Copyright (c) 2000 Fundacja Antyk. Wszelkie prawa zastrzeżone.
Translated by Mariusz Wesolowski
THE IGNORED COLLABORATION
I did not want to take part in the discussion caused by the publication of Prof. Jan t Gross's book "Neighbors" which deals with the murder of Jews committed in July 1941 in the town of Jedwabne in the Podlasie area. Primarily because the said discussion, picking up various motifs, has been so far bypassing the most important fact, i, e., what has happened in Jedwabne after the entry of the German army into that territory, that is, who, when and under what circumstances committed the mass murder on the Jewish inhabitants of Jedwabne.
This is the subject most worthy of discussion, all the more because Gross's statements, in the light of specific sources, seem to be not quite true. At the same time, however, the documentation at hand does not allow me yet to take a public stance in this key question...
Before I come to the main topic, I must begin with the basic statements. Nothing can justify murders perpetrated on any group of the civilian population. Nothing can justify killing men, women and children only because they represent some social class, some nation or some religion, for any application of justice must have an individual character. Such crimes cannot be motivated either by one's own convictions, or by superior order, or by "historical necessity", or by the good of another nation, class, religion and social group, or by the good of some organization, military or civilian, visible or secret.
I would like the reader of this article to keep in mind that such is my basic position. I am also in principle against murdering the members of any military or police force only because they belong to them, especially when they are unarmed or in the process of surrendering. Whoever, then, commits such a murder (the power or reason behind it notwithstanding) is for me simply a murderer
Before we try to evaluate the attitudes and behavior of different social and national groups in the territories occupied by the Workers'and Peasants'Red Army (RKKA), it is necessary to recall the fundamental facts, since without learning about the reality of those times we won't be able to understand the people who lived there or who had been brought there by the perturbances of war.
The entry of Germans into the Podlasie area was accompanied by a great fear among the local populace, who received German armies with undisguised hostility They gave support to the Polish units being pushed eastward, and many unmoblilized reservists and youths in the pre-conscript age went in large numbers also eastward to find a military body prepared to accept them and give them arms. That's why a number of men from that region (including the immobilized reservists) took part in the battle of Grodno and the region of Sopockinie - this time already against the Red Army.
The population of Podlasie was also giving support -especially after the battle of Andrzejow (in which took part the 18th Infantry Division of the Polish Army) - to the locally organized locally partisan groups which had been active till mid-October  in, among other places, the vicinity of Czerwony Bor and Bagna Biebrzanskie [the Red Forest and the Biebrza Swamps], which protected them from destruction. The anti-German attitude of the inhabitants of Podlasie was monolithic and unwavering.
The period after the entry of the Red Army into the eastern territories of the Polish Republic can be divided into three subperiods.
The first, called by Prof. Ryszard Szawlowski (and not only by him!) the Polish-Soviet War, lasted for two weeks, until the first days of October 1939, when the organized resistance of the larger combat groups of the Polish Army ceased, although some smaller units continued the fight as guerrillas. The second subperiod was the subjugation of the territory, combined with the implementation of the social "revolution" - political and economic, planned in advance and realized with the help of the army and special services. That's why I call it "revolution on a leash". During that time the first arrests had taken place. This subperiod ended in November 1939 in the official incorporation of the Polish northeast territories into the Byelorussian Socialist Soviet Republic, and the southeast territories into the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic.
Actually it was extended by two months, i.e., until the Soviet administrative system (a republic, an "oblast'", a region) was finally introduced in the annexed lands. The third subperiod, from the beginning of 1940 to June 1941, was characterized on one hand by the unification with the economic-social system of the Soviet Union (the forceful introduction of collective farming, strengthening of the sovkhoz system, finalizing the process of nationalization of industry, commerce, banks, etc.), while on the other hand it brought a rapid escalation of repression, especially in the first half of 1940, which took the form of mass arrests and deportations; the latter lasted in the so-called Western Byelorussia till the end [of the Soviet rule] and encompassed about 150,000 people. I would like to discuss this phenomenon in more depth, as it was - and very few people realize that - an activity based on the idea of collective responsibility.
TIME OF DEPORTATIONS
The first deportation, on the 9/10 February 1940, included the military and civilian settlers and foresters with their families. The second, on 13 April 1940, encompassed everybody whose relative(s) had been captured as Polish soldiers, policemen, etc., escaped abroad or went into hiding, or had been arrested as conspirators or "enemies of the people", that is, the socially dangerous element (SOE). The third, on 29 June 1940, which affected especially the cities, included the so-called "bezhentsy" [refugees], among them many Jews, particularly those among them who had registered with the authorities for voluntary return to the German zone of occupation. This fact partly demolishes the myth about the joyful welcome given to the Red Army by Polish Jews exclusively because of their fear of Nazis. The last deportation, started in the Wilno region (which had been snatched by the Soviets at the time of the liquidation of the Lithuanian Republic in June 1940) on 14 June 1941, and on the territory of the Byelorussian Republic on 20 June 1941, was interrupted by the German invasion.
All of them, as we can see, were acts of violence undertaken on the basis of collective responsibility.
For the father, who was a soldier, the whole family was held responsible; for a brother, who was a refugee - his close relatives; for a forester - those who lived with him. The strike was aimed at the "nest". On the other hand, for example, in Warsaw the Germans in revenge for an armed action of the underground executed people from the nearest apartment building, prisoners from the Pawiak gaol, or the inhabitants of a village near which a military train had been blown up; in short, people completely unrelated to the perpetrators. This collective responsi bility included children, women and old people. It was most often the weakest ones who paid with their lives on the way and in exile - in Siberia or in the "hungry steppes" of Kazakhstan.
TREASON IN THE DAYS OF DEFEAT
Who was the executor of the [Red] terror? The NKVD and, in the first period, also the Red Army (RKKA) which supervised the "chelchist operational groups", a relationship similar to that between the Einsatzgruppen find the Wehrmacht. And the militia? Very few people know that in the years 1939-1941 there were three different kinds of militia.
The first kind was the various "red guards" and "red milltias", composed of the locals armed with clubs, cut-down rifles, axes and revolvers, although sporadically they even had automatic weapons, who gave support to the Red Army in its "liberation march" and who performed the acts of "class anger" in the name of social groups oppressed by the "lordly Poland". As a rule, these groups surfaced immediately after 17 September 1939 (or even on that very day, which is telling) and operated, usually in a very bloody fashion, not only behind the lines of the Polish Army, but also after the entry of the Red Army, which gave the local "revolutionary elements" a few "free" days to settle personal accounts and exercise class revenge.
Later on those "militias" would be replaced by the Workers'Guard, organized on the occupied territories under the order of the Byelorussian Front Commander of 16 September 1939, as well as by the Citizens' MUitia, formed on the basis of a similar order of 21 September 1939. Next, after the incorporation of 'Western Byelorussia" into the Byelorussian Socialist Soviet Republic, these two were replaced by the closely connected to the NKVD Workers'and Peasants' Militia (RKM), at first composed solely of newcomers (so-called "vostochniks", "easterners"), later on absorbing also the locals.
The Polish population, apart from a small group of city communists and an even smaller one of village communists, received the Soviet aggression and the system brought by it in the same way as they had received the German invasion. This is confirmed by literally thousands of various testimonies. The participation of Polish peasants in the so-called selsoviets (village councils) does not mean anything, because these were purely "decorative" bodies. The real power rested with the executive committees, and especially with their supervisory party and police apparatus.
On the other hand, the Jewish population, and especially Jewish youths and the city poor, participated en masse in giving welcome to the invading army and in introducing the new order, also by violent means. This is confirmed as well by thousands of Polish, Jewish and Soviet testimonies; there are official reports of the C-in-C of the Association for Armed Struggle [ZWZ, later the Home Army],General Stefan Grot-Rowecki, there is the [famous] report of the emissary Jan Karski, there are accounts written during and after the war. After all, even the [earlier] works of Jan T Gross speak about these facts; Gross based his clear and undisputable conclusions on the materials preserved in the Hoover Institution in the States.
The Soviet Army was welcomed with enthusiasm not only in the territories occupied formerly by the Wehrmacht, but also in the Eastern Borderlands, where the Germans never arrived. What's more, those "guards" and "militias", growing like mushrooms right after the Soviet aggression, consisted in the main part of Jews, And not only that. Jews undertook acts of rebellion against the Polish state by taking over towns, organizing there revolutionary committees, arresting and executing the representatives of the Polish state authority and attacking smaller or, sometimes, quite large (like in Grodno) units of the Polish Army.
Dr. Marek Wierzbicki (who for the last few years has been researching Polish-Byelorussian relations in the so-called Western Byelorussia in 1939-1941, and therefore also recording facts related to Polish-Jewish relations) in his large, still unpublished, article speaks of a 3-day-long battle between the rebellious Jews of Grodno and the Polish army and police (starting on 18 September 1939, before the arrival of the Red Army), of the two-day struggle for the nearby Skidel, about Jewish revolts in Jeziory Lunna, Wiercieliszki, Wielka Brzostowica, Ostryna, Dubno, Dereezyn, Zelwa, Motol, Wolpa, Janow Poleski, Wolkowysk, Horodec and Drohiczyn Poleski. In these localities nobody had seen a single German - the attacks were directed against the Polish state.
It was [nothing else but] armed collaboration, going over to the enemy treason in the days of defeat. How numerous was the group of [Jews] who had participated in all this? The specific number will be probably never known. In any case such incidents took place everywhere in the zone of operations of the Red Army's Byelorussian Front.
NEW ORDER IN ADMINISTRATION
The second question concerns the collaboration with the terror apparatus, especially the NKVD. It was undertaken first by "militias","red guards" and revolutionary committees, later on by the already mentioned workers'guards and citizens'militias. In the cities they were composed mostly of Polish Jews.
Later still, when the situation was taken firmly in hand by the Workers'and Peasants' Militia (RKM), the Jews - according to Soviet documents -were substantially over represented in that body as well. Polish Jews in civilian clothes, wearing red armbands and armed with rifles, in large numbers took part in the mass arrests and deportations. This was the most drastic sight, but equally galling for the Polish society was the massive presence of Jews in all the offices and institutions, especially since these had been dominated before the war by the Poles.
On 20 September 1940, during a conference in Minsk .... the chief of the NKVD City Department stated: “'We have been following this practice: Since the Jews have given us their support, one could see them - and only them - everywhere. It became fashionable that every director of an institution or a company boasted about the fact that he didn't employ a single Pole. Many of us were simply afraid of Poles."
At the same time the minutes of communist party meetings in the Bialystok "oblast record numerous "complaints" about hearing only Russian and Yiddish in the Soviet institutions [and] about the Poles' feelings of being discriminated against... It was both true and in accordance with the current "party line" because at that time the highest Soviet authorities had introduced a "new policy" in regard to the Poles.
Marek Wierzbicki in his article sums up that situation as follows: "The extensively developed structures of Soviet administration gave the masses of unemployed Jews a chance to find a job, which - in borderland towns with no industry and a very limited job market - was to them of great importance. The Jewish population, representing on the whole a much higher level of education than the Byelorussian society, provided numerous clerks, teachers and security police functionaries, which had a definite impact on Polish-Jewish relations because the Jews most often took over the positions of Polish clerks and teachers... Moreover, in September-December 1939, there took place numerous arrests of those representatives of the Polish population who had held before the war higher positions in the administrative and political hierarchy of the Polish state, or who had been involved into social activities. Local Jews - members of the provisional administration or militia - had been at that time actively helping the Soviets in hunting down and arresting such persons,
He goes on, referring to none other than Jan T Gross:
"It was also a frequent occurrence that some representatives of the Jewish population jeere at the Poles, pointing out the sudden reversal of fortunes of the two nations. The Poles often heard vicious remarks along the lines of "You wanted Poland without Jews, now you have Jews without Poland", or "It's all over for you.""
Thus we can see that the Jewish participation in the Soviet power structures is unequivocally attested to in Polish testimonies (especially those on the basis of which Jan T. Gross has been for the last quarter of the century constructing his books and articles) which have been recorded already during the war, and which are preserved - among other places - in the Hoover Institution in the United States-, the same applies to the Soviet state and party archives recently made accessible, as well as to the reports of the Polish underground command [from the period in question]...
It seems, then, that the following statement expressed by Prof. Gross in his "Neighbors" does not have much justification [in facts]:
"Frankly, the enthusiasm of the Jews at the sight of the entering Red Army was not a common phenomenon, and it is not clear why the collaboration of the Jews with the Soviets in 1939-1941 should be considered exceptional."
The second part of the quoted paragraph, which refers to the Poles, goes thus: "On the other hand there can be no possible doubt that the local population (with the exception of the Jews) enthusiastically welcomed the Wehrmacht units in 1941, and collaborated with the Germans, also in the extermination of Jews. The earlier quoted segment of Finkelsztejn's testimony about Radzilow - confirmed also by the quoted reminiscences of peasants from nearby villages - forms a precise negation of the common tales about Jewish behavior in the Eastern Borderlands in 1939 at the sight of the coming Bolsheviks."
Before analyzing the contents, I would like to take note of the style of Gross's approach. Hundreds of extant testimonies and numerous reports of the Polish underground authorities (including the report of the pro-Jewish Jan Karski) do not offer sufficient grounds for drawing any conclusions. This may be correct - after all, we should try to investigate the situation in various specific localities without relying too much on widespread but general opinions. But, at the same time, a (single] testimony of Finkelsztejn's plus a few accounts of neighborhood peasants suffice [for Gross] to pronounce a sweeping judgment not about specific individuals but about the entire local population (except the Jews.)
The same applies to the thesis that it was the Polish inhabitants of the small town of Jedwabne who murdered their Jewish neighbors -based on the testimonies of a few Jewish escapees who managed to survive, and on the materials of the Security Office originating from the (undoubtedly sadistic) investigations of 1949 and 1953, during the period when Polish bishops had been sentenced for treason against the Polish nation and espionage on behalf of "Imperialists".
Let's talk now about that Polish collaboration. It has been discussed by Andrzej Zbikowski... It consisted, among other things, in murdering the Jews by Polish "bands" composed mainly of exSoviet prisoners (recently liberated by the Germans), and in attacks on "the retreating smaller groups of the Soviet Army" by the same "bands". A simple equation between 1939 and 1941...
But, for God's sake, a joyful welcome given to the Germans, who arrived in the middle of a horrible deportation and released hundreds of people from Soviet abattoirs (in Brzesc, Lomza, Bialystok and Jedwabne, among many other places) is different from attacks on the Red Army soldiers (our yesterday's occupiers), and these are different still from the murder of soldiers of the Polish Army True, Jews didn't have an easy life in Poland, there were undoubtedly "accounts of injustices", to quote a line from the poet Broniewski, but they weren't deported to Siberia, or shot, or sent to concentration camps, or killed by hunger and overwork. Even if they didn't consider Poland their homeland, they did not have to treat her as an alien power and join her mortal enemy in killing Polish soldiers and murdering Polish civilians escaping to the east. They did not have to take part either in selecting their neighbors for deportations, these terrible acts of collective responsibility.
THERE WERE NO RED FLAGS ONLY ON THREE HOUSES
Let's move now away from general issues to the situation in the town and district of Jedwabne. Jan Gross is correct in stating that there are not too many testimonies related directly to this place, but their number is not minuscule, either, and, in any case, there are many more in existence than the small selection utilized by Gross in his narrative on the events on 10 July 1941. "The new approach to sources", postulated by Gross in relation to the Jewish depositions, could be used also in this case. After all, these are testimonies by persecuted people, who were saved from annihilation only thanks to the Sikorski-Mayski agreement of July 1941. The survivors speak here as witnesses to a crime, and they touch upon the "Jewish problem" without any prompting, spontaneously, "from the fullness of their hearts."
Did the Jews of Jedwabne, like so many others, offer a warm welcome to the Red Army9 Various depositions taken both during the war and by myself at the beginning of the 1990s, give a positive answer to that question.
Let's first have a look at the accounts deposited with the Polish Army of Gen. Anders and archived in the Hoover Institution, which are now also available in the Eastern Archive (Archiwum Wschodnie) in Warsaw.
Acount no. 8356, by Jozef Rybicki, a cartwright from the town of Jedwabne: "The Red Army was received by the Jews who put up [triumphal] gates. They changed the old government and introduced a new one from among the local inhabitants (Jews and communists). Policemen and teachers got arrested ( ... )."
Account no. 10708, by Tadeusz Melczewski, a local government worker in Jedwabne: "Immediately after the entry of the Soviet Army there was spontaneously organized a municipal committee composed of Polish communists (the president, Czeslaw Krytowski, was a Pole, the members were all Jews). The militia was also composed of Jewish communists. At first there were no repressions because they [i.e., the Soviets] did not know the local populace, only after a series of denunciations by the local communists the arrests began. House searches had been conducted by the local militia among the people who were thought to possibly possess arms. The main wave of arrests by the Soviets started only after the first elections."
Account no. 8455, by Marian Lojewski, a locksmith-mechanic from Jedwabne: "After the entry of the Red Army into our town an order was published to surrender all the weapons in the hands of the local population. For keeping any arms the penalty was death. Later on many house searches were conducted because of denunciations by Jewish merchants who accused the Poles of stealing various items during their absence. Numerous arrests were made among people against whom the local Jdws had a grudge for persecuting them by the Polish state."
Account no. 2675, by Aleksander Kotowski, a wood sorter from Jedwabne: "During the entry of the Red Army I was absent, [later on] the power was given to Jews and Polish communists, who had been imprisoned before for Communism. They led the NKVD to apartments and houses and denounced Polish citizens-patriots."
Finally the account of Luej a Chojnowska, nee Cholowinska, deposited on 9 May 1991. Mrs. Cholowinska, the sister of Jadwiga Laudanska, in the spring of 1940 found herself in the partisan camp at Uroczysko Kobielne situated deep within the Biebrza swamps and - after a battle between the Poles and the Soviet army there on 23 June 1940 - was taken prisoner. Our conversation, conducted in Jedwalme, was concerned with that battle and not with the relations in the town where both ladies used to live.
Nevertheless, at some point Lueja Cholowinska-Chojnowska stated: "In Jedwabne, inhabited mostly by the Jews, there were only three houses without a red flag during the entry of the Soviets. One of them was our house. Before the first deportation a Jewish woman, our neighbor, came running to us (we always had excellent relations with the Jews), and warned us that our names were on the deportation list. Then 1, with my sister Jadwiga and her 4-year-old daughter, run away to Orlikow, taking with us just a few clothes." Note well: the Jewish neighbor knew who was on the deportation list, and that was the most strictly guarded secret. So much about the beginnings.
THE ARRESTS BEGIN
Now some more questions. Of whom did the Jedwabne militia consist and what was its attitude toward those of the locals who had been considered too closely attached to the Polish state, the malcontents, the enemies? How (if at all) did the red terror manifest itself there, and had it been implemented only by the transplanted Soviet citizens, the "vostochniks", or also by the "old" Polish citizens, the permanent residents of the town and district of Jedwabne? Let's look for the answers in the same (iti historians' parlance) "personal documents", deposited still during the war and later.
Account no. 1559, by Kazimierz Sokolowski, a worker from Jedwabne: "The Soviet authorities created a militia, mostly from among Jewish communists, and the arrests began of farmers and workers who had been denounced by the militiamen. The populace had to pay high taxes, churches were also taxed, the priest was arrested. Mass house searches had been conducted among the people unfriendly toward the regime, the "enemies of the people"... The majority of the local populace tried to avoid taking part in the elections (on 22 October 1939, TS.). All day long the militia was dragging them at gunpoint to the polling station.
The sick were also carried there by force. Shortly after the elections they carried out a night roundup, arrested entire families and deported them to the Soviet Union."
Account no. 1394, by Stanislaw Gruba, a worker from Jedwabne: "House searches were conducted in order to find weapons, anti-communist literature, etc. The suspects had been immediately arrested, just like the families of Catholic priests, and put in prison for further investigation."
Account no. 2589, by Jozef Karwowski, a farmer from the Jedwabne district: "In October 1939 the NKVD announced pre-election meetings. The NKVD and militia assembled the audiences by force. If someone protested, he was immediately arrested and he afterwards disappeared without trace."
Account no. 2545, by Jozef Makowski, a farmer from the Jedwabne district: "They arrested people, threw them into cellars and pigsties, starved them, didn't give them any water to drink, beat them bestially and in this way they tried to make them confess to their membership in Polish organizations. I myself was beaten unconscious during NKVD interrogations in Jedwabne, Lomza and Minsk."
Account no. 8356, by Jozef Rybicki of Jedwabne, already know to us: "House searches were conducted among the wealthier farmers, they took away furniture, clothing and precious objects, and after a few days they came at night and arrested them. They dragged people by force to various meetings - whoever tried to oppose them, he was denounced as a "vreditel" (saboteur) and then arrested. The village elder was preparing lists, going from house to'house and writing down the names and dates of birth. The electoral commission was composed of professional soldiers and Jews and local communists. The candidates had been chosen in advance, mostly Jews and communists from the Soviet Union."
THEY PUT ON RED ARIVIBANDS
Let's move now to the postwar accounts collected by myself in the context of my inquiries about the battle at Uroczysko Kobielne.
Jerzy Tarnacki, a partisan from Kobielne, wrote in a letter of 24 October 1991: "A patrol consisting of Kurpiewski, a Pole, and Czapnik, a Jew, came to arrest me and my brother Antek. We managed to escape from our own backyard. I went into hiding in the village of Kajetanowo, at the house of my friend Waclaw Mierzejewski. I learned from him that there was a Polish partisan unit behind the river Biebrza. I stayed in hiding until midApril 1940."
Stefan Boczkowski from Jedwabne observes in a letter of 14 January 1995: "The local Jews in Jedwabne put on red armbands and were helping the militia in arresting "the enemies of the people", "spies", etc."
Kazimierz Odyniec, M.D., the son of Sergeant Antoni Odyniec (killed in the battle of Kobielno on 23 June 1940), wrote in his letter of 20 June 1991: "By the end ofApril 1940 a local Jew in the uniform of the Soviet militia came to our appartment and ordered Father to report to the NKVD office... Father bid us goodbye, first sending out Mother to follow that militiaman to see where else would he go, because the list [he had noticed] contained a score of names. Later on it turned out that Father didn't go to the NKVD. The next day the NKVD arrested Mother, trying to force her to reveal Father's hiding place."
Dr. Odyniec, in a letter sent to me after the publication of Jan Gross's book, stated: "Gross stresses the cruelty of the Polish side without mentioningthe behavior of alarge group ofJews who had openly collaborated with the Soviets andwho denounced the Poles deserving arrest or deportation. I'll give you an example of my own family (here comes a repetition of the description quoted above, TS.). I also remember that the bodies of partisans killed at Kobielno were carried away by a Jew named Calko, a neighbor of my uncle Wadyslaw Lojewski" (letter of 25 October 2000).
Roman Sadowski, an officer of the Home Army, the husband of Halina (sister of Kazimierz Odyniec, deported on 20 June 1941 to the Soviet Union), wrote to me on 10 November 2000: "During the Soviet occupation the Jews were "rulers" of those territories.
They totally collaborated with the Soviet authorities. According to the statements of my wife's cousins, it was the Jews together with the NKVD who were preparing deportation lists."
As we can see, although I did not undertake a systematic search for this kind of information, a substantial collection of spontaneous and unsolicited testimonies about the Jewish behavior practically "gathered itself." Therefore, I cannot agree with Gross's statement that "I have found only one account specifically concerned with the welcome given to the Soviets in the town [of Jedwabne] in September 1939 - as we know, that was the moment which fixed for many Poles the memory of Jewish disloyalty - and even this account is not very reliable, having been written down more than 50 years after the events." And then Gross talks about the bit of information collected by Agnieszka Arnold during her preparations of the documentary film about Jedwabne.
Not being an expert in this specific field, I have quoted above five testimonies, for the most part written down before 1945, which talk about the attitudes of the Jews from Jedwalme toward the new Soviet authorities, and nine relations about the activities ofthe militia (composed predominantly ofthe Jedwabne Jews, although its commandant was a Pole, Czeslaw Kurpiewski, a known prewar communist.)
Let's also add a very characteristic information, repeated in two independent sources: Apart from the Jewish militiamen in uniform, Jews in civilian clothes also participated in the ar rests, just with red armbands on their sleeves and armed with rifles.
A CHARACTERISTIC INCIDENT: TRZCIANNE
The very same documents from the Hoover Institution, supposedly so well known to Jan Gross, mention a whole list of cities and towns where the Jews enthusiastically welcomed the Red Army, and later on fined the ranks of militias: Zambrow, Lomza, Stawiski, Wizna, Szumowo (with the Jewish militia commandant by the name of Jablonka), Rakowo-Boginie, Bredki, Zabiele, Wadotki Stare, Drozdowo.
We also know about a characteristic incident which took place in the Jewish town of Trzcianne, situated opposite Jedwalme but across the Biebrza river. According to the account of Czeslaw Borowski (dated 16 August 1987), who lives in the nearby village of Zubole, it happened as follows: "Near the end of September, and maybe at the beginning of October 1939, the Germans retreated from that area, the Soviets didn't yet arrive, so it was a sort of a neutral zone.
In the Red Forest [Czerwony Bor] the fighting still continued. In Trzcianne the Jews were preparing a welcome for the Red Army.
Jewish militia patrols ventured out as far as Okragle... in the direction of Monki; they noticed a cloud of dust and, thinking it to be the Soviets, they went a the way back to the triumphal arch raised at the entrance to the village.
It wasn't the Soviets but a group of 10-15 Polish cavalrymen who were crossing that neutral zone. They came upon the triumphal arch, the rabbi with bread and salt on a platter.. The uhlans charged into the crowd, destroyed the arch, laid about with the flats of their swords, trashed a few Jewish stores, they even wanted to burn the town but it didn't come to pass. The rabbi's daughter died of a heart attack. The cavalery went away. The Jews in Trzcianne were armed..."
This account, recorded by myself almost 50 years after the event, has been confirmed by Soviet sources. They state that, by the end of September 1939, a "band of Polish soldiers", under the command of two local landowners, Henryk Klimaszewski and Jozef Nieczecki, attacked the town and conducted a "robbery and a pogrom among the Jewish population." During this action Henryk Klimaszewski supposedly kept calling for a showdown with Bolsheviks and Jews by saying, "Get the Jews for Grodno and Skidel, it is time to settle the score with them, away with the Communists, we will kill all the Jews."
GERMANS SAVED HUNDREDS OF INHABITANTS
Apart from the Hoover Institution collection, known to Prof. Gross, and the accounts in my possession, there are other testimonies about the behavior of the Jedwabne Jews in the years 1939-1941. Danuta and Aleksander Wroniszewski in an article "Aby zyc" ("Just to survive"), published in the "Kontakty" magazine on 19 July 1988, reproduced an account of an inhabitant of Jedwabne: "I remember when they were deporting Poles to Siberia, on each and every wagon there sat a Jew with a rifle. Mothers, wives, children knelt in front of them, begging for mercy. The last time it happened on 20 June 1941."
Did the Polish inhabitants of Jedwabne and neighboring villages welcome the Germans with enthusiasm and as their saviors? Yes!
They did! If someone drags me out of a burning house, where I could die any second, I will embrace him and give him my gratitude.
Even if tomorrow I have to consider him my next mortal enemy. In those days the Germans saved hundreds of the locals (maybe also from Jedwabne?), who had been hiding for several days in the cornfields and among the bushes on the banks of the Biebrza river. They saved them from a deportation to death, somewhere in the deserts of Kazakhstan or the Siberian taiga. And it was already commonly known what such a deportation meant: Letters and other messages had been arriving from the "special settlements". Parallel to the deportations there were taking place mass arrests of the suspects, which often led to prolonged and deadly terms in the gulag or prison.
We shouldn't be surprised, then, by those signs of joy or by those (in Zbikowski's words) "bands" attacking the reatreating groups of Soviet soldiers. Attacking their yesterday's tormentors, representatives of one of the most cruel political systems ever suffered by humanity.
THE MOST TERRIBLE DAY FOR THE POLES
Recently there has been published a new, specific and trustworthy, source, namely, "The Chronicle of the Abbey of the Congregation of the Benedictine Sisters in Lomza (1939-1954)", edited by Sister Alojza Piesiewiczowna (Lomza 1995). Let's quote the fragment describing the events of 22 June 1941:
"June 20. The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The most terrible day for the Poles under the Soviet occupation. Mass deportations to Russia. From the early morning wagons carrying Polish families drove across the town toward the railroad station. Deported were the wealthier Polish families, families of nationalists, Polish patriots, the intelligentsia, families of prisoners in Soviet gaols; it was even difficult to understand exactly what categories had been deported. Wailing, moaning and terrible despair ruled in Polish souls. On the other hand, the Jews and the Soviets are jubilant. It is impossible to describe what the Poles are going through. A completely hopeless situation. And the Jews and Soviets loudly rejoice and threaten that soon they will deport a the Poles. This may as well turn out to be true because for the whole day of 20 June and the next day, June 21, they dragged people to the train station without interruption...
June 22. Very early in the morning there was heard the rumbling of plane engines, and from time to time the explosions of bombs over the town... A few German bombs fell on more important Soviet posts. A terrible panic overtook the Soviets. They started running away in complete chaos. The Poles were very happy Every bomb explosion filled our souls with indescribable joy After several hours there was not a single Soviet in town, the Jews hid in cellars and basements. Just before noon the prisoners broke out of their cells. People were embracing each other in the streets and cried for joy. The Soviets were retreating without weapons, they did not return a single shot.
In the evening of that day no Soviets remained in Lomza. The situation was yet far from clear - the Soviets run away, the Germans still didn't arrive. On the next day, June 23, the town was still unoccupied. The civilian population started breaking into, and pillaging, all the Soviet magazines, warehouses and shops. In the evening of 23 June a few Germans entered - the people were relieved."
No other reaction could possibly take place in those days. A few weeks later, the Union of Armed Struggle (ZWZ) was hastily restoring the Soviet-damaged conspiratorial structures and collecting masses of weapons abandoned by the Red Army-, this "interregnum" was used to prepare for the struggle with the next occupier. There are as many testimonies in support of this, as there are for the incidents of robbery, revenge and pogroms. As always, the reality turns out to be more complicated than we can ever imagine.
Ultimate debunking of Gross
Prof Tomasz Strzembosz has published in today's "Rzeczpospolita" (31 March 2001 edition) an article called “A different pictlure of neighbours” (see the Polish original at http://rzeczpospolita.pl/gazeta/wydanie_010331/publicystyka/publicystyka_a_2.html.
The article proves beyond any doubt that Gross has heavily doctored his sources. The following very brief excerpts in my very hasty translation present the gist of Strzembosz's argument. My "filters" are in square brackets, round brackets indicate cuts.
"Because some journalists, such as Anna Bikont from "Gazeta Wyborcza", read my texts in the way which suits their needs, I want to clearly state that the following article is not an explanation of what has happened in Jedwabne on 10 July 1941, but an analysis of a specific source, that is, the depositions ( ... ) made in Lomza in 1949, as well as of the way Professor Gross has interpreted them in his book "Neighbors". ( ... ) I agree with Prof. Gross that this source is important, and because of that its interpretation influences the process ( ... ) of discovering the truth."
"In answering the criticism coming from many historians (including myself) that Wassersztajn's relation alone is not enough, Prof. Gross replied many times that “Yes, Wassersztajn's relation is not sufficient but I also utilized other, absolutely fundamental materials. Strzembosz has five relations taken down 60 years after the war, I have at my disposal 36 depositions made already in 1949 (…).
After such a declaration the other debaters had to fall silent. Why? Because Prof. Gross gained access to the records of the trial of Boleslaw Ramotowski and 21 other people when they were completely inaccessible to [everybody else]. He knew, was familiar with, held in his hands that "secret knowledge"; we had to rely on [scant bits of available information].
Only recently, when state prosecutor Ignatiew did not need these documents any more, ( ... ) they have been made available to historians. What's more, they have been xeroxed and the copies will be made accessible to all the truly interested persons. They will be finally published."
"I have read them all. ( ... ) And I have to say that the longer I was reading, the greater was becoming my astonishment.
CAUSE THESE RECORDS ( ... ) STATE SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FROM THE ALLEGATIONS OF PROF GROSS WHO RELIES MOSTLY ON THEM [the stress in the original].
[In the central part of his article Prof. Strzembosz quotes and analyzes in depth the testimonies of at least 10 defendants in the 1949 trial. His conclusions are manifold, but the central ones are: 1. The German instigation, supervision and conduct of the murder are beyond any doubt; 2. Many Poles tried to avoid being forcefully made into participants, some even hid several Jews, others were beaten for their refusal by the Germans.]
"A picture fundamentally different from the one Prof. Gross has painted in his "Neighbors". Why this difference? Jan T Gross simply omitted several scores of testimonies which spoke about the central role of the Germans, and selected only those talking about the Polish collaboration. He did not explain anywhere his reasons for so doing. He did not say why he approved of some documents and rejected the others.
The fact that the depositions of Szmul Wassersztajn (…) Abram Boruszczak and Eljasz Gradowski have been practically disavowed is also worth attention. It happened because of the testimonies of the Jedwabne inhabitants which clearly proved that Boruszczak never lived in Jedwabne and Gradowski, jailed by the Soviets for theft, had been already in 1940 deported into the interior of the Soviet Union. He returned to Poland only in 1945, so he couldn't witness anything.(...).
All three accusers had been treated by the court as people who heard something but who never directly witnessed the events at Jedwabne. ( ... ). It is exactly from such relation of Szmul Wassersztajn that Prof. Gross has taken the most drastic fragments of his book. These shocking facts have not been confirmed by any other sources.
I will leave the comment to the reader."
A different image of Neighbours
Since some journalists, such as Anna Bikont from "Gazeta Wyborcza", read my texts as it suits them, I hereby state that the article below is not an explanation of what happened in Jedwabne on the 10th of July 1941, but refers to the contents of specific source materials - that is statements made to the investigating officers, prosecutors and the court, in Lomza in 1949 as well as to the way these source materials were read by Professor Jan T. Gross and subsequently presented in his book "Neighbours",
Professor Gross talks about what seems to appear from these source materials, which - I state this clearly - are not sufficient bases for me to pronounce what happened then: about the course of events and their most significant circumstances. It is possible that we will never learn about these events, or that we will not learn everything. However, I agree with Professor Gross that these materials are an important source; and this is why the way in which they are read is not without influence on the laborious process of approaching the explanation: who, what and when - namely, getting to the truth,
2. History of the problem
One cannot claim that for 50 years nothing has been written about the crime committed in the town of Jedwabne in Podlasie. There have been a number of articles in the press and references made in books on the Holocaust about the incident. Arguments were made by the prosecutor Waldemar Monkiewicz, in, amongst others, an extensive article entitled "Extermination of Jewish settlements in the Bialystok region in the years of 1939-1944". In this article he presents a thesis that the burning of the Jews in the barn was conducted by a German special unit, under the command of a Gestapo member Wolfgang Birkner, who was infamous for his role in the occupation of Warsaw, assisted by gendarmerie and military police. The latter participated merely in escorting the victims to the square in Jedwabne and in leading the convoy out of town, to the barn, where the Germans, having poured petrol on the walls, burnt around 900 men, women and children. However, those works were only published either in specialist research periodicals, or in other publications, which are not read by the majority of Poles.
This situation continued until 1999, when Professor Jan T. Gross published his article "Summer of 1941 in Jedwabne. A contribution to research on the role of local communities in the extermination of the Jewish nation during the second World War" in a collective work "Nonprovincial Europe", edited by Professor Krzysztof Jasiewicz.
This article contains a type of 'nucleus' and the basis for evaluation of what happened, which is an account by Szmul Wasersztajn; this account is in the Jewish History Institute in Warsaw (in a collection "individual accounts", nr. 301). Professor Gross informs us that another account of Szmul Wasersztajn exists, which is shorter, in which a number of details are different than in the statement quoted below, this is not the most significant information, however. One account states that out of 1200 Jews in Jedwabne, only 3 survived the war; according to the other account - 7 out of 1600; one claims that the perpetrators of the murder forced the Jews to carry an enormous statue of Lenin - the other one - his portrait, etc. - but the general sense of both of the accounts is the same,
In his article, Professor Gross concludes: "But even without certainty regarding the details, it is absolutely clear for a historian, that in late June and early July of 1941 in Jedwabne a group of local people inhumanely ill-treated their fellow citizens of Jewish origin".
Hence, on the basis of only one cited account, which is short and contains conflicting details in the two available versions (it is not certain which of these came first), a sociologist and a historian made a very grave accusation against a group of people.
One year later, in the spring of 2000, a publishing house Pogranicze in the town of Sejny published a book by Professor Gross with a significant title: "Neighbours. A history of the extermination of a Jewish town. To the memory of Szmul Wasersztajn"(we learn from the book that S. Wasersztajn died on February 9, 2000)
This book very quickly aroused an enormous response as it presents a thesis going much further than the conclusion of "Nonprovincial Europe". It can be formulated as follows: the Jedwabne Jews, who were Polish citizens, were murdered by the Polish community in Jedwabne, aided by the inhabitants of the surrounding villages. They murdered them by themselves, without the participation of the occupant - the Germans - who were merely passive observers or involved in filming the murders carried out solely by Polish hands.
I have not known, in my fairly long life, a historical book that would come to such notice and create such a wave of statements in such a wide range of media. Perhaps it is no wonder. Yet, amongst the hundreds of articles and statements on the radio and television, there is a clear lack of statements about the facts themselves, statements that would take up the issue on the basis of the same or entirely new, significant sources. Nearly all of these reports deal with moral aspects of the murder, its consequences for the historic consciousness of Poles, or political and psychological consequences, or they undertake a critique of the methodology used in the work presented by Gross. However, practically nobody tries to question essentially the factuality of the previously mentioned statement that it was Polish "neighbours" who murdered their Jewish "neighbours", by themselves, burning them in a barn of Bronislaw Sleszynski, with the approval of the occupant authorities, but without participation of the Germans.
Responding to the accusations of more than one historian (including the one writing these words), that the account of Wasersztajn is not sufficient, Professor Gross, on numerous occasions, both during discussions in the editorial offices of "Rzeczpospolita”, and during a recent discussion in Bialystok, answered: "yes, the account of Wasersztajn is not enough, but in my work I also used other, completely elementary materials; Strzembosz has 5 accounts taken 60 years after the war, I have 36 accounts made as early as 1949 in a court room in Lomza and before other investigating officers".
After such a statement the participants of the discussion had to fall silent. Why9 Because Professor Gross obtained access to the files of the proceedings against Boleslaw Ramotowski and 21 others, at the time when the files of the former Main Commission of Investigating Crimes against the Polish nation (in a state of liquidation) were entirely inaccessible, even to the employees. It was these files to which he referred. He knew, he saw them, held them in his hands, he had access to "secret knowledge", we were left with what had been - in rare cases - revealed earlier, as well as what sometimes came out in a heated discussion which - by the very nature of such discussion - may have been distorted.
Only recently when the prosecutor Ignatiew no longer needed those files, the investigation records and the 1949 trial documents were made accessible to historians, thanks to the kindness of the IPN (National Memory Institute) authorities. More than that. I know they have been photocopied and a copy will be available to anyone really interested. They will finally be published.
What are those documents? As the charges from March 31, 1949 state, the Jewish History Institute in Poland sent to the Ministry of Justice "evidence materials regarding the criminal activity of murdering individuals of Jewish nationality by the inhabitants of Jedwabne. According to the statement given by a witness Szmul Wasersztajn, who observed the extermination of Jews. The main perpetrators of this crime were ( ... )". Thus, the files of the trial contain the same account of Wasersztajn that is quoted by Professor Gross (the longer version); this account became the basis for the trial. As a consequence of this investigation, a trial in the Regional Court in Lomza took place on May 16 and 17, 1949 and its verdict was then considered by the Appellate Court and the High Court.
One substantial volume thus contained several types of documents:
--- testimony of suspects and witnesses made before officiaJs of the local Office of Public Safety in w Lomza, who were investigating officers;
--- statements of suspects and witnesses given before public prosecutors of the Regional Court in Lomza;
--- testimony of the accused and witnesses made during the court trial;
--- charges and the verdict with justification, prepared by the judges of the Regional Court in Lomza-,
--- correspondence of the accused to various national authorities' offices;
--- files of the Appellate Court and the High Court in Warsaw.
This is the source that is always called upon by Professor Gross.
I read it all. Even more: I copied by hand all the documents elementary to the case of the murder, maintaining accurately their style and writing, which were, one might add - very characteristic. I have to admit that the more I read the files, the more my amazement increased. These files, when treated in a serious and complex manner, say something entirely different from what Professor Gross claims; Professor Gross based his arguments mainly on these files, although these were not the only documents used. Professor Gross constantly stresses the fact that because he can rely on such a rich and credible source basis, he has the right to formulate authoritative claims that others can oppose with accounts only - and those accounts were given many years later.
It is impossible to convey in a press article all that the study of these documents yielded. It is just as is impossible, on the basis of these accounts and only these, to present a credible version of events, which could in the end turn out to be different from the picture emerging from the statements of the accused and the witnesses; all of these parties were in a specific and very particular situation, so they said what they said - not necessarily the truth and only the full truth. I can however, pass on a few statements, which appear espressis verbis from the documents, considered by Professor Gross as so significant in the course of uncovering the truth,
They will concern:
- - The number of people accused of participation in the murder of Polish citizens of Jewish origin in the town of Jedwabne. This number will only include the inhabitants of the town, as participants in the murder from outside Jedwabne only appear in the documents in a manner that is too general and anonymous to identify them.
- - Participation of Germans in this murder, that is, the uniformed and armed officials of police formations. In this case, I will attempt to quote in the most extensive way possible, the relevant fragments of sources, so that I can not be accused of pronouncing claims that are not based on source materials. May the readers judge for themselves, whether they are sufficiently numerous and sufficiently convincing to talk about participation of Germans in the particular stages of the murder. The murder consisted of 3 stages: dragging the Polish citizens of Jewish origin out of their flats and driving them to the market place in Jedwabne; leading them, first through the town, then through a field to the barn of Bronislaw Sleszynski, and finally burning them in the barn.
I haste to add here, that the first and the third stage are the least known to us: most of the suspects admitted to guarding the Jews in the market place, less to driving them here, but nearly no one admitted to being near the barn when it was being lit. Such an admission might have been an evidence of participation in the worst of crimes. So this is where there is most room for speculation.
I would like to start with the role of the Germans and the role of the Poles in the events which took place in Jedwabne on July 10, 1941. Since the suspects and the witnesses gave testimony in turn: before investigators, public prosecutors and during the court trial - I will attempt to present their statements in exactly this order, in order to demonstrate if and to what extent they changed according to who the interrogators were. I will quote them in extenso, as they sounded, but merely those fragments that concerned the relations between Poles and Germans. Quoting the whole statements would produce a book, not an article.
I will only consider here statements of the suspects, out of whom in the end 22 were put to trial on May 16 and 17, 1949. The order has been maintained as it was during the trial, which was called a trial of "Boleslaw Ramotowski and 21 others".
1. 1. 1. Boleslaw Ramotowski - born in 1911, without a job, currently a janitor in a primary school, 1 part of primary school completed, wife and four kids (I give only the most significant data that characterise the suspect; the suspects were all Roman Catholics, and lived in Jedwalme).
Before the investigating officer (I do not consider here the issue of who the investigating officers were [sometimes they were non-commissioned officers]; it is a separate and very interesting issue) he testifies (08.01.1949):
"Yes, I took an active part in driving those Jews to the barn, who lit it - I did not see that, I only know, that we Polish drove nearly one and a half thousand Jews (this number occurs in a number of statements, it looks like a number suggested or written in by the investigator) and the mentioned Jews were burnt. Who set the fire, this I don’t know.
Question: Tell me, who else took an active part together with you, in driving those Jews, who were burnt in Jedwabne.
Answer: They are the following people ( ... )" (I will write later about the number of suspects occurring in the statements, but I would like to signal that they are the people named by the investigating officer. In the case of Ramotowski it is as many as 41 people).
Before the public prosecutor he states (15,01.1949):
"Yes, I admit I am guilty that in 1941 in the summer in Jedwalme, to accommodate the authority of the German state under the orders of the mayor and the German gendarmerie I took an active part in guarding the Jewish population driven to the market. My task was only to make sure that none of the Jews got away. In guarding, the Jews participated also ( ...)"
Before the court he states (16.05.1949):
"Iwas at the market for around 2 hours, because I was forced by Germans to guard the Jews. When the Germans drove the Jews to the barn, I ran away home then. ( ... )
The Court reads out the testimony of the accused made during the [investigation], k.74
The accused states further:
During the interrogation I was forced to tell on other people, because I was beaten very much. ( ... )"
2. Stanislaw Zejer - born in 1893, 1 part of primary school completed, farmer, 4 ha of land, married.
Before the investigating officer he states (11.01. 1949):
"I was detained because I took part, by the order of the town mayor Karolak, to drive Jews to the market place. ( ... ). It was in 1941 in the month of July the janitor came to me by an order of the town major and he said told me to go to drive Jews to the market and I went to drive them to the market. After we drove them there, the gendarmerie started terrible beatings together with the Poles.( ... ). To the Jews that were there, the Germans told to take the monument of Lenin and to walk with it into town singing. I wasn't there any more during that time, because I got an order from the town mayor to fetch clover. I was bringing that clover for an hour. When I got back, the barn with the Jews was already burning, and there were about 1000 Jews who had been chased into that barn."
Before the public prosecutor he states (15.01.1949):
“Yes, I admit to being guilty, that in 1941 in Jedwabne, to accommodate the authority of the German state (this is a consistently used formula associatedwith the fact that charges came from the so-called "August Decree" from August 1944), under the orders of the town mayor Karolak and the Gestapo, I drove to the appointed place in the market 2 people of Jewish nationality; after leading those two Jews to the market. I saw a lot of Jews already there. From there I went straight home and I didn't see what happened after that, what the Germans did with the Jews. Whether the other inhabitants of Jedwabne took part in bringing Jews, I didn't see that. ( ... )"
Before the court he testifies (16.05.1949):
"Stanislaw Zejer does not admit to being guilty and explains: when I was in the Magistrate, the mayor told me to collect Jews but I didn't want to, when I went out in the street one from Gestapo told me to take 2 Jews, but I let them go when the Gestapo one went to the bakers.( ... ).
The Court reads out the statement of the accused for k. 33 and 75 investigation.
The accused testifies further:
I saw Jerzy Laudanski when he walked with the Jews, when they drove them to the market, the Gestapo were walking behind Laudanski. I did not see any of the other accused. These Jews were lead by the Gestapo and they were beating them. I am illiterate. I didn't go myself, the Germans took me and they forced me".
3. Czeslaw Lipinski - born in 1920, farmer, 5 parts of primary school completed, bachelor, 3 ha of land and farm buildings.
Before the investigating officer he testifies (11.01.1949):
"Question: Did you take part in the murdering of Jews in 1941in the month of July9
Answer: I did not take part in the murdering of Jews, only Kalinowski Eugeniusz, Laudanski Jurek and one German came to me and [I went] with them to the market; I brought one Jew and 2 little Jewesses [sic!] When we drove with the Germans the above mentioned Jews ( ... ) we brought the above mentioned Jews to the market then the Germans put me on the Stary Rynek street [and] told me to look out so that the Jews would not run away from the market. I was sitting with this stick around 15 minutes, but I could not look any more how they were murdering them [J I went home and on the way I threw this stick away ( ... )".
Before the public prosecutor he testifies (15.01.1949):
"I do not admit to being guilty, that in July 1941. I took part in the burning of Jews in Jedwabne and I explain, that on the critical day when I stood on my own courtyard a German came up to me, took me with him to the market, to guard the Jews, who had been driven to the market. As soon as the German walked away from me, I immediately ran away from the market. I only stood by the market for a short time, maybe 10-15 minutes and because I was terrified with what was happening, I don't remember anything about who from the civilian population took part in murdering the Jews. After getting home I hid in the hay (if he hid, it was from the Germans not the Poles) and I don't know what happened to the Jews".
Before the court he testifies:
"I didn't bring any Jews to the market".
The court reads the statement of the accused made in the investigation k. 35 and 76:
In the statement I talked about how they made me, because I was beaten very much. I wasn't in the market at all I don't know what went on there". (This statement questions all the previous ones. Which one is true? In any case, neither the investigator nor the public prosecutor seem to consider the statements about the role of Germans in driving Jews and manipulating Poles as something to question, they both accept this as obvious.)
4. Wladyslaw Dabrowski - born in 1890, cobbler, illiterate, married.
Before the investigating officer he testifies (11.01.1949):
"Question: Tell us if you took part in the murdering of Jews during the German occupation in 1941 in the month of July 9.
Answer: I did not take part in the murdering of Jews, I took part only in the guarding at the market, where there were over fifteen hundred of those who had been driven there by the Polish community ( ... ) My task was to watch that not one Jew came out beyond a line, which I did, I got such an order from Karolak, Sobota and one German, and during my guarding I didn't see anyone beating Jews Before the public prosecutor he testifies: (15.01.1949):
"I do not admit to being guilty and I explain: on the critical day when I was at home, gendarmerie came to my home with the mayor of Jedwabne Karolak and told me to go to the market and guard the Jews. Because I didn't want to go and tried to run away, the
German hit me on the head with his gun (this was confirmed by the testimony of a number of witnesses) and he hit me in the face with his hand and knocked a tooth out. Then I stood there for around 2 hours. As soon as the German moved away from me I ran away home. ( ... )"
Before the court he testifies:
"( ... ) Does not admit to being guilty and explains: on the critical day I worked near the church and I didn't take any part.
The court reads the testimony of the accused given in the investigation k. 38 and 78. The accused testifies further:
I talked like that during the interrogation, because I was beaten and I was afraid of further beating. I didn't see any of the accused. I was beaten in a terrible way" (the statements during the interrogation and before the public prosecutor had to contain some truth, as the fact of the beating by the German was confirmed both by the family and by strangers).
5. Feliks Tarnacki - born in 1907, profession - locksmith, job -farmer, 4 parts of primary school completed, widower.
Before the investigating officer he testifies (11.01. 1949):
"Question: Did you take part in the round-up on the Jewish population in the month of July 1949 and who else took part in it?
Answer: On the day on which the round-up on the Jewish population took place, mayor Karolak Marian came to me and the secretary of the magistrate Wasilewski, whose first name I don't know, together with a Gestapo man, and they chased me out to the market, where there were a lot of people gathered [from] the town of Jedwabne and from other parts, whom I didn't know: ( ... ) I stayed in the market for around 15 minutes and then having run away from it I took the bicycle from my house and left for the village of Kaimy in the district of Jedwabne, where I stayed with Przestrzelski Feliks for around 10 minutes and after drinking a glass of vodka I went in the direction of Lomza. ( ... ) After that I returned home on foot, i.e. to Jedwabne and there was already smoke in town from the burnt barn. After getting home I hid. I remained in hiding for the whole night".
Before the public prosecutor he testifies (15.01A949):
"I do not admit to being guilty that in July 19411 took part in the murdering of Jews in Jedwabne and I explain that on the critical day I was at home. During that time the mayor of Jedwabne Marian Karolak came to my flat with a Gestapo man and they took me to the market, where Jews were being brought. When the Gestapo man walked away from me I ran away home and went by bike to Lomza ( ... )11
Before the court he testifies:
"( ... ) I was at the market maybe 10 - 15 minutes by the order of a Gestapo man, but I escaped right away.
The court read out the testimony on k. 40 and 79 [investigation]
The accused testifies further:
I didn't see any of the accused. My brother is called Jerzy Tarnacki."
6. J6zef Chrzanowski - born in 1889, farmer, home schooling, married, 3 ha of land with farm buildings.
Before the investigating officer he testifies (11.01.1949):
In 1941 when the occupant army entered Jedwabne the local population commenced with the murdering of the Jews, first they drove them to the market: when I was walking along Przylska street I was met by Wasilewski J6zef and Sobota, inhabitants of the town of Jedwalme, and they told me to go to the market so I didn't oppose and went with them. When I got to the market they told me that I should give my barn for the burning of the Jews, so then I started to ask them not to burn my barn, so they agreed then to this and left my barn alone, only they told me to help them drive the Jews to the barn of Sleszynski Bronislaw, the Jews were rounded up in fours (although the testifying is not saying it directly, he means the Germans; similarly when he talks of setting the fire) and we Polish guarded on one side and on another so that the Jews would not run away, when we got to the barn, they told all the Jews to go into the barn and we had to look out that all the Jews went into the barn and they set fire to the barn and the Jews were burnt, then I went home then, I had no orders to drive the Jews from the Germans. ( ... )"
Before the public prosecutor (15.01.1949) he repeats the statement about defending his own barn, does not admit to driving Jews to the barn of Sleszynski.
Before the court he testifies:
"Does not admit to being guilty, explains: I wasn't present at the driving of Jews, neither was I at the leading of them (leading them - to the barn - TS.).
The Court read the testimony of the accused on k. 42 and 80 of the [investigation]. The accused testifies:
“Wasilewski and Sobota turned to me, so that I would give my barn for the burning, but I didn't agree. Then the Gestapo came, they also demanded, that I would give the barn, I didn't want to agree, but being seared of them I ran away in the corn and stayed there until the evening. I didn't see any of the accused." (it is clear that either the court asked about the other accused, or else returned to the testimony given before the investigating officer of the Security Services).
Before, the prosecutor (Jan. 15th 1949) he repeats that he did not want his barn to be used for burning the Jews, he pleads he is not guilty of driving the Jews to the Sleszynski's barn.
Before the Court he testifies:
"I do not confess my guilt, he explains: I was not present at collecting the Jews or at driving them (to the barn - T.S.).
The Court read out the defendant's testimonies on chart 42 and 80 of the investigation files. The defendant testifies:
Wasilewski and Sobota wanted me to give my barn for burning, but I refused. Then the Gestapo men came and they also demanded that I give my barn, but I did not want to; as I was afraid of them I ran away and hid in the rye. I stayed there till the evening. I saw none of the accused". (the court probably asked him about the other accused persons or came back to his testimony before the UB investigating officer).
7. Roman Górski - born 1904, a farmer, he owns 3 ha of land, 2 classes of elementary school completed.
Before the investigating officer he testifies (Jan. 10th 1949):
"At 12 a.m. to my house came Karolak Marian, the mayor, and a German gendarme, who kicked me. They took me to the Market of Jedwabne, where they ordered me to guard the Jews together with several 16- 17-year-old boys from the village ( ... ) I was at the Market from 12 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then I went back home, as my wife, who was lying in after childbirth, suddenly fell ill. I did not go out of the house any more that day. ( ... )"
Before the prosecutor he testifies (Jan 15th 1949):
"Yes, I confess I am guilty that in July 1941, accommodating with the German authorities and under the threat of the mayor and German gendarmes I was made to guard the Jews collected at the Jedwabne Market. The mayor, Karolak, and German gendarmes came to my house and took me to guard the Jews at the Market, so that they could not run away. I also saw that Sobota and Wasilewski selected about a dozen Jews present and ordered them to do funny physical exercises. I do not know what happened next to the Jews, as I went back home".
Before the Court he testifies:
"Gendarmes came to my house and ordered me to go with them. When I opposed, they beat me and forced me to go with them to the market, where 1 remained only for 15 minutes and escaped and came back home, because my wife, when she saw that the Germans were beating me, fell ill.
The Court read out the defendant's testimony on chart 44 and 81 of the investigation files.
The defendant testifies:
“I did not do anything, when I was at the market. I did not see Jerzy Laudanski. I was beaten very heavily during the investigation proceedings and told these things while being in pain."
S. Antoni Niebrzydowski - born 1901, a locksmith, secondary education, married, an owner of a house in Jedwabne.
Before the investigating officer he testifies (Jan. 10th 1949):
"In 1941 to my house came Karolak, a German mayor, and Bardon Karol and they ordered me to go to guard the Jews at the market, whom they were driving to the sugar market. I did not know what was going on and I went at the order of Karolak and Bardon. I was on the side of the Dworna Street and I had nothing in my hands."
He delivered kerosene to be poured on the barn to which "they rushed the Jews". He gave the kerosene at the order of Eugeniusz Kalinowski and Jerzy Niebrzydowski.
Before the prosecutor he testifies (Jan. 15th 1941):
"Yes, I confess I am guilty that in July 1941, accommodating the German authorities and under the threat of the mayor and Bardon (Bardon, who was an assistant gendarme, was the only Jedwabne citizen armed with a gun). I was made to guard the Jews collected at the Jedwabne market. I gave the kerosene from the storehouse to Bardon, Niebrzydowski Jerzy and Kalinowski Eugeniusz; I do not know for what purposes they needed the kerosene. After some time I went back home and I only saw the fire belching out of that barn
Before the Court he repeats his version of events and adds:
"Then people were saying that the kerosene I had given was used to burn the Szlesinski's barn" (it is an important completion - maybe, giving the kerosene to the town authorities, he did not know for what purposes it was going to be used).
9. Wladyslaw Miciura - born 1902, a carpenter, one class of elementary school completed, married, 6 children aged 6 - 15, ? ha of land.
Before the investigating officer he testifies (Jan 10th 1949):
"Three or four days before the raid I was made to do some carpenter work at the gendarmerie station. In July 194 t, I do not remember the exact date, several cabs (at that time the villagers called by this name all the passenger cars) came with Gestapo men and they organised a raid on the Jews and they rushed them to the market square. The gendermes sent me home for breakfast and when I came back after an hour a policeman ordered me to go to the market to guard the Jews and prevent them from running away. I guarded the Jews from 12 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then I went back to the gendarmerie station, but they did not want me to work; they told me to go and drive the Jews to the barn, so I did this and I was there till the moment the barn full of Jews was set on fire. ( ... )
Before the prosecutor he testifies (Jan. 15th 1949):
"Yes, I confess I am guilty that in July 1941 in Jedwabne, accommodating, with the German authorities and under the threat of German gendarmes and the Gestapo men I was made to guard the Jews collected at the Jedwabne market, I did not participate in driving the Jews to the Sleszynski's barn.
Before the Court:
- he does not confess his guilt and explains: "I did not participate in driving the Jews". During the investigation proceedings he gave the names of the accused because he was beaten. He says: "I was not present at the market square at all. All day long I was working as a carpenter at the gendarmerie station" (This testimony is also characteristic for other defendants. Before the investigating officer he acknowledges having done everything', before the prosecutor he denies most of the controversial acts participation in driving the Jews to the Sleszynski's barn; before the Court he says he has not taken part in the murder at all. Most of all testimonies against the neighbours [not cited here] are false and forced. The fact that before the Court he denies participating in the crime does not mean that he did not see the Gestapo cars and the actions of gendarmes.)
10. Józef Zyluk - born 1910, no profession, illiterate, performs odd jobs as a salesman, married, 5 children
Before the investigating officer he testifies (Jan. 9th 1949):
"I was detained by the militiamen in Jedwabne on 8th January 1948 and accused of delivering the Jews to the Gestapo men in 1941." In the later part of his testimony he says that, drawn away from mowing the hay, together with Karolak the mayor he took one Jew from the mill in Jedwabne, was taking him to the market, but let him go in Lomzynska St.
Before the prosecutor he testifies (Jan 15th 1949): that "on the critical day, when I was mowing the hay, the mayor of Jedwabne came and told me to go with him to the town. As I did not want to go with him, he told me that if I do not go, I would be shot down. So I went with him."Then he repeats his testimonies from the investigation. (In his application to the Supreme Court dated 28th July 1949 he says that later he saved 8 Jews and that he can present witnesses to confirm this.)
Before the Court he testifies:
"( ... ) at the Karolak's order I was conducting one Jew, but only for about 15 steps, then I ran away and I know nothing".
The Court read out the defendant's testimonies from chart 49 and 84.
The defendant testifies:
"the name of the Jew I was conducting was Zdrojewicz" (he really survived and testified in the court proceedings).
I think that citing next ten testimonies would be enough to form a fairly reliable view on the role of the Germans in the liquidation of the Polish citizens of Jewish origin in Jedwabne on 10th July 1941.
So - the Germans!
How many of them were there? We do not know. Maybe it was true what Julia Sokolowska, the cook at the gendarmerie station in Jedwabne, said during the trial on 17 May: "On the critical day there were 68 Gestapo men, I was preparing dinner for them; and there were lots of gendarmes, as they came from various gendarmerie stations".
Other Jedwabne citizens also clearly distinguish the Gestapo men from the gendarmes. Some base their opinion on the details of clothing they observed. For example Natalia Gasiorowska, giving her testimony before the prosecutor (in November 1950), said: "I am sure they were the Gestapo men, as they had skulls on their caps", and Marianna Supraska, giving her testimony on the very same day and before the same prosecutor, talking about the participation of Zygmunt Laudanski, said that he had been rushed by the Gestapo men who "had skulls on their sleeves".
In any case the number of the Germans is not the most important matter. However, one of my reporters, Dr Stefan Boczkowski, wrote in the letter of November 2000, that Jedwabne was "green" with their uniforms. The most essential is the fact that all the time the Germans were the forcing element and the representatives of the occupying authorities who had been deciding about everything in the neighbourhood for the last three weeks.
The testimonies show that the Germans forced the local men out of their houses and rushed them to the market square or made them "drive" the Jews.
In other testimonies, not cited here, the witnesses tell about the Gestapo men and gendarmes "driving" the Jews along Cmentarna St. to the Sleszynski's barn, However, nobody tells about their role in setting the barn on fire. As I have already mentioned elsewhere, this moment is carefully omitted in the testimonies. Only one witness mentions an arsonist - a Pole (J6zef Kobrzeiiiecki). It is highly improbable that the Germans who had controlled all the preparations for the murder left the final execution for the Poles.
One question is left open - was Jedwabne on that day surrounded by the guards and who were the men guarding the town? One of the defendants says that he, armed with a stick, was left by the Germans on his farm located at the entrance to the town - he states, however, that he did not fulfil his task and let through the persons who were running away (namely ... ). Other testimonies, however, both of the suspected and the witnesses, seem to deny that there was any tight cordon of the guardians around the town.
Several suspects escape from the Jedwabne market square, hide themselves in the rye around the town and nobody prevents them from doing so; the other suspect rides out of the town on his bike in the direction of Lomza and only near Lomza meets the gendarmes who take the bike away from him. The full isolation of the town surrounded by gardens and with direct exits to the fields covered at that time with high crops would be possible only with the presence of a great number of military forces placed not only in the exit streets and roads.
5. The number of the Poles taking part in the murder
In order to establish this number on the basis of the presented source materials it is necessary to analyse the following elements:
. . the number of suspected (and then accused) persons testifying before the Provincial Court in Lomza, decreased by those acquitted of a charge on the spot on 17 January 1949 or later during the proceedings before the Appeal Court;
. . persons defined as "hiding themselves", i.e. those who were not arrested and did not take part in the trial;
. . persons who died before the beginning of 1949 and also defined as guilty;
. . persons mentioned in the Szmul Wasersztajn's report, with the reservation that they also have to be "checked" during the testimonies given before the court.
The separate problem is that of town citizens mentioned in testimonies given before the officers of the Security Service (UB).
Most of the defendants during the court trial revoked their testimonies regarding this matter, saying that they were forced to give them by torture. It is worth noting that the UB investigating officerswere not interested in the Germans- firstly because their presence in Jedwabne on 10 July 1941 was obvious for them (as well as for the prosecutors and the judges), and secondly because the Germans were not available and the Poles, not the Germans, were the subjects of the investigation. Moreover, there is a tendency, a visible tendency, to widen the circle of suspects both by the persons already in the hands of the Security Service (UB) and by the persons who had not yet been arrested. With the help of forced statements, evidence is being collected against the arrested and the non-arrested persons. Janek is to testify against Piotrek, Piotrek is to testify against Jurek, Jurek against Janek, etc., so that the accusation is based not on one but on many depositions. There occur paradoxical situations. Boleslaw Ramotowski mentions in his statements before the UB officers 41 "co-perpetrators", whom he saw at the Jedwabne market square. Later on he even defines who was holding a stick and who had a gun. It was impossible to notice so many persons in the chaos of events that were happening, especially as the witness -according to his own words - took an active part in the events. Thus, it is no wonder that during the court trial he revoked that part of his testimony, stating that he saw only one person at the market. Similarly Julia Sokolowska, the cook at the gendarmerie station located close to the market square, who, however, had to perform a definite task (cook the dinner), during the investigation proceedings stated that she saw at the market more than thirty Poles busy with collecting and guarding the Jews. The question arises: can we treat the persons mentioned during the investigation as persons really engaged in the preparation or realisation of the crime in Jedwalme?
Let us now do the calculations:
1. The formal accusation mentioned 22 persons charged with participating in the crime, of which 10 were acquitted and released. (During the "Main Court Proceedings" of 16th and 17th of May 1949 the following were sentenced: Karol Bardon, to death [pardoned by Bierut, received 15 years in prison], Jerzy Laudanski, to 15 years in prison, Zygmunt Laudanski, Wladyslaw Miciura and Boleslaw Ramotowski, to 12 years in prison, Stanislaw Zejer and Czeslaw Lipinski, to 10 years in prison, Wladyslaw Dabrowski, Feliks Tarnacki, Roman Górski, Antoni Niebrzydowski and Józef Zyluk, to 8 years. The following were acquitted: Józef Chrzanowski, Marian Zyluk, Czeslaw Laudanski, Wincenty Goscicki, Roman Zawadzki, Jan Zawadzki, Aleksander Lojewski, Eugeniusz Sliwecki and Stanislaw Sielawa. Such sentences indicated a considerable level of independence of the court, which deemed some of the depositions for the Security Service (UB) as insufficient in view of the later testimonies by witnesses, especially if the suspects pleaded not guilty already during the inquiry.) Consequently, only 12 persons were declared guilty.
However, the Appeal Court in Bialystok, during extramural proceedings in Lomza on 13th of June 1950, acquitted 2 of the persons convicted in May 1949, i.e. Józef Zyluk and Feliks Tarnawski, thus reducing the list to 10 convicted persons.
2. The list of persons in hiding (this qualification does not mean that the persons mentioned in the list really remained in hiding, but that they did not live in Lomza province and were not available at the moment. Indeed, many inhabitants of Lomza province left after the war - for a variety of reasons - for the regained territories, in particular the Mazury region), and therefore not available, includes 8 persons suspected of the crime (these are: Jerzy Tarnacki [to whom Wasersztajn referred as Jurek Tarnoczek], Julian Schmidt, Marian Karolak, Józef Wasilewski, Jerzy Niebrzydowski, Michal Trzaska, Waclaw Borowski and Mieczyslaw Borowski), although 5 of them are also on Szmul Wasersztajn's list. This leaves only 3.
3. The list of persons suspected of the crime, but not alive in 1949 includes 9 persons (the list includes: Józef Sobota, Eugeniusz Kalinowski, Józef Kobrzeniecki, Stanislaw Sokolowski, Boleslaw Rogalski, Wladyslaw Modzelewski, Bronislaw Sleszynski, Jarmutowski and Aleksander Janowski), although three of them (Boleslaw Rogalski, Jarmutowski and Bronislaw Sleszynski) are also on Wasersztajn's list, which leaves 6. The list of six includes J6zef Sobota , who was later found in a psychiatric hospital and released due to the state of his health. However, he was undoubtedly one of the most charged perpetrators of the massacre.
4. The list of persons whom Szmul Wasersztajn deemed particularly criminal includes 14 inhabitants of Jedwalme (these are: Bronislaw Sleszynski, Marian Karolak, Mieezyslaw Borowski, Waclaw Borowski, Jarmulowski (mentioned among the deceased as Jarmutowski), Boleslaw Ramotowski, Boleslaw Rogalski, Stanislaw Sielawa, Franciszek Sielawa, Eugeniusz Kozlowski, Trzaska, Jerzy Tarnoczek (Tarnawski), Jerzy Laudanski and Czeslaw Laciecz (sic!).
Looking at this list one can have certain doubts. The list includes acquitted Stanislaw Sielawa, who was noted - as Wasersztajn writes -for cruelty, Bronislaw Sleszynski, who was confined to bed with dysentery, whose fault was that following orders from Karolak, supported by the presence of a gendarme; he handed them the keys to his barn; the list includes the Borowski brothers, who committed allegedly terrible deeds prior to July 10th. Those deeds were not confirmed by anyone. Moreover, it partly matches the other lists. Mentioned here are those listed as deceased: Bronislaw Sleszynski, Boleslaw Rogalski and Jarmulowski (or Jarmutowski), those who remained in hiding-. Jerzy Tarnacki, Michal Trzaska, Marian Karolak, Waclaw Borowski and Mieczyslaw Borowski, those who were convicted: Boleslaw Ramotowsk! and Jerzy Laudanski, and finally, Stanislaw Sielawa, acquitted by the court, so he can not be considered here. This way, the list is reduced to 3 persons who were not listed elsewhere.
If we sum up this information, we arrive at a conclusion that (assuming that all those in hiding and all of the deceased were guilty) 23 persons from the Polish community participated at some stage in the atrocious act of July 10th 1941. This is a rather probable number, since reports by witnesses (among others Stefan Boczkowski) mention similar numbers. We are dealing here not with the "community" of Jedwabne, but with a group of several dozen men, of whom Karol Bardon, perhaps the most guilty, can hardly be considered to represent the Polish element (born in Cieszyn Silesia, German soldier duringWorld War 1, trusted - since at the beginning of the occupation he served as a gendarme), and two others were a known brawling drunk and a notorious bandit.
Among the participants of the events of July 10th the undoubted criminals were: Marian Karolak (the authorised mayor) and Karol Bardon, who many times act, together with the Germans as those who exerted force onto others.
Several times the depositions mention some unidentified youths from neighbouring villages and some ordinary onlookers who were present during the events, probably unaware of how they will end. Similarly unaware (I believe) were most other Polish participants, apart from above mentioned Bardon and Karolak, and maybe a few more people from Jedwabne Town Hall.
6. Selection of Material
Let us sum up: the decisive role of the Germans as those who inspired, organised and participated, plus the participation of several dozen Poles, including those who were forced to. Justifying the 1949 verdict, the court clearly emphasised that the accused acted under the influence of German terror. In addition, there was the attitude of others, who ran into cornfields, hid in their homes and finally, like Józef Zyluk, looked after his fellow citizens who survived the massacre. J6zef Zyluk, forced to lead two Jews from the mill on the outskirts of Jedwabne onto the market square, let them go, savingtheir lives. One of them, named Zdrojewicz, survived the war. Similarly, Zofia Górska in her letter of March 2nd, 1949 to the Provincial Court in Lomza, concerning her arrested husband Roman, writes that after the mass murder in Jedwabne the couple were hiding two Jewish neighbours in their home, namely Partyjer Serwetarz and his brother (since I quoted only 10 depositions of the suspects, omitting several dozen other depositions,including testimonies of important witnesses, important information in this matter is missing here).
As we know, of those doomed to extermination, far more survived than the seven hidden by the Polish family of Wyrzykowski in Janczewko. Many survived in Jedwabne itself until autumn 1942 and a few saved their lives and lived on in 1945.
This picture is fundamentally different from that drawn by Professor Jan Gross in his "Neighbours". What is the reason for such difference? Jan Tomasz Gross left out several dozen testimonies of various persons - witnesses, defendants, etc., who talked about the role of Germans as the causative agents; he only quoted the testimonies which mentioned the participation of Poles. He relied, among others, on an initial testimony of cook Julia Sokolowska, which was later withdrawn, and the material written by Karol Bardon, a German gendarme who, being sentenced to death, tried to dilute his responsibility by blaming the inhabitants of the town. Professor Gross has never explained the reasons for such selection. He has never explained why he accepts some documents and rejects other ones.
It is also worth noting that the account of Szmul Wasersztajn, who was not questioned by the court, and the testimonies of the prosecutor's witnesses Abram Boruszczak and E1jasz Gradowski, have actually been repudiated. It turned out in the light of the testimonies of the inhabitants of Jedwabne, and, in particular, the Polish citizen of Jewish descent Józef Gradowski, that Boruszczak had never lived in Jedwabne, and that Eljasz Gradowski, convicted for theft, had been imprisoned by the Soviet authorities and sent deep into the USSR as early as 1940. He only returned to Poland in 1945, so he had not seen anything. The above-mentioned J6zef Gradowski said that he escaped German hands on the day of the murder with the help from a Pole he did not know well.
All three accusers were treated by the court as persons who had heard of things but had not been direct witnesses. In their final cessation appeal to the Supreme Court the defence lawyers indicated that Szmul Wasersztajn had never been interrogated or questioned by either Security Service (UB) officers, or by prosecutors or during court proceedings. Answering this, the Supreme Court stated that this had been a serious infringement but, as the court had not based the proceedings on the Wasersztajn account but on testimonies of direct witnesses, the infringement did not have significant impact. 'It is Szmul Wasersztajn who provides the most violent passages in Professor Gross's book. These facts which stimulate imagination so much have not been confirmed by any other sources.
I leave any comments to the reader.
Tomasz Strzembosz (born 1930), historian, Professor of the Catholice University of Lublin and the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN). Author of publications on armed conspiracy in the Polish capital city: "Military Actions of Underground Warsaw 1939-1945", 'Assault Forces of Conspiracy in Warsaw 1939-1946", 'Rescuing and Freeing Prisoners in Warsaw 1939-1944". For nearly twenty years has been studying the history of Polish cans,piracy on the north-eastern territories of the Polish Republic under Soviet occupation. Currently writing a book based on the research. Also preparing a publication about the Soviet occupation system on Polish te77!tories in 19391941. Recently published "The Underground Polish Republic".
Descent of the Satan
or Arrival of the Gestapo?
[Rzeczpospolita 12th May 2001 No. 110)
A few weeks ago, while following my last article, "Another Picture of the Neighbors", published by the "Rzeczpospolita" ("Rz" of 31st March 2001.) 1 kept receiving phone calls from editors of various papers and radio stations, someone called informing that he represented the "Trybuna". Once I politely replied to several questions about my knowledge of the crime of Jedwabne, I heard the following. 'Why do you engage in polemics with Gross?" I replied: "In order to get closer to the truth." Then, he put the receiver down.
This is exactly where the problem is. Several individuals know perfectly well what happened in Jedwabne on 10th July 1941.
Professor Gross knows, as he investigated the matter. Ms. Arnold knows, since she has talked to a certain number of people from that town. Others, including some historians, know, because they've read Prof. Gross's book.
They know. Once having this knowledge, they present with strong confidence various opinions, including those with moral evaluations. They judge, condemn, decide about the guilt, demand to apologize, and even wonder why there was silence for so many years, and that today, thanks to Prof. Gross (and themselves), the silence is broken.
It is as if they did not know about Poland of 1945-1989, and if some portion of the blame for that silence could not be put on them as well. It is always that some "them" are to be blamed. At the same time they forget, as Prof. Gross has forgotten, either, that various "them" have already written about the fact, but the press did not follow-up the topic at that time, and that the radio and television were silent. It was true even after 1989, when one was already "allowed" to do it. There was as much silence during all that time as there is much noise today.
At the same time, let us point out an interesting phenomenon. "All the Saints" are blamed for that silence, except for one group that has been truly obliged to write about the fate of Jews, not only in Warsaw or in the General Gouvernement, but in the entire area of the former Second Republic. It is namely the Jewish Historical Institute.
It is the Institute that has kept Wasersztajn's testimony in its collection for 55 years; it is the Institute that, by transferring that account to the public prosecutor's office at the District Court of Justice in Lom2a, has triggered the investigation and the trial of 22 residents of Jedwalme accused of murder. It is the most qualified of all Polish institutions to examine Polish-Jewish relations, also in the former Eastern Poland, including the years 19391941, also in those cases when the matter becomes very complex. After all, it was not established, as it seems, with the purpose to critically review efforts made by others.
There are many among us who "know." At the same time, if we take a closer look at the issue, it turns out that facts are constantly missing to be able to base upon.
Namely, we do not even know how many Poles and how many Jews lived in Jedwabne prior to 10th July 1941, and on that very day.
Professor Gross says that according to 1931 census data, 2167 Polish citizens lived there, of whom over 60% were of Jewish descent (p. 27 [number of pages refer to Polish version of the book]). On the other hand, the "Przewodnik ilustrowany po wojew6dztwie bialostockim" ("Province of Bialystok Illustrated Guide"), developed by Dr. Mieczyslaw Orlowicz, a great authority in tourism and sightseeing, in 1937, informs that 2500 people lived there, of whom 60% Catholics and 40% Jews (p. 168). Several people who remember those times well, have told me that both before the war and during the occupation as well, Jews were a minority of the population. In his article entitled "Unexamined Neighbors" " (the "Gazeta Wyboreza" of Dec. 9 10, 2000.), Dr. Krzysztof Jasiewicz claims, referring to a Soviet document of Sept. 16, 1940, that the population of the precinct of Jedwabne (in January 1940, Soviet authorities divided the region of Bialystok into precincts, being smaller than the former poviats) was 38,885, of whom 37,300 Poles, 1,400 Jews and 185 Belorusians. Thus, there were fewer Polish citizens of Jewish descent in the entire precinct than the number of those allegedly burnt in the Sleszynski's barn, i.e. 1,600. We must also remember that Jedwabne was not the only town in the precinct, and that Jews lived in villages, too. Still, perhaps something did change during the period by July 194 1? Yes, many Jews had left Jedwabne, but others from Radzil6w and Wizna arrived. We do not stand on a firm ground even in what concerns this fundamental issue. May be it would be easier for us to evaluate the facts, asaccordingto the field examination bythe team of Andrzej Przewo2nik, having already experiences from Katyfi and Miednoje, 250 to 400 people were burnt alive in that barn.
Using such weak premises, leads to shameful errors.
While discussing Polish-Jewish relations in Jedwabne, Prof. Gross speaks about permanent threat of a pogrom (p. 28 - 29), and that only good relations of the rabbi with the local parish priest saved the Jews of Jedwabne from one in 1934. lie says (p. 30): "The rabbi of Jedwabne and the local parish priest, almost until the war, when a new pro-nationalist priest, Marian Szumowsk~ arrived, had good relationship with each other", and, earlier, he says: "The coming (according to rumors) pogrom was only prevented by rabbi Awigdor Bialostocki, accompanied by Jeny Rothchild, visiting the local parish ( ... )". However, should our scholar looked up the relevant list of the Diocese of Lomza, he would have found that father Ryszard Marian Szumowski was the parish priest of Jedwabne from 1931 till July 1940, when he was arrested by NKVD. Thus it was he, the "pro-nationalist" priest who prevented the pogrom in 1934, as it is mentioned in the commemorative book of the Jews of Jedwabne, the author has based upon.
He could have spared blaming the priest's passive attitude towards the events of 1941, as father Szumowski was not among the living any more at that time, and it was only his curate, father Kemblinski who remained in the parish.
Let us add: one should be extremely careful while dealing with towns like Jedwabne, where the same names repeat notoriously A daughter of Mr. Czeslaw Krystowczyk, son of Franciszek and Waleria, born on Dec. 14, 1907 and deceased on March 23, 1995, asked me to write that he was not the same person as Mr. Czeslaw Krystowczyk, son of Jan and Stanislawa, a local communist, mentioned in Melczewski's account, quoted by me in the article entitled "Concealed Quislingism" ("Rz" of Jan. 27, 2001.). 1 can therefore do it with full satisfaction.
THE CASE OF THE JEDWABNE CITY BOARD (JUNE - JULY 1941.)
Prof. Gross has written the following at the very beginning of the book, in a chapter entitled in a peculiar way, the "Preparations":
"In the meantime [i.e. between June 22 and July 10, 1941 TS.], a new city government was constituted. Mr. Marian Karolak became the Mayor, and among the members of the local authority there were a Wasilewski and Józef Sobuta. All that we can say about the City Executive Board is that it planned and agreed with the Germans on the murder of the Jews of Jedwabne". [underlined by TS.]
What does 'Was constituted" mean? Under German occupation, in the region of Bialystok being established here at that time?
Who had elected the Board? Who? It could be established spontaneously, following an initiative of a group of people, but, for God's sake, the Germans were at power here, and it could be no more than a receivership, by German appointment, and subordinate to the Nazi administration being established here at that time. Still, according to Ms. Jadwiga, Kordas, a German called Bryczkus (the way the name was pronounced by her - I don't know how it spells) was the Head of the Commissioner's Office (Amt) in Jedwabne (we do not know, since when).
In the light of the above, the fact that the Board was treated as a Polish institution is clearly meant to cause a feeling that it was the Polish city government that collaborated with Germans to exterminate the Jews. While in fact both Marian Karolak, as well as other above-mentioned representatives of the city government were simply quislings appointed by the Germans. It is emphasized by the fact that both Marian Karolak, as well as J6zef Sobuta and Karol Bardoh were not autochthon residents of Jedwalme, and had settled here as late as in the thirties. Karolak, as several people told me, arrived here following imprisonment for embezzlement. They had therefore neither support nor authority what made them perfect to play the role assigned to them. It is indicated by their behavior on 10th July 1941.
Furthermore, based on what documents or accounts Prof. Gross can claim that it is them who had "planned and agreed with the Germans to murder all the Jews of Jedwabne", and that they were the initiators, not only mere executors of the crime.
The author presents several "arguments" and "testimonies."
"Non-Jewish friends" warning Dwojra Pecynowicz and Mietek Olszewicz about the action being prepared.
The arrival of peasants from neighboring villages in Jedwabne, "even though it was not a market day." (p. 51)
A testimony by Jerzy Laudaniski a messenger at the military police station at that time, that "four or five Gestapo officers came by taxi to the city hall in 1941, and they began to talk there, but I don't know what they were talking about.”
Some time later, Karolak Marian said to us Poles to summon Polish citizens to the City Board, and having summoned the Poles, he ordered us to go and drive Jews to the town square to work, what people did, and I also took part in driving Jews into the town square then". (p. 52)
A testimony of Karol Bardon, German military policeman who worked in MP workshop in the Nowy Rynek (New Town Square), that he "saw several Gestapo officers in front of the city hall of Jedwalme, although he does not remember whether it was on the day of the mass murder or earlier." (p. 53)
- A fragment of an account of SzmulWasersztajn, who wrote that on 10th July: "Germans gave such an order." (p, 52)
Testimony by Henryk Krystowczyk, who, as court records show, at first categorically claimed that the agreement with the Germans had been signed by: Mayor Karolak and Eugeniusz Sliwecki, the Deputy Mayor, but while having been pushed by the judge, he admitted that he had "heard [about it - trans. note] from people." (p. 53)
Thus, there are many premises and testimonies! - Let us take a closer look at them, though.
Someone's (we do not know whose) warning Dwojra Pecynowicz and Mietek Olszewicz; about the action to be taken does not tell us anything explicit about the concluded "agreement." One could tell it because of the arrival of a larger group of Germans (I shall discuss it later), it could be a result of some hearsay, a reflection of what had happened in Radzil6w on 7th July, etc. The account of the MP messenger about the arrival of Gestapo officers, and who thinks that they discussed something, but does not know what, but can only associate the fact with the call to drive Jews to the town square, does not say anything about an "agreement", but about a given order, rather. By the way, I have never heard of Germans concluding "agreements", neither with the Warsaw Judenrat in 1942, nor with the Warsaw Mayor Commissioner in 1939 - 1944. How can we then talk about an "agreement" with representatives of a small town. They were simply giving orders.
Bardon, similarly as Jerzy Laudanski, only saw the Gestapo entering the building of the Board. Szmul Wasersztajn, who, by the way, does not mention an "agreement", but an "order", was, for obvious reasons, the most misinformed person: there had to be a barrier in communication between the quisling City Board and the community that was about to be murdered. Henryk Krystowczyk also heard something. With the reservation that Henryk Krystowczyk is an absolutely non-credible person. He is a liar, caught on lying, and a man who offered himself as a witness of the crime for low reasons, i.e. vengeance. When he testified that he had seen Jews being driven to the barn by: Czeslaw Laudafiski with his son Zygmunt, and Aleksander Lojewski, "With a walking-stick in the hand", and he allegedly had seen it from the attic of his second cousin's, Waclaw Krystowczyk's house at Przestrzelska St., the said Waclaw admitted that "he could not make good observation while in my house, as the view is foreshadowed by Sleszynski's barn" (GK SCL 123, f. 213v i 218). It is true. One cannot see from Przestrzelska Street what happens on the way to the barn, nor even in Cmentarna Street, as it is overshadowed by houses and trees, and, moreover, it is hard to recognize people from the distance of 250 meters, or who had a watking-stick in the hand. This is why Krystowczyk recognized those whom he wanted to recognize, including Czeslaw Laudanski who had been absent beyond any doubt.
Let us summarize. Prof. Gross has based information of exceptional importance for the factual and moral reasons, and putting the blame on the Polish City Board and the Poles themselves, on gossip and suppositions. During the German occupation one could say that it was based on the SLS Agency i.e. "Some Lady Said." And especially while formulating such an accusation, he should have cared for credible source foundations, and he was especially obliged to do it.
But in fact, the author of the "Neighbors" words it in the following way: "Where the idea of the whole project was conceived? - Was it submitted by the Germans (as one could assume by the phrase that "the Germans gave such an order", according to the account by Wasersztajn), or, was it a "grass-root" initiative of city councilors of Jedwabne? - It is impossible to determine it. It is anyway without greater importance (underlined by TS.], as clearly both parties came easily to an agreement." (p. 52)
Well, this is something I cannot understand! I cannot discuss it with him, as if it were indifferent to a Polish historian, whether the initiative of that terrible murder committed on people from that town, on the neighbors, came from the occupiers, or whether it was a "grass-root" initiative of the City Board, quisling, but composed of Poles. What the Jewish community would say about a Jewish historian who would write that it was indifferent to him, whether Judenrat's sending thousands after thousands of Warsaw Jews to the Umschlagplatz was done by German orders, or was it a "grass-root" initiative of the very Judenrat, as "clearly both parties came easily to an agreement." I leave this question without an answer.
I would also like to ask the author of the "Neighbors" two simple questions:
1. How does he know that beside the City Board also a City Council existed in Jedwabne in 1941, and that it took any part in any possible talks with the Germans?
2. How does he know that both "parties” easily came to an agreement, as in fact we know nothing about the talks themselves (their course, results, circumstances)?
All these are irresponsible words, cast in the wind, without any grounds, but, on the other hand, with an all too clear tendency to throw mud on the residents of Jedwabne. Simply shameful.
There is no reason then to consider, following the accounts of Szmul Wesersztajn and Eliasz Gradowskj (footnote 48 on p. 54), whether in fact the Germans proposed the Poles that they "allowed" (as it comes out from the context) to save the lives of some number of Jews - professionals, and Bronislaw Sleszynski resisted to that, or, whether, following Wiktor Nielawicki’s account, "the Germans suggested while at the very barn that some Jews be spared, as they needed labor force, and one of the Poles who managed the action replied that they would submit sufficient number of their own people to work" [underlined by TS.].
Wasersztajn could possibly hear something about it, but not at "first hand" (according to Jan Gross), while Eliasz Gradowski, who was in the USSR till the end of the war, did not hear anything - not even something "not at first hand." And, let us add it, he is an evident liar, who not only disclosed in his testimony that he'd been hundreds kilometers away from Jedwabne on 10th July 1941, but pretended that he was one of those subject to repressive measures. Namely, he testified the following. "Initially they drove all the Jews to the town square in Jedwabne - I fled ( ... )" and he mentioned as many as 26 people guilty of the murder, adding that Abram Boruszczak, a witness of the prosecutor, who was not a resident of Jedwabne at all, had witnessed the same.
It is getting spicier by the fact that the same Eliasz Gradowski, while testifying in front of the City Court of Justice in Lom2a in the case to admit the property right to Gedal London, concerning a property at Przestrzelska Street in Jedwabne, that used to belong to Ms. Sora Drejarska, his sister, and he testified on 8th January 1947 (therefore, two years earlier): "Drejarska was murdered with her entire family by Germans and only her brother remained alive", while testifying in a similar case concerning Josech Lewin, he claimed: "He is a brother of Fajga, born Semin, who was murdered by Germans on 10th July 1941, and it was done in that way that the Jews, including herself, were driven to a barn in Jedwabne and were burnt alive. I know that, as I was hiding in the area of Jedwabne at that time" [underlined by TS.]. Another Polish citizen of Jewish descent, Mr. Jankel Bena, gave testimony as a witness in the same case: "On 10th July, I saw Germans driving all the Jews of Jedwabne to a barn and setting fire ( ... ). I was hiding from the Germans at that time, and was hidden at the cemetery then, and witnessed everything."
One thing we don't know is whether it concerns the catholic cemetery at Cmentarna ("Cemetery") Street, located several hundred meters from Sleszynski's barn, or the Jewish cemetery, located within several dozen meters.
The same concerns other witnesses, too, The City Court of Justice in Lom~a made a statement at that time: "The fact of the death of Zelik Zdrojewicz was ascertained by the testimony of an eye-witness, Zelik Lewihski, who had seen Zdrojewicz being driven on that critical day with the entire Jewish population of Jedwabne to a barn, set on fire by the Germans. The witness managed to escape from being driven into the barn in the last moment" [underlined by TS.].
This prompts a question: When did Eliasz Grqdowski and others testified truly? - Was it when they accused the Poles of murder, thus ruling out the German participation, or when they provided account about the Germans, not mentioning a single word about the Poles? It seems like they said what they deemed beneficial or comfortable in a given moment.
One more comment. Prof. Gross's statement that the accounts of the last witnesses of the Holocaust are especially credible, and that they should be treated as such, was disqualified and ridiculed by himself. Perhaps in other cases, yes, but in those he used to present his premise, no. I cannot help it.
In what concerns Eliasz Gradowski andAbram Boruszczak, it also refers to Wiktor Nielawicki, who, according to Gross "escaped before being driven with the crowd of Jews to the barn" (footnote 48, p. 54). Could he get back, close to the barn, in order to listen to the conversations between the murderers? - And who informed him, hiding away from deadly danger, about that conspiracy9 -Probably not those "Poles who managed the action."
Thus, the entire premise assuming an agreement between some Polish authorities and the German political police is "suspended in a vacuum" being not proved by any serious arguments.
WHO SET THE ŒLESZYNSKIS' BARN ON FIRE?
This fundamental issue is still waiting to be solved. I have no documents that would be of prevailing importance, but I would nevertheless like to present some testimonies that can prove useful.
The first one is a statement by Aleksander Wyrzykowski, husband of Antonina, the very main positive heroin of the "Neighbors" - a film by Agnieszka Arnold, and who is also present in Gross's book. It was the two of them who kept seven individuals of Jewish descent in hiding as long as till 1945. Aleksander Wyrzykowski (born in 1908 and living in Milanówek by Warsaw at that time), signed a "Testimony" on 2nd May 1962, which begins with the following words: “I, Wyrzykowski Aleksander, together with my wife, Antonina, would like to submit the following statement. From November 1942 to 22nd January 1945, we were hiding seven Jews in our place. We lived in Janczewko in the poviat of £om¿a at that time. Not far from our place, in the town of Jedwabne, the Germans, assisted by some Poles, burnt 1600 Jews alive in 1942 [wrong". it was in 1941 - TS.] ( ... )" [underlined by TS.]. the second testimony is that by Stefan Boczkowski of the village of Grady Male, located in the vicinity of Jedwabne, and who, together with a friend, Roman Chojnowski of the same village, witnessed the events in Jedwabne on 10th July. They were both over 15 at that time. He wrote me the following in his letter of 21st November 2000: "Both of us, with many other local people were walking within some distance, at the rear of the column [of Jews - TS.] - but we could see almost entire column pretty clear. Once the column approached the barn, they brutally ordered the Jews to enter it, and, in most of the cases, German soldiers "physically helped them" enter the barn - by kicking, beating up and pushing individual people by force. Once all those from the column were pushed into the barn, the large door was closed, i.e. the door that served to let horse-driven carriages with cargo into the barn.
Then a military pickup with soldiers arrived at a high speed, and some of the soldiers immediately jumped down on the ground, while the remaining soldiers began to hand to those on the ground metal containers with gasoline, and those soldiers immediately poured the gasoline on the sides of the barn, all around; immediately after they poured the gasoline, some soldiers began to set fire on the barn on the sides all around. The barn was immediately set on fire with high flames and smoke. There was a terrible cry, lament and some hell-like uproar ( ... ).
Another account is in line with that of Boczkowski. It was submitted in New York City, and this time not to myself, but to Waldemar Piasecki. I cannot evaluate how credible it is, although it sounds very credible, indeed. It was submitted by Apolinary Domitrz of the village of Rostki by Jedwabne, born in 1929, who, together with his colleagues, Jan Rakowski and Zenon Ryszkiewicz, was pasturing cows within a half-kilometer off the fire. Having spotted the fire, they arrived running when the barn was on fire for quite a while already. The record says:
“'It was warm when the barn was set on fire. It burst up.
Then we immediately ran to Jedwabne. ( ... ) A turn to Cmentarna Street. And so we stood some two hundred and fifty meters from the barn. It was a fire like bell. It cracked like chopped splinters. It was built of wooden boards, thatched. Everything was very hot, There was a blast and a yellow smoke came out. Like that. And the Germans withdrew from the fire. And what about the others? What "others"? Master, there were no Poles in there. Only the Germans. We have seen no Poles. How many MPs were there? Oh, master, plenty came in. Some twenty or thirty I did not count them, but there were many of them. ( ... )" (Witness No. 5. Jedwabne - the inner history of the crime. "Kulisy", No. 16 of 19th Apr. 2001.)
One can say that the contemporary account published by "Kulisy" is of no importance. Confronted with "zero" credibility of Gradowski and Boruszczak, testifying in front of the court, I would not be as skeptical in relation to accounts provided years later, provided they were submitted independently of one another and if facts and pictures they describe confirm one another. The difference between the testimonies provided by Boczkowski and Domitrz is that the former watched from the very beginning the Jews being driven and the fire itself, and thus saw the Poles, while the latter arrived when Poles had already left the area around the barn.
There is yet another element to increase the level of credibility of Boczkowski's account. Even though he did not know the files of the case of 1949 while submitting his testimony, he clearly distinguishes between two groups of Poles involved in guarding Jews in the town square and driving them into the barn. The first one were those "forced" to perform the task under pressure, while the second one were "volunteers" marked off by beating up the Jews.
The conviction of the local community that it was the Germans who had burnt the Jews in Jedwabne and that the same could happen to the Poles is present in the account by father Kazimierz Olszewski, the priest at the Center for the Blind in Laski by Warsaw. He wrote, among other things:
"I was born in the village of Grady Duze, 4 kilometers off Jedwabne, and I lived there till 1953. My parish church was in Jedwabne.
( ... ) The Soviets fled on 22nd June 1941, and then the Germans came. On 10th July 19411 was with my father, who worked in our field by the village of Przestrzele, some kilometer and a half from Jedwabne. Some time before the evening we noticed a column of smoke. The day was warm and sunny. There was a fire in Jedwabne, something was burning.
We came back home in the evening. The news was spread the Germans had burnt Jews in a barn of Jedwabne. I could hear around me that soon the same would be the fate of the Poles. I shall never forget a conversation with my mother, Helena: "Mum, I'm afraid that they will burn us alive, too." Then I heard the answer: "Do not fear, it takes a short while." I shall never forget the smoke of the barn on fire and the conversation with my mother, ( ... ) Little was said about the participation of the local community in the Holocaust of the Jews, as there was no doubt of who was the main perpetrator of the murder in Jedwabne." (A letter of 6th March 2001.)
I am not writing all this in order to try to diminish the participation and responsibility of Poles at all cost, as there is no doubt that some group of them took part in the murder. Instructive in this context is however a statement by Prof. Adam Dobronski, and concerning the events of Tykocin, "which till recently have been regarded as the most drastic example of the Polish participation in the extermination of Jews. According to Jewish accounts, it was the Poles who had organized the pogrom ( ... ). But following a more extensive research of the source material, the extent of Polish participation has been clearly decreased, and currently they say that while in fact a certain number of Poles took part in it, but as a result of the Germans having earlier rounded-up Poles, and they summoned some by their names, and took others directly from the street." (A. Dobronski - "Historical Controversies are Verified in a Dialogue", "Rzeczpospolita" of 5th May 2000.). Exactly the same as in the case of Jedwabne.
The above quotation leads us to the problem of analogies, to look at the murder in Jedwabne from the perspective of other cities and towns of the Lomza region.
What happened in other places
We do not have more comprehensive knowledge of similar murders as that of Jedwabne, committed in at least several places at approximately the same time, but descriptions of those events reveal scenes that indicate some predefined "scenario", a ritual course of the mass extermination of Jews. At the same time, the Germans are the key "directors" and "actors" in each case, with some smaller or bigger participation by some group of the local community At the same time, descriptions provided by Polish and Jewish witnesses match one another. There is therefore no question of manipulation or lies on the part of the witnesses.
Namely, Jews in Zareby Koscielne were treated exactly in the same way as those in Jedwabne, and the only difference is that it happened as early as September 1939. Waclaw Zakrzewski, in his account entitled "On Pathless Tracts of the War" (Archiwum Wschodnie, sign. IV507/L) of 1973, has recorded that while Germans entered Zareby on 14th September 1939:
"Local Jews led by the rabbi came out to greet the Germans. The Germans allowed them to welcome them, and ordered that all the Jews gathered in the town square. Once all the Jews gathered, they ordered them to collect the fertilizer that remained after the market with their bare hands, and ordered the rabbi to take it away in the hat ( ... )".
Does not it remind us of the order to clean the town square in Jedwabne, as an overture to the execution? Was not it at Czyzewo, located west of Jedwabne, where Germans who came here in June 1941, ordered to smash monuments of Lenin and Stalin into pieces? Doctor Marian Godlewski of Warsaw, who was a resident of the town at that time, recollects the following'.
"The Russians erected a monument of Lenin, in the town square of Czyzewo, and that of Stalin - a bust - at the train station, on a small square by the train station. The station was within some kilometer to the town. Immediately after having seized the town, the Germans drove all the Jews of Czyzewo and told them to break Lenin's monument into pieces, and then go to the station and break Stalin's monument into pieces, and then carry all that remained of both monuments on hand-barrows, sing Jewish mourning songs, and throw the broken monuments into the Broja river after the procession. The event was organized by Germans." (A letter of 19th April 2001.)
After all, the order to break monuments of the "leaders" into pieces, to carry them on hand-barrows in a procession and to sing (in Jedwabne they sang. "The war is because of us" and Soviet songs) is also an element of a ritual that preceded the murder.
Let us now take a look from the perspective of accounts given by local Jews. At first those from Zareby Koscielne. "At the beginning of August 1941, Polish policemen gathered Jewish men who had worked for the Soviet authorities and whom they knew as active collaborators. Many managed to hide, and they gathered approximately 30 in total. They were made carry Lenin's statue, from the market square to the river by the town. On the way, Polish policemen forced the Jews to sing Hatikwa, and one of them, Jaakow Krzybowicz (Grzybowicz?) was made play the accordion. By the river, while throwing the statue into water, a local policeman, Roman Zakrzewski, ordered a local Jew, Abram Bonowicz; to deliver a speech he dictated to him. ( ... )" (AZIH, Account 301/386. Account by Rachela and Mindl Olszak, a typewritten copy). It is described in a similax way by Cipa Goldberg (Ace. No. 301/383), who adds the following fragment: "One day, the Germans drove rabbi Spiewak on the street, made him take
off his shoes and sweep the street, and collect rubbish in his own hat."
It was very similar in Kolno: "On July 5 1941, the Germans and their Polish assistants drove the entire Jewish community and gathered them around Lenin's monument. They made the men to put on their talliths and sing, While singing Hatikwa, accompanied by terrible beating up and shouts, the statue was broken into pieces by Jewish smiths. The debris was loaded on cars. They were driven by Jews in talliths, the Germans sitting on top of the cars with the reins in their hands, the Poles hustling and beating up ( ... ). At the cemetery, they dig a grave, make them prey, sing, and to the great joy of the persecutors, the debris that remained from Lenin's statue is buried." (AZIH, ace. 301/1996, Bialystok, 28th Nov. 1946.)
Apart from that, repeated, with some modifications, ritual, another characteristic moment that begins the wave of atrocities completed with extermination, is the arrival of a larger group of Germans. It is the most visible in accounts concerning Radzil6w, located some 20 kilometers north of Jedwabne. Chana Finkelsztajn has recorded the following in her account of 22nd Oct. 1945 (No. 301/1284): "On 7th July [1941 -TS] many Germans arrived"; another account by Menachem Finkelsztajn (No. 30VI994, of 28th Nov. 1946.) informs:
"It is 3 p.m., 7th July 1941; four German cars full of Gestapo officers arrive from a little town of Stawiski to Radzilow, with them there is one person in a Polish uniform." The same Chana Finkelsztajn wrote in another version of her account (No. 301/ 1284) that "on 7th July, three taxis with Germans arrived." (The same witness, contrary to Gross's statements of the marginal participation of the Germans in the crime of Radzil6w, recognized the present Gestapo officer, Hermann Schaper, as the "commander of the whole action").
The same applies to Jedwabne: The above-quoted Bardon, Jerzy Laudanski and Szmul Wasersztajn inform about the arrival of the taxis, There are though other accounts that mention trucks instead of "taxis." Prelate Tadeusz Klimaszewski, the present parish priest of Wizna, while sent to the town from a nearby village of Slupy, saw a German truck in a street leading to Wizna from Jedwabne, and they mentioned four trucks with Germans at that time. (Account of 18th March 2001.) Stefan Boczkowski saw a pickup at Sleszynskis'barn.
All that added together would indicate that it was not "Satan descending in Jedwabne", as Prof. Gross put it, but a commando from Ciechanow instead, arriving to yet another site of a pogrom. This fact would provide a logical explanation of that series of mass murders that took place in locations north of Lom2a in the Summer of 1941.
Rzeczpospolita 12th May 2001
Jewish grave controversy deepen
By Ray Furlong in Prague, Czech Republic
BBC News Online: World: Europe, Monday, 4 June, 2001,
The exhumation of bodies in the Polish village of Jedwabne, the site of a wartime massacre of Jews has uncovered the remains of far fewer people than were originally thought to have died.
Polish Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski said about 200 bodies were found, compared with the 1,600 expected. [Expected by whom? ... KJJ
The discovery of bullet fragments at the site suggests that German soldiers were responsible. The exhumation was begin after controversial allegations last year that Poles had carried out the atrocity and not Germans as originally believed. These discoveries will further fuel the raging debate in Poland about the country's wartime role.
Mr Kaczynski said the crime at Jedwabne was not as large as generally assumed although it was atrocious.
Germans or Poles?
Furthermore, the discovery of bullet fragments at the site suggests that German soldiers were responsible for the massacre.
This was long believed to be the case until last year when a Polish-American historian alleged that Poles alone carried it out.
His book provoked a nationwide debate. Were Poles only victims of Nazism or also perpetrators of atrocities? This exhumation does not answer the questions. There may be more bodies buried near the site of the dig and the participation of Poles in the massacre still cannot be ruled out.
In July, on the 60th anniversary of the Jedwabne pogrom, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski is due to apologise for it. But the investigation might not uncover exactly what happened in time for that.
Polska Agencja Prasowa (PAP) 5 June 200116:30 The Institute of National Memory accepts that the Germans who were present in Jedwabne most probably fired at the victims when they tried to break out of the barn after it was locked, advised prosecutor Lucjan Nowakowski. He arrived at this preliminary conclusion after finding around 100 German bullet shells and magazines during the exhumation.
June 4, 2001
WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish prosecutors found the remains of roughly 200 victims of a 1941 massacre of Jews in a small town ineastern Poland during a contested exhumation that ended on Monday, officials said.
The figure was far less than the 1,600 Jews that Polish-born historian Jan Gross claimed were killed in his controversial book "Neighbors" published last year. [No wonder it was a "contested exhumation", Gross's lies are slowly uncovered. K.J.]
The exhumation, criticized by Jewish groups as desecrating the dead, Remembrance Institute (IPN), a state body probing war crimes, after the book blamed local Polish townsfolk in Jedwabne for conducting the massacre.
'We cannot say how many people were killed In Jedwabne or whether there are any other graves. We know how many human remains we found... We saw bones and ashes of roughly 200 people," IPN's top prosecutor Witold Kulesza told Reuters.'We did not conduct a full exhumation since we did not pull out the bones from the graves," he said.
Kulesza said there were no immediate plans to search for more graves in the area. German Nazis were in control of the area at the time of the massacre in July 1941. The blame for the mass killings had been laid at their feet until Gross published his book and ignited a furious national debate.
IPN requested the exhumation, which received a final goahead from Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski last month, to establish the number of victims and the circumstances of their death. Kaczynski said earlier that the limited scope of exhumation was part of an agreement with the Jewish community. [But Reuters reported doesn't say what the Justice Minister, Lech Kaczynski also said. Here are excerpts from his statement, as reported by PAP on the 05.06.01: "In Jedwabne died far less than 1600 Jews, that Gross writes about in his book... It is impossible for those to graves to contain 1600 bodies, not even a number of bodies close to 1600. It is very obvious that there are not so many victims here..."
Further questioned in this regard by the reporters, Lech Kaczynski stated: "…there are more than one hundred (bodies). Approximately 200."
Gross's book alleges that Polish villagers went on a murderous rampage through Jedwabne, then herded the remaining Jews into a barn near the local Jewish cemetery and set it alight, killing nearly all of the town's 1,600 Jews.
'We have excavated two graves, one within the boundaries of a barn and one just outside of it. We found bones and human ashes, as well as keys, jewelry and other personal belongings," Kulesza said. [What Kulesza forgot to say, or reporter didn't quote, is that the location of the second grave doesn't correspond with the testimonies of Gross's witness'K.J.]
The exhumation, monitored by rabbis and guarded by police, was followed by some Polish Jews who prayed and recited psalms as workers and archaeologists removed layers of dirt.
Some historians and Jedwabne residents argue the killing was committed by Germans or by a small group of local Poles acting on the orders of the Nazis.
Kulesza said prosecutors found cartridges but further investigation was needed to determine whether they came from German army weapons or other types of guns.
[No, he didn't say "to determine whether they came from German army weapons". According to PAP he said that IPN is in the possession of nearly one hundred cartridges, bullets and rifle bridges, and is conducting examination of these items, what would help to establish which German units took part in the massacre, not "whether they came from German army weapons". Death penalty, never mind firearms, punished even possession of the radio receiver by any Polish national under the German occupation. The only people armed with firearms in Jedwabne could be the Germans. K.J.]
About three million Polish Jews were killed during World War Two, mainly in concentration camps. [Of course the author "conveniently forgot" about three million of the ethnic Poles that were also killed by the Germans during WWII, Forgotten Holocaust. KJ.1
Polish historians question credibility of witnesses cited In 1941 pogrom book
BBC Monitoring Europe - Political
Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring
March 29,2001, Thursday
SOURCE: PAP news agency, Warsaw, in Polish 1118 gnit 29 Mar 01
Two Polish historians have questioned the credibility of witnesses cited in a book on the July 1941 pogrom in Jedwabne, northeastern Poland. One is said to have been in hiding at the time, another lived elsewhere and a third had been deported into the interior of the USSR the previous year, theyclaim. The following is the text of a report by Polish news agency PAP: Warsaw, 29 March: Prof. Tornasz Strzembosz is seeking is undermining the credibility of the witnesses who are cited by Prof Jan Gross in his book "Neighbours" Sasiedzi on the extermination of the Jews of Jedwabne northeastern Poland, in July 1941
Gross wrote in his book that "the first and most precise account on this subject is the testimony of Wasersztajn, dating from 1945." Meanwhile, historian Prof Tomasz Strzembosz; has told PAP that Szmul Wasersztajn could not have seen the murder of Jews in Jedwabne on 10 July 1941, because on that day he was in hiding at a distance of 500 metres from the place of the atrocity. As Strzembosz; stresses, in its justification of the verdict in the Jedwabne case after the war a court stated that'Wasersztajn was not a direct witness" of this event.
Strzembosz cites the same court files upon the basis of which Gross wrote his book. (as the author of "Neighbours" writes, "we find successive descriptions of the events in the files of the Lomza northeastern Poland trials of May 1949 and November 1953..." PAP ellipses ).
According to Prof Gross, other not credible witnesses cited by Gross are Abram Boruszczak and EIjasz Gradowski. Gross writes: "Eljasz Gradowski, describing the participation of particular people in the pogrom, states that they looted Jewish property..." and "Abram Boruszczak states in this context..." PAP ellipses. Meanwhile, Strzembosz told PAP, Adam Boruszczak did not live in Jedwabne at all and was questioned in this case after the war upon the instruction of the Lomza court. EIjasz Gradowski, on the other hand, was sentenced for theft in 1940 (during the Soviet occupation) and deported into the interior of the USSR. He returned in 1945 and, as Prof Strzembosz adds, "had nothing to do with the Jedwabne case".
Tomasz Strzembosz reported that in the hearing of the case before the Lomza court in 1949 neither Boruszczak nor Gradowski were taken into account as witnesses by the court since "they could, at most, have heard about the crime ".
The Thursday 29 March edition of the “Zycie” daily, citing the opinion of the historian Piotr Gontarczyk, also writes that "in writing his Neighbours', Gross based himself on testimonies and accounts that were not credible." "He chose those which matched what he wanted," Gontarczyk told “Zycie”.
An investigation into the case of the mass-murder of the Jews of Jedwabne, who were burnt to death in a barn on 10 July 1941, is being conducted by the National Remembrance Institute IPN. The motive for the crime is said to have been revenge for "the participation of Jews in Stalinist repressions". Jedwabne was a part of those territories of the Polish Second Republic that were occupied by the USSR between 17 September 1939 and the German aggression on the USSR on 22 June 1941. During this period, NKVD terror touched many Polish citizens of various nationalities.
Secrets In the archives
translated by: Emilia Wisniewska
The special operational groups of Gestapo could have operated in Jedwabne, suppose the German historians.
The Jews which asked for reparations to German authorities for the suffering caused by Nazis, has not mentioned about participation of Poles in the crime of the Bialystok region - asserts Heins-Ludger Borget of Ludvisburg. In those archives there are documents about murder in Jedwabne.
The authorities of GBR had conducted at least three investigations by the end of fifties, assuming that the crimes in the Bialystok district of summer 1941 were committed by Nazis, and amongst them, was the massacre in Jedwabne. However, each investigation ended with dismissal as a result of lack of proves.
The first investigation was re-opened in 1958. Its bases were the indications found in the petitions by the citizens of Israel who petitioned German authorities in 50-ties for reparations for their suffering in the hands if nazis,
There was not any suggestion about the participation of Polish civilians in the massacre, say the manager of the regional branch of the German Federal Achieves, Heinz-Ludger Borgert.
The research undertaken by the agency in Ludvisburg proved, that in the Bialystok and Lomza regions, independently of the intervening units (Einsatzgruppen) there perhaps operated the special unit designated for the "special assignments", in which included was the Gestapo unit of the Eastern Prussia region.
One other of such groups could have operated in the Lomza region, and have something to do with the massacre in Jedwabne -thinks Borger. The German authorities asked Israel or the legal help. However search for witnesses in Jedwabne had proven unsuccessful at that time. The investigation against the person suspected of commanding the unit was dropped about 1965.
In 1968 similarly, the second investigation against the commanders of SS and police, environmental police and the gandarmerie units, suspected of committing the crime in 9loca
tions in the Bialystok region, including Jedwa bne.
The Prosecutor took up the third investigation in this matter of Bielefeld in 1974. At that time, the German side petitioned to take the testimonies of 10 witnesses in Poland that the Main Commission for Investigation of the Nazi Crimes sent to Ludvisburg on October 7th, 1974.
In these testimonies there is talk about German responsibility for the crime in Jedwabne - asserts Borget.
As a part of this investigation German prosecutor deposed also residing abroad Jewish witnesses. One of them, Cwi Baranowicz, mentions the attempt by Poles to burn Jewish population in the synagogue in Piatnica. According to witnesses, the burning did not occurred only thanks to the German intervention. The witness suggested that the Poles participated in the Jedwabne massacre. However, Baranowicz himself had not ever resided in Jedwabne.
Borget admitted that in the German sources one could find the information that Germans considered the possibility of using anti- Semitic sentiments in the local community on the territory that has been taken by German army in June 1941, to ignite pogroms. - The word of caution was issued to make German initiative invisible - explains.
Borgert excluded the possibility of existing the German film in Koblencja and in Berlin - Such materials do not exists in Ludvisburg or in the archives of Koblencja and Berlin - he assured. However, he did not deny that the Polish historian searching documents on behalf of IPN can find a trace that can bring him to the leads to the other documents in the other archives.
Published on Wednesday in “ZYCIE” excerpt of the testimony does not belong to Cwi Baranowicza but to Waclawa Kupieckiego.
-It does not apply to Poles- said Professor Witold Kulesza.
The witnesses deposed in the trials of the Jedwabne crime conducted in Germany, do not even mention participation of Poles in he crime. Why?
The prosecution in Germany was related to the alleged German perpetrators of crimes but not Polish. The German Prosecutors did not have a jurisdiction to persecute Polish perpetrators.
Part of the documents in Ludvisburg was sent to the by the Main Commission for Investigating Nazis Crimes. And even there is no mention about Poles. When Main Commission to Investigate Nazi Crimes were to address the German authorities to take up the investigation it would indicate the German preceptors. And that is why it did not rely to the German side for example the testimonies of the witnesses of the trial conducted in Poland in 1949. Indeed at that time there were 12 Polish residents of Jedwabne sentenced for the crime. Even if we were to sent to Germany the testimonies indicating the Polish perpetrators of the crime, that the German Prosecutor would have sent them back.
Why than to come back to the matters already known for a long time?
We are coming back to these documents to find out what was established, thus far. However, we must admit that they do not bring a breakthrough in the investigation.
Wojciech Kamnski, pap
Grave next to the barn (2 x 5 Meters)
UNKNOWN DOCUMENTS FROM THE LOMZA ARCHIVES.
Excerpts (quotes from the depositions found in Lomza):
Mojzesz K., 39: "In 1942 the Germans herded all the Jews from the town of Jedwabne into a barn and set it on fire, so that nobody survived. I was not present there but one Motek Eilingros managed to run away from Jedwabne and thus escaped from being herded into the barn; later on, he was with me in the Lomza ghetto, and he told me ( ... )"
David M., 31: "In July 1942 Germans ordered all the Jews of Jedwabne to come to the market place-, at that time I belonged to a partisan unit, I was in Jedwabne and I saw Lejba Pendziuch [the person to be declared dead by the court] among other Jews there. They led all the Jews by fours to the barn, and they set it on fire. [ ... ] About 700 Jews were burned in that barn."
Hercek C., 32: "In July 1941 Germans murdered all the Jews of Jedwabne by burning them in a barn. I saw how they herded them into the barn [ ... ] and how then they set it on fire. At that time I was hiding from the Germans in Jedwabne. I was in hiding and I survived. They burned the Jews in daytime."
Jankiel B., 46: "On 10 July 1941 1 saw how the Germans herded all the Jedwabne Jews into a barn and fired it up. [ ... ] I was then hiding from the Germans at the cemetery, and I saw everything."
Chaim S., 30: "The Germans burned the Piekarewicz’s in August, I don't remember the year..."
E1jasz G., 23: the Gradowskis [Grondowski] were burned by the Germans in 1941 [ ... ]"
Rywka F, 38: "[ ... ] the Piekarskis were deported by the Germans when they were liquidating Jews and they still haven't come back […]
Piotr M., 65: Mr. Piekarski with his wife Golda were burned by the Germans […]
Jozefa M., 60: "[ ... ] the Germans burned the Piekarskis I
translated by: Krzysztof Janiewicz
Article from the "Gazeta Pomorza i Kujaw '19.03.2001
Archaeologists from UMK and specialists from the Torun's "Geophysics" localised the mass grave of the Jewish population in Jedwabne.
Today it is precisely known that on the 10.07.1941 there was a barn in which the Jews from Jedwabne where burned and then buried next to it.
In the opinion of prof. Andrzej Kola from the UMK Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, this grave could contain approximately 300 bodies.
Because of the book "Neighbors", in which the author, J. T Gross described the crime committed many years ago, the whole of Poland is talking about Jedwabne, which is a small town in the Lomza district.
Prof. Gross is accusing the Polish population of Jedwabne, and not the Gestapo or the German gendarmes, of committing this crime. The case is currently under the investigation conducted by IPN. On Thursday, the old monument was removed from the place. It will be replaced with a new one erected in the same location of the massacre of the Jewish population.
Unfortunately, people currently living in Jedwabne couldn't indicate the exact locality. For this reason, specialists' from UMK were asked to help. In the past the same specialists' were able to precisely localise mass graves of the Polish officers murdered by NKVD in Charkov, and also the Jews murdered by the Germans in concentration camp in Belzec.
"First I've received aerial photographs taken in the early 50's to analyse. On Saturday, we went to Jedwabne. This time, we were not able to drill in the ground, because the Jewish side objected to any interference with the grave.
Because of this, we had to relay on two other methods. We used the georadar and magnetic resonance. Indications of both instruments were nearly identical, we also carefully analysed the surface structure of the soil.
Using such methods, we were able to establish that the grave is approximately 5 meters long and 2 meters wide. The old monument was 10 meters away from this place. In the very close proximity to this grave we found remains of the barn" - said prof. Andrzej Kola.
On the old monuments was the information that on the 10.07.1941 in Jedwabne, 1600 people died.
Also, prof. Kola doesn't have any doubts, that the grave can contain a maximum of 300 bodies. Would that mean that there could be some more graves in the close vicinity?
In the opinion of prof. Kola it is not very possible. All witnesses indicate that there was only one burial place.
Prof. Andrzej Kola also said:
It is very regrettable that the Jewish side doesn't agree to the exhumation. In one-week time, we would be able to verify what the people are saying and what the author of "Neighbours" has written.
This could serve as a good lesson for the future. Many times I've found that the verbal testimonies of the witnesses have to be treated as not very reliable historical sources".
"Nowosci – Gazeta Pomorza I Kujaw" 19.03.2001
STRZEMBOSZ: GERMANS FORCED POLES TO PARTICIPATE IN JEDWABNE MURDER
Translated by: Mariusz Wesolowski
Rzeczpospolita, 15 March 2001
Professor Tomasz Strzembosz believes that the testimonies of witnesses in the 1949 trial in Lomza, on which Jan Gross has based his account in "Neighbors", indicate a direct German participation in the murder of Jews in Jedwabne.
"In these documents the Germans - Gestapo agents and gendarmes - appear frequently and in specific roles.
They take an active part in the hunt for Jews all over the town, in guarding them at the market square and in escorting them to Bronislaw Sleszynski's barn, where they have been burned alive", states Professor Strzembosz.
He refers to the testimonies deposited both in the course of investigation and Inter on before the state prosecutor, as well as to the transcripts of the actual trial, conducted in Lomza on 16-17 May 1949.
In Strzembosz's opinion, the said testimonies (coming from the witnesses as well as from the defendants) clearly point out to the fact that the Germans have forced the Polish inhabitants of Jedwabne to participate in that operation, especially in watching over the Jews gathered in the marketplace.
"The documents note instances in which Poles have been coerced - either by threats of violence, or simply by the presence of German police - to participate in these happenings. Once the Germans moved away, some of those Poles run and hid. The testimonies speak, for example ' about a man who got hit on the head with a rifle butt for refusing to guard the Jews. There are witnesses who have seen him afterwards, covered in blood, in the street," said Strzembosz. In his opinion it is obvious that the German presence and their direct coercion have been vitally important for the actual turn of events.
Strzembosz described as surprising and disgusting the fact that "Professor Gross, who relied on the very same documents, did not mention the participation of Germans in this event, but rather presented the murder of Jedwabne
Jews as an independent and voluntary act of the Polish community."
Strzembosz also holds that the records in question are not sufficient to determine who on the Polish side has participated in the killings. He stresses, however, that "they allow to determine the approximate size of the group [of those involved] as containing less than 50 people."Original in Polish: http://www.rzeczpospolita.pVgazeta/wydanie-010315/publicystyka/publicystyka,_a-6.html#1
Tomasz Strzembosz (born 1930), historian, Professor of the Catholic University of Lublin and theInstitute of Pblitical Studies of thePolishAcademy of Sciences (PAN). Author of publications on armed conspiracy in thePolish capital city.-“Military Actions of Underground Warsaw 1939-1945”,'Assault Forces of Conspiracy in Warsaw 1939-1945,“!Rescuing and ,Freeing Prisoners in Warsaw 1939-19M”. For nearly twenty years has been studying the history of Polish conspiracy an the north-eastern territories of the Polish Republic under Soviet occupation. Currently writing a book based on the research. Alsopreparing apublication about the Soviet occupation system on Polish writing a book based on the research. Also preparing a publication about the Soviet occupation system on Polish territories in 1939-1941. Recently published “The Underground Polish Republic”.
Published by Strzelecki Holding Ply. Ltd.