|Part of World War II and the Holocaust|
|Location||Jedwabne, German-occupied Poland|
|Date||10 July 1941|
|Deaths||At least 340 Polish Jews|
|Perpetrators||At least 40 ethnic Poles|
|Motive||Antisemitism, robbery, collective retribution, collaboration|
|Trials||1949–1950 trials, Polish People's Republic|
The Jedwabne pogrom was a massacre of Polish Jews in the town of Jedwabne, German-occupied Poland, on 10 July 1941, during World War II and the early stages of the Holocaust. At least 340 men, women and children were murdered, some 300 of whom were locked in a barn which was then set on fire. About 40 non-Jewish Poles were implicated as being perpetrators of the massacre.[a] German military police were present in the town at the time.[b]
The massacre occurred among many others in the Podlasie region with the arrival of German troops shortly after their 21 June 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union, which had until then occupied Jedwabne in an 20-month reign of terror since the Hitler-Stalin Pact divided Poland in 1939. The killers at Jedwabne used the negative stereotype of "Jewish Communism" against their victims. Prior to the Soviet invasion of eastern Poland, Jedwabne had been located in an area which favored the National Party, an antisemitic bloc opposed to the prewar Polish government, which outlawed its radical violent wing in 1934.
Knowledge of the massacre only became widespread in 1999-2003 due to the work of Polish filmmakers, journalists, and academics, in particular the 2001 English version of Jan T. Gross' book Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. Public interest in the incident prompted an official murder investigation in 2000-2003 by Poland's Institute of National Remembrance, which confirmed that the main perpetrators were ethnic Poles. The country was shocked by the findings, which challenged common narratives regarding the Holocaust in Poland, wherein perpetrators were identified as Germans, not Poles. In a 2001 memorial ceremony at Jedwabne, President Aleksander Kwaśniewski apologized on behalf of the country, an apology which was repeated by President Bronisław Komorowski in 2011. However, with the rise to power of PiS in 2015 the subject has again become contentious, taking a central place in the controversial "historical policy" of the party.
The Jewish community in Jedwabne was established in the 17th or 18th century. In 1937, 60 percent of the population were ethnic Poles and 40 percent Jewish. In 1939 the total population was around 2,720 to 2,800. (At the time about 10 percent of the population of Poland—35 million—was Jewish; it was the largest Jewish population in the world.)
The region supported the right-wing National Party of the National Democracy movement, which sought to counter what it said was Jewish economic competition against Catholics, and opposed the Polish socialist government of Józef Piłsudski and his successors. Prewar Polish-Jewish relations in the town were relatively good before 1939. At their most tense, when a Jewish woman was killed in Jedwabne and a Polish peasant in another town was killed a few days later, a rumor began that the Jedwabne Jews had taken revenge. The Jews anticipated a pogrom, but the local priest and rabbi stepped in, addressing the matter together.
According to Anna Bikont, residents of Jedwabne knew of the 1933 Radziłów pogrom that took place in the nearby Radziłów, which was organized by National Democracy's far-right faction, the Camp of Great Poland (OWP). The organization referred to the violence as a "revolution" against the Polish state, which it saw as a protector of Jews. One Jew was killed by the pogromists and four pogromists were killed by the Polish police; the OWP was then banned by Poland for anti-state and racist activities.  Archival documents show Poland's government at this time was hostile to the Polish nationalist movement, because of the latter's attacks on Jews as well as its opposition to the Polish state; the government felt responsible for Jews and tried to protect them (arresting violent nationalists) and it perceived Jews as trying to show loyalty to the Polish state.
World War II
World War II in Europe began on 1 September 1939 with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany. Later that month, the Soviet Red Army invaded the eastern regions of Poland under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The Germans transferred the area around Jedwabne to the Soviets in accordance with the German–Soviet Boundary Treaty of 28 September 1939. Anna M. Cienciala writes that most of the Jews understandably welcomed the Soviets as the "lesser evil than the Germans", though the Orthodox Jewish majority rejected their ideology, and businesspersons and the assimilated Jewish intelligentsia did not trust their intentions; and soon enough the Soviets had moved against the Jewish intelligentsia, arrested leaders of the Jewish Bund, and nationalized private businesses. According to NKVD (Soviet secret police) documents about Jedwabne and the surrounding area, "few Jews were involved as agents and informers, fewer in fact than Poles", she writes. Some younger Jews did accept roles within the lower ranks of Soviet administration and militia, for "they believed in the Communist slogans of equality and social justice, while also welcoming the chance to become upwardly mobile." Nevertheless, what stuck in Poles' minds was "the image of Jews welcoming the Soviets", and the collaboration of some communist Jews with the NKVD.
Anna Bikont writes that, under Soviet occupation, the Poles and Jews of Jedwabne had differing experiences of the local militia, which provided the authorities with names of anti-communist and antisemitic National Party members: "Polish accounts repeated that [the militia was] made up of Jews. The Jews themselves talk about Jews who made themselves of service to the Soviets in this first period, but they emphasize that [those Jews] were the exception rather than the rule." Regardless of the extent of the collaboration, it "strengthened the widely held stereotype of Judaeo-communism which had been promoted by right-wing parties before the war", write Jerzy Lukowski and Hubert Zawadzki. Krzysztof Persak writes that the antisemitic stereotype of Jewish Communism used by the National Party before the war conditioned the view of Jews as Soviet collaborators; the Soviet departure then triggered a revenge: "Even though the Germans were in control of the situation in Jedwabne, there is no doubt that it was not hard to find dozens of willing participants of genocidal murder among the local Poles. Apart from the motive of robbery, psychological and political factors played a role as well. The massacres in Jedwabne and Radziłów and the bloody anti-Jewish incidents in some thirty other localities in the region took place at a special time and place... After two years of cruel occupation, the local Poles greeted the Wehrmacht as liberators. They also felt a strong revenge reflex toward Soviet collaborators, with Jews viewed as such en bloc. The attitude to the latter was conditioned by anti-Semitism, which was widespread in the area... As a result of a combination of all those factors, German inspiration and encouragement in Jedwabne met with favorable conditions."Persak 2011
Following Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, German forces again overran Jedwabne and other parts of Poland that had been occupied by the Soviets. Christopher Browning writes: "Criminal orders from above and violent impulses from below created a climate of unmitigated violence.
After the German occupation, Polish villagers participated in pogroms against Jews in 23 localities of the Łomża and Białystok areas of the Podlasie region, with varying degrees of German involvement. Generally smaller attacks took place at Bielsk Podlaski (the village of Pilki), Choroszcz, Czyżew, Goniądz, Grajewo, Jasionówka, Kleszczele, Knyszyn, Kolno, Kuźnica, Narewka, Piątnica, Radziłów, Rajgród, Sokoły, Stawiski, Suchowola, Szczuczyn, Trzcianne, Tykocin, Wasilków, Wąsosz, and Wizna. On 5 July 1941, during the Wąsosz pogrom, Polish residents knifed and beat to death about 150–250 Jews. Two days later, during the Radziłów pogrom, local Poles are reported to have murdered 800 Jews, 500 of whom were burned in a barn. The murders took place after the Gestapo had arrived in the towns. In the days before the Jedwabne massacre, the town's Jewish population increased as refugees arrived from nearby Radziłów and Wizna. In Wizna, the town's Polish "civil head" (wójt) had ordered the Jewish community's expulsion; 230–240 Jews fled to Jedwabne.
According to various accounts, Persak writes, the Germans had set up a Feldgendarmerie in Jedwabne, staffed by eight or eleven military police. The police reportedly set up a "collaborationist civilian town council" led by a former mayor, Marian Karolak. Karolak established a local police force, whose members included Eugeniusz Kalinowsk and Jerzy Laudanski. The town council is reported to have included Eugeniusz Sliwecki, Józef Sobutka, and Józef Wasilewski. Karol Bardon, a translator for the Germans, may also have been a member.
Persak writes that the area around Łomża and western Białystok was one of the few Polish majority areas that had just undergone the cruelty of Soviet occupation since 1939. They therefore saw Germans as liberators when they arrived in 1941; paired with historical antisemitism, the conditions were right for German incitement.[page needed]
10 July 1941
There is general agreement that German police were seen in Jedwabne on the morning of 10 July 1941, or the day before, and met with the town council. Szmuel Wasersztajn's witness statement in 1945 said that eight Gestapo men arrived on 10 July and met with the town authorities. Another witness said four or five Gestapo men arrived and "they began to talk in the town hall". "Gestapo man" was used to refer to any German in a black uniform, Persak writes. The witnesses said they believed the meeting had been held to discuss murdering the town's Jews.[c]
According to the IPN's report, on 10 July 1941 Polish men from nearby villages began arriving in Jedwabne "with the intention of participating in the premeditated murder of the Jewish inhabitants of the town". Gross writes that a leading role in the pogrom was carried out by four men, including Jerzy Laudański and Karol Bardoń, who had earlier collaborated with the Soviet NKVD and were now trying to recast themselves as zealous collaborators with the Germans. He also writes that no "sustained organized activity" could have taken place in the town without the Germans' consent.
The town's Jews were forced out of their homes and taken to the market square, where they were ordered to weed the area by pulling up grass from between the cobblestones. While doing this, they were beaten and made to dance or perform exercises by residents from Jedwabne and nearby. Eighteen-year-old Szmuel Wasersztajn, a Jewish resident, deposited a statement in Yiddish with the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Białystok (the goal of which was to collect statements from Holocaust survivors) on 5 April 1945:
The other brutality was when the murderers ordered every Jew to dig a hole and bury all previously murdered Jews, and then those were killed and in turn buried by others. It is impossible to represent all the brutalities of the hooligans, and it is difficult to find in our history of suffering something similar.
Beards of old Jews were burned, newborn babies were killed at their mothers' breasts, people were beaten murderously and forced to sing and dance. In the end they proceeded to the main action—the burning. The entire town was surrounded by guards so that nobody could escape; then Jews were ordered to line up in a column, four in a row, and the ninety-year-old rabbi and the shochet [Kosher butcher] were put in front, they were given a red banner, and all were ordered to sing and were chased into the barn. Hooligans bestially beat them up on the way. Near the gate a few hooligans were standing, playing various instruments in order to drown the screams of horrified victims. Some tried to defend themselves, but they were defenseless. Bloodied and wounded, they were pushed into the barn. Then the barn was doused with kerosene and lit, and the bandits went around to search Jewish homes, to look for the remaining sick and children.
Around 40–50 Jewish men were forced to demolish a statue of Lenin in a nearby square and carry part of the statue on a wooden stretcher to the market square, then to a nearby barn, while singing communist songs. The local rabbi, Awigdor Białostocki, and the kosher butcher, Mendel Nornberg, led the procession. According to an eyewitness, Szmuel Wasersztajn, the group was taken to the barn, where they were made to dig a pit and throw the statue in. They were then killed and buried in the same pit. Polish government investigators found this grave during a partial exhumation in 2001. It held the remains of about 40 men, a kosher butcher's knife, and the head of the concrete Lenin statue.
Most of Jedwabne's remaining Jews, around 300 men, women, children and infants, were then locked inside the barn, which was set on fire, probably using kerosene from former Soviet supplies. This group was buried in the barn near the first group. The 2001 exhumation found a mass grave within the barn's foundations and another close to the foundations.
Several witnesses reported seeing German photographers take pictures of the massacre. There was also speculation that the pogrom was filmed.
The IPN found that some Jews had been alerted by non-Jewish acquaintances the evening before that "a collective action was being prepared against the Jews". Between 100 and 125 Jews who escaped the pogrom lived in an open ghetto in Jedwabne before being transferred to the Łomża ghetto in November 1942. Several escaped to other towns. In November 1942, when the Germans began putting ghetto inmates on trains to the Auschwitz concentration camp for extermination, seven of them—Moshe Olszewicz, his wife, Lea, and his brother, Dov; Lea and Jacob Kubran; Józef Grądowski; and Szmuel Wasersztajn—escaped again to the nearby hamlet of Janczewko.
In Janczewko, Polish farmers Antonina Wyrzykowska and Aleksander Wyrzykowski hid the group on their farm from November 1942 to January 1945, despite hostility from neighbors and German searches of their property. After the Red Army liberated Janczewko in January 1945, the Wyrzykowskis were beaten up by a group of Polish nationalists for having helped Jews and had to leave the area. They eventually moved to Milanówek, near Warsaw. In January 1976 they were awarded Israel's Righteous among the Nations medal by Yad Vashem. Antonina Wyrzykowska was later awarded the Commander's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta by Poland's President Lech Kaczyński.
Criminal inquiries and monument
After the war, in 1949 and 1950, 22 suspects from the town and vicinity were put on trial in Poland, accused of collaborating with the Germans during the pogrom. None of the defendants had a higher education and three were illiterate.[page needed] Twelve were convicted of treason against Poland and one was condemned to death. Some of the men confessed after being tortured during interviews with the Security Office (UB). The confessions were retracted in court and the accused were released. Those who retracted included Józef Chrzanowski, Marian Żyluk, Czesław Laudański, Wincenty Gościcki, Roman and Jan Zawadzki, Aleksander and Franciszek Łojewski, Eugeniusz Śliwecki, and Stanisław Sielawa.[d]
German investigation, 1960–1965
SS-Hauptsturmführer Wolfgang Birkner was investigated by prosecutors in West Germany in 1960 on suspicion of involvement in the massacres of Jews in Jedwabne, Radziłów, and Wąsosz in 1941. The charges were based on research by Szymon Datner, head of the Białystok branch of the Central Committee of Polish Jews (CŻKH). The German prosecutors found no hard evidence implicating Birkner, but in the course of their investigation they discovered a new German witness, the former SS Kreiskommissar of Łomża, who named the paramilitary Einsatzgruppe B under SS-Obersturmführer Hermann Schaper as having been deployed in the area at the time of the pogroms. The methods used by Schaper's death squad in the Radziłów massacre were identical to those employed in Jedwabne only three days later. During the German investigation at Ludwigsburg in 1964, Schaper lied to interrogators, claiming that in 1941 he had been a truck driver. Legal proceedings against the accused were terminated on 2 September 1965.
In 1963 a monument to the victims was placed in Jedwabne by the Polish communist state's Society of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy. Its inscription blamed the Germans: "The place of destruction of the Jewish population. Here Gestapo and Nazi gendarmes burned alive 1600 people on 10 July 1941."
Sąsiedzi by Jan T. Gross (2000)
Jan T. Gross's book Sąsiedzi: Historia zagłady żydowskiego miasteczka ("Neighbors: The Story of the Annihilation of a Jewish Town") caused a "moral earthquake" when it was published in Poland in May 2000, according to Piotr Wróbel.[e] It appeared in English, German and Hebrew within the year. In English it was published in April 2001 by Princeton University Press as Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland.
Writing that "one day, in July 1941, half of the population of a small East European town murdered the other half—some 1,600 men, women and children", Gross concluded that the Jedwabne Jews had been rounded up and killed by a mob of their own Polish neighbors. This ran contrary to Poland's official account that they had been killed by Germans. Political scientist Michael Shafir writes that the pogrom had been "subjected to confinement in the Communist 'black hole of history'". While Gross recognized that no "sustained organizing activity" could have taken place without the Germans' consent, he concluded that the massacre had been carried out entirely by Poles from Jedwabne and the surrounding area, and that the Germans had not coerced them.
Gross's sources were Szmuel Wasersztajn's 1945 witness statement from the Jewish Historical Institute; witness statements and other trial records from the 1949–1950 trials; the Yedwabne: History and Memorial Book (1980), written by Jedwabne residents who had moved to the United States; and interviews from the 1990s conducted by Gross and a filmmaker. While several Polish historians praised Gross for having drawn attention to the pogrom, others criticized him for relying too heavily on witness accounts, which they argued were not reliable, and—where conflicting accounts existed—for choosing those that showed the Poles in the worst possible light. He was also criticized for having failed to examine the pogrom within the context of German actions during the early stages of the Holocaust. According to Dan Stone, "some historians sought to dispute the fundamentals of Gross's findings by massive attention to minute details, burying the wider picture under a pile of supposed inaccuracies".
Polish government investigation, 2000–2003
In July 2000, following the publication of Gross's book, the Polish parliament ordered a new investigation to be conducted by the Institute of National Remembrance –Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (Instytut Pamięci Narodowej –Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu, or IPN). American human-rights lawyer Matthew Omolesky wrote: "Just as there was, in the Gaullist conception, a 'France that was never at Vichy,' so too was there a 'Poland that was not at Jedwabne.'"
In May–June 2001 the IPN conducted an exhumation at the site of the barn. Charred bodies were found in two mass graves, and broken pieces of the bust of Lenin.[page needed] According to Dariusz Stola, "experts agree that there are no more than 400–450 bodies. This figure is compatible with the size of the barn that constituted the killing site (19 × 7 meters, or 62 × 23 feet)." The exhumation lasted just five days because of religious objections from Orthodox Jews; in Digging for the Disappeared (2015), Adam Rosenblatt writes that, because of this, what happened in Jedwabne "is likely to remain forever murky". According to William Haglund, a forensic expert for Physicians for Human Rights, who attended the exhumation as an international observer, the process should have lasted several months. In his view, the number of bodies could not be estimated in the short space of time.[f]
The Polish government had to compromise and agree that only the top layer and small fragments would be examined; large pieces of bone would not be moved. The exhumation reportedly ended, according to Haglund, "with some of the non-Jewish Polish investigators weeping in frustration as they watched one of the rabbis lowering the charred teeth and bone fragments ... back into the graves".
Over the course of two years, IPN investigators interviewed some 111 witnesses, mainly from Poland, but also from Israel and the United States. One-third of the IPN witnesses had been eyewitnesses of some part of the pogrom; most had been children at the time. The IPN also searched for documents in Polish archives in Warsaw, Białystok and Łomża, in German archives, and at Yad Vashem in Israel. During a visit to New York in January 2001, Leon Kieres, President of the IPN, said the IPN had found enough evidence to confirm that a group of Poles had been the perpetrators.[need quotation to verify] In June 2001, the IPN said ammunition shells recovered from the site were German, prompting speculation that German soldiers had ﬁred at Jews fleeing the barn, but the IPN later found that the shells were from a different historical period.[page needed]
On 9 July 2002 the IPN issued a press release on the findings of its two-year investigation, signed by the chief prosecutor, Radosław J. Ignatiew. The IPN found that at least 340 Jews had been killed in the pogrom, in two groups. The first group consisted of 40 to 50 men, who were murdered before the barn was set on fire. The second group consisted of about 300 people of "both sexes of various ages, including children and infants". The second group was "led into a wooden, thatched barn owned by Bronisław Śleszyński. After the building had been closed, it was doused, probably with kerosene from the former Soviet warehouse." The exact number of victims could not be determined. The previously estimated figure of 1,600 "seems highly unlikely, and was not confirmed in the course of the investigation".
The report conclued that the perpetrators of the crime sensu stricto ("in the strict sense") were about 40 male "Polish inhabitants of Jedwabne and its environs". Responsibility for the crime sensu largo ("in the broad sense") could be ascribed to the Germans because of the presence of German military policemen at the Jedwabne police station. Their presence, "though passive, was tantamount to consent to and tolerance of the crime against the Jewish inhabitants of the town".
Several witnesses had testified that uniformed Germans had arrived in the town that day and drove the group of Jews to the market place. IPN could neither conclusively prove nor disprove these accounts. "Witness testimonies vary considerably" on the question of whether the Germans took the Jews to the barn or were present there. The IPN found that the "Polish population" had played a "decisive role in the execution of the criminal plan". The IPN wrote: "On the basis of the evidence gathered in the investigation, it is not possible to determine the reasons for the passive behavior of the majority of the town's population in the face of the crime. In particular, it cannot be determined whether this passivity resulted from acceptance of the crime or from intimidation caused by the brutality of the perpetrators' acts."
Leon Kieres delivered the IPN report to the Polish parliament. A small opposition party, the League of Polish Families (LPR) called him a "servant of the Jews" and blamed him and President Aleksander Kwaśniewski for "stoning the Polish nation". LPR MP Antoni Macierewicz made an official complaint against the IPN's conclusion that ethnic Poles and not the Germans had committed the massacre.[page needed] A 203-page expanded version of the findings was issued by the IPN on 30 June 2003; pages 60–160 contained summaries of the testimonies of witnesses interviewed by the IPN. The report was supplemented by two volumes of studies and documents, Wokół Jedwabnego (Vol. 1: Studies, 525 pages, and Vol. 2: Documents, 1,034 pages. On 30 June 2003 Ignatiew announced that the investigation of "the mass murder of at least 340 Polish citizens of Jewish nationality in Jedwabne on July 10, 1941" had found no living suspects who had not already been brought to justice, and therefore the IPN investigation was closed.
Apology and new monument
In July 2001, on the 60th anniversary of the pogrom, Polish president Aleksander Kwaśniewski attended a ceremony at Jedwabne where he apologized for the massacre: "We can have no doubt that here in Jedwabne Polish citizens were killed at the hands of fellow citizens ... I apologise in my own name, and in the name of those Poles whose conscience is shattered by that crime." The ceremony was attended by Catholic and Jewish religious leaders and survivors of the pogrom. Most of the 2,000 locals of Jedwabne, including the town's priest, boycotted the ceremony in protest against the apology.
Shevah Weiss, Israeli Ambassador to Poland, also delivered a speech. "Living among us also are Holocaust survivors whose lives were saved as a result of the brave actions of their Polish neighbors," he said. He praised Poland's investigation. Former Polish president Lech Walesa said at the time: "The Jedwabne crime was a revenge for the cooperation of the Jewish community with the Soviet occupant. The Poles have already apologized many times to the Jews; we are waiting for the apology from the other side because many Jews were scoundrels."
The Jedwabne monument was replaced in July 2001 by a six-foot-tall stone with an inscription, in Hebrew, Polish, and Yiddish, that makes no mention of the perpetrators: "To the Memory of Jews from Jedwabne and the Surrounding Area, Men, Women, and Children, Co-inhabitants of this Land, Who Were Murdered and Burned Alive on This Spot on July 10, 1941." The memorial stone is surrounded by a series of stone blocks that mark the site of the barn. In August 2001 Jedwabne mayor Krzysztof Godlewski, a pioneer for the commemoration of the massacre, resigned in protest at the local council's refusal to fund a new road to the site. He received the Jan Karski Award in 2002, along with Rabbi Jacob Baker, author of Yedwabne: History and Memorial Book (1980).
Polish film-maker Agnieszka Arnold made two documentary films interviewing witnesses of the massacre. Gdzie mój starszy syn Kain ("Where is my elder son Cain", 1999), includes interviews with Szmul Wasersztajn and the daughter of the owner of the barn where the massacre took place. The second, Sąsiedzi ("Neighbors", 2001), deals with the subject in greater depth. Gross's book of the same name was written with Arnold's permission to use the title. Gross appears in Haim Hecht's documentary Two Barns (2014), along other prominent Holocaust historians (Yehuda Bauer, Jan Grabowski, and Havi Dreifuss), as well as Wislawa Szymborska and Shevah Weiss.
Wokół Jedwabnego (2002)
Wokół Jedwabnego ("On Jedwabne") is an official two-volume Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) publication, edited by Paweł Machcewicz and Krzysztof Persak. Volume 1, Studies (525 pages) contains historical and legal research by IPN historians. Volume 2, Documents (1,034 pages), contains original documents collected by the IPN investigation.
The Neighbors Respond (2003)
An extensive collection of articles from the Polish and international debate, in English translation, was published in 2003 as The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland by Joanna Michlic and Antony Polonsky of Brandeis University. The book includes articles from Polish and other historians, the IPN's findings, and essays from Polish newspapers such as Rzeczpospolita and Gazeta Wyborcza. The collection features archival documents and essays covering the entire 1939–1941 period. Contributors include Anna Bikont, David Engel, Israel Gutman, Adam Michnik, Bogdan Musial, Dariusz Stola, and Tomasz Strzembosz.
The Massacre in Jedwabne, 10 July 1941 (2005)
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's book The Massacre in Jedwabne, 10 July 1941: Before, During, and After challenges Gross's interpretation of events. It suggests that four or five truckloads of armed SS men from Łomża terrorized the local population before leading Jews and Poles to the crime scene.[page needed] Chodakiewicz argues that all the primary sources are wrong or worthless, including the testimony of Szmul Wasersztajn, the investigation of the 22 suspects for the 1949 trial, and the partial exhumation of the bodies. "And yet," Piotr Wróbel wrote in The Sarmatian Review, "Chodakiewicz is able to present his recreation of the crime. It was well preplanned, initiated by the Germans, and utterly lacked any pogrom-like spontaneity." Chodakiewicz's good arguments, Wróbel wrote, are "overshadowed by numerous flaws", lack a sense of proportion, and make selective use of information from sources that support Chodakiewicz's view. According to Wróbel, the book has a "visible political agenda" and is "difficult to read, unoriginal, irritating, and unconvincing".
Reviewing the book for History, Peter D. Stachura agreed with Chodakiewicz that the pogrom had been executed by German police, "with only limited involvement from a very small number of Poles", including "Volksdeutsche (Polish citizens of German origin) and petty criminals". In response, Joanna Michlic and Antony Polonsky complained about the review to the editor of History. Chodakiewicz's and Stachura's conclusions were "very far from those reached by most historians", they wrote, including the IPN. Chodakiewicz and Stachura "uphold a view of the Polish past which seeks to return to an untenable vision of modern Poland as solely victim and hero ... It is a matter of considerable regret to us that you have allowed your journal to be used to advance this neo-nationalist agenda." Stachura took exception to their letter. History declined to publish his reply; instead, it was posted on the website of Glaukopis, a Polish journal.
Our Class (2009)
A 2009 play, Our Class by Polish playwright Tadeusz Słobodzianek, dealing with a massacre of Jews by Poles in a small town during the Holocaust, was performed in London. The play follows the lives of 10 Catholic and Jewish Polish students from the same class at school, beginning in 1925.
On 11 July 2011 Poland's President Bronisław Komorowski asked for forgiveness at a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary. In September that year, the Jedwabne memorial was defaced with swastikas and graffiti. Poland launched an anti-hate crime investigation.
Jaroslaw Szarek, director of Poland's Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), said in February 2019 that the IPN was ready to re-open the investigation and exhume the remaining bodies, but the National Prosecutor’s Office decided in March that there were no grounds for doing so.
In the historical policy of the Law and Justice party, the pogrom is attributed entirely to German responsibility, while alternative explanations are dismissed as an attack on "Polishness, Polish values and traditions, and Polish identity" and the central element in a "pedagogy of disgrace".
- Radosław J. Ignatiew (Public Prosecutor, Białystok, 9 July 2002): "A group of Jewish men ... were forced to break up the Lenin monument [that had been erected by the Soviets] ... The group may have comprised 40 to 50 men ... The manner in which the victims from that group were killed is unknown ... Another, larger group of Jewish people ... included several hundred persons, probably about 300, as confirmed by the number of victims in both graves ... That group comprised victims of both sexes, of different ages, including children and infants. The people were led into a wooden thatched barn ... After the building had been closed, it was set on fire ... The crime's perpetrators sensu stricto were Polish inhabitants of Jedwabne and men from nearby places—at least some forty men."
- Institute of National Remembrance (2002): "The presence of German military policemen from the police station at Jedwabne, and of other uniformed Germans (assuming they were present at the events), even if passive, was tantamount to consent to, and tolerance of, the crime against the Jewish inhabitants of the town."
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: "On July 10, 1941, Polish residents of Jedwabne, a small town located in Bialystok District of first Soviet-occupied and then German-occupied Poland, participated in the murder of hundreds of their Jewish neighbors. Although responsibility for instigating this 'pogrom' has not been fully established, scholars have documented at least a German police presence in the town at the time of the killings."
- Krzysztof Persak (2011): "The direct perpetrators of those crimes was a sizeable group of residents of Jedwabne and neighboring villages. Those involved in the pogrom took different roles: some killed the victims with their own hands, others supervised the Jews assembled in the market square and escorted them to the execution site in the barn, while some robbed Jewish homes or simply formed a hostile crowd of onlookers. The witnesses were fairly unanimous in assigning the role of pogrom organizers to members of the temporary municipal authorities, with Mayor Karolak at the head. Probably a significant part of the massacre was performed by members of the order service subordinated to them, of which, however, we know very little."Far less clear is the role played in Jedwabne by representatives of the German occupation authorities. Undoubtedly, they fully approved and possibly inspired the murder. According to testimony of the then-messenger at the gendarmerie post, Jerzy Laudański, before the pogrom 'four or five Gestapo men had arrived in a cab, and they began to talk in the town hall.' In colloquial Polish, a 'cab' (taksówka) denoted a motor car, and 'Gestapo man' referred to any German in a black uniform. This reference, no doubt, relates to the meeting of the temporary municipal authorities with—probably—functionaries of the German Security Police or Security Service (Sicherheitspolizei or Sicherheitsdienst), mentioned by other witnesses as well. Although accounts regarding that issue are all secondhand, their common denominator is that during that 'conference' the decision to murder the Jedwabne Jews was taken."
- "Osobnym problemem są mieszkańcy miasteczka wymieniani podczas zeznań składanych na ręce funkcjonariuszy Urzędu Bezpieczeństwa. A to z tego powodu, że zeznania te, właśnie w tym punkcie, były gremialnie odwoływane na sali sądowej jako wymuszone torturami." English: "A separate problem concerns the townsmen who had been named during the interrogations conducted by the Security Office functionaries. That is because, on this point, the statements were all retracted in court as having been obtained through torture."
- In December 1966 Szymon Datner wrote an article for the Bulletin of Jewish Historical Institute concluding that the Germans had moved through the area causing popular outbursts against the Jews without taking part in the killing themselves.
- Physicians for Human Rights asked Rabbi Joseph Polak of Boston University for a theological opinion; he argued that reburying someone after an inappropriate burial is "not only appropriate but obligatory".
- Ignatiew 2002.
- "All these acts had four elements in common: antisemitism prevalent in a significant part of the Polish population; looting Jewish property as one of the main motives for aggression; seeking retribution for real or imaginary Jewish cooperation with the Soviet occupant; German incitement – varying in different places, from direct organisation of pogroms to giving encouragement or condoning the behavior." "Pogrom in Jedwabne: Course of Events". POLIN, Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
- Gross 2001, pp. 14–20; Stola 2003; Persak 2011.
- "Pogroms". Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
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- Baker & Tzinovitz 1980, p. 5.
- Cienciala 2003, p. 52.
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- Gross 2001, p. 39.
- Cienciala 2003, pp. 53–54.
- Kitchen 1990, p. 74.
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- Bikont 2015, pp. 167-174.
- Lukowski & Zawadzki 2019, p. 334.
- Matthäus 2004, p. 244.
- Browning 2004, p. 259.
- "Pogrom in Jedwabne: Course of Events". POLIN, Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
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- Crago 2012, p. 900.
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- Gross 2001, p. 75.
- Gross 2001, pp. 46–47.
- Ignatiew 2002; for exercises, see Persak 2011, p. 412.
- Wasersztajn 1945, quoted in Gross 2001, pp. 19–20.
- Wasersztajn 1945, quoted in Gross 2001, pp. 19–20.
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According to the politicians, historians, and journalists representing PiS’s ideological position, Jedwabne and other events that cast a negative light on Polish national identity must be revisited and retold for both Poles and the West. In their eyes, Jedwabne is a key sign of ‘all the lies voiced against the Polish nation,’ and is understood as the ‘central attack’ on Polishness, Polish values and traditions, and Polish identity (understood in an ethnic sense)... According to PiS’s historical policy, two major historical narratives defined as ‘true and patriotic’ are utilized to oppose Gross and Anna Bikont’s accounts of the Jedwabne pogrom and its long aftermath, as well as other dark aspects of Polish–Jewish relations during and after the Holocaust.
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Since then, three major explanations of the murders of Jedwabne prevail: ... And third, some historians upheld the thesis of ascribing the responsibility solely to the Germans, which in 2016 was repeated by the current director of IPN, Jarosław Szarek, although the final report of the criminal investigation of the same institution rejected this hypothesis... Jedwabne has been regarded by the critics of Jan Gross as embodiment of “‘all the lies voiced against the Polish nation,’ and is understood as the ‘central attack’ on Polishness, Polish values and traditions, and Polish identity.” In this context, Jedwabne has been repeatedly addressed as core feature of a “pedagogy of disgrace” (pedagogika wstydu).
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- Media related to Jedwabne pogrom at Wikimedia Commons