Publication of "The Towns of Death" by Mirosław Tryczyk #poland

Frank Szmulowicz

"The Towns of Death" by Mirosław Tryczyk is now available in hard cover and as an e-book, including from the publisher Rowman and Littlefied,
and from other book sellers (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.).

A description of the book:

The book The Towns of Death is a translation of the Polish book Miasta Śmierci by Dr. Mirosław Tryczyk. It deals with the extermination of the Jewish people of Eastern Poland by their Polish neighbors during the Second World War in the years 1941-1942. Through numerous eyewitness testimony and examination of historical records, the book demonstrates that the well-known case of the town of Jedwabne was not an isolated example but one in a series of organized pogroms of the Jewish population in the region undertaken by Poles on their own. The book constitutes a large body of work that is meticulously researched and sourced and includes photographic material as well. It discusses the historical and political background of the events as well as the author’s analysis and commentary. It tries to set the historical record straight and contribute to the still incomplete accounting for Poland’s historical past. It is hoped that the book will reignite this debate in Poland and in the region and will serve as a warning sign to all people of good will at this time of rising anti-Semitism and general intolerance.

The book adds to the scholarship in the area by demonstrating the organized nature of the extermination, which followed a pattern that was repeated from one town to another and from one village to another. It demonstrates that the pogroms were undertaken by the Poles themselves on their own initiative. The book offers a new and distinctive research perspective in demonstrating the crucial role of the Catholic Church and individual Catholic priests in creating and strengthening anti-Semitic ideologies in pre-war Poland and the impact of the pre-war Polish right-wing political parties (the National Democracy, the National Radical Camp, and the National Unity Camp) in shaping a negative image of the Jewish community, which was the prelude to the wave of pogroms in 1941. In particular, the book contests the notion that the pogroms were carried out exclusively by ill-educated, peasant masses, and points to the leading role of the intellectual elites. Crucially, the present book shows that the perpetrators do not speak of being influenced by the Germans into committing the atrocities.

The present book expands considerably on the book Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne Poland by Jan Thomas Gross, which deals in a different format with one town of the region covered by The Towns of Death. In particular, The Towns of Death demonstrates that Jedwabne was not an aberration but just one example of a pattern that repeated itself in dozens of towns of the region, in which the Jews were first publicly humiliated, beaten, and tortured, and then either murdered with primitive weapons or herded into barns and burned there; robberies of Jewish properties followed .  The present book has a distinctive format of providing direct eyewitness testimony that can be found in investigative and court materials of the post-war era. Survivors, by-standers, and perpetrators each give their own accounts of the events.  These are deeply personal accounts that give voice to the direct participants in the events, thereby personalizing those who had been forced to remain silent and upon whom a  specific position, narratives and emotions had been imposed. The author precedes the witness testimony with a narrative describing the history of each town, its Polish-Jewish relation, and the pogroms themselves. The failure of the Polish justice system to deal with the perpetrators of the heinous crimes is also documented. This history of denial and suppression of historical record continues to this day. 

Frank Szmulowicz (translator)