The Crime and the Silence

The Crime and the Silence

Confronting the Massacre of Jews in Wartime Jedwabne

Book - 2015
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"The devastating story of Jedwabne, which was the basis of Jan Gross's controversial Neighbors (2001). Based on the author's encounters with witnesses, survivors, murderers, and their helpers between 2000 and 2004, The Crime and the Silence raises important questions about the responsibility of Poles for the Holocaust"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015
Edition: First American edition
ISBN: 9780374178796
0374178798
Characteristics: vii, 544 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Valles, Alissa - Translator
Alternative Title: My z Jedwabnego. English

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Justinian537
Jan 11, 2019

“And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.” --- Exodus 2:21-22 (KJV)

The above passage epitomizes the experience of the Jews in Poland, which as of 1939 had the largest single concentration of Jewish citizens of any country in the world (over three million); and yet, despite having dwelt there since at least the 10th Century, the Jews were never fully accepted as equals – and as Polish citizens – during all that time; and where, as Anna Bikont’s exhaustively researched book makes clear, an appalling degree of anti-Semitism persists even to the present day. Bikont’s book shows how the Polish Jews suffered the full brunt of the Shoah not only at the hands of the Germans but also on many occasions at the hands of their fellow citizens, according to the testimonies she recorded and the archival records she researched. To the infamous list which includes Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, Belzec and Treblinka there must be added Wasosz, Radzilow, Jedwabne and other small towns where, often aided and abetted by the Germans to one degree or another according to witnesses, small groups of Polish citizens rose up against their Jewish countrymen and did away with them, while others stood by. Conflicting accounts and the desire to cover up these events, plus the passage of time and the simple reluctance of many to speak out, made it difficult for Bikont to obtain an exact reckoning, but this is what seems to have happened.

Why? Perhaps part of the answer lies in the fact that Poland was for centuries caught in a vise between three great empires – Austria-Hungary, Prussia and the Russian Empire, and between brief periods of independence suffered occupation by one or another of these powers, and was greatly influenced by cultural trends therein. There was a long tradition of anti-Semitism in eastern Europe which influenced Polish attitudes toward the Jews, to the degree that this very anti-Semitism seemingly became part and parcel of Polish patriotism and nationalism. Sad to say, the Catholic Church perhaps sometimes encouraged and abetted this attitude (as did Martin Luther's anti-Semitic tirades in Protestant areas). Anti-Semitic elements in Polish society observed what was going on in Germany during the 1930’s and took action against the Jews during the anarchic period after June 1941 when the Russian occupiers of the eastern half of the country were forced to withdraw and it seemed that any governmental authority had disappeared. Of course, it goes without saying that the "government" which prevailed in Poland after that was even less friendly to the Jews, and these attitudes hardly eased during the Communist interregnum. In September 1986 National Geographic published an article entitled "Remnants: The Last Jews of Poland" which predicted the disappearance of the Jewish community within a few years; happily, this has not occurred and in many places there seems to have been a Renaissance of sorts and the growth of greater toleration and acceptance. But Bikont's book makes clear that there is still evidently a long way to go.

These are of course very complex issues and there are strong feelings and opinions on every side. Bikont’s book is essential reading for anyone desiring to get a more complete picture of the Holocaust in Poland. It’s not an easy book to get through, and quite lengthy (544 pages) so I would suggest that any reader take a break from it from time to time and read something else before picking it up again.

k
klimekk
Oct 12, 2016

the book is written that way that you got a good feeling about a mystery, which members of the village wants to keep secret - long time ago in 1941 they burnt in barn their own neighbors, did it for many different reasons, but is hard even to understand motivation because nobody really wants to talk about, they pass lies instead
There is why that book is great.
For polish people Jedwabne was a shock - they considered themselves to be clear and righteous during IIWW, blaming everybody around for war crimes

"When the Nazis invaded in 1941, many Poles welcomed them as liberators" - this is of course lie, nobody welcome Nazis as liberators (except german origin), especially polish nationalists but is true, that nobody also consider soviet occupation as better. Jan Gross in his famous book did lots of mistakes, therefore Anna Bikont's book is much, much better

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