Poland and Holocaust History

Cressida Trew, winner of this year's Julia Wood Essay Prize, shows that Polish historians under political duress and with the need to forge a positive national identity have denied rather than confronted the Holocaust. 

The question of how to interpret the Holocaust has forced historians to confront fundamental questions about the nature of human identity and indeed about the validity of history itself. Complicity in genocide sits very uneasily with national pride. Nowhere is this more so than in Poland, where so many of the death camps were located. Before the Second World War, Polish Jewry numbered 3.3 million, whereas postwar numbers totalled only 240,000 (a figure which had fallen to 9,000 by 1970). A total of around 5.5 million people were murdered in the Nazi camps: of these 4 million were of Jewish origin, 3 million being Polish Jews.

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