Life Unworthy of Life: Racial Phobia and Mass Murder in Hitler's Germany

By James M. Glass | Go to book overview

E P I L 0 G U E
THE SITE OF KILLING

What is so striking about visiting Poland fifty years after the Holocaust is the ubiquity of the death camps and the omnipresence of death. Everywhere, death seems to have been an industry like steel or coal.

To what extent did Poles contribute to or acquiesce in this process? Undoubtedly, there was a great deal of complicitous behavior; in most instances, Poles probably expressed indifference. "It's between the Jews and the Germans, leave us out of it." A young Jewish resident of Kraków spoke to me of a Catholic nun, who, during the occupation, issued a proclamation that while both Germans and Jews were historic enemies of Poland, it was Poles' Christian duty to save Jews. But he also noted that parents advised their children not to "get mixed up with the Jews." More than 3 million Polish Jews were killed, in addition to millions from other countries in camps and ghettos located on Polish territory. Poland therefore is integral to the Holocaust, and survivors still express much bitterness and anger toward the country. Survivors who remained in Poland, however, temper their condemnation and point to instances where Poles intervened to help Jews, often at the risk of their own lives. Many Poles point out that the Germans constructed camps in Poland because of economic reasons and because Poland contained the largest Jewish population in Europe. A number of Jewish survivors and Poles attest that the Poles on their own would never have engaged in anything like industrial death.

The history of Polish attacks on Jews can be characterized by spo

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