WARSAW (AFP-EJP)---The public prosecutor in the city of Krakow has launched a preliminary investigation into the book " Fear " by American historian Jan Gross, in which he accuses the Poles of anti-Semitism and of having pushed after WWII to emigration the Jews who survived the Holocaust.
The prosecutor will examine whether the author is guilty of "public defamation against the Polish nation" which constitutes an offence according to the Polish penal code, Boguslawa Marcinkowska, of the prosecutor’s office, said.
The public prosecutor started the investigation after several informations appeared in the press and after individuals announced their desire to lodge complaints against Gross’s book, whose Polish edition was launched on Friday.
"I regret that my book makes the object of an inestigation. I think that the Polish taxpayers money could be spent in a more reasonable manner," Jan Gross told Polish private television channel TVN.
The Polish penal code foresees up to three years of prison for "whoever attributes to the Polish Nation the participation, the organization or the responsibility of Communist or Nazi crimes."
This paragraph was added to the code in October 2006 by the former conservative and nationalist government of the twin brothers Kaczynski who cultivate a heroic vision of Poland..
Born in Warsaw in 1947, Jan Tomasz Gross emigrated to the United States after Poland’s ruling communist party launched an anti-Semitic campaign in 1968.
A professor at Princeton University in the United States, he already shook Poland in 2001 with his book "Neighbours". In it he revealed that in 1941, during the Nazi occupation, several hundred Jews -- an estimated 340 to 1,600 -- were massacred or burned alive by their Polish neighbours in the small Polish town of Jedwabne.
"Neighbours" lead then Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski to apologise to Jews worldwide for the crime.
It also provoked an unprecedented and broad debate in Poland about the complex relationship before and after World War II between Jewish citizens of Poland and the overwhelmingly Catholic majority.
Published in English in 2006, "Fear" breaks no new historical ground. It focuses on the July 4, 1946 Kielce Pogrom in which 40 survivors of the Holocaust were massacred by the local Polish population after false rumours spread that Jews had killed a Polish boy.
The brutal attack took place just over a year after the end of Nazi occupation of Poland.
In the immediate post-war period, between 600 and 3,000 of the 300,000 Jews who had survived the Holocaust were killed in pogroms or murdered one-by-one, according to Poland’s Institute for National Remembrance (IPN), charged with investigating Nazi and communist-era crimes.
Poland’s image undermined
While Jan Gross takes care to point out that thousands of Poles risked their lives to save Jewish neighbours from the Nazis, the mounting toll of anti-Semitic historic detail in "Fear" undermines Poland’s self-image as the heroic and the principle martyr of the war.
He points to Polish "society’s violently expressed desire to render the country ’Judenrein’" (Jewless).
For Gross, Poland’s communist regime took over where the Nazis left off in the annihilation of three million of the 3.5 million Jews who lived in Poland before the war.
"Poland’s communist rulers fulfilled the dream of Polish nationalists by bringing into existence an ethnically pure state," Gross writes.