We Remember Jewish Jedwabne!

Message From Ty Rogers

Subject: Jedwabne Update -- Antisemitic Priest
Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2001 20:12:12 -0400
From: "Ty Rogers" tyrogers@escape.com
To: "Recipient List Suppressed" <jedwabne@escape.com>

WARSAW, April 12 (Reuters) -

A leading Polish priest, once banned from preaching for making anti-Semitic remarks, denied on Thursday that Poles were responsible for an infamous World War Two massacre of Jews. As part of Easter preparations, Father Henryk Jankowski has erected in his church a replica of a charred barn from the eastern town of Jedwabne in which 1,600 Jews were burnt to death in 1941, PAP news agency reported.

He said the mock-up was a symbol of attempts to blame Poles for the crime, dismissing a recent book by a Polish-born American academic that has caused a storm by accusing local people of the killings, previously thought the work of Nazi German occupiers.

"With absolute assurance I can say Poles did not do this," said Jankowski, once confessor and adviser to Lech Walesa, founder of the Solidarity union and former Polish president.

The book "Neighbours", based on the testimony of survivors and witnesses, accuses Polish townspeople of rounding up local Jews, murdering many in the streets and herding the rest to their death in a local haybarn.

The allegations, which some historians dispute, have forced Poles to question their image of themselves as heroes of World War Two who tried vainly to save the country's three million Jews from Nazi death camps.

Jankowski was reported as saying the book was a political manipulation designed to shame Poles and make them look like Jew-killers and anti-Semites in the eyes of the world.

Over the mock-up of the barn were the words "Poles, save Poland," a reference to the "gangrene which is gnawing at the government and parliament", PAP reported Jankowski saying.

Jankowski was barred from the pulpit for a year in 1997 for telling parishioners in the city of Gdansk that there was no place for "people of Jewish and Russian descent" in the then new government.

President Aleksander Kwasniewski has said he will apologise for the role Poles played in Jedwabne, irritating some right-wingers who complain Jews are diminishing Polish suffering during the war, when a fifth of the population were killed.

The dispute over Jedwabne is seen by some as another chapter in attempts by Poland to come to terms with its difficult history, which include episodes of violent anti-Semitism instigated by post-war communist authorities.

Since the fall of communism in 1989, Polish governments have tried to improve relations with Israel and with Jewish communities worldwide.

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