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Hunt for the JewsHunt for the Jews

Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland

Jan Grabowski

Winner, 2014 Yad Vahsem International Book Prize

Narrated by Charles Henderson Norman

Available from Audible

Book published by Indiana University Press

Judenjagd, hunt for the Jews, was the German term for the organized searches for Jews who, having survived ghetto liquidations and deportations to death camps in Poland in 1942, attempted to hide "on the Aryan side." Jan Grabowski's penetrating microhistory tells the story of the Judenjagd in Dabrowa Tarnowska, a rural county in southeastern Poland, where the majority of the Jews in hiding perished as a consequence of betrayal by their Polish neighbors. Drawing on materials from Polish, Jewish, and German sources created during and after the war, Grabowski documents the involvement of the local Polish population in the process of detecting and killing the Jews who sought their aid. Through detailed reconstruction of events, this close-up account of the fates of individual Jews casts a bright light on a little-known aspect of the Holocaust in Poland.

Jan Grabowski is Professor of History at the University of Ottawa and a founding member of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research.


“A grim, compelling work of research...The author followed the fates of 337 Jews who tried to survive in the county, of which 51 managed to hide until liberation, while 286 died between 1942 and 1945. Grabowski breaks down each group with meticulous research.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Eschewing facile generalizations about latent or active anti-Semitism, Grabowski considers the motivations of both those who aided Jews and those who attacked them...Grabowski's highly detailed reconstruction challenges the conventional wisdom of dividing the population into victims, perpetrators, and bystanders...Recommended for all serious Holocaust collections.”

Library Journal

“This important, often disturbing, exploration of how genocides happen is on par with works from Hannah Arendt and Gitta Sereny and is enriched by the author's clear compassion for those who were compromised or lost.”

ForeWord Reviews

“Now, in path-breaking research, Jan Grabowski ... reveals what happened to those Jews who tried to hide in rural Poland after the Nazis violently emptied the ghettos.”


“Here is an absolutely essential addition to any Holocaust library or a read for anyone interested in Polish-Jewish relations.”

AJL Reviews

“One concludes from Grabowski's important study that without the often unforced, and sometimes enthusiastic, support of non-German volunteers and helpers, the Germans would not have succeeded as completely as they did during the Holocaust.... Recommended.”


“A path breaking book, opening new perspectives on how the wartime murder of Jews was carried out in Poland.... It is a lasting and extremely important contribution to Holocaust historiography.”

—Jan Tomasz Gross, author of Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland

“An important book, not only for the story that it tells but also for the penetrating analysis into human behavior.... Grabowski's enlightening analysis contributes much to our understanding of where escaped Jews tried to find aid and hide, and where, how, and by whom they were exposed, caught, and killed.”

—David Silberklang, Yad Vashem

Hunt for the Jews bears the seeds of paradigm-shifting findings. The conclusions of the book are explosive and the book is likely to leave a mark on scholarship as a landmark study.”

—Tomasz Frydel, University of Toronto

“In Poland, German occupation meant the obliteration of the central state, the mass murder of political elites, and the Holocaust of the Jews. This important book reveals how German power altered local societies in the countryside, mastering institutions and changing individual incentives so that some Polish policemen and some Polish peasants took part in the murder of Jews. Grabowski is alert to the difficulty of rescue and dedicates his book to the Polish rescuers. But his ultimate concern is the way people are brought over time to do great evil. This short book is perhaps the most important in the recent Polish debates about Polish responsibility for the Holocaust. But it is also an inquiry into human behavior in dark times from which all can learn.”

—Timothy Snyder, author of Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin

“This well-documented account of the fate of the Jews in Dabrowska Tarnowska, a rural county in southeastern Poland, during the Nazi occupation is a major contribution to our understanding of the last stage of the Holocaust in Poland, which took place after the liquidation of the ghettos in the large towns. In the smaller towns of Poland, the ghettos were more porous and many Jews were able to escape them. Jews who sought shelter among the local population often did not find it. They were often betrayed by the local population and, in some well-documented cases, murdered by Home Army units. How this process took place in this one district is examined in all its complex and often shocking detail in this path-breaking study. It is essential reading for all those interested in Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust in Poland.”

—Antony Polonsky, editor of Poli

“In 1942 and 1943, thousands of Jews escaped transports to death camps and sought shelter in the Polish countryside. Few survivied until 1945. Using previously unexplored archival ducments, Canadian-Polish historian Jan Grabowski argues that the explanation lies not in German control of rural Poland. In fact, the greatest enemies of Poles attempting to save Jews were other Poles: watchful neighbors who denounced rescuers to the police. Grabowski's masterfully told and soberly argued study has helped drive a revolution in Holocaust studies that has gone largely unnoticed in the west, showing that the death machine needed complicity of local populations, based in bigotries inherited from earlier times, as well as fears and opportunities generated by the Nazi occupation. This book stands out for fresh and vital insights into problems that legions of historians have studied for decades. It constitutes a miletone in holocaust studies.”

—John Connelly, author of From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews

“This book is a significant contribution to the scholarly and public debate on Polish-Jewish relations during the Holocaust.... All in all, Hunt for the Jews should become required reading for scholars and students of Polish-Jewish relations.”

Slavic Review

“Grabowski has amassed an admirable amount of original research and presented to the reader a study that explains much about the mechanisms of destruction and how the Germans used local Poles in the Nazi extermination campaign against the Jews. Hunt for the Jews is one of a growing number of studies coming out of Poland that are puncturing the myth of Polish innocence during the Holocaust.”

Journal of Modern History

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