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Survivors of the Holocaust in Poland: A Portrait Based on Jewish records

jan peczkis|Thursday, October 9, 2014

If you enjoy figures and tables, this book is for you. This work includes a map of the hundreds of pre-WWII Jewish communities in Poland, and features many tables of post-WWII Polish cities and towns and the number of Jews that survived in them. It lists hundreds of Jewish child survivors by name. It also touches on Jewish returnees from the concentration camps and the Soviet Union.



The first tally conducted by Jewish communities, and dated May 1, 1945 [before the end of the European part of WWII], identified 42,662 total surviving Polish Jews--a figure considered 10-15% inflated owing to duplicate listings. (p. 10, 67). [The 40,000 figure is commonly, but erroneously, listed as the actual number of Jews who survived the Nazis owing to Polish help. In actuality, it is an absolute minimum.]

Now consider much higher figures. Author Dobroszycki ridicules the estimates of Tadeusz Bednarczyk, and others, that suggest a few hundred thousand Polish Jews surviving in German-occupied Poland. However, on these same pages, he cites comparable figures! In a quoted conversation between Ignacy Schwartzbard (a Jewish representative in the Polish Government in Exile) and Jan Stanczyk, figures of 90,000 and 200,000 were seriously discussed as the number of Polish Jews who survived (EXCLUDING those in Russia). (pp. 27-28).


The return of Polish Jews from German camps came later. In May-December 1945, nearly 5,000 Jews came from German concentration camps, mainly Buchenwald, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, etc. (p. 11).

An estimated additional 240,000--250,000 Jews eventually returned from other places, mainly the Soviet Union, out of some 300,000--350,000 Polish Jews that had been out of reach of the Nazis. (p. 19). In fact, at least 170,000 Jews were repatriated from the Soviet Union, of which over 136,000 arrived in February-August 1946. (pp. 20-22). [This does not include Jews from the former Kresy. Statistics that specifically enumerate the Jews from the Kresy do not exist. (p. 19).]


The exodus of Jews from Poland accelerated in the several months after the so-called Kielce Pogrom (July 1946), but actually had begun immediately after the Soviet "liberation" of Polish territories from Nazi German rule. (p. 27). In the early postwar years, Polish Jews were coming and going to and from Poland. Dobroszycki (p. 25) suggests that 275,000 Jews lived in Poland sometime between the summer of 1944 and the spring of 1947. (p. 25). Poland's Jewish population peaked in the summer of 1946, at about 230,000, because of the repatriation of Polish Jews from the USSR. (p. 26).


In recent years, neo-Stalinist authors, such as Jan Tomasz Gross and Jan Grabowski, have promoted the scurrilous notion that Poles asking payment for aiding Jews were exploiting the Jews. This is far from the truth. In fact, author Dobroszycki, while discussing once-hidden Jewish children after the war, considered financial compensation entirely proper. He comments, (quote) Thanks to arduous efforts made throughout much of Poland, at times requiring the patience of an angel, and by a dint of the great tact displayed in talks and negotiations both with the "parents" and with the children, international and Polish organizations succeeded in redeeming a few hundred of these children. In nearly every case it was thought proper not only to offer thanks but also to give financial compensation to people who, for humanitarian or any other reasons, had hidden Jewish children during the war, thereby exposing themselves and their families to grave danger, even death, at the hands of the occupiers. (unquote). (p. 16). Clearly, Dobroszycki would strongly disagree with Jan T. Gross' belittling of the German-imposed death penalty for the slightest Polish aid to Jews.
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