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
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
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
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.
Head of the Branch Commission
for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation in
July 9th , 2002