Ultimate debunking of Gross
prof. Tomasz Strzembosz

polish version
translated by: Mariusz Wesolowski

Prof. Tomasz Strzembosz has published in today's "Rzeczpospolita" (31 March 2001 edition) an article called "A different picture of neighbors" (see the Polish original at http://www.rzeczpospolita.pl/gazeta/wydanie_010331/publicystyka/publicystyka_a_2.html

The article proves beyond any doubt that Gross has heavily doctored his sources. The following very brief excerpts in my very hasty translation present the gist of Strzembosz's argument. My "fillers" are in square brackets, round brackets indicate cuts.

Mariusz Wesolowski

"Because some journalists, such as Anna Bikont from "Gazeta Wyborcza", read my texts in the way which suits their needs, I want to clearly state that the following article is not an explanation of what has happened in Jedwabne on 10 July 1941, but an analysis of a specific source, that is, the depositions (...) made in Lomza in 1949, as well as of the way Professor Gross has interpreted them in his book "Neighbors". (...) I agree with Prof. Gross that this source is important, and because of that its interpretation influences the process (...) of discovering the truth."

"In answering the criticism coming from many historians (including myself) that Wassersztajn's relation alone is not enough, Prof. Gross replied many times that "Yes, Wassersztajn's relation is not sufficient but I also utilized other, absolutely fundamental materials. Strzembosz has five relations taken down 60 years after the war, I have at my disposal 36 depositions made already in 1949 (...)".

After such a declaration the other debaters had to fall silent. Why? Because Prof. Gross gained access to the records of the trial of Boleslaw Ramotowski and 21 other people when they were completely inaccessible to [everybody else]. He knew, was familiar with, held in his hands that "secret knowledge"; we had to rely on [scant bits of available information].

Only recently, when state prosecutor Ignatiew did not need these documents any more, (...) they have been made available to historians. What's more, they have been xeroxed and the copies will be made accessible to all the truly interested persons. They will be finally published."

"I have read them all. (...) And I have to say that the longer I was reading, the greater was becoming my astonishment. BECAUSE THESE RECORDS (...) STATE SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FROM THE ALLEGATIONS OF PROF. GROSS WHO RELIES MOSTLY (...) ON THEM [the stress in the original].


[In the central part of his article Prof. Strzembosz quotes and analyzes in depth the testimonies of at least 10 defendants in the 1949 trial. His conclusions are manifold, but the central ones are: 1. The German instigation, supervision and conduct of the murder are beyond any doubt; 2. Many Poles tried to avoid being forcefully made into participants, some even hid several Jews, others were beaten for their refusal by the Germans.]

"A picture fundamentally different from the one Prof. Gross has painted in his "Neighbors". Why this difference? Jan T. Gross simply omitted several scores of testimonies which spoke about the central role of the Germans, and selected only those talking about the Polish collaboration. (...) He did not explain anywhere his reasons for so doing. He did not say why he approved of some documents and rejected the others.

The fact that the depositions of Szmul Wassersztajn (...), Abram Boruszczak and Eljasz Gradowski have been practically disavowed is also worth attention. It happened because of the testimonies of the Jedwabne inhabitants which clearly proved that Boruszczak never lived in Jedwabne and Gradowski, jailed by the Soviets for theft, had been already in 1940 deported into the interior of the Soviet Union. He returned to Poland only in 1945, so he couldn't witness anything.(...)

All three accusers had been treated by the court as people who heard something but who never directly witnessed the events at Jedwabne. (...) It is exactly from such relation of Szmul Wassersztajn that Prof. Gross has taken the most drastic fragments of his book. These shocking facts have not been confirmed by any other sources.

I will leave the comment to the reader."

The full translation text was added here at 12.April. Sorry, I don't know the translator.

Tomasz Strzembosz: A different image of Neighbours

1. Statement

Since some journalists, such as Anna Bikont from "Gazeta Wyborcza", read my texts as it suits them, I hereby state that the article below is not an explanation of what happened in Jedwabne on the 10th of July 1941, but refers to the contents of specific source materials -- that is statements made to the investigating officers, prosecutors and the court, in Lomza in 1949 -- as well as to the way these source materials were read by Professor Jan T. Gross and subsequently presented in his book "Neighbours". Professor Gross talks about what seems to appear from these source materials, which - I state this clearly - are not sufficient bases for me to pronounce what happened then: about the course of events and their most significant circumstances. It is possible that we will never learn about these events, or that we will not learn everything. However, I agree with Professor Gross that these materials are an important source; and this is why the way in which they are read is not without influence on the laborious process of approaching the explanation: who, what and when - namely, getting to the truth.

2. History of the problem

One cannot claim that for 50 years nothing has been written about the crime committed in the town of Jedwabne in Podlasie. There have been a number of articles in the press and references made in books on the Holocaust about the incident. Arguments were made by the prosecutor Waldemar Monkiewicz, in, amongst others, an extensive article entitled "Extermination of Jewish settlements in the Bialystok region in the years of 1939-1944". In this article he presents a thesis that the burning of the Jews in the barn was conducted by a German special unit, under the command of a Gestapo member Wolfgang B?rkner, who was infamous for his role in the occupation of Warsaw, assisted by gendarmerie and military police. The latter participated merely in escorting the victims to the square in Jedwabne and in leading the convoy out of town, to the barn, where the Germans, having poured petrol on the walls, burnt around 900 men, women and children. However, those works were only published either in specialist research periodicals, or in other publications, which are not read by the majority of Poles.

This situation continued until 1999, when Professor Jan T. Gross published his article "Summer of 1941 in Jedwabne. A contribution to research on the role of local communities in the extermination of the Jewish nation during the second World War" in a collective work "Nonprovincial Europe", edited by Professor Krzysztof Jasiewicz.

This article contains a type of 'nucleus' and the basis for evaluation of what happened, which is an account by Szmul Wasersztajn; this account is in the Jewish History Institute in Warsaw (in a collection "individual accounts", nr.301). Professor Gross informs us that another account of Szmul Wasersztajn exists, which is shorter, in which a number of details are different than in the statement quoted below; this is not the most significant information, however. One account states that out of 1200 Jews in Jedwabne, only 3 survived the war; according to the other account - 7 out of 1600; one claims that the perpetrators of the murder forced the Jews to carry an enormous statue of Lenin - the other one - his portrait, etc. - but the general sense of both of the accounts is the same.

In his article, Professor Gross concludes: "But even without certainty regarding the details, it is absolutely clear for a historian, that in late June and early July of 1941 in Jedwabne a group of local people inhumanely ill-treated their fellow citizens of Jewish origin". Hence, on the basis of only one cited account, which is short and contains conflicting details in the two available versions (it is not certain which of these came first), a sociologist and a historian made a very grave accusation against a group of people.

One year later, in the spring of 2000, a publishing house Pogranicze in the town of Sejny published a book by Professor Gross with a significant title: "Neighbours. A history of the extermination of a Jewish town. To the memory of Szmul Wasersztajn"(we learn from the book that S. Wasersztajn died on February 9, 2000).

This book very quickly aroused an enormous response as it presents a thesis going much further than the conclusion of "Nonprovincial Europe". It can be formulated as follows: the Jedwabne Jews, who were Polish citizens, were murdered by the Polish community in Jedwabne, aided by the inhabitants of the surrounding villages. They murdered them by themselves, without the participation of the occupant - the Germans - who were merely passive observers or involved in filming the murders carried out solely by Polish hands.

I have not known, in my fairly long life, a historical book that would come to such notice and create such a wave of statements in such a wide range of media. Perhaps it is no wonder. Yet, amongst the hundreds of articles and statements on the radio and television, there is a clear lack of statements about the facts themselves, statements that would take up the issue on the basis of the same or entirely new, significant sources. Nearly all of these reports deal with moral aspects of the murder, its consequences for the historic consciousness of Poles, or political and psychological consequences, or they undertake a critique of the methodology used in the work presented by Gross. However, practically nobody tries to question essentially the factuality of the previously mentioned statement that it was Polish "neighbours" who murdered their Jewish "neighbours", by themselves, burning them in a barn of Bronislaw Sleszynski, with the approval of the occupant authorities, but without participation of the Germans.

Responding to the accusations of more than one historian (including the one writing these words), that the account of Wasersztajn is not sufficient, Professor Gross, on numerous occasions, both during discussions in the editorial offices of "Rzeczpospolita", and during a recent discussion in Bialystok, answered: "yes, the account of Wasersztajn is not enough, but in my work I also used other, completely elementary materials; Strzembosz has 5 accounts taken 60 years after the war, I have 36 accounts made as early as 1949 in a court room in Lomza and before other investigating officers".

After such a statement the participants of the discussion had to fall silent. Why? Because Professor Gross obtained access to the files of the proceedings against Boleslaw Ramotowski and 21 others, at the time when the files of the former Main Commission of Investigating Crimes against the Polish nation (in a state of liquidation) were entirely inaccessible, even to the employees. It was these files to which he referred. He knew, he saw them, held them in his hands, he had access to "secret knowledge", we were left with what had been - in rare cases - revealed earlier, as well as what sometimes came out in a heated discussion which - by the very nature of such discussion - may have been distorted.

Only recently, when the prosecutor Ignatiew no longer needed those files, the investigation records and the 1949 trial documents were made accessible to historians, thanks to the kindness of the IPN (National Memory Institute) authorities. More than that. I know they have been photocopied and a copy will be available to anyone really interested. They will finally be published.

What are those documents? As the charges from March 31, 1949 state, the Jewish History Institute in Poland sent to the Ministry of Justice "evidence materials regarding the criminal activity of murdering individuals of Jewish nationality by the inhabitants of Jedwabne. According to the statement given by a witness Szmul Wasersztajn, who observed the extermination of Jews. The main perpetrators of this crime were (...)". Thus, the files of the trial contain the same account of Wasersztajn that is quoted by Professor Gross (the longer version); this account became the basis for the trial. As a consequence of this investigation, a trial in the Regional Court in Lomza took place on May 16 and 17, 1949 and its verdict was then considered by the Appellate Court and the High Court.

One substantial volume thus contained several types of documents:

- - - testimony of suspects and witnesses made before officials of the local Office of Public Safety in w Lomza, who were investigating officers;

- - - statements of suspects and witnesses given before public prosecutors of the Regional Court in Lomza;

- - - testimony of the accused and witnesses made during the court trial;

- - - charges and the verdict with justification, prepared by the judges of the Regional Court in Lomza;

- - - correspondence of the accused to various national authorities' offices;

- - - files of the Appellate Court and the High Court in Warsaw.

This is the source that is always called upon by Professor Gross.

3. Amazement

I read it all. Even more: I copied by hand all the documents elementary to the case of the murder, maintaining accurately their style and writing, which were, one might add - very characteristic. I have to admit that the more I read the files, the more my amazement increased. These files, when treated in a serious and complex manner, say something entirely different from what Professor Gross claims; Professor Gross based his arguments mainly on these files, although these were not the only documents used. Professor Gross constantly stresses the fact that because he can rely on such a rich and credible source basis, he has the right to formulate authoritative claims that others can oppose with accounts only - and those accounts were given many years later.

It is impossible to convey in a press article all that the study of these documents yielded. It is just as is impossible, on the basis of these accounts and only these, to present a credible version of events, which could in the end turn out to be different from the picture emerging from the statements of the accused and the witnesses; all of these parties were in a specific and very particular situation, so they said what they said - not necessarily the truth and only the full truth. I can however, pass on a few statements, which appear espressis verbis from the documents, considered by Professor Gross as so significant in the course of uncovering the truth.

They will concern:

- - The number of people accused of participation in the murder of Polish citizens of Jewish origin in the town of Jedwabne. This number will only include the inhabitants of the town, as participants in the murder from outside Jedwabne only appear in the documents in a manner that is too general and anonymous to identify them.

- - Participation of Germans in this murder, that is, the uniformed and armed officials of police formations. In this case, I will attempt to quote in the most extensive way possible, the relevant fragments of sources, so that I can not be accused of pronouncing claims that are not based on source materials. May the readers judge for themselves, whether they are sufficiently numerous and sufficiently convincing to talk about participation of Germans in the particular stages of the murder. The murder consisted of 3 stages: dragging the Polish citizens of Jewish origin out of their flats and driving them to the market place in Jedwabne; leading them, first through the town, then through a field to the barn of Bronislaw Sleszynski, and finally burning them in the barn.

I haste to add here, that the first and the third stage are the least known to us: most of the suspects admitted to guarding the Jews in the market place, less to driving them here, but nearly no one admitted to being near the barn when it was being lit. Such an admission might have been an evidence of participation in the worst of crimes. So this is where there is most room for speculation.

I would like to start with the role of the Germans and the role of the Poles in the events which took place in Jedwabne on July 10, 1941. Since the suspects and the witnesses gave testimony in turn: before investigators, public prosecutors and during the court trial - I will attempt to present their statements in exactly this order, in order to demonstrate if and to what extent they changed according to who the interrogators were. I will quote them in extenso, as they sounded, but merely those fragments that concerned the relations between Poles and Germans. Quoting the whole statements would produce a book, not an article.

4. Testimony

I will only consider here statements of the suspects, out of whom in the end 22 were put to trial on May 16 and 17, 1949. The order has been maintained as it was during the trial, which was called a trial of "Boleslaw Ramotowski and 21 others".

1. 1. 1. Boleslaw Ramotowski - born in 1911, without a job, currently a janitor in a primary school, 1 part of primary school completed, wife and four kids (I give only the most significant data that characterise the suspect; the suspects were all Roman Catholics, and lived in Jedwabne).

Before the investigating officer (I do not consider here the issue of who the investigating officers were [sometimes they were non-commissioned officers]; it is a separate and very interesting issue) he testifies (08.01.1949):

"Yes, I took an active part in driving those Jews to the barn, who lit it - I did not see that, I only know, that we Polish drove nearly one and a half thousand Jews (this number occurs in a number of statements, it looks like a number suggested or written in by the investigator) and the men[tioned] Jews were burnt. Who set the fire, this I don't know.

Question: Tell me, who else took an active part together with you, in driving those Jews, who were burnt in Jedwabne.

Answer: They are the following people (...)" (I will write later about the number of suspects occurring in the statements, but I would like to signal that they are the people named by the investigating officer. In the case of Ramotowski it is as many as 41 people).

Before the public prosecutor he states (15.01.1949):

"Yes, I admit I am guilty that in 1941 in the summer in Jedwabne, to accommodate the authority of the German state under the orders of the mayor and the German gendarmerie I took an active part in guarding the Jewish population driven to the market. My task was only to make sure that none of the Jews got away. In guarding, the Jews participated also (...)"

Before the court he states (16.05.1949):

"I was at the market for around 2 hours, because I was forced by Germans to guard the Jews. When the Germans drove the Jews to the barn, I ran away home then. (...)

The Court reads out the testimony of the accused made during the invest.[igation], k.74

The accused states further:

During the interrogation I was forced to tell on other people, because I was beaten very much. (...)"

2. Stanislaw Zejer - born in 1893, 1 part of primary school completed, farmer, 4 ha of land, married.

Before the investigating officer he states (11.01.1949):

"I was detained because I took part, by the order of the town mayor Karolak, to drive Jews to the market place. (...) It was in 1941 in the month of July, the janitor came to me by an order of the town major and he said told me to go to drive Jews to the market and I went to drive them to the market. After we drove them there, the gendarmerie started terrible beatings together with the Poles.(...) To the Jews that were there, the Germans told to take the monument of Lenin and to walk with it into town singing. I wasn't there any more during that time, because I got an order from the town mayor to fetch clover. I was bringing that clover for an hour. When I got back, the barn with the Jews was already burning, and there were about 1000 Jews who had been chased into that barn."

Before the public prosecutor he states (15.01.1949):

"Yes, I admit to being guilty, that in 1941 in Jedwabne, to accommodate the authority of the German state (this is a consistently used formula associated with the fact that charges came from the so-called "August Decree" from August 1944), under the orders of the town mayor Karolak and the Gestapo, I drove to the appointed place in the market 2 people of Jewish nationality; after leading those two Jews to the market I saw a lot of Jews already there. From there I went straight home and I didn't see what happened after that, what the Germans did with the Jews. Whether the other inhabitants of Jedwabne took part in bringing Jews, I didn't see that. (...)"

Before the court he testifies (16.05.1949):

"Stanislaw Zejer does not admit to being guilty and explains: when I was in the Magistrate, the mayor told me to collect Jews but I didn't want to, when I went out in the street one from Gestapo told me to take 2 Jews, but I let them go when the Gestapo one went to the bakers.(...)

The Court reads out the statement of the accused for k. 33 and 75 investigation.

The accused testifies further:

I saw Jerzy Laudanski when he walked with the Jews, when they drove them to the market, the Gestapo were walking behind Laudanski. I did not see any of the other accused. These Jews were lead by the Gestapo and they were beating them. I am illiterate. I didn't go myself, the Germans took me and they forced me".

3. Czeslaw Lipinski - born in 1920, farmer, 5 parts of primary school completed, bachelor, 3 ha of land and farm buildings.

Before the investigating officer he testifies (11.01.1949):

"Question: Did you take part in the murdering of Jews in 1941in the month of July?

Answer: I did not take part in the murdering of Jews, only Kalinowski Eugeniusz, Laudanski Jurek and one German came to me and [I went] with them to the market; I brought one Jew and 2 little Jewesses [sic!] When we drove with the Germans the above mentioned Jews (...) we brought the above mentioned Jews to the market then the Germans put me on the Stary Rynek street [and] told me to look out so that the Jews would not run away from the market. I was sitting with this stick around 15 minutes, but I could not look any more how they were murdering them [,] I went home and on the way I threw this stick away (...)".

Before the public prosecutor he testifies (15.01.1949):

"I do not admit to being guilty, that in July 1941 I took part in the burning of Jews in Jedwabne and I explain, that on the critical day when I stood on my own courtyard a German came up to me, took me with him to the market, to guard the Jews, who had been driven to the market. As soon as the German walked away from me, I immediately ran away from the market. I only stood by the market for a short time, maybe 10-15 minutes and because I was terrified with what was happening, I don't remember anything about who from the civilian population took part in murdering the Jews. After getting home I hid in the hay (if he hid, it was from the Germans not the Poles) and I don't know what happened to the Jews".

Before the court he testifies:

"I didn't bring any Jews to the market".

The court reads the statement of the accused made in the investigation k. 35 and 76:

In the statement I talked about how they made me, because I was beaten very much. I wasn't in the market at all I don't know what went on there". (This statement questions all the previous ones. Which one is true? In any case, neither the investigator nor the public prosecutor seem to consider the statements about the role of Germans in driving Jews and manipulating Poles as something to question, they both accept this as obvious.)

4. Wladyslaw Dabrowski - born in 1890, cobbler, illiterate, married.

Before the investigating officer he testifies (11.01.1949):

"Question: Tell us if you took part in the murdering of Jews during the German occupation in 1941 in the month of July?

Answer: I did not take part in the murdering of Jews, I took part only in the guarding at the market, where there were over fifteen hundred of those who had been driven there by the Polish community. (...) My task was to watch that not one Jew came out beyond a line, which I did, I got such an order from Karolak, Sobota and one German, and during my guarding I didn't see anyone beating Jews (...)".

Before the public prosecutor he testifies: (15.01.1949):

"I do not admit to being guilty and I explain: on the critical day when I was at home, gendarmerie came to my home with the mayor of Jedwabne Karolak and told me to go to the market and guard the Jews. Because I didn't want to go and tried to run away, the German hit me on the head with his gun (this was confirmed by the testimony of a number of witnesses) and he hit me in the face with his hand and knocked a tooth out. Then I stood there for around 2 hours. As soon as the German moved away from me I ran away home. (...)"

Before the court he testifies:

"(...) Does not admit to being guilty and explains: on the critical day I worked near the church and I didn't take any part.

The court reads the testimony of the accused given in the invest.[igation] k. 38 and 78. The accused testifies further:

I talked like that during the interrogation, because i was beaten and I was afraid of further beating. I didn't see any of the accused. I was beaten in a terrible way" (the statements during the interrogation and before the public prosecutor had to contain some truth, as the fact of the beating by the German was confirmed both by the family and by strangers).

5. Feliks Tarnacki - born in 1907, profession - locksmith, job - farmer, 4 parts of primary school completed, widower.

Before the investigating officer he testifies (11.01.1949):

"Question: Did you take part in the round-up on the Jewish population in the month of July 1949 and who else took part in it?

Answer: On the day on which the round-up on the Jewish population took place, mayor Karolak Marian came to me and the secretary of the magistrate Wasilewski, whose first name I don't know, together with a Gestapo man, and they chased me out to the market, where there were a lot of people gathered [from] the town of Jedwabne and from other parts, whom I didn't know: (...) I stayed in the market for around 15 minutes and then having run away from it I took the bicycle from my house and left for the village of Kaimy in the district of Jedwabne, where I stayed with Przestrzelski Feliks for around 10 minutes and after drinking a glass of vodka I went in the direction of Lomza. (...) After that I returned home on foot, i.e. to Jedwabne and there was already smoke in town from the burnt barn. After getting home I hid. I remained in hiding for the whole night".

Before the public prosecutor he testifies (15.01.1949):

"I do not admit to being guilty that in July 1941 I took part in the murdering of Jews in Jedwabne and I explain that on the critical day I was at home. During that time the mayor of Jedwabne Marian Karolak came to my flat with a Gestapo man and they took me to the market, where Jews were being brought. When the Gestapo man walked away from me I ran away home and went by bike to Lomza (...)"

Before the court he testifies:

"(...) I was at the market maybe 10 - 15 minutes by the order of a Gestapo man, but I escaped right away.

The court read out the testimony on k. 40 and 79 invest.[igation]

The accused testifies further:

I didn't see any of the accused. My brother is called Jerzy Tarnacki."

6. Józef Chrzanowski - born in 1889, farmer, home schooling, married, 3 ha of land with farm buildings.

Before the investigating officer he testifies (11.01.1949):

"(...) In 1941 when the occupant army entered Jedwabne the local population commenced with the murdering of the Jews, first they drove them to the market: when I was walking along Przylska street I was met by Wasilewski Józef and Sobota, inhabitants of the town of Jedwabne, and they told me to go to the market so I didn't oppose and went with them. When I got to the market they told me that I should give my barn for the burning of the Jews, so then I started to ask them not to burn my barn, so they agreed then to this and left my barn alone, only they told me to help them drive the Jews to the barn of Sleszynski Bronislaw, the Jews were rounded up in fours (although the testifying is not saying it directly, he means the Germans; similarly when he talks of setting the fire) and we Polish guarded on one side and on another so that the Jews would not run away, when we got to the barn, they told all the Jews to go into the barn and we had to look out that all the Jews went into the barn and they set fire to the barn and the Jews were burnt, then I went home then, I had no orders to drive the Jews from the Germans. (...)"

Before the public prosecutor (15.01.1949) he repeats the statement about defending his own barn, does not admit to driving Jews to the barn of Sleszynski.

Before the court he testifies:

"Does not admit to being guilty, explains: I wasn't present at the driving of Jews, neither was I at the leading of them (leading them - to the barn - T.S.).

The Court read the testimony of the accused on k. 42 and 80 of the invest.[igation]. The accused testifies:

Wasilewski and Sobota turned to me, so that I would give my barn for the burning, but I didn't agree. Then the Gestapo came, they also demanded, that I would give the barn, I didn't want to agree, but being scared of them I ran away in the corn and stayed there until the evening. I didn't see any of the accused." (it is clear that either the court asked about the other accused, or else returned to the testimony given before the investigating officer of the Security Services).

Before the prosecutor (Jan. 15th 1949) he repeats that he did not want his barn to be used for burning the Jews, he pleads he is not guilty of driving the Jews to the Sleszynski's barn.

Before the Court he testifies:

"I do not confess my guilt, he explains: I was not present at collecting the Jews or at driving them (to the barn - T.S.).

The Court read out the defendant's testimonies on chart 42 and 80 of the investigation files. The defendant testifies:

Wasilewski and Sobota wanted me to give my barn for burning, but I refused. Then the Gestapo men came and they also demanded that I give my barn, but I did not want to; as I was afraid of them I ran away and hid in the rye. I stayed there till the evening. I saw none of the accused". (the court probably asked him about the other accused persons or came back to his testimony before the UB investigating officer).

7. Roman Górski - born 1904, a farmer, he owns 3 ha of land, 2 classes of elementary school completed.

Before the investigating officer he testifies (Jan. 10th 1949):

"at 12 a.m. to my house came Karolak Marian, the mayor, and a German gendarme, who kicked me. They took me to the Market of Jedwabne, where they ordered me to guard the Jews together with several 16- 17-year-old boys from the village (...) I was at the Market from 12 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then I went back home, as my wife, who was lying in after childbirth, suddenly fell ill. I did not go out of the house any more that day. (...)"

Before the prosecutor he testifies (Jan 15th 1949):

"Yes, I confess I am guilty that in July 1941, accommodating with the German authorities and under the threat of the mayor and German gendarmes I was made to guard the Jews collected at the Jedwabne Market. The mayor, Karolak, and German gendarmes came to my house and took me to guard the Jews at the Market, so that they could not run away. I also saw that Sobota and Wasilewski selected about a dozen Jews present and ordered them to do funny physical exercises. I do not know what happened next to the Jews, as I went back home".

Before the Court he testifies:

"Gendarmes came to my house and ordered me to go with them. When I opposed, they beat me and forced me to go with them to the market, where I remained only for 15 minutes and escaped and came back home, because my wife, when she saw that the Germans were beating me, fell ill.

The Court read out the defendant's testimony on chart 44 and 81 of the investigation files.

The defendant testifies:

I did not do anything, when I was at the market. I did not see Jerzy Laudanski. I was beaten very heavily during the investigation proceedings and told these things while being in pain."

8. Antoni Niebrzydowski - born 1901, a locksmith, secondary education, married, an owner of a house in Jedwabne.

Before the investigating officer he testifies (Jan. 10th 1949):

"In 1941 to my house came Karolak, a German mayor, and Bardon Karol and they ordered me to go to guard the Jews at the market, whom they were driving to the sugar market. I did not know what was going on and I went at the order of Karolak and Bardon. I was on the side of the Dworna Street and I had nothing in my hands."

He delivered kerosene to be poured on the barn to which "they rushed the Jews". He gave the kerosene at the order of Eugeniusz Kalinowski and Jerzy Niebrzydowski.

Before the prosecutor he testifies (Jan. 15th 1941):

"Yes, I confess I am guilty that in July 1941, accommodating the German authorities and under the threat of the mayor and Bardon (Bardon, who was an assistant gendarme, was the only Jedwabne citizen armed with a gun) I was made to guard the Jews collected at the Jedwabne market. I gave the kerosene from the storehouse to Bardon, Niebrzydowski Jerzy and Kalinowski Eugeniusz; I do not know for what purposes they needed the kerosene. After some time I went back home and I only saw the fire belching out of that barn (...)"

Before the Court he repeats his version of events and adds:

"Then people were saying that the kerosene I had given was used to burn the Szlesinski's barn" (it is an important completion - maybe, giving the kerosene to the town authorities, he did not know for what purposes it was going to be used).

9. Wladyslaw Miciura - born 1902, a carpenter, one class of elementary school completed, married, 6 children aged 6 - 15, ? ha of land.

Before the investigating officer he testifies (Jan 10th 1949):

"Three or four days before the raid I was made to do some carpenter work at the gendarmerie station. In July 1941, I do not remember the exact date, several cabs (at that time the villagers called by this name all the passenger cars) came with Gestapo men and they organised a raid on the Jews and they rushed them to the market square. The gendermes sent me home for breakfast and when I came back after an hour a policeman ordered me to go to the market to guard the Jews and prevent them from running away. I guarded the Jews from 12 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then I went back to the gendarmerie station, but they did not want me to work; they told me to go and drive the Jews to the barn, so I did this and I was there till the moment the barn full of Jews was set on fire. (...)

Before the prosecutor he testifies (Jan. 15th 1949):

"Yes, I confess I am guilty that in July 1941 in Jedwabne, accommodating with the German authorities and under the threat of German gendarmes and the Gestapo men I was made to guard the Jews collected at the Jedwabne market, I did not participate in driving the Jews to the Sleszynski's barn. (...)"

Before the Court:

he does not confess his guilt and explains: "I did not participate in driving the Jews". During the investigation proceedings he gave the names of the accused because he was beaten. He says: "I was not present at the market square at all. All day long I was working as a carpenter at the gendarmerie station" (This testimony is also characteristic for other defendants. Before the investigating officer he acknowledges having done everything; before the prosecutor he denies most of the controversial acts - participation in driving the Jews to the Sleszynski's barn; before the Court he says he has not taken part in the murder at all. Most of all testimonies against the neighbours [not cited here] are false and forced. The fact that before the Court he denies participating in the crime does not mean that he did not see the Gestapo cars and the actions of gendarmes.)

10. Józef Zyluk - born 1910, no profession, illiterate, performs odd jobs as a salesman, married, 5 children

Before the investigating officer he testifies (Jan. 9th 1949):

"I was detained by the militiamen in Jedwabne on 8th January 1948 and accused of delivering the Jews to the Gestapo men in 1941." In the later part of his testimony he says that, drawn away from mowing the hay, together with Karolak the mayor he took one Jew from the mill in Jedwabne, was taking him to the market, but let him go in Lomzynska St.

Before the prosecutor he testifies (Jan 15th 1949):

that "on the critical day, when I was mowing the hay, the mayor of Jedwabne came and told me to go with him to the town. As I did not want to go with him, he told me that if I do not go, I would be shot down. So I went with him." Then he repeats his testimonies from the investigation. (In his application to the Supreme Court dated 28th July 1949 he says that later he saved 8 Jews and that he can present witnesses to confirm this.)

Before the Court he testifies:

"(...) at the Karolak's order I was conducting one Jew, but only for about 15 steps, then I ran away and I know nothing".

The Court read out the defendant's testimonies from chart 49 and 84.

The defendant testifies:

"the name of the Jew I was conducting was ZdroJewicz" (he really survived and testified in the court proceedings).

I think that citing next ten testimonies would be enough to form a fairly reliable view on the role of the Germans in the liquidation of the Polish citizens of Jewish origin in Jedwabne on 10th July 1941.

So - the Germans!

How many of them were there? We do not know. Maybe it was true what Julia Sokolowska, the cook at the gendarmerie station in Jedwabne, said during the trial on 17 May: "On the critical day there were 68 Gestapo men, I was preparing dinner for them; and there were lots of gendarmes, as they came from various gendarmerie stations".

Other Jedwabne citizens also clearly distinguish the Gestapo men from the gendarmes. Some base their opinion on the details of clothing they observed. For example Natalia Gasiorowska, giving her testimony before the prosecutor (in November 1950), said: "I am sure they were the Gestapo men, as they had skulls on their caps", and Marianna Supraska, giving her testimony on the very same day and before the same prosecutor, talking about the participation of Zygmunt Laudanski, said that he had been rushed by the Gestapo men who "had skulls on their sleeves".

In any case the number of the Germans is not the most important matter. However, one of my reporters, Dr Stefan Boczkowski, wrote in the letter of November 2000, that Jedwabne was "green" with their uniforms. The most essential is the fact that all the time the Germans were the forcing element and the representatives of the occupying authorities who had been deciding about everything in the neighbourhood for the last three weeks.

The testimonies show that the Germans forced the local men out of their houses and rushed them to the market square or made them "drive" the Jews.

In other testimonies, not cited here, the witnesses tell about the Gestapo men and gendarmes "driving" the Jews along Cmentarna St. to the Sleszynski's barn. However, nobody tells about their role in setting the barn on fire. As I have already mentioned elsewhere, this moment is carefully omitted in the testimonies. Only one witness mentions an arsonist - a Pole (Józef Kobrzeniecki). It is highly improbable that the Germans who had controlled all the preparations for the murder left the final execution for the Poles.

One question is left open - was Jedwabne on that day surrounded by the guards and who were the men guarding the town? One of the defendants says that he, armed with a stick, was left by the Germans on his farm located at the entrance to the town - he states, however, that he did not fulfil his task and let through the persons who were running away (namely ...). Other testimonies, however, both of the suspected and the witnesses, seem to deny that there was any tight cordon of the guardians around the town. Several suspects escape from the Jedwabne market square, hide themselves in the rye around the town and nobody prevents them from doing so; the other suspect rides out of the town on his bike in the direction of Lomza and only near Lomza meets the gendarmes who take the bike away from him. The full isolation of the town surrounded by gardens and with direct exits to the fields covered at that time with high crops would be possible only with the presence of a great number of military forces placed not only in the exit streets and roads.

5. The number of the Poles taking part in the murder

In order to establish this number on the basis of the presented source materials it is necessary to analyse the following elements:

· · the number of suspected (and then accused) persons testifying before the Provincial Court in Lomza, decreased by those acquitted of a charge on the spot on 17 January 1949 or later during the proceedings before the Appeal Court;

· · persons defined as "hiding themselves", i.e. those who were not arrested and did not take part in the trial;

· · persons who died before the beginning of 1949 and also defined as guilty;

· · persons mentioned in the Szmul Wasersztajn's report, with the reservation that they also have to be "checked" during the testimonies given before the court.

The separate problem is that of town citizens mentioned in testimonies given before the officers of the Security Service (UB). Most of the defendants during the court trial revoked their testimonies regarding this matter, saying that they were forced to give them by torture. It is worth noting that the UB investigating officers were not interested in the Germans - firstly because their presence in Jedwabne on 10 July 1941 was obvious for them (as well as for the prosecutors and the judges), and secondly because the Germans were not available and the Poles, not the Germans, were the subjects of the investigation. Moreover, there is a tendency, a visible tendency, to widen the circle of suspects both by the persons already in the hands of the Security Service (UB) and by the persons who had not yet been arrested. With the help of forced statements, evidence is being collected against the arrested and the non-arrested persons. Janek is to testify against Piotrek, Piotrek is to testify against Jurek, Jurek against Janek, etc., so that the accusation is based not on one but on many depositions. There occur paradoxical situations. Boleslaw Ramotowski mentions in his statements before the UB officers 41 "co-perpetrators", whom he saw at the Jedwabne market square. Later on he even defines who was holding a stick and who had a gun. It was impossible to notice so many persons in the chaos of events that were happening, especially as the witness - according to his own words - took an active part in the events. Thus, it is no wonder that during the court trial he revoked that part of his testimony, stating that he saw only one person at the market. Similarly Julia Sokolowska, the cook at the gendarmerie station located close to the market square, who, however, had to perform a definite task (cook the dinner), during the investigation proceedings stated that she saw at the market more than thirty Poles busy with collecting and guarding the Jews. The question arises: can we treat the persons mentioned during the investigation as persons really engaged in the preparation or realisation of the crime in Jedwabne?

Let us now do the calculations:

1. The formal accusation mentioned 22 persons charged with participating in the crime, of which 10 were acquitted and released. (During the "Main Court Proceedings" of 16th and 17th of May 1949 the following were sentenced: Karol Bardon, to death [pardoned by Bierut, received 15 years in prison], Jerzy Laudanski, to 15 years in prison, Zygmunt Laudanski, Wladyslaw Miciura and Boleslaw Ramotowski, to 12 years in prison, Stanislaw Zejer and Czeslaw Lipinski, to 10 years in prison, Wladyslaw Dabrowski, Feliks Tarnacki, Roman Górski, Antoni Niebrzydowski and Józef Zyluk, to 8 years. The following were acquitted: Józef Chrzanowski, Marian Zyluk, Czeslaw Laudanski, Wincenty Goscicki, Roman Zawadzki, Jan Zawadzki, Aleksander LoJewski, Eugeniusz Sliwecki and Stanislaw Sielawa. Such sentences indicated a considerable level of independence of the court, which deemed some of the depositions for the Security Service (UB) as insufficient in view of the later testimonies by witnesses, especially if the suspects pleaded not guilty already during the inquiry.) Consequently, only 12 persons were declared guilty. However, the Appeal Court in Bialystok, during extramural proceedings in Lomza on 13th of June 1950, acquitted 2 of the persons convicted in May 1949, i.e. Józef Zyluk and Feliks Tarnawski, thus reducing the list to 10 convicted persons.

2. The list of persons in hiding (this qualification does not mean that the persons mentioned in the list really remained in hiding, but that they did not live in Lomza province and were not available at the moment. Indeed, many inhabitants of Lomza province left after the war - for a variety of reasons - for the regained territories, in particular the Mazury region), and therefore not available, includes 8 persons suspected of the crime (these are: Jerzy Tarnacki [to whom Wasersztajn referred as Jurek Tarnoczek], Julian Schmidt, Marian Karolak, Józef Wasilewski, Jerzy Niebrzydowski, Michal Trzaska, Waclaw Borowski and Mieczyslaw Borowski), although 5 of them are also on Szmul Wasersztajn's list. This leaves only 3.

3. The list of persons suspected of the crime, but not alive in 1949 includes 9 persons (the list includes: Józef Sobota , Eugeniusz Kalinowski, Józef Kobrzeniecki, Stanislaw Sokolowski, Boleslaw Rogalski, Wladyslaw Modzelewski, Bronislaw Sleszynski, Jarmutowski and Aleksander Janowski), although three of them (Boleslaw Rogalski, Jarmutowski and Bronislaw Sleszynski) are also on Wasersztajn's list, which leaves 6. The list of six includes Józef Sobota , who was later found in a psychiatric hospital and released due to the state of his health. However, he was undoubtedly one of the most charged perpetrators of the massacre.

4. The list of persons whom Szmul Wasersztajn deemed particularly criminal includes 14 inhabitants of Jedwabne (these are: Bronislaw Sleszynski, Marian Karolak, Mieczyslaw Borowski, Waclaw Borowski, Jarmulowski (mentioned among the deceased as Jarmutowski), Boleslaw Ramotowski, Boleslaw Rogalski, Stanislaw Sielawa, Franciszek Sielawa, Eugeniusz Kozlowski, Trzaska, Jerzy Tarnoczek (Tarnawski), Jerzy Laudanski and Czeslaw Laciecz (sic!).

Looking at this list one can have certain doubts. The list includes acquitted Stanislaw Sielawa, who was noted - as Wasersztajn writes - for cruelty, Bronislaw Sleszynski, who was confined to bed with dysentery, whose fault was that following orders from Karolak, supported by the presence of a gendarme; he handed them the keys to his barn; the list includes the Borowski brothers, who committed allegedly terrible deeds prior to July 10th. Those deeds were not confirmed by anyone. Moreover, it partly matches the other lists. Mentioned here are those listed as deceased: Bronislaw Sleszynski, Boleslaw Rogalski and Jarmulowski (or Jarmutowski), those who remained in hiding: Jerzy Tarnacki, Michal Trzaska, Marian Karolak, Waclaw Borowski and Mieczyslaw Borowski, those who were convicted: Boleslaw Ramotowski and Jerzy Laudanski, and finally, Stanislaw Sielawa, acquitted by the court, so he can not be considered here. This way, the list is reduced to 3 persons who were not listed elsewhere.

If we sum up this information, we arrive at a conclusion that (assuming that all those in hiding and all of the deceased were guilty) 23 persons from the Polish community participated at some stage in the atrocious act of July 10th 1941. This is a rather probable number, since reports by witnesses (among others Stefan Boczkowski) mention similar numbers. We are dealing here not with the "community" of Jedwabne, but with a group of several dozen men, of whom Karol Bardon, perhaps the most guilty, can hardly be considered to represent the Polish element (born in Cieszyn Silesia, German soldier during World War I, trusted - since at the beginning of the occupation he served as a gendarme), and two others were a known brawling drunk and a notorious bandit.

Among the participants of the events of July 10th the undoubted criminals were: Marian Karolak (the authorised mayor) and Karol Bardon, who many times act, together with the Germans as those who exerted force onto others.

Several times the depositions mention some unidentified youths from neighbouring villages and some ordinary onlookers who were present during the events, probably unaware of how they will end. Similarly unaware (I believe) were most other Polish participants, apart from above mentioned Bardon and Karolak, and maybe a few more people from Jedwabne Town Hall.

6. Selection of Material

Let us sum up: the decisive role of the Germans as those who inspired, organised and participated, plus the participation of several dozen Poles, including those who were forced to. Justifying the 1949 verdict, the court clearly emphasised that the accused acted under the influence of German terror. In addition, there was the attitude of others, who ran into cornfields, hid in their homes and finally, like Józef Zyluk, looked after his fellow citizens who survived the massacre. Józef Zyluk, forced to lead two Jews from the mill on the outskirts of Jedwabne onto the market square, let them go, saving their lives. One of them, named Zdrojewicz, survived the war. Similarly, Zofia Górska in her letter of March 2nd, 1949 to the Provincial Court in Lomza, concerning her arrested husband Roman, writes that after the mass murder in Jedwabne the couple were hiding two Jewish neighbours in their home, namely Partyjer Serwetarz and his brother (since I quoted only 10 depositions of the suspects, omitting several dozen other depositions, including testimonies of important witnesses, important information in this matter is missing here).

As we know, of those doomed to extermination, far more survived than the seven hidden by the Polish family of Wyrzykowski in Janczewko. Many survived in Jedwabne itself until autumn 1942 and a few saved their lives and lived on in 1945.

This picture is fundamentally different from that drawn by Professor Jan Gross in his "Neighbours". What is the reason for such difference? Jan Tomasz Gross left out several dozen testimonies of various persons - witnesses, defendants, etc., who talked about the role of Germans as the causative agents; he only quoted the testimonies which mentioned the participation of Poles. He relied, among others, on an initial testimony of cook Julia Sokolowska, which was later withdrawn, and the material written by Karol Bardon, a German gendarme who, being sentenced to death, tried to dilute his responsibility by blaming the inhabitants of the town. Professor Gross has never explained the reasons for such selection. He has never explained why he accepts some documents and rejects other ones.

It is also worth noting that the account of Szmul Wasersztajn, who was not questioned by the court, and the testimonies of the prosecutor's witnesses Abram Boruszczak and Eljasz Gradowski, have actually been repudiated. It turned out in the light of the testimonies of the inhabitants of Jedwabne, and, in particular, the Polish citizen of Jewish descent, Józef Gradowski, that Abram Boruszczak had never lived in Jedwabne, and that Eljasz Gradowski, convicted for theft, had been imprisoned by the Soviet authorities and sent deep into the USSR as early as 1940. He only returned to Poland in 1945, so he had not seen anything. The above-mentioned Józef Gradowski said that he escaped German hands on the day of the murder with the help from a Pole he did not know well.

All three accusers were treated by the court as persons who had heard of things but had not been direct witnesses. In their final cessation appeal to the Supreme Court the defence lawyers indicated that Szmul Wasersztajn had never been interrogated or questioned by either Security Service (UB) officers, or by prosecutors or during court proceedings. Answering this, the Supreme Court stated that this had been a serious infringement but, as the court had not based the proceedings on the Wasersztajn account but on testimonies of direct witnesses, the infringement did not have significant impact. It is Szmul Wasersztajn who provides the most violent passages in Professor Gross's book. These facts which stimulate imagination so much have not been confirmed by any other sources.

I leave any comments to the reader.

Tomasz Strzembosz (born 1930), historian, Professor of the Catholic University of Lublin and the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN). Author of publications on armed conspiracy in the Polish capital city: "Military Actions of Underground Warsaw 1939-1945", "Assault Forces of Conspiracy in Warsaw 1939-1945", "Rescuing and Freeing Prisoners in Warsaw 1939-1944". For nearly twenty years has been studying the history of Polish conspiracy on the north-eastern territories of the Polish Republic under Soviet occupation. Currently writing a book based on the research. Also preparing a publication about the Soviet occupation system on Polish territories in 1939-1941. Recently published "The Underground Polish Republic".

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