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Jedwabne: Final Findings
of Poland's Institute of National Memory

[Text of a July 9th , 2002 Press Release regarding final findings of investigation S 1/00/Zn into the killing of Polish citizens of Jewish origin in the town of Jedwabne, on 10 July 1941, i.e. pursuant to Article 1 point 1 of the Decree of 31 August 1944.]

The analysis of the entire evidence collected in the course of investigation S1/00/Zn allows one to ascertain the probable course of action on 10 July 1941 in Jedwabne.

On that day, Thursday morning, the inhabitants of the villages nearby began arriving at Jedwabne with an intention to participate in a premeditated murder of the Jewish inhabitants of that town. In the evening preceding the events, some of the Jewish people were warned by their Polish acquaintances that a collective action was being prepared against the Jews.

From the morning hours of 10 July 1941, Jewish people had been forced out of their homes and gathered at the town's market place. They were ordered to pluck grass from between the cobble stones with which the market was paved. Acts of violence against those who had gathered were committed. These acts were committed by the inhabitants of Jedwabne and those from the locations nearby who were of Polish nationality.

Numerous witnesses who have been questioned state that uniformed Germans arrived at Jedwabne on that day. Those Germans, who were probably in a small group, assisted in driving the people who were being persecuted to the market place and their active role was limited to that. It is unclear, in the light of the evidence collected, whether the Germans took part in escorting the victims to the place of mass murder, and whether they were present at the barn. Witness testimonies in this respect vary considerably.

The group of Jewish men who had gathered at the market place were forced to break apart the Lenin monument outside the market place at a square by the road leading towards Wizna. Next, about noon, the group was ordered to carry a fragment of the broken bust to the market place and then to carry it to the barn, using a wooden stretcher. The group may have consisted of 40 to 50 people, including the local rabbi and kosher butcher. The manner in which the victims from that group were slain is unknown, the bodies were thrown into the grave dug inside the barn. Parts of the broken Lenin bust were thrown onto the corpses in the grave.

The other larger group of Jewish people had been taken out of the market after one or one and a half hours, as one witness stated. Other witnesses said that it had been late afternoon. This group included several hundred people, probably about 300, which is confirmed by the number of victims in both graves, according to an estimate of the archaeological and anthropological team participating in the exhumation.

That other group consisted of victims of both sexes, different ages, including children and infants. The people were led into a wooden, thatched barn owned by Bronisław Śleszyński. After the building had been closed, it was set on fire, presumably with naphtha from the former Soviet warehouse.

It should be noted that before the people were taken away from the market, individual murders had been committed. These killings were mentioned, among others, by the victim, Awigdor Kochaw, who at that time was at the market place.

The incomplete scope of the exhumation work and the impossibility to verify the hypothesis that a grave or collective graves exist at the Jewish cemetery do not allow one to substantiate the number of all individuals killed on the day of the events in Jedwabne.

The number of victims determined in the course of the investigation may be substantiated only upon receiving the expected record of the interrogation of witnesses and the data from the archives in Israel.

The figure of 1,600 victims or so seems highly unlikely, and it was not confirmed in the course of the investigation. On the day of the crime, people of Jewish origin from, among others, Wizna and Kolno were certainly in Jedwabne seeking shelter there. Nevertheless, a certain group of Jewish people survived. It may be assumed that there were at least a couple of dozens of people who after the day of the killing lived in the town and its vicinity until the end of 1942. Afterwards, Germans liquidated the small ghettos by removing their inhabitants to larger groupings.

According to recurring testimonies of some witnesses, Germans took photographs of the events in Jedwabne. According to one hypothesis the crime was filmed. This hypothesis, however, has not been sufficiently substantiated.

As to the participation of Polish people in the crime, it should be assumed that they played a crucial role in the execution of the premeditated murder.

It may be assumed that the murder at Jedwabne was perpetrated as a result of German inspiration. The presence of passive German military police from the police station at Jedwabne and other uniformed Germans (assuming that they were present at the place of events) was tantamount to consent to and acceptance of the crime against the Jewish inhabitants of the town. At this stage it should be stated that it is justified to ascribe, in legal and criminal terms, the complicity sensu largo of that mass murder to the Germans.

The sensu stricto crime perpetrators were the Polish inhabitants of Jedwabne and those from the locations nearby - approximately at least forty men. On the basis of archival materials from the criminal trials in 1949 and 1953 and other evidence verified in the course of the current investigation, it should be assumed that these men actively participated in committing the murder and were armed with sticks, T-bars and other tools. The acts ascribed to them as a result of the current investigation bear the features of the crime with no statutory limitation, as described in Article 1 point 1 of the Decree of 31 August 1944, providing that "he who assisting the authorities of the German State (...) participated in committing murders" is subject to life sentence. Some of the forty people named as perpetrators in the case files were adjudged and the judgements are final and binding. In the course of the investigation currently under way, no sufficient evidence has been collected which would allow one to identify and charge those perpetrators who are still alive.

On the basis of the evidence gathered in the investigation, it is not possible to determine the reasons for the passive behaviour of the majority of the town's population in the face of the crime. In particular, it cannot be determined whether the passiveness resulted from the acceptance of the crime or from the intimidation caused by the brutality of the perpetrators' acts.

Following the perpetration of the crime, the victims' property was looted. The extent of the pillage or the number of people involved could not be exactly determined.

The utter passivity of part of Jedwabne's population in relation to the crime committed on 10 July 1941 cannot be qualified in terms of criminal law, therefore it cannot be evaluated in terms of ascribing responsibility.

At present, all the activities scheduled to be carried out in this proceeding have been completed. The formal completion of the proceeding will be possible immediately after the reply is received to the request for legal assistance, directed to the State of Israel. The expected data, although relevant for the determination of the minimum number and identities of the victims of the Jedwabne crime, are not likely to change the findings presented in this information.

Upon receipt of the expected materials, it is planned that a judgement on the discontinuation of the investigation will be issued as a result of a failure to find the perpetrators of the crime, other than those already adjudged.

After the investigation has been completed, a decision will be made as to the material of evidence held. They will be donated as museum exhibits.

Radosław J. Ignatiew

Public Prosecutor
Head of the Branch Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation in Białystok

July 9th , 2002


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