Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland

Front Cover
Princeton University Press, Apr 15, 2001 - History - 261 pages

One summer day in 1941, half of the Polish town of Jedwabne murdered the other half, 1,600 men, women, and children, all but seven of the town's Jews. Neighbors tells their story.

This is a shocking, brutal story that has never before been told. It is the most important study of Polish-Jewish relations to be published in decades and should become a classic of Holocaust literature.

Jan Gross pieces together eyewitness accounts and other evidence into an engulfing reconstruction of the horrific July day remembered well by locals but forgotten by history. His investigation reads like a detective story, and its unfolding yields wider truths about Jewish-Polish relations, the Holocaust, and human responses to occupation and totalitarianism. It is a story of surprises: The newly occupying German army did not compel the massacre, and Jedwabne's Jews and Christians had previously enjoyed cordial relations. After the war, the nearby family who saved Jedwabne's surviving Jews was derided and driven from the area. The single Jew offered mercy by the town declined it.

Most arresting is the sinking realization that Jedwabne's Jews were clubbed, drowned, gutted, and burned not by faceless Nazis, but by people whose features and names they knew well: their former schoolmates and those who sold them food, bought their milk, and chatted with them in the street. As much as such a question can ever be answered, Neighbors tells us why.

In many ways, this is a simple book. It is easy to read in a single sitting, and hard not to. But its simplicity is deceptive. Gross's new and persuasive answers to vexed questions rewrite the history of twentieth-century Poland. This book proves, finally, that the fates of Poles and Jews during World War II can be comprehended only together.


What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - vlodko62 - LibraryThing

This short book combines excellent documentation with important questions and observations about the meaning and implications of the events described. Despite the storm of controversy surrounding the ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Chris_El - LibraryThing

After the German military took over the Polish town of Jedwabne, the Polish townspeople got together, rounded up the Jews, and started killing them. They had the town surrounded with some folks on ... Read full review


002_Chapter 2
003_Chapter 3
004_Chapter 4
005_Chapter 5
006_Chapter 6
007_Chapter 7
008_Chapter 8
009_Chapter 9
012_Chapter 12
013_Chapter 13
014_Chapter 14
015_Chapter 15
016_Chapter 16
017_Chapter 17
018_Chapter 18

010_Chapter 10
011_Chapter 11

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2001)

Jan T. Gross is Professor of Politics and European Studies at New York University. He is the author of, among other books, Revolution from Abroad: Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia (Princeton) and a coeditor of The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and Its Aftermath (Princeton).

Bibliographic information