Role of Home Army in helping Jews larger than expected: Holocaust researcher

The Home Army (AK) groups played a larger role in helping Jews than how it was perceived in the English-speaking part of the world, Professor Joshua Zimmerman of the Yeshiva University, NYC, US, said during an online seminar entitled “The Polish underground and the Jews” organised by the Pilecki Institute’s Berlin office on Wednesday.

Relying on numerous archival documents, WWII testimonies and post-WWII memoirs, Prof. Zimmerman researched the Polish Underground State’s (PPP) stance on Nazi Germany’s policy of extermination and the PPP’s reaction to the Holocaust.

Prof Zimmerman said he realised throughout his research that “most of American Jews perceived Poland during WWII as a hostile place, due to the Germans, of course, but also due to the comport of Polish citizens. [Meanwhile], when I visited Poland for the first time in 1987, I met Poles who were very interested in the discussion on this topic and shocked by the fact that their country was perceived as hostile to Jews.”

He went on to say that Poles were convinced “that Poland, fighting on the side of Allies, contributed to the defeat of Germany. They were genuinely shocked by the possibility of Poles being perceived as antisemites during WWII or by the idea that Polish insurgents were hostile to Jews. After all, Poles put their own lives at risk to save Jews.”

“And it indeed was so that thousands of Poles were helping Jews,” he stressed.

The historian noted that “both groups solidified in their glaringly different opinions.” This is why he decided to understand the situation better and begun research “basing on evidence alone, no emotions, bias and stereotypes.” Prof Zimmerman researched archives, interviewed members of the Polish resistance and the Holocaust survivors.

Professor Joshua Zimmerman of the Yeshiva University is the author of the book entitled “the Polish Underground State and the Jews during WWII” published first in 2015 by Cambridge University Press.