Szymon Datner

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Szymon Datner (2 February 1902, Kraków – 8 December 1989, Warsaw) was a Polish historian of Jewish descent, best known for his studies of Nazi war crimes committed against the Jewish population of the Białystok area (Bezirk Bialystok) after the German attack, across Poland, upon the Soviet Union in June 1941.[1]

Datner settled in Białystok in 1928.[2] Before the outbreak of World War II, he worked as a P.E. teacher at a Jewish secondary school in Białystok. He lived in the city with his wife and two daughters throughout the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland and, after the German attack on the USSR, was forced to move with his family into a ghetto. He helped smuggle several people out of the Białystok Ghetto on 24 May 1943. However, his wife and daughters did not survive its liquidation.[citation needed]

Postwar career[edit]

After the war, Datner served as head of the Białystok branch of the Central Committee of Jews in Poland (CŻKH) for two years. "A survivor himself, he deposited his own testimony at the Jewish Historical Commission in Białystok on 28 September 1946."[3]

The same year, CŻKH published his Walka i zagłada Białostockiego Ghetta (The fight and annihilation of the Białystok ghetto) in Łódź.[2] Datner moved to Warsaw in the late 1940s. He became a prominent specialist on World War II crimes and the Holocaust,[3] nonetheless, he was dismissed from his position in the course of the 1968 Polish political crisis, and rehabilitated soon afterwards.

In 1969–70 he presided over the Jewish Historical Institute of Warsaw, and was one of the historians at the Polish Commission to Investigate German Crimes, now part of the Institute of National Remembrance. Datner made the most comprehensive documentation of the war crimes and atrocities of Nazi Germany in eastern Poland.[4]

According to Datner, German Sonderkommandos, while themselves engaged in exterminating Jews, also acted as instigators, compelling the cooperation of local people. Datner explored questions of responsibility for the massacre in Jedwabne but did not identify the SS Sonderkommando present at the scene.[3][5]


Datner died in 1989 in Warsaw and is buried at the Okopowa Street Jewish Cemetery. His daughter, Helena Datner-Śpiewak, is a historian and sociologist.[citation needed]


  • Walka i Zagłada białostockiego getta (Łódź, 1946)
  • Zbrodnie Wehrmachtu na jeńcach wojennych w II wojnie światowej (Warsaw, 1961)
  • Zbrodnie okupanta w czasie powstania warszawskiego w 1944 roku (w dokumentach) (Warsaw, 1962)
  • Wilhelm Koppe - nieukarany zbrodniarz hitlerowski (Warsaw-Poznań, 1963)
  • Ucieczki z niewoli niemieckiej 1939-1945 (Warsaw, 1966)
  • Eksterminacja ludności żydowskiej w Okręgu Białostockim (Bulletin of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw, October–December 1966, no. 60: pp. 3–29)
  • Niemiecki okupacyjny aparat bezpieczeństwa w okręgu białostockim (1941–1944) w świetle materiałów niemieckich (opracowania Waldemara Macholla), Biuletyn GKBZH (Warsaw, 1965)
  • 55 dni Wehrmachtu w Polsce (Warsaw, 1967)
  • Las sprawiedliwych. Karta z dziejów ratownictwa Żydow w okupowanej Polsce ( Warsaw, 1968)
  • Tragedia w Doessel - (ucieczki z niewoli niemieckiej 1939-1945 ciąg dalszy) (Warsaw, 1970)
  • Z mądrości Talmudu (Warsaw, 1988)


  1. ^ Orla-Bukowska, Prof. Annamaria. "Re-presenting the Shoah in Poland and Poland in the Shoah". Institute of Sociology, Jagiellonian University. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
  2. ^ a b Poczykowski, Radosław & Katarzyna Niziołek. "Szymon Datner (1902-1989)". Szlak Dziedzictwa Żydowskiego w Białymstoku. Uniwersytet w Białymstoku. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
  3. ^ a b c Wróbel, Piotr (2006). "Polish-Jewish Relations". Dagmar Herzog: Lessons and Legacies: The Holocaust in international perspective. Northwestern University Press. pp. 391–96. ISBN 0-8101-2370-3. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
  4. ^ Bernd Wegner (1997), From Peace to War: Germany, Soviet Russia, and the World, 1939-1941, Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt, Berghahn Books, Germany, p. 54
  5. ^ Rossino, Alexander B. (2003), "Polish 'Neighbors' and German Invaders: Contextualizing Anti-Jewish Violence in the Białystok District during the Opening Weeks of Operation Barbarossa", Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 16, retrieved 10 May 2011