Few issues have divided Poles and Jews more deeply than the Nazi occupation of Poland during the Second World War and the subsequent slaughter of almost ninety percent of Polish Jewry. Many Jewish historians have argued that, during the occupation, Poles at best displayed indifference to the fate of the Jews and at worst were willing accomplices of the Nazis. Many Polish scholars, however, deny any connection between the prewar culture of antisemitism and the wartime situation. They emphasized that Poles were also victims of the Nazis and, for the most part, tried their best to protect the Jews.
This collection of essays, representing three generations of Polish and Jewish scholars, is the first attempt since the fall of Communism to reassess the existing historiography of Polish-Jewish relations just before, during, and after the Second World War. In the spirit of detached scholarly inquiry, these essays fearlessly challenge commonly held views on both sides of the debates. The authors are committed to analyzing issues fairly and to reaching a mutual understanding. Contributors cover six topics:
The prewar legacy
The deterioration of Polish-Jewish relations during the first years of the war
Institutional Polish responses to the Nazi Final Solution
Poles and the Polish nation through Jewish eyes
The destruction of European Jewry and Polish popular opinion
Diaries, testimonies and memoirs of the Holocaust often include at least as much on the family as on the individual. Victims of the Nazi regime experienced oppression and made decisions embedded within families. Even after the war, sole survivors often described their losses and rebuilt their lives with a distinct focus on family. Yet this perspective is lacking in academic analyses.
In this work, scholars from the United States, Israel, and across Europe bring a variety of backgrounds and disciplines to their study of the Holocaust and its aftermath from the family perspective. Drawing on research from Belarus to Great Britain, and examining both Jewish and Romani families, they demonstrate the importance of recognizing how people continued to function within family units—broadly defined—throughout the war and afterward.