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Did Poles plunder Jewish mass graves after the Holocaust?
Leaked copies of a new book have sparked controversy by accusing Poles of actively profiting from the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jewish people.
The book begins with a photograph at Treblinka, one of the Nazi concentration camps, in which Polish peasants are standing before a mass grave that they have been digging up in the hopes of finding gold and other treasures missed by the Nazis.
"The thesis challenges a widespread view among Poles that their nation, which was occupied by Germany throughout World War II, by and large behaved honorably during that time," states AP.
"Six million Polish citizens — half of them Jews — were killed during the war and memories remain strong of Polish suffering and sacrifice. Heroic Polish deeds — like the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 against Nazi rule — are a foundation of the national identity, while the state in recent years has regularly bestowed honors on Christian Poles who risked their lives to hide Jews from the Nazis."
The book's publisher has received hundreds of emails a day for the past month from people who claim the book defames Poland and spreads lies.
"These claims are being made by people who haven't read the book and have no idea of its content," the publishing house ZNAK's editor-in-chief, Jerzy Illg, told Haaretz. "We don't know who is behind the campaign, but one thing is certain, this anonymous organization will not influence our decision to print and distribute the book."
The publishing house has argued that the book seeks to inform the public of "cruel and often difficult facts."
Jan Gross, a professor at Princeton University, ignited controversy 10 years ago with his book, "Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland." That book drew attention to the 1941 massacre of about 1,600 Jewish villagers by their Polish neighbors.
The publisher plans to release the book March 10 in Poland and in English by October.
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