Polish historians question credibility of witnesses cited in 1941 pogrom book
BBC Monitoring Europe - Political

Copyright 2001 British Broadcasting Corporation
BBC Monitoring Europe - Political
Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring

March 29, 2001, Thursday

LENGTH: 552 words

HEADLINE: Polish historians question credibility of witnesses cited in 1941 pogrom book

SOURCE: PAP news agency, Warsaw, in Polish 1118 gmt 29 Mar 01


Two Polish historians have questioned the credibility of witnesses cited in a book on the July 1941 pogrom in Jedwabne, northeastern Poland. One is said to have been in hiding at the time, another lived elsewhere and a third had been deported into the interior of the USSR the previous year, theyclaim. The following is the text of a report by Polish news agency PAP:

Warsaw, 29 March: Prof Tomasz Strzembosz is seeking is undermining the credibility of the witnesses who are cited by Prof Jan Gross in his book "Neighbours" Sasiedzi on the extermination of the Jews of Jedwabne northeastern Poland, in July 1941 .

Gross wrote in his book that "the first and most precise account on this subject is the testimony of Wasersztajn, dating from 1945." Meanwhile, historian Prof Tomasz Strzembosz has told PAP that Szmul Wasersztajn could not have seen the murder of Jews in Jedwabne on 10 July 1941, because on that day he was in hiding at a distance of 500 metres from the place of the atrocity. As Strzembosz stresses, in its justification of the verdict in the Jedwabne case after the war a court stated that "Wasersztajn was not a direct witness" of this event.

Strzembosz cites the same court files upon the basis of which Gross wrote his book. (as the author of "Neighbours" writes, "we find successive descriptions of the events in the files of the Lomza northeastern Poland trials of May 1949 and November 1953..." PAP ellipses ).

According to Prof Gross, other not credible witnesses cited by Gross are Abram Boruszczak and Eljasz Gradowski. Gross writes: "Eljasz Gradowski, describing the participation of particular people in the pogrom, states that they looted Jewish property..." and "Abram Boruszczak states in this context..." PAP ellipses .

Meanwhile, Strzembosz told PAP, Adam Boruszczak did not live in Jedwabne at all and was questioned in this case after the war upon the instruction of the Lomza court. Eljasz Gradowski, on the other hand, was sentenced for theft in 1940 (during the Soviet occupation) and deported into the interior of the USSR. He returned in 1945 and, as Prof Strzembosz adds, "had nothing to do with the Jedwabne case".

Tomasz Strzembosz reported that in the hearing of the case before the Lomza court in 1949 neither Boruszczak nor Gradowski were taken into account as witnesses by the court since "they could, at most, have heard about the crime ".

The Thursday 29 March edition of the Zycie daily, citing the opinion of the historian Piotr Gontarczyk, also writes that "in writing his Neighbours', Gross based himself on testimonies and accounts that were not credible." "He chose those which matched what he wanted," Gontarczyk told Zycie.

An investigation into the case of the mass-murder of the Jews of Jedwabne, who were burnt to death in a barn on 10 July 1941, is being conducted by the National Remembrance Institute IPN . The motive for the crime is said to have been revenge for "the participation of Jews in Stalinist repressions". Jedwabne was a part of those territories of the Polish Second Republic that were occupied by the USSR between 17 September 1939 and the German aggression on the USSR on 22 June 1941. During this period, NKVD terror touched many Polish citizens of various nationalities.

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