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Jedwabne Pogrom

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Jedwabne Pogrom - On July 10, 1941, a month after Germany had retaken the town of  Jedwabne in Eastern Poland from the Russians, some or all of the Jews of Jedwabne were crowded into a barn and murdered. Their Polish neighbors took their houses and property. Until recently, it had been assumed that the German Gestapo or SS had done the killing. However, two separate investigations concluded that the massacre was carried out by local Poles, probably on the instigation of the Germans. The first set of evidence was presented in the book Neighbors by the Polish American researcher Jan T. Gross. The second set of evidence, is a study done by the Polish National Memory Institute. Nonetheless, and despite acceptance of these findings by the President of Poland, a strong current of opinion in Poland and among Americans of Polish descent insists that the Poles did not kill the Jews, that the story is a fabrication aimed at discrediting Poland, and that in any case, the Jews of Jedwabne "deserved their fate" for collaborating with the Soviets. ref. ref

The role of the Poles is well documented. Those who deny the massacre cannot seem to provide any evidence for their claims except contradictions in some inconsequential eye-witness accounts. This is the type of evidence that is generally presented by Holocaust deniers. ref.

Before the war, about 1,600 Jews supposedly lived in Jedwabne. According to one version, from 250 ref    to 400 Jews were killed by rounding them up, marching them into a barn and burning the barn down with them in it. The fate of the remaining Jews is uncertain. But several eye witnesses insist that the barn contained the entire Jewish population of Jedwabne as well as 600 Jews from Wizno and other towns.ref  ref  The larger numbers are based on eye-witness testimony, while the lower numbers are evidently based on human remains found in two mass graves. 

Among those named as directly responsible were Mayor Karolak, Zygmunt Laudański, Karol Bardoń and Stashek Shilaviuk, who guarded the barn door to prevent Jews from leaving. Gross points out that Bardon and Laudanski were NKVD (Soviet police) agents and they may have been deliberately seeking to provoke a provocation. 

A number of Poles were condemned for the massacres in trials held in 1949 and 1950. Ten were imprisoned. The evidence was based on confessions extracted under torture, and several of the defendants later retracted their statements. ref ref However, the role of the Poles was confirmed by eyewitnesses as noted. The Germans had even tried to save some of the Jews on the grounds that their occupations were valuable, but the Poles were not interested. An eye witness noted: ref

I saw with my own eyes how Mr. Avrom-Aaron Ibram was lying on the street dead with a cross cut out upon his front breast. Chana-Yenta's grand-daughter, a little girl of 3, was hiding in a chickencoop, so a gentile took her out and threw her into a flaming fire like a piece of wood.

No Germans took part in the actual murder day. -- the opposite. Two officers came to the death-barn asking the murderers to let alive the following professionals : shoe makers, tailors, carpenters and blacksmiths, but the gentiles answered ; "we won't allow a remnant of the Jews to be left alive. Professionals we'll supply from the Christians". A brother-in-Law of Rugalsky tried to save someone, but was forced to escape to Warsaw, otherwise he would have been killed by his own cronies. An American gentile who did not want to take part in the slaughter was also thrown into the flaming barn.

A Jew, Israel Grondowsky, hurried to convert to Catholicism and then immediately revealed the hiding place of a number of other Jews. ref

The same story was told over and over by survivors, both in Jewabne and in Radzilow, where other Poles had put their Jews into a barn and set it on fire. Gentiles quarreled over who should be permitted to have the spoils of Jewish houses, and priests were often in on the extortion. After the war, some more Jews were murdered by Poles. ref     

The Poles of Jedwabne, though none of them would give up the formerly Jewish houses in which they live, mounted a vigorous protest at the findings that they had committed the murders.  In 2001 the President of Poland, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, officially apologized to the Jewish people for the crime on behalf of Poland.ref   The commemoration service on the 60th anniversary of the pogrom was boycotted of the service by the majority of the citizens of Jedwabne. When the service began, the priest of Jedwabne rang the church bells as a sign of protest. The mayor of Jedwabne, Krzysztof Godlewski, who had accepted the guilt of the Poles, was forced to emigrate to the USA due to these incidents.ref ref  The character of the protests of "innocence" can be judged from the following account of Anna Bikont:

In one of the town offices, a brochure printed on glossy paper was distributed among the trusted employees. It had been sent by the American-Polish diaspora and was entitled: “What Happened in Jedwabne and How.” It began with the following sentence: “There was no crime in the history of Poland that the Jews hadn’t committed first.” The list of the crimes throughout Polish history is curious: it involves Cain’s murder of Abel and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ; it ends with the “Moscow-inspired, Jewish Communist provocation of the Kielce pogrom in 1946.”

Here are a few samples of what my interlocutors have said:

The Jews are taking over all the offices, in the government and in the Church. Why are you trying to uncover all this in Jedwabne? It’s a gold mine. The Jews want to squeeze money out of us. It was a mistake of the town authorities to let the Jews in and let them dig up the Jewish truth. That’s not our truth. The journalists coming here are Jewish citizens. Gross looks like a madman. When I go abroad, I’m not allowed to do anything I want, and those Jews act as if they were at home.

That book by Gross is one great lie. Some of the houses here used to be Jewish, but mine belongs to me. I never profited on the whole thing. I know how vengeful the kikes are. ref 

Similar pogroms evidently took place in several other Polish towns.

Ami Isseroff

April 18, 2009


Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: Pogrom blood libel Holocaust anti-Semitism


Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.


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