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Jewish Studies The Holocaust in Poland
by
David Engel

Introduction

The phrase “Holocaust in Poland” is generally taken to refer to the set of individual or group decisions, actions, and processes that catalyzed or contributed to the deaths of nearly 3 million of the approximately 3.5 million Jewish citizens of the Second Polish Republic between the years 1939 and 1945. By extension it is also employed to refer to a similar set of decisions, actions, and processes that contributed to the survival of the remainder. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries the government of Poland has protested use of the phrase, objecting to what it considers the implication that Poles were primarily responsible for the Jewish deaths. It has preferred to speak of the “Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Poland.” Indeed, the primary killers of Jews were German citizens acting on behalf of the Nazi regime, which occupied approximately half of the territory of the Polish state in September 1939 and the remaining half (which had been occupied by the Soviet Union, also beginning in September 1939) in June 1941. However, scholars have generally included under the rubric the situation of Jews in the territories under Soviet occupation as well as that of several hundred thousand Jews who fled or were deported to the Soviet interior between 1939 and 1941. They have also considered the relations between Poles and Jews under both German and Soviet occupation as a factor that bore upon both death and survival. A minority of scholars apply the term “Holocaust” additionally to the deaths of some two million Polish non-Jews at German hands. Most, however, have identified an essential difference between Nazi policy toward Jews, which sought the death of every Jewish man, woman, and child within reach, and the regime’s policy toward non-Jewish Poles, which aimed at the elimination of leadership strata in order to reduce the Polish population to the status of a helot work force. The listings in this article consider the term in the narrower sense with emphasis on the treatment and fate of Polish Jews.

General Overviews

To date there is no single-volume or multivolume comprehensive history of the Holocaust in Poland. Such a history was commissioned by Yad Vashem, the Israeli state Holocaust memorial agency, in the mid-1980s to parallel similar volumes that have appeared on the Holocaust in Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia. However, the volume on Poland was never completed. Subsequently, Yad Vashem has recommissioned the work in the expectation that a new synthetic history will incorporate new research based on archives in the former Soviet Union and Eastern bloc countries that became available only after 1991. Meanwhile, Gutman 1990 provides the best and most accessible brief outline available. Polonsky 2012 incorporates newer material about the Holocaust into a broad narrative about the history of 20th-century Polish and Soviet Jewry. Snyder 2010 treats the Holocaust as part of the general history of the ethnically mixed regions between Germany and the Soviet Union, all of whose inhabitants suffered murderous violence between 1933 and 1945. Shpizman 1942 is included as an example of how the situation of Jews in German-occupied Poland was perceived by contemporaries before the existence of a Nazi mass murder program was known.

  • Gutman, Israel. “Poland.” In Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Vol. 3. Edited by Israel Gutman, 1143–1176. New York: Macmillan, 1990.

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    Narrative survey. This four-volume work presented the state of the field in Holocaust studies during the 1980s, before access to sources in the former Soviet Union and Eastern bloc countries was available. No similar reference work has superseded it. Entries concerning Poland are listed in the index, Volume 4, pp. 1872–1873.

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  • Polonsky, Antony. The Jews in Poland and Russia. Vol. 3, 1914 to 2008. Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2012.

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    Synthetic history written by a leading historian, suitable for general readers and undergraduates as well as scholars. The Holocaust is treated in Part 2 (pp. 359–587).

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  • Shpizman, L. Di yidn in natsi-poyln. New York: Yidisher Kemfer, 1942.

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    The first book-length effort to describe and analyze the situation of Polish Jewry under Nazi occupation, assembled before news of systematic mass killing had reached the West.

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  • Snyder, Timothy. Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin. New York: Basic Books, 2010.

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    Broad synthesis of research literature in German, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, and Belorussian. Places encounters between the Third Reich and Jews on Polish territories in the context of murderous policies pursued by the German and Soviet regimes in the border regions between the two countries between the early 1930s and the end of World War II.

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Reference Works

Much study of the Holocaust requires basic information about the places where Jews lived and the sites where they were killed. Dombrovska, et al. 1976–2005 and Miron 2009 provide the former in an easily accessible, reliable, comprehensive fashion. For the latter, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum is in the process of compiling a comprehensive, multivolume Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, but only a pair of volumes on Germany prior to the outbreak of World War II have appeared to date. Skibińska 2007 is an extensive guide through the ever-growing mass of secondary literature on the Holocaust in Poland. Engelking and Leociak 2009 provides a remarkable gazetteer of Warsaw, the largest Jewish community in Poland. Shapiro and Epstein 2009 demonstrates the extent and variety of primary documentation of Jewish provenance located in Warsaw’s most important collection of materials on the subject.

  • Dombrovska, D., Abraham Wein, and Aharon Vais, eds. Pinkas haKehillot: Polin. 8 vols. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1976–2005.

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    Encyclopedic descriptions of histories of fifteen hundred Jewish communities, emphasizing 1939–1945. Entries for larger cities are extensive and detailed; for many small towns and villages no other work provides data that Yad Vashem has assembled from survivor testimonies. See also the abridged English version, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life before and during the Holocaust, edited by Shmuel Spector and Geoffrey Wigoder (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2001).

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  • Engelking, Barbara, and Jacek Leociak. The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.

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    An encyclopedic description of the ghetto administration, the Jewish police, health and social welfare services, educational activities, the ghetto economy, cultural and religious life, underground activity (including armed resistance), and life in hiding outside the ghetto walls.

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  • Miron, Guy, ed. The Yad Vashem Encyclopedia of the Ghettos during the Holocaust. 2 vols. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2009.

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    Basic reference work with a majority of entries concerning locations in Poland.

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  • Shapiro, Robert Moses, and Tadeusz Epstein, eds. The Warsaw Ghetto Oyneg Shabes-Ringelblum Archive: Catalog and Guide. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.

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    Detailed inventory of the underground archive of the Warsaw ghetto.

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  • Skibińska, Alina. Źródła do badań nad zagładą Żydów na okupowanych ziemiach polskich: Przewodnik archiwalno-bibliograficzny. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Cyklady, 2007.

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    The most extensive bibliography available, although heavily weighted toward Polish-language materials.

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Journals

Much important research on the Holocaust in Poland has been published in scholarly articles, most of which appear in journals devoted either to the study of the Holocaust in general or to the broader history and culture of Polish Jews. Examples of the former are Dapim: Studies on the Holocaust, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and Yad Vashem Studies; the latter include Gal-Ed: On the History and Culture of Polish Jewry, Kwartalnik Historii Żydów, and Polin. Zagłada Żydów, the newest journal listed, devotes the bulk of its articles specifically to the Holocaust in Poland, although articles on the Holocaust in other countries have also appeared. All of the journals listed feature peer-reviewed articles by leading scholars from North America, Europe, Israel, and beyond.

Collected Studies

Because so much important literature on the Holocaust in Poland appears in journals that do not have wide circulation, anthologies of research articles and essays facilitate access to research sources. The works listed under this heading are of two types. Browning 2000, Friedman 1980, Gutman 1985, and Gutman 2009 contain articles by a single scholar on a variety of themes. Grinberg and Szapiro 1993 and Shapiro 1999 are proceedings of important scholarly conferences. All provide excellent points of entry into the literature on central themes in the history of the Holocaust in Poland.

  • Browning, Christopher R. Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German Killers. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511665301Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes essays on Jews in Nazi labor camps in Poland and on the degree of initiative displayed by local German commanders in carrying out the murders of Jews.

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  • Friedman, Philip. Roads to Extinction: Essays on the Holocaust. Edited by Ada June Friedman. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1980.

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    Pioneering essays by one of the founding fathers of Holocaust historiography, including studies of ghetto administrations and Polish-Jewish relations.

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  • Grinberg, Daniel, and Paweł Szapiro, eds. Holocaust z perspektywy półwiecza: Pięćdziesiąta rocznica powstania w getcie warszawskim; Materiały z konferencji zorganizowanej przez Żydowski Instytut Historyczny w dniach 29–31 marca 1993. Warsaw: Jewish Historical Institute, 1993.

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    Collection of papers presented at a scholarly conference in Warsaw marking fifty years since the revolt in the Warsaw ghetto. Notable mainly as one of the earliest discussions about the Holocaust between scholars from Poland and abroad to be held following the end of communist rule.

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  • Gutman, Israel. BaAlatah uvaMa’avak: Pirkei iyyun baSho’ah uvaHitnagdut haYehudit. Tel Aviv: Sifriat Poalim, 1985.

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    Essays and research articles by a senior Israeli historian of the Holocaust in Poland. Topics include Jewish forced labor, the relations among different ethnic groups in concentration and labor camps, and the origins and characteristics of the Jewish armed resistance movement.

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  • Gutman, Israel. Sugiyot beHeker haSho’ah: Bikoret uTerumah. Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Center for the Study of Jewish History, 2009.

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    Fourteen articles on subjects including Holocaust historiography, patterns of Jewish communal organization under Nazi rule, Polish Jewish refugees in the USSR, and the reconstruction of Polish Jewry following the Holocaust.

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  • Shapiro, Robert Moses, ed. Holocaust Chronicles: Individualizing the Holocaust through Diaries and Other Contemporaneous Personal Accounts. Papers presented at an international conference held at Yeshiva University in October 1993. New York: KTAV, 1999.

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    Nineteen papers presented at an international conference discussing wartime diaries written by Poles and Jews from Warsaw, Lodz, and Vilna. Also considers the repositories that collected and housed unpublished diaries during and after the war as well as methodological questions concerning the use of diaries in historical research.

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Published Primary Sources

Much original documentation concerning the Holocaust in Poland has been published in book form both in anthologies and in stand-alone volumes.

Documentary Collections

Arad, et al. 1999 and Garbarini 2011 are anthologies of documents culled from several repositories. They are highly useful as teaching tools in undergraduate and graduate courses on the Holocaust. Trunk 1982 illustrates how survivor testimony can be used to illuminate a specific theme (the behavior of Polish Jews under Nazi impact). Apenszlak 1943 shows how publication of early reports about the Holocaust was used during World War II as a tool to mobilize anti-Nazi action among those who were fighting Germany. Borwicz, et al. 1945 was compiled largely in the hope of influencing trials of Nazi war criminals and collaborators. Blatman 2002 and Sakowska 1997–2000 are examples of anthologies based on particular source types or materials contained in a single repository.

  • Apenszlak, Jacob, ed. The Black Book of Polish Jewry: An Account of the Martyrdom of Polish Jewry under the Nazi Occupation. New York: American Federation for Polish Jews, 1943.

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    Compilation of reports received from occupied Poland prepared under the impact of the first confirmed reports of systematic mass killing of Jews.

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  • Arad, Yitzhak, Israel Gutman, and Abraham Margaliot, eds. Documents on the Holocaust. 8th ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.

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    The largest part of this collection of English translations of primary documents drawn primarily from German and Jewish sources (pp. 167–364) concerns Poland. The documents illustrate both the evolution of Nazi anti-Jewish policies and actions in Poland and the varieties of Jewish response.

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  • Blatman, Daniel, ed. Geto Varshah, Sippur itona’i: Mivhar miItonut haMahteret, 1940–1943. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2002.

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    Chronologically and thematically organized annotated Hebrew translations of articles that appeared in the Warsaw Jewish underground press. Also contains an eighty-page analytic introduction discussing the role of the underground press in the life of the Warsaw ghetto.

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  • Borwicz, Michał M., Nella Rost, and Józef Wulf, eds. Dokumenty zrodni i męczeństwa. Krakow: Centralny Komitet Żydów Polskich, Wojewódzka Żydowska Komisja Historyczna w Krakowie, 1945.

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    Contains texts of interviews of survivors conducted by the staff of the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland concerning conditions for Jews in camps and ghettos, with a special section devoted to Jewish children.

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  • Garbarini, Alexandra, ed. Jewish Responses to Persecution. Vol. 2, 1938–1940. Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2011.

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    Collection of English translations of primary documents, chiefly from the collections of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, illustrating how Jews throughout Europe coped with Nazi rule. Two of this volume’s four sections (pp. 109–218 and pp. 343–488) concern conditions in Poland during the first year of German occupation.

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  • Sakowska, Ruta, ed. Archiwum Ringelbluma: Konspiracyjne archiwum getta Warszawy. 3 vols. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 1997–2000.

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    Copious documents from the Ringelblum archive, including numerous facsimiles. Documents written in a language other than Polish are presented in the original with Polish translations. Volume 1, letters concerning mass deportations of Jews from ghettos; Volume 2, underground educational activities; Volume 3 (edited by Andrzej Żbikowski), conditions for Jews under Soviet occupation.

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  • Trunk, Isaiah, ed. Jewish Responses to Nazi Persecution. New York: Scarborough, 1982.

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    Contains texts from sixty-two interviews conducted with Holocaust survivors in camps for displaced persons, mostly from Poland, immediately following World War II.

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Diaries

Several hundred Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland are known to have composed diaries of their experiences; many have been published. This section lists a handful of the best known and most widely cited diaries, selected with a mind to reflecting a variety of experiences. The diarists include one who held official posts in Jewish councils (Czerniaków 1979), a member of the Jewish ghetto police (Perechodnik 2004), activists in self-help and cultural organizations (Kruk 2002, Ringelblum 1961), young people (Sierakowiak 1996, Draenger 1996), a teacher (Kaplan 1965), a resistance fighter (Draenger 1996), and a Christian convert treated as a Jew according to Nazi racial laws (Hirszfeld 1989). Four (Adam Czerniaków, Ludwik Hirszfeld, Chaim A. Kaplan, and Emmanuel Ringelblum) are from Warsaw; the others are from Lodz (Dawid Sierakowiak), Kraków (Gusta Davidson Draenger), Vilna (Herman Kruk), and Otwock (Calel Perechodnik).

  • Czerniaków, Adam. The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniaków: Prelude to Doom. Edited by Raul Hilberg, Stanisław Staron, and Josef Kermish. New York: Stein and Day, 1979.

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    Diary of the head of the Warsaw Jewish Council who committed suicide in July 1942 after being ordered to hand over Jews to the German authorities for deportation.

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  • Draenger, Gusta Davidson. Justyna’s Narrative. Edited by Eli Pfefferkorn and David H. Hirsch. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996.

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    Account of the Jewish Fighting Organization in the Krakow ghetto written by a woman while in the custody of the gestapo and smuggled from prison.

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  • Hirszfeld, Ludwik. Historia jednego życia. Warsaw: Instytut Wydawniczy Pax, 1989.

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    Autobiography of a famous Polish microbiologist, a Jewish convert to Catholicism, who spent two years in the Warsaw ghetto and survived under false identity following the ghetto’s liquidation.

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  • Kaplan, Chaim A. Scroll of Agony: The Warsaw Diary of Chaim A. Kaplan. Rev. ed. Edited by Abraham Katsh. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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    One of the most widely cited diaries from the Warsaw ghetto, written by a teacher who perished in the mass deportation of 1942.

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  • Kruk, Herman. The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania: Chronicles from the Vilna Ghetto and the Camps, 1939–1944. Edited by Benjamin Harshav. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002.

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    Diary of a member of the Jewish Socialist Bund in Vilna who worked to create a ghetto archive in a way that invites comparison to Emmanuel Ringelblum in Warsaw. A version of the diary was published in Yiddish (the language in which it was composed) in 1961. The English edition incorporates much unpublished material written by the diarist; it is about 30 percent larger than the Yiddish version.

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  • Perechodnik, Calel. Spowiedź. Warsaw: Ośrodek KARTA, 2004.

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    Journal of a Jewish policeman in a provincial ghetto who was forced to deliver his wife and daughter to their deaths. Volumes titled Am I a Murderer? purporting to be translations, appeared in English, French, and German; all were made from a bowdlerized version of the original and are not trustworthy. Spowiedź is based on the authentic manuscript. The only reliable translation is in Hebrew.

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  • Ringelblum, Emmanuel. Ksovim fun geto. Vol. 1, Togbukh fun varshever ghetto, 1939–1942. Warsaw: Yiddish Bukh, 1961.

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    Yiddish original of Ringelblum’s diary kept until mass deportations in the summer of 1942. See also Volume 2, Notitsn un ofhandlungen, 1942–1943 (Warsaw: Yiddish Bukh, 1963). Volume 2 continues the diary through early 1943 and includes brief appreciations of Warsaw ghetto personalities. Also contains a Yiddish translation of Ringelblum’s essay on wartime Polish-Jewish relations originally written in Polish.

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  • Sierakowiak, Dawid. The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Łódź Ghetto. Edited by Alan Adelson. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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    Diary of a teenage boy recording the extreme hunger that prevailed in the Lodz ghetto and the ways ghetto dwellers coped with it. The diarist himself died of hunger in 1943. The volume also contains several dozen photographs taken by Jewish photographers employed by the Lodz Jewish Council to document ghetto life and conditions.

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Chronicles and Other Documents Written under Occupation

The Jewish councils (Judenräte) appointed by the Nazi occupation regime to ensure compliance with the regime’s orders kept records of their activities, as did Jewish underground organizations. Two fairly complete sets of minutes from Jewish councils have survived (Blumenthal 1962, Blumenthal 1967). The Jewish Council of Lodz maintained an official community chronicle (Dobroszycki 1984). A small portion of records maintained by the underground Jewish socialist party commonly known as the Bund have been located (Edelman 2001). A leader of the Bund, Szmul Zygielbojm, who also served briefly on the Warsaw Jewish Council, wrote gripping sketches of life in the ghetto (Zygielbojm 1947). Other sketches and reflections were composed by activists associated with the clandestine archive headed by Emmanuel Ringelblum; of these, the writings of Shimon Huberband have been noted for their incisive character (Huberband 1969). All of these documents offer a remarkable window into the dilemmas facing Jewish leaders in Nazi-occupied Poland.

  • Blumenthal, Nachman. Darko shel yudenrat: Te’udot miGeto Bialystok. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1962.

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    Yiddish transcriptions and Hebrew translations with annotations (in Hebrew) of the minutes of fifty-two meetings of the Białystok Jewish Council and of 433 official announcements published by the council. Includes a detailed introduction in Hebrew and English.

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  • Blumenthal, Nachman. Te’udot miGeto Lublin: Yudenrat lelo derekh. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1967.

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    Facsimiles and annotated Hebrew translations (from Polish) of 180 sets of minutes of the meetings of the Lublin Jewish Council from 7 January 1940 through 1 November 1942. Also includes facsimiles of several German documents. A condensed English version of the extensive Hebrew introduction is provided.

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  • Dobroszycki, Lucjan, ed. The Chronicle of the Łódź Ghetto, 1941–1944. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984.

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    Abridged translation of the official record of the second-largest ghetto in occupied Poland compiled by approximately a dozen employees of the Lodz Jewish Council at the behest of the ghetto leader, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski.

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  • Edelman, Marek. HaGeto lohem: Tse’irei haBund beGeto Varshah. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuhad, 2001.

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    Hebrew translation of a report on the Warsaw ghetto underground and the role of the Jewish Labor Bund in it prepared by the author shortly following the conclusion of World War II. Also contains a diary and minutes of meetings of the Central Committee of the Bund youth organization, Tsukunft, along with explanatory introductory essays by Daniel Blatman.

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  • Huberband, Shimon. Kiddush haShem: Ketavim miYmei haSho’ah miToch archiyon Ringelblum beGeto Varshah. Edited by Nahman Blumenthal and Josef Kermish. Tel Aviv: Zachor, 1969.

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    Writings by an orthodox rabbi who was an active participant in the underground Ringelblum archive describing the situation of Jews in various parts of Nazi-occupied Poland and reflecting upon religious and philosophical problems generated by the conditions of occupation.

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  • Zygielbojm, Szmul. Zygielbojm-bukh. New York: Unser Tsait, 1947.

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    Biography of Szmul Zygielbojm, leader of the Jewish Labor Bund and member of the wartime Polish National Council, plus selections from Zygielbojm’s writings about conditions in Nazi-occupied Poland and comments about Zygielbojm’s 1943 suicide, committed to protest inaction by Allied governments in response to news of the Holocaust.

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Postwar Testimonies and Memoirs

The published memoirs of Holocaust survivors from Poland fill many library shelves. Listed here are memoirs of two young women from Warsaw. One was active in the armed resistance movement (Meed 1977), the other successfully hid from the Nazis outside the ghetto (Bauman 1986). They are among the best-known examples of this genre. Shorter published memoirs can be found in the more than six hundred memorial books (yizker-bikher) produced after the Holocaust by Jews seeking to preserve a record of life in their communities before, during, and immediately after the catastrophe. Samples of this material have been collected and translated in Kugelmass, et al. 1998; this volume offers the best introduction to the genre. Many more memoirs and testimonies have been gathered by research organizations throughout the world dedicated to documenting the fate of Polish Jewry. Grynberg 2003 is a selection of such materials collected by one such organization. Zaderecki 1982, which presents the perspective of a non-Jewish witness to the murder of the Jews of the author’s city, is an annotated edition of a manuscript describing Nazi rule in L’viv.

  • Bauman, Janina. Winter in the Morning: A Young Girl’s Life in the Warsaw Ghetto and Beyond, 1939–1945. New York: Free Press, 1986.

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    Poignant memoir by a woman from a well-to-do, acculturated Warsaw Jewish family who escaped from the ghetto and survived in hiding on the so-called Aryan side. Well written. An excellent introductory vehicle for engaging what life was like for Jews in the ghetto and beyond.

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  • Grynberg, Michał, ed. Words to Outlive Us: Eyewitness Accounts from the Warsaw Ghetto. London: Granta, 2003.

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    Selections from testimonies collected by the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. Subjects include daily life in the Warsaw ghetto, institutions of the Jewish community and of the occupation regime, the mass deportation of summer 1942, armed resistance in the ghetto, Jews in hiding on the so-called Aryan side, and the experience of liberation.

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  • Kugelmass, Jack, Jonathan Boyarin, and Zachary M. Baker, eds. From a Ruined Garden: The Memorial Books of Polish Jewry. 2d ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.

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    Translations of sections from assorted yizker-bikher (community memorial books) describing Jewish life before, during, and after the Holocaust. Includes a comprehensive list of published yizker-bikher and a gazetteer of place-names mentioned in the volume prepared by Zachary Baker.

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  • Meed, Vladka. On Both Sides of the Wall: Memoirs from the Warsaw Ghetto. Tel Aviv: Ghetto Fighters’ House, 1977.

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    Memoirs of a woman, a member of the Jewish Labor Bund, who worked as an underground courier in Warsaw carrying messages between Jewish and Polish political and military organizations.

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  • Zaderecki, Tadeusz. BiMeshol tselav haKeres beLvov: Hurban haKehilah haYehudit beEinei mehaber Polani. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1982.

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    Hebrew translation of a Polish manuscript held by Yad Vashem, written by a non-Jewish intellectual, describing Nazi rule in L’viv, the largest city of East Galicia, with emphasis on the annihilation of the city’s Jews. It is noteworthy as one of the few sustained commentaries by a Polish non-Jew about the Jewish catastrophe written during the events themselves.

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Biographies

Biographies of figures associated with the Holocaust in Poland tend to focus either on prominent figures in the Jewish underground (Kassow 2007, Porat 2010) or on non-Jews who attempted to assist Jews (Crowe 2004, Friedländer 1969, Wood and Jankowski 1994). Tec 1990 portrays a liminal figure, a Jew who acted the part of a Christian rescuer (and later became a Christian himself). The works listed in this section are all both authoritative and accessible to nonspecialists.

  • Crowe, David M. Oskar Schindler: An Untold Account of His Life, Wartime Activities, and the True Story behind the List. Cambridge, MA: Westview, 2004.

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    Scholarly biography based largely on German, Czech, and Polish archival materials.

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  • Friedländer, Saul. Kurt Gerstein: The Ambiguity of Good. New York: Knopf, 1969.

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    Study of an SS officer who witnessed mass murders of Jews in Belzec and Treblinka and secretly passed information about them to a Swedish diplomat.

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  • Kassow, Samuel. Who Will Write Our History? Emmanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007.

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    Meticulously researched, elegantly written study of the life and work of Ringelblum, the moving spirit behind the clandestine Warsaw ghetto archive through whose efforts much of the documentary record of Jewish life in Nazi-occupied Poland was preserved.

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  • Porat, Dina. The Fall of a Sparrow: The Life and Times of Abba Kovner. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010.

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    Biography of the leader of the United Partisan Organization in Vilna, the first person to call for Jews to undertake armed resistance against the Nazis.

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  • Tec, Nechama. In the Lion’s Den: The Life of Oswald Rufeisen. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

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    Biography of a Jew who passed as a Christian in occupied Poland, became a translator for the German police, and used his position to rescue Jews.

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  • Wood, E. Thomas, and Stanisław M. Jankowski. Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust. New York: Wiley, 1994.

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    Only full-length biography of the Polish underground courier who brought eyewitness testimony about the murder of Jews in Poland to Britain and the United States in 1942–1943.

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Polish Jews under Soviet Rule

Scholarly literature on the experiences of Jews from the Polish territories occupied by the Soviet Union from September 1939 until June 1941 has focused primarily on how Jews adapted to communist rule and how their adaptation strategies affected their relations with the other ethnic groups―Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Lithuanians―indigenous to the region. The latest research on these questions, based largely on documentation from former Soviet archives reflecting the perspective of the regime, is in Barkan, et al. 2007. Levin 1995 considers the same questions from the perspective of Jews living under Soviet rule. A subset of the Jews in question―Polish Jews who made their way eastward after 1939 and survived the war in the Soviet interior―is the subject of Davies and Polonsky 1991 and Litvak 1988.

  • Barkan, Elazar, Elizabeth A. Cole, and Kai Struve, eds. Shared History, Divided Memory: Jews and Others in Soviet-Occupied Poland, 1939–1941. Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag, 2007.

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    Thirteen scholarly articles on interethnic relations in the eastern Polish borderlands occupied by the Soviet Union in 1939. Of particular interest to many of the contributors is the extent to which the responses of Poles and Jews to the occupation influenced tensions between the two groups that emerged under German rule beginning in 1941.

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  • Davies, Norman, and Antony Polonsky, eds. Jews in Eastern Poland and the USSR, 1939–46. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1991.

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    Contains thirteen articles and a selection of documents on the experiences of Polish Jews who fled to the Soviet occupation zone of Poland in 1939 or were deported to the Soviet interior.

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  • Levin, Dov. The Lesser of Two Evils: Eastern European Jewry under Soviet Rule, 1939–1941. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1995.

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    Examines Jewish attitudes toward Soviet rule in occupied Polish, Romanian, and Baltic territories and their influence on relations between Jews and others. Though the research was completed before the opening of former Soviet and Eastern bloc archives, the book remains valuable for both its scope and its systematic mining of Jewish testimonies bearing on its subject.

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  • Litvak, Yosef. Pelitim yehudim miPolin biVerit haMo’atsot, 1939–1946. Tel Aviv: Ghetto Fighters’ House, 1988.

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    Detailed study of the daily lives of Polish Jews who found refuge in the Soviet interior as well as of the policies of the Soviet government and the Polish government in exile toward them.

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German Occupation Policy and the Jews

The question of precisely when the leaders of the Third Reich decided to embark upon a systematic policy aimed at the murder of every Jewish man, woman, and child within reach has occupied historians of the Holocaust for many decades. Most works consider that question through an all-European lens; few treat it specifically in relation to Poland. Early outstanding examples of works with a Polish perspective are Eisenbach 1961 and Madajczyk 1970. Aly and Heim 2002 argues in effect that the Holocaust was actually conceived to solve a problem presented by the German occupation of Poland. Rossino 2003 effectively places the roots of the decision in the September 1939 invasion. Michman 2011 considers the place of the typical institution of German rule over Polish Jewry before the onset of mass killing―the ghetto―in Nazi strategic planning, examining whether its architects looked upon it as a necessary step toward the so-called Final Solution of the Jewish question.

  • Aly, Götz, and Susanne Heim. Architects of Annihilation: Auschwitz and the Logic of Destruction. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.

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    Controversial book arguing that the German murder of Polish Jewry was conceived as part of a broader program of ethnic cleansing in which large segments of the population of the Polish lands, Jews and non-Jews alike, were to be killed to make room for mass settlement by German colonizers.

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  • Eisenbach, Artur. Hitlerowska polityka zagłady Żydów. Warsaw: Książka i Wiedza, 1961.

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    First systematic study of German occupation policy toward Jews in Poland based upon documents from Nuremberg trials and materials gathered by Główna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Polsce, the chief investigating commission into Nazi crimes in Poland. Though the influence of Soviet historical politics is evident, the book remains unrivaled in its comprehensive treatment.

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  • Madajczyk, Czesław. Polityka III Rzeszy w okupowanej Polsce. 2 vols. Warsaw: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1970.

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    Still a standard comprehensive work on German occupation policy. In keeping with communist ideological dictates, the persecution of Jews is not presented as significantly different from the abuse suffered by the entire population of Poland; nevertheless, the work contains much valuable information about the Jewish situation.

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  • Michman, Dan. The Emergence of Jewish Ghettos during the Holocaust. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511779077Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the intellectual and administrative origins of the ghetto as an instrument of Nazi policy and explains why it was employed chiefly in Poland and in occupied Soviet territories.

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  • Rossino, Alexander B. Hitler Strikes Poland: Blitzkrieg, Ideology, and Atrocity. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2003.

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    Argues that the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939 marked the beginning of an ideological war during which the groundwork was laid for the subsequent mass killing of Jews.

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Mass Killings

The mass killing of Polish Jews was carried out by shooting or by transportation to central killing centers, often called death camps. For many years the former was overlooked at the expense of the latter; Browning 1992 was instrumental in changing that emphasis. Sandkühler 1996 and Pohl 1997 followed with studies of a region where shooting was the main killing method. These works, based largely upon archival sources that had been unavailable before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, set a pattern for other investigations of particular regions in Poland. Steinbacher 2000 is an outstanding example. Nevertheless, the killing centers have continued to attract significant scholarly attention, as testified most notably in Kuwałek 2010. Gutman and Berenbaum 1994 and Arad 1999 remain essential for scholars interested in the operation of the death camps. Steinbacher 2005 is the best available brief introduction to the history of the iconic killing center at Auschwitz.

  • Arad, Yitzhak. Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

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    Examination of the establishment and operation of the three major killing centers designated for the murder of the Jews of the Generalgouvernement in 1942–1943. Approximately 1.5 million Jews perished in these installations. Also devotes attention to the experience of the small number of Jews who were spared immediate execution in order to perform the most loathsome tasks associated with the killing process.

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  • Browning, Christopher R. Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

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    Acclaimed study of the actions and motives of German reserve police officers called upon to take part in the mass shooting of Jews. One of the first books to focus attention on the approximately 40 percent of Jewish victims of the Nazi murder campaign who were not gassed in killing centers but who were shot to death by mobile killing squads.

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  • Gutman, Yisrael, and Michael Berenbaum, eds. Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

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    Collection of scholarly articles on various aspects of the killing center and its associated concentration and labor camps.

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  • Kuwałek, Robert. Obóz zagłady w Bełżcu. Lublin, Poland: Państwowe Muzeum na Majdanku, 2010.

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    Most detailed and authoritative treatment to date of the establishment and operation of the Nazi killing center at Belzec.

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  • Pohl, Dieter. Nationalsozialistische Judenverfolgung in Ostgalizien, 1941–1944: Organisation und Durchführung eines staatlichen Massenverbrechens. Munich: R. Oldenburg Verlag, 1997.

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    Details the persecution of Jews in East Galicia from 1941 to 1944. One of the first detailed regional studies of the Nazi murder campaign based on newly available archival documents from the former Soviet Union.

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  • Sandkühler, Thomas. “Endlösung” in Galizien: Der Judenmord in Ostpolen und die Rettungsinitiativen von Berthold Beitz, 1941–1944. Bonn, Germany: Dietz, 1996.

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    Detailed examination of perpetrator behavior in a region of Poland occupied by the Soviet Union in 1939 and incorporated into the Generalgouvernement following the German conquest in 1941, based in part on newly accessible Polish archives. Tells the story of Berthold Beitz, the German director of the Carpathian Oil Company who sheltered Jews from death by claiming them as workers for his enterprise.

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  • Steinbacher, Sybille. “Musterstadt” Auschwitz: Germanisierungspolitik und Judenmord in Oberschlesien. Munich: Saur, 2000.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110958317Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the murder of Jews in Upper Silesia, a western Polish district incorporated directly into the Third Reich in 1939, and the construction of the killing center at Auschwitz in the context of Nazi efforts to clear the region of its prewar inhabitants in order to lay the groundwork for colonization by German settlers.

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  • Steinbacher, Sybille. Auschwitz: A History. London: Penguin, 2005.

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    Brief basic history of the concentration camp and killing center; excellent as an introduction.

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Polish Jews under Nazi Rule

How the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Poland experienced and tried to cope with their increasingly dire situation under Nazi rule has long been a focus of scholarly interest, although only a handful of Jewish communities have been studied in depth.

Ghettos

If ghettos were the typical instrument of Nazi rule over Polish Jewry, the Jewish councils (Judenräte) were the quintessential agencies through which German authority in the ghettos was expressed. Jewish survivors frequently charged Judenrat leaders and officials with collaborations. Trunk 1972 opposes that charge with the argument that the Jewish councils are actually best understood as extensions of prewar Jewish communal organizations; they sought to carry on traditional communal functions of providing for the welfare of their members but could do so with only limited effectiveness. The top-down view of ghettos through the prism of their administrations was supplemented with Corni 2003, which inquires, inter alia, about how the actions of ghetto leaders were received by ordinary ghetto residents.

  • Corni, Gustavo. Hitler’s Ghettos: Voices from a Beleaguered Society, 1939–1944. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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    Effort to reconstruct the history of ghettos from the perspective of their inhabitants.

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  • Trunk, Isaiah. Judenrat: The Jewish Councils in Eastern Europe under Nazi Occupation. New York: Macmillan, 1972.

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    Massive comparative analysis of data from hundreds of Jewish councils in occupied Polish and Soviet territories. According to the author, the Jewish councils should be seen not primarily as collaborationist instruments of Nazi rule but as agencies working to preserve the lives and well-being of Jewish communities under impossible conditions.

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Warsaw

Poland’s largest ghetto, Warsaw has been by far the most heavily studied. Gutman 1982 established a model for studying large Polish Jewish communities under Nazi rule that other scholars have applied to different ghettos. That model considers ghettos primarily as a polity marked by an ongoing power struggle between the Jewish councils and an alternative leadership rooted mainly in youth movements. Sakowska 1993 offers an alternative approach, considering the Warsaw ghetto chiefly as a social instead of as a political formation. Grosse 1998 continues this line of investigation from a novel social-psychological perspective.

  • Grosse, Tomasz. Przeżyć! Obrona życia jako wartość podstawowa społeczności getta warszawskiego. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo TRIO, 1998.

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    Psychological investigation into the attitudes and behaviors of Jews in the Warsaw ghetto.

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  • Gutman, Israel. The Jews of Warsaw, 1939–1943: Ghetto, Underground, Revolt. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982.

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    The first comprehensive history of the Warsaw ghetto based on original archival research. Focuses primarily on underground organizations led by youth movements and on the armed uprising of April 1943.

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  • Sakowska, Ruta. Ludzie z dzielnicy zamkniętej. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 1993.

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    Detailed survey of the demography and economy of the Warsaw ghetto, Jewish self-help activities and organizations (including social, educational, and cultural work carried on by ghetto residents), the Jewish administration of the ghetto, and the processes by which the ghetto was liquidated in 1942–1943. Also contains chapters concerning what the Jews of Warsaw knew about German killing operations (including the killing centers) and concerning Polish actions to assist Jews.

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Lodz

The second-largest ghetto in Poland has attracted much scholarly interest for two reasons: its longevity (it was liquidated only in August 1944, long after all other ghettos had disappeared) and the outsized personality of its controversial leader, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, whose strategy of “salvation through work” turned the ghetto into a veritable forced labor camp under Jewish supervision. Accordingly, studies of the ghetto have focused largely on the extent to which the former phenomenon can be attributed to the latter. Trunk 2006 sees no connection; it presents Rumkowski as an imperious dictator more concerned with personal aggrandizement than with the welfare of his charges. Isaiah Trunk softened his criticism somewhat in Trunk 1972 (cited under Ghettos). By contrast, Unger 2005 and Horowitz 2008 regard Rumkowski against the background of the unique conditions of the Lodz ghetto, which was virtually sealed off hermetically from all contact with the non-Jewish neighborhoods of the city. Michal Unger employs the Israel Gutman model to do so, whereas Gordon J. Horowitz draws his insights largely from urban history. Löw 2006 is less concerned with Rumkowski’s leadership; the author’s approach resembles more the social orientation taken in Sakowska 1993 (cited under Warsaw) for Warsaw.

Other Ghettos

Arad 1980, Bender 2008, Fatal-Knaani 2001, and Peled-Margolin 1993 are all examples of histories of Jewish ghettos inspired by the model pioneered by Gutman 1982 (cited under Warsaw). Indeed, the authors of all of these works trained with Israel Gutman and his colleague, Yehuda Bauer, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Urbański 1994 is more typical of Jewish community studies by scholars in postcommunist Poland―heavily factographic, making extensive use of materials from Polish archives but with little consideration of documents or postwar testimonies in Yiddish or Hebrew.

  • Arad, Yitzhak. Ghetto in Flames: The Struggle and Destruction of the Jews in Vilna in the Holocaust. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1980.

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    Still the most comprehensive and authoritative account of Jewish life in a large ghetto notable for the survival and resistance strategies pursued by the ghetto’s leader, Jakub Gens, and the underground United Partisan Organization, the first Jewish armed resistance group to organize in occupied Poland.

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  • Bender, Sara. The Jews of Białystok during World War II and the Holocaust. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2008.

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    Comprehensive history of the ghetto that was established in a major industrial center in northeastern Poland. The ghetto was headed by a controversial figure, Efraim Barash, who advocated the “salvation-through-work” strategy. It also witnessed an armed revolt against the Nazis in August 1943.

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  • Fatal-Knaani, Tikvah. Zo lo otah Grodnoh: Kehilat Grodnoh uSevivatah baMilhamah uvaSho’ah, 1939–1943. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2001.

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    History of the destruction of the Jews in Grodno, a major Jewish community in Belarus.

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  • Peled-Margolin, Yael. Krakow haYehudit, 1939–1943. Tel Aviv: Ghetto Fighters’ House, 1993.

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    Only comprehensive scholarly history of Jews in Kraków, the capital of the Nazi Generalgouvernement.

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  • Urbański, Krzysztof. Zagłada ludności żydowskiej Kielc, 1939–1945. Kielce, Poland: Kielce Towarzystwo Naukowe, 1994.

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    Describes the Jewish community of Kielce during the interwar period, under Nazi occupation prior to the establishment of the ghetto, in the ghetto, and following liquidation. Also devotes a special chapter to the labor camps for Jews that operated in the Kielce region.

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Regional Studies

Many Jews murdered by the Nazis came from smaller ghettos, where available resources for coping were on a different scale from those in larger urban centers. Bauer 2009 explores the effects of that difference upon Jewish behavior in the face of both Soviet and Nazi occupation; the author finds no pattern of variation that correlates with ghetto size. The authors in Engelking, et al. 2007 eschew Yehuda Bauer’s analytic approach in favor of a detailed description of the most horrible features of life for Jews in the Warsaw District. Cholawski 1982 and Spector 1986 are comprehensive regional studies concerned primarily with manifestations of Jewish resistance to Nazi rule.

  • Bauer, Yehuda. The Death of the Shtetl. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.

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    Analysis of Jewish responses to Soviet and Nazi occupation in eleven small towns in the Ukraine and Belarus, examining factors that might account for divergent behavior patterns identified in them.

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  • Cholawski, Shalom. Al neharot haNieman veDnieper: Yahadut Bialorusiyah haMa’aravit beMilhemet haOlam haSheniyah. Tel Aviv: Moreshet, 1982.

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    Centered largely around theme of underground and partisan activity. Based mainly on Jewish survivor testimonies and German documentation, largely from postwar trials. Includes valuable maps along with lists of ghettos, deportations, armed underground groups, mass escapes, and places where significant numbers of Jews survived in hiding.

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  • Engelking, Barbara, Jacek Leociak, and Dariusz Libionka, eds. Prowincja noc: Życie i zagłada Żydów w distrikcie warszawskim. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo IFiS PAN, 2007.

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    Ten extensive studies by scholars from the Polish Center for Holocaust Research treating aspects of the encounter between Germans, Jews, and Poles in towns and villages in the Warsaw region.

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  • Spector, Shmuel. Sho’at yehudei Volyn, 1941–1944. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1986.

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    Still the most comprehensive survey of the fate of Jews in Volhynia, a region of Poland populated largely by Ukrainians. Based mainly on German archival documents and Jewish survivor testimonies supplemented by secondary literature and published memoirs in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ukrainian, Polish, Russian, and German.

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Labor Camps

Some Nazi administrators in occupied Poland believed that Jews could provide valuable manpower in support of the German war effort, and in some places they were able to divert Jews from deportation to killing centers to serve as forced laborers. Many Holocaust survivors from Poland remained alive because they could perform labor service, but the experience of such workers has not been given much scholarly attention. Karay 1996 is largely descriptive in its approach; Browning 2010 is more analytic.

  • Browning, Christopher R. Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp. New York: Norton, 2010.

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    Pioneering study of the experience of Jews in the forced labor camp at Starachowice, near Kielce. Notable especially for its sophisticated use of survivor testimony in reconstructing events and situations about which no written documentation is extant.

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  • Karay, Felicja. Death Comes in Yellow: Skarżysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic, 1996.

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    The first comprehensive study of a Nazi forced labor camp in occupied Poland. The Skarżysko-Kamienna camp was owned by the German arms and ammunition manufacturer Hasag; it employed mostly Jewish labor. The book emphasizes the experience of the prisoners.

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Underground and Partisan Activity

Relatively few Jews (like relatively few members of any occupied population) took up arms against the Nazis, but those who did quickly became the subject of much mythology and folklore. The works in this section subject the mythology to scholarly analysis. Krakowski 1984 was the first to offer an evidence-based estimate of the numerical and geographic extent of armed resistance and to analyze the factors that facilitated or (in most instances) impeded its spread. Perlis 1987 and Blatman 2003 are studies of two major political camps within Polish Jewry―the Zionist and the socialist, respectively―that together formed the backbone of the Jewish Fighting Organization in the Warsaw ghetto. Grupińska 2000 reports on the experiences of survivors of that organization, which launched the rebellion in the Warsaw ghetto in April 1943, bringing its history to the attention of a Polish reading public in whose consciousness the Polish national uprising in Warsaw in August 1944 had long overshadowed the ghetto revolt. Engelking and Libionka 2009 reveals that many surviving Jewish veterans of the ghetto rebellion later took part in the Polish uprising. Tec 1993 examines armed resistance in a different context, namely, the forests of Belarus, where a Jewish partisan group combined anti-Nazi action with the rescue of Jews, often over the objections of Soviet partisans.

  • Blatman, Daniel. For Our Freedom and Yours: The Jewish Labour Bund in Poland, 1939–1949. London: Vallentine Mitchell, 2003.

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    History of the wartime activities of the General Federation of Jewish Workers in Poland, commonly known as the Bund. The socialist Bund had been Polish Jewry’s largest political party on the eve of the war and played a central role in organized Jewish underground activity, especially in Warsaw.

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  • Engelking, Barbara, and Dariusz Libionka. Żydzi w powstańczej Warszawie. Warsaw: Polish Center for Holocaust Research Association, 2009.

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    Documents and analyzes participation in the Polish anti-Nazi uprising of August 1944 by Warsaw Jews who had survived the ghetto liquidation and continued to live in hiding in the city.

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  • Grupińska, Anka. Ciągle po kole: Rozmowy z żołnierzami getta warszawskiego. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Książkowe Twój Styl, 2000.

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    Texts of interviews conducted with seven participants in the Jewish Fighting Organization.

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  • Krakowski, Shmuel. The War of the Doomed: Jewish Armed Resistance in Poland, 1942–1944. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1984.

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    Comprehensive survey by a military historian of armed revolts in ghettos and of Jewish participation in partisan movements.

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  • Perlis, Rivka. Tenu’ot haNo’ar haHalutsiyot bePolin haKevushah. Tel Aviv: Ghetto Fighters’ House, 1987.

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    The most comprehensive survey to date of the involvement of labor Zionist youth movements in organizing armed resistance in the Nazi ghettos in Poland.

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  • Tec, Nechama. Defiance: The Bielski Partisans. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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    Historical and sociological analysis of a Jewish partisan group in Belarus that, in addition to carrying out sabotage missions and engaging German and local collaborationist units in armed combat, took it upon itself to provide shelter for Jews fleeing local ghettos.

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Escape and Hiding

Three approaches characterize the literature on this subject. The first emphasizes the activities of non-Jews who hid or sheltered Jews. Tec 1986 and Kurek 1997 exemplify this approach. The second, a newer trend associated primarily with the Polish Center for Holocaust Research, examines the other side of the coin: non-Jews who refused to provide assistance or actively betrayed hiding Jews to the German authorities. Engelking 2003, Grabowski 2004, Engelking 2011, and Grabowski 2011 belong in this category. Bogner 2000 and Paulsson 2002 consider mainly the experiences of hidden Jews themselves.

  • Bogner, Nachum. BeHasdei zarim: Hatsalat yeladim biZehut she’ulah bePolin. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2000.

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    Topics discussed include hiding Jewish children in Christian families, possibilities for hiding children in the countryside, the activities of Zegota with regard to children, children in monasteries, and the fates of hidden children following liberation.

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  • Engelking, Barbara. “Szanowny panie Gistapo”: Donosy do władz niemieckich w Warszawie i okolicach w latach, 1940–1941. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo IFiS PAN, 2003.

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    Social-psychological analysis of individuals who informed on Jews to the German authorities prior to the beginning of mass killing. Based on intensive archival research; includes facsimiles of documents.

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  • Engelking, Barbara. Jest taki piękny słoneczny dzień . . .: Losy Żydów szukających ratunku na wsi polskiej, 1942–1945. Warsaw: Polish Center for Holocaust Research Association, 2011.

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    Finds that, alongside instances of rescue, many more cases existed of Polish refusal to assist Jews in flight from the ghettos. Analyzes the motives of both rescuers and refusers.

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  • Grabowski, Jan. Szantażowanie Żydów w Warszawie, 1939–1943. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo IFiS PAN, 2004.

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    Based on intensive archival research, this book includes facsimiles of a number of recently discovered documents concerning attempts to blackmail Jews who attempted to escape the Nazis by hiding outside the ghetto or by living under false identities as Polish Christians.

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  • Grabowski, Jan. Judenjagd: Połowanie na Żydów, 1942–1945. Warsaw: Polish Center for Holocaust Research Association, 2011.

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    Detailed study of the pursuit and killing of Jews in hiding in the Dąbrowa Tarnowska county (Kraków District) based largely on testimonies and reports from postwar trials. Notes Polish involvement, including soldiers of the Home Army.

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  • Kurek, Ewa. Your Life Is Worth Mine: How Polish Nuns Saved Hundreds of Jewish Children in German-Occupied Poland, 1939–1945. New York: Hippocrene, 1997.

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    Combines academic analysis with texts of fifty-one interviews or letters from rescued children and their rescuers.

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  • Paulsson, Gunnar S. Secret City: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw, 1940–1945. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002.

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    Study of the experiences of Jews from Warsaw who lived in hiding outside the ghetto, the factors that influenced their decision to seek escape, and the networks that supported them.

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  • Tec, Nechama. When Light Pierced the Darkness: Christian Rescuers of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

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    Pioneering sociological analysis of Poles who placed their lives at risk to assist Jews threatened with death at Nazi hands. Found that rescuers’ actions tended to be influenced less by political opinions, social relationships, or personal likes and dislikes than by individual personality traits that made it impossible for them to imagine behaving in any other way.

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Polish-Jewish Relations

Scholarly writing on this highly contentious subject has long been divided between works that seek to assign responsibility for tensions between Poles and Jews to the behavior of one or the other group and works that endeavor to analyze and explain that behavior without judgment.

Overviews

Ringelblum 1976, the first scholarly work on wartime Polish-Jewish relations, was written during the war itself. It takes a judgmental approach, decrying what the author regarded as insufficient concern by Poles for the fate of their Jewish neighbors. The judgmental spirit and the contention that most Poles demonstrated either indifference or outright hostility toward Jews under Nazi occupation are also evident in Gutman and Krakowski 1986 and Gross 1998, both of which employ sources not available to Emmanuel Ringelblum and extend the discussion to issues that Ringelblum did not treat. Dreifuss 2009 finds that the accusatory tone toward Poles displayed in much Jewish writing on Polish-Jewish relations cannot be attributed to long-standing antagonisms but actually originated during the war itself in response to the changing circumstances of both groups under Nazi rule.

  • Dreifuss (Ben-Sasson), Havi. “Anu yehudei Polin”? HaYehasim bein yehudim lePolanim biTekufat haSho’ah min haHeibet haYehudi. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2009.

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    Examines hundreds of letters, diaries, essays, and underground publications written by Polish Jews under Nazi occupation about how they perceived their Polish neighbors. Finds, perhaps surprisingly, that Jewish images of Poland and Poles were generally positive until the beginning of mass deportations from the ghettos in 1942, after which they gave way to a widespread feeling of disappointment that Poles did not come sufficiently to their aid.

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  • Gross, Jan Tomasz. Upiorna dekada: Trzy eseje o stereotypach na temat Żydów, Polaków, Niemców i komunistów, 1939–1948. Krakow: Universitas, 1998.

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    Analyzes sources of wartime tensions between Poles and Jews, Jewish attitudes toward the Soviet Union, and attacks upon Jews committed by Polish anticommunist underground units following the German defeat.

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  • Gutman, Yisrael, and Shmuel Krakowski. Unequal Victims: Poles and Jews during World War II. New York: Holocaust Library, 1986.

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    Treats various aspects of wartime Polish-Jewish relations, including Polish underground attitudes to Jewish resistance movements, treatment of fugitives from ghettos, the activities of the aid organization Zegota, the Polish government in exile and the Jews, and Jews in the Polish exile army in the Soviet Union.

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  • Ringelblum, Emmanuel. Polish-Jewish Relations during the Second World War. Edited by Joseph Kermish and Shmuel Krakowski. New York: Fertig, 1976.

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    Translation of the Polish original of an essay written by Ringelblum for his underground archive. Valuable not only for the contemporary perspective but also for the editors’ extensive footnotes.

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Underground Relations

The two works in this section exemplify the analytic trend. Prekerowa 1982 carefully examines the records of a clandestine joint Polish-Jewish organization that worked to support Jews seeking to pass as non-Jews or to hide from the Nazis with the intent not so much to assign praise or blame for its successes and failures as to account for those results. Puławski 2009 undertakes to establish, on the basis of Polish underground records, precisely what various agencies of the underground knew about Nazi preparations for mass murder and how they acted in response to that information.

  • Prekerowa, Teresa. Konspiracyjna Rada Pomocy Żydom w Warszawie, 1942–1945. Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1982.

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    The most authoritative account, based on archival sources, of the clandestine organization best known by the code name Zegota, in which leaders of the Jewish and Polish political undergrounds came together to aid approximately four thousand Jews in hiding. Includes annotated transcriptions of thirty-three documents from the organization’s archives.

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  • Puławski, Adam. W obliczu zagłady: Rząd RP na Uchodźtwie, Delegatura Rządu RP na Kraj, ZWZ-AK wobec deportacji Żydów do obozów zagłady,1941–1942. Lublin, Poland: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2009.

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    Exhaustive analysis of the gathering, transmission, and dissemination of information about Nazi killing operations by agencies of the Polish underground and the Polish government in exile.

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The Polish Government in Exile

Engel 1987 and Engel 1993 use the internal correspondence of the Polish government in exile to infer a set of principles that guided the government in responding to the increasingly dire situation of Jewish Polish citizens. Stola 1995 explores how a prominent Jewish spokesperson in the service of the Polish government endeavored to negotiate the sometimes conflicting pressures that he faced as a result of his dual role.

  • Engel, David. In the Shadow of Auschwitz: The Polish Government-in-Exile and the Jews, 1939–1942. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987.

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    First comprehensive scholarly analysis of Polish-Jewish political relations during World War II based on Jewish and Polish exile archives in Europe, Israel, and North America.

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  • Engel, David. Facing a Holocaust: The Polish Government-in-Exile and the Jews, 1942–1945. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.

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    Continuation of the study begun in Engel 1987.

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  • Stola, Dariusz. Nadzieja i zagłada: Ignacy Schwarzbart, żydowski przedstawiciel w Radzie Narodowej RP, 1940–1945. Warsaw: Oficyna Naukowa, 1995.

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    Analyzes the activities of a Polish Jewish political leader from Kraków who served as a representative of Zionist political parties on the official advisory body to the Polish government in exile during World War II. Includes discussion of how information about the murder of Jews in Poland was treated by the Polish and British governments and by Jewish organizations in wartime London.

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The Massacre at Jedwabne

The publication of Gross 2001 set off a stormy public debate in Poland. Jan T. Gross took a judgmental approach, hoping that his exposé of a massacre of Jews perpetrated by Poles would prompt a national moral reckoning with the past. He succeeded in some quarters, but in others his book provoked an angry, defensive backlash. Chodakiewicz 2005 is a typical scholarly expression of that reaction. A government commission was summoned to investigate Gross’s representation; the results of its findings are in Machcewicz and Persak 2002. Polonsky and Michlic 2004 provides an excellent sample of the range of responses to Gross’s work.

  • Chodakiewicz, Marek Jan. The Massacre at Jedwabne, July 10, 1941: Before, During, and After. Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 2005.

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    Proposes an alternate representation to the events described in Gross 2001. In Chodakiewicz’s view, the massacre of Jews in the Polish town of Jedwabne was planned by Germans and carried out by them together with a small number of willing Polish perpetrators.

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  • Gross, Jan T. Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

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    Story of the July 1941 killing of the Jewish residents in a Polish town. The author’s investigation determined that Poles played the dominant role in the killing. Considerable controversy surrounded the book’s finding that the killers acted largely on their own initiative, without German coercion.

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  • Machcewicz, Paweł, and Krzysztof Persak. Wokól Jedwagnego. 2 vols. Warsaw: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2002.

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    Report of an official Polish government investigating commission summoned in the wake of the publication of Gross 2001. Volume 1, reports of the commission’s experts; Volume 2, archival documents used by the commission in preparing its findings. The commission sustained Jan T. Gross’s basic assertion that Poles were the proximate perpetrators of the killing, although it adjusted details in Gross’s account.

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  • Polonsky, Antony, and Joanna B. Michlic, eds. The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.

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    Selections from the scholarly and public debate that followed publication of Gross 2001.

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Other Microhistories

Gross 2001 (cited under The Massacre at Jedwabne), on Jedwabne, revealed, inter alia, how little is known about wartime Polish-Jewish relations on the local level outside of a few major cities. Lehmann 2001 and Redlich 2002, both published shortly after Gross 2001, are among a handful of studies that contribute to filling that lacuna.

  • Lehmann, Rosa. Symbiosis and Ambivalence: Poles and Jews in a Small Galician Town. New York: Berghahn, 2001.

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    Anthropological study of Polish-Jewish relations in the town of Jaśliska based in part on interviews with Poles still living in the town. Includes a description of the town’s destruction at the hands of the Nazis in conjunction with an attempt to understand the event against the background of earlier relations between Polish and Jewish residents.

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  • Redlich, Shimon. Together and Apart in Brzezany: Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians, 1919–1945. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002.

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    Combination memoir and academic investigation by the author of the history of his native town during World War II. The author explores the social ties among Jews, Poles, and Ukrainians and how they held or broke down under the stress of Soviet and Nazi occupation.

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The Holocaust in Contemporary Polish Public Life

The afterlife, as it were, of the Holocaust in Polish public discourse is surveyed in Steinlauf 1997. Polonsky 1990 provides key texts from a significant moment in the development of that discourse: the twilight of the communist regime. Engelking 2001 illuminates how Jewish and non-Jewish Poles who still retain living memories of the Holocaust era speak about their experiences.

  • Engelking, Barbara. Holocaust and Memory: The Experience of the Holocaust and Its Consequences; An Investigation Based on Personal Narratives. Edited by Gunnar S. Paulsson. London: Leicester University Press, 2001.

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    Interview-based analysis of how Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland and Poles who lived through World War II under Nazi occupation narrate and interpret what Jews experienced at Nazi hands.

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  • Polonsky, Antony, ed. My Brother’s Keeper? Recent Polish Debates on the Holocaust. London: Routledge, 1990.

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    Selection of essays, translated from Polish, originally published in response to a 1988 article by the Polish literary scholar Jan Błoński titled “The Poor Poles Look at the Ghetto,” which challenged ideas common in Poland about the character of Polish-Jewish relations during the Nazi era. Błoński’s article is also reproduced.

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  • Steinlauf, Michael C. Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997.

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    Examines the evolution of attitudes among Poles during the second half of the 20th century toward the fate of Polish Jewry during the Nazi era.

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LAST MODIFIED: 08/29/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199840731-0064

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