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Log in using your social network account. Please enter a valid password. Keep me logged in. Want an ad-free experience? Subscribe to Independent Premium. View offers. There are undeniably some overpriced and underwhelming options on the market. Enter your email address Continue Continue Please enter an email address Email address is invalid Fill out this field Email address is invalid Email already exists. Update newsletter preferences. Subscribe to Independent Premium to bookmark this article Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? I don't know that I would "recommend" this book to anyone, due to its extreme nature.

I know that it has been criticised for exaggerating or exploiting the terrors of the Holocaust, as well as painting the Polish peasants as sadistic, ignorant filth. But personally, I have no problem believing that such horrendous things happened, and even worse, that the innocent hearts of children were hardened into existential lumps. I think it is of utmost importance that this controversial story be read by those who dare - to show us how close we all are to walking alone, and remind us to clutch tightly to each other and our humanity, above all else.

Now, who's getting sentimental here??


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View all 58 comments. Sep 03, Violet wells rated it liked it. I read in the introduction that Kosinski was attacked on several occasions by Polish nationals after publishing this novel. This because it's a merciless mockery and indictment of Polish Catholics and in particular the peasantry.


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In the 19th century literature tended to romanticise rural communities. A stance that rarely quite rings true nowadays. This novel perhaps exaggerates to the other extreme.

From Man to Man

However, one of the most memorable images in The Shoah documentary is the Polish farmer showing h I read in the introduction that Kosinski was attacked on several occasions by Polish nationals after publishing this novel. However, one of the most memorable images in The Shoah documentary is the Polish farmer showing how he warned the Jews heading for Treblinka of their imminent fate. He makes a throat slitting gesture and then shows all his teeth in a wide grin. In that moment you realise he wasn't warning those Jews at all; he was mocking them. It's a sad fact that the populations of Germany's enemies often implemented Nazi policy much more comprehensively and enthusiastically than Nazi allies.

Italy for example has a much better record than Poland or France for that matter for its behaviour towards Jews. By all accounts there was little racism in Italy.


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There are several cases of the Carabinieri destroying a population census in a district rather than handing it over to the Nazis. Italians hid Jews; there are virtually no cases of them betraying them for cash.

I read recently that the Gestapo received tens of thousands of letters from French civilians denouncing Jews. Poland has perhaps the worst record of all. If you were a Jew in Poland, you had an enemy on the other side of virtually every wall. I don't know any details of Kosinski's wartime experiences. Clearly they left him embittered and hating the country of his birth. However, he was a Polish Jew and survived so must have had help from Christian Poles. A subtext of this novel is the importance of formal education. The Polish peasantry are characterised as uncouth ignoramuses, medieval in their religious beliefs and philosophy.

Witchcraft is still the prevailing belief system. But this is a novel, not a memoir, and should be evaluated as such.