Out of the Inferno: Poles Remember the Holocaust

University Press of Kentucky
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Richard Lukas's book, encompassing the wartime recollections of sixty "ordinary" Poles under Nazi occupation, constitutes a valuable contribution to a new perspective on World War II. Lukas presents gripping first-person accounts of the years 1939-1945 by Polish Christians from diverse social and economic backgrounds. Their narratives, from both oral and written sources, contribute enormously to our understanding of the totality of the Holocaust. Many of those who speak in these pages attempted, often at extreme peril, to assist Jewish friends, neighbors, and even strangers who otherwise faced certain death at the hands of the German occupiers. Some took part in the underground resistance movement. Others, isolated from the Jews' experience and ill informed of that horror, were understandably preoccupied with their own survival in the face of brutal condition intended ultimately to exterminate or enslave the entire Polish population. These recollections of men and women are moving testimony to the human courage of a people struggling for survival against the rule of depravity. The power of their painful witness against the inhumanities of those times is undeniable.
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About the author

Richard C. Lukas has authored, co-authored, or edited nine books including Out of the Inferno: Poles Remember the Holocaust and The Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under German Occupation, 1939-1944. Until his retirement, he was adjunct professor of history at the University of South Florida.

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Additional Information

Publisher
University Press of Kentucky
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Published on
Mar 25, 2013
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Pages
224
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ISBN
9780813143323
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Holocaust
History / Military / World War II
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Content Protection
This content is DRM free.
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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.

Starting as early as 1939, disparate Jewish underground movements coalesced around the shared goal of liberating Poland from Nazi occupation. For the next six years, separately and in concert, they waged a heroic war of resistance against Hitler’s war machine that culminated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In Isaac’s Army, Matthew Brzezinski delivers the first-ever comprehensive narrative account of that struggle, following a group of dedicated young Jews—some barely out of their teens—whose individual acts of defiance helped rewrite the ending of World War II.
 
Based on first-person accounts from diaries, interviews, and surviving relatives, Isaac’s Army chronicles the extraordinary triumphs and devastating setbacks that befell the Jewish underground from its earliest acts of defiance in 1939 to the exodus to Palestine in 1946. This is the remarkable true story of the Jewish resistance from the perspective of those who led it: Isaac Zuckerman, the confident and charismatic twenty-four-year-old founder of the Jewish Fighting Organization; Simha Ratheiser, Isaac’s fifteen-year-old bodyguard, whose boyish good looks and seeming immunity to danger made him an ideal courier; and Zivia Lubetkin, the warrior queen of the underground who, upon hearing the first intimations of the Holocaust, declared: “We are going to defend ourselves.” Joined by allies on the left and right, they survived Gestapo torture chambers, smuggled arms, ran covert printing presses, opened illegal schools, robbed banks, executed collaborators, and fought in the two largest rebellions of the war.
 
Hunted by the Germans and bedeviled by the “Greasers”—roving bands of blackmailers who routinely turned in resistance fighters for profit—the movement was chronically short on firepower but long on ingenuity. Its members hatched plots in dank basements, never more than a door knock away from summary execution, and slogged through fetid sewers to escape the burning Ghetto to the forests surrounding the city. And after the initial uprising was ruthlessly put down by the SS, they gambled everything on a bold plan for a citywide revolt—of both Jews and Gentiles—that could end only in victory or total destruction. The money they raised helped thousands hide when the Ghetto was liquidated. The documents they forged offered lifelines to families desperate to escape the horror of the Holocaust. And when the war was over, they helped found the state of Israel.
 
A story of secret alliances, internal rivalries, and undying commitment to a cause, Isaac’s Army is history at its most heart-wrenching. Driven by an unforgettable cast of characters, it’s a true-life tale with the pulse of a great novel, and a celebration of the indomitable spirit of resistance.

Advance praise for Isaac’s Army
 
“Told with care and compassion, Matthew Brzezinski’s Isaac’s Army is a riveting account of the Jewish resistance in wartime Poland. This is an intense story that transcends the horror of the time and finds real inspiration in the bravery of those who fought back—some of whom lived to tell their stories. Highly recommended.”—Alan Furst, author of Mission to Paris
In this most timely book, Richard C. Lukas offers the historical perspective that any reader, scholar, or layman needs to grasp the political turmoil in Poland in the decades after World War II. Bitter Legacy is the first major analysis of Polish-American relations from the Potsdam Conference through the Polish elections of 1947, the critical period during which Poland became a satellite in the Russian sphere. Drawing on an impressive array of primary and secondary sources, a number of which have never been used by scholars before, Lukas shows in detail why and how American policy was never able to reverse the process, begun at the Yalta Conference, that transformed Poland into a communist state. In a clear and unambiguous style, he deftly combines two traditions in the writing of diplomatic history -- one that stresses intergovernmental relations and one that emphasizes domestic concerns and pressures.

The result is a revealing book that adds significantly to our understanding of Polish-American relations and of domestic history in Poland and the United States during this important Cold War phase. It will appeal not only to scholars but also to all those with an interest in Poland's history.

Bitter Legacy is a sequel to Lukas's earlier volume, The Strange Allies, which has been acclaimed as the best treatment in English of United States-Polish relations during World War II. If offers the same impeccable scholarship and balanced interpretation that characterized Lukas's earlier study.

Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. 

In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annex” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

Praise for The Diary of a Young Girl

“A truly remarkable book.”—The New York Times

“One of the most moving personal documents to come out of World War II.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“There may be no better way to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II than to reread The Diary of a Young Girl, a testament to an indestructible nobility of spirit in the face of pure evil.”—Chicago Tribune

“The single most compelling personal account of the Holocaust . . . remains astonishing and excruciating.”—The New York Times Book Review

“How brilliantly Anne Frank captures the self-conscious alienation and naïve self-absorption of adolescence.”—Newsday
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