|TWO FLAGS over the uprising of the Jewish fighters in the Warsaw ghetto, white and red beside the white and blue. |
7/10/2006 - TWO FLAGS over the uprising of the
Jewish fighters in the Warsaw ghetto,
white and red beside the white and blue.
Contact: Gordon Leon Black, TWO FLAGS@mcn.org.
July 10, 2006
For immediate release.
JAN T. GROSS: JEDWABNE FORENSIC INVESTIGATION "PREMATURELY TERMINATED"
Statement with transcript by Gordon Leon Black
On October 17, 2003, the author of the bestseller NEIGHBORS, Jan T. Gross,
was the honoree at the Colin Miller Memorial Lecture at UC Berkeley,
addressing the topic: "After Auschwitz: Reflections on Postwar
Anti-Semitism in Poland." The session was chaired by Prof. John Connelly of
the UC Department of History.
I was among those who challenged the claim that the pogrom at Jedwabne in
1941 was carried out by local Poles rather than Nazi German armed troops.
The exhumations by the Polish official investigation had been terminated
upon discovery of German bullets among the corpses. The credibility
currently awarded to Gross in the marketing campaign for his new book,
FEAR, requires release of our exchange during the question period at the
Colin Miller lecture. Here is the transcript.
JC: We'll take just one more questionİ
GLB: Okay, then I'll ask.
Professor Istvan Deak asked you why the Jews did not fight at Jedwabne.
You've asked us to believe that half the Polish village murdered the other
half without suffering a single loss. Or more specifically, that ninety men
without firearms surrounded and utterly destroyed one thousand six hundred
people without suffering a single loss. What is your answer to Professor
Deak? He infers from that that there was a heavy Jewish (sic German)
presence. And there are in fact witnesses living today (Gross chuckles
gently) who testify to the nearly three hundred armed Germans who acted to
JTG: Yeah. Well, you knowİagainİumİI appreciate very much your concern, and
the concern of a lot of people who are deeply troubled by the spectacle of
what has happened in Jedwabne. Ehİit would have been easier for a lot of
us if there were indeed three hundred armed Germans there who have killed
those Jews, because this isİpart of the story with which we are familiar.
But the sad truth is that there weren't. And uhİthis is not my word that
you have to take on this. Ahİ aİhugeİuh, team of historians, lawyers,
spent a long time, two years, investigating these matters very carefully,
andİuh, a veryİmmmİ conscientious prosecutor who carried out his
investigationİehİon all continents. Andİand, ehİthe facts have been
GLB: I'm sorry, the forensic investigation was prematurely terminated, was
JTG: Itİit was prematurelyİuh, terminated, but if it weren't prematurely
terminated, then we would really knowİehİ
JTG: Yeah. So theİthenİthe prematurely terİpremature termination of the
forensic investigation would not haveİuhİitsİthe only thing that it does is
feedsİuh, ehİstories like the one you areİuhİstating. That ifİyou wouldn't
find three hundred Germans in thisİin this [grave?]İyou know, all youİthe
only thing you could findİehİwould be more troops. Ehİand, uhİit's very
unfortunate that the forensic investigation was prematurely terminated and
I argued very much against it. Andİbutİuhİit doesn't change, uhİehİthe
matter. Not only, ehİis Jedwabne the way I have described it. If you take
the trouble of reading these two volumes [the official report, in Polish],
fifteen hundred pages, a lot, you will find that the killings of the
neighborsİJewsİtook place on a massive scale in this entire region during
the period by Polish neighbors. It's an absolutely horrifying spectacle.
The whole matter has been unveiled in courts in Poland after the war.
JC: Well, we want to thank Professor Gross for this presentation, and
invite all of you to join us in the reception at which you can ask further
questions of Professor Gross. Uh, I want to thank you very muchİ(applause).
That's my faithful transcription, including my own misstatement and the
professor's shaken syntax, with serious attention to distinguishing the
linguistic functions of "uh," "eh," "ah," and "mmm." But clearly the
validity of the official report is undercut, so that, as Jan T. Gross
concedes, we do not "really know."
Since that was all I needed to establish, I approached the sociologist
cordially enough to query him on another matter: the percentage of
Russophones among the Jews in the so-called Pale of Settlement-i.e.,
Russian-occupied eastern Poland, into which Russian Jews were expelled by
the Tsarist regime, which thereby caught two birds in one hand: reducing
Jews in Russia while encumbering Poland with a Russian population. This is
pertinent to the spectacle of many eastern Jews in WW II who greeted the
Red Army with flowers and ceremonies, causing a wave of Polish resentment.
Few of the embattled Polish Christians and Polish Jews would have been
likely to erect the statue of Lenin in the Polish town of Jedwabne.
However, Prof. Gross shrugged off my query and continued to press his
position through condescension. I should become "serious" about the matter
and read the two-volume (untranslated) IPN report. I replied that I was
there because I am serious, and returned to my query about the Pale. He
tried again, asserting that the witnesses to the German presence are
"unreliable." I asked, 'And Shmuel Waszerstajn is reliable?" Waszerstajn is
Gross's key "witness," who claimed to have been hiding, but out of range.
Gross answered simply, "Yes."
That was as far as my discussion needed to go, because until the forensics
are done, with completed exhumation, we cannot "really know." And the
absurdity remains: the impossibility of unarmed assailants destroying all
these victims without incurring a single loss.
I wished Prof. Gross a good trip back to Princeton, where he'd recently
been appointed, and gave him a copy of my session handout, which he folded
into quarters and put into the right pocket of his tweed jacket with
leather elbow patches.
The handout included my letter to the Colin Miller Memorial Lecture Chair,
Prof. John Connelly (which he promised to answer); Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski's
monograph, "The Politics of Apology and Contrition," pointing to the
presence of Einsatzgrupen under command of Haupsturmfuehrer Hermann
Schaper, and explaining Polish Communist complicity with Soviet-managed
pogroms such as at Kielce, to undercut sympathy for Polish independence;
the "Conclusion" of Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's monograph, "After the
Holocaust: Polish-Jewish Conflict in the Wake of World War II," which Gross
must avoid or overcome with his continued generalizations; also a Polish
Media Alliance report , "Truth Squad Confronts Gross at NY Lecture." The
last describes a confrontation of February 6, 2002 at the City University
of New York, including eyewitness statements by Boleslaw Domitrz
contradicting Gross, asserting the presence of uniformed Germans at the
The publicity for Gross's current book FEAR refers to his earlier NEIGHBORS
as "critically acclaimed." But those reviewers were not critics: the book
was extolled with no questions asked. Only in the formidable New York
Review of Books, did the scholar Istvan Deak ask the question which Gross
has not answered. Here is the excerpt from the NYRB of May 31, 2001:
"The question of German presence leads to another difficult
issue, namely why the Jews did not defend themselves. As Gross writes, Jews
made up two thirds of Jedwabne's population. The Poles had no firearms.
When some Polish writers raised this question, Jan Gross answered bitterly,
arguing that the Jewish heads of families had to look after their wives and
children. Yet is it not precisely in defense of their families that people
tend to risk their lives? It is well known that, in extremis, some Polish
Jews dared to confront even heavily armed SS soldiers; one can ask why the
town's Jewish blacksmiths, for instance, did not grab iron bars to fend off
the attackers. They may have been hopelessly outnumbered, but the fact that
they did not fight back may also suggest that there were more than a
handful of armed Germans present at that time. In brief, there is good
reason for research and debate on the Jedwabne massacre to continue."
And the discovery of German bullets among the corpses at Jedwabne, just
prior to the premature termination of the forensic investigation, has not
figured in the praise Gross currently receives. But scholarship is
scholarship, and marketing is marketing.
The US edition of NEIGHBORS displays a statement by Abraham Lincoln:
"Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history." For my fellow Americans,
especially those of Polish and Jewish family, I accept his assurance and
Gordon Leon Black has been Executive Director for Ethnic Relations and
Vice-President for Education in The Polish American Congress, Inc.,
Northern California Division. TWO FLAGS has been since 1980 his personal
initiative in Polish/Jewish relations, honoring the two standards flown
over the Jewish rising in the Warsaw ghetto, white and red beside the white
and blue. He may be reached at TWOFLAGS@mcn.org.