The Germans were forcing Poles to take part in the murders
in the opinion of the historian Prof. Tomasz Strzembosz.
[The following is an unofficial translation by Peter K. Gessner of Institute's statement as published in the Warsaw-based daily Rzeczpopolita on March 15, 2001. -- A large collections of Polish language articles published about Jedwabne by the Warsaw daily, Rzeczpospolita can be reached by clicking on the banner.]
The testimony of the witnesses in the 1949 proceedings in Lomza, on which Jan Gross based his book Neighbors, indicate, in the opinon of Prof. Tomasz Strzembosz, a direct involvement of Germans in the murders of the Jews in Jedwabne.
In those documents, direct and multiple reference is made to German functionaries and gandarmes. They are active both during the rounding up of the of the Jew as well as during the escorting of the Jews to Bronisław Śleszyński's barn in which they were burned alive - said Prof. Strzembosz.
The Professor cites the depositions of the witnesses given both during the investigation and to the procurator as well as the records of the court trial which took place on the 16 and 17 May, 1949 in Ęomaża.
In the opinon of Strzembosz, the testimony of those witnesses, as well as those of the accused in this matter, indicate that the Germans were forcing residents of Jedwabne to take part in the action, particularly in the guarding of the Jews on the Town Square.
- In the documents are reported instances in which, under the threat of force or by the simple presence of the German gandarmes, people are forced to take part in the action. Some, when the Germans stepped to one side, run away and hid themselves. An instance is reported of someone, who refused to guard the Jews, being hit in the head with the butt of a rifle. The witnesses saw him later bloodied on the street - said Strzemborz. In his opinion it is obvious that the presence of the Germans and direct coercion on their part were significant factors of this event.
Strzembosz characterized as surprising and distressing that "Prof. Gross, who was using these documents as the basis in writing his book, did not report the participation of the Germans in this event but presents the murder of the Jews in Jedwabne as a spontaneous free will action of the Polish community."
Strzemborz is of the opinion that the metioned records are an insufficient basis to decide who, on the part of the Poles, were the perpetrators of the murder of the Jews. He does make the point that "they make possible to estimate that the group of individuals accused and convited, as well as those who already then were no longer alive or in hiding, at fewer than 50.
Strrzembosz reminds that until March 2001, Polish historians did not have access to the records of the 1949 court trial, since the Main Commisison for investigation of Crimes against the Polish Nation was not functioning. Later, the procurator of the Institute of National Memory was basing his work on them.
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