The White Book of Jedwabne

Rzeczpospolita, 2 listopada 2002

Translated into English in FORUM

ZNAK - Christian Culture Foundation 02.11.2002/JS

Jedwabne today - the entrance into the small town - photo J. Sołtys

Jedwabne today - the entrance into the small town - photo J. Sołtys

Jedwabne today - the entrance into the small town - photo J. Sołtys


The Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) has published the long awaited "white book" of Jedwabne entitled "About Jedwabne" (Wokol Jedwabnego). The book significantly supplements the conclusions of the investigation, since a prosecutor is bound to follow very strict rules of criminal proceedings while historians fulfill a different role. The two volumes are called "Studia" and "Dokumenty" (Studies and Documents. Together, the volumes total over 1,500 pages and present the results of two years of hard work by over thirty scholars, researchers, historians and lawyers of the IPN, the Institute for Political Studies of PAN, and the Bialystok University.


The content of the two volumes proves that both the investigative and the historical departments of the IPN dealt with the "case of Jedwabne" with utmost attention, courage, reliability and competence.


Most of the anti-Jewish pogroms by the Polish inhabitants of Podlasie from the summer of 1941 were described in at least two independent sources. The first of these sources are the testimonies of Jews who survived the Holocaust. The second are court files from 61 investigations and trials against 93 Poles accused of participation in mass murders during anti-Jewish pogroms in 23 towns and villages. Many of those who were convicted in court of first instance were acquitted later, usually because of sloppiness, negligence, and even desisting from obtaining necessary and available evidence by the court and prosecution during the initial trials.


Until recently, those court files were unknown to historians. The described events were of different importance and scale - denunciations, robberies, destruction of property, psychical terror, ransom, the insulting of religious feelings, places and objects of cult, beatings, rapes, single killings and mass murders. The degree of independence of the villains was also different. The Polish "auxiliary police", which followed German orders, committed some of these deeds. In some cases, civilians "helped" the police (voluntarily or involuntarily). In Suchowola, the extermination was directed by the Germans; however, the executioners were Poles. In Bielsko Podlaskie, the Poles demanded the creation of a ghetto. In Radzilow, the Germans ordered the extermination of Jews, but they "authorized" Poles to go forward with it and then departed. In Grajewo, Poles spontaneously organized the pogrom; a Wehrmacht unit stopped them and three perpetrators were shot. However, a few days later, the Germans induced a pogrom and found willing executioners among the villagers of Grajewo and nearby towns. In Stawiska, the volunteers turned out to be Poles freshly freed from a Soviet prison. In many villages, pogroms occurred before the German army ever occupied them.


Despite a meticulous inquiry into the German archives, it was impossible to find unambiguous proof that it was the Germans who had ordered the crime in Jedwabne. Hence, the alleged German participation in that crime is a "process based on circumstantial evidence", which shows an active participation of the Germans in the organization of the crime (according to directions of Heydrich, the head of RSHA) in the majority of anti-Jewish pogroms in the region of Podlasie. The Soviet occupation contributed to the inflammation of mutual hatred between Poles and Jews, brutalized social relations and caused the erosion of values. The clergy of the Lomza diocese played its part in strengthening the anti-Semitic outlook of the local community. At the same time, a demographical analysis shows that the alleged 1,600 Jewish victims of the pogrom in Jedwabne was an incorrect figure.


Andrzej Kaczyński, Lato s±siedzkich pogromów (The Summer of Neighborly Pogroms), Rzeczpospolita 256 (6333), November 2-3 2002, p. A5