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171 Conclusion In the summer of 2009 the influential German weekly Der Spiegel published a front-page article entitled “Dark Continent: Hitler’s European Helpers.” According to its authors, the extermination of European Jews was not only a German deed, but also a result of the involvement of many other nationalities, allies, sympathizers and fellow travelers. The extermination of the Jews was possible with the participation of Latvian policemen, Lithuanian “shooters” (shaulai), Ukrainian militias and guardsmen, Polish mobs from Jedwabne or Radziłów, French or Belgian volunteers for the SS, but also their civilian and uniformed fellow citizens, who robbed Jews and locked them in prisons. One could carry this list on and on. In Poland, Der Spiegel’s article raised some ire, mostly among politicians and journalists, who accused the German authors (not without some justification) of trying to share the blame for the Shoah with the rest of Europe. Maybe so, but the question raised by Der Spiegel still requires an answer: would the Germans have succeeded as completely as they did in exterminating the European Jews without the often unforced, and sometimes enthusiastic, support of non-German volunteers and helpers? In light of the evidence presented in this book, it can be argued that the attitudes of the local population had, at least for some Jews, fundamental and existential importance. The great majority of Jews, early on concentrated by the Germans into ghettos, were herded in the summer of 1942 into death trains and taken to extermination camps. One can debate what was, in these days, the role of Polish “blue” police or Polish yunaki from the Baudienst, but it is obvious that during that stage their impact, from the German point of view, was secondary. 172 Hunt for the Jews A very different situation occurred after the deportations, when hundreds of thousands of Jews decided, in the face of death, to seek refuge among the Aryan population, or in the forests. As we know today, very few managed to survive under the German occupation that lasted until 1945. In the summer of 1942, despite years of hunger, epidemics, and terror, some 2.5 million Polish Jews were still alive. Assuming that around 10 percent of the Jewish population of the liquidated ghettos tried to flee the deportations, one can argue that 250,000 people made an active attempt to save themselves from the policies of extermination . Of that number, as we have noted above, less than 50,000 survived the war. The question is whether the 200,000 future victims of the Judenjagd lacked a chance from the very beginning. The evidence from Dąbrowa Tarnowska County presented in this book gives a partial answer to this question. Some of the Jews wandering through the forests, hidden in bunkers and hideouts, stuck under the barns, sheds and in the attics of their Polish neighbors’ houses, could have probably lived until the liberation, had there not been a number of tragic circumstances. Sometime in the spring, or perhaps in the summer of 1942, Jewish life, in the eyes of a large part of Polish society, had lost its value. If not for the fact that all attempts to save Jews were so deadly dangerous and that helping Jews was considered by many a sin, or even worse a crime, many of the Jewish refugees could have survived until the end of the war. Raoul Hilberg, one of the foremost scholars of the Shoah, divided the human participants of the Holocaust into three groups: victims, perpetrators, and bystanders. With time, these categories have become blurred, the distinctions being not always as clear as they seemed. Now, it seems that the category of “bystanders”—at least in the context of Central and Eastern Europe—has to be fundamentally rethought. Jan T. Gross, in his recent book Fear, discussed at length the reasons that led some Poles to kill Jews in a series of well and not-so-well publicized incidents and pogroms, between 1945 and 1947. The murders, which culminated in the notorious Kielce pogrom, resulted in the deaths of some seven hundred survivors of the Holocaust. Seen from the perspective of the Judenjagd, this eruption of anti-Jewish violence acquires a new meaning; it no longer was an isolated outburst of hate, but rather a declining continuation of a wartime practice, familiar to people across the occupied land. More than a quarter century ago, Szymon Datner (a historian, survivor, and former fighter from the Białystok ghetto) said...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253010872
Related ISBN
9780253010742
MARC Record
OCLC
857365434
Pages
320
Launched on MUSE
2013-11-15
Language
English
Open Access
No
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