In This Review

Fear: AntiSemitism in Poland After Auschwitz
Fear: AntiSemitism in Poland After Auschwitz
By Jan T. Gross
Random House, 2006, 320 pp

How could a people who suffered so much under Nazi (and Soviet) occupation, who lost a greater portion of their population than any other country, including most of three million Polish Jews -- a slaughter they knew of as it was happening -- have hounded, rejected, and murdered nearly a thousand of the 200,000 Polish Jews remaining at the end of the war? With care and meticulous detail, Gross first lifts the dark veil and then offers answers. He sets aside the easy explanations -- the legacy of earlier anti-Semitism and the vicious myths of the day (Jews as killers of Christian children or as patrons of communism) -- and seeks a more compelling explanation. This he finds in the threat the returning wretched posed to the many non-Jews who had appropriated their property and social position, especially in the countryside. But to explain the echoes in the cities, including the Kraków and Kielce pogroms of 1945 and 1946, Gross identifies other more elusive sources of guilt and fear -- such as the way the Jews mirrored everyone else's fragile existence as the ruthless bearers of a new class-based speciation arrived.