Hunt for the Jews
|Original title||Judenjagd: polowanie na Żydów 1942-1945|
|Country||Canada / Poland / Israel|
|Language||English / Polish / Hebrew|
|Subject||Holocaust in Poland|
|Publisher||Indiana University Press / Center for Holocaust Studies|
Published in English
|Pages||303 / 257|
|ISBN||9780253010872 Polish book is 9788393220205|
Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland is a 2013 book about the Holocaust in Poland by Jan Grabowski. The 2013 English edition followed a 2011 Polish-language edition and was in turn followed by a 2016 Hebrew edition.
The book describes the Judenjagd (German for "Jew hunt") that began in 1942 and focuses on Dąbrowa, a former rural county in southeastern Poland (till 1939). Grabowski describes an entire system set up by the Germans to extirpate Jews:
The German policy was based on terror. Poles faced the death penalty for any help they gave to Jews. Also, the Germans created a so-called “hostage” system among the Poles. In every community they designated people who would be rotated every couple of weeks. They were responsible for informing the Polish police, or the Germans, about Jews hiding in their towns. If a Jew was discovered that had not been reported, the so-called hostages would be harshly punished. So everyone was highly motivated to get rid of the Jews.
While Germans supervised the mechanism, all of the individuals manning it were Poles: village night watchmen, informers, police, firefighters, and others. This dense web made it nearly impossible for fleeting Jews to hide their identity.
According to Grabowski, Poles were responsible for the deaths, directly or indirectly, of more than 200,000 Jews during the Holocaust. He held this estimate to be very conservative, as he did not include victims of the Polish Blue Police. "The great majority of Jews in hiding perished as a consequence of betrayal. They were denounced or simply seized, tied up and delivered by locals to the nearest station of the Polish police, or to the German gendarmerie".
In 2014 Hunt for the Jews was awarded the Yad Vashem International Book Prize. The book was criticized by some Polish historians especially for its assertion that Poles were either directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of 200,000 Jews during the Holocaust.
Dariusz Stola, a Professor of History at the Polish Academy of Sciences, reviewed the original, 2011 Polish-language edition of the book. He noted Grabowski's description of the hostage system set up by the Germans in rural Polish towns. "This diabolical mechanism," wrote Stola, "in some measure explains the hostility, observed in many rural communities, to persons who harbored Jews: they could bring disaster not only on themselves but on others." Stola disputed Grabowski's numerical estimates: "First, the author assumed, after an earlier work by Szymon Datner, that the number of fugitives seeking shelter came to about 10% of the number of Jews on the eve of the deportations... That 10% is not, strictly speaking, an estimate but rather a "guesstimate".... Secondly, a pall of ignorance [largely] surrounds the histories of the ghetto escapees who were not murdered but died of malnutrition, exhaustion, exposure, or disease. We will not find information about their deaths in postwar court records.” Finally, he noted that “Judenjagd speaks not only about the killing but also about the sheltering of Jews (sometimes by the same persons), about various kinds of aid given [to Jews], about the... disinterested rescuers who risked their own lives to save people who were hunted like animals."
Grzegorz Berendt, a Professor of History at the University of Gdańsk and a member of the Jewish Historical Institute, stated that Grabowski's claim of 200,000 Jews being killed by Poles was "hot air". According to Berendt, available research puts the number of escaped Jews at 50,000; no other number has been established by research. Berendt said that Grabowski's number comes from an interview given 30 years ago by Szymon Datner, who had not studied the whole of Poland, or even just one of its districts. Berendt wrote that it was difficult to accept Grabowski's number as scientific truth. Grabowski replied by rejecting Berendt's assertions about Datner, and offering a differing interpretation of his work.
Historian Bogdan Musial criticized the 2011 edition as improperly sourced, lacking in witness statements, archival documents, and German statements; and as improperly generalizing the antisemitic attitudes of the perpetrators to the local populace. He also wrote that Grabowski ignored the economic hardships and deportations suffered by Poles, which he believes affected their attitudes toward Jews. Musial wrote that, while the book elaborated on some Poles' prewar antisemitism, it devoted only three sentences to the Germans' antisemitic campaign. He further wrote that the book underestimated the number of Jewish survivors, while inflating the number of Poles complicit in German crimes. Musial noted that Grabowksi did not question statements from Jewish witnesses, but did take issue with those made by Poles. Grabowski rejected Musial's critique, writing that it was an attempt to disparage serious historical research on the basis of its subject matter and conclusions and that it failed to address the quality of the research methodology.
Historian Krystyna Samsonowska of the Jagiellonian University wrote in her review that Grabowski did not use all available sources, and "gave up" on actual field research; for example, by not trying to contact the families of Jewish survivors from Dąbrowa Tarnowska, or the Poles who hid them. Samsonowska argues that, by using broader resources, she could identify 90 Jews who had survived the war in hiding in Dąbrowa County, as opposed to the 38 cited by Grabowski, and notes the number of survivors was probably much higher. She also claims Grabowski understated the number of Righteous from Dąbrowa County by half.
Przemysław Różański, a Professor of History at the University of Gdańsk, reviewed the 2011 edition of the book and had a number of reservations, including Grabowski's presentation of forced participation of peasants as "cooperation", and his disregard, in relation to paid rescue of Jews, of the harsh economic conditions faced by Poles. While agreeing on the nature of prewar antisemitism in Poland, he disagreed with Grabowski's suggestion of a causal relation between that and the events described in the book, instead explaining it as a result of Nazi propaganda. Różański concludes that, despite his reservations, the book is a "valuable and useful work" which "[illustrates the] changes in local pathology taking place under German occupation in... the Generalgouvernement".
Glenn R. Sharfman, a professor at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, wrote that Grabowski's book complemented recent works by Jan T. Gross about murders of Jews away from the primary killing centers, providing evidence of the important role of Poles in aiding the Nazis. Sharfman wrote that any student of the Holocaust will find the testimonies and excerpts in the text useful, but readers with little background might require more context. He noted that Grabowski jumps from testimony to testimony without analysis. According to Sharfman, while most Poles were victims of Nazi aggression and have wanted to see themselves as purely its victims, Grabowski shows how some Poles played an official or unofficial role in the murder of tens of thousands, if not more, of Jews.
Historian Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe, writing in H-Soz-Kult, reviewed three books: Judenjagd by Grabowski, It Was Such a Beautiful Sunny Day by Barbara Engelking, and Golden Harvest by Jan T. Gross. He wrote that all three studies are noteworthy explorations of the Polish participation in the Holocaust, challenging both the German tendency to neglect non-German perpetrators and the Polish perspective of viewing Poles solely as victims. According to Rossoliński-Liebe, Grabowski demonstrates that a broad spectrum of Polish society took part in Judenjagd (hunts for the Jews). But Rossoliński-Liebe wrote that he did not think these 2011 works would trigger a new Holocaust debate, as had occurred following Gross's Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland, a decade prior.
Timothy Snyder of Yale University called Judenjagd "the most important in the recent Polish debates about Polish responsibility for the Holocaust", and wrote that Grabowski and Barbara Engelking had recorded the "undeniable fact that most of [the Polish Jews who had escaped from the ghettos and camps] were murdered as well, perhaps half of them by Poles (following German policy and law) rather than by Germans."
Historian Shimon Redlich, writing about the book in Slavic Review, criticized the book's structure, in particular the lengthy quotations and appendix, the careless "claim of 'hundreds of thousands' of Jews seeking shelter among the Polish populace", which according to Redlich cannot be extrapolated to the whole country based on one single area, as well as language that at times betrayed emotional involvement. However, Redlich said the book "should become required reading for scholars and students of Polish-Jewish relations".
Yad Vashem historian Witold Mędykowski reviewed Judenjagd by Grabowski, It was such a beautiful sunny day by Barbara Engelking, and Golden Harvest by Jan T. Gross. Mędykowski notes that Grabowski concentrates on a specific area, attempting to trace the fate of Jews, which is important in Mędykowski's opinion as it allows a statistical analysis of a known set of people. Mędykowski notes that a heated debate has taken place in Polish historiography on the rescuing of Jews, but that the debate from both sides relied not on statistical analysis by on illustrative examples that are easily manipulated. Mędykowski writes that this debate has been on-going for decades despite the limited validity of casting the Polish role in a positive image. According to Mędykowski being a victim of Nazi occupation does not exclude complicity in the death of Jews. Mędykowski notes that historian Bogdan Musial who according to Mędykowski is a native of Dąbrowa Tarnowska County, responded harshly to the book that portrays a different image than that conveyed in his parent's home. Mędykowski notes that well-known holocaust survivors Shevah Weiss and Samuel Willenberg also confirm the negative attitude towards the Jews, which are well known to historians involved in the Holocaust. Mędykowski concludes by saying that a "shock therapy" for destroying the myths about Jewish salvation is due.
Jagiellonian University associate professor Piotr Weiser reviewed Hunt for the Jews by Grabowski, It was such a beautiful sunny day by Barbara Engelking, and Golden Harvest by Jan T. Gross. Weiser writes that the Polish debate on the Holocaust seldom went beyond a simple dichotomy - the Jews, of course, suffered unspeakably, but the Poles no less. Weiser contrasts Grabowski and Engelking with Gross, saying the former employ a strictly scientific approaching writing monographs, not essays. Weiser describes Grabowski's approach as positivist, taking the seat of a neutral observer, and notes that Grabowski's ability to read German sources is rare among young Polish researchers, understanding what Jean Améry called the logic of annihilation, describing how the Germans rewarded antisemitism. Weiser concludes by saying that all three texts are important contributions to a counter-narrative that rivals the heroization of Poles in the context of the Holocaust.
Ingo Loose reviewed Grabowski's Hunt for the Jews, Barbara Engelking's It Was Such a Beautiful Sunny Day, and Jan T. Gross's Golden Harvest. Loose wrote that all three works relate to the open wound of Polish-Jewish relations during the Holocaust, a very sensitive point in Polish historical memory. Loose wrote that Grabowski's study is excellently written and more coherently structured than Gross's work. According to Loose, Grabowski's pars pro toto study illustrates a theme whose tragic significance was pointed out by Emanuel Ringelblum and emphasizes the effectiveness of the Germans' use of menace and rewards to persuade Poles to give up hidden Jews. Loose wrote that this aspect had previously been dismissed or marginalized, but that Grabowski's study showed it to have involved tens of thousands of escaped Jews. Loose noted that Polish critics have accused Grabowski of underestimating the Germans' intimidation campaign; however, Loose writes that, while it is true that hiding Jews was punishable with death, this was too often used in political debate in lieu of drawing a more complex picture of German-Polish cooperation or neutrality regarding Jews. Loose concluded that "Jewish property" and "German-Polish cooperation" are two fields with ample room for future research into a more complex model of the German occupation in the General Government.
Sociologist Larry Ray's  review of Grabowski’s book called it "a highly systematic and scholarly study of atrocities and collaboration", and "an essential contribution to knowledge of the Holocaust and Polish-Jewish relations".
Historian Jack Fischel in a Jewish Book Council review, wrote that "One concludes from Grabowski’s important study that without the often unforced, and sometimes enthusiastic support of non-German volunteers and helpers, the Germans would not have succeeded as completely as they did during the Holocaust."
Historian Łukasz Męczykowski, in a histmag.org review of the 2011 book, wrote that, while some historians try to seek truth calmly and impartially, others prefer passing condemnatory judgments, and Grabowski had chosen the latter path: Grabowski was largely focused on finding those who were supposedly guilty of collaboration, and was averse to acknowledging those who had showed commendable behavior. Męczykowski noted that Grabowski incorrectly accused Poland's Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) of trying to inflate the number of Polish citizens who helped Jews. Męczykowski wrote that Grabowski had contradicted himself on certain points. Also that Grabowski, in calling upon Poles to admit their guilt, seemed unaware that there had long since been an ongoing debate in Poland about Polish participation in atrocities against Jews, including educational programs prepared by Poland's IPN, which contradicted Grabowski's statements about the Institute.
Historian Samuel Kassow, in a review essay in Yad Vashem Studies, wrote, of Grabowski's book and those of three other scholars (Alina Skibinska, Barbara Engelking, and Dariusz Libionka), that they "are a historical achievement of the first order." He described them as undermining "the self-serving myths about Polish-Jewish relations in World War II", and as being works of careful and objective scholarship.
Rosa Lehmann, writing in The American Historical Review, found Grabowski's work to be outstanding and firmly grounded in solid research. According to Lehmann, the book illuminates the struggle of survival and circumstances of death of the some 10 percent of the 2.5 million Polish-Jews who attempted to seek refuge on the "Aryan" side among hostile peasant gentiles. According to Lehmann, Grabowski shows how this created a dichotomy between Jewish and gentile perceptions of the Holocaust, Jews holding Polish peasants responsible for Jewish suffering and death, while Polish accounts trivialize the Polish involvement and paradoxically stress the "helping phenomenon" in wartime Poland. Lehmann writes that the evidence in the book shows that the category of "bystander" should be reevaluated, as the attitudes of the local population had fundamental and existential importance for escaping Jews. Lehmann finds interesting Grabowski's conclusion that the murder of some 700 Jews in incidents and pogroms in post-war Poland are an inherent continuation of the wartime practice of Judenjagd. Lehmann concludes by recommending the book for those interested in Polish-Jewish relations and Holocaust studies.
Historian Joshua D. Zimmerman's review in The Journal of Modern History found Grabowski's work to be a "weighty, superbly researched study" that punctuated the myth of Polish innocence during the Holocaust. According to Zimmerman, Grabowski's study was not about defaming or glorifying Poland, but rather about the evidence.
Historian John-Paul Himka's review in the East European Jewish Affairs journal, found "Grabowski's exploration of how the moral climate in rural Poland became fatally skewed during the Nazi occupation" to be innovative and enlightening. Himka noted that the young Polish men of the Baudienst yunaki took part in Jew hunts with particular relish, Grabowski recording the atrocities in chilling detail. Himka concluded: "This is a well-written, well-researched, highly illuminating study that takes us deep into the mechanisms of the Holocaust in rural Poland. In short: a brilliant book, and a harrowing read."
The Polish website Fronda.pl ran a piece with the headline, "Sieg Heil, Mr. Grabowski", accompanied by a photo of Joseph Goebbels, following the publication of a favorable review of the historian's book in a German newspaper. Grabowski sued the website's owner for libel and won in 2017.
In June 2017, the Polish League Against Defamation released a statement signed by 134 Polish scientists protesting the "false and harmful portrayal of Poles and Poland during the Second World War and attempts to blame the Polish Nation for the Holocaust", which was sent to Grabowski's employer, the University of Ottawa, to all the colleges with which he was affiliated, and to all the publishers of his books. The statement pointed to German efforts to exterminate the Polish population itself, which made its occupation by Germany different from western Europe's occupation; numerous examples of Poles' assistance given to Jews; Poland's many wartime international protests at the plight of the Jewish population in German-occupied Poland; and the complexity of Polish-Jewish relations, aggravated by the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland.
Grabowski has been boycotted by the Polish-Canadian community, and Polish groups have attempted to have him fired from his academic position. According to multiple media reports, Grabowski has faced harassment and death threats, leading to increased security patrols in his department at the University of Ottawa.
Other historians quickly responded in June 2017 to defend Grabowski's work: the Polish Center for Holocaust Research, which Grabowski co-founded, released a counter-letter signed by seven Holocaust historians, saying that "None of the 134 signatories is a Holocaust historian" and that "All these economists, linguists, oncologists, chemists, nuclear physicists, engineers, constructors of electromechanical appliances, environmental geologists, ethnomusicologists, theatrologists and priest professors present themselves as Holocaust experts, but cannot even quote the sources they refer to." In addition, some 180 international historians of modern European history signed an open letter in June 2017 in Grabowski's defense, saying his work "holds to the highest standards of academic research" and that the Polish League Against Defamation puts forth a "distorted and whitewashed version of the history of Poland during the Holocaust era". The historians further said they considered the campaign against Grabowski to be "an attack on academic freedom and integrity."
- Grabowski, Jan (2013). Hunt for the Jews : betrayal and murder in German-occupied Poland. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253010742. OCLC 868951735.
- Grabowski, Jan (2011). Judenjagd : polowanie na Żydów 1942-1945: studium dziejów pewnego powiatu (Wyd. 1 ed.). Warszawa: Stowarzyszenie Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów. ISBN 9788393220236. OCLC 715338569.
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- Poland’s dark hunt, Macleans, 7 Oct 2013
- Holocaust writer Grabowski faces Polish fury, Jewish Chronicle, 18 Oct. 2013.
- Donald Snyder, "The Summer Polish Jews Were Hunted" [interview with Jan Grabowski], The Forward, 21 January 2015 
- "Hunt for the Jews snags Yad Vashem book prize", Times of Israel (JTA), 8 December 2014.
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- Grzegorz Berendt (24 February 2017). ""The Polish People Weren't Tacit Collaborators with Nazi Extermination of Jews" (opinion)". Haaretz.
- Jan Grabowski, "No, Poland's Elites Didn't Try to Save the Jews During the Holocaust", Haaretz, 19 March 2017
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- Jagd auf Juden 1942-1945. Forschungen über die Geschichte eines Kreises. Warschau 2011 / Engelking, Barbara: Jest taki piekny słoneczny dzień…. Losy Żydów szukających ratunku na wsi polskiej 1942-1945 [Es ist so ein schöner sonniger Tag… Schicksale von Juden, die in polnischen Dörfern zwischen 1942 und 1945 Rettung suchten]. Warschau: 2011 / Gross, Jan Tomasz; Grudzińska-Gross, Irena (Hrsg.): Złote żniwa. Rzecz o tym, co się działo na obrzeżach zagłady Żydów [Goldene Ernte. Bericht darüber, was am Rande der Judenvernichtung geschah]. Krakau: 2011, in: H-Soz-Kult, 18.04.2012 (English Translation)], The American Association for Polish-Jewish Studies, Translated by Bill Templer
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