He was born in Warsaw,August the first 1947 Poland, to a Polish mother, who was a member of the Polish resistance (Armia Krajowa) and a Polish-Jewish father, former PPS member. His mother risking her own life, helped his father to survive the Nazi occupation in Poland. They married after the war. Jan Tomasz Gross studied physics at Warsaw University.
Gross was among the university students involved in the protest movement known as the "March Events," the Polish student and intellectual protests of 1968. He was expelled from the university, arrested and jailed for five months. As a consequence, and because the Polish government permitted the emigration of "people of Jewish origin" at that time, he emigrated with his parents to the United States. In 1975 he earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University, and has taught at Yale, NYU, and Paris. He acquired U.S. citizenship and currently teaches history at Princeton University.
Gross was also awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland in 1996, an award granted to foreigners for their exceptional role in cooperation between Poland and other nations. He was also a Senior Fulbright Research, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial, and Rockefeller Humanities Fellow.
He is best known for his 2001 book on the Jedwabne massacre, "Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland", which examined a massacre of the Polish Jews in Jedwabne village in Nazi-occupied Poland. In his book Gross described how the massacre was perpetrated by Poles and not by the German occupiers, as previously assumed. The claims were the subject of vigorous debate in Poland. A subsequent investigation conducted by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance moderately supported Gross' conclusions about the massacre. However, it differed on major issues such as the number of victims, the extent of German involvement and whether or not German officers were present, and the extent of any Jewish collaboration with USSR which Gross denies.
His most recent book "Fear - Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz", which deals with antisemitism and violence against Jews in post-war Poland was published in the United States in 2006. The book had received praise in the United States; its Polish version, published in 2008, got mixed media reception in Poland and began a debate about antisemitism in post war Poland. It has been welcomed by some historians and media, e.g. "Gazeta Wyborcza" but at the same time was sharply criticized in other papers, and by historians accusing Gross of coming up with conclusions before completing full research, ignoring sources which did not confirm his own views, neglecting the wider context of the event, misinterpreting data (for example counting a traffic accident death as an antisemitic attack) to reach his conclusion, using inflammatory language and labeling all of postwar Polish society as antisemitic.
Very few in Poland argue however with the facts Gross presented in his book, but many dispute his interpretation. Marek Edelman, one of the last living leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising said in an interview with the Gazeta Wyborcza daily "Postwar violence against Jews was mostly not about anti-Semitism, murdering Jews was pure banditry.
Poland: from Kielce to Klezmer.(Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz: an Essay in Historical Interpretation)(Book review)
Mar 01, 2007; Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz: An Essay In Historical Interpretation. Bv Jan T. Gross,. Random House,. 303 Pages....