June 21, 2024
Book Reviews Polish/Jewish Relations Recommended Books

How False, Anti-Polish Memories Can Be Implanted in the Holocaust Survivor’s Mind


Pieces of Light: How the New Science of Memory Illuminates the Stories We Tell About Our Pasts,

by Charles Fernyhough. 2013

Reviewed by Jan Peczkis

Priceless Insights on False Memories, and How Anti-Polish Stories Can Be Implanted in Holocaust Survivors

False Memories–Yes! Author Charles Fernyhouse is a psychologist that specializes in memory. I focus on this specific issue and examine it from the point of view of Holocaust-related Jewish accusations against Poles.


Memories do not form in a vacuum. The author writes, “Just as a parent can instill false memories in a child, so family members can shape each other’s remembering. It’s not only siblings who can relate such compelling memories that we start to have them for ourselves…In time, we might become so convinced by other people’s descriptions of their memories that we start to claim them for our own…These recollections can be very vivid…” (p. 111. Emphasis added).

Fernyhouse adds that, “A strand of this research has concentrated on implanting ‘rich false memories,’ showing that the misinformation effect can apply to entire fictional episodes, not just details of events.” (pp. 112-113). In addition, “The term social contagion is used to describe the process whereby an account of an event incorporates erroneous information provided by other people.” (p. 113. Emphasis in original).

Let’s apply this to the Holocaust. Visualize the situation facing the Holocaust survivor. He hears from his fellow Jews some lurid rumors involving Poles. He reflects on these tales and, in time, these horror stories become ingrafted into the Holocaust survivor’s memories even though they never happened.


The author describes the striking find that imagining an event happen makes it more likely that one will misremember the event as actually happening. Fernyhouse comments, “I ‘remembered’ going to the swimming pool at Cremorne Point because I had so strenuously imagined it. When I lost my ability to adjudicate between memory and fantasy, I plumped for memory. In a sense, I suppose, I was remembering: I had a memory of something I had imagined. The imagining was there, and the feeling of remembering was there. Together, they were enough to persuade me that the event actually happened. This particular kind of false memory has now been investigated quite thoroughly by experimental psychologists. Several studies have shown that the process of imagining an event makes people more likely subsequently to have a memory for it. This conversion of an imagining into a memory is known as imagination inflation.” (pp. 136-137. Emphasis added, and the latter in original).

Let us closely look at this. Very many Jews are Polonophobic, and malevolent-Pole stories commonly circulate in the Jewish community. To what extent did these stories cause Holocaust survivor Jews to imagine being persecuted by Poles? How did these Holocaust survivors come to “remember” these imagined events as if they had actually happened to them? How could they not?


One needed area of research is that on the cognitive dissonance facing Holocaust survivors. They had an ingrained belief in the culture and civilization of the German (see my many entries under “Jewish Germanophilia”). As this sincerely held belief was shattered by the unspeakable German barbarities, how did the Jews deal with this glaring cognitive dissonance? Did they do so by adopting false memories revolving around their prejudice that “the Poles were just as bad as the Germans”?

For more on false memories as specifically related to the German-made Holocaust, see:





False Memories: Holocaust Survivor Testimony Unreliable: The Psychology Behind It. Fernyhough

Related posts

Having Fun in The Ghetto by Jerzy Robert Nowak


Jewish Communist Groups in the Second Polish Republic


One million Polish rescuers of hunted Jews?


Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy: The Testimony of Survivors – edited and compiled by Mark Paul


Salomon Morel: An Unpunished, Israeli-Sheltered Communist Criminal


Holocaust Survivor Testimony Unreliable: Do Not Automatically Believe Accusations Against Poles


Leave a Comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.