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Poland Probes Book on Murdered Jews That May `Insult Nation'
Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Poland's public prosecutor may this week begin legal action against a Princeton professor or his publishing company if an investigation finds his book ``insulted the nation'' for blaming the deaths of Jews after World War II on Poles' participation in Nazi war crimes.
``If proceedings begin, we may summon the author for questioning,'' Boguslawa Marcinkowska, a spokeswoman for the Krakow public prosecutor, said by phone today. ``A decision will probably be made this week.''
The book by Jan Tomasz Gross, entitled ``Fear. Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz,'' stirred debate even before it hit Polish bookstores on Jan. 11, as academics, clerics and readers discussed one of the darkest chapters of the country's 20th- century history. An English edition was published in 2006.
Gross, who left Poland in 1969 after anti-Jewish unrest the year before, says attacks on Polish Holocaust survivors were motivated by widespread anti-Semitism and a wish to avoid disputes over Jewish assets belonging to people who were presumed dead by their Catholic neighbors.
``The book's been selling so well, we ran out of copies only a day after the publication,'' Monika Marianowicz, a spokeswoman for Empik Media & Fashion SA, which sells books in its 103 stores throughout Poland, said by phone. ``I guess everyone wants to see what the fuss is about.''
A spokesman for Gross's publisher, Znak, said the company won't take action until the public prosecutor decides on its next steps. It expects a statement ``within the next few days.''
``We have to be grateful to the prosecutor for taking this case up,'' Tomasz Miedzik, a spokesman for Znak, said by phone. ``Nothing else could have given the book such good exposure.''
Gross focuses on a pogrom in the southern Polish town of Kielce in 1946, a year after the end of World War II. He argues that Nazi race theories had strengthened already existing prejudices in Poland. Some leading Polish historians disagree.
Marek Chodakiewicz, a professor of history at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, said in an interview with the daily Rzeczpospolita published on Jan. 11 that Gross picked out facts to back up his theory and ignored others that might have led to a different interpretation.
It's unfair to depict Poland as deeply anti-Semitic, said Burt Schuman, the country's chief rabbi. He blamed the country's bad image on the fact that many Polish Jews who survived the Nazi occupation and emigrated to the U.S. took with them reports of Polish anti-Semitism and collaboration.
``What's happening now is harming our goal of reconciliation,'' Schuman said by phone today. ``It's good that the book has triggered a debate, but both sides have gone into lockdown currently rather than seeking dialog.''
The former government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, twin brother of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, passed a law in 2006 that allows the charge of ``slandering the Polish nation by accusing it of participating in communist or Nazi crimes.''
The public prosecutor in Krakow, where Gross's Polish publisher is based, decided to investigate ``Fear'' after reading press reports that ``suggested the book may have broken this law,'' Marcinkowska said.
An estimated 3 million Polish Jews were killed during World War II, mostly in concentration camps set up by the country's Nazi occupiers.
Historian threatens to reveal Polish atrocities against Jews if tried for slander
By Adi Schwartz, Haaretz Correspondent
Tags: Poland, Auschwitz
A U.S. historian has threatened to publicly reveal alleged Polish atrocities against Jews in the aftermath of World War II, if the Polish State Prosecution tries him for "insulting the nation."
The Polish State Prosecution said last week that it would consider pressing charges against historian Jan Tomasz Gross for "insulting the nation" in his book "Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz."
In his book, Gross covers the Kielce pogrom and other instances of post-war violence perpetrated by Poles against Jews. A Polish translation of the book came out last week sparking the current row.
"If they will take me to court, I will bring witnesses, Jews and Poles, to say exactly what happened [in Poland] after the war," Gross said Monday by phone. "It will be a big scandal."
Gross said that the Polish prosecution was prompted by articles published in the media accusing him of tarnishing the country's reputation.
According to a Polish law passed two years ago, anyone found guilty of accusing the Polish nation of cooperating with Nazi or Communist war crimes can be imprisoned for a maximum of three years in jail. The legality of the law is currently being debated in the country's high court and is expected to be rescinded, Gross said.
"I expect that the prosecutor general will give up the prosecution," Gross said. "I am confident nothing will come out of this. But if they do, there will be a big scandal. The book is not a slander; it is a description of a period. There are people in Poland who are already willing to deal with this subject, and there are people who don't. There is a debate now, and I hope it continues. Only that it will be a substantial debate".
The Kielce pogrom occurred July 4, 1946, when a mob including policemen in uniform attacked a group of Jewish refugees taking shelter in a building in the center of town. Some 27 Jews of the 200 that had been in the building were killed. The incident began when a child who had gone missing told police that he was kidnapped by Jews.
Gross, 61, is a Polish-Born U.S. citizen who has taught at Yale, NYU and Princeton. His books have dealt primarily with anti-Semitic incidents during and after World War II. In one of his best known books, "Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland," Gross argues that the Jewish population of the village was massacred by its Polish neighbors, and not by the Germans as previously believed.
As I've said before when we have discussed Poland's attitudes to its WWII issues the people involved need to start thinking of the future and stop living in the past.
People should take a leaf out of Scarlet O Hara's book when in the film gone with the wind she puts up a sign in her shop saying "the war is over"...in the case of WWII it has been long over.
People around the world are doing evil things to each other now and that is what we should be concentrating on stopping. Constant whittering on about the past won't help those suffering in the present.
The Rabbinical Association of Poland is being revived for the first time since the 1930s.
Rabbis in Poland are set to meet in Lodz on Saturday to form the country's first national association of rabbis since the Nazi era. The rabbis will re-establish the Rabbinical Association of Poland in a ceremony attended by Israel's chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, and officiated by Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, according to the group Shavei Israel.
The ceremony will be part of Shavei Israel's annual conference for hidden Jews. Rabbis from Lodz, Warsaw, Krakow and Wroclaw will take part in the ceremony.