Jedwabne 1941 and Polish Sensitivities

Following publication of my article about Prague and which mentioned my visits to the death camps in Poland, several Polish Catholics have written to me accusing me of inciting hate. It seems that some Polish consciences are very sensitive to acts of treachery by some of their countrymen.

I refer them to the massacre of Jews in Zedwabne in eastern Poland on July 10, 1941. Three hundred forty Polish Jews were herded into a large barn, locked in and the barn was set on fire. All three hundred forty Jedwabne Jews were burned alive by a group of twenty-three Polish men.

I am not inciting hate but I am confirming the results of a three year investigation from 2000-2003 conducted by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance.

It was done by an order of the Polish government and was led by the chief Prosecutor, Radoslaw Ignatiew.
The twenty-three suspects from Jedwabne were put on trial. Twenty-two of them were convicted of treason against Poland and one was sentenced to death.

During the three year investigation, one hundred eleven witnesses were interviewed, most from Poland, several from Israel and some from the United States. One-third of the Poles interviewed had been eye-witnesses to the Jedwabne pogrom.

The findings were published by the Polish government in 2003, consisting of 203 pages. It was supplemented by two volumes of documents and studies. Volume I consisted of 525 pages and Volume II, 1,034 pages.

At the trial in Poland no perpetrators of the 1941 massacre of Jedwabne Jews were still living and therefore the case was officially closed.

Sincere Polish people of good-will who are interested in learning the truth can receive information directly from the Polish Institute of National Remembrance in Warszawa. They can also learn about the 1945 pogrom in Kielce when Poles murdered forty-three Jewish survivors who returned to their city in search of their homes.

I do not write to incite hate, only to point out facts which cannot be disputed.

Our late beloved Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, born and educated in Poland and who received his law degree from the University of Warszawa once made the statement “Poles drink anti-Semitism from their mother’s milk”.

We need to remember that thousands of good Polish citizens risked their lives to save Jews.

Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem honors 6, 500 Catholic Poles who are called Righteous Gentiles, the largest number of Christians who helped Jews during the Nazi occupation.

Let us honor their memories.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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