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The Polish Underground and the Jews, 1939–1945

$32.99 (G)

  • Date Published: September 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108432740

$ 32.99 (G)

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About the Authors
  • The Polish Underground and the Jews, 1939–1945 examines one of the central problems in the history of Polish-Jewish relations: the attitude and the behavior of the Polish Underground – the resistance organization loyal to the Polish government -in-exile – toward the Jews during World War II. Using a variety of archival documents, testimonies, and memoirs, Zimmerman offers a careful, dispassionate narrative, arguing that the reaction of the Polish Underground to the catastrophe that befell European Jewry was immensely varied, ranging from aggressive aid to acts of murder. By analyzing the military, civilian, and political wings of the Polish Underground and offering portraits of the organization's main leaders, this book is the first full-length scholarly monograph in any language to provide a thorough examination of the Polish Underground's attitude and behavior towards the Jews during the entire period of World War II.

    • Situates the subject of Polish-Jewish relations within the broader history of the Polish Underground
    • The first full-length scholarly monograph in any language to provide a thorough examination of the Polish Underground's attitude and behavior towards the Jews during the entire period of World War II
    • Uses a variety of archival documents, testimonies, and memoirs
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "This is a superb history of one of the oddest episodes of World War II. Zimmerman has emerged as one of the best experts on the history of the controversial Polish-Jewish relations. His matter-of-fact style further dramatizes the Polish-Jewish affairs during World War II when the Polish underground army heroically fought against the Nazis, sometimes killing and sometimes helping the Jews who also participated in the anti-Nazi struggle. A shocking drama and a wonderfully researched, documented and written book - a real page-turner."
    Ivan T. Berend, Distinguished Professor of History, University of California, Los Angeles

    "Joshua D. Zimmerman has chosen to deal with an extremely controversial topic. He has carried out his task with great sensitivity and intelligence. The attitude of the Home Army to Jews was complicated, varying from time to time and also from place to place. On the basis of original sources, Zimmerman demonstrates how difficult it is to make generalizations about aspects of Polish-Jewish relations. This is an exciting and important book."
    Peter Kenez, Emeritus Professor of History, University of California, Santa Cruz

    "This well-researched and clearly written monograph deals with a very important but inadequately investigated topic - the reaction of the Armia Krajowa (Home Army) … to the mass murder of the Jews carried out by Nazi Germany in Poland. Although the topic has aroused considerable controversy … it has never been subject to a full scholarly investigation, making use of the large archival resources now available in Poland and abroad. This has now been accomplished by Professor Zimmerman. His approach is balanced and dispassionate and he consistently allows the documents to speak for themselves and to show all sides of a complex story. His book will, in my view, become the definitive account of the subject, which is crucial for an understanding the larger problem of the attitude of Polish society to the mass murder of Polish Jews carried out on Polish soil."
    Antony Polonsky, Emeritus Professor of Holocaust Studies, Brandeis University, and Chief Historian, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw

    "Joshua Zimmerman's [book] is not only the most recent addition to the growing field of historical study of Polish-Jewish relations in World War II, but is also certainly the most complete in current literature. Brilliantly combining the divergent perspective of the Polish underground leadership and of the Jewish resistance, and accounting for their internal diversity, Zimmerman presents the stark choices each actor had to face, and why what was best to one was often seen as detrimental to the other. Skilfully combining analyses of pre-war and wartime Polish politics, military choices, anti-Semitism, the impact of the German genocide, and the perspective of liberation/occupation at the hands of the Soviets, as well as personal world-views of the individual commanders, the monograph explains why not enough help was forthcoming from the Polish side, and why Jews were perceived, and sometimes perceived themselves, as no longer being part of it."
    Konstanty Gebert, Gazeta Wyborcza, Warsaw

    "Zimmerman's book is a masterpiece. Zimmerman joins the ranks of other great Jewish historians who have published outstanding works on Polish-Jewish wartime relations free of prejudice."
    Filip Mazurczak, Visegrad Insight

    "[Zimmerman's] neutrality, painstaking dedication and fluency in Polish [has] helped him sift through the various cobwebs of perception on both sides and gain access to files others would never have found."
    Haaretz (

    "Zimmerman's book offers a balanced perspective, personalizing the topic by presenting profiles of several righteous individuals as well as unrepentant anti-Semites."
    Steve Lipman, The Jewish Week

    "What makes [Zimmerman's] book new is not only his extensive use of archival and secondary materials, but his attempt to provide a comprehensive synthesis over the whole period, from the formation of the ZWZ (Home Army) to the crushing of the Warsaw Uprising. In this he succeeds admirably."
    Yad Vashem Studies

    "The author has dealt with a subject that seduces us into moral judgements despite our best intentions. Zimmerman does not lose sight of the crucial crises and dilemmas that informed each historic moment and thus carries out two fundamental tasks of the historian: restoring the buried sense of historical contingency and recognizing the human proportion of experiences still painfully fresh."
    Cosmopolitan Review

    "Joshua Zimmerman's book … is an important work on a topic that is among the central themes of Holocaust history … There is a need for a historical study that presents a 'comprehensive treatment of different patterns of behavior towards the Jews at different times during the war and in various regions of occupied Poland' … Zimmerman's book is an important attempt to present such a study in English, and he succeeds in his aim to maintain 'an absolute commitment to strive for impartiality'."
    Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs

    "… an exceptionally rich account of the attitudes, politics, policies and actions of the Polish Underground regarding Polish Jews during the Second World War … with extensive quotes from newspapers, internal communications and leaders within the army … The book is a must-read for anyone interested in the interaction of Polish Jews and Polish institutions and individuals during the war."
    Kelly McFall, New Books Network

    'The war was over, but the legacy of that period continues to haunt Polish-Jewish relations. It is therefore vital to have a book like Zimmerman’s that so judiciously analyzes relations between the Polish Underground and the Jews and brings a full sense of their complexity to the debate. This is a book richly deserving of praise.' Eva Plach, Slavic Review

    'Zimmerman has set a standard of comprehensiveness, excellence, meticulousness, and balance. While the content of this work is exceedingly disquieting, the work of the historian is deeply satisfying.' Michael Berenbaum, Holocaust and Genocide Studies

    'Joshua Zimmerman has bravely taken on this controversial topic and has produced a remarkably fair, objective, and scholarly monograph. For anyone interested in a careful and nuanced view of this difficult period in Polish and Jewish history, this book is essential … Joshua Zimmerman’s The Polish Underground and the Jews is a major contribution to this history. It is required reading for anyone wishing to understand some of the darkest days in Polish history which, however, also witnessed astonishing acts of decency and heroism. Essential.' Theodore R. Weeks, The Polish Review

    'Some books are timely, others are useful and still others are good. Joshua D. Zimmerman’s The Polish Underground and the Jews 1939–1945 is all three … Zimmerman has set a standard of comprehensiveness, excellence, meticulousness and balance. While the content of this work is exceedingly disquieting, the work of the historian is deeply satisfying.' Michael Berenbaum, Jewish Journal

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108432740
    • length: 472 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 27 mm
    • weight: 0.691kg
    • contains: 15 b/w illus. 3 maps 8 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. The Polish Underground and the Jews under the German-Soviet Partition, 1939–41:
    1. Polish politics and the 'Jewish question', 1936–9
    2. Formation of the Polish resistance movement, September 1939–June 1941
    3. The Polish Underground and the Jews, October 1939–June 1941
    4. From ghettoization to mass murder, June–December 1941: the Polish Underground and the prelude to the Nazi Final Solution
    5. The Polish Underground's initial response to the Nazi Final Solution, December 1941–July 1942
    Part II. The Polish Underground and the Jews under Nazi Rule, 1941–5:
    6. The Great Deportations from the Warsaw ghetto and their aftermath, July–December 1942
    7. Transformation of the Polish Underground policies towards the Jews, November 1942–April 1943
    8. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Polish Underground, April 19–May 15, 1943
    9. In the aftermath of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, May–November 1943
    10. When the Home Army turned its guns on the Jews
    11. When the Polish Underground helped the Jews: institutional aid
    12. When the Polish Underground helped the Jews: individual aid
    13. The Polish Underground and the Jews, Fall 1943–July 1944
    14. The Polish Underground and the Jews from the Warsaw Uprising to the dissolution of the Home Army, August 1944–January 1945

  • Author

    Joshua D. Zimmerman, Yeshiva University, New York
    Joshua D. Zimmerman is an Associate Professor of History and the Eli and Diana Zborowski Professorial Chair in Holocaust Studies and East European Jewish History at Yeshiva University in New York. He is the author of Poles, Jews and the Politics of Nationality: The Bund and the Polish Socialist Party in Late Tsarist Russia (2003) and the editor of two contributed volumes: Contested Memories: Poles and Jews during the Holocaust and its Aftermath (2003) and Jews in Italy under Fascist and Nazi Rule, 1922–1945 (Cambridge, 2005).

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