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The August Trials


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About the Author

Andrew Kornbluth is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a former fellow of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.


The narratives Kornbluth has pieced together from interrogation and trial transcripts are extraordinary, telling stories that prompt anger, outrage, and reflection. This impressive work is unprecedented in providing an understanding of Poland's legal reckoning with World War II. The results bear comparison with and lessons for ongoing attempts to master violent pasts around the world. -- Samuel Moyn, author of The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History
A brilliant and courageous book. The story Kornbluth exposes is deeply tragic, for it shows that in World War II Poland heroic resistance to the Nazis was accompanied by the treacherous collaboration of those who betrayed Jewish fellow citizens. After the war, despite thousands of trials of collaborators, Polish Communists asserted the wartime innocence of all Poles, cobbling together a usable past that exonerated their compatriots. History is a heavy burden in this tale, but facing it boldly is the most important first step in lifting that burden. -- Ronald Grigor Suny, author of Stalin: Passage to Revolution
A pathbreaking, vital, and engaging work. Kornbluth's engrossing account of the possibilities and impossibilities of justice in postwar Poland allows us to see into the dynamics of Holocaust violence and memory in revealing new ways. -- James Loeffler, author of Rooted Cosmopolitans: Jews and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century
How did Poland's Communists gain traction in the most anti-Communist society in Europe? In this landmark study, Kornbluth gives an unsettling answer: it was by fostering the corrosive myth that Poland was the one society in occupied Europe to avoid complicity with the Nazis. He revises not only our view of Communist Poland, but of the history of the Holocaust in Poland. -- John Connelly, author of From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933-1965
Kornbluth's superbly readable book takes as its focus a largely neglected aspect of the legal response to the Holocaust: the postwar Polish trials of Poles who committed crimes against their Jewish compatriots. This sensitive, groundbreaking study offers an important and sophisticated meditation on the limits of justice and the lure of myth-making when it comes to a nation's reckoning with a history of collective crimes. -- Lawrence Douglas, author of The Right Wrong Man: John Demjanjuk and the Last Great Nazi War Crimes Trial
Pioneering...Kornbluth examines the decree, its consequences and iterations, and its functioning in the complex realities of postwar Poland-both then and, by implication, today. Then, as now, the government largely sought to underscore crimes against Poles and to minimize crimes against Jews...Kornbluth shows brilliantly how, when those actually found guilty and sentenced for crimes against Jews challenged the verdicts, the description of facts would be totally changed between the original trial and the appeals trial, exonerating the perpetrators and strengthening the legend of Polish innocence. -- Konstanty Gebert * Moment *
Kornbluth's forensic examination of August trials documents, only recently made available for scrutiny, confirms that the Jedwabne pogrom was not an isolated event...As a result of actions taken by Germans and Poles during this period, 90 per cent of Poland's 3.5 million Jewish population was exterminated. Kornbluth's detailing of cases makes difficult reading. -- Mark Glanville * Jewish Chronicle *
Excellent...Complicating the dominant Polish myth of heroic resistance, The August Trials provides a rich, sobering account of how Poles perpetrated and then evaded responsibility for many heinous Holocaust crimes. -- Catherine Epstein * Canadian Journal of History *

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