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Jan T. Gross

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Jan T. Gross
Gross at the Collège de France in 2019
Jan Tomasz Gross

(1947-08-01) August 1, 1947 (age 76)
Warsaw, Poland
AwardsJohn Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1982)
Academic background
Alma mater
Academic work
Sub-disciplinePolish-Jewish relations during World War II

Jan Tomasz Gross (born 1947) is a Polish-American sociologist and historian. He is the Norman B. Tomlinson '16 and '48 Professor of War and Society, emeritus, and Professor of History, emeritus, at Princeton University.[1]

Gross is the author of several books on Polish history, particularly Polish-Jewish relations during World War II and the Holocaust, including Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland (2001); Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz (2006); and (with Irena Grudzinska Gross) Golden Harvest (2012).

Early life and education

Gross was born in Warsaw to Hanna Szumańska, a member of the Polish resistance (Armia Krajowa) in World War II, and Zygmunt Gross, who was a Polish Socialist Party member before the war broke out. His mother was a Christian and his father Jewish. His mother lost her first husband, who was Jewish, after he was denounced by a neighbor.[2] She rescued several Jews during the Holocaust, including her future husband whom she married after the war.[3]

Gross attended local schools and studied physics at the University of Warsaw.[3][4] He became one of the young dissidents known as Komandosi, and was among the university students who participated in the "March events", the Polish student and intellectual protests of 1968. Like many Polish students, he was expelled from the university, and was arrested and jailed for five months.[5]

During the antisemitic campaign by the Polish communist government, Gross emigrated from Poland to the United States in 1969.[5][6][7] In 1975 he earned a PhD in sociology from Yale University for a thesis on the Polish underground state, which was published as Polish Society under German Occupation (1979).[1]



Gross has taught at Yale, New York University, and in Paris. He became a naturalized US citizen. He has specialized in studies of Polish history and Polish-Jewish relations in Poland. He is the Norman B. Tomlinson '16 and '48 Professor of War and Society in the History Department at Princeton University. Gross has held this seat since 2003.[8] He is also Professor of History at Princeton, both positions emeritus.[1]


Based on documentation on Polish citizens deported to Siberia, Gross and his wife Irena Grudzińska-Gross published In 1940, Mother, They Sent Us to Siberia. In the 80s Gross wrote Revolution From Abroad: Soviet Conquest of Poland’s Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia based primarily on Hoover Archive material.[9]

His 2001 book about the Jedwabne massacre, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland, addressed the role of local Poles in the massacre and resulted in controversy. He wrote that the atrocity was committed by Poles and not by the German occupiers, thus revising a major part of Polish self-understanding about their history during the war. Gross's book was the subject of vigorous debate in Poland and abroad. The political scientist Norman Finkelstein accused Gross of exploiting the Holocaust. Norman Davies described Neighbors as "deeply unfair to Poles".[10]

A subsequent investigation conducted by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) supported some of Gross's conclusions, but not his estimate of the number of people murdered. In addition, the IPN concluded there was more involvement by Nazi German security forces in the massacre.[11] Polish journalist Anna Bikont began an investigation at the same time, ultimately publishing a book, My z Jedwabnego (2004), later published in French and English as The Crime and the Silence: Confronting the Massacre of Jews in Wartime Poland (French, 2011; and English, 2015).

Gross's book, Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz, which deals with anti-semitism and anti-Jewish violence in post-war Poland, was published in the United States in 2006, where it was praised by reviewers. When published in Polish in Poland in 2008, it received mixed reviews and revived a nationwide debate about anti-Semitism in Poland during and after World War II.[12]"[13] Marek Edelman, one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, said in an interview with the daily newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, "Postwar violence against Jews in Poland was mostly not about anti-Semitism; murdering Jews was pure banditry."[13]

Gross's latest book, Golden Harvest (2011), co-written with his wife, Irena Grudzińska-Gross, is about Poles enriching themselves at the expense of Jews murdered in the Holocaust.[14] Critics in Poland have alleged that Gross dwelt too much on wartime pathologies, drawing "unfair generalizations".[15] The Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, commented: "Gross writes in a way to provoke, not to educate, and Poles don't react well to it. Because of the style, too many people reject what he has to say."[14]


On 6 September 1996, Gross and his wife Irena Grudzińska-Gross were awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by President Aleksander Kwaśniewski,[16][17] for "outstanding achievement in scholarship".

As Professor at the Department of Politics, New York University, Gross was a beneficiary of the Fulbright Program, for research on "Social and Political History of the Polish Jewry 1944-49" at the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw, Poland (January 2001- April 2001).[18]

In 1982 Jan T. Gross was awarded a fellowship in the field of sociology by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial.[19] Also in 1982, as an assistant professor of sociology at Yale University, he was among thirty-three Rockefeller Humanities Fellowship competition entrants awarded, his project entitled "Soviet Rule in Poland, 1939-1941."[20]


In an essay published in 2015 in the German newspaper Die Welt, Gross wrote that during World War II, "Poles killed more Jews than Germans".[21] In 2016, Gross said that "Poles killed a maximum 30,000 Germans and between 100,000 and 200,000 Jews."[22] According to historian Jacek Leociak, "the claim that Poles killed more Jews than Germans could be really right – and this is shocking news for the traditional thinking about Polish heroism during the war."[23] Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski dismissed Gross's statement as "historically untrue, harmful and insulting to Poland."

On 15 October 2015, Polish prosecutors opened a libel inquiry against Gross; they acted under a paragraph of the criminal code that "provides that any person who publicly insults the Polish nation is punishable by up to three years in prison". Polish prosecutors had previously examined Gross's books Fear (2008) and Golden Harvest (2011), but closed those cases after finding no evidence of a crime.[24][22] In 2016, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said the decision to continue the investigation bore "all the hallmarks of a political witch-hunt," and a "form of alienating minorities and people who were victimized".[25] The investigation was closed in November 2019. Prosecutors stated that "there is no conclusive data on the numbers of Germans and Jews killed as a result of actions committed by Poles during the Second World War. The establishment of such numbers is still the subject of research by historians and the subject of dispute between them." One of the experts consulted was Piotr Gontarczyk, who said there is no conclusive evidence that Poles killed more Jews than Germans during the war, but such a view is impossible to show as untrue. According to Gontarczyk, such statements, while controversial, are within the limits of academic discourse.[26]

On 14 January 2016, because of what he described as "an attempt to destroy Poland's good name", Polish President Andrzej Duda requested a re-evaluation of the award to Gross of the Knight's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.[27] The request was met with local and international protests.[28] Gross responded that "PiS [the Law and Justice party] is obsessed with stimulating a patriotic sense of duty. And given that most Poles do not know their own history very well, and think that Poles suffered as much as Jews during the war, the new regime is playing into a language of Catholic martyrology."[29] Timothy Snyder, an American historian noted for his work on European genocides, said that if the order were taken from Gross, he would renounce his own.[30]

Selected works

  • Gross, Jan Tomasz (1979). Polish Society Under German Occupation - Generalgouvernement, 1939–1944. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Grudzińska-Gross, Irena; Gross, Jan Tomasz (1981). War through Children's Eyes: The Soviet Occupation of Poland and the Deportations, 1939–1941. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.
  • Gross, Jan Tomasz; Irena Grudzińska-Gross (1984). W czterdziestym nas matko na Sybir zesłali ... London: Aneks.
  • Gross, Jan Tomasz (1998). Upiorna dekada, 1939–1948. Trzy eseje o stereotypach na temat Żydów, Polaków, Niemców i komunistów. Kraków: Universitas.
  • Gross, Jan Tomasz (1999). Studium zniewolenia. Kraków: Universitas.
  • Gross, Jan Tomasz (2000). Istvan Deak and Tony Judt (ed.). The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and Its Aftermath. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Gross, Jan Tomasz (2001). Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-14-200240-2.
  • Gross, Jan Tomasz (2003). Revolution from Abroad. The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-09603-1.
  • Gross, Jan Tomasz (2003). Wokół Sąsiadów. Polemiki i wyjaśnienia (in Polish). Sejny: Pogranicze. ISBN 83-86872-48-9.
  • Gross, Jan Tomasz (2006). Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz. Random House. ISBN 0-375-50924-0.
  • Gross, Jan Tomasz; Irena Grudzińska-Gross (2012). Golden Harvest. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-973167-1.
  • "Russian Rule in Poland, 1939-1941" (1983)[31]
  • "Lato 1941 w Jedwabnem. Przyczynek do badan nad udzialem spolecznosci lokalnych w eksterminacji narodu zydowskiego w latach II wojny swiatowej," in Non-provincial Europe, Krzysztof Jasiewicz ed., Warszawa/London: Rytm, ISP PAN, 1999, pp. 1097–1103.

See also




  1. ^ a b c "Jan Tomasz Gross". Department of History. University of Princeton.
  2. ^ David Herman interviews Jan Gross, chronicler of Polish atrocities, The JC, 22 June 2012
  3. ^ a b Andrzej Kaczyński (6 February 2011). "Jan Tomasz Gross". Culture.pl – via Google translate. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Jan Tomasz Gross (English version on culture.pl), culture.pl
  5. ^ a b David Herman interviews Jan Gross, chronicler of Polish atrocities, Jewish Chronicle, 22 June 2012
  6. ^ Historian Who Shed Light on WWII Massacres Goes From Honoree to 'Pole Hater', Haaretz, Ofer Aderet, 1 March 2016
  7. ^ "Norman B. Tomlinson '16 and '48 Professor of War and Society. Professor of History. On Leave 2015-16". Princeton University History Department. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  8. ^ Norman B. Tomlinson '16 and '48 Professorship in War and Society (2002) -Established by Norman B. Tomlinson '48 in memory of his father, Norman B. Tomlinson '16 for a professorship in the Department of History. 2003 - 2017 J. T. Gross at princeton.edu Accessed 3 February 2018
  9. ^ JAN GROSS’ ORDER OF MERIT, Tablet, Anna Bikont, 15 March 2019.
  10. ^ Davies: "Strach" to nie analiza, lecz publicystyka Archived 28 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Gazeta Wyborcza, 21 January 2008. (in Polish)
  11. ^ Postanowienie o umorzeniu śledztwa Archived 14 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine, ipn.gov.pl, 30 June 2003. (in Polish)
  12. ^ Craig Whitlock, "A Scholar's Legal Peril in Poland", Washington Post Foreign Service, 18 January 2008, p. A14. quote: "The book was first published in 2006 in the United States, where reviewers found it praiseworthy." "When the Polish-language edition of his book was released here last Friday, prosecutors wasted no time in announcing that he was under investigation."
  13. ^ a b Ryan Lucas (24 January 2008). "Book on Polish anti-Semitism sparks fury". USA Today. quote: The book was first released in the United States in 2006, where it was greeted with warm reviews. In Poland the book was sharply criticized in newspaper editorials and reviews and by historians, accusing Gross of using inflammatory language and unfairly labeling all of postwar Polish society as anti-Semitic... Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, said the postwar violence against Jews was "not about anti-Semitism." "Murdering Jews was pure banditry, and I wouldn't explain it as anti-Semitism," Edelman said in an interview with the daily newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza. "It was contempt for man, for human life, plain meanness. A bandit doesn't attack someone who is stronger, like military troops, but where he sees weakness."
  14. ^ a b Jeevan Vasagar; Julian Borger (7 April 2011). "A Jewish renaissance in Poland". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  15. ^ Transitional Justice and the Former Soviet Union, Cambridge University Press, 2018. Mark Kramer, pp. 68–69.
  16. ^ Postanowienie Prezydenta Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej z dnia 6 września 1996 r. o nadaniu orderów i odznaczeń. Order of the President of the Republic of Poland of September 6, 1996 on the awarding of orders and decorations. at isap.sejm.gov.pl Accessed 3 February 2018
  17. ^ "Bucerius Institute for Research of Contemporary German History and Society, University of Haifa, Israel". Bucerius.haifa.ac.il. 12 March 2001. Archived from the original on 1 October 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  18. ^ FULBRIGHT SCHOLAR PROGRAM 2000-2001 U.S. Scholar Directory, libraries.uark.edu; Accessed 3 February 2018
  19. ^ John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. "Jan T. Gross Fellow: Awarded 1982 Field of Study: Sociology". Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  20. ^ Rockefeller Foundation
  21. ^ Jan T. Gross: "Flüchtlingskrise: Die Osteuropäer haben kein Schamgefühl." Die Welt, 13 September 2015. (in German)
  22. ^ a b Historian May Face Charges in Poland for Writing That Poles Killed Jews in World War II, Haaretz, Ofer Aderet, 30 October 2016
  23. ^ Holocaust scholar who said Poles killed Jews grilled by police, Associated Press (reprinted by Times of Israel), 14 April 2016
  24. ^ "Warsaw acts over claim 'Poles killed more Jews than Germans", AFP, 15 October 2015; retrieved 31 October 2015.
  25. ^ Gera, Vanessa (5 November 2016). "Holocaust scholar tests Poland’s freedom of speech, and its WWII narrative". Associated Press/Times of Israel.
  26. ^ "Academic avoids prosecution for Holocaust claim". polandin.com. 26 November 2019. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  27. ^ Lebovic, Matt (26 February 2016). "Do the words ‘Polish death camps’ defame Poland? And if so, who’s to blame?". The Times of Israel.
  28. ^ Smith, Alex Duval (14 February 2016). "Polish move to strip Holocaust expert of award sparks protests". The Guardian.
  29. ^ Harper, Jo (19 February 2016). "Poland turns history into diplomatic weapon". Politico.
  30. ^ Czornak, Michał Czornak (28 February 2016). "Naukowcy z Francji bronią Jana Tomasza Grossa" (Researchers from France defend Jan Tomasz Gross). wMeritum.pl.
  31. ^ https://www.ucis.pitt.edu/nceeer/1983-620-6-Gross.pdf

Further reading

External links