Cain’s Crime: 70th anniversary of the Massacre of Jews at Jedwabne


A ceremony took place at Jedwabne in Poland on Sunday, 10 July, 70 years after Polish villagers murdered several hundred of their Jewish neighbours.  The truth about the massacre revealed in 2000 by Jan Tomasz Gross in his book "Neighbours”, was devastating for many Poles, accustomed to seeing themselves as victims only.   At the time, the Polish Institute for National Remembrance immediately began investigating and confirmed that Poles were behind the massacre.  Even before the results of the investigation were announced, the then President Kwaśniewski expressed his country’s sorrow and repentance for the crime committed.  He was among the many at the ceremony on Sunday.  A letter was read out by Tadeusz Mazowiecki from President Komarowski who stated:

«Together with the people of Jedwabne, we want to fully understand the meaning of what happened then and to understand what must be preserved in us as memory, warning, our duty. There was no Rzeczpospolita (Polska) then, yet today there is. There is, and it can still hear the never-fading cry of its citizens. Once again, I beg forgiveness."

“Cain, where is your brother Abel? That Old Testament sentence has gained a whole new meaning in the context of Jedwabne.   Although welcomed by the Nazis, nobody ordered that murder”, Władysław Bartoszewski, who was active in the Polish Resistance, including in Żegota which worked to save Jews during the War, and is now (among very many other roles) Chair of a Remembrance Council, stressed.

The Israeli Ambassador, Zvi Rav-Ner on the other hand stressed that Polish citizens made up the largest group honoured as the Righteous among Nations.  “I am proud that over six and a half thousand Polish citizens received this medal. Not all neighbours were like those here. And that too we shall remember. Today we weep here. However we are also proud that we are here together”

At the end of the ceremony, at which the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, said prayers for the dead, those present placed pebbles on the top of the Monument in mourning.

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