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The Holocaust in the East: Local Perpetrators and Soviet Responses (Pitt Russian East European)

jan peczkis|Sunday, June 15, 2014

Most of this anthology is about the unfolding Holocaust in Nazi German occupied eastern Poland, western Soviet Union, and eastern Romania. I limit my review to general comments about the USSR and specific comments about Poland. This book is of variable quality (hence my 3-star rating), and much of it (especially Marci Shore's chapter on Jedwabne) rehashes old information

3.0 out of 5 stars .

In common with many other works on this general subject, this work exhibits an obvious Judeocentric bias. It tacitly treats the genocide of Jews as above that of other peoples. For instance, author Tarik Cyril Amar repeats the complaint that, while the Soviets acknowledged the Nazi mass murder of Jews, they failed to draw sufficient attention to the (presumed) special-ness of the Jewish experience at the hands of the Nazis. (p. 163). In addition, Amar complains that (what became known as) the Shoah had been submerged within a narrative of Nazi racism. (p. 163). Finally, Amar endorses the implicit de-valuation of the Nazi genocide of the Slavic peoples as he faults those Russian and Ukrainian authors who affirmed that the Nazi extermination of the Jews was but the first step in the eventual extermination of other peoples, notably the Slavs. (p. 178, 182).


It is commonly supposed that archival information is inherently trustworthy because, after all, it is for internal use, and not for public relations or propaganda purposes. In actuality, archival information often lacks credibility, and Soviet archival information is especially notorious in this regard. Diana Dimitru, a professor of history at Ion Creanga State University at Moldova, comments, (quote) Scholars studying the Soviet Union were the first to point out the problems that Soviet documents pose as primary sources. They warned of various obstacles set up by an indoctrinated, centralized, secretive machine that produced immense but often confusing and misleading paperwork. The reliability of sources poses an enormous quandary for researchers of Soviet history, becoming most acute with materials produced during the Stalinist period. Scholarly convention advises the rejection of Soviet police interrogation records as truthful sources on committed crimes. (unquote) (p. 143).

The foregoing has unmentioned implications for the post-WWII Jedwabne trials (see below), as well as other issues. For instance, it reminds us that USSR archival sources (which affirm less than 400,000 Poles deported to the interior of the USSR in 1939-1941) should not automatically be believed over other sources (which affirm 1.2-1.5 million Poles thus deported).


Author Marci Shore attempts an even-handed history of the Jedwabne debate. However, her analysis of the investigative IPN commission does not do justice to the ambiguity of the German role--an ambiguity that deprives the anti-Polish accusations of neo-Stalinist Jan T. Gross of credibility. [See the first Comment under this review, and read my detailed English-language review of WOKOL JEDWABNEGO, the IPN Proceedings volumes.]

In addition, Shore conspicuously omits an important historian's study of the Jedwabne massacre, as linked in the first Comment. She also omits Jewish (never mind Polish) testimonies that point to the Germans, and not the Poles, as the main killers of Jedwabne's Jews. For instance, please click on The Warriors: My Life As A Jewish Soviet Partisan (Religion, Theology, and the Holocaust), and read the detailed Peczkis review. Then follow the link within my review to another Jewish-authored work and read its Peczkis review.

Diana Dimitru's warning about Communist trials, earlier quoted in this review, is especially timely, and ironic, in view of Marci Shore's largely uncritical acceptance of the 1949 trials of the Polish Jedwabne defendants in Soviet-ruled Poland. (p. 7, 19). Neither Shore nor any one of the quoted authors appreciate the horrors faced by the Poles. Tens of thousands of Poles were being arbitrarily murdered by the Soviet-imposed Communist puppet government, and hundreds of thousands of Poles were being arbitrarily arrested. Even had there been no direct Communist coercion of the Jedwabne defendants, how could credible trials possible take place in this atmosphere of unmitigated Communist terror?


Consider the Zydokomuna (Jewish-Soviet collaboration). Marci Shore repeats Jan T. Gross and his exculpation about Jews turning to Communism because the Poles had not treated them well. (p. 13). The Judeocentric double standard is palpable. If Jews were free to turn against Poles because Poles were not behaving to the Jews' satisfaction, then why were Poles not free to act against Jews because Jews were not behaving to the Poles' satisfaction?

Shore also excuses Jewish support for Communist because of Jewish poverty. (p. 21). However, many peoples (notably the Poles) also faced poverty and injustice, yet did not support Communism to any appreciable extent.

Marci Shore acknowledges that Jews were over-represented in Communism, but points out that relatively few Jews were Communists. (p. 26). Again, her double standard is showing. Poles who actively persecuted Jews were ALSO very few--a vanishing fraction of 1% of the Polish population--yet this does not stop the Jews' insistence that Poles "come to terms with the past" and assume collective responsibility for these acts.

Finally, history does not reduce itself into a dialectic wherein Jews are victims and non-Jews are the victimizers. For an analysis of significant Jewish complicity in the massacres of unarmed Polish civilians (at Naliboki and Koniuchy), please click on Intermarium: The Land between the Black and Baltic Seas, and read the detailed Peczkis review. Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 9, 2014 7:43 PM PDT
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