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Polish Crimes Against Jews Detailed
Associated Press news report

[Text of a November 2, 2002 news report occasioned by the upcoming publication of 1,500-page Polish government's report "Around Jedwabne"]

© The Associated Press

WARSAW, Poland (AP) - Poles committed wartime crimes against their Jewish neighbors in at least 24 places, a government researcher said Saturday.

The claim was released in advance of the publication of a report on a study initiated after revelations that Poles carried out a massacre previously blamed on the Nazis.

The 1,500-page, two-volume report ``Around Jedwabne,'' which goes on sale in bookstores on Monday, brings together details of incidents that have shaken many Poles' view that they were only victims in World War II.

``It brings to light information that was so far buried in the archives and puts the facts in a broad perspective, reflecting all the complexity of the events,'' Pawel Machcewicz, the editor of the report, told the Associated Press.

While the survivors named dozens of victims and perpetrators, Machcewicz said it was hard to establish figures for the number of Jews killed by Poles because of conflicting testimony and lack of other evidence.

A government institute began investigating the persecution of Jews by Poles in northeastern Poland two years ago, after a Polish emigre historian, Tomasz Gross, published a book claiming that Poles murdered as many as 1,600 of their Jewish neighbors in the village of Jedwabne.

Previously, Poland had blamed the massacre on German forces, and the revelation lead to painful soul-searching among Poles, many of whom could not believe that their countrymen were involved.

The investigation by the Institute of National Remembrance put the number of victims at Jedwabne as high as 1,000, Machcewicz said. Officials had previously suggested the number could be lower.

In compiling their report, researchers dug out records from 1946-58 investigations and trials and translated written testimonies that Jewish survivors gave to a regional Jewish history commission. Most of the testimony was in Yiddish.

Survivors told of crimes from robbery to pogroms across the northeast of Poland in the weeks after the Nazi invasion in 1941. In most places, the aggression against Poland's Jews was planned and inspired by the Nazis - but not everywhere, Machcewicz said.

The report also draws on the records of about 60 investigations and trials in the years after the war, when Poland came under communist rule.

At that time, some 93 Poles were charged with crimes against Jews in 23 locations. Seventeen people were convicted and received sentences ranging from prison terms to the death penalty. One was executed.

``The facts were not known at the national scale because there was no free press in Poland then and no papers wrote about them,'' Machcewicz said.

Witold Kulesza, the institute's chief investigator, said the issue was also overshadowed by hundreds of large-scale trials against Nazis.

``There was nothing in the court records to suggest that the communists were trying to put a lid on the information,'' Kulesza said.

Of 3.5 million Jews in Poland before World War II, about 3 million died in the Nazi Holocaust. About 20,000 live in the country today.

11/02/02 14:46 EST

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. 



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