History is brutal, history is merciless, history leaves no stone unturned. When the Nazis began the invasion of Poland they destroyed two nations. The Ashkenazi Jews were exterminated. Utterly. Together with the Soviets, the Nazis successfully decimated the Polish ruling classes.
The Jews were left with nothing. There were none left. The Poles were left with a nation in tatters, in the iron grip of Stalin. Without true leaders and role models (who had all been murdered by either the Nazis or the Soviets), Poland wandered like a blind man in the first few years of its forcibly re-shaped and hermetic state.
The Jews who had helped set up the embryonic communities in the Middle East were creating a new Israeli identity. The Poles in post-war Poland were of a different ilk from those who had existed before the war. The Israeli Jews took on Zionism, Hebraism and a brash type of patriotism as a response to peace-loving Ashkanazi society and the need to survive in their new environment surrounded by Arab (anti-Jewish) states. The Polish communists got on the patriotic bandwagon in order to help rebuild the new socialist Poland.
A great part of post-war Polish society was largely uneducated or poorly educated. Unfortunately, ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is never bliss. After surviving the Nazi occupation, Poland now had to deal with the Soviet occupation. Poland, we must remember, had won the war. Many post-war Poles felt like the victims.
It is not surprising that the Poles felt cheated after ‘winning’ the war. Many of the Jews who survived the war embraced communism as, what they believed, to be the antithesis of National Socialism. Many of the highest ranking communists in Poland were in fact Jews. And this fact began to irk the uneducated masses. The seed of discontent had been sown.
What happened during the war and after the war was appalling. What many Poles did to their fellow (Jewish) Poles was not only reprehensible, criminal but also disgusting. Perspective allows us to see the big picture and the real context. That does not mean Poland is in any way off the hook. Gross’ book allows us to review our perspective on history. And this, we all have to live with.