To the memory of the Radzik family of Jedwabne

We Remember Jewish Jedwabne!

The Yizkor Book of Jedwabne in JewishGen

JEDWABNE

Coordinates: 5317' / 2218'

144.3 kilometers NE of Warsaw

A Map

Year

Total Population

Jews

%

1808

474

325

68%

1827

574

324

56%

1897

2505

1941

77%

1921

1222

757

62%

 

Source: Yad Vashem, Pinkas Hakehilot, Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume IV, Jerusalem, 1989, pages 241-243.

Introduction

By Morlan Ty Rogers, June 27, 2000

On July 10, 1941, more than 1,600 people -- practically the entire Jewish population of Jedwabne, near Lomza in northeastern Poland -- were forced into a barn on the outskirts of town and burned alive by their Polish neighbors. Inside this barn were several dozen relatives of mine. Although most of Jedwabne's population was Jewish before World War II, today there is no trace left of the Jewish community which lived there for more than 300 years. For almost 60 years, the cruel truth of the events of that day were distorted and concealed by the Polish authorities and by the residents of Jedwabne, who in public denied any role in the mass murder. This denial was cast in stone during the 1960s, when a small monument was erected at the site of the barn, which placed the entire blame for this atrocity on the German Nazis.

It is only because a few lucky survivors managed to escape and live through the rest of the Holocaust that we know what really happened. Thanks to them and others who fortuitously left Jedwabne before World War II, we know the names of some, but not all, of the more than 1,600 people killed that day whose only crime was that they were Jewish. Their testimony and a partial list of the martyrs are preserved in the Jedwabne Yizkor book, which appears on this web site at http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/jedwabne/yedwabne.html

During a visit to Jedwabne in 1985, I came face to face with the monument falsely attributing full responsibility to the Germans and denying the principal role that Polish residents of Jedwabne had in the annihilation of their Jewish neighbors. As long as Poland remained Communist, there was little hope that the truth would come to light there. Even seven years after the fall of Communism, Polish society still was unprepared to confront its past. After the New York Times published a letter I wrote about the false monument in Jedwabne in 1996, a number of Polish newspapers published articles disparaging the Jewish survivors' accounts.

Last year, I learned that Professor Jan Gross of New York University had discovered documents hidden in an archive in Poland which confirmed that the mass-murder of the Jedwabne Jews was committed primarily by Poles and that Germans played only a minor role. Professor Gross has written a book about the events in Jedwabne in July 1941 called "Sasiedzi" ("Neighbors") which was just published in Poland. In April of this year, he presented his findings on Jedwabne at a conference at Yeshiva University in New York about Polish-Jewish relations during the Holocaust. His lecture generated great interest about Jedwabne inside Poland and resulted in a number of articles in Polish newspapers, including a lengthy article that appeared on May 5, in Poland's leading newspaper, "Rzeczpospolita".

This article is the first time that a major Polish newspaper has acknowledged that the brutal killing and burning alive of the Jews in Jedwabne and several nearby villages in July 1941 were committed by Poles.

A few days after the article ran, representatives of the growing Jewish community in Warsaw traveled to Jedwabne with officials from the Polish prime minister's office, and met with the mayor of Jedwabne, Krzysztof Godlewski. During this meeting, the mayor acknowledged that the existing monument attributing the murder of the Jedwabne Jews solely to the Germans was a falsification of history, and he agreed in principle to replace the inscription on the monument with a historically accurate one: i.e acknowledging that the actual murderers were Poles. The hope is that the new monument will be erected in time for the 60th yahrzeit for Jedwabne's martyrs in July 2001.

The Yizkor Book of Jedwabne in JewishGen

Articles In Various Newspaper In Poland And Other Countries

"Andrzej Kaczynski: "Burning Alive" 5 May 2000

 "Antisemitic Priest" - 12 April 2001

By Popular Request-- Interview in English

" JEDWABNE The Public Speaks" - The Warsaw Voice 25 March 2001

Peter Finn: "Painful Truth in Poland's Mirror" (Front Page of Washington Post)

"Polish Church Leader Roils Jews Again" - "The Jewish Week" 9 March 2001

 

The picture of a Jewish soldier in the Polish army from Jedwabne, Leib Bromshtein hy"d, with two unidentified friends. Leib Bromshtein was killed together with other more than 1000 Jews of Jedwabne, burned alive by local Poles, July 10 1941 The fact that he served before in the Polish army did not change his bitter end!

... Szmul ("Samuel") Waserstajn, an eyewitness to the tragic events in Jedwabne "With his own eyes" he saw the stoning of Jakub Kac ("Jacob Katz"); Eliasz Krawiecki was stabbed repeatedly with knives, then his eyes were gouged out and his tongue was cut off. He died an inhuman, agonizing, slow death that lasted 12 hours until he took his last breath. Descriptions of the murders of four other victims is included in the testimony of Ryvka Fogel..."

...The Jews were ordered to gather in the town square. "Local hooligans armed with axes, clubs with nails, and other forms of weapons chased all Jews into the streets", testified Wasersztajn. They forced the Jews to scrub the square, then they toppled a statue of Lenin off its pedestal and ordered the Jews to carry it around the square while singing Soviet songs and chanting: "This war is our fault". According to different testimonies the Poles selected dozens of young Jewish men and ordered them to carry Lenin's statue over to a Jewish cemetery outside the town. There they forced them to dig a large pit and bury the statue in it. After that they murdered all the men and threw their bodies into the same pit. The rest of the Jews were kept in place at the town square all day under a scorching sun and without a drop of water. The Poles beat them and degraded them. They tortured the rabbi, Avigdor Bialystocki, and did not spare the women and the children. In the evening they marched the Jews four to a row toward the kirkut. According to several witnesses, the rabbi was ordered to lead his people holding a red flag that the Poles had stuck in his hand. Then the Jews were forced into a barn, doused with a flammable liquid and set on fire. Icchak Neumark, a former citof Jedwabne testified that "a familiar Pole stood there with an ax in his hready to kill anyone who would to escape. I stood there with my family. Luckily because we were among the last ones to be pushed into the barn we remained standing by the entrance when suddenly the flames reached the gate and it collapsed. The guard tried to hit me with his ax but I managed to grab it and then my sister and her five year-old daughter and I fled nearby cemetery. I saw my father going up in flames there".

Old Matzevot (Tombstones) Found in Jedwabne by Tomasz Wisniewski

In March 2001 I vifriend, the journalist Tomasz Wisniewski in Bialystok. . He gave me a few pictures of old matzevot which he found in Jedwabne. He cleaned and photographed the matzevot and asked me to translate the Hebrew inscriptions. I tried my best but the task was very difficult as the stones are crumbling, the letters hard to read and without touching the old matzeva with your own hands, it is sometimes very difficult to decipher its secrets... My hope is that those rare matzevot, last traces of Jewish existence in Jedwabne, remnants of the Jewish culture, faith and life will be integrated in the new memorial to the Jews, now being planned in Jedwabne for the 60 yahrzeit of the massacre. The descendants of those honest and innocent Jews buried in the soil of Jedwabne for centuries, were brutally burnt alive by their former Polish neighbors and no one has a grave of his own. 10 July 1941.
Let those fragments of matzevot of their ancestors, be their matzeva.

The words of Miriam Akiva1) always echo in my head:

"My visits in the Jewish cemeteries were most difficult. Here rouse towards me, not only my beloved, but a whole nation rouse from the depth of earth, from collapsing and crumbling tombs, in entangled jungle of vegetation which was spreading around them. The roots branch out, press and clip around our ancestors' tombs and swallow them. The tombstones rise up and twisted under the pressure of the roots.

These tombstones, which were erected on our deceased graves, struggle for their lives... And they are countless. Hebrew words, not understood by the people of that country but very well understood by us, written upon them. By the hand of an artist they were engraved in the stone, in letters of gold and silver, and they constitute elegies, love poems, praise and prayers, pain and farewell, wisdom and sorrow... and longings for Zion... Grand Jewish tombstones, neglected now and deserted in a foreign land, in a country with no Jews anymore. In Poland"...

(1 Miriam Akavia, "The Price", Sifriat Hapoalim, Tel Aviv 1988 (Hebrew), ISBN: 965-04-2045-2 Translated from Hebrew by Ada Holtzman.

Silent Stones in the Fields of Jedwabne

The number of the matzeva is: nr of the film (3716 or 3718), number o the photograph and a number which I gave it.
All matzevot have the ending: TNTZ"BA:

May His Soul be Bound up in the Bond of Everlasting Life!


3716-8a-Ada1

... Honest man
... Rabbanic... teacher and reb SHRAGA
... died ? 1847


3718-36a-Ada2

...Jakob...


3716-12a-Ada4

... Teacher and Rev...

Died ? 1850


3718-35a-Ada6

... Son of Mosze, died

? Pessach 1873


3716-30a-Ada7

An honest man
all his ways were innocent
our teacher and rev NAFTALI
son of Arie, died 11 Tevet?


3718-10a-Ada8

... ASZER , son of ARIE of blessed memory

Died ?


3716-33a-Ada9

The modest and important woman ENIA

Daughter of Israel Zelig H'Levi Died 5 October 1899


3716-34a-Ada10

Here Lies buried
A Honest and innocent man...

ZEW DOW, son of Reb CWI died 1 July 1890


3716-7a-Ada11

And YEHUDA will rise
Ahh.. honest and innocent man...
YEHUDA son of DOW SHA"TZ - (leader in synagogal prayer) of this community died ? 1836


3716-32a-Ada12

... GERSZON...


3716-3a-Ada14

...Charity...
JAKOB...
Died ? October 1889

 

Jedwabne Was Not the Only Case! A Letter to Marek

Radzilow - the Jews Shared the Same Fate as Jedwabne

Wizna - Another Case, Another Tragedy

Last updated April 25th, 2003

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WE REMEMBER! SHALOM!