Channels

Photo: AP
memorial polish village jedwabne massacre פולין כפר טבח ביהודים
Photo: AP
Polish Jewish leaders object as government mulls exhumations at Jedwabne pogrom site
Calls for excavation rooted in desire to prove Germans ordered Poles to murder at least 340 Jews in July 1941 attack, when most of the victims were locked inside a barn that was set on fire.
WARSAW, Poland -- The Polish government is reconsidering whether to exhume human remains at a World War II-era site where Jews were burned alive by Polish neighbors, though the country's chief rabbi says the work would violate Judaism's prohibition on disinterment under most circumstances.

 

 

Authorities will weigh "various circumstances" in deciding if exhumations should go forward in the town of Jedwabne, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told private broadcaster Polsat News.

 

During the German Nazi occupation of Poland, Poles killed at least 340 Jews on July 10, 1941. Most of the victims were locked inside a barn that was set on fire.

 

A visitor lays a stone at a memorial of the victims of the Jedwabne massacre  (Photo: AP)
A visitor lays a stone at a memorial of the victims of the Jedwabne massacre (Photo: AP)
 

 

Some Poles want the massacre site excavated to uncover possible evidence that Germans ordered Polish villagers to do the killings. The work was started in 2001 and stopped by the justice minister after several days due to Jewish objections.

 

Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich said exhuming the place where the barn stood "would desecrate the memory of those who were buried there."

 

"It makes moral sense that we should follow the religious traditions of those who were buried there," Schudrich told The Associated Press. "Jewish law hasn't changed in 2,000 years, and what we said in 2001 remains the same now."

 

The Jedwabne pogrom was one of several massacres carried out by Poles during the German occupation. Many historians see it as evidence that anti-Semitism existed in a significant part of the Polish population.

 

Many Polish nationalists think it is unfair to blame Poles and that Germany bears the ultimate responsibility given the methods of terror and violence Nazis used in occupied Poland.

 

Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany for more than five years during World War II. Nearly 6 million Polish citizens died, some 3 million Jews and almost as many non-Jews.



A Holocaust survivor displays the tattoo goiven him to him by the Nazis, at the entrance to Auschwitz death camp in Poland (Photo: AFP)  (Photo: AFP)
A Holocaust survivor displays the tattoo goiven him to him by the Nazis, at the entrance to Auschwitz death camp in Poland (Photo: AFP) (Photo: AFP)

 

That the question of exhuming remains has resurfaced reflects the pressure on Poland's ruling party from far-right groups that call historical evidence of Poles doing the killings to be a "Jewish lie."

 

A right-wing TV broadcaster sparked the discussion anew by asking an official about it recently.

 

The ruling Law and Justice party is led by the twin brother of the justice minister who stopped the earlier exhumation, Lech Kaczynski. He was killed along with 95 others in 2010 when the Polish air force plane they were on crashed in Russia.

 

The surviving brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has taken the party on a more nationalistic course in recent years.

 

Once the government decides whether to proceed with an excavation, prosecutors will have the final, Morawiecki told Polsat News in an interview on Tuesday.

 

"For us, the most important thing is for historical truth to be emphasized, and the historical truth about the fate of Poles during the time of World War II is extremely sad for us," the prime minister said. "But it also testifies to what a splendid, great nation we are and who bears the sole guilt for the Holocaust."

 

 

Protests at the entrance to Auschwitz against Polish efforts to reject any culpability for the Holocaust (Photo: AFP) (Photo: AFP)
Protests at the entrance to Auschwitz against Polish efforts to reject any culpability for the Holocaust (Photo: AFP) (Photo: AFP)

 

Poland has been quick to denounce anyone accused of linking the country to the well-documented history of anti-Semitism and violence against Jews that took place there during and after the wartime Nazi occupation. Israeli officials see Poland's controversial legislation as an attempt to suppress such discussion, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced criticism from historians in Israel for not opposing the law, which critics say distorts history.

 

Many Poles refuse to accept research showing thousands of their countrymen participated in the Holocaust in addition to thousands of others who risked their lives to help the Jews, insisting that all atrocities on its soil were committed by the German occupiers.

 

Tensions between Israel and Poland rose last year after Poland's nationalist government introduced new legislation that would have made the use of phrases such as "Polish death camps" punishable by up to three years in prison. After pressure from the United States and an outcry in Israel, Poland watered down the legislation, scrapping the prison sentences.

 

A fresh diplomatic row over the issue broke out between Israel and Poland last month, when some Israeli media reported remarks by Netanyahu in which he appeared to accuse the Polish nation of involvement in the Holocaust.

 

Netanyahu's office said he had been misquoted in his response to a reporter's question during a visit to Warsaw about Polish legislation related to Holocaust remembrance, and that he had not cast any blanket blame. But the spat reignited days later whe the interim foreign minister Yisrael Katz said that "many Poles" had collaborated with the Nazis in World War II and shared responsibility for the Holocaust. He also referenced a quote from the late former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, who said that Poles "suckled anti-Semitism with their mothers' milk."

 

As a result, Poland withdrew from a formal gathering of the central European Visegrad Group of countries, with Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki denouncing Katz's comments as "racist" and "absolutely unacceptable." The summit was then cancelled.

 

Reuters contributed to this report

 


פרסום ראשון: 03.07.19, 10:03
 new comment
See all talkbacks "Polish Jewish leaders object as government mulls exhumations at Jedwabne pogrom site"
Warning:
This will delete your current comment