Polish peasants and villagers played an instrumental role in rounding up and denouncing Jews during the Holocaust, often taking initiative without any encouragement from the Germans, according to a soon-to-be-published study by Holocaust historian Jan Grabowski.
In “Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland,” Grabowski argues that Poles living in the countryside served as enthusiastic accomplices to the Nazis and that many Jews who had managed to survive the ghettos and escape transports to the death camps eventually lost their lives only because they were turned in by their Polish neighbors. The book is scheduled for publication in October.
In this latest study, Grabowski delved into the history of one particular rural county in southeastern Poland, Dabrowa Tarnowska, about 50 miles northeast of Krakow, where many Jews were betrayed or murdered by local residents, after they had escaped mass deportations and killings and were desperately seeking hideouts in the countryside.
Roughly 350 of the county’s 5,000 Jews survived by 1942, when the Germans had completed most of the round-ups and deportations in the area. According to Grabowski, basing his findings on court records and personal testimonies, only about 60 of them were alive by the end of the war. The majority were killed or betrayed to the Germans by local Poles.
Most Jews who faced the Holocaust had to find creative ways to survive. As Grabowski's study shows, going home was often not an option. Many of these blessed souls came to Israel, to find a new life of dignity and hope. But these individuals who lived through so much destruction and sorrow face poverty and loneliness here in Israel.
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