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The BBC's Ray Furlong in Warsaw
"It marked something of a turnaround for the Polish church"
 real 28k

Monday, 28 May, 2001, 02:02 GMT 03:02 UK
Analysis: Historic but reluctant apology
Rabbi Michael Schudrich at the site of the Jedwabne massacre
Rabbi Schudrich could not attend the apology
By Ray Furlong in Warsaw

The ceremony in which Polish Church officials voiced regret over the Jedwabne pogrom, when Poles are alleged to have killed 1,600 Jews in 1941, was an extraordinary turn-around welcomed by the Jewish community.

Poland's chief rabbi, American-born Michael Schudrich, called it "moving and historic".

But Mr Schudrich did not make it to the ceremony because it clashed with the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.

In Jedwabne you had Polish perpetrators and only Jewish victims

Rabbi Michael Schudrich
The inability of the two religions to agree on a date pointed to an underlying tension that still surrounds the Jedwabne massacre.

The Polish Catholic Church was originally reluctant to apologise. The Primate, Cardinal Josef Glemp, said he did not want politicians telling him what to do.

'Jewish communists'

He also suggested the Jewish community should apologise for crimes allegedly committed by Jewish communists against Polish patriots after the war.

There is a popular view in Poland that Jewish communists were zealous in working for the secret police.

Cardinal Joseph Glemp
Cardinal Glemp said he would not be dictated to
It is also true that many Poles who had fought in the West were subsequently repressed by the communists after returning to post-war Poland.

But Rabbi Schudrich scorns these ideas.

"It's very curious there are many voices here in Poland talking about Jewish perpetrators of communism and Catholic victims," he said. "In reality, you had Jewish perpetrators and victims, and Catholic perpetrators and victims ... in Jedwabne you had Polish perpetrators and only Jewish victims."

Apology opposed

Nevertheless, a recent opinion survey showed almost 50% of Poles opposed apologising for Jedwabne.

We are being judged by the rest of the world - even though it knows nothing about us

Young Warsovian
Speaking to churchgoers in Warsaw found almost unanimous disapproval. "I'm sure they should not apologise," said one middle-aged woman. "I think it was a state of war and Poles bear no responsibility."

So is this the proverbial Polish anti-Semitism? "No," said one young Warsovian. "We have a complicated history, and we are being judged by the rest of the world - even though it knows nothing about us."

Indeed, Polish history is complex - and the Cathedral where the ceremony was held is a symbol of that.

Located on the edge of the old Jewish ghetto, it used to be a place where Jews could illicitly receive food during the war - and the priest also smuggled Jewish children out into Polish families, saving their lives.

If relations between Poles and Jews are to improve, this is the kind of symbolism that will need to be stressed.

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29 Mar 01 | Media reports
Jewish mass grave found in Poland
07 Mar 01 | Media reports
Fury over massacre apology plan
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