The unknown life of Jerzy Laudanski.
According to J.T. Gross he was one of the ringleaders in the Jedwabne massacre.
translated by: Mariusz Wesolowski
JEDWABNE - AUSCHWITZ - SACHSENHAUSEN
The unknown life of Jerzy Laudanski.
According to J.T. Gross he was one
of the ringleaders in the Jedwabne
By Adam Cyra, Rzeczpospolita, 02 Feb. 01
In the Rzeczpospolita issue of 27-28 January 2001 I read an article by Prof. Dr. Tomasz Strzembosz under the title of "The Ignored Collaboration". Its author rightly stresses the fact that, in the light of specific sources, the statements in Jan T. Gross's book don't seem to be completely true.
CRETINOUS BANDIT AND GENDARME
...Jan T. Gross writes about him:
"...one of the younger, because he was only 19 at that time, but also [one of] the most brutal participants in these events", "a cretinous bandit", who "...together with Wisniewski and Kalinowski stoned in turn Lewin and Zdrojewicz"; and even that "...two of them - Jerzy Laudanski and Karol Bardon - became later the Schutzmanner in the German gendarmerie".[page references to the Polish edition of "Neighbors" not given]
Jerzy Laudanski, born in 1922, comes from one of the most respected Polish families in Jedwabne. He is still alive, just like his two elder brothers, Kazimierz and Zygmunt.
In December last I have recorded an extensive testimony of
His eldest brother Kazimierz has written to me in Jerzy's defense:
"I, born in Moscow before the revolution, raised in Jedwabne until reaching maturity, am the eldest sibling in the Laudanski family. On the third day after the tragedy I returned from the Ostrow Mazowiecka district to my own in Jedwabne. A thick, fetid trail of smoke flew across our yard from the direction of Sleszynski's barn. One had to see then the frightened stares of the inhabitants and [hear]
their muted voices. After grasping the weight of that occurrence, I decided to investigate its course, the behavior of the locals and the role of Germans. In various articles written on this subject the latter is not mentioned at all, there is also no discussion of the activities of the communist organization which, apart from the crime itself, influenced shamefully also the very lives of the inhabitants of Jedwabne. The patriotic motive is also totally ignored.
The turn of events was as follows: On that day the Germans arrived in Jedwabne in a group, and immediately started realizing their criminal plan. They ordered the mayor to call a town meeting in the market square, around the statue of Lenin, including both Poles and Jews. People came because they had to. A large crowd gathered. In the meantime other Germans grabbed a Polish teenager from the street, took him to a warehouse, and issued him a container filled with gasoline. Yet other Germans were looking for a suitable barn outside the town. They found such a barn on the Lomza side but its owner, one Jozef Chrzanowski, who could speak German, begged them [to leave it alone] and then they found another barn, the property of Bronislaw Sleszynski, near the kirkut [Jewish cemetery]. The epilogue wasn't known to anybody until the end. The crowd went without resistance. One could expect anything from the Germans, but the burning alive of so many people was a terrible surprise.
EXCESSES OF THE COMMUNIST MILITIA
A communist organization [in Jedwabne] had been in existence for a long time before the outbreak of the war. When, after 17 September 1939 [the beginning of the Soviet invasion of Poland - MW], this cell organized, as if during a revolution, a ruling voluntary militia, it was joined by a few Poles; the majority of its members were communist Jewish youth.
The older strata of the Jewish society were against the excesses of this group. And here it is necessary to differentiate between the communists and the Jewish community. Toward the latter the Poles did not feel enmity because there were no reasons for it. But insofar as the Poles felt sorry for the Jews as a whole, they were also convinced that the Jewish communists had gotten their just desserts.
Already in the autumn of 1939 the communists began arresting people, for example, they threw our father in prison for his cooperation with the local Catholic priests - he was a member of the church construction committee, and during open meetings he read aloud various political appeals. They arrested the school principal, Bronislaw Skarzynski, for giving the youth a patriotic education. Together with the NKVD, they compiled lists of families condemned to deportation to Siberia. My mother with two of my brothers managed to run away into the woods at the very last moment. Similar things were happening to many other Poles.
And now patriotism... The very existence of the [Polish anti-Soviet] guerrilla movement, the death of our aunt in a fight with the Soviets, as well as the deaths of other local Poles speak for themselves. Just like in Warsaw the Poles assassinated Kutschera [a high Gestapo official. MW], in Jedwabne they killed a similar executioner, Shevelov, the vice-commander of the NKVD.
My brother Jerzy, so violently condemned (by Jan T. Gross - AC), right after the crime ran away to my home in the Ostrow Mazowiecka district, where later on, on the night of 28 May 1942, he was arrested by the Germans and, as a political prisoner, he survived the Pawiak prison, Oswiecim [Auschwitz], Gross-Rosen and Sachsenhausen. He wasn't petted there, but he did not denounce anybody. To me - and not only to me - he will always remain a hero. Our uncle Franciszek, the commander of the local "Strzelec" organization [veterans of Pilsudski's Polish Legions - MW], also was hiding at my place and also ended up in Auschwitz. In turn, another uncle, Aleksander Tyszkiewicz, chief of the Treasury Department in Bialystok, was shot along with his wife and a child by the Germans. Just like the entire Polish nation, we suffered under the Germans, under the Soviets and under the Polish People's Republic.
THE TRIAL - 1949
The trial of the people accused of participating in the Jedwabne crime, which took place in Lomza in 1949, can be also called a crime. The very same communists from Jedwabne - Poles, driven by personal vendettas - became witnesses and accused everybody who ever had crossed them; for example, Stanislaw Kozlowski, a commonly respected Pole, whose daughter was the wife of a Lomza judge and whose son was inspector-general of schools in Torun, found himself among the defendants. My father also was accused of participating in that crime, although at that time he was just brought back from the [Soviet] prison in Lomza, and he was bedridden with numerous body swells and boils.
We don't have to be ashamed of our family name. My brother Zygmunt was a reserve junior lieutenant. Marshal Pilsudski used to surround himself with officers from our family. Ignacy Moscicki, President of Poland, personally asked the Lomza subprefect to employ me in the local administration. Today, among the younger generation and among our children and grandchildren, there are many teachers, engineers and doctors, in Poland and abroad, and two of our relatives hold the highest academic degrees. We always have been ready to serve our country - "pro publico bono" ["for the public good"]."
I would also like to add that in the Archives of the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim there is preserved an official camp photograph of Mr.Jerzy Laudanski, and that he himself has enriched our archival collection by donating this year seven preserved camp letters sent by him to his relatives from Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen and Sachsenhausen.
Doctor Adam Cyra is an employee of the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau.