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Jedwabne Massacre

(1941)


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(10 July 1941)

An anti-Semitic massacre formerly thought to have been committed by the Nazi occupation force in Jedwabne, a Polish town of about 2,500 inhabitants about 100km (60 miles) north-east of Warsaw. In 2001 a Polish historian, Jan Thomasz Gross, claimed that the atrocity was committed, in fact, by Poles of their own free will. In a book entitled Neighbours: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, he showed that its 1,600 Jews were ordered by the Polish mayor to gather on the market square. They were butchered by the townspeople and subsequently incinerated. The massacre was by no means unusual in German-occupied eastern Europe in World War II. However, the revelations were notable for the debate they caused in Poland. The controversy raised difficult and painful questions about Polish anti-Semitism before and during World War II, and it brought to the surface a discussion about the complicity of many Poles in many of the crimes committed by the Germans. On its 60th anniversary, the Polish President, Kwasniewski, and the Polish Catholic Church publicly apologized for the massacre.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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