RFE/RL: Poland: Seeking Truth About 1941 Pogrom

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Subject: RFE/RL: Poland: Seeking Truth About 1941 Pogrom

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RFE/RL: Poland: Seeking Truth About 1941 Pogrom

RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report
Vol. 3, No. 10, 20 March 2001
A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by
the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team

POGROM. Last week, the National Remembrance Institute (IPN) adopted a
declaration on the recently much-publicized pogrom of Jews in
Jedwabne, northeastern Poland, in 1941 (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus,
and Ukraine Report," 6 March 2001). The institute, which launched an
investigation into the pogrom last year, said in the declaration:

"The task of the IPN is to determine all the circumstances of the
crime in Jedwabne and to indicate its perpetrators. The IPN is led by
the conviction that the murder of Jewish neighbors was not carried out
on behalf of our nation. The IPN will do everything to determine the

The institute also pledged to publish a white book after completing
the investigation. "We desire to stress that the tragic drama of the
events in Jedwabne cannot be a basis for wrongful generalizations in
the evaluation of the stances of Poles during the tragic years of
World War II. Declaring the willingness to commemorate the tragic
drama at Jedwabne, we express the hope that the memory of this will
serve the reconciliation of Poles and Jews, nations that have suffered
so painfully through the genocide of the 20th century," the IPN

PAP reported the same day that the evidence collected thus far by the
IPN testifies to the fact that both Polish residents of Jedwabne and
Germans took part in murdering all of the Jewish residents of
Jedwabne. The IPN noted that some of the witnesses it questioned were
between 10 and 14 years old at the time of the Jedwabne pogrom and had
not been questioned earlier.

Jan Tomasz Gross, a Jewish emigre from Poland, alleged in his book
"Neighbors" - published last year in Polish - that Jedwabne residents
burned alive some 1,600 Jews in a barn on 10 July 1941, shortly after
the town was occupied by Nazi troops, without any encouragement from
Germans. "The 1,600 Jedwabne Jews were murdered not by the Nazis or
Soviets, but the society," Gross wrote in his book, which is due to
appear in English next month. According to Gross, the participation of
Germans in the crime was limited mostly to taking pictures and

Apart from an indignant uproar, Gross' book has also given rise to a
very important discussion among Polish intellectuals and scholars -
spearheaded by Poland's most respected daily "Rzeczpospolita" - about
the nature of Polish-Jewish relations in the 20th century, Polish
anti-Semitism and Jewish anti-Polonism, and responsibility for the
Holocaust. There have also been important statements from state
officials, most notably from President Aleksander Kwasniewski, on the
need to officially commemorate the Jedwabne tragedy. Kwasniewski has
pledged to make an official apology during a ceremony on the 60th
anniversary of the massacre. According to Kwasniewski, the apology
should be made regardless of whether the IPN concludes its
investigation into the Jedwabne pogrom by that time or not.

In a move last week that signaled Poland's willingness to face the
truth of Jedwabne, authorities removed a stone monument with an
inscription that blamed only Germans for the Jedwabne massacre. A new
monument will be erected and a cemetery will be arranged on the site
of the tragedy.


Copyright (c) 2001. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.
"RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report" is prepared by
Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources
including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's
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