Outrage at Polish 'commemoration' of Kielce massacre

Polish academia organizes conference to commemorate bloodiest post-WWII pogrom, focuses on Polish assistance to Jews under occupation.

Mordechai Sones ,

Holocaust memorial in Warsaw, Poland
Holocaust memorial in Warsaw, Poland
צילום: iStock

Since Poland passed a law to limit rhetoric on Polish complicity in the Holocaust, observers have noted that the Polish government has not changed its essential policy towards the theme of the Holocaust; quite to the contrary.

Historian Prof. Jan Grabowski, author of the book Hunt for the Jews, sparked public outcry in Poland when he determined that more than 200,000 Jews in Poland were murdered directly or indirectly by locals and that most citizens of the occupied state stood idly by, even when they understood what was taking place.

Remains of ghetto wall in center of Warsaw
iStock

Today Grabowski slams a conference by Polish academia that he says is crafted to sanitize the Polish role in the murder of the Jews: "To reinforce the myths of 'national innocence', to please their core electorate, and to propagate their distorted vision of the past, the Polish authorities act energetically - and without shame," he says.

"As some of you may know today, July 4th, we commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the Kielce pogrom. The Polish authorities, acting through their proxy the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), also decided to chip in and to make a commemoration of their own. This time they organized a conference held yesterday on site in Kielce."

The massacre took place in July 1946, after some 200 Jews, many of them former residents of Kielce, returned from Nazi concentration camps, the Soviet Union, and places where they had taken refuge. The city was cleared of its Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

It was sparked by a rumor based on a false report that Jewish residents of the town had kidnapped a Christian boy. A crowd attacked Holocaust survivors who lived in a building on Planty Street. 42 Jews were killed and more than 40 were wounded.

"What was the theme of the conference organized to commemorate the largest and most bloody pogrom in post-war European history? The theme, (however amazing it may sound for the uninitiated) focused on various aspects of help and assistance given by Poles to Jews under the occupation! Each time when I think that the Polish nationalists cannot reach any lower, I am proven wrong."

The conference program indicates its theme, with lectures including:

  • Legacy of the landed gentry as a source for research on helping Jews during the German occupation in the Radom District;
  • Help for Jews provided in the Kielce region by the Polish population during World War II in the light of the so-called Bielawski's investigation;
  • Rescuing Jews by the Ukrainian population of Przemyśl during the German occupation;​
  • Selected examples from the history of rescuing the Jewish population in the Białystok District during the Second World War and the postwar fate of the rescued and rescuers;
  • Help given to Jews during the pogrom on July 4, 1946 in Kielce.

Nowhere in the program is there mention of Polish assistance, complicity, or even acquiescence in the atrocities committed against the Jews in Kielce. Indeed, from the program it is difficult to guess who, if anybody, murdered Jews in Kielce, as it appears the entire Polish population was busy assisting them.

Co-founder and President of the Rogatchi Foundation Dr. Inna Rogatchi called the conference "outrageous", noting that the conference comes one week after amending the law, "demonstrating rather defiantly that nothing has changed in Poland's official attitude towards the Holocaust despite the amendment, and despite the Polish-Israeli declaration. Although Poles did conduct several outrageous conferences in recent past, they were either cancelled or changed after the public outcry. Not in this case though," Rogatchi said.

Rogatchi says the Polish amendment represented a change in tactics, not policy. "We have massive historical factual material on the Shoah today. And these facts, pure facts, document the annihilation of at least 3 million Jews in Poland, 90% of the Polish Jewish pre-WWII population, 10% of the population of Poland, and the half of the all victims of the Holocaust world-wide; not in Czechoslovakia, not in Yugoslavia, not in any other country, but in Poland.

"We do know that the vast majority of those crimes were committed by the Nazis. But we know the role and size of the Polish population’s participation in those crimes as well. We know about it thanks to the heroic efforts of the people who worked tirelessly in what it is known today as the Jewish Historical Institute documenting the crimes of WWII and Holocaust in Poland.

"If somebody would like to verify this detailed record of Polish participation in the annihilation of Polish Jewry, there is also famed research by renowned historian Professor Jan Grabowski, The Hunt for Jews (2014), the English version of Professor Barbara Engelking’s chilling book Such a Beautiful Sunny Day (2017), and new documented research on the topic by US historians to be released this coming August.

"The facts are so compelling that no law can silence them. To think this way one has to be hopelessly provincial, as the current Polish leadership is, unfortunately."

The conference program in its entirety appears below, translated from Polish:​​​

CONFERENCE PROGRAM

July 3 (Tuesday) 2018

Part I

9.00-9.15 Opening of the meeting

Moderator: dr Dorota Koczwańska-Kalita (IPN Kielce)

9.15-9.35 dr hab. prof. UJK Jerzy Gapys (IH UJK Kielce), Legacy of the landed gentry as a source for research on helping Jews during the German occupation in the Radom District

9.35-9.55 Roman Gieroń (IPN Krakow), Issues of help given to Jews during World War II in criminal proceedings initiated on based on the decree of August 31, 1944 in the area of ​​the Krakow voivodship in the years 1945-1950

9.55-10.15 dr. Tomasz Domański (IPN Kielce), Help for Jews provided in the Kielce region by the Polish population during World War II in the light of the so-called Bielawski's investigation

10.15-10.35 Anna Brożek (IPN Kraków), Oral history and archival documents. Confrontation of sources for the history of Polish-Jewish relations in the Dąbrowa Tarnowska poviat in 1939-1945

10.35-10.55 Ewa Kołomańska (Kielce Countryside Museum), Children of Kielce - witnesses of the Holocaust, helpers. The Righteous and the Unjust

10.55-11.10 Discussion

11.10-11.25 Break

Part II

Moderator: dr hab. prof. UJK Jerzy Gapys (IH UJK)

11.25-11.45 Dawid Kubieniec (doctoral student, University of Silesia), Attitudes of the Upper Silesian population towards the Jewish community in 1938-1943 in the light of the NSDAP District Management in Zabrze

11.45-12.05 Dominik Flisiak (PhD student, IH UJK), Diary Niny Fajans. Unknown source for research on the Barbican Mission and the fate of neophytes during World War II

12.05-12.25 prof. dr hab. Vasyl Gulay (National University Lviv Polytechnic, Lviv), Strategies and practices of saving Jews in the Galician district by Polish and Ukrainian neighbors and organized environments

12.25-12.45 dr hab. prof. UR Wacław Wierzbieniec (IH UR), dr Joanna Potaczek, Rescuing Jews by the Ukrainian population of Przemyśl during the German occupation

12.45-13.00 Discussion

13.00-14.00 Break

Part III

Moderator: dr Ryszard Śmietanka-Kruszelnicki (IPN Kielce)

14.00-14.20 dr Alicja Gontarek (BBH IPN / UMCS), Polish diplomatic actions for Jewish refugees in Spain

14.20-14.40 Kamil Kopera (Museum of Poles Who Save Jews), In search of asylum. Organizing transport as a form of help

14.40-15.00 Anna Pyżewska (IPN Biaystok), Selected examples from the history of rescuing the Jewish population in the Białystok District during the Second World War and the postwar fate of the rescued and rescuers

15.00-15.20 dr Arkadiusz Więch (IH UJ), Interrupted night . Help of Poles for the Jewish population in occupied Dębica

15.20-15.40 dr. Dominik Szulc (IH PAN), Poles towards the Holocaust of Jews in Kraśnik in the Lublin district GG in 1942-1944

15.40-15.55 Discussion

15.55-16.10 Break

Part IV

Moderator: dr Tomasz Domański ( IPN Kielce)

16.10-16.30 Marlena Bodo (doctoral student, Jagiellonian University), Helping Szydłowiec people against Jews in 1939-1945. Examples and conditions

16.30-16.50 Paulina Mielnik, Staszowskie "stones of remembrance". The fate of Staszów Jews during the occupation, based on the account of the memoirician Władysław Rzadkowolski

16.50-17.10 Emilia Rydel (doctoral student, IS PAN), Righteous brethren. Andrzej and Czesław Miłosz in the face of the Holocaust of Jews

17.10-17.30 dr Ryszard Śmietanka-Kruszelnicki (IPN Kielce), Help given to Jews during the pogrom on July 4, 1946 in Kielce

17.30-18.00 Discussion and closure



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