II.
Professor Gross does not sensationalize the actual murder itself. A day-long orgy of violence, which was at once primitive and comprehensive, featured the climax of burning alive those Jews who had not perished in the mayhem of the day. In fact, not only did the non-Jewish Poles of Jedwabne participate; participants from other nearby Polish communities, themselves veterans of other pogroms, journeyed to Jedwabne to commit depredations on the Jewish population. Instead, Gross focuses on the impact this research may have on Polish national identity. In this sense, Gross simultaneously adds to and departs from standard interpretations of the Holocaust.
His research is the least creative in his reaffirmation of the now widely-accepted thesis that those involved in the destruction of European Jewry did so volitionally. Jedwabne's murderers are "willing executioners" in the purest sense of the word.
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