Leipzig Studies on Jewish History and Culture

Volume 5 (2007)

Shared History – Divided Memory

Jews and Others in Soviet-Occupied Poland, 1939–1941

With a foreword by Dan Diner

Leipzig Studies, Shared History – Divided Memory, 2007

This volume of the »Leipziger Beiträge«gathers together studies on the short period of time from the fall of 1939 to the summer of 1941. That time frame has more recently been at the very center of conflicts in memory concerning the Jewish-Polish relationship during WW II. That was a consequence of controversial discussion sparked initially in 2000 by Jan Tomasz Gross's study Neighbors, first published in Polish, on a pogrom by Christian residents against the local Jewish population in the small northeastern Polish town Jedwabne on 10 July 1941, a short time after the outbreak of the German-Soviet war and the German occupation of this region. In the ensuing debate, which enjoyed substantial public interest, at issue was not only the question of the relation between German and local perpetrators in the pogrom, but also the key question: what importance can be ascribed to the previous 21 months of Soviet occupation in this region in connection with the violence against the Jews? A central aspect was whether the hatred for the Jewish population, which erupted during the first days and weeks of German occupation in the pogrom in Jedwabne, and in anti-Jewish violence in numerous other localities, was motivated by the perception of a supposedly broad level of collaboration by the Jewish population with the Soviets, or whether such an interpretation contained the elements of an anti-Semitic stereotype.

Vol. 5 of the »Leipziger Beiträge« deals in depth with the northeastern Polish areas that were primarily in focus during recent controversies. It also looks at the largely Ukrainian and White Russian areas in eastern Poland likewise occupied by the Soviets in 1939. The volume also contains work on Lithuania, which is not only closely bound up with the territories of eastern Poland but in 1940/41 also shared their fate. 

The essays span three thematic focal areas. The first deals with Polish and Ukrainian historiography on the period 1939–1941, analyzing the tense relation here between historiography and the respective collective memories.  The next two sections of the volume examine the actual time frame of 1939-1941. The second and most extensive section contains case studies on the relation between Jews and non-Jews in the period of Soviet occupation.

The essays here foreground the question concerning the relation between perception and reality in regard to the thesis of a purported widespread Jewish collaboration with the Soviet occupiers. Articles in the third section analyze the pogroms in the early weeks following the German invasion and occupation. They make clear that there was a close nexus between this wave of violence and the murder operations by the German forces against the Jewish population which also escalated during this same time frame.

The volume came into being as a product of the cooperation between the Simon Dubnow Institute at the University of Leipzig and the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation in Salzburg,  centering on topics relating to Polish-Jewish relations. Publication was preceded by a joint conference in Leipzig which looked at contrary conceptions on the years 1939–1941, attempting to shed light on the extent of agreement now reached among professional historians on the controversial questions, and where differences of opinion still exist. In the course of the conference and work on the present volume, the assumption was confirmed that the objective differences between the historians are less than those in the public debate. The hope is that this step forward in historiographical knowledge will also be echoed within the broader public and its thinking on these questions, and the volume was conceived as a contribution to furthering that end.

With contributions by Elazar Barkan, Elizabeth Cole und Kai Struve (Einleitung), sowie Alexander Brakel, Marco Carynnyjk, Christoph Dieckmann, Grzegorz Hryciuk, Wilfried Jilge, Joanna B. Michlic, Christoph Mick, Dieter Pohl, Evgenii Rozenblat, Marek Wierzbicki, Rafał Wnuk und Andrzej Zbikowski

390 pp.

Leipzig: Universitätsverlag, 2007

ISBN: 978-3-86583-240-5
Price: 54,00 € (D)