This past June I was watching NBC’s coverage of the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Tom Brokaw poignantly commented that for most of the 80 and 90 year old veterans present, it was likely their last decade anniversary appearance. More importantly he also said that after having been at many of these decade appearances, he felt perhaps that this year, the 70th anniversary, caused us to want to know more about the war and the twentieth century than ever before. Understanding the Holocaust and atrocities in Poland and eastern Europe has been an evolutionary process for me as with many people. My first experience was as a 20 year old undergraduate at the John Felice Rome Center on a study tour to Poland and the Soviet Union in 1974. I realized for the first time, that the City of Warsaw that I was enjoying had been completely destroyed in the war. Fast forward to 2002 I had the good fortune of connecting with Marion Dobrowolski, a retired Polish partisan. Dobrowolski gave me a copy of the book Forgotten Holocaust by Richard Lukas, first published in 1986. There, for the first time, I began to learn things about the war and its atrocities that I had not fully understood. As discussed in this paper in more detail, I learned that although the “Holocaust” as we know it generally refers to the extermination of six million Jews in Europe during the war, there were similar atrocities imposed upon all of Poland. The watershed publication of “Bloodlands” by Yale professor Timothy Snyder in 2010 provided an even closer look at twentieth century atrocities demonstrating that what was imposed upon the Poles was unfortunately only a small portion of a larger pattern of atrocities throughout Europe in the twentieth century.
Kurowski, JJ. The shadow of the World War II experience: twentieth century European atrocities before, during and after the Holocaust. Presented at the Jan Karski Memory and Responsibility Conference, September 19, 2014.
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© 2014 John J Kurowski