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The BBC's Martha Dixon reports
"History may have to be painfully revised"
 real 56k

Monday, 4 June, 2001, 22:24 GMT 23:24 UK
Jewish grave controversy deepens
Warsaw rabbi Michael Schudrich (middle)
The exhumation was a tense time for Poland's Jews
By Ray Furlong in Prague, Czech Republic

The exhumation of bodies in the Polish village of Jedwabne, the site of a wartime massacre of Jews has uncovered the remains of far fewer people than were originally thought to have died.

Polish Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski said about 200 bodies were found, compared with the 1,600 expected.


The discovery of bullet fragments at the site suggests that German soldiers were responsible

The exhumation was begun after controversial allegations last year that Poles had carried out the atrocity and not Germans as originally believed.

These discoveries will further fuel the raging debate in Poland about the country's wartime role.

Mr Kaczynski said the crime at Jedwabne was not as large as generally assumed although it was atrocious.

Germans or Poles?

Furthermore, the discovery of bullet fragments at the site suggests that German soldiers were responsible for the massacre.

This was long believed to be the case until last year when a Polish-American historian alleged that Poles alone carried it out.

His book provoked a nationwide debate. Were Poles only victims of Nazism or also perpetrators of atrocities?

This exhumation does not answer the questions. There may be more bodies buried near the site of the dig and the participation of Poles in the massacre still cannot be ruled out.

In July, on the 60th anniversary of the Jedwabne pogrom, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski is due to apologise for it.

But the investigation might not uncover exactly what happened in time for that.

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See also:

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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