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Jan Tomasz Gross

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Jan Tomasz Gross

Jan Tomasz Gross (born in 1947) is a Polish-American historian and sociologist. He is the Norman B. Tomlinson '16 and '48 Professor of War and Society and Professor of History at Princeton University.


Jan T. Gross was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1947 to Hanna Szumańska, a Polish mother, who was a member of the Polish resistance (Armia Krajowa)[1] and Zygmunt Gross, a Polish-Jewish father who was a PPS member. His mother, risking her own life, helped his father to survive the German Nazi occupation of Poland. They married after the war. Jan Tomasz Gross studied physics at the Warsaw University.

He was among the young dissidents called Komandosi, and consequently among the university students involved in the protest movement known as the "March Events," the Polish student and intellectual protests of 1968. Gross was expelled from the university, arrested and jailed for five months. As a consequence, and because the Polish government permitted the emigration of "people of Jewish origin" at that time, he emigrated with his parents to the United States in 1969.[2] In 1975 he earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University, and has taught at Yale, NYU, and Paris. He acquired U.S. citizenship and currently teaches history at Princeton University.

Gross was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland in 1996,[3] an award granted to foreigners for their exceptional role in cooperation between Poland and other nations. He was also a Senior Fulbright Research, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial, and Rockefeller Humanities Fellow.


Gross came to public attention on the occasion of his several publications. Then he was in the center of a controversy due to the publication of his 2001 book on the Jedwabne massacre, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland, which examined a massacre of the Polish Jews in Jedwabne village in German-occupied Poland. In his book Gross writes that the massacre was perpetrated by Poles and not by the German occupiers, as previously assumed. The claims were the subject of vigorous debate in Poland. Norman Finkelstein accused Gross of exploiting the Holocaust.[6] Norman Davies describes "Neighbors" as "deeply unfair to Poles".[7] A subsequent investigation conducted by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance did not support Gross' thesis on issues such as the number of people murdered,[8] and the extent of Nazi German involvement in the massacre.

Gross' Fear - Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz, which deals with antisemitism and violence against Jews in post-war Poland was published in the United States in 2006 and had received praise in the United States; its Polish version, published in 2008, got mixed media reception restarting a nationwide debate about antisemitism in Poland during World War II and after.[9] The book has been welcomed by some Polish historians and criticized by others who do not deny the facts Jan Gross presented in his book, but dispute his interpretation.[10][11] Marek Edelman, one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising said in an interview with the Gazeta Wyborcza daily, "Postwar violence against Jews in Poland was mostly not about anti-Semitism, murdering Jews was pure banditry."[12]

Gross' Neighbors and Fear were subjected to scholarly criticism by historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, whose interpretations directly challenged Gross.[13]

Gross' latest book, Złote żniwa (pl) (Golden Harvest), co-written with his wife Irena Grudzińska-Gross and published in March 2011, about Poles enriching themselves at the expense of Jews murdered in the Holocaust,[14] has also attracted criticism that it only shows one side of a complex issue.[15] The Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, commented: "Gross writes in a way to provoke, not to educate, and Poles don't react well to it. Because of the style, too many people reject what he has to say."[14]

The head of Znak, the book's publisher, stated: "It does not purport to provide a comprehensive overview of Polish rural communities' actions... The authors focus on the most horrid events, on robberies and killings. Those who say the book is anti-Polish make no sense."[15]

Gross's academic critics have argued that Golden Harvest is based on a one-sided interpretation of its sources, the vast majority of them secondary ones. Further, they have taken issue with what they consider a grossly unfair portrayal of marginal wartime social pathologies as an all-national Polish norm. They also see his interpretation of Polish history as "neo-Stalinist" due to its resemblance to postwar Stalinist propaganda alleging mass Polish collaboration and collusion with Nazi Germany, a claim used to justify the Soviet occupation of Poland.[16]


  • Irena Grudzińska-Gross, Jan Tomasz Gross: War through children’s eyes : the Soviet occupation of Poland and the deportations, 1939-1941,
  • Polish version of the book online
  • "Lato 1941 w Jedwabnem. Przyczynek do badan nad udzialem spolecznosci lokalnych w eksterminacji narodu zydowskiego w latach II wojny swiatowej," in Non-provincial Europe, Krzysztof Jasiewicz ed., Warszawa - London: Rytm, ISP PAN, 1999, pp. 1097–1103

See also


Further reading

  • John Connelly, Poles and Jews in the Second World War: the Revisions of Jan T. Gross, Contemporary European History. Cambridge: Nov 2002. Vol. 11, Issue 4 [2]
  • Nowak Jerzy Robert 100 kłamstw J.T. Grossa
  • Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, Wojciech Jerzy Muszynski, and Pawel Styrna, eds., Golden Harvest or Hearts of Gold? Studies on the Fate of Wartime Poles and Jews (Washington, DC: Leopolis Press, 2012), ISBN 0-9824888-1-5.

External links

  • Profile at History Department, Princeton University

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