In this undated photo provided by author Jan Gross, Polish villagers are purportedly shown during a search for gold and other treasure amid the human remains of Jews killed at the Treblinka death camp. The photograph serves as the starting point for a new book, Golden Harvest, which is sparking controversy in Poland. A Polish publishing house defended its decision Tuesday Feb 8 2011 to publish a book that has sparked controversy with its argument that Poles actively profited from Jewish suffering during the Holocaust. The book by Jan Gross and Irena Grudzinska Gross, argues that rural Poles sometimes sought financial gain from Jewish misfortune in a variety of ways, from plundering Jewish mass graves to ferreting out Jews in hiding for reward. (AP Photo)
WARSAW, Poland — A Polish publishing house is defending its decision to publish a book that says some Poles actively profited from Jewish suffering during the Holocaust — a claim that challenges a national belief about Polish actions during World War II.
"Golden Harvest," by Princeton academics Jan Gross and Irena Grudzinska Gross, argues that rural Poles sometimes sought financial gain from Jewish misfortune in a variety of ways, from plundering Jewish mass graves to ferreting out Jews in hiding for rewards.
Gross said the starting point of the book is a photograph showing Polish peasants digging up human remains at the Treblinka death camp just after the war in a search for gold or other treasures that Nazi executioners might have overlooked. Scattered in front of the group are skulls and bones.
The thesis challenges a widespread view among Poles that their nation, which was occupied by Germany throughout World War II, by and large behaved honourably during that time. Six million Polish citizens — half of them Jews — were killed during the war and memories remain strong of Polish suffering and sacrifice. Heroic Polish deeds — like the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 against Nazi rule — are a foundation of the national identity, while the state in recent years has regularly bestowed honours on Christian Poles who risked their lives to hide Jews from the Nazis. ... CONTINUED