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A monumental work of non-fiction exploring a wartime atrocity and its sixty-year denial

Winner of the European Book Prize

'A masterpiece'
Jan T. Gross
'Terrifying and necessary' Julian Barnes
'Scrupulously objective and profoundly personal' Kate Atkinson

On 10 July 1941 a horrifying crime was committed in the small Polish town of Jedwadbne. Early in the afternoon, the town’s Jewish population – hundreds of men, women and children – were ordered out of their homes, and marched into the town square. By the end of the day most would be dead. It was a massacre on a shocking scale, and one that was widely condemned. But only a few people were brought to justice for their part in the atrocity. The truth of what actually happened on that day was to be suppressed for more than sixty years.

Part history, part memoir, part investigation, The Crime and the Silence is an award-winning journalist's account of the events of that day: both the story of a massacre told through oral histories of survivors and witnesses, and a portrait of a Polish town coming to terms with its dark past.

Reviews

An astonishing act of investigation and documentation. In the face of lies, denial and massive indifference, Bikont has established exactly what happened ... The result is a terrifying and necessary book, unsparing in its detail, but deeply heartening as an act of historical reclamation.

Julian Barnes

Scrupulously objective and profoundly personal.

Kate Atkinson, Books of the Year, Wall Street Journal

A powerful and important study of the poisonous effects of racism and hatred within a community.

Guardian

A masterpiece of historical journalism … A must read for anyone interested in the Holocaust and its aftermath.

Jan T. Gross

A hauntingly plausible contemporary history, tactfully delivering truths that we might all do well to contemplate.

Timothy Snyder, author of Black Earth

Humane, measured and painstakingly researched ... It is a hard-won testament to the importance of historical truth.

Daily Mail 'Must Reads'

Beautifully written, devastating and very important.

Louis Begley, The New York Times

One of the most important and most dramatic books of the last decade.

Ryszard Kapuscinski

Magisterial... meticulous in its procedures, absolute in its commitment to truth. Bikont's book is a book about forgetting, about the pollution of memory, about the conflict between the easy, convenient truth and the awkward, harder truth. It is a work that grows from its journalistic manner and origins into the most powerful writing of necessary history.

The New York Review of Books

The Crime and the Silence deserves to be read by everyone interested in the fraught politics of apology and the ongoing struggle of nations and communities to ascertain and accept difficult historical truths.

Lawrence Douglas, Irish Times

Writing with uncompromising honesty and fine-tuned sensitivity, Bikont gives us intimate insight into the sources of neighbourly violence – and the rare courage needed to resist it. A wrenching, humane, necessary book.

Eva Hoffman

The Crime and the Silence is a masterpiece of historical journalism. Combining remarkable archival study and courageous reportage, Anna Bikont reconstructs the context of the Jedwabne murder story, a wave of killings of Jews by their neighbours in the Polish countryside. A fascinating and deeply researched book, it is a must read for anyone interested in the Holocaust and its aftermath.

Jan T. Gross

As she investigates the case of mass murder that transformed her home country’s entire national myth, Anna Bikont combines the persistence and energy of a journalist with the humanity and care of a poet. The result is a hauntingly plausible contemporary history, tactfully delivering truths that we might all do well to contemplate.

Timothy Snyder

The Crime and the Silence is an astonishing act of investigation and documentation. In the face of lies, denial, and massive indifference, Anna Bikont has established exactly what happened – before, during, and after in a small but atrocious massacre in Eastern Poland in July 1941. The subsequent decades – long silence is as shocking as the initial crime. The result is a terrifying and necessary book, unsparing in its detail, but deeply heartening as an act of historical reclamation.

Julian Barnes

This is one of the saddest books I have ever read – written by the most sanguine person I know.

Wislawa Szymborska, Nobel Prize Laureate

The Crime and the Silence tells the story of a massacre; it also lays bare the work of an investigative journalist. Ms Bikont meticulously checked facts and corroborated testimonies. She struggled with the ethics of persuading witnesses to appear under their own names, when she could offer them no protection. She struggled, too, with the ethics of disguising her own identity so as to persuade people to talk to her. Time after time, residents of the town slammed doors in her face… Ms Bikont did not give up; the quality of her journalism is something very special. An extraordinary interviewer, she developed relationships with the most unlikely cast of characters… This book leaves the reader haunted.

Marci Shore, Wall Street Journal

The Crime and the Silence tells the story of a massacre; it also lays bare the work of an investigative journalist. Ms Bikont meticulously checked facts and corroborated testimonies. She struggled with the ethics of persuading witnesses to appear under their own names, when she could offer them no protection. She struggled, too, with the ethics of disguising her own identity so as to persuade people to talk to her. Time after time, residents of the town slammed doors in her face… Ms Bikont did not give up; the quality of her journalism is something very special. An extraordinary interviewer, she developed relationships with the most unlikely cast of characters… This book leaves the reader haunted.

Marci Shore, Wall Street Journal

A full account of the Polish church’s involvement with the massacre, with German permission, of the Jewish population of a town in Poland. A perfect example of the small instance standing for a whole, very Christian country’s denial of its enthusiasm for killing neighbours.

Frederic Raphael, Sunday Times

Bikont bravely penetrated the curtain of oblivion cloaking the crime, and denounced it

BBC History Magazine

A dreamy narrative which slips effortlessly from past to present and allows the voices of those who were there to shine

Book Bag

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780099592525

    October 31, 2016

    Windmill Books

    560 pages

    RRP $24.99

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  • Trade Paperback

    9781785150128

    November 2, 2015

    William Heinemann

    560 pages

    RRP $27.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Hardback

    9781785150111

    September 15, 2015

    William Heinemann

    560 pages

    RRP $45.00

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781473518988

    September 10, 2015

    Cornerstone Digital

    560 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
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