Ceremony honors Jews killed by Polish neighbors

From the Associated Press by Czarek Sokolowski 
JEDWABNE, Poland (AP) — Poland's president made a repeated apology during ceremonies on Sunday marking 70 years since Polish villagers murdered hundreds of their Jewish neighbors in a World War II massacre that caused painful soul-searching in Poland when it was revealed in 2000.

The date of the massacre in the village of Jedwabne, some 190 kilometers (120 miles) northeast of Warsaw, has entered Poland's remembrance calendar and the state and church leaders have apologized.

"The nation must understand that it also had an active role," President Bronislaw Komorowski said in a letter that was read out during the ceremony.

On Sunday, Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, said prayers for the dead at a monument to the massacre victims.

A relative of the victims, Icchak Levi, came from Israel. He cried over the stone monument that says in Polish, Hebrew and Yiddish: "In memory of the Jews of Jedwabne and surrounding areas, men, women, and children, fellow-dwellers of this land, murdered and burned alive at this site on 10 July 1941." 

A statement from an organization of Holocaust survivors in America said Jedwabne is an example for the cases when the local populations collaborated with the Nazi's in killing Jews.At the end of the ceremony, the participants places pebbles at the monument, in a sign of mourning.

A state investigation that closed in 2002 said that some 40 Polish men killed between 300 and 400 Jewish men, women and children in Jedwabne, in Poland's northeast, beating some to death and burning others alive in a barn. It was impossible to state the exact number of victims, the investigators said.

The probe was ordered after Polish emigre historian Jan Tomasz Gross described the massacre in his book "Neighbors" published here in 2000. According to Gross, some 1,600 Jews were killed in Jedwabne. In 1949, a communist-era court convicted 12 Poles in the Jedwabne massacre, saying they assisted German forces in the killings, which took place after German troops occupied Poland at the start of the war.

Some 3 million of Poland's prewar Jewish population of 3.5 million were killed in the Holocaust.

Click here to read the entire article. For more about Jedwabne, click here.

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