A new book on the Holocaust - "The Towns of Death: The Pogroms of Jews by Their Neighbors" #poland #holocaust

Frank Szmulowicz

I would like announce an upcoming (mid-May) publication of the book "The Towns of Death: The Pogroms of Jews by Their Neighbors" by a young Polish philosopher/historian/ethicist, Dr. Mirosław Tryczyk, which is a translation of his book Miasta śmierci in Polish. The translation is by yours truly.  The book will come out in hardcover as well as an e-book. 

You can find the book on several book-seller websites, for example, 
and many others. 
You may remember Dr. Jan T. Gross's book "Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland", which describes the events in one town of the region. 

I would like to encourage the jewishgen membership to read this book. I found it so compelling in the Polish original that I offered to translate it in memory of my father's family, which perished in Chelmno. Dr. Tryczyk continues with his work in  memorializing lost burial sites of pogrom victims in Eastern Europe against the great resistance of the local population and the central Polish government. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the pogroms described in the book. 

Short overview
The Towns of Death deals with the pogroms of Jews in Eastern Poland in 1941–1942 perpetrated by their Polish neighbors. The book relies on witness reports from survivors, bystanders, and the murderers themselves as found in court testimonies to describe the eerily similar, horrific events that occurred in some dozen towns throughout the region. It Importantly, the author demonstrates the pivotal role of the Catholic clergy and individual priests, the intellectual classes, and political circles in sowing the seeds that allowed anti-Semitism to grow and express itself in the pogroms in which tens of thousands of Polish Jews were slaughtered individually and en masse by their Polish neighbors.

One book review for your consideration

Mirosław Tryczyk has created a great oeuvre that has waited in vain several decades for a historian talented and eager to undertake the task. Its greatness owes to the importance of restoring knowledge of the past to the national consciousness, the lack of which weighs heavily on the present and, worse yet, its prolonged absence bodes ill for the future. As the author himself aptly describes it, “one must fight not only with the passage of time which shrouds, erases, and destroys everything but also with man who wants to forget the sad events. One must also struggle with our civilization’s preoccupation with the present and its avoidance of the problems of the past and the future.” Tryczyk has issued an appeal, calling on us to postpone no longer the still patriotic and moral duty to fill the glaring gaps in the collective memory and to examine “now, immediately, if possible. Much time has been irrevocably lost since the end of World War II, which is hard to justify today. One may only try to understand.” Here, he answers this appeal without delay, through action.

The author has succeeded in recreating the (hopefully unrepeatable) atmosphere, an atmosphere that was unleashed, unbridled, allied with the desire for easy gains and a hate emboldened by impunity in its full monstrous form that is unimaginable to our contemporaries because, luckily for us, not personally experienced. The author has succeeded in achieving the intended effect: indeed, quantity turns here into quality, the stifling odor of human bestiality thickens with every page, and the horror of untamed evil grows stronger with each successive voice from the dark. And the awareness of the ruthlessness of the logic of evil grows: a village after village, a town after town emerge one like the other from the darkness through a numbingly monotonous sequence of events. Only the names in the cast in the ominous drama change from scene to scene; from time to time, the actors of the drama resort to different words to express their emotions, but the emotions revealed through their reports and those evoked in the readers are the same; and the script of the tragedy does not budge one iota.


— Zygmunt Bauman, University of Leeds

Signed, Frank Szmulowicz, Ph. D.

Ian Charles

I'd also recommend anyone following this subject "Our People - Discovering Lithuania's Hidden Holocaust",  describing a journey of discovery in 1915 through Lithuania by a respected non-Jewish Lithuanian investigative journalist Rūte Vanagaitē who discovered some of her family were involved in the murder of Jews in WW2, teamed up with a Nazi Hunter Efraim Zuroff.  Initially suspicious of each other, they ended up producing a quite remarkable book. Rūte it seems was made unwelcome in her own country after the publication and now lives in Jerusalem. It was one of the highlights of the recent Jewish Book Week. Extremely harrowing but totally compelling. It was published in 2016 but I think only translated to English last year

Ian Charles
London, UK