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Conditions and Events in Post-WWII Soviet-Ruled Eastern Europe

jan peczkis|Wednesday, October 22, 2014

This work has a chapter on almost every eastern European country. However, do not let the title of this anthology fool you. It covers much more than the enslaving of eastern Europe under the yoke of Communism, and includes many helpful details that help the reader understand the history of the time.

John Micgiel has a lucid account of the imposition of Communism on Poland. He estimates that 30,000 Poles perished in resistance to the Communist takeover--in just three years. (p. 94). [Other researchers have cited higher figures.] On another issue, Micgiel estimates that there were 1,500 homicides in 1930's Poland annually. (p. 106, Reference 26).

Not all of the articles in this anthology exhibit high scholarly standards. As an obvious example, Jan T. Gross repeats his usual fallacious arguments, and repeats his misrepresentations of the WWII diary of Zygmunt Klukowski. For corrective, please click on the diary, Diary from the Years of Occupation 1939-44, and read the detailed Peczkis review.


A common intuitive belief suggests that Communist archives are truthful, because, after all, they are for internal use, and are not intended for public consumption and propaganda purposes. This intuitively-appealing reasoning is not valid. Norman Naimark and Leonid Gibianskii comment, (quote) But the historian must also be aware of the limitations of archival work. Communist Party (and state) documents must be read with particular care. If Communist newspapers tended to describe contemporary life as it should have been rather than as it was, Party documents were often the product of internal squabbles and resolutions rather than the source of concrete policy initiatives. The language of the documents is laden with ideological Party-speak, which needs to be read with an eye towards political undercurrents and a good measure of skepticism. It is especially important to analyze documents critically in terms of the "rules of the game" played by Soviet Party and government institutions. (unquote). (p. 10).

This has unmentioned implications for reckoning the number of Poles deported to the interior of the USSR in 1939-1941. Soviet archives admit only one-third (or less) the number reckoned from other sources, and some scholars have automatically embraced the Soviet archival figures as ipso facto authoritative. Clearly, they are not, at least not necessarily. For more on this, please click on Polish Poetry from the Soviet Gulags: Recovering a Lost Literature, and read the detailed Peczkis review.


In discussing the Recovered Territories, Padraic Kenney wrote, (quote) The belongings left behind by the evacuating Germans proved a powerful attraction. The President of Wroclaw estimated that 60% of those who came in 1945 came to loot, for SZABER, as it became known. While press reports of the time often presented SZABER as the work of a corrupt minority, the urge to get something back from the Germans and make up for the difficult war years seems to have been universal..."The made desire to grab someone else's abandoned property is beyond all means of control." (unquote). (p. 142).

Neo-Stalinist authors such as Jan T. Gross and Jan Grabowski have called attention to "greedy" and "anti-Semitic" Poles hankering after Jewish and post-Jewish properties, and sometimes killing Jews, as over property disputes. The foregoing examples show that they are very much mistaken. Property acquisition (of various sorts) and lawlessness were common behaviors in postwar Europe that respected no nationality. They most certainly were not something European directed against Jews, and still less something Polish directed against Jews, although much of the media has made it sound that way.

In addition, Padraic Kenney described a rash of muggings and murders, in the Wroclaw area, that were attributed to Soviet soldiers. (pp. 147-148). How many murders of returning Jews in Poland, automatically blamed on the Poles, were actually the deeds of Soviet deserters and other non-Poles?
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