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Tuesday, 10 July, 2001, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Analysis: Poland divided on massacre
Memorial stone in Jedwabne
The memorial does not say who is guilty
By Central Europe analyst Jan Repa

Despite the quantities of newsprint and airtime devoted to the Jedwabne massacre in Poland, the facts about what happened there remain to be established.

Cardinal Glemp
Glemp: "Jews should apologise to Poles"
In his book, Neighbours, the historian Jan Tomasz Gross alleged that 1,600 Jews had been massacred by local Poles - and not, as a Communist-era memorial claimed, by "German Nazis".

Jedwabne lies in a part of Poland seized by the Soviet Union in the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939 - then overrun by the Germans in the first days of their attack on the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941.

That a massacre had occured was not in doubt. At issue was who had done the killing.

Church's regret

Poland's President Alexander Kwasniewski was quick off the mark - promising an "apology" in the name of the Polish nation, which he has now delivered.

Jewish leaders attend the Jedwabne ceremony
Poles are now more aware of the country's rich Jewish heritage
His critics on the right declared that the ex-Communist President was trying to curry favour with Israel and with Jewish circles in the West.

Two months ago, Poland's Catholic bishops formally expressed their "regret" over the massacre - widely and incorrectly described in the media as an "apology".

Poland's senior churchman, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, suggested Jews should also apologise to the Poles for collaborating with the Soviet occupiers.

A monument was quickly unveiled in Warsaw, with the Church's blessing, honouring Poles who had hidden Jews from the Nazis.

German-made cartridges

A government sponsored commission went to Jedwabne to conduct an exhumation - which was opposed by Jews on religious grounds.

Umbrellas in the streets of Jedwabne
Gloomy weather, sombre memories
After gaining permission to dig, the commission found only 200-300 bodies - and what appeared to be German-made cartridges.

The commission is still to issue its report.

Meanwhile, a new memorial stone says nothing about who committed the massacre - and makes no mention of any Polish involvement.

As a result, several prominent Jewish organisations in the West said they would not attend Tuesday's commemoration.

Cardinal Glemp indicated he would not attend either.

He is quoted as saying in an interview that "Jews were always expressing their aversion towards Poles".

Prejudice

Opinion polls suggest that 50% of Poles think a general apology for Jedwabne is out of place.

Much has been said and written in Poland about reconciliation with the Jews.

At one level, a lot has been done in terms of making Poles aware of the rich heritage of Poland's historic Jewish community - once the largest in Europe - which was largely exterminated by Nazi Germany in World War II.

However, the Jedwabne case has also produced confusion, political point-scoring, and - in some cases, it seems - may have reinforced mutual stereotypes and prejudices.

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See also:

10 Jul 01 | Europe
Poland apologises to Jews
04 Jun 01 | Europe
Jewish grave controversy deepens
29 Mar 01 | Media reports
Jewish mass grave found in Poland
07 Mar 01 | Media reports
Fury over massacre apology plan
12 Feb 01 | Europe
Timeline: Poland
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