JEDWABNE 10 JULY - REPORTS AND OPINIONS
From the Editors
We have placed together in one document seven articles concerning the memorial ceremony that took place in Jedwabne on 10 July 2001. There is a corresponding document in the Polish section PUBLIKACJE under the title SPRAWOZDANIA I OPINIE. There are some publications in Polish which do not have their translations in this section. Similarly, not all the publications which you will find below have the corresponding texts in the Polish section. Those who understand both languages may thus find some additional texts in either section.
NPAJAC Delegation Visits Jedwabne
Delegation from the National Polish American - Jewish American Council Will Attend the Memorial Ceremony in Jedwabne
July 3, 2001. Washington, D.C.
For over 21 years, the National Polish American -Jewish American Council has brought together leaders of the Polish and Jewish communities to discuss issues of mutual concern, and to improve understanding and cooperation between the two communities. In this spirit of respect and support, a delegation representing Polish-Jewish dialogue in America will travel to Poland to attend the July 10th official ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the Jedwabne massacre. The delegation will pay respects to the victims' families, and extend its support for a responsible, civil, and honest dialogue between the two communities.
Len Grossman, Co-Chair of the Council, said today: We are going to Jedwabne to support those in Poland who are deeply involved in promoting Polish-Jewish understanding. Facing difficult events in a country's past is a painful process, and, if done responsibly, the fruits of such an internal examination can lead to a more concerned and healthy society. The mission of the Council is to support such a process.
During a week-long visit to Poland, the delegation will travel to Warsaw, Jedwabne, Krakow, and Oswiecim, and will meet with several prominent Polish and world leaders, including: Poland's President Alexander Kwasniewski, Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, Foreign Minister and Righteous Among the Nations Prof. Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, Israeli Ambassador Prof. Shevach Weiss, Rev. Zygmunt Malacki, a special advisor for Primate of Poland Cardinal Jozef Glemp, leaders of the Jewish community of Warsaw, including the Rabbi of Warsaw Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Andrzej Folwarczny, Member of the Polish Sejm and Chair of the Poland-Israel Friendship Group, U.S. Ambassador to Poland Mr. Christopher R. Hill, Father Stanislaw Obirek, Director of the Center of Culture and Dialogue in Krakow, and Mayor Krawczyk of Oswiecim, among others. Moreover, the delegation will visit Krakow's Jewish Cultural Center, the recently restored synagogue in Oswiecim, the Auschwitz-Jewish Center, Oswiecim's Catholic Center for Dialogue and Prayer, and Poland's State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Professor Stanislaus Blejwas and Mr. Leonard Grossman, Co-Chairs of the Council, will lead a delegation of 14 leaders and supporters of Polish-Jewish dialogue in America.
Letter from the Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation in Canada
(sent via the NPAJAC Delegation to Poland - see the former publication)
THE POLISH-JEWISH HERITAGE FOUNDATION OF CANADA
July 6, 2001
Mr. Aleksander Kwaśniewski
President of the Republic of Poland
Mr. Jerzy Buzek
Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland
Prof. Wladyslaw Bartoszewski
Foreign Minister of the Republic of Poland
Our organization, the Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation of Canada, with chapters in Toronto and Montreal, promotes the understanding between the Poles and the Jews in Canada through an ongoing program of cultural and educational events. For fourteen years now, in a language and atmosphere of mutual respect, we discuss a common past, individual heritages, as well as our differences. In that sense, we share a common mission with the National Polish American - Jewish American Council.
While we cannot be physically present at the Jedwabne ceremony, we would like to offer our deepest respects to the families of Jedwabne victims and express our voice of support to all those who strive for a sincere, unbiased and honest dialogue between Poles and Jews.
Chair, Montreal Chapter Chair,
Toronto Chapter Chapter
Address delivered by the President of Poland Mr. Aleksander Kwaśniewski
Jedwabne, 10 of July 2001
Dear Ambassador of Israel, Dear Rabbi Baker, Dear Representatives of Jewish Milieus, Dear Mr. Mayor, Dear Residents of Jedwabne , Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Countrymen !
Sixty years ago, on 10 July 1941, crime was committed against Jews on this land, at that time conquered and occupied by the Nazi Germany. This was a dreadful day. Day of hatred and cruelty.
We know much about this crime, though not yet everything. May be we will never learn the whole truth. But this did not prevent us from being here today.
To speak in an open voice. We know enough to stand here in truth - facing pain, cry and suffering of those who were murdered here. Face to face with the victims' families who are here today. Before the judgement of own conscience.
This was a particularly cruel crime. It is justified by nothing. Among the victims, among the burned were women, there were children. Petrifying cry of people closed in the barn and burned alive - continues to haunt the memory of those who witnessed the crime. The victims were helpless and defenceless. The criminals had a sense of being unpunished since German occupants incited them to such acts.
We know with all the certainty that Poles were among the oppressors and assassins. We cannot have any doubts - here in Jedwabne citizens of the Republic of Poland died from the hands of other citizens of the Republic of Poland. It is people to people, neighbours to neighbours who forged such destiny.
At that time - sixty years ago -Poland was to be wiped out from the map of Europe. There were no Polish authorities in Jedwabne. The Polish state was unable to protect its citizens against the crime committed with the Nazi permission, at Nazi instigation. But the Republic of Poland should persist in the Polish hearts and minds. And the standards of a civilised state, the state with ages-old traditions of tolerance and amicable co-existence of nations and religions should be binding on its citizens. Those who killed, beat, took part in the dead set, set fire - committed crime not only against their Jewish neighbours. They are also guilty towards the Republic of Poland, its history and glorious traditions.
We are standing on a tormented land. The name Jedwabne, by a tragic ordain of fate had become for its today's citizens a byword recalling to human memory the ghosts of fratricide. It is not only in Jedwabne that superstitious prejudice was enkindled into the murderous flame of hatred in the "furnace era". Death, grief and suffering of the Jews from Jedwabne, from Radziłowo and other localities, all these painful events which lay a gloomy shadow on Poland's history are the responsibility of the perpetrators and instigators. We cannot speak of collective responsibility burdening with guilt the citizens of any other locality or the entire nation. Every man is responsible only for his own acts. The sons do not inherit the sins of the fathers. But can we say: that was long ago, they were different?
The nations is a community. Community of individuals, community of generations. And this is why we have to look the truth into the eyes. Any truth. And say: it was, it happened. Our conscience will be clear if the memories of those days will for ever evoke awe and moral indignation.
We are here to make a collective self examination. We are paying tribute to the victims and we are saying - never again.
Let us all be the citizens of Jedwabne today. Let us feel what they feel! Let us remain with them in a common sense of grievance, despair, shame and solidarity. Cain could have killed Abel anywhere. All communities could have been tried in the same way. The trial of evil, but also of good. Of meanness and nobility. Righteous is the one who was able to demonstrate compassion in face of human suffering. How many Poles - also inhabitants of the neighbourhood also of Jedwabne deserve to be called righteous !
Let us recall all of them today with greatest gratitude and with highest respect.
Thanks to a great nation-wide debate regarding this crime committed in 1941, much has changed in our lives in 2001, the first year of the new millennium. Today's Poland has courage to look into the eyes of the truth about a nightmare which gloomed one of the chapters in its history.
We have become aware of the responsibility for our attitude towards the dark pages in our history. We have understood that bad service is done to the nation by those who impelling to renounce that past. Such attitude leads to a moral self-destruction.
We who have gathered here today, with all the people in our country who have clear and sensitive conscience, with the lay and religious moral authorities, consolidating our adherence to basic values, paying homage to the memory of the murdered and most deeply deploring the despicable perpetrators of the crime, give expression to our pain and shame, we manifest our determination to learn the truth, courage to overcome the evil past, firm will of understanding and agreement.
For this crime we should beg the souls of the dead and their families for forgiveness. This is why today, the President of the Republic of Poland, I beg pardon. I beg pardon in my own name and in the name of those Poles whose conscience is shattered by that crime.
In the name of those who believe that one cannot be proud of the glory of Polish history without feeling, at the same time, pain and shame for the evil done by Poles to others.
I wish with all my heart that the name of this village bring the memories of not only the crime but that it become the sign of the great self-examination, that it become the venue of reconciliation. Polish bishops prayed on 27 May "for all those who cherished anxiety and resentment towards the Jewish nation that they accept the grace of a change in their hearts". These words express only too well the feelings of a great part of the Poles. May, then, this change occur. Let us spare no effort for it !
The tragedy which took place here cannot be annihilated. Evil cannot be wiped out; Suffering cannot be forgotten.
The truth about what happen will not redress what happened. The truth is not so potent. But only truth - even the most aching and painful - will allow to purify the wounds of the memory.
This is the hope that we cherish. This is what we are here for today. We are saying today the words of sorrow and pain, not only because of human decency. And not only because others expect us to. Not because they will be a compensation for the murdered. Not because the world is listening.
We are saying these words because this is what we feel. Because we ourselves need them most of all. We doing it to be better, stronger with moral strength, free from prejudice, animosities and hatred. To respect and to love men. To turn the wrong into the right
The speech of prof. Shevah Weiss, Ambassador of Israel to Poland
JEDWABNE. 10 July 2001
The Honourable President, The Honourable Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Close your eyes, and try and imagine this place as it was more than sixty years ago: the market square, the carriages tied to the horses and the children playing in the market place. Jedwabne - this beautiful town, where Poles and Jews lived together. Jedwabne was so typical of the Poland of those days - a colourful and alluring world, and a place where Polish and Yiddish were almost interchangeable.
This reality - this era of Jewish life came to an abrupt and shocking end, on a tragic summer's day, exactly sixty years ago. People who lived together with the Jews of Jedwabne, these people, who new them by name and were friendly with them - these same people set upon their Jewish neighbors, dragging them to the local barn, before slaughtering and burning them alive. It is this fact which makes this event so utterly brutal, shocking, painful and distressing.
I, Professor Shevach Weiss, Israel's Ambassador to Poland, was brought up in this country, and was fortunate to get to know other neighbors. Thanks to these people, my family and l were able to survive the Holocaust. Thanks to these people, I am standing here before you today. I know also of other barns where Jews were hidden away. For the sake of a better future for us all, I feel the need to state this fact here and now. I have come here on behalf of the State of Israel -a country which represents rebirth and renewal as well as a reflection of the fortitude of the Jewish People. Living among us also are Holocaust survivors whose lives were saved as a result of the brave actions of their Polish neighbors - courageous and noble people.
I have come here to this valley of tears, in order to severely condemn this evil massacre, and in order to emphasize the fact that no one will be able to bring our victims back to life. I know, that there are many courageous Poles who, out of a sense of historic justice, have taken it upon upon themselves to research this appalling event. I am certain that when the research and investigation process is completed, the memorial stone here will contain the full truth of what happened in Jedwabne, terrible thou it may be. In this way, justice will finally be done for the victims of Jedwabne.
In this very place and at this particular time, I would like to make an appeal to all fair-minded and decent people throughout the world, and, especially to the young generation of Poland and Jedwabne, specifically: let us campaign together and act with determination against any manifestation of anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, evil and cruelty. In this way, we will be able to build a better world, where the sanctity of life and individual freedom are sacrosanct.
May God help us in this noble mission.
A welcome address by Mr Jerzy Buzek the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland at the commemorative concert to honour victims of the tragedy in Jedwabne
The Evangelical Augsburg's Church in Warsaw, 10 July 2001
The Israeli Ambassador, Distinguished Rabbis, Brother Jews, Your Excellencies,
Members of the Polish Parliament, Ministers, Clergymen of different faiths,
Ladies and Gentlemen gathered here today on this special and exceptional day.
I welcome you all most cordially and wish to thank you for accepting my invitation. We find ourselves in a place of great importance to me personally. In this church I feel at home and I welcome you to it as if it indeed were my own home!
But this place is also important to Prime Minister, and to every Prime Minister of the government of the Republic of Poland. This was and continues to be a symbol of one of our homeland's best attributes; its openness, hospitality, tolerance and respect for traditional values as well as its readiness to create conditions for the development of many cultures.
We have gathered at the end of a day of mourning for our brothers and sisters murdered in Jedwabne so that the great art, which has brought peace among people and nations, might speak to us in a dignified atmosphere.
I trust; that the music and psalms, the oldest words we have received from you. Dear Brother Jews, will draw us closer together. That they will build bridges enabling us to meet. For, in the words of the beautiful Hebrew hymn that is also known to us, ?the whole world is like one great bridge, but the main thing is not to fear, not to fear at all.'
One cannot fear friendship, respect for another person, tolerance of his culture, his love of freedom, his uniqueness. Such fear leads to violations of law of God and man. It opens the door to contempt and hatred. We owe future generations a world devoid of such fear.
History has permanently bound Poles and Jews together. For entire centuries our nations lived side by side in peace. Our relations soured after Poland was engulfed by alien violence. The previous 20th century has not been kind to us but the old divisions are doomed to oblivion. After centuries of misfortunes you have been able to decide your own fate in an independent state since 1948. We succeeded in winning our freedom 41 years later-Today a free and sovereign Poland, open to the entire world, is making up for the losses imposed by the totalitarian systems that had deal with its citizens so tragically We are creating the state that looks back to the finest Polish traditions. We are restoring mutual, direct contacts .between Poles and Jews of which both nations had been deprived for two generations.
It is a great task we have undertaken for the sake of better future for the coming generations of our two nations which have been bound for centuries. I am convinced that this effort can join our hands and hearts for centuries to come, 10 July 2001 is a good day on which to launch that great effort and begin our common undertaking.
Letter to the Editor of 'The Gazette', 13 July 2001
Irena Bellert, the president of the Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation, was interviewed by a journalist of The Gazette on her reaction about President Kwasniewski' s apology during the memorial ceremony in Jedwabne on July 10, 2001. Two of her statements have been quoted out of context and are thus misleading (Poland's Apology Reassures, The Gazette, July 12, 2001). She, therefore, wrote a letter to the Editors. The letter was published in a condensed form (The Gazette, July 19, 2001) - according to the rules of ?The Gazette'. However, despite the rules 'to preserve the core of the writer's argument that ?The Gazette' guarantees, something was added which was not true of what she said in that letter. In her letter, there was no mention of the number of Jews who had been victims of that massacre. It was just inappropriate to insert the figure 1600 as the number of victims supposedly referred to in Kwasniewski's speech. Recently, the above number has been put into question by the Institute of National Remembrance. And more importantly, the massacre had been aimed at all the Jewish inhabitants of Jedwabne, thus the number of victims is obviously irrelevant from the point of view of moral responsibility for that crime.
Aleksander Kwasniewski clearly offered the apology using the following words: "For this crime we should beg the souls of the dead and their families for forgiveness. This is why today, the President of the Republic of Poland, I beg pardon. I beg pardon in my own name and in the name of those Poles whose conscience is shattered by that crime. In the name of those who believe that one cannot be proud of the glory of Polish history without feeling, at the same time, pain and shame for the evil done by Poles to others."
Since these words were essential for Bellert's approval of Kwasniewski's apology and they did not appear in the letter published in The Gazette, we thus publish here the full contents of Bellert's original letter.
Letter to the Editors
Dear Sirs 13 July 2001
I have read Levon Sevunt's article "Poland's apology reassures" (The Gazette, Thursday, July 12, 2001) with approval. The author quotes, however, two sentences from a fifteen-minute telephone conversation with me : "As a Pole I was shocked when I learned about Jedwabne," Bellert said. "For 50 years of communist rule, very little was said about the occupation". Both sentences are true, but when juxtaposed, they imply that the latter was the reason of my being shocked, which is not true. I would like, therefore, to say why I was shocked and why I welcome the public statement that President Kwasniewski made in Jedwabne.
During WW II, I was a member of a Polish underground organization ZWZ, later renamed as A.K.(the Home Army). I spent nine months in Pawiak, a German prison in Warsaw, and later seven years (1948-53) in a Communist prison, where I survived a ten-month-long brutal interrogation concerning, among others, my involvement in the Polish Underground. Thus evidently I knew a lot about the fighting of Poles against the Nazi German army in the West, East and inside occupied Poland, as well as about the participation of Poles in the hopeless fight of saving the Jews while risking execution of their entire families. I also knew about the shmalcovniks, those who denounced Jews out of greed or hate.
However, never before had I heard of such a despicable, cruel massacre of Jews in which Poles participated with the approval and instigation of the Gestapo - their greatest enemy. And this is the reason for my being shocked.
This is also the reason why I believe that Poles who really love and care about their country, and are proud in being members of this nation, can only condemn the massacre in Jedwabne and express their sorrow and apology to the victims and their families, rather than deny the facts, either out of lack of courage to face the truth or wishful thinking that Poles could not participate in it.
There is, obviously, no collective responsibility, but if there is a collective pride in being a Pole, there must, in this instance, be a collective shame. This is why President Kwasniewski correctly expressed sorrow and offered an apology in his own name, as well as in the name of those of his compatriots who feel the same way.
Irena Bellert, retired professor of McGill University
Poland's ex-communist president likes the EU, historical truth, George Bush and the odd tipple
The Economist, 28 July 2001
POLAND'S president, Alexander Kwasniewski, is the key figure in selling his country to the European Union and the EU to the Poles. Six months into his second five-year term, and with the Czechs' Vaclav Havel soon to retire, he is, at 46, also emerging as ex-communist Central Europe's leading statesman. Witness his recent speech at Jedwabne, scene of a now notorious massacre in 1941. "The most important speech in post-war Polish history," a western diplomat calls it. That is too much-remember the young Lech Walesa-but a statesman's speech it was.
The massacre used to be blamed on the Nazis, who had just seized the town. The truth, brought out by new historical studies, has shaken Poland to the core. On July 10th, 60 years ago, Jedwabne's Jews were rounded up, savagely beaten and then, those who were not dead already, burned alive in a barn-by their Catholic neighbours. "Fratricide," Mr Kwasniewski calls it. At the ceremony of remembrance, he wore a yarmulka and was flanked by rabbis. It was an opportunity to put Poland in a better light with America's ever-suspicious Jews. "But the speech was also for ourselves," says Mr Kwasniewski. "We Poles have to look truth in the eye, any truth, and say: it was so, it happened."
Some nationalists would like to pretend otherwise. But Mr Kwasniewski can afford to be forthright. Opinion surveys give him almost 80% support. His wife Jolanta is so popular that people are only half joking when they say she should run for president in 2005. Even conservatives find it hard to be rude about this ex-communist. "Unfortunately, he's a good president," says a government minister through gritted teeth. How does Mr Kwasniewski do it? "I simply love the people," he beams.
Certainly, he understands them. His core support is from "disco Poland", the 60% or so of the electorate without intellectual aspirations, just looking to get by. An agnostic, Mr Kwasniewski knew that disco Poles were not as pious as the country's churchmen liked to believe. He also saw that they were not concerned with history, a lesson the Polish right has yet to absorb. "Look to the future," was the slogan of his first presidential triumph, over then President Walesa. Mr Walesa, a raw hero, reminded disco Poles of their petty sins under communism; Mr Kwasniewski, a smooth pragmatist, absolved them.
Like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, his models, Mr Kwasniewski knows the value of a well-placed handshake and a squeezed shoulder. He is similarly plastic, a pal to the working man, a sober statesman to world leaders. Well, almost sober. In his previous term, a cameraman caught him staggering about the site of a mass grave, at Kharkov, in Ukraine, of second-world-war Polish army officers. Mr Kwasniewski claims he had a bad leg, others say he was stinking drunk. State television, firmly in his camp, obligingly covered up the story. It angered many Poles at the time, as did a later wisecrack about the pope. But pollsters reckon such stumbles cemented his appeal. "The people feel they can see a normal guy behind the curtain," says one.
The ceremonial nature of his office suits Mr Kwasniewski. He has titular control of the armed forces, and a presidential veto, which he uses sparingly, but no other real power. Instead, he has carved out a role selling Poland abroad. He is the jolly backslapper at international summits, barging his way to the front row at every photo-opportunity. At home, he is more circumspect. A rare guest is a welcome guest, goes the Polish saying, and Mr Kwasniewski is all the more popular for remaining above domestic politics. A nice arrangement: failures belong to the government, successes reflect well on himself.
President and party Things will change if, as is likely, the ex-communist Social Democrats, his party, win the general election in September. Their leader, Leszek Miller, laid on the activists to aid Mr Kwasniewski's presidential campaign, but relations between the two could become strained. They are different types.
Mr Miller was the worker promoted by the party, Mr Kwasniewski the bright young man plotting his own career. He "hopes" Mr Miller will not think of a coalition with the Peasants' Party, whose voters tend to reject the EU; nor, once in office, reduce the independence of the central bank. His praise for Mr Miller is qualified: "a great organiser, the best, but he only understands Poland." Translation, leave schmoozing at foreign summits to me.
Mr Kwasniewski's informal power will increase if the Social Democrats win the election. His own economics adviser will go to work for Mr Miller. But he may find his popularity dented by government crises, and these are quite likely. Unemployment is still rising, consumer confidence is in the dumps, and the stagnant economy has left a $4 billion hole in the budget.
While Mr Miller wrestles with that, Mr Kwasniewski will be drumming up support for joining the EU. He knows the haggling, and the ultimate terms, will be hard, especially over agriculture. Poland has too many farmers, he admits. Those who cannot compete will have to be helped into other work. "We cannot give them any illusions." Yet he claims to feel certain that the voters, especially young ones, will back membership in the necessary referendum. "The simple arguments will work best," he says. "There is no alternative for a developing Poland but to join-and no alternative for the EU but to take us."
Not that Poles look west only as far as Brussels. There are millions of Polish-Americans, and George Bush got a very warm welcome in Warsaw last month. It is a special relationship that seems to work. Mr Kwasniewski has the ear of President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine, and sold Mr Bush on the need for more American involvement with that country. The Polish president likes to see himself as the middleman.
And further ahead? In 1974, when he worked in London for some months, he became (and still is) a keen fan of Arsenal football club. International football politics? He wouldn't say no.
Look into PUBLIKACJE (in the Polish section) for a somewhat different set of documents on JEDWABNE 10 lipca 2001 - SPRAWOZDANIE I OPINIE