Some Were Neighbors

Hello readers,

My name is Hannah Bergstedt. I am a junior at Luther College, with a history major, and both art history and museum studies minors. 

The Holocaust is one of the most difficult areas of study in history, because it can't be compressed into box. We ask who is responsible, and before this class I held the intentionalist view. The intentionalist view blames Hitler for murdering Jews, homosexuals, Roma people, and others. My view has been challenged by our readings.

In class today we talked about "Neighbors" by Jan T. Gross. Historian Gross contends the intentionalists by sharing about the Jedwabne Pogrom in Poland. Pogrom means mass killings of an ethnic group, especially referring to Jewish murders during the Holocaust. The Jedwabne Pogrom took place in July of 1941. The Polish citizens of Jedwabne murdered 1,600 Jewish neighbors, with no help from Germany. This threw a large wrench in the Intentionalist idea that Hitler caused all the deaths. It touches even deeper  though, because “ordinary men” killed their neighbors. Truthfully, I am  still coming to terms with these facts, and will drag this around with me during the trip.

Before this book I got to witness "Daniel's Story" exhibit at the  USHMM. This exhibit teaches children what the Holocaust was like as a young boy. I was taken aback by the way his friends treated him after the Nazi party came into power.  Non-Jewish, German children would not even play with Daniel, because he was a Jew. Even at a young age, they still weren't his friend anymore because of the culture. In class discussion we talked about what if more children kept being Daniel’s friends? What if a few citizens of Jedwabne tried to stop the murders and stand up for their Jewish neighbors?

This class has taught me the importance of tolerance. Every human is our own individual despite differences and deserves respect. That is what I’m going  to try and do at least.

Hannah Bergstedt

Hannah Bergstedt
Jan T. Gross and his book Neighbors