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Jan T. Gross

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Jan Tomasz Gross (born in 1947) is a Polish-born American historian and sociologist. He is the Norman B. Tomlinson Professor of War and Society, and Professor of History at Princeton University, on leave in 2015–16.[1]


Jan T. Gross was born in Warsaw, Poland, to Hanna Szumańska, who was a member of the Polish resistance (Armia Krajowa) in World War II,[2] and Zygmunt Gross, who was a PPS member before the war broke out. His father is Jewish and his mother is Catholic.[3] His mother, risking her own life, helped his father survive the German Nazi occupation of Poland. They married after the war. Jan Tomasz Gross studied physics at the Warsaw University.

He was among the young dissidents called Komandosi, and consequently among the university students involved in the protest movement known as the "March Events" – the Polish student and intellectual protests of 1968. Gross was expelled from the university, arrested and jailed for five months. As a consequence, and because the Polish government permitted the emigration of "people of Jewish origin" at that time, he emigrated with his parents to the United States in 1969.[1] In 1975 he earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University, and has taught at Yale, NYU, and Paris. He acquired U.S. citizenship and currently teaches history at Princeton University.

Gross was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland in 1996,[4] an award granted to foreigners for their exceptional role in cooperation between Poland and other nations. He was also a Senior Fulbright Research, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial, and Rockefeller Humanities Fellow.


Photograph which inspired Gross to write his book Golden Harvest (2011). It was printed in Gazeta (2008) by M. Kowalski and P. Głuchowski as "Gorączka złota w Treblince" (Gold rush in Treblinka).[5] Originally, the former director of the Treblinka Museum, Tadeusz Kiryluk, claimed that the image depicted so-called "diggers" caught by the militia red-handed while looking for gold buried with the remains of Jewish victims murdered by the Germans in KL Treblinka. However, the story was debunked by investigative journalists of Rzeczpospolita who discovered the real landscape crew member [5]

Gross came to public attention on the occasion of his several works. He was at the center of a controversy regarding the publication of his 2001 book about the Jedwabne massacre, titled Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland, which examined the wartime killing of Polish Jews in Jedwabne village in German-occupied Poland. In his book Gross wrote that the massacre was perpetrated by Poles and not by the German occupiers. The claims were the subject of vigorous debate in Poland and abroad. Norman Finkelstein accused Gross of exploiting the Holocaust.[6] Norman Davies describes "Neighbors" as "deeply unfair to Poles".[7] A subsequent investigation conducted by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance did not support Gross' thesis on issues such as the number of people murdered, and the extent of Nazi German involvement in the massacre.[8]

Gross' book Fear - Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz, which deals with antisemitism and violence against Jews in post-war Poland was published in the United States in 2006 and had received praise in the United States; its Polish version, published in 2008, got mixed media reception restarting a nationwide debate about antisemitism in Poland during World War II and after.[9] The book has been welcomed by some Polish historians and criticized by others who do not deny the facts Jan Gross presented in his book, but dispute his interpretation.[10][11] Marek Edelman, one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising said in an interview with the Gazeta Wyborcza daily, "Postwar violence against Jews in Poland was mostly not about anti-Semitism, murdering Jews was pure banditry."[12]

Gross' Neighbors and Fear were subjected to scholarly criticism by historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, whose interpretations directly challenged Gross.[13]

Gross' latest book, Złote żniwa (pl) (Golden Harvest), co-written with his wife Irena Grudzińska-Gross and published in March 2011, about Poles enriching themselves at the expense of Jews murdered in the Holocaust,[14] has also attracted criticism that it only shows one side of a complex issue.[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]

The head of Znak, the book's publisher, stated: "It does not purport to provide a comprehensive overview of Polish rural communities' actions... The authors focus on the most horrid events, on robberies and killings. Those who say the book is anti-Polish make no sense."[15]

Gross's academic critics have argued that Golden Harvest is based on a one-sided interpretation of its sources, the vast majority of them secondary ones. Further, they have taken issue with what they consider a grossly unfair portrayal of marginal wartime social pathologies as an all-national Polish norm. They also see his interpretation of Polish history as "neo-Stalinist" due to its resemblance to postwar Stalinist propaganda alleging mass Polish collaboration and collusion with Nazi Germany, a claim used to justify the Soviet occupation of Poland.[16]

Neighbors and its surrounding controversy served as inspiration for Władysław Pasikowski's 2012 film Aftermath (Pokłosie), which he wrote and directed.[17] Pasikowski said, "The film isn’t an adaptation of the book, which is documented and factual, but the film did grow out of it, since it was the source of my knowledge and shame."[18]

Other controversies[edit]

In article, published in the German Die Welt, Gross wrote that during World War Two "Poles killed more Jews than Germans".[19] Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski described it as "historically untrue, harmful and insulting to Poland". He also added that Polish Ambassador in Germany will address a letter of protest to the editors of Die Welt. President of the Warsaw-based Batory Foundation, Aleksander Smolar, called the article "primitive....his words are disgusting and irresponsible," he said.


  • Gross, Jan Tomasz (1979). Polish Society Under German Occupation - Generalgouvernement, 1939-1944. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 
  • Irena Grudzińska-Gross, Jan Tomasz Gross: War through children’s eyes : the Soviet occupation of Poland and the deportations, 1939-1941,
  • 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.  Polish version of the book online
  • 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. 
  • "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[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Norman B. Tomlinson '16 and '48 Professor of War and Society. Professor of History. On Leave 2015-2016". Princeton University History Department. Retrieved August 28, 2015. 
  2. ^ Piotr Zychowicz, Oko w oko z tłuszczą, Rzeczpospolita, January 26, 2008 (Polish)
  3. ^ Samuel Crowell, The Debate about Neighbors. Book review, May/June 2001, ISSN 0195-6752. Internet Archive.
  4. ^ "Bucerius Institute for Research of Contemporary German History and Society, University of Haifa, Israel". 2001-03-12. Retrieved 2013-06-27. 
  5. ^ a b Zespół (22 January 2011), Kolejne wątpliwości co do rzetelności Grossa. Czy z ludzi porządkujących groby ofiar zrobił haniebnych "kopaczy"? [More doubts about Gross's reliability. Did he turn landscape crew into 'grave robbers'?] Magazine Polityka 2011, online. Research of Paweł Majewski i Michał Reszka of Rzeczpospolita. Internet Archive.
  6. ^ Norman G. Finkelstein (20 June 2001), Goldhagen for Beginners: A Comment on Jan T. Gross's Neighbors. An abridged version of appeared in the Polish periodical, Rzeczpospolita. Internet Archive.
  7. ^ Source: Davies: "Strach" to nie analiza, lecz publicystyka, Gazeta Wyborcza, January 21, 2008 (Polish)
  8. ^ Postanowienie o umorzeniu śledztwa IPN, June 30, 2003 (Polish)
  9. ^ Craig Whitlock, A Scholar's Legal Peril in Poland, Washington Post Foreign Service, Friday, January 18, 2008; Page A14
  10. ^ Marek Jan Chodakiewicz: People’s past has to be reviewed critically on individual basis, Rzeczpospolita, January 11, 2008 (English)
  11. ^ Piotr Gontarczyk, Far From Truth, Rzeczpospolita, January 12, 2008 (English)
  12. ^ Ryan Lucas (January 24, 2008). "Book on Polish anti-Semitism sparks fury". USA Today. 
  13. ^ Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, "The Massacre in Jedwabne: July 10, 1941: Before, During, and After" (Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 2005) ISBN 0-88033-554-8; Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, "After the Holocaust: Polish-Jewish Conflict in the Wake of World War II" (Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 2003) ISBN 0-88033-511-4
  14. ^ a b Jeevan Vasagar; Julian Borger (7 Apr 2011). "A Jewish renaissance in Poland". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  15. ^ a b Wojciech Zurawski (8 February 2011). "Book on Polish Jews' WWII ordeal touches raw nerve". Reuters. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  16. ^ Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, Wojciech Jerzy Muszynski, and Pawel Styrna, eds., Golden Harvest or Hearts of Gold? Studies on the Fate of Wartime Poles and Jews (Washington, DC: Leopolis Press, 2012), ISBN 0-9824888-1-5
  17. ^ "In the Polish Aftermath". Tablet Magazine. 17 April 2013. 
  18. ^ "The Past Can Hold a Horrible Power". The New York Times. 25 October 2013. 
  19. ^ Polish Foreign Min. rebukes Gross over Die Welt refugee article

Further reading[edit]

  • John Connelly, Poles and Jews in the Second World War: the Revisions of Jan T. Gross, Contemporary European History. Cambridge: Nov 2002. Vol. 11, Issue 4 [1]

External links[edit]