An intensely focused, heavily statistical study of the widespread denunciation of Jewish refugees among Polish gentiles during the Nazi occupation.
The salvation of the Jews who managed to escape the ghettos and the death trains was largely left in the hands of the Poles, “who failed this test of humanity,” writes Grabowski (History/Univ. of Ottawa) in this grim, compelling work of research. He concentrates on the rural county of Dabrowa Tarnowska, just 50 miles east of Krakow, chosen due to the wealth of records available (survival accounts, testimonies, court documents) and its rural character, with a prewar census of 66,678 people, including 4,807 Jews. The author followed the fates of 337 Jews who tried to survive in the county, of which 51 managed to hide until liberation, while 286 died between 1942 and 1945. Grabowski touches on the prewar relations among the Jews, Polish peasants and Catholic clergy, only to suggest that where they once worked alongside each other in small villages, the relations steadily deteriorated with the rise of economic dissatisfaction and anti-Semitic political propaganda. The Nazis introduced “draconian regulations,” and Jews were put into ghettos and terrorized by violence, coinciding with the opening of the Belzec extermination camp in March 1942. Those who escaped ran into the forests or found refuge among Polish neighbors, often protected only until their ability to pay ran out. The next stage in the Jews’ destruction was the horrific Judenjagd, the hunt, during which the German “evacuation commandos,” Polish “blue” police, youth construction service and the Jewish police worked to flush out their victims. Grabowski breaks down each group with meticulous research.
A significant, scholarly study that may be arduous for nonacademic readers.