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October 18, 2015 1:57 am

Report: Poland Launches Libel Probe Against Historian Who Said Poles Killed More Jews Than Nazis

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The gates of the Auschwitz death camp. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The gates of the Auschwitz death camp. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Polish prosecutors launched a libel probe against Princeton historian Jan T. Gross over a statement he made saying Poles “in fact” killed more Jews during the Holocaust than the German Nazis who, at the time, occupied their country.

The investigation came after an article the Polish-born historian wrote for German Die Welt, saying according to The Guardian that “The Poles, for example, were indeed rightfully proud of their society’s resistance against the Nazis, but in fact did kill more Jews than Germans during the war.”

Apparently, Gross’ comment sparked outrage and prompted more than 100 complaints to be lodged by individuals and organizations at the Warsaw prosecutor’s office.

A Warsaw historian told the Guardian “he would not be totally surprised if Gross were right,” stressing however the dearth of figures regarding how many of the 3 million Polish Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust died at the hands of Poles rather than Germans.

Gross is notable in Poland for his book, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland, exposing the Polish massacre of what historians say could have been up to 1,500 Jews in the town of that name. Some 300 alone were locked inside a densely packed barn and burned alive.

Gross is a professor of history at Princeton and is on leave this academic year. He declined to comment when contacted for the story.

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  • Harry

    The rest of the world, especially the Catholic and British world loves the fake complexity they add to antisemitism and its thievery and lying, so the powerful among the Jews always agree. And push it harder than anyone.

  • Sherlock Holmes

    It’s one of the curiosities of WW2 that Poland had the most Righteous among the Nations who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, and Poland also had probably the most non-Germans who assisted the Nazis. The murderous anti-Semitism went very high. There is recorded a story that a group of leading Polish rabbis asked the senior bishop of the Polish Catholic Church to condemn Nazism as ‘unChristian’ to which the bishop replied, ‘This is your destiny for rejecting the ‘Prince of Peace’. Post-war Pope Pius ruled that Jewish children rescued by Christians and baptised may NOT be returned to the Jewish community. The future Polish Pope rejected Pope Pius’s ruling. On the another side there was a woman who authored a pre-war book calling for all Jews to be expelled from Poland, who later set up an underground group to rescue Jews from the Nazis. She said that as a Catholic she criticised Jews but wished them no personal harm! I was born a few years post-war and I recall it being ‘accepted wisdom’ that the Poles were even more vicious than the Nazis. Perhaps a court of law will finally hear the evidence and make a ruling.

  • James Wald

    Your report is solid enough, but the first sentence is ambiguous or misleading.

    Grosz’s work is both important and controversial, and that is why language and grammatical precision are so important when complex scholarly issues are simplified in brief journalistic reports intended for a general public.

    Your second sentence/paragraph should resolve this ambiguity, but just to be clear: Grosz did not say that Poles killed more Jews than the Germans killed. That would be patently ridiculous: there is no disputing that the Germans were primarily responsible for destroying some 90% of Polish Jewry. Among other things, this is why both the State of Israel and US Jewish organizations supported the Polish objection to casual references to “Polish” death camps (even if only as a geographical descriptor) and supported the Polish request to have UNESCO officially call Auschwitz the “former Nazi German concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau”so as to remove any possible ambiguity.

    Rather, Grosz claims: Poles killed more Jews than they killed Germans in the course of the hostilities between 1939 and 1945. That is a serious charge, and therefore one that demands the most precise and scrupulous journalistic coverage, lest an already controversial issue become distorted by otherwise utterly avoidable misunderstanding.