Just Thought you might find this interesting.
It's in our national Canadian Newspaper the Globe and Mail.
What do you make of it?
Is it truth?
Love your site.
The Globe and Mail, Tuesday, March 27, 2001
Massacre truth rattles Poles
By Alan Freeman
GDANSK -- Sixty years after the fact, Poles are discovering disturbing new
revelations about a dark chapter in their history -- the 1941 massacre of
1,600 Jews in the town of Jedwabne.
A new book about the pogrom has undermined the self-image among many Poles
that they were solely victims of the Nazi occupation, and has sparked a
bitter controversy over Poland's legacy of anti-Semitism.
President Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former Communist, and right-wing Prime
Minister Jerzy Buzek have both now acknowledged Poles were responsible for
the massacre -- not the Nazis, who were blamed for decades.
Mr. Kwasniewski plans to make a formal apology at a special ceremony in
Jedwabne on July 10, the 60th anniversary of the massacre. "The most
important thing to me is that the true history becomes known, that we say
what needs to be said in this kind of situation and that we ask
forgiveness for what our compatriots did."
While Josef Cardinal Glemp has acknowledged the involvement of Poles in
the atrocity is "undeniable," he adds it would be unjust for "the Polish
people to bear collective responsibility." The bishop in the Jedwabne
region, meanwhile, thinks the town's citizens have been unfairly maligned.
He described the media interest as "a predatory, deceitful and modern
campaign" linked to what he termed the "Shoah business." Shoah means
Holocaust in Hebrew.
The book, Neighbours, was written by U.S. academic Jan Tomasz Gross, who
left Poland in the 1960s amid a Communist-led wave of anti-Semitism. It
relies on eyewitness accounts and court records to document how Poles went
on a bloody rampage soon after the Nazis occupied the town, and has
garnered huge attention since it was published last year in Polish.
The local Poles slaughtered Jewish men, women and children in an orgy of
violence that included stoning, beating and even the decapitation of one
woman whose head was kicked around by her murderers. Other victims were
herded into a farmer's barn, which was set on fire.
Jedwabne was a poor town of about 2,400, more than 60 per cent of whom
were Jewish. But only a handful of the town's Jews managed to hide and
survive the massacre.
Today, the town, like most of Poland, has no Jews.
"Had Jedwabne not been seized by Germans, the Jedwabne Jews would not have
been murdered by their neighbours. But the direct participation of Germans
was limited mostly to taking pictures and filming," Mr. Gross writes.
After the war, a dozen local people were convicted of collaboration. But
official Communist-era accounts always blamed the Nazis for the massacre,
as did a monument erected in the town.
In the past week, authorities have removed the monument and promised to
replace it with a more appropriate memorial. Experts have begun searching
for the burial site of the victims on the outskirts of Jedwabne so a
proper cemetery can be established.
Poland's Institute of National Remembrance, established to record the
history of the Nazi and Communist eras, has launched an investigation of
the circumstances behind the pogrom.
Many Poles, however, have reacted defensively, arguing that Jedwabne was
an exceptional incident that must not be used to tar the Polish people as
collaborators in the Holocaust. The war resulted in the deaths of more
than six million people in Poland, half of them Jews.
"We don't say that Poles didn't take part in this crime. Of course they
did, but there is a difference between saying that Poles took part in this
crime and that the whole Polish nation was responsible," said Janusz
Marszalec, head of the education program at the Gdansk branch of the
He noted that many Poles have been honoured as righteous gentiles for
their work in saving Jews from the Holocaust.
Piotr Niwinski, chief of the research department at the Gdansk branch,
agreed that certain elements of the Polish population collaborated with
the Nazis, but added that there never was the same kind of formal
political backing for their anti-Semitic activities as in other occupied
countries, including France.
"In Poland, the military and underground government not only disagreed
with anti-Semitism, they punished those who committed any crimes against
Mr. Niwinski makes the point that Jedwabne, like other towns in
northeastern Poland, was seized by Soviet troops in 1939 and that Jews
were seen as allies of the hated Russians. When the Nazis overran the
region in 1941, many Poles were happy to see them arrive.
"When your house is burning, you don't care who rescues you," Mr. Niwinski
"You must remember that this was a time of deportations and other actions
by the Russians. The first reaction [of the Poles in Jedwabne] could have
Added Mr. Marszalec: "Even now, when you interview people, they remember
the German occupation as being nicer than the Russian one."
Konstanty Gebert, a leader of Poland's tiny Jewish community and editor of
Midrasz, a Jewish publication, said that while the history of Polish
anti-Semitism is well documented, Poles themselves are genuinely shocked
by the horror of the pogrom.
"Whereas Jedwabne fits with our worst stereotype of Poland, the Poles'
self-perception does not even remotely include the possibility of a
Jedwabne," Mr. Gebert said. "The Polish shock is that they honestly
believed that their compatriots could not have committed such a horrendous
While there were other pogroms carried out by Poles during and just after
the war, Mr. Gebert believes no other cases were of the same scale. While
"harassment, persecution and contempt" of Jews were common, he said, such
instances of mass murder were rare.
So far, Mr. Gebert is impressed with the debate being carried out, noting
that most articles in the Polish press have been "honest and insightful"
and that Poles are dealing with the controversy fairly.
Copyright 2000 | The Globe and Mail
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