'Fear': An Exchange

Letters to the Editor

New York Times, August 20 2006

In his review of "Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz," by Jan T. Gross (July 23), David Margolick writes: "With the war over, and to tumultuous applause, a thousand delegates of the Polish Peasants Party actually passed a resolution thanking Hitler for annihilating Polish Jewry and urging that those he'd missed be expelled."

The book in fact reads (on Page 226): "In turn the third speaker took the rostrum (his name unknown) and by analogy to a thesis from [Minister of Public Administration] Kiernik's speech that Poland must be a mono-ethnic state [this was apropos of expulsions of the German population from newly incorporated territories] put out a resolution that Jews should also be expelled from Poland, and he also remarked that Hitler ought to be thanked for destroying the Jews (tumultuous ovation and applause)."
Note that the remark about thanking Hitler was not part of the proposed resolution, and there is no indication that the resolution was ever adopted.


Charles Chotkowski

Fairfield, Conn.

The writer is director of research of the Holocaust Documentation Committee, Polish American Congress.

To the Editor:
David Margolick states that 80 Jews were killed in the Kielce pogrom of July 4, 1946. Just a few weeks ago, those who gathered to commemorate the 60th anniversary of this sad event, myself included, remembered the lives of 41 Jews who were killed on that day. Gross himself notes that "several dozen" Jews were killed. Margolick's figure, unless he is able to produce solid evidence to the contrary, is erroneous.

Sarah A. Cramsey

Allentown, Pa.

To the Editor:
Margolick, speaking of the wartime period, writes that Poles killed thousands of Jews, "most famously, as Gross related in 'Neighbors' (2001), a book that caused an uproar in Poland, 1,600 of them in the town of Jedwabne in July 1941 - crimes little noted at the time nor since remembered in Polish history books."
Why is the number 1,600 still being quoted, or rather, misquoted, as conclusive? On July 9, 2002, after an intense, long-awaited investigation, the Institute of National Remembrance in Poland issued a widely accepted report on the Jedwabne murders, available online at www.ipn.gov.pl/eng/eng_konf_jedwabne_press.html.
The report cites eyewitness accounts of two groups of victims, who were led from the town marketplace to a nearby barn, where they were murdered. The first group "may have consisted of 40 to 50 people," the report found, while the other "included several hundred people, probably about 300, which is confirmed by the number of victims in both graves. ... The figure of 1,600 victims or so seems highly unlikely, and it was not confirmed in the course of the investigation."
Rather than continuing to take Gross at face value, why don't Margolick and the Book Review recognize that it was approximately 40 Polish perpetrators responsible for the death of several hundred Jews in German-occupied Jedwabne, and not 1,600? Not to diminish this event in any way, numbers do represent an integral part of historical accuracy.

Eugene Markow

Siemiechow, Poland

To the Editor:
As a Polish citizen who arrived in the United States six years ago to undertake my graduate degree and later married an American, I am concerned that Margolick's review might leave anunfairimpression of the Polish attitude toward Jews today. In the 25 years that I lived in Poland, I never witnessed any anti-Semitism from anyone in my family - including the elders - my friends or my schools. I am deeply sympathetic to the horrendous suffering Jews have endured, I fully support their desire to share their experiences, and I do not doubt the validity of Gross's book. Isimply want to emphasize the fact that, thankfully, anti-Semitism is no longer part ofthe Polishculture.

Monika Wurr


To the Editor:
Margolick writes off the Poles as incurable anti-Semites. First, he dismisses contemporary Poland as "a place of necro-nostalgia." Margolick sees no redeeming value in what, I believe, is actually a very healthy phenomenon: many young Poles (with Catholic or Jewish roots) are interested in all the cultures of their once multiethnic country. This interest in the pre-Holocaust culture of Polish Jews goes beyond the death in the Holocaust to affirm the life that was before it.
Second, in mentioning the recent street attack by a hooligan against Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, Margolick fails to mention the public's outrage or the meeting that took place one day later between Poland's president and Schudrich. After the president expressed his solidarity and assured Schudrich that he would not tolerate anti-Semitic incidents, Schudrich left "feeling touched" by the president's gesture (Gazeta Wyborcza, June 29).

Maya Latynski


David Margolick replies:
Charles Chotkowskiis correct: while the suggestionthat Hitler be thanked for exterminating Polish Jewry met with tumultuous applause from delegates of the Polish Peasants Party, it was not put to a formal vote. (Readers can decide the significance of this distinction.) My figure forthe death toll in Kielce comes from Gross, whoincludesJews killed in the vicinity of thecity,often in and around neighboring train stations;"news of the pogrom traveled out of Kielce," he writes, "and found a receptive audience keen to emulate the effort." When one takes these victims intoaccount, he continues, "the total murdered may have topped 80."
As for the toll at Jedwabne, Eugene Markow ishalf-right: while the panel disputed the figure of 1,600 (the prewar Jewish population there, reduced to zero by war's end),it concluded that the real figure would probably never be known. And as reported in many places, The New York Times among them, anyone who listens to the Catholic Radio Maryja knows that Polish anti-Semitism lives on, fond wishes and official condemnations notwithstanding.