Reflection: “Neighbors”

Neighbors by Jan Gross is a fascinating and captivating book describing a horrific episode of the Holocaust. The massacre of Jedwabne, Poland. According to Gross in 1941 the non-Jewish residents of this small town conspired and murdered the Jewish population.  One of the main points that Gross makes in the book is that this murder was not formulated directly by the Nazi’s as many in Poland had believed. This massacre was perpetrated by Poles against Poles. When this book was released, a wave of controversy in Poland fell on Gross. Obviously the Holocaust devastated Poland, and Gross seemed to put at least a portion of the blame on the Polish people themselves. People have attacked this work for other reasons, such as claiming that Gross has used improper figures, methodology, and historiography.  While the exact truth may never be known, I feel that works like Neighbors are invaluable to the historical community.  Discovering new perspectives on and countering established narratives is how we as a society truly learn about the past.

Jan Gross

Jan Gross

4 Responses to “Reflection: “Neighbors””

  1. cpeabody Says:

    I agree that the precedent set forth be Gross is invaluable. Although we may never know the complete truth of the event, I believe that Gross is valid in his assertion that when investigating events like the Holocaust, we must be willing to consider as many sources recording what took place as we can place our hands on. Especially considering the accepted and respected documentation concerning the actions by the Nazis took, I do not think many of the claims cited in the book, though not independently confirmed, are not far from the truth. More often than not we are willing to hide ourselves from brutality humans are capable of committing. That denial facilitated events that led to the Holocaust in the first place, and is something we must we extremely wary of. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

  2. Andrew Says:

    It is definitely a good thing for events like the pogrom of Jedwabne to be made known to both the public of Poland, as well as the rest of the world. It benefits the people who were involved, or the descendants of those involved, to know what occurred and how the world mourns for those lost. I agree that it was helpful that Gross decided to approach this relatively unknown event and attempt to flesh out a full detailed account for those of us who are less informed to have a clear picture about what happened that fateful day. I think that is one of the great endeavors history must embark upon.

    But it is another thing for this series of studies and writings to be historically unfounded, especially when he is intending to pass this work off as historically accurate. As the interview with Chodakiewicz indicated, this collection of bad representation and history actually did more harm to the Polish Jewish-Christian relationships than anything. There was severe backlash in the scholastic field, and those who backed Gross suffered the embarrassment of promoting a faulty piece of work. In light of these repercussions I wonder if the flash in the pan exposure Jedwabne received from Gross’s work was worth it.

  3. ericratman Says:

    I actually was interested to see the reaction of the Poles to this book. Opening up old events like this provide an excellent scope of what was going on on both sides. The poles were known for Heroism, but a small minority ended up killing over a thousand other poles in cold blood. Likewise, only twenty years ago in Yugoslavia, various ethnic militias went around fighting those of other ethnicity. We sided generally against Serbia, who was considered to be most responsible with the ethnic cleansing, but no sides hands were truly clean of blood.

  4. sstern Says:

    I agree with you saying that Neighbors is an invaluable part of history’s works. True, the exact truth about most events can never be certain, however, I agree with cpeabody’s comment about the likelihood of it not being far from the truth.