Polish American Congress
New Jersey Division
The Voice of a Million Americans of
Polish Heritage in the Garden State
CAN'T BE BLAMED FOR ATROCITIES STARTED AND COMMITTED BY NAZI"
and J. Wild
(Members of Polish Heritage Club of
Madison WI, USA)
published in GUEST COLUMN
in Wisconsin State Journal,
page A6, on April
On March 12,
2001, the WSJ (Wisconsin
State Journal, A6) published an
article by Beata
Pasek under the offensive to us
and pro-Nazi-sounding headline:
not Nazis killed Jews".
This article describes the abominable murder
of 1600 Polish citizens of Jewish faith, on July 10, 1941, at the
beginning of the Nazi-Soviet war, just after Nazi wrestled Jedwabne from
the retreating Soviet army. The tone of the WSJ article (with phrases
complicity in Nazi horrors" and "Jews
were not murdered by Nazi or Soviets but the society") is hurting
us, as it could be interpreted as condemnation of all Poles for actions
of criminals and Nazis near
to the advancing Nazi-Soviet front line during WW II.
- Although we, the
undersigned do not believe in collective guilt, we will comment on such
innuendoes in WSJ. Our
answer is based on the published data, including
recent article by Rob Strybel, a US native of Detroit, who has
received his Master's Degree from
the University of Wisconsin, and is Reuters correspondent in Warsaw, and on the recent
research of Professor Tomasz Strzembosz:
historian's different image of 'Neighbours'
"which is published in the Polish leading newspaper:
Rzeczpospolita 31.03.01 nr.77.
There is little doubt that a massacre occurred
on July, 10, 1941, in the
village of Jedwabne in North-East Poland, about two weeks after the
German Nazi army has replaced the bloody Soviet occupiers. The massacre is
described in the book (J. Gross, "Neighbors", scheduled to be
published in USA in April) is based on reminiscences of Szmul
Wasersztajn of Jedwabne [who however, was not able to witness the
murder, hiding about a mile away under
protection of a Polish Catholic woman].
Gross states that 92
revenge-seeking Poles (out of about 1600 Poles in Jedwabne) joined the
massacre, but in 1949 the post-war communist regime put only 23 men on
trial, of which 12 were sentenced.
The number of Germans in Jedwabne on that day is also contested.
A cook testified she was ordered to prepare supper for 60 German
gendarmes that day, while historians suggest that 230 Nazis were
exterminating Jews in Jedwabne and neighboring villages, including
Radzilow. This abominable
spectacle was staged and
filmed by Nazi crews. Documents found in the German archives in
Ludwigsburg describe that six former
SS members were tried in
Germany in 1967/68 for the Jedwabne murders and hopefully the Nazi films of
Jedwabne massacre will be found.
It appears that
20 or more non-jewish inhabitants of Jedwabne
criminals when Nazi-Soviet battles were raging and very soon after.
However, does WSJ has the right to imply that the entire Polish
not Nazis killed..“) should
be responsible for these criminal acts in Jedwabne, only days after
“Battle of Giants’ and Nazi invasion?
Only those of us who survived such steamroller
could understand its horrors.
In The NY Times of March 13,
Adam Michnik, a Pole of Jewish descent and Editor of leading
Polish daily, "Gazeta
Wyborcza" , poses such question and provides an answer:
Poles, along with Germans, bear guilt for the Holocaust?
It is hard to imagine a
more absurd claim.".
question arises as to what
transformed some of the "good neighbors" of Jedwabne
into beasts? We
should research it as to prevent similar occurrences in the future,
as was happening recently in Bosnia and Indonesia.
We know that:
Jewabne’s pre-WW II rabbi, now 95 years old, has remarked
recently that Catholics and
Jews were good neighbors in free and independent Poland before WW II.
WW II started in September
1939, when Poland was
attacked and partitioned between Nazis and Soviet Union. As result,
Jedwabne was occupied and ruled for 22 months by Soviet occupiers and
local Communists. It is
well known that horrendous, but unpunished, crimes
against humanity were committed
by the Soviets and
their henchmen during these 22 months, including the systematic murder
of over 20 000
Polish intellectuals and officers, and the cruel deportations of
over million of Polish
citizens to the wilderness of Siberia, where the majority perished.
In June 1941, Hitler
betrayed and attacked his faithful Soviet ally. Soviet troops were defeated, and Jedwabne fell into Nazi’s hands. Then
within two weeks the
horrible mass murder of Jews took place, while the Nazi -Soviet war
Journalists and historians should explain why some of the
good neighbors changed into beasts during these 22 months of Soviet
rule? Was it
Communist indoctrination and moral decay of the peasant population
or a perception of
pro-Soviet crimes followed by beastly revenge, or some Nazi’s
manipulations, or combination of all that and maybe more?
The articles of Strybel
list various facts and possible motives, whereas Michnik remarks that
"In all of the countries conquered by the Soviets after
1939, there were horrible acts of terror against the Jews in the Summer
or Fall of 1941. Jews died at the hands of their Lithuanian, Latvian,
Estonian, Ukrainian, Russian and Belarussian neighbors".
And he rightly concludes:
"I think that the time has come to reveal the truth about
these hideous acts."
The truth is being
studied now by Prof.
Strzembosz and the IPN (National Remembrance Institute), while measures
are being taken in Poland to
honor the victims by creating a cemetery and an obelisk in Jedwabne.
the both sides are presented in the
WEB site: "THOU SHALT NOT KILL - Poles on Jedwabne"
Instead of accusations,
Jews and their Polish brethren should reconcile and jointly honor the
millions of victims of the Nazi and Soviet atrocities during WWII and
also the post-WWII period of Soviet-imposed Communism in Poland.
One should remember that in 1941 and for nearly 50 years
since these tragic events, Poles were not hosts in their own home, first
being occupied and then being treacherously betrayed and sold-out to
Stalin by their Western allies, including
USA.. The highly
respected rabbi of Warsaw
and Lodz, Michael Schudrich, rejected notions that Poles should be
accused of collaboration in the Holocaust, because of the tragedy of
Jedwabne.. He said “the Holocaust had been planned and
executed by Germans from beginning to end”.
--Newspapers should never create the perception of accusations against
entire nations for criminal acts, which cannot be controlled, especially
at the time when nation’s freedom was lost to barbaric and crafty
J.W., Z. K.,
W.S., L. N. (as members
of The Polish Heritage Club of Madison)