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Ashes And Fire: The Story Of Poland's Jewry Under And After German Occupation

jan peczkis|Saturday, April 5, 2014

This work (review based on original 1947) edition is helpful in understanding how the Jewish survivors of the German-made Holocaust emerged from hiding, described their wartime experiences, and were attempting to rebuild their lives. It also gives insights into Soviet-ruled Poland, and the impending imposition of the Communist puppet state.

3.0 out of 5 stars The Jews in Immediate Post-WWII Poland. Implications of Polish Anti-Semitism, March 18, 2014 This review is from: Ashes And Fire: The Story Of Poland's Jewry Under And After German Occupation (Paperback)

The author is obviously a Communist or Communist sympathizer. This is evidenced, for example, by his verbatim repetition of the standard Communist propaganda line about non-Communist guerrillas, Polish clergy, landowners, etc. (p. 67).

The book has a strong anti-Polish tone. However, Pat acknowledges the existence of Jewish informers of the Nazis. He calls these Jews "scum of the earth." (p. 165). He also quotes a Jewish woman who was very critical of the passivity of American Jews during what later came to be known as the Holocaust, or Shoah, (quote) "American Jews during the war refused to believe and refused to know the truth, while six million Jews burned in Poland at the rate of ten thousand a day." (unquote). (p. 154).

The author visited the site of Auschwitz, gathered a sample of Jewish bones and ashes with his own hands, put them in a bottle, and kept the bottle on his desk. (p. 11). Interestingly, for all the attention given to Polish looters of death-camp sites (as by neo-Stalinist Jan T. Gross), author Pat did not consider what he did a form of disrespect for the Jewish dead.


During the Nazi occupation, Poles often refused to hide Jews, and sometimes betrayed them, out of fear of the German-imposed death penalty. Interestingly, Jews acted the same way towards other Jews, and even related it to comparable Polish conduct, as described by the author. He writes, (quote) Gutshe begged them to let her hide in one of the deserted Jewish flats, but the terrified Jews of Chintshin [Checiny? Czaszyn?] told her to hide somewhere else. "For God's sake," she said to them, "Why should a Christian hide a Jew if you yourselves won't take him in?" "We won't jeopardize our lives for you, and if you keep hanging around here, we will inform the Gestapo," Abraham Ring, the Jewish militia captain, threatened. (unquote). (pp. 198-199).

Of course, betrayal of Jews could come in many forms. Pat describes how a Jew fell into the hands of the Gestapo, was broken by torture, and betrayed his earlier Polish benefactor. The Gestapo later tortured the captured Pole to get him to betray other names. (p. 174).


Author Pat quotes Mikolaycik [Mikolajczyk] as condemning Polish anti-Semitism while attributing it to the Jewish alliance with the oppressors of Poland. (p. 251). The author also gets a sense of everyday Polish sentiment when he went to a tavern in a town beyond Tarnov [Tarnow]. The Poles freely expressed their hatred of the Russians and their sacking of Polish property, the Communist government and the police [U. B., or Bezpieka], the Soviet Polish officers, and the Jews for their collaboration. (pp. 247-248).

Interestingly, some Jews wanted to leave Poland because even they realized that Jewish-Soviet collaboration was provoking hatred of Jews among Poles. Pat comments, (quote) "We have to get out of Poland," says one man in summing up, "We don't want to be called `Chiliarists'." "What are they," I ask. "Oh, don't you know? Chiliary Mintz [Hilary Minc] is the Jewish Communist Minister in Warsaw and now the gentiles are calling all Jews Chiliarists..." (unquote). (p. 78).
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