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The Diplomat of Shoah History

Does Yale historian Timothy Snyder absolve Eastern Europe of special complicity in the Holocaust?

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A German soldier with civilians in September 1939 during the German invasion of Poland. (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)
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The dispute between Poles and Jews about the Nazi period can move in unsettling directions, ones that make an unhealed wound hurt even worse. Perceived insults, like President Barack Obama’s recent reference to “Polish concentration camps,” are seen by right-wing Poles as part of a plot to blacken their country’s name in the West. Some on the Polish right are also quick to argue that Poles who assisted the Nazis in anti-Jewish actions, or who slaughtered Jews on their own initiative (such pogroms occurred both during and just after the war), acted from understandable motives: After all, Jewish “treachery” had handed their country to the Bolsheviks. But the treachery is a fiction. Polish Jews were overwhelmingly anti-Communist, and the Soviets deported many of them.

The Polish role in the Holocaust had other roots, darker ones: traditional anti-Semitism and the greedy desire for Jewish property. When the historian Jan Gross in his books Neighbors and Fear (and, most recently, Golden Harvest, written with Irena Grudzinska Gross) charged his fellow Poles with aiding the Nazi genocide and profiting from the death of the Jews in their midst, he wanted them to mourn the vanished Jewish lives they had known so well, to come to terms with their guilt, since many of them had been indifferent or complicit or satisfied in the face of the Shoah. Instead, Lech Walesa, the hero of Solidarity and former president of Poland, called Gross “a mediocre writer … a Jew who tries to make money.” (Gross’ father was Jewish.) When Gross, who teaches at Princeton, returns to his native Poland, he has to contend with public prosecutors who, a few years ago, threatened to take him to court for “slandering the Polish nation.” His fellow historian Jan Grabowski says that Gross demolished the myth of Polish innocence by focusing on the reaction of Poles to the murder of 3 million of their fellow citizens, a reaction that was often craven, money-hungry, and cruel. “He was the one who brought this stinking mess into the open, single-handedly,” Grabowski remarks.

Enter Timothy Snyder.

The Yale historian’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin—hailed by Antony Beevor when it appeared in 2010 as “the most important work of history for years”—is grim and magisterial; it puts together the tragedy of the Holocaust with earlier mass murders in the regions that Snyder christens the “bloodlands” (Lithuania, Latvia, Byelorussia, Poland, and Ukraine). Snyder begins with the terrible famine that Stalin inflicted on Ukraine (more than 3 million dead); he goes on to the Great Terror, in which 700,000 died, including many Poles; and he writes movingly of the 3 million Soviet prisoners of war whom the Nazis starved to death, many of them in Byelorussian camps that were little more than barbed wire strung around masses of helpless, doomed POWs.

Like Gross, Snyder seeks to explain the actions of the non-Jews of Eastern Europe, the nearest bystanders to the Holocaust. But unlike Gross, he demands no conscience-searching from Eastern Europeans. Snyder points out that the Soviets and the Germans had ravaged the countries of the bloodlands, whose loss of sovereignty led to social chaos, hunger, threats of death, and deportation. Suddenly, Poles, Ukrainians, and others realized there was a starkly unavoidable presence in their midst, the German desire to kill Jews. It should not be a surprise, Snyder argues, that, by and large, they had little empathy for the Jews. Neither did we Americans, and we were thousands of miles away from Hitler and Stalin. The great debate between Snyder and Gross is a key juncture in the politics of memory in Eastern Europe and a test case for our efforts to understand what the Nazi extermination of the Jews meant to the part of the world where it happened.

***

I recently met Snyder for coffee in New Haven’s Blue State Café. Excited and nervous, he was anticipating the birth of his second child, due within days of our meeting. When he saw me he quickly folded his newspaper, and we launched, without throat-clearing, into our inescapable theme: mass murder. Snyder has the look of a hard-worked scholar on the brink of middle age—not unfriendly, but with a certain wariness about being misread; he seemed tired but in conversation was alert and careful. This fall, he said, he is preparing to teach a course solely about the destruction of the Jews and is writing a book on the causes of the Holocaust.

‘That Soviet power didn’t matter at all is just a polemical, indefensible view.’

Although Bloodlands describes an array of Nazi and Soviet mass murders, its secret, as every reader discovers, is that it turns out to be a book about the Holocaust. Why the Shoah is the inevitable end point of the story that Bloodlands tells is a question that Snyder elicits without fully answering: The Holocaust stands out because it is the most developed instance of genocide. Every single Jew was marked down for murder, with the goal of making the Jewish nation vanish forever from the earth, and the German state devoted its best resources to this end. The disappearance of the Jews became an absolute priority; this was not true of the Roma and Sinti, or the Soviet POWs, or the Ukrainians under Stalin, who suffered just as the Jews did, but whose fate did not carry the same symbolic weight.

The utopian, absurd idea that getting rid of Jews means liberating non-Jewish humanity points to the central, though hidden, role that Jews played in the Nazi imagination. Jews, the people of the Ten Commandments, were the incarnations of conscience; their presence on the earth reminded humanity of the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. No other genocide took on such a task: the redemption of the world from the disease of conscience. The victims of Stalin and Mao died just like Hitler’s, but their deaths weren’t intended to have the world-altering significance that the annihilation of the Jews had for the Nazis.

Unusually for a historian in his field, Snyder—who is from small-town southwestern Ohio, where his family has lived for two centuries—has no Jewish and no Eastern-European ancestry. “I grew up as an American kid with no connection to any of these places,” he told me. In college in the late 1980s, he said, “I thought I was going to grow up and become a diplomat and negotiate nuclear arms,” but with the fall of the Soviet Union, he veered toward Eastern European studies, where he discovered high-voltage connections between intellectual life, politics, and national identity and learned to speak Polish and Ukrainian.

While Snyder never planned to become a Holocaust historian, it appears that he may now be turning into one. In 2008, he wrote a masterful essay on the Shoah in Volhynia, integrating survivor testimony with a measured account of the roles that Germans and Ukrainians played in the killing of Jews. In Volhynia, Snyder wrote, Jews were in greater danger from Ukrainian nationalists than they were from Germans. “Many gentiles came to see the murder of Jews as corresponding to their personal economic interests,” he explained. He ended his essay with a haunting passage that he later incorporated into Bloodlands, in which he recounted the inscriptions scrawled on the walls of the synagogue in Kovel. Here, where 12,000 Jews awaited certain death, they wrote their parting messages, nearly unbearable for the reader (“My beloved mama! There was no escape. They brought us here from outside the ghetto, and now we must die a terrible death. … We kiss you over and over.”).

Snyder thinks that his vast knowledge of Eastern Europe, its politics, its history, its languages, is his best qualification to write about the Holocaust. “There’s a basic problem with the history of the Holocaust,” Snyder explained. “The people who do it don’t know the necessary languages.” The pioneering Raul Hilberg relied almost exclusively on German sources; Saul Friedländer, author of a monumental volume, The Years of Extermination, is similarly ignorant of the languages of the regions where the killing took place. “Saul’s books, and in general the big books we know about the Holocaust, are basically books about Germany,” Snyder remarked. The exceptions, the historians who do look beyond Germany, are, ironically, mostly Germans. Many of them, like Snyder, are still in their forties, and the most impressive of them is probably Christoph Dieckmann, who knows Lithuanian, Polish, Yiddish, and Hebrew; he recently published the first volume of his study of the Holocaust in Lithuania, whose 2,500 pages make it the most comprehensive account yet written (and that’s only volume one).

But the new multinational histories of the Shoah are a very recent phenomenon. For decades, most Holocaust historians focused solely on the Nazi perpetrators. The first wave of Holocaust history, under Hilberg’s influence, insisted on seeing the event through German eyes, and Hilberg disagreed sharply with younger historians’ interest in the life stories of Hitler’s Jewish victims. (“The perpetrator had the overview,” Hilberg wrote. “He alone was the key.”) He advocated, instead, a wide-angle perspective on how the vast work of killing occurred. Yet these days, Holocaust studies now mostly means looking in detail at the small communities where Jews were so often murdered, and it relies on survivor testimony. Snyder, who is clearly a large-scale explainer, has a problem with such “micro-studies.” “The field now is in a very micro-mode,” he said. “And what I think about the micro-mode is that it’s a little bit self-indulgent, because you talk about Poles and Ukrainians and Jews, and it ends up confirming your own view about Poles and Ukrainians and Jews.” The distinguished Holocaust historian Omer Bartov, an Israeli who teaches at Brown, wrote a groundbreaking study of the Wehrmacht, but now he is studying the home of his ancestors, the town of Buczacz in Ukraine. “So, Omer writes a book about the army, then he writes a book about Buczacz,” Snyder noted. “The concern is that when you get that intimate and that small, you can’t really catch the big things. You see that in [Gross’] Neighbors … it can’t really have full explanations.”

In Snyder’s view, Bartov and Gross have dodged the biggest question: why the Holocaust took place in Eastern Europe rather than elsewhere. “Actually figuring out how Soviet power mattered,” how it made possible the murder of Jews as well as all the other murders, is the true theme of Bloodlands, Snyder insisted to me. “That it didn’t matter at all is just a polemical, indefensible view. That the Soviets were just as bad as the Germans is also a polemical and indefensible view.”

But how does the collapse of state power at the hands of the Soviets lead to herding people into barns and setting them on fire, as Poles did to Jews in Jedwabne, the town studied in Gross’ Neighbors? Unlike Bartov and Christopher Browning, who describe the growing willingness of German soldiers and policemen to commit atrocities on the Eastern front, Snyder doesn’t make the breakdown of authority in Eastern Europe seem very real. Where Bartov and Browning make you feel the dissolving of moral inhibitions and show how warfare becomes murder, Snyder holds back. In a passage from Bloodlands that Bartov, who reviewed the book in Slavic Review, found deeply implausible, Snyder wrote that “there was often an overlap of ideology and interests between Nazis and local nationalists in destroying the Soviet Union and (less often) in killing Jews. Far more collaborators simply said the right things, or said nothing and did what they were told.” Here, Snyder turns the anti-Jewish deeds of Eastern Europeans into individual choices that on the whole seem rather reasonable. But this slights the collective nature of the phenomenon, the excited and dreadful group bonding that was perceived by all involved. One historian, Andrzej Zbikowski, notes the “exceptional, extreme cruelty” of the Polish attacks on Jews, the use of pitchforks and axes to mutilate bodies. In Jewish survivors’ accounts “no reflexes of compassion were recorded, nor even a turning of the head in shame,” Zbikowski asserted.

Snyder demonstrates that what permitted Poles to kill Jews in the wake of the German invasion, and then again after the German defeat, was the lack of a strong authority, a missing set of rules. But he avoids the question of what the pogroms accomplished—namely, a revival of the society that had been torn apart by Soviet occupation. That society came together to oppose not the conquering Germans, but the helpless Jews. The Poles’ resulting sense of guilt, which Gross emphasizes, largely disappears in Snyder’s work, replaced by an evenly distributed wrongdoing. Non-Jews steal from non-Jews, too, and kill them, Snyder reminds us. But these remarks do little to explain the rampant Polish eagerness to despoil the Jews who lived alongside them, a social fact that many observers saw at the time as a sickness. What do the killings of Polish (and Jewish) officers at Katyn, terrible as they were, have to do with Poles persecuting Jews? In his collage of terrible events, Snyder sometimes suggests that there were crucial links among these disasters. But he doesn’t demonstrate what those links actually were.

In our interview, Snyder wrestled with the question of Polish collaboration. “Why are they willing to take part?” he asked me, and groped toward an answer. “Mainly because of the previous destruction of their state by the Soviet Union. They’re trying to redeem themselves, to undo their humiliation.” Are the Poles—and the Ukrainians, and the Lithuanians—to be faulted for this behavior, or should we try to stick to neutral description? Snyder in Bloodlands is still the diplomat he once wanted to become; he stays neutral. He badly wants to avoid the nerve-fraying quarrels, the nationalist squabbles that Gross dived into.

***

Bloodlands has been translated into Polish, Ukrainian, and Lithuanian, and when readers from those countries read the book, they are forced to reckon with the enormity of the Holocaust. Similarly, when Jews read Bloodlands, they are challenged to acknowledge the struggles of other groups, the mass death that afflicted them, too. We are reminded that everyone’s fate is interlocked with everyone else’s. This is one reason—a fitting, even necessary one—for writing, as Snyder does, about all the murdered peoples of the bloodlands together. But Snyder also suggests that there is a second, just as pressing reason: the need to understand the role that earlier cases of mass death played in the later ones. Here, Snyder falls short. He falls back on an eloquent empathy for all the lost, rather than reaching the causal explanation that he hints at throughout his book. The famine in Ukraine did not lead to the death of the Soviet POWs, nor did the Great Terror lead to the Holocaust.

Snyder soundly rejects the argument of the conservative 1980s historian Ernst Nolte, who said that the Germans imitated Soviet mass murders. But if Nolte is wrong (and he is), what, then, do Bolshevik crimes have to do with Nazi ones? When I asked Snyder why he is so intent on putting Holocaust history in an Eastern European context, he said, “It relativizes. When you read Jan’s book about the Jews being burned in the barn [in Jedwabne], it’s a horrible thing, but when you know that there were a couple of thousand instances like that, most of them not involving Jews, it relativizes it. We see it more as a question of what humans can do to humans.” In 1943-44 there was a war between Ukrainian nationalists and their Polish counterparts. Ukrainians tortured Poles and burned them alive, men, women, and children; and Poles responded in kind, with violence just as gruesome. Those who ask how Poles and Ukrainians could have done what they did to Jews overlook the fact that they did the same terrible things to each other. After the war, in Poland, “Jews were not substantially more at risk of losing their lives than Ukrainians and Germans, or Polish oppositionists, for that matter,” Snyder explained. You wouldn’t know that from Gross’ Fear, which describes the epidemic of lynchings that terrorized Jewish survivors who returned to Poland in 1945 (nearly all of them left; many, ironically, for the safety of DP camps in Germany).

Here, Snyder hazards a criticism of Gross, whom he clearly admires. Gross thinks that Jews were and are crucial to Poland’s image of itself, a concealed trauma at the nation’s center. Snyder is not so sure. “I’m not convinced by the post-Holocaust argument that the Jews were always so incredibly central to the Polish imagination,” Snyder told me. Gross, by contrast, writes that “living Jews embodied the massive failure of character and reason on the part of their Polish neighbors”; that is why official newspaper condemnations of the Kielce pogrom of 1946 sparked massive strikes among workers, who protested in favor of the massacres. Here Gross proves more capable than Snyder of interpreting the painful reality of what Poles did to Jews. Gross notes that the Polish intelligentsia, stalwart in its opposition to anti-Semitism, was utterly unable to comprehend the outpouring of anger against Jews, the fact that they were being killed again, so soon after the Germans had left, and with the approval of most Poles. The shocked reactions of Polish intellectuals to the mass killings undermine Snyder’s argument that, when it comes to murder, there may be nothing much to explain.

Snyder never mentions the dismay of many in the Polish underground and the Polish government-in-exile over the moral degradation of their countrymen under German occupation. At the end of 1942 the underground reported that “the popular opinion is nearly united. Everyone is against the cruelty and the injudiciousness with which the Jews are being murdered, but in general they think that ‘the judgment of history against the Jews has arrived.’ In the thoughts of the society there is no sharp protest against what is happening, and no warm sympathy.” When offered a thousand zloty or a bottle of schnapps in exchange for turning in a Jew, many took the bargain; all knew that the Jew was headed for certain death. Dr. Zygmunt Klukowski, director of a hospital near Zamosc, wrote in November 1942, “In general some terrible demoralization has taken hold of people with respect to Jews. A psychosis took hold of them and they emulate the Germans in that they don’t see a human being in Jews, only some pernicious animal, which has to be destroyed by all means, like dogs sick with rabies, or rats.” Klukowski bears witness to what the sociologist Thomas Kühne, a specialist on the Holocaust, calls the “creative” aspect of genocide, the thrilled solidarity it spurs in the perpetrators and in onlookers as well. Jan Karski, who urgently alerted the Western allies to the reality of the Nazi death camps, confessed in a despairing mood that the Polish nation largely embraced the Nazi plans for the Jews; this was the “thin bridge,” in his phrase, that united the Poles and their occupiers. (Neither Klukowski nor Karski was Jewish.) Zegota was the branch of the Polish underground dedicated to saving Jews, a band of men and women who put their own lives on the line; they come as close to sainthood as anyone could, or did, in World War II. But even Zegota issued a statement declaring that Jews were the enemies of Poland. In this atmosphere, in which the feeling that Jews were alien intruders was almost universal, genocide did its work.

“Jan has a problem that I don’t have, which is that Jan is Polish,” Snyder told me. “So, Jan is having a discussion with a colleague in Poland who asks, what about the relevance of the Soviet occupation, and Jan says, no matter how relevant it is, does that mean we ‘understand’ that so many people killed Jews? He’s using the word ‘understand’ in a moral way, rather than in a scholarly way. [Gross’ work] is universal in its arguments, but it tends to be national in its ethics.” He paused. “It’s a role that I actually admire,” Snyder added—but one that is only possible for a Pole.

Instead, Snyder proposed, in our interview, a provocative thought-experiment: “If the Soviet Union invaded the United States to the Mississippi, there would be all kinds of explanations about how that was possible, and we would fall prey to something like ‘Judeo-Bolshevism.’ ” He’s probably right, of course: America has never experienced foreign occupation (unless you count the South after the Civil War). If it ever does happen, you could probably expect lynch mobs, conspiracy theories, and the stringing up of internal enemies—and not just on talk radio. But despite Snyder’s effort to ameliorate Polish behavior through counterfactual historical comparison, Gross still makes a convincing case that Poles themselves felt guilty about the deaths of their countrymen and the country’s profit from the wartime genocide. The whole society knew that something was wrong and was terrified to admit it, which is why, after the war, Poles persecuted not only Jews, but also Polish rescuers of Jews, many of whom were afraid to admit what they had done: Instead of heroes, they were seen as traitors.

Often in Bloodlands, Snyder presents deeply moving vignettes of Hitler’s and Stalin’s victims; he quotes their words when, about to die, they tried to sum up their lives. The reader is grateful that Snyder has so lovingly—there is no other word for it—given us the memory of these people. Yet the spectrum of characters in Bloodlands is oddly curtailed; all of the book’s capsule portraits are of victims. For all Snyder’s insistence that he is interested in the role of the perpetrator and the bystander, he finally, like most of us, prefers to commemorate the murdered innocents than to reach “into that darkness” (to quote Gitta Sereny’s title for her book on the Commandant of Treblinka, Franz Stangl), the place where the murders are planned and carried out and observed with a poisonous mixture of feelings. That Snyder is tactful where he should be daring is proof that diplomacy has its limits.

***

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julis123 says:

He leaves out the elephant in the room–the church. The Poles and other Europeans were fed antisemitism from when they were babies. Does it surprise anyone that when given a chance they carried out what they were taught
It should also be pointed out that now that Europe is mainly devoid of Jews many Europeans have taken this attitude towards Israel.

    Saint_Etienne says:

    You might be over-generalizing here. First of all – which church? Both Catholics and Protestant churches have had complicated relationships with Jews but you are laying too much responsibility at their door. The Germans, who were after all the main perpetrators and instigators, were much less religious than the Poles – so what gives? And what does today have to do with it? Perhaps scoring of political points better be left for other contexts.

      julis123 says:

      Complicated? The Catholic Church from its founding to very recently was openly antisemitic. Martin Luther after discovering that the Jews weren’t willing to convert became a rabid antisemite.

        Saint_Etienne says:

        Yes, yes, but I am asking about the actual influence of the church(es) on the Shoah – and am in doubt that it’s so clear-cut. Surely, you will agree that other causes were operating as well. In other terms, this is about whether the New antisemitism was a direct continuation of the Old, or something rather different?

        To illustrate better my meaning, I squarely lay the moral blame for the massacres of the German Jews during the so-called People’s Crusade in 1096 at the Church’s door. Without its preachings the common people/bandits would not have massacred the Jews. You do have to admit though that some or even most bishops were horrified at the atrocities they (to an extent unwittingly) unleashed and tried to protect the Jews in many cases (usually without much success).

        But the Shoah?

        Address my main point, if you like: were the Germans that religious in 1933? I think not. Hitler, Himmler and the whole may-they-burn-in-hell lot of them weren’t religious and in most cases their parents hadn’t been very religious either. So is it fair to say that the church(es) propelled them to try and destroy the Jews?

        The Poles, who certainly were very religious generally speaking, would not have started the whole thing on their own.

        P.S.
        You don’t think that the (absolutely correct) point you’d made about Luther really sums up 500 years of Protestant-Jewish relationship ever since, do you?

          julis123 says:

          I think that I direct line can be drawn between the antisemitism of the middle ages and the holocaust. There is an excellent book about the relationship between the church and the Jews call Constantine’s Sword by James Carrol which I highly recommend.

          Saint_Etienne says:

          Thanks for the reference – I’ll be sure to read it. For now I looked it up on wikipedia and it says:

          “Carroll disclaims the notion that Christian anti-Judaism leads inevitably to the Shoah perpetrated by National Socialism, but he argues that Church’s long history of “Jew-hatred” (his term) laid the foundation for Hitler’s crimes.”

          I think that can be squared with what I had said. Thanks again!

    harryeagar says:

    Yet in “Pogrom” edited by Klier and Lambroza, it is shown conclusively that the waves of pogroms in the 19th century were almost absent in Russian Poland and rare in northern Ukraine and the Baltic provinces. They were concentrated in south Ukraine and especially Odessa,, where they originally were led by Greeks, only later by Slavs,

    Yet Christian teaching about Jews and Jewishness, formal and informal, was about the same in all those areas.

    Some new thing, beyond German racism, is needed to account for what happened.

Snyder makes clear to anyone that had read his histories of Eastern Europe (including Bloodlands and The Commonwealth of Nations) that there can be no absolution of 14 million murders and the near destruction of European Jewry on what he calls The Bloodlands. (Read this for instance:
http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2011/jul/25/neglecting-lithuanian-holocaust/ , in which he excoriates Lithuanians who seem to forget the evil that they unleashed on their Jewish countrymen.) Rather, I feel he contributes to the conversation by placing the murders in the context of the instability caused by centuries of violent political change, beginning in the 1790’s with the end of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and its status as a haven for Jews. I doubt Snyder needs the likes of me to defend him, but I think the article is a bit unfair to him.

genelevit says:

The history of the region is much more complicated. Besides Jews there were also massacres of Poles by the Ukrainian nationalist (anti-Bolshevik) partisans and subsequent massacres of Ukrainian civilians by the Polish Home Army. Thousands of innocent civilians were murdered in cold blood on both sides. There was also expulsion of Germans in what is now called “act of ethnic cleansing” and amounts to the war crime and crime against humanity. There were bloody conflicts between Poles and Lithuanians in the region of Wilno, not to mention the mistreatment of Poles by the Nazis and Soviet NKVD. You cannot make this black and white or present situation as if Jews and only Jews suffered from the consequences of the war. At least half of inmates in “Polish” concentration camps (not death camps – there is a difference) were not Jews (mostly Poles but also Russian POWs, Ukrainian and Lithuanian nationalists and so on). Mr. Snyder is right: “The people who do it don’t know the necessary languages” However I am not sure that he is qualified also

ExpatInvader says:

Yes Snyder delves deeper and does not attempt to make the reader hate Poles and Poland. Quelle horreur!!!

ExpatInvader says:

An example of Timothy Snyder’s “diplomacy” that is not mentioned in the above article occurs when he talks about the execution of 85,000 ethnic Poles living in the Soviet Union in the 1930’s. The executions were carried out by the NKVD. Snyder mentions that about 37% of NKVD members at the time were Jewish. He also makes clear that Jews in general should bear no responsibility for these crimes.
Whilst I am in agreement in Snyder, I do wonder if David Mikics also disapproves of this “diplomacy”. Or is it only the “diplomacy” in association with Polish gentiles that he finds distasteful?

Whilst I’m no Holocaust Denier, I do find it a little disturbing that when Googling “Total Deaths in Nazi Camps” all the ‘hits’ are about the Holocaust.

Almost as if the millions of other people that died in them don’t count . . . .

    brynababy says:

    The Holocaust refers to ALL those murdered in Nazi death camps. Unfortunately, the scale of murder of the Jews as compare to t he others was beyond belief.

      Zamoyski says:

      In my experience, the North American student is not properly taught that the Holocaust brought death to 11 million people, they are only told of the 6 million people of Jewish faith.

Dr. Efraim Zuroff says:

Unfortunately, this excellent article by David Mikics focuses almost exclusively on Poland, which for historical reasons is not the place where Snyder’s “Bloodlands” totally fails to present a historical account of the historical reality of the Holocaust. A far better place would be the Baltics in general, and Lithuania in particular. In these countries, 3 important phenomena took place:
1. the uniquely-extensive participation of local volunteer Nazi collaborators in the mass murder of their Jewish fellow citizens, which in many cases was carried out with unusual cruelty and zeal;
2. the mass murder in these countries of many thousands of Jews deported there from elsewhere in Europe;
3. the participation of local security police units from these countries in the mass murder of Jews in Belarus and Poland.
In Poland, the Nazis did not incorporate Poles into the mechanism of the systematic annihilation of the Jews, as they did with Baltic collaborators, and therefore Snyder’s cavalier attitude toward Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian murderers of Jews is a far greater misrepresentation of the historical reality, than his assessment of the individual Poles who persecuted and/or killed their Jewish neighbors.
Snyder recently participated in a symposium on the Holocaust in Lithuania, which was held almost immediately after the reburial with full honors in Kaunas of J. Ambrazevicius, the Prime Minister of the Lithuanian Provisional Government, which fully supported the Nazis and the mass murder of the Jews. Ever the “diplomat of Shoa history,” he did not say a word about this outrageous step, nor has he ever declined the honors accorded him in Eastern Europe as the “poster boy” for the theory of double genocide by those busy promoting the canard of equivalency between Nazi and Communist crimes. The fact that the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry is promoting Bloodlands as the alternative narrative, which will finally deflect the justified criticism of Lithuanain complicity in Holocaust crimes, makes Snyder an accomplice in the distortion of the history of the Shoa in these countries.

Umish Katani says:

Excuse me folks, but we are nit picking here….. All of Europe and others are complicit in Shoah… and by the way, not just against the Jews, there were the Gypsies, Gays, etc. The Germans may have been the ones to organize and systemize the Shoah, but almost every country save one or two, were accomplices in the horror either directly or indirectly. It is of no difference whether the locals helped actively or stood by passively as the tragedy unfurled… THe USA is no better specifically refering to the State Department who stood by and put road blocks in the path of the fleeing populations. All in all Poland will forever suffer the stigma due to the fact that 3.5 million polish jews were killed there and it was a place most of the camps were built. But in no way does this absolve the other countries and governments in their shame and guilt. Just as an aside, in april 1943 as the Warsaw Ghetto revolted…. where were the polish partisans and underground…NOWHERE to be seen. Forgive me. spliting hairs on who is more guilty is ludicrous. Guilty is gulity and Europe, the RC church, the Prtestant church , the USA State department all share in this crime. But this will not bring back the Jewish Culture that was wiped out and the language that was erased. It is still going on today the germans havent changed just a new set of clothes…. re the recent german court ruling agains the bris.
One last note…. how many of you good Yidn out there drive VW’s and Mercedes, still buy German and polish goods from companies that aided the Gerries… When you give up your Mercedes and VW’s then you have a right to kvetch .

    Moshe Ofer says:

    very well said

    MichelBerlin says:

    >>”One last note…. how many of you good Yidn out there drive VW’s and
    Mercedes, still buy German and polish goods from companies that aided
    the Gerries… When you give up your Mercedes and VW’s then you have a
    right to kvetch . “<<

    Well, seeing the worldwide export trade record of Germany it seems nobody cares about any guilt….

    MichelBerlin says:

    >>”One last note…. how many of you good Yidn out there drive VW’s and
    Mercedes, still buy German and polish goods from companies that aided
    the Gerries… When you give up your Mercedes and VW’s then you have a
    right to kvetch . “<<

    Well, seeing the worldwide export trade record of Germany it seems nobody cares about any guilt….

    MichelBerlin says:

    >>”One last note…. how many of you good Yidn out there drive VW’s and
    Mercedes, still buy German and polish goods from companies that aided
    the Gerries… When you give up your Mercedes and VW’s then you have a
    right to kvetch . “<<

    Well, seeing the worldwide export trade record of Germany it seems nobody cares about any guilt….

    MichelBerlin says:

    >>”One last note…. how many of you good Yidn out there drive VW’s and
    Mercedes, still buy German and polish goods from companies that aided
    the Gerries… When you give up your Mercedes and VW’s then you have a
    right to kvetch . “<<

    Well, seeing the worldwide export trade record of Germany it seems nobody cares about any guilt….

    MichelBerlin says:

    >>”One last note…. how many of you good Yidn out there drive VW’s and
    Mercedes, still buy German and polish goods from companies that aided
    the Gerries… When you give up your Mercedes and VW’s then you have a
    right to kvetch . “<<

    Well, seeing the worldwide export trade record of Germany it seems nobody cares about any guilt….

    MichelBerlin says:

    >>”One last note…. how many of you good Yidn out there drive VW’s and
    Mercedes, still buy German and polish goods from companies that aided
    the Gerries… When you give up your Mercedes and VW’s then you have a
    right to kvetch . “<<

    Well, seeing the worldwide export trade record of Germany it seems nobody cares about any guilt….

    MichelBerlin says:

    >>”One last note…. how many of you good Yidn out there drive VW’s and
    Mercedes, still buy German and polish goods from companies that aided
    the Gerries… When you give up your Mercedes and VW’s then you have a
    right to kvetch . “<<

    Well, seeing the worldwide export trade record of Germany it seems nobody cares about any guilt….

    MichelBerlin says:

    >>”One last note…. how many of you good Yidn out there drive VW’s and
    Mercedes, still buy German and polish goods from companies that aided
    the Gerries… When you give up your Mercedes and VW’s then you have a
    right to kvetch . “<<

    Well, seeing the worldwide export trade record of Germany it seems nobody cares about any guilt….

    MichelBerlin says:

    >>”One last note…. how many of you good Yidn out there drive VW’s and
    Mercedes, still buy German and polish goods from companies that aided
    the Gerries… When you give up your Mercedes and VW’s then you have a
    right to kvetch . “<<

    Well, seeing the worldwide export trade record of Germany it seems nobody cares about any guilt….

    MichelBerlin says:

    >>”One last note…. how many of you good Yidn out there drive VW’s and
    Mercedes, still buy German and polish goods from companies that aided
    the Gerries… When you give up your Mercedes and VW’s then you have a
    right to kvetch . “<<

    Well, seeing the worldwide export trade record of Germany it seems nobody cares about any guilt….

    MichelBerlin says:

    >>”One last note…. how many of you good Yidn out there drive VW’s and
    Mercedes, still buy German and polish goods from companies that aided
    the Gerries… When you give up your Mercedes and VW’s then you have a
    right to kvetch . “<<

    Well, seeing the worldwide export trade record of Germany it seems nobody cares about any guilt….

History: Vitsbsk, Russia, one of my grandmother’s sister’s was taken by the, Germans and died on the march. Another, pregnant sister, was taken by the, Russians and died on the march. Why, is the complicity, of the, Rumanian’s ignored. Will no one bring justice for my, Rumanian relatives?

Too bad they didn’t get Anna Breslaws grandparents.

emunadate says:

I don’t understand this…when they knew that there was something wrong with killing their Jewish countrymen, why would that treat them as traitors after the war? It is adding salt to an open wound…
http://emunadate.blogspot.co.il/2012/04/oprah-and-elie-weisel-at-auschwitz-part.html

Snyder is a bolshocaust denier. He says only 1 million died in the gulag. For this number he relies on Soviet archives as if Soviets kept the most reliable account on the books. As a leftist, he goes for the lowest possible death count for communist crimes. But he uses a very elastic method to count Jewish deaths in the holocaust. So, he has no problem lowering the number of Ukrainian deaths(even by half) but finds creative means to keep the Jewish number of deaths at 6 million. He gets away with stuff like that because Jews totally control American publishing.

Also, he whitewashes the Jewish role in communist mass murder. Instead, he tries to lay all the blame on Stalin and Russians and tries to make Jews out as the victims of communism.

Snyder is a snide ideologue and supporter of Zionism who is not to be trusted.

http://www.vdare.com/articles/stalins-willing-executioners-0

http://takimag.com/article/counting_the_dead_equally_paul_gottfried/print#axzz21zoPVI1j

Lithuanians may have failed to face up to their crimes but when will Jews face up to their crimes of collaborating with Moorish invaders, masterminding the medieval European slave trade, abuses of finance capitalism which carries onto this day–Soros and Goldman Sachs–, mass murder in their role as communists, sex slavery in Israel, ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, etc. Israel has been a bigger haven for Jewish communist mass-murderers and gangsters than Argentina ever was for Nazi criminals.

If Jews are not going to face up to their evils–which explain why so many people came to hate Jews–, they shouldn’t be lecturing to the rest of us. Snyder is just another toady sucking up to Jews to serve as the court historian for the Jewish globalist elite.

“Polish Jews were overwhelmingly anti-Communist, and the Soviets deported many of them.”

But among the prominent ones, many were communist, and it’s the prominent ones who make history. Also, even many of the anti-communist Jews were radicals of one kind or another: finance globalist, socialist, anarchist, Zionist, decadent subversive, etc.

But why were Jews doing in Europe anyway? If Brits didn’t belong in India, what right did Jews have to be in Europe? Of course, most Jews moved to Europe to aid Muslim invaders, deal in slavery, or work as tax collectors for the exploitative noblemen elites.

“The Holocaust stands out because it is the most developed instance of genocide. Every single Jew was marked down for murder, with the goal of making the Jewish nation vanish forever from the earth, and the German state devoted its best resources to this end.”

This is bullshit. Hitler was scum, true, but he initially wanted expel Jews from German territory, but no one would take Jews. Why not? Because Jews, with their ruthless cunning and higher intelligence, take over other countries and subvert it from within. Look what Jews have done to the US: open borders, illegal immigration, using porn to degrade white women, using blacks to rob/rape/murder whites, robbing us via Wall Street, using goyim to fight and die in Wars for Israel, pushing ‘gay marriage’, etc. Jews are not a likable people. The ONLY reason why so many Americans worship Jews is because Jews dominate the media and academia. If Americans could see the REAL Jew, they would hate him.

Hitler finally turned to all out holocaust when he felt the war was gonna be lost. Also, he was taking vengeance over the fact that Jews in UK and US steered those nations into war with Germany. Even so, even at his maddest, Hitler was after Jews under German territory. He wasn’t trying to stamp out every Jew all over the world. Hitler was scum and Nazis deserved to lose but Jews were universally hated because they’re arrogant, hostile, rabid, and virulent. Jewish religion/culture was far more anti-goyite than Christians were antisemitic.
Heinrich Heine was a vicious anti-Germanite. And look what happened to the noble Palestinians due to murderous Zionism.
So, look in the mirror, Jews. You’ve been filled with vicious hared against goyim for 1000s of yrs.

    Historicism says:

    Andrea, marry me.
    I wish Jews could take credit for gay marriage, open borders and the proliferation of white women in porn. Alas, many are pretty conservative.

    Anyway, Ms Ruthless’s insane gibberish is the kind of thing that encourages conscientious Jews to ignore Israel’s moral failings. The lesson of the holocaust should be to resist hatred, not to seek survival at any moral cost.

    One shudders at filth like the above literary spew and wonders if someone who writes such deranged prose deserves a response. I’m not sure myself, but I feel compelled nonetheless.

    To A.D. Ruthless, the Jew is a monolith. They are Communists, they are Capitalists. They are Left, they are Right, they are everything in between. They They They They.

    Jews are human beings, with all of their faults and glories. That’s about the only generalization one can make.

    Ironically, one can learn about the irrational hatred that led to the Shoah quite well from the likes of A.D. Unfortunately, unlike the work of Mr. Snyder, one has to identify all of the factual errors in A.D.’s rants to appreciate the level of sickness that develop’s in a mind that creates the urge to kill fellow human beings.

John-Paul Himka says:

My reading of Bloodlands is quite different from that of David Mikics. I have Jan
Gross’s “problem,” i.e., I come from inside an ethnic group (Ukrainians) and
have been working as a historian on Ukrainian nationalist participation in the
Holocaust. I did not see much about this in Tim Snyder’s big book, but I do not
believe that every book should cover everything. Snyder has continually made
his positions clear at moments that counted. When the outgoing president of
Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko made a leader of the wartime Organization of
Ukrainian Nationalists (Stepan Bandera) an official Hero of Ukraine in 2010, Snyder
condemned the promotion of this “fascist hero” in his NYR blog and was then, of
course, roundly denounced in the Ukrainian press. Very recently, when I was
dropped from a conference on Ukrainian churchman Andrei Sheptytsky because my
paper showed how Sheptytsky condemned the epidemic of murder among his
faithful, i.e., the murder of Jews, Snyder immediately resigned from the
conference himself and essentially scuttled the enterprise. His book Reconstruction of Nations was a revelation to many about the Ukrainian nationalists. He showed how heavily they relied on training they received as policemen in German service in order to embark on a large ethnic cleansing project of their own. Tutored in methods of mass murder in the Holocaust, they applied what they had learned also to the Poles of Volhynia.
But in addition to conducting research on the Holocaust, I
teach a range of courses, including a large world history class to
undergraduates and a course on the Holocaust in cinema. I am shocked how little
our students know about the crimes of the Stalinist epoch. “We learned a bit
about it in eighth grade,” they say. Their knowledge of European atrocities of
the twentieth century has a large crater in it. Snyder’s Bloodlands, directed primarily at the anglophone intelligentsia, is an important corrective to our historical vision and assumptions.
Discussing Nazi crimes and Soviet crimes together is a minefield. Yet this discussion has to take place to reach some intellectual and moral clarity, certainly from the point of view of those of us who are concerned about developments in
postcommunist Europe. There the communist experience is used to make heroes of
nationalists who perpetrated crimes against the Jewish and other “alien”
populations; too often this even involves a justification of those crimes. The
horrendous “Judeobolshevik” interpretation of twentieth-century history is
becoming a more vociferous discourse in both the homelands and East European
diasporas. These tendencies cannot be countered by a discounting of the
sufferings under communism. Why, they say, should we pay so much attention to
what happened to the Jews, when this and that happened to us? A stronger, more
robust vision is necessary, one that can nurture an empathy for the victims of
both communism and fascism. And that’s where Snyder’s book makes a major
contribution – in putting together that fuller picture. Since this is fraught
territory, the discussion will involve errors of fact and tact, insensitivities,
and wrong directions, as every discussion must. I have questions about Snyder’s
book, but I recognize the great achievement and want to carry his discussion
further. As it happens, this fall I am giving an undergraduate seminar
precisely on Snyder’s Bloodlands,
complemented by critiques, other research on specific topics, and films. I
think the book is a great vehicle for learning, thinking, and evaluating.

    TESTATOR says:

    The flip side of the coin is the inattention that has been given to the active and important cooperation of western European peoples, most notably the French, to the Nazi enterprise. One need only thihk of le grand raffle or on the fact that, in the European Theater of Operations, the first troops to fire on American soldiers were French.

      John-Paul Himka says:

      I think the French case has been brought to public attention, e.g., very recently in the films Le Rafle and Sarah’s Key. Books by Michael Marrus, Robert Paxton, Serge Klarfeld, and others have also had a powerful impact.

    jamesmace says:

    Sadly, we have yet another analysis that commits the pivotal “Bruder In Not” issue into the memory hole. Tragically, another missed opportunity to probe, among other things, why the Amish needed to pay Stalin a $1million ransom to escape the Ukrainian Famine.

    It simply is impossible to discuss 1943 Ukraine with those that knowingly ignore 1933 German Ukrainians. The genocide of over 1 million German Ukrainian colonists mostly under the direction of Trotsky and Kagonovich from 1921 to 1939 is necessary to any discussion of this subject.

saksin says:

On what grounds has it been determined that the rationale for the Holocaust was to cleanse mankind of an ethnic repository of the human conscience? That heinous mega-crime would seem to merit the most careful scrutiny of the motives that inspired it, upon that we might arrive at a true appraisal of the lessons it holds for us. Few potential keys to that puzzle rival, it seems to me, what Hitler – in an uncharacteristic moment of candor – told the journalist Joseph Hell during an interview in 1922, saved for posterity in Hell’s notes. I paraphrase the historian Gerald Fleming’s account in order to avoid copyright issues: Hell had asked Hitler what he intended to do with the Jews once he obtained discretionary powers, upon which Hitler launched into a tirade about rounding them up and hanging them from lamp-posts all over Munich, where they would hang for as long as hygiene would permit, and then the same in every German city, till Germany was cleansed of Jews. But it was Hell’s follow-up question concerning what motivated his wish to destroy this undeniably intelligent people to whom the world owes so much that suddenly made Hitler deliver himself of an unexpectedly dispassionate explanation. Hitler told Hell that he had studied the revolutions of the past and concluded that any struggle for ideals or improvements of any kind of necessity must include a struggle against some social class or caste, and cannot succeed without it. He gave historical examples (nobility, clergy, etc.). And, Hitler continued, since he intended to foment first-class revolutionary upheavals, he had to find “the right kind of victim”, assuring Hell that he had scrutinized history for every conceivable alternative, and none had more in its favor than a campaign against the Jews. He then gave an acount of these various advantages, the final one being that “once the hatred and the battle against the Jews” really had been stirred up, their resistance would soon crumble. “They are totally defenseless, and no one will stand up to protect them.” The interested reader is referred to the full details in Fleming’s “Hitler and the final solution” (1984), pp. 17-18 & 28.
Hitler apparently thought of himself as a revolutionary, and like all revolutionaries (as Jacob Talmon taught us) he had a “pencil sketch” of the mechanics of the revolution he hoped to foment. For Hitler the Jews were the centerpiece of those mechanics and of that pencil sketch, and however deluded the conception, its rationale seems more believable than this purported metaphysical ambition to cleanse mankind of conscience! Is there any evidence to support the latter conjecture?

http://mondoweiss.net/2007/06/re_joachim_mart.html

J.C.S Martillo says:

As right-wing psycho Zionist extremists spew all sorts of nonsense about Islamofascism, progressive anti-Zionist anti-racists have an obligation to revisit the accusation of Judeobolshevism, and we find that there was an extremely large segment of the E. European ethnic Ashkenazi population that was heavily involved in communism and communist crimes.
The Nazi mass murders of Jews do not start until after Operation Barbarossa. Before then the German Nazis were for the most part content with driving Jews out of German controlled territories. Post Soviet invasion, German war propaganda often uses terminology like jüdisch-bolschewistische Terrorbanden.
Hilberg discusses the issue in his Holocaust history as does the latest generation of Sovietologists, of whom Slezkine is only one example.
I can understand why racist Ashkenazim and Zionist extremists wish to ban the topic. Racist Ashkenazim certainly do not want the same sort of analysis applied to them that they apply to Germans, Russians, Arabs, Muslims or non-Jews in general.
In addition, the subject of Jews and Bolshevism interferes with the Zionist Holocaust narrative in which the Holocaust is an extraordinary crime, Jews are extraordinary victims, for whom extraordinary relief is required, to wit the theft of Palestine from the native population.
The genocidalism of Soviet Ashkenazim then and the genocidalism of Zionist Ashkenazim from the late 40s through the present day looks tremendously similar.
In analysing the issue, we have to focus specifically on E. European ethnic Ashkenazim. Except for German Jews undergoing a process of Ashkenazization, Jews of other ethnic groups generally were not nearly so involved with communism or communist crimes.
The German Nazis in fact show awareness of such ethnic differences. In Poland and Lithuania, the German Nazis ignored Jewish Tatars, who had troubled relations with ethnic Ashkenazim, or even recruited Tatar Jews into the SS. Thus in Poland we even run across anomalous incidents of Tatar Jewish SS recruits that take part in actions to hunt down Tatar Muslim Polish patriots fighting in the anti-Nazi resistance. Yad Vashem does not document such occurences.
In the Crimea, where Soviet Ashkenazim managed to enmesh large numbers of Tatar Jews in the service of Soviet communism, we find that the local non-Jewish population was killing the Tatar Jewish population even before the German Nazis arrived and even though there was little evidence of a modern sort of anti-Semitism in the region before the Russian Revolution.

http://mondoweiss.net/2007/06/re_joachim_mart.html

J.C.S Martillo says:
June 19, 2007 at 11:03 pm
I am not asserting that the actions of Eastern Europeans and “liberated Soviet nationalities” in mass killing Jews were justified, but many Jewish anti-Zionist anti-Communist rabbinical leaders predicted that the behavior of a large segment of the ethnic Ashkenazi population in the late Czarist Empire and early Soviet Union was creating a hatred of Jews so hot that it would lead to mass murder of Jews. These rabbinical leaders were correct. (I believe Slezkine quotes one or two of them. Wasserman was another.)Because of this element of collective revenge in the mass killing of Jews in Eastern Europe during WW2, I do not consider the Holocaust a particularly “pure” example of genocide.I also do not consider the Holocaust particularly unique when viewed in the context of the wave of genocide that starts in the Czarist Empire in the 1820s (against the Chechens) and that spreads westward (through the Balkans).Relatively speaking far more Eastern European Ashkenazim (relatively and probably absolutely) seem to have been directly involved in mass murder, ethnic cleansing and genocide during the Russian Revolution and during the first 20 years of the Soviet Union than were Germans directly involved in mass murder, ethnic cleansing and genocide during the Nazi period.Occasionally Harvard research Sarah Roy has asked rhetorically as the child of Holocaust survivors, “How can Israeli Jews commit such atrocities against Palestinians?” And I answer her as someone who lost even more relatives to the German Nazis than she, “Study the history of the Russian Revolution and early Soviet Union.”[I have occasionally given a lecture on "The Myth of Jewish Powerlessness in Eastern Europe and Czarist Russia during the Late 19th and Early 20th Century."]As for heinousness of the Holocaust relative to the experiences of Palestinians, it is a psychological issue. When a soldier is blown up in battle, it is not usually considered heinous, but if a child is dropped from a bridge onto a highway where it is smashed by high-speed traffic, such a murder is heinous.A segment of the Eastern European ethnic Ashkenazim chose to be players in Eastern European politics, and without them the Communists would never have stolen the Russian Revolution. Without the Soviet Union, no Hitler. Without Hitler, no Holocaust. There seems to be some sort of karmic principle operating in this case.But in the case of Palestinians what did they do but live in Palestine? Unlike ethnic Ashkenazim they are descended from Greco-Roman Palestinian populations. Their ancestors wrote the Hebrew Bible, the Mishna, the Baraita, and the Jerusalem Talmud, which were to a large extent sliced and diced by Zionists to justify the genocide of the modern Palestinian populations.The history of Palestinians seems almost anti-karmic, and I am completely creeped out that Zionist scholars like S.D. Goitein, who could out-Mengele Mengele, were or are praised and honored within the Jewish community and beyond.BTW, I treat the Nakba as only part of the crime committed against Palestinians. I normally refer to the Holoexaleipsis, which is the Great Erasure, which includes the past and ongoing demonization of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims along with the physical erasing of Palestinians from their native land — a process that continues to this day.The Holoexaleipsis also refers to the erasing and rewriting of both the history of Palestine and of Jews to conform to Zionist propaganda.The Holoexaleipsis began in the 19th century and continues in the 21st. It is a crime that spans three centuries.

jeff_davis says:

I’m an American and a Jew, and grateful for the gift of a Jewish mind. I’ve also been incredibly fortunate to have not been ethnically “captured” and had that mind ruined by Jewish tribalism.

“Anti-Semitism? What is that?” I ask. “It’s hatred of Jews, of course.” comes the reply. “Yes, yes, I know that, but why”, I ask further, “are they hated?” “Because they are Jews.” comes the non-answer. “No. no. that won’t do. What is the reason for the hatred?” “The reason is that they are Jews. There’s no other reason”, comes the reply. “That makes no sense. Not to me, at least. People don’t hate without a reason. They might be suspicious — suspicious of strangers, for instance, the unknown quantity — wary, aloof, unfriendly even, but hatred, no. Real hatred, needs something more. To say there is nothing, makes no sense.” And yet again comes the reply, now tinged with annoyance and anger, “No, the Goyim hate Jews, they have always hated Jews, they don’t have a reason, they don’t need a reason, they just hate. That’s what Anti-semitism is, blind, unreasoned hatred.” “Hmmmm. It seems we’re going in circles. There must be a reason. Perhaps you’ve never thought about it. Perhaps you don’t know. Perhaps you don’t want to know.” To which, fully charged with anger, comes the reply, “Are you saying the Jews did something to provoke the hatred? How dare you!! Millions murdered and you dare suggest they did something to provoke that? What sort of monster are you? Blame the victims is what you’re about. You’re nothing but a criminal anti-Semite, yourself.” “Hmmmmm. There’s that word again. And I still don’t have an answer as to “Why?”, as to the reason.”

I’m a person of no importance. My opinion, as well, of no importance. I went fifty years without even wondering “Why?”, much less getting an answer. Then, by chance, I stumbled across it. As a Jew this may be the most important thing you ever read. Note the ethically and intellectually unimpeachable source. Good luck. “Concerning the Jews” by Mark Twain:

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1898twain-jews.asp

jeff_davis says:

I’m an American and a Jew, and grateful for the gift of a Jewish mind. I’ve also been incredibly fortunate to have not been ethnically “captured” and had that mind ruined by Jewish tribalism.

“Anti-Semitism? What is that?” I ask. “It’s hatred of Jews, of course.” comes the reply. “Yes, yes, I know that, but why”, I ask further, “are they hated?” “Because they are Jews.” comes the non-answer. “No. no. that won’t do. What is the reason for the hatred?” “The reason is that they are Jews. There’s no other reason”, comes the reply. “That makes no sense. Not to me, at least. People don’t hate without a reason. They might be suspicious — suspicious of strangers, for instance, the unknown quantity — wary, aloof, unfriendly even, but hatred, no. Real hatred, needs something more. To say there is nothing, makes no sense.” And yet again comes the reply, now tinged with annoyance and anger, “No, the Goyim hate Jews, they have always hated Jews, they don’t have a reason, they don’t need a reason, they just hate. That’s what Anti-semitism is, blind, unreasoned hatred.” “Hmmmm. It seems we’re going in circles. There must be a reason. Perhaps you’ve never thought about it. Perhaps you don’t know. Perhaps you don’t want to know.” To which, fully charged with anger, comes the reply, “Are you saying the Jews did something to provoke the hatred? How dare you!! Millions murdered and you dare suggest they did something to provoke that? What sort of monster are you? Blame the victims is what you’re about. You’re nothing but a criminal anti-Semite, yourself.” “Hmmmmm. There’s that word again. And I still don’t have an answer as to “Why?”, as to the reason.”

I’m a person of no importance. My opinion, as well, of no importance. I went fifty years without even wondering “Why?”, much less getting an answer. Then, by chance, I stumbled across it. As a Jew this may be the most important thing you ever read. Note the ethically and intellectually unimpeachable source. Good luck. “Concerning the Jews” by Mark Twain:

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1898twain-jews.asp

    Who is replying to these questions that you’re asking?

      jeff_davis says:

      Clearly, I am supplying both ends of the conversation.

      The responses represent my notion of the unquestioning, uncurious, unskeptical, generic Jewish tribal loyalist. And my point, if it wasn’t clear, is that Jews never ask the question “Why?” They never ask it because they don’t want to hear the answer, which is that they are hated because of what they do — the logical response — not because of who they are — the dodge. For five-thousand years, systematically, they have repeated a pattern that has provoked the antagonism of the non-Jewish residents of the community in which they lived.

      Now of course, I’ll be accused of anti-Semitism, or giving ammuntion to anti-Semites. I accept that as the price of refusing to “loyally” hide from the question. But my larger intent is to point out the source in Jewish behavior of the cause for the anti-Jewish persecution that results. I’m not in it for the emotional self-indulgence of pointing a finger, and sneeringly or righteously declaring “It’s your fault, you brought it on yourself!” (Which is largely true.), but for the purpose — being a Jew and seeking the welfare of my fellow humans, in this case my fellow Jews — of identifying the source so that it can be addressed and remedied.

      That said, I have little hope it will ever happen, because tribalism typically blinds it victims to self-examination and self-criticism.

      I’m interested in hearing your response.

        Benjamin_Isaac says:

        Jeff: try this link – http://www.hoover.org/publications/hoover-digest/article/7727 – it gives a lucid and short explanation of anti-Semitism that I find convincing. Essentially, Jews are what Amy Chua calls a “market-dominant minority” and Yuri Slezkine calls a “Mercurian” people, like the Armenians, the Parsis and the overseas Chinese. Jews are indeed hated for something they do – that something is being materially successful while maintaining ethnic distinctiveness.

        By the way, Jews already tried to redress centuries-old “patterns of behavior” – it was called Zionism, which meant to get Jews “back to the soil” instead of being economic middlemen. You might want to read some of the original Zionist literature or secondary sources on “negation of the galut.”

          jeff_davis says:

          Thank you, Benjamin. For several years now I’ve been looking for a “place” to discuss this and related issues without the ideologically-driven bombast of accusation and counter-accusation. You know a discussion rather than a shouting match where there is lots of shouting and very little listening and thinking.

          I read the Sowell piece and googled “negation of the galut”. I see problems with both, but in particular I notice, regarding the essential character of anti-Semitism, a conflict between Twain’s view in “Concerning the Jews” and Sowell’s. I hold Twain to be more astute intellectually than Sowell. But it is primarily Sowell’s ideological bias that — in my view — corrupts and diminishes his thesis. Sowell says — or so I read it — that envy, resentment, and ethnic “otherness” fuel the persecution of “middleman minorities”, whereas Twain suggests that the hostility is understandable in a more value-neutral way, and arises when the local population is out-competed, and as a result comes to feel threatened at a very basic economic level.

          I’m new to this site, and not certain that this comments section is the appropriate place or way to discuss this. If there’s abetter place, feel free to advise.

          Benjamin_Isaac says:

          Twain is a great stylist, but style does not equal facticity. When has the wealth of Jews ever meant Christians’ “very bread” was in peril? Language like “hostility is biologically logical” suggests a Darwinian zero-sum game. Historically, rather, Jews benefited the economies of the nations they lived in. That’s why Jews were invited to live in the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth in the first place: to serve as a mercantile class.

          Ukrainian peasants resented Jews as foreign economic middlemen who served Polish nobility. That doesn’t make the Khmelnytsky massacres “biologically logical” or morally sound, but it is sociologically explicable. Zionism, at its origins, was a product of the “self-examination and self-criticism” you imply Jews lack. Labour Zionists wanted to diversify the Jewish economic position; hence kibbutzim and the idealization of the “new Jew” who would cultivate the land.

          Anyway, if we agree that resentment, borne of economic differentiation coupled with ethnic difference, is primarily responsible for antisemitism, our disagreement seems to be that you find resentment logical, and so draw the conclusion that it must be “right.” Resentment, rather, is a vile emotion whether in a group or a person. The recurrence of antisemitism is an indictment of mankind, which is why humanists find it much more agreeable to blame Jews for their own misfortune.

          jeff_davis says:

          “…if we agree that resentment, borne of economic differentiation coupled
          with ethnic difference, is primarily responsible for antisemitism…”

          But this is precisely where we do not agree. I agree with Twain that anti-Semitism originates in inter-tribal competition for economic resources and the accompanying political competition by the respective tribal elites.

          “Historically, rather, Jews benefited the economies of the nations they lived in.”

          Indeed, this is how I always put it. This is how it starts, with Jewish talent benefiting everyone. But then when the Jews have accumulated wealth, and with it power, the most powerful among them do the very same damn thing wealthy elites of every ethnicity do with power: abuse it, and take advantage of the less powerful. In a generally homogenous society this results in factional rivalry, but in the case of the Jews their minority status and ethnic distinction provokes a much harsher backlash. Sad to say, but this is the essence — the primitive savagery — of human “tribal” nature.

          “Resentment, rather, is a vile emotion…”

          One man’s resentment is another man’s righteous outrage. The “influence” on the US Govt by the pro-Israeli AIPAC, WINEP, JINSA, AEI, et al,… and the destruction of the Palestinians,… are the two modern examples — to add to the list of not-so-modern incidents of global Jewish practice dating back to Twain’s Egyptian example — which pose the question: Invidious resentment (your view) or righteous outrage (my view)?

          I appreciate your response, Benjamin, but I sense you hold the Zionist “tribal” view, with underlying assumptions and beliefs that conflict with mine. I’m unlikely to change my view, and I suspect you are similarly disinclined. Anyway, I’ll leave you to have the last word.

          jeff_davis says:

          “…if we agree that resentment, borne of economic differentiation coupled
          with ethnic difference, is primarily responsible for antisemitism…”

          But this is precisely where we do not agree. I agree with Twain that anti-Semitism originates in inter-tribal competition for economic resources and the accompanying political competition by the respective tribal elites.

          “Historically, rather, Jews benefited the economies of the nations they lived in.”

          Indeed, this is how I always put it. This is how it starts, with Jewish talent benefiting everyone. But then when the Jews have accumulated wealth, and with it power, the most powerful among them do the very same damn thing wealthy elites of every ethnicity do with power: abuse it, and take advantage of the less powerful. In a generally homogenous society this results in factional rivalry, but in the case of the Jews their minority status and ethnic distinction provokes a much harsher backlash. Sad to say, but this is the essence — the primitive savagery — of human “tribal” nature.

          “Resentment, rather, is a vile emotion…”

          One man’s resentment is another man’s righteous outrage. The “influence” on the US Govt by the pro-Israeli AIPAC, WINEP, JINSA, AEI, et al,… and the destruction of the Palestinians,… are the two modern examples — to add to the list of not-so-modern incidents of global Jewish practice dating back to Twain’s Egyptian example — which pose the question: Invidious resentment (your view) or righteous outrage (my view)?

          I appreciate your response, Benjamin, but I sense you hold the Zionist “tribal” view, with underlying assumptions and beliefs that conflict with mine. I’m unlikely to change my view, and I suspect you are similarly disinclined. Anyway, I’ll leave you to have the last word.

          Benjamin_Isaac says:

          Jeff, we actually agree about humanity’s tribal nature. But given that humanity is inherently tribal, why should Jewish tribalism provoke “righteous outrage,” or, more to the point, what is so righteous about singling out one people for universal behaviour patterns? In the contemporary political setting, why do critics of Jewish support for Israel not deign to criticize Muslim support for Palestine? What reason does a wahabist Pakistani, say, have for caring about Palestinians, when he does not care about (if he isn’t actively persecuting) minority sects in his own country, other than religious tribalism? A sense of universal justice? Please.

          Where we fundamentally disagree, I think, is that I view Judaism as *at its best* enlightened tribalism, or ethical tribalism. Look at the writings of the prophets; look at the sayings of Jesus, for the matter, who was both a Jewish tribalist and a deeply compassionate man (not god ;). For a more modern example, I’d point you in the direction of Martin Buber, whose writings conjoin Judaism, Zionism and humanism. Or look at the many Jews who do indeed seek a just settlement with the Palestinians, out of the sources of Jewish ethical tradition, despite receiving generally little reciprocity.

          You’re right; we likely won’t change each other’s minds. But I’d urge you to read more books which seek to honestly answer the rhetorical questions you initially asked, instead of beating up a straw-man. I’d be happy to give recommendations.

jeff_davis says:

I’m an American and a Jew, and grateful for the gift of a Jewish mind. I’ve also been incredibly fortunate to have not been ethnically “captured” and had that mind ruined by Jewish tribalism.

“Anti-Semitism? What is that?” I ask. “It’s hatred of Jews, of course.” comes the reply. “Yes, yes, I know that, but why”, I ask further, “are they hated?” “Because they are Jews.” comes the non-answer. “No. no. that won’t do. What is the reason for the hatred?” “The reason is that they are Jews. There’s no other reason”, comes the reply. “That makes no sense. Not to me, at least. People don’t hate without a reason. They might be suspicious — suspicious of strangers, for instance, the unknown quantity — wary, aloof, unfriendly even, but hatred, no. Real hatred, needs something more. To say there is nothing, makes no sense.” And yet again comes the reply, now tinged with annoyance and anger, “No, the Goyim hate Jews, they have always hated Jews, they don’t have a reason, they don’t need a reason, they just hate. That’s what Anti-semitism is, blind, unreasoned hatred.” “Hmmmm. It seems we’re going in circles. There must be a reason. Perhaps you’ve never thought about it. Perhaps you don’t know. Perhaps you don’t want to know.” To which, fully charged with anger, comes the reply, “Are you saying the Jews did something to provoke the hatred? How dare you!! Millions murdered and you dare suggest they did something to provoke that? What sort of monster are you? Blame the victims is what you’re about. You’re nothing but a criminal anti-Semite, yourself.” “Hmmmmm. There’s that word again. And I still don’t have an answer as to “Why?”, as to the reason.”

I’m a person of no importance. My opinion, as well, of no importance. I went fifty years without even wondering “Why?”, much less getting an answer. Then, by chance, I stumbled across it. As a Jew this may be the most important thing you ever read. Note the ethically and intellectually unimpeachable source. Good luck. “Concerning the Jews” by Mark Twain:

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1898twain-jews.asp

This profile strikes me as a bit silly. I have written on the anti-Jewish pogroms in the summer of 1941 in Eastern Poland and Western Ukraine. One can legitimately debate whether in *Bloodlands* Professor Snyder emphasizes the role of local perpetrators and collaborators as much as he should. That is not what this book is about. But to suggest that Snyder goes easy on them because of some sort of psychological inclination to politesse or diplomacy strikes me as inappropriate and unfair. Snyder has a gift for understanding both the logos and pathos of so much of the human condition. He also possesses a rare abillty to cut through the thorniest of historical debates in such a way that most specialists would say “yeah, he’s got it right.” His books have shown this over and over. His treatment of the neo-Bandera movement and the Yushchenko government’s promotion of it in the *New York Review of Books* is pretty much all you need to read in order to refute the major premise of Mikics’s article. Jeffrey Kopstein, University of Toronto.

“The biggest question:
why the Holocaust took place in Eastern Europe rather than elsewhere” seems grossly disingenuous because the answers are so simple. First, “because they were there:” eastern Europe was the geographic population centre of European Jewry. Secondly, the murder programme was a Reich state secret and Poland was in 1942 conveniently beyond the range of Western air reconnaissance and disconnected from the informal information channels of the rest of occupied Europe.

Antony Polonsky says:

There is less conflict between
the views of Tim Snyder and what may be described as the ‘new school’ of
Holocaust historians in Poland and North America than David Mikics claims.
This group, which has done most valuable work, has concentrated on the wave of
anti-Jewish violence incited by the Nazis but mostly carried out by local
collaborators which followed the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941,
and on the final stage of the Holocaust in Poland which took place after the
liquidation of the ghettos in the large towns. In the smaller towns of Poland,
the ghettos were more porous and many Jews were able to escape them—Żbikowski
estimates around 250,000. However, Polish-Jewish relations in these towns were
more distant. The Jews who sought shelter among the local population often did
not find it and barely 30,000, according to one estimate, survived to the end
of the war, hunted down by the German occupying authorities and often betrayed
by the local population. This new and darker view of the response of Polish
society to the mass murder of the Jews, which Snyder personally has done much
to promote in public lectures and published reviews of the new literature, is
today much more widely accepted, following the debates provoked by Gross’s Neighbors and the new research which it
stimulated.

What Snyder has done is quite
different and more far-reaching. In his earlier work, including Reconstruction of Nations and a group of
articles on Polish and Ukrainian nationalism he was one of the first to break
down the barrier between the history of ethnic cleansing and the history of the
Holocaust. In Bloodlands he certainly
does not downplay local collaboration—whether Polish, Lithuanian or Ukrainian. What
he has done is to shift the focus of the Holocaust to eastern Europe and to
stress how it was part of the larger German plans for the colonization of large
parts of the area and the murder of large parts of the local population (30
million according to German Generalplan Ost) with the reduction of the rest to
rightless slaves. He shows how the Germans recruited local collaborators for
the mass shootings which characterized the first stage of the Holocaust and
were carried out under German supervision. He also shows clearly how Soviet
policies and Soviet rule in Eastern Europe in those areas annexed by the USSR
in 1939 and 1940 deeply exacerbated relations between Jews and their neighbours
and facilitated the Nazis’ implementation of their anti-Jewish genocide.

Mikics claims that there was
no connection between the Holocaust and the Soviet policy of artificially
induced famine in Ukraine (for which Snyder reduces the very high figures often
cited by Ukrainian historians). To me it seems significant that Hitler used the
Soviet famine, which was ongoing during the crucial German election campaigns
of 1932, to frighten the German middle classes away from the Left. The
Ukrainian breadbasket was central to Hitler’s idea of Lebensraum, which
motivated the invasions which brought Jews under German control. The way
in which mass murder was used in Ukraine as an instrument of Soviet state policy
contributed to the cheapening of human life which partly explains the local
indifference to Jewish suffering.

Even more important, the great
strength of Bloodlands is that it is
not only a book about the Holocaust. Its central subject is the mass murder of
fourteen million people between 1933 and 1945 between Moscow and Berlin in several cases of mass
killing, of which the Holocaust was the largest and most horrible example, and
the only one to target an entire group for destruction. Sometimes these earlier
policies of mass murder help us to understand the Holocaust; sometimes they do
not. They facilitate not its relativization but its contextualization.
This is a major step forward in our understanding of one of one of the most
disastrous periods of human history. The great virtue of Snyder’s book is that
it provides a new perspective on this tragedy and will clearly stimulate much
valuable research in Eastern Europe as well as elsewhere.

littlegreyrabbit says:

When the Germans invaded the Channel Islands, they eventually got round to deporting all the Jews there. Admittedly there was only 3 of them, but I expect the cooperation the Germans received would have been the same if there had been 30,000. But we all know how full of anti-semitic rage the Brits are,
I do hope that Professor Synder one day gets the opportunity to visit Birkenau and climb, as I did, on to the ruins of Krema II (officially forbidden but lots of parties of Israelis do it) and see if he can spot any evidence of underground flues connecting the place of the ovens to the base of the chimney.
The results are illuminating to say the least.

The quality of this article is not on par with that of the book it reviews. First there is the shocking impression the picture at the beginning is supposed to cause — Poles were happily collaborating with Nazi invaders since their very first invasion. How much more distroted could a suggestion such as that be ? Second the author uses lamentable statements by a leader sadly well known (and ridiculed in Poland) for lamentable statements and in jiffy turns it into proof of a national sentiment. Third the author describes his meeting with Mr Snyder with much self confident interpretation of his interviewees emotional state, supposedly due to his being confronted by the present interogator. Frankly, this is all very much below the quality of “The Bloodlands”. The book and its author deserve more from Tablet.

It’s interesting how the Poles decried Obama’s supposed gaffe about “Polish concentration camps.” It’s (not) shocking that no one at the State Department told Mr. Obama that Poles used former German camps to imprison Ukrainians and other POWs after the war. But I guess it doesn’t matter anyway, because that’s not the accepted narrative (though ask any Ukrainian from “Zakerzonnia” and they’ll give you an earful about that without caring if it offends American or Polish storytelling traditions.) So it seems like it all comes down to what’s accepted narrative and what’s not, and how history is allowed to be remembered. That’s why I like scholars (like Snyder) who push the boundaries.

A truly balanced discussion has to consider all perspectives and be wary of state-centric (or even ethnocentric) narratives, regardless of whether or not those narratives are popular or familiar. My friend and colleague (a Soviet/Russian studies scholar) likes to say that if George Washington had lost the revolutionary war, he would have been called a terrorist. Losing tends to make a group look bad, because the people who beat them control the guns and the propaganda.

Jews do remarkably well. It’s the Palestinians that are suffering the most.

Wojtek Rappak says:

In an excellent article, David Mikics engages with Snyder’s view that the Holocaust, with its six million Jewish victims, was at the centre of a mass murder that swept away fourteen million lives. According to Snyder, in order to understand the Holocaust we need to see it as placed in a certain part of Europe at the heart of the 20th Century darkness which also destroyed the lives of eight million non-Jews. To support his argument, Snyder has to make links between events such Operation Reinhard and the Ukrainian famine. Many find such linkage highly dubious. Snyder presents a ‘collage of terrible events’, says Mikics. You may disagree with Snyder but there is no doubt that he has advanced the debate and David Mikics has done a fine job in getting that across. One of the key points on which David Mikics disagrees with Snyder is the relationship between the Jews and ‘the nearest bystanders’, the Poles. Mikics brings in Jan Gross and his accounts of Jedwabne, Kielce, the post-war antisemitism in Poland, the scavengers of Treblinka. The theme is Polish collaboration, complicity and the perpetrator Pole; Mikics argues that Snyder tends to obfuscate this. I agree with this way of engaging in a debate with Snyder but I think it is worth keeping in mind that it is a way that is full of traps. There are big traps and small traps, some of the big ones have to do with the broad distinction between history and memory , others with the validity of generalisations based on what Snyder calls ‘micro-history’. But I will first mention one small trap. It’s the photograph. The article begins with a photograph showing a German soldier on a motorcycle being offered a drink by what looks at first sight like some local rural folk. The Tablet caption is more specific: ‘A German soldier with Polish civilians in September 1939 during the German invasion of Poland’. In other words, we have here Polish peasants who are welcoming the invading German army in 1939, clearly pleased about its arrival and offering a refreshing drink to a thirsty German soldier. The photograph seems intended to show Polish collaboration with Nazi Germany and more generally, it is meant to illustrate the theme of the article. Fortunately, a simple check of the online archives plus a little knowledge of basic German provides us with some very relevant information. Click on the link and you’ll see that the photograph is in the German Federal Archive. It was distributed in Berlin and dated September 3, 1939, clearly a photograph from the front line taken on a very significant date: three days after the German invasion of Poland and two weeks before the Soviet Union attacked Poland from the east; it was also the day when Great Britain and France declared war on Germany and thus what might have been a local war against Poland became, in theory at least for the months to come, a European war. The photograph’s original German caption states ‘Volksdeutsche reichen ihren Befreiern einen frischen Trunk’. A loose translation is: ‘the volksdeutsche offer their liberators a refreshing drink’. Who were the volksdeutsche? The term refers here to the German minority of Poland and in general it is a term that was an important part of the Nazi racial map of Europe. A statistically significant proportion (but not all) of the volksdeutsche welcomed the German army as it invaded Poland in September 1939. They did indeed think of them as ‘liberators’ and their support was essential to the establishment of an efficient German administration in occupied Poland: they lived there for generations, they knew the language and knew which names to put on the Gestapo list. In 1939 they would regard themselves as ‘German’ rather than ‘Polish’ and so it is incorrect to refer to them as ‘Polish civilians’. In fact, by September 3 , 1939 vast numbers of Polish civilians joined the throngs of refugees fleeing to the east. A huge proportion of these were Jews who knew that the German invasion meant persecution but could not imagine then that it meant much worse. These people were not Polish and they did not welcome the Germans. The photograph is a relatively small trap. The failure to distinguish between history and memory is a big one and here it is worth commenting on what Mikics has to say about Jan Gross. Very briefly, Gross’s achievement lies not so much in highlighting facts like Jedwabne but rather in his attempt to destabilize the Poles’ notion of their history as a heroic struggle of the noble and courageous fighting against impossible odds. Gross, and some prominent Polish historians after him (Stola, Żbikowski, Engelking, Libionka, Grabowski, Puławski – the list is quite long), have now made it impossible for this narrative to gloss over the fate of Polish Jews. But Jedwabne is a big fact in Polish memory and not in Snyder’s Bloodlands. I think this was the point Snyder was making to Mikics about the difference between him and Jan Gross. To Snyder, the Yale historian from a small town in Ohio unburdened – as Mikics notes – by either Jewish or Polish ethnicity, Polish memory is not that important. It is an entirely different matter for Gross: born in Warsaw in 1947, persecuted in March 1968, father a Jewish intellectual, composer, lawyer, academic; mother with Polish intelligentsia and landed gentry background but of the type that found antisemitism repellent, fought in the 1944 Warsaw uprising. In an interview a few years ago Gross admitted that he did not concern himself with Jewish matters much until about 1985 when he realised that the fate of Polish Jews is a festering wound in Polish memory and that his mission is to work towards healing it. I think we can be grateful to Gross for what he has done since but we should also thank the Yale historian from Ohio for giving us a sense of historical perspective. Much more could be said about Mikics’ excellent article but I shall limit myself to these two brief points.

searchingfortruth says:

I have my own criticisms of Snyder’s “Bloodlands”, which can be viewed as a modified post-Stalinist history of the WWII in lands that once were called the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania. In fact a better title would have been “The Agonizing Death of Jagiellonian Poland: Its Final Chapter”. It differs from Stalinist history in not glorifying Stalin and admitting to most Soviet crimes (but not all), but at the same time greatly downsizing them and often repeating Stalinist version of Soviet aggression against Poland and other East European States. Also, I fell that Prof. Snyder has become an apologist for Ukrainian SS and UPA crimes. Mr. Mikics seems to resent the fact that the book did not focus on the fate of Jews, and began this review with gratuitous defamation of Poland and Poles. It seems that he expected another invasion of Poland from an attention seeking historian. It is this unprovoked attack on Poland and Poles that I would like to respond to.
David Mikics appears to be poorly informed about WWII and in particular of events in Poland. Anyone who thinks that Jan Tomasz Gross is a historian based on his last three books, can’t know very much about Poland and its history. It may warm one’s heart to think of Poles as the real villains and the Nazis and the Soviets as the protectors of Jews, as Gross portrays them, but I think your readers and contributors to Tablet deserve better. The ignorance of many Jewish-American authors about wartime and post-war Poland is appalling. That does not prevent some of them from posturing as experts and slandering and demonizing Poles at every opportunity. Mr. Mikics seems to be using this review to purge himself of his biases against Poles. It always surprises me how myths, Soviet propaganda and even absurd fantasies like the Jedwabne pogrom, as portrayed in Gross’s “Neighbors”, overnight become the new “facts” of Holocaust studies and the basis for continuing slander of Polish people.
For those of you who have been told over and over that Poles as a nation were willing collaborators of the Nazis, ponder the fact that numerically (in absolute numbers), Hitler had more Jewish collaborators than Polish Christian collaborators. Jewish collaboration was built into the machinery of extermination, the Polish was not. There were fewer Polish collaborators in Poland than in any other Nazi occupied country and the Polish underground army (Home Army) was the largest and most active of any in occupied Europe. The Nazis deliberately excluded Poles from their SS or the Auxiliary police units, because they feared infiltration by the Polish Underground Home Army. The Polish collaborators were treated as criminals by Poles and the Polish Underground Government, and many informers and blackmailers were executed. Many of those executed had criminal records before the war and continued their life of crime during the war. They informed on both Jews and Poles alike. If a legitimate Polish government took control of the country after the war, all collaborators would have faced wartime justice and crimes against the Jews would have been avenged. The collaborators were saved by the Soviet occupation and many ended up in the Soviet controlled security apparatus.
The problem with Holocaust Studies is that fiction, fantasies, myths and at times outright lies are bundled together with real terrifying events and are all treated alike. Thus it lends itself to exploitation for personal gain. Jan Gross is the latest Holocaust profiteer. How could anyone believe that 1600 Poles from Jedwabne rounded up 1600 Jewish neighbors and burned them alive in a barn 20 by 60 feet, about twice the size of Mr. Mikics’s living room, all in an hour or two? It is absurd. This construction of events is taken from a “show trial” brief prepared by a secret police officer (UB) and a Soviet collaborator Shmul Wasersztajn, and supported by testimony of four witnesses, all of whom were nowhere near Jedwabne (one of them was in Siberia) and all were connected to the security apparatus (UB) controlled by NKVD (KGB). Wasersztajn probably prepared it under supervision of a Soviet advisor. That should have been enough to debunk Gross’s “Neighbors”. Instead, “Neighbors” is promoted as evidence of collaboration by the Poles and their evil nature. Show trials are propaganda instruments and not historical records. In this case, Soviets used these show trials for propaganda in the West to take attention away from their brutal suppression, killings and deportations of Poles. It was part of their liquidation of the Home Army (Polish underground) and as many as 150,000 Poles were killed and a like number deported by the Soviets. That post-WWII period in Poland is known as the NKVD Reign of Terror.
It appears that David Mikics and other authors never tried to find out what happened In Jedwabne or Kielce, and apparently love Holocaust fantasies, if they are anti-Polish. Like many other reviews, a laundry list of anti-Polish slanders or talking points are repeated as an excuse for moralizing. No wonder that they love Jan Gross, whose last three books lack facts but are replete with pages and pages of moral judgments and fantasies. They should have asked what happened in Jedwabne on July 10th, 1941? The clues are in physical evidence obtained by partial exhumation and of course the Nazi policy towards Jews especially in that area. The only physical evidence are a barn and two graves, one of which inside the barn, measuring 18×3 feet (6×1 meters), contained remains of 22 male victims shot execution style by uniformed Gestapo police buried with a bust of Lenin. There were 232 Gestapo police in Jedwabne that day in spite of Gross’s claims to the contrary. In addition, personal valuables were found such gold coins, keys, jewelry etc. belying Gross’s lie that victims were beaten and robbed by those evil Poles before being killed.
The second grave measuring 24 x 6 ft(8×2 meters) and three to four feet deep, dug outside the barn and into the Jewish cemetery, was a little larger than the one inside. The 300 number of victims, reported by IPN, which was under the control of post-Communists at that time, is a negotiated number and not based on exhumation. It is based on an absurd theory that the bodies were cremated in an open fire and therefore the ash found in the grave is equal to ash of 300 victims. The pictures, that are available, show essentially an empty pit with a few isolated bones most likely remains from the pre-war existing cemetery. As I said before, the number 300 is a baseless negotiated number and not a body count. Unless the exhumations are resumed and several larger graves are found then we cannot conclude that any Jews were burned alive inside that barn by the Gestapo. (I will be happy to provide you with more information)
As for Kielce pogrom, I must ask why this reviewer and other Jewish authors parrot the Soviet and Polish Communist propaganda version, the official version, knowing full well that the pogrom was one of many conducted by the NKVD in Eastern Europe (a total of 16). The real Kielce pogrom appears to be an inconvenient or unwanted historical memory in the Jewish community and thus the fictional account is accepted without question. The Polish Communist government was Polish in name only and was a Soviet tool in its war on the Polish nation. It was the mouthpiece for Soviet propaganda and is the source of the official version. It was the most successful Soviet propaganda stunt carried out by NKVD and its Polish clone the UB (SB) on orders from the Kremlin. It was carried out solely for the benefit of Soviet propaganda aimed at the West.
There were no real Kielce civilians in front of 7 Planty Street and the seven Poles executed four days latter were the last victims of the pogrom. They were nowhere near the building. The building was ringed by 200 soldiers under the command of 26 Soviet officers, including 6 SHMERSH officers, one of whom Col. Simeon Shpilevoy, was probably in charge of the pogrom. The troops were there to prevent Jews from escaping or contacting the outside world and a special unit of 40 men did most of the killing. There were several Jews among these officers including Col. Szpilewoj. The so called “mob” was comprised of members of UB (secret police), the MO (regular police) and ORMO (Communist Party goon squads). All of these groups were instruments of NKVD’s Reign of Terror. The pogrom took place half a block from the Police Station and a block and half from the UB headquarters with one of the largest UB prisons in the country. Screams of tortured victims were heard daily and during the night. The commander of the UB observed the pogrom from the roof of the building. It lasted 8 hours. Mikics and Gross are asking the readers to believe that somehow the frightened and terrorized Kielce civilians and their oppressors joined together to give vent to their anti-Semitism. That is just another Holocaust fiction.
David Mikics also joined Snyder in libeling Poles with Ukrainian OUN crimes. Why this lumping of Poles and Ukrainian Ultranationalists? Does he really believe the Soviet version that “In 1943-44 there was a war between Ukrainian nationalists and the Polish population?” Or that there was a Polish counterpart to OUN-UPA? For your information that “war” was very much like the “war” between the Jews and the Nazis. Maybe if we look at that”war” between the Jews and the Nazis all of us will better understand the fate of Polish civilian population in Eastern Poland. Mr. Mikics doesn’t seem to know what the OUN (Ukrainian National Organization) was and what its stated goals were. OUN was the equivalent of Ukrainian Nazi Party, with similar aims as the Nazis. Their collaboration with Hitler began when Nazis came to power in Germany in early 1930s. Their aim was to cleanse Eastern Galicia and Wolyn of Poles and Jews. Members of OUN populated several military and paramilitary units: UPA (Ukrainian Partisan Army), the Ukrainian SS Divisions, Concentration Camp Guards, the auxiliary police and criminal police in South Eastern Poland. The OUN partisans and soldiers drifted from one formation to another. All were armed by the Nazis and Germans constituted about 10% of some Ukrainian SS-Divisions. Is this what Mr. Mikics thinks that Poles did as well? That is indeed a very big lie.
There is no evidence that Poles targeted and massacred whole Ukrainian villages or that they targeted Ukrainian civilians. The Polish underground had strict orders not to retaliate against civilian population. On the other hand, Bandera, the leader of OUN, and other Ukrainian leaders called for extermination of Poles and Jews in Volyhnia and Eastern Galicia. What you or Snyder don’t seem to realize is that the vast majority of Ukrainians that were killed in these territories were killed by UPA (OUN). UPA may have killed as many as 30,000 thousand Ukrainians mostly for refusal to join their ranks or being in mixed marriages with Poles or other imaginary sins. They had no mercy for their perceived enemies. One must also distinguish between the actions of the Polish wartime underground, the Home Army, and post-war NKVD lead suppression of the UPA and the Ukrainian population. Many Ukrainians were killed by NKVD lead repression and many were deported to Siberia.
This review is a synopsis of anti-Polish bigotry so widespread in Jewish-American Community. It is a serious concern for the Polish-American community. It is a rehash of Stalinist and post-Stalinist propaganda, in which villains become heroes and heroes become villains, and some call it history. But is it?
Walter Orlowski

Brian K. says:

What a despicable anti-Polish article that loudly and ignorantly touts the typical “All Poles were perpetrators” and “All Jews were victims” garbage.

It is sad that the author (as a professor of English no less) even attempts to fathom that he is at the level of historical knowledge as Professor Snyder. Furthermore the fact that Mr. Mikics has read and believes the filth of Gross (of which any reputable contemporary historian lists as junk) simply adds to his obvious abysmal ignorance of Polish-Jewish history.

Perhaps the author will do rational thought a favor and enlighten himself with Ewa Kurek’s “Polish-Jewish Relations 1939-1945, Beyond the Limits of Solidarity” and rid himself of his anti-Polishness.

disqus_1ju4UwXqGR says:

I`m Polish,I want to know why Snyder insist on polish collaboration. To make it clear: Poland was the only occupied country from whom the Underground State never collaborate with the nazi and the collaborators were sented to the death penalty.Before, the executers could shoot them,they had right to the trial.They were often judged in absentia. Once,they were found guilty they were executed of course.It`s true about the villages in eastern Poland, (Polish Home Army had to execute 200 Chiefs of villages because of collaboration with the nazi)but this attitude was never accepted by the polish government.Futhermoore, there was an organization named Żogota who under the orders of Polish Home Army was helping the Jews.Also, 10 blackmailers were executed because of blackmailing the Jews. On the other hand,the polish peasantwerea very specific society. During the centuries they werethe poorest really miserable population in Poland. So that, they were isolate from gentles, townmen, geniles and Jews. This situation made them indifferent to the others. In 1863, they were treaching the soldiers of polish January`s Uprising and giving them to the russian police. In 1846, a fellow named Jakub Szela, a leader of a team of peasants murdered the polish patriots with collaboration with the Austrian governement( Poland was occupied by Russia ,Prussia and Austria). So, for the fellows everyone could be a stranger whothey could kill. But, the Polish goverment didn`t propagate the anti- Semite attitudes and mr. Snyder could show this instad of suggesting that all polish people were like these peasant. Because,sometimes, Poles have the impression that thes who collaborated with the nazi want to hide the true by charging Poland. What about the Judeobolschevik? Before the IIWar, only 7% of Jewish population in Poland voted for the Communists.

Gilbert Doctorow says:

Indeed, Timothy Snyder has demonstrated remarkable agility walking through the minefield of Shoah history, which has shattered the careers of Jews (starting with Hannah Arendt writing what was then contemporary history)and Gentiles alike. However, when you move slightly outside the central issue of the Jewish people, Snyder has allowed himself to be very undiplomatic at times, not least when he is in that very broad comfort zone of Russian affairs. The American academic community is overwhelmingly Russophobe, and so Snyder can take up the nationalist cause of Ukrainians and disseminate their take on the Great Hunger (genocidal) with no fear he will be contradicted from the audience.

Dear Reader, beware of those boychiks from the Midwest who pride themselves on lecturing in Polish and also on mastering Ukrainian. Scratch a Pole, and you will find a Russia-bater.
So much for diplomacy and scholarly neutrality.

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The Diplomat of Shoah History

Does Yale historian Timothy Snyder absolve Eastern Europe of special complicity in the Holocaust?