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The JANowska Road:Prewar Jewish Life, Mutual Child-Snatch Tales, "On to Berlin!" Slogan, Lwow Ghetto, and the Murdered Polish Professors

jan peczkis|Thursday, March 30, 2017

Prewar Jewish Life, Mutual Child-Snatch Tales, "On to Berlin!" Slogan, Lwow Ghetto, and the Murdered Polish ProfessorsLet's present novel information instead of repeating other reviewers. (Review based on 1963 edition). Wells describes Hasidic Jewish life in the Lwow-area prewar Poland. The awfulization of the Jews' experience is conspicuously absent from his book.

Prewar Jewish Life, Mutual Child-Snatch Tales, "On to Berlin!" Slogan, Lwow Ghetto, and the Murdered Polish Professors

Just as Poles sometimes gossiped about Jews cheating in business, Jews did likewise--about each other. (p. 6). Much has been said about Polish folk tales on Jews kidnapping Christian children (e. g., Jan T. Gross, FEAR, and the Kielce Pogrom). Interestingly, Jews told similar prejudice-reinforcing stories to children: "We were also told about the gypsies who steal children and raise them as their slaves. And the fact that gypsies used to set up their tents each summer on the outskirts of our town lent credibility to these tales." (p. 15).

The 1939 "On to Berlin!" pep talk has at times been incorrectly literalized and transformed into an indictment of the gross overrating of Poland's military capabilities. Wells knows better, referring to the Poles' mindset two days before the German attack: "One could sense from the tone of the voice that there was no belief that Polish soldiers would ever get `To Berlin'." (p. 23).

Inadvertently, Wells undermines the "Jewish-Soviet collaboration driven by fear of Nazis" argument, as he describes mid-1941 Jewish attitudes: "Others even thought that the changeover to German domination was for the better...I mentioned before that there were Jews who, in 1939, fled from the German conquest of West Poland to the Russian side, and who had escaped back to the Germans in 1940. Anyone talking about the Nazi crematoria at that time would have been laughed at. The Germans were considered the most civilized people in the world." (pp. 34-35).

At Janowska Camp, Poles were incarcerated (p. 85) along with Jews. In the Lwow Ghetto, the Jewish ghetto police (or "Jewish militia") was composed of volunteers who were mostly Jewish rabble, and which no self-respecting Jew would join. (p. 52).

While engaging in corpse-disposal-in-pyres chores, in many eastern Galician towns, Wells came across pocketed papers that identified the German-murdered Polish professors of Jan Kazimierz University: "The documents show that among these dead are Professor Kazimierz Bartel, internationally known mathematician and former Prime Minister of Poland; Dr. Ostrowski, Professor Stozek, T. Boy Zelenski, and others. Here are thirty-eight bodies--the very cream of Poland's social and intellectual life." (p. 197).
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