After Germany was defeated in World War II and withdrew its forces from Europe, a new if lesser anguish began, even as the occupation ended. A number of those who had collaborated with the Nazis were sought out and punished. Accusations ranged from relatively clear cut to shadowy, from those who’d actively assisted German repression to those merely rumored to have done so, with underlying motivations sometimes as self-serving as a professional rivalry, a property claim, a neighbor’s grudge. And nowhere was this painful and often ambiguous process more actively pursued than in Poland — no doubt because no other country had suffered such a bloody occupation, with millions of Jews and non-Jews exterminated.
Much has been written about this; two years ago Alan Riding made a searching study of how collaborators and suspected collaborators were treated in France. Now the Polish journalist Agata Tuszynska has produced a book of extraordinary depth and power that sets one tormented individual on a lifelong struggle across the moral cloudland.