February 4, 2008
Bookstores in Poland are restocking copies of a book on Polish anti-Semitism after World War II as a prosecutor investigates whether it violates a law prohibiting ``slander against the nation.''
The book, ``Fear. Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz'' by Princeton University professor Jan Tomasz Gross, sold out days after the first 25,000 volumes were published. A second print run of 20,000 is being sent to bookstores from today.
"We sold so many copies of the book, and so quickly we had a big gap in supplies,'' Monika Marianowicz, a spokeswoman for Empik Media & Fashion SA, that sells books in stores throughout Poland, said by phone today.
Gross's book, which blames the murder of hundreds of Jews after World War II on Polish anti-Semitism and greed, has been criticized by academics, the Catholic Church and ordinary Poles.
"This book is a pack of lies,'' said Lech Raczynski, a 64- year-old agricultural engineer from Kielce, where a 1946 pogrom took place in which more than 40 Jews were murdered. ``It's obvious that the Jews did it -- it was a purge by the communist leaders, who were all Jews, against the others. Poland isn't an anti-Semitic country at all.''
Gross, who left Poland in 1969 after anti-Jewish unrest the year before, said at a Jan. 21 discussion in Kielce that one of his chief motives for writing the book was to ask the question ``how could this happen'' after the murder of an estimated 3 million Polish Jews in Nazi death camps, many of which were on Polish soil.
Anti-Semitism and Greed
The book argues that it was a mixture of anti-Semitism and a desire to grab property left by Jews assumed to have died in the Nazi camps that motivated violence against those who returned. According to Gross, between 500 and 1,500 Jews were killed in Poland in the postwar period.
"During the war I witnessed numerous incidents of collaboration,'' said Michael Zamczyk, a Polish Jew whose father died in Auschwitz. ``In Warsaw, in April 1943, during the Ghetto Uprising, in a park with a carousel where you could see and smell the smoke from the burning ghetto, I heard the comment `the Germans are taking care of our Jews,''' he said by e-mail from California.
"Critics say that ``Fear'' generalizes about individual incidents to present an exaggerated image of anti-Jewish sentiment in Poland after the war.
They also argue that not all the deaths of Polish Jews returning home after 1945 can be attributed to anti-Semitism. In accusing Catholic Poles of not doing enough to try and save their Jewish compatriots from the Nazis, critics say that Gross ignores the fact that Poland was the only country occupied by Germany where helping Jews in any way was punishable by death.
"You could call Mr. Gross a vampire of historiography,'' said Janusz Kurtyka, head of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, which is responsible for investigating communist and Nazi-era crimes, in a Jan. 10 interview with RMF radio. ``This book doesn't have a lot to do with academic scholarship. It is mainly based on emotion and makes use of a very limited number of sources, interpreted in a very biased way.''
The public prosecutor in Krakow, where Gross's Polish publisher is based, said it will investigate ``Fear'' to determine whether it violates a law forbidding ``slandering the Polish nation by accusing it of participating in communist or Nazi crimes.'' The regulation was introduced in 2006 by the former government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, brother of Polish President Lech Kaczynski.
The prosecutor has not yet decided whether to take up proceedings, spokeswoman Boguslawa Marcinkowska said by phone. The book was first published in English in 2006.
"Recently, I have been trying to regain some of the properties owned by my family in Krakow, and one of the judges questioned if I was really Polish,'' said Zamczyk, the Holocaust survivor, who says he left Poland after World War II following attacks on his family.
"Well, I guess anti-Semitism is alive and well in Poland,'' he wrote. ``I hope Gross has his day in court -- I would love to be his first witness.''
Katya Andrusz is a Bloomberg News Writer in Poland.