Poland’s Hidden Massacre Colin Hulvalchick Historian’s Blog

Poland can never forget the pain inflicted upon it by foreign powers, but I find the lack of self-reflection about their participation in atrocities during the war disturbing.  Visits to the Museum of Krakow and Auschwitz helped me better see the Polish perspective of the war, but both left out one of the darkest moments.  The defeat of the nation by Germany was known early on, as help by the allies was not forthcoming. This led to an honorable yet futile fight that our guide at the Krakow Museum explained.  The phrases “inevitably” and “valiant but pointless” stood out during the tour as we walked through the exhibits.  However, the museum left out the seldom talked about pogroms that the Polish people enacted on their own Jewish neighbors. Having read Neighbors by Jan T. Gross, I knew that Poland did have people collaborating with the Nazis, but the nation seems to not want to recognize or remember the people who participated in these pogroms.  A pogrom is a mass attack on Jewish people in communities, which happened throughout the centuries in eastern Europe. The invasion by the Nazis encouraged those even in small towns to engage in – and initiate — anti-sematic violence.  Often these attacks were started by Polish people, but I found no discussion of this in the museums or locations in Krakow. I can understand the national narrative of being innocent, but it disingenuous not to acknowledge the looting, and violence done to Jewish Poles. Stories of the backlash to the book Neighbors by those remaining residents in small Polish towns is concerning. One woman begged to not be interviewed because she knew many who perpetrated the killings.  There were participants in the pogrom massacres that still lived there, and people feared reprisals if their neighbors found out.  Similar to the United State massacre of the Native Americans, Poland finds it hard to admit to the evil acts it committed. I feel these episodes must be recognized both for the sake of the victims and to show what blind, ignorant hatred will produce if allowed to fester.