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An inscription in the Memorial Book for Polish town of Skierniewice sums up Poland’s wartime atmosphere: “Sometimes a mere gesture of sympathy shown to those (Jews) persecuted could easily cost a life.” Tragically, historians have documented many instances of Poles being murdered for helping, or even betraying empathy with, Jews. Even as he documented inspiring instances of Polish resistance and heroism, Martin Gilbert acknowledged that “many Poles looked with satisfaction at the Jews being moved into the (Warsaw) ghetto, even gloating….” The United States Holocaust Museum has documented that "As German forces implemented the killing, they drew upon some Polish agencies, such as Polish police forces and railroad personnel, in the guarding of ghettos and the deportation of Jews to the killing centers.The events of April 1942, in the Polish town of Mlawa, are typical: fifty of the town’s Jews were forced into a square to be executed by Nazi forces, and the town’s residents forced to watch. Individual Poles often helped in the identification, denunciation, and hunting down of Jews in hiding, often profiting from the associated blackmail, and actively participated in the plunder of Jewish property." Professor Peter Kenez of the University of California, Santa Cruz, has investigated the substantial German ethnic population in Poland during World War II who “welcomed the (Nazi) conquerors with enthusiasm” in his book The Coming of the Holocaust: From Antisemitism to Genocide (Cambridge University Press 2013). Louis University, has researched the role of the Catholic Church in fomenting profound Jew hatred in Poland and concluded, “The Catholic clergy (in Poland)...Poland is soon to unveil plans to make it illegal to refer to “Polish Death Camps”.

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were not innocent bystanders or passive observers in the wave of antisemitism that encompassed Poland in the latter half of the 1930s…

Even when nationalistic youth translated anti-Semitic attitudes into violence... Gross, who was born in Poland to a Polish mother and Jewish father, published Neighbors, a groundbreaking book that documented that some atrocities long blamed on Nazi officials were in fact carried out by local Polish civilians.

These were quasi-normal events, and even remained a subject of conversation for years to come at local gatherings.

The plunder was a widespread social practice, sanctioned by norms.” Today, political considerations are once again tempting some inside Poland – particularly the right-wing governing Law and Justice Party – to rewrite history.

In Jedwabne, for instance, an official monument declared “Place of martyrdom of the Jewish people.

Last modified 21-Oct-2017 11:55