In his review of Jan Gross' Fear (January), Andrzej Fister-Stoga demonstrates his failure to engage the subject when discussing the role of communism in 1940s Poland. There is no attempt to unpack the complex issue of the stereotype of the Jewish communist or the reality of collaboration. On this issue, the author is deliberately obfuscatory. The treatment of communism and the role of the Soviet Union is one of the most troubling aspects of this book. Although the author presents a relatively detailed account of the occupation of Poland, there is no mention whatsoever of the mass deportation and murder of Polish Catholics by the Soviets from 1939 to 1941, which is merely described as "Sovietization." Indeed, the only mention of deportations by the Soviets are of Polish Jews, leaving the impression that only they were so victimized, when in fact Polish Catholics made up the overwhelming majority of the Soviet terror's victims.
More serious is Gross' astonishing endorsement of communism as a legitimate political alternative: "The motivation of youthful converts to Communism in this period was selfless and altruistic ... [communism offered] the promise of a bright, happy future for generations to come." This is written about a system whose "selfless and altruistic" followers murdered millions and whose Polish adherents sought the dissolution of their own country. Moreover, the author describes post-war Stalinist terror and repression as making Poles "tired and irritated," as if mass arrests and the killing of thirty thousand people were some thing that could be treated with aspirin and a nap.
Any reviewer who read the book with care might also have noted some logical inconsistencies. For example, Jews who joined the Communist party are portrayed as non-Jewish, and thus their actions are not representative of Polish Jewry but of communists, whereas those communist functionaries who were Polish Gentiles are treated as representative of all non-Jewish Poles but not representative of communists. Anti-Semitic acts by Polish Catholics are treated as representative of "the Polish-Catholic imagination," but anti-Semitic acts by communists are not seen as representative of the leftist imagination.
Fear is a monument to postmodern scholarship, in which the author merely makes a set of sweeping and simplistic generalizations with little supporting evidence. What evidence he does present is often questionable and/or contradictory. For example, the author...