Polish Historian's Book on Killing of Jews Exposes Raw Nerve

(AP) Aron Heller - Barbara Engelking, a prominent Polish historian, presented evidence Wednesday about Polish villagers' widespread killing of Jews fleeing Nazis during World War II, in launching the English-language version of her 2011 book, Such a Beautiful Sunny Day, at Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. The title is taken from the last words of a Jew pleading with peasants to spare his life before he was beaten and shot to death. Engelking, the founder and director of the Polish Center of Holocaust Research in Warsaw, said her decade-long research relied on diaries, documents and court files. "There was severe punishment from Germans for helping Jews. They (the saviors) acted not only against German law, but against their neighbors, against the atmosphere, against the common sense of anti-Semitism," she said. Israeli Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer said the significance of Engelking's findings was the enormity of the cruelty toward Jews that she details. "It is something that we assumed but she proves," he said. Havi Dreifuss, director of Yad Vashem's center for research on the Holocaust in Poland, said some 160,000-250,000 Jews escaped and sought help from fellow Poles. Only 10-20% survived, with the rest rejected, informed upon or killed by the rural Poles themselves. Jews found themselves in "a reality where very few acts of kindness were lost among the countless acts of cruelty, abuse and meanness," she said.

2017-03-17 00:00:00

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