Books by Michael C. Steinlauf

Released: Feb. 20, 1997

A very well researched and nuanced study of postwar Poland's efforts, first to deny, then to begin to deal with the complex reality of the Holocaust and particularly the fact that Auschwitz and all the other major death camps were located on Polish soil. In an angry outburst, former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir once claimed that Poles ``imbibe anti-Semitism with their mother's milk.'' Largely by probing Polish sources, Steinlauf, a senior research fellow at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York, uncovers a far more complex, variegated relationship between Polish Jews and Gentiles before, during, and after the Holocaust. He doesn't scant the longstanding, deep Polish stereotype of the Jew as ``the spoiler, the avenger, the foe of everything Polish.'' Yet he also notes how some Poles, even while manifesting anti-Semitic attitudes, were so appalled by the Nazi juggernaut of death that they saved or otherwise assisted Jews. Unfortunately, even more betrayed Jews; most, however, remained distraught bystanders, paralyzed by the Germans' murder of over two million of their non-Jewish fellow citizens. The immediate post- Holocaust period witnessed pogroms in Kielce and elsewhere during which some 2,000 returning Jewish survivors were murdered. In the nearly half-century of Communist rule that followed, there were several violent anti-Semitic outbreaks, and purges in the Polish Communist Party. Steinlauf traces the slow, uneven, and still very incomplete emergence of a new, more open and sympathetic attitude toward the Holocaust and the rich, if often troubled, legacy of Polish Jewish history, as well as toward contemporary Jewish sensibilities. Steinlauf clearly links this change to the emergence of the Solidarity movement and the fall of Communism, though it is still being bitterly fought by Polish nationalists both within and outside of the Catholic Church. Steinlauf's work is crisply written and refreshingly succinct. This very fine study of intellectual, cultural, and ethnic history deserves broad exposure. Read full book review >