March 21, 2001
The publication of Jan T. Gross's book Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne has resulted in a great deal of sensationalism and controversial claims about Polish-Jewish relations. Gross has claimed that there is no truth to the allegation of Jewish collaboration during the Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland from 1939-41.
According to Gross, Jews did nothing to harm Poles under Soviet rule and there is no objective basis for Poles to have turned against Jews. Since Gross himself has made this a key issue, and has departed from views he expressed on this very topic earlier, Neighbors on the Eve of the Holocaust (updated full version, DOC, 2,061 KB) has brought together hundreds of testimonies, many of them Jewish, which amply belie that contention.
According to an eyewitness report filed in February 1940 by Jan Karski, the famed Polish courier who was made an Honorary Citizen of Israel for alerting the West to the Holocaust, The Jews have taken over the majority of the political and administrative positions. But what is worse, they are denouncing Poles, especially students and politicians (to the secret police), are directing the work of the (communist) militia from behind the scenes, are unjustly denigrating conditions in Poland before the war. Unfortunately, one must say that these incidents are very frequent, and more common than incidents which demonstrate loyalty toward Poles or sentiment toward Poland.
Jewish Testimonies Confirm Karski's Observations
Under Bolshevik rule an anti-Jewish current grew significantly. In large measure the Jews themselves were responsible for this ... At every turn they mocked Poles, yelled out that their Poland was no more ... The Jewish Communists dallied with the patriotic sentiments of Poles, denounced their illegal conversations, pointed out Polish officers and former government officials, freely worked for the NKVD, and took part in arrests. ... The Bolsheviks on the whole treated Jews favourably, had complete faith in them and were confident of their devoted sympathy and trust. For that reason they put Jews in all of the leading and influential positions which they would not entrust to Poles who formerly occupied them. A Jewish woman from Wilno, in a wartime account from the Ringelblum archives (Warsaw ghetto)
When the Germans entered Luboml for a few days [before the arrival of the Soviets in September 1939], a militia composed of Jews and Ukrainians was formed whose job it was to keep order in the town. ... Several Jewish young men were appointed to the town militia by the temporary Jewish-Ukrainian City Council, which worked with the German military authorities in disarming captured Polish soldiers. During their presence in our town, the Germans behaved like normal occupying authorities. They did no ill to the Jews. Luboml Memorial Book
It was a dreary, drizzly day when the Russians approached Izbica. A "Red Militia" was organized by local Communists, whose leader was a former cobbler, a Jew named Abram Wajs. ... As some Polish soldiers and officers were still in the town, the local Communists, together with the Russian soldiers, set off immediately to disarm them. Thomas Toivi Blatt, a Jew from Izbica
The following morning found the communist youth, Jews and Ukrainians, rejoicing in the streets. ... The communists set up a militia of local youth. They enthusiastically decided to form a guard of honour to welcome the Red Army, decorating the square with pictures of Stalin and the communist greats and bringing the fire brigade orchestra. But instead of the victorious Red Army, a train arrived bearing a load of Polish troops who apparently had not heard of the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement. The newly-formed militia enthusiastically set out to capture the Polish troops. Shooting and general chaos followed with all those in the vicinity taking cover, including those who had gathered to welcome the Reds. Daniel Golombka, a Jew from Rozyszcze in Volhynia
Right after the Soviets entered Rozyszcze, a Communist youth organization ... seized control of the town. ... these young Communists marched on the streets of the town with guns. They wore red armbands to identify themselves and arrested people thought to be fascists or enemies of the communist cause. I was afraid just to walk from the train station to Ytzel's house. I was afraid even though some [actually most] of the young men with armbands were Jews. Jack Pomerantz, a Jew from Rozyszcze in Volhynia
An enormous mass of Jews had turned out to greet the Bolsheviks adorned in red bows and stars, so much so that it aroused laughter among the Russian officers. Others disarmed Polish officers in the streets, kissed Russian tanks and stroked their artillery. Hugo Steinhaus, a renowned mathematician of Jewish origin from Lwów
I must admit that if ever anyone actually knew complete happiness, that was the day the Red Army entered. That's the way I imagined the Jews awaiting the Messiah will feel, when he finally comes. It is hard to find words to describe the feeling-this waiting and this happiness. And at last we had lived to see it: they arrived in Lwów. The first tanks rolled in and we wondered how to express ourselves-to throw flowers? to sing? To organize a demonstration? How to show our great joy? A Jewish student from Lwów
When the Red Army marched into [Eastern Galicia], the Jews behaved as if Messiah had arrived. They flocked to sign up for various communist-front organizations, joined the NKVD secret police. Abraham Sterzer, a Jewish doctor from Lwów
Various accounts attest to the joyous welcome that the Red Army received almost everywhere. When the Jews of Kowel (in Volhynia) were informed that the Red Army was approaching the town, they "celebrated all night." When the Red Army actually entered Kowel, "the Jews greeted [it] with indescribable enthusiasm." In Baranowicze, "People kissed the soldiers' dusty boots. ... Children ran to the parks, picked the autumn flowers, and showered the soldiers with them. ... Red flags were found in the blink of an eye, and the entire city was bedecked in red." The town of Kobryn [Kobryn, in Polesia] was awash in red flags, which local Communists had prepared by removing the white stripe from the two-color Polish flag. The cheering crowd scattered leaflets castigating the fascist [sic] Polish regime and lauding the Red Army and its augury of liberation. In Ciechanowice [Ciechanowiec], a band of Jewish Communists erected an "arch of triumph" bedecked with posters bearing general greetings and messages such as "Long Live the Soviet Regime." The Jews of Rozhinoy (Rozana or Ruzhany) [Rózana] treated the day of the Soviet occupation as a religious festival, greeting each other with mazel tov. Compiled by Israeli historian Dov Levin
It is hard to describe the emotion that swept me as I saw in the street, across from our gate, a Russian tank bearing grinning young men with a blazing red star on their berets. As the machines came to a halt, the people crowded around. Somebody shouted, "Long live the Soviet government!" and everyone cheered. ... You could hardly find a Gentile in that crowd. ... everyone greeted the Russians unanimously, as they would the Messiah. A Jewish eyewitness from Wilno
But, as The Wasilkower Memorial Book records, everyone in the Jewish community was in such a holiday mood on the evening of 18 September  as they awaited the arrival of the Red Army that they didn't want to go to bed lest they miss any part of this historic occasion. Certainly, this is the way I remember things. I also can confirm that everyone cheered when our neighbour from across the street, Mordechai Yurowietski, the tinsmith's son, raised a red flag on top of the fire station tower. And cheered again when a Soviet aircraft buzzed the crowd ... to drop leaflets welcoming us as "Brothers and Sisters of West Byelo-Russia." And when the Soviet soldiers finally did march in the next morning, ... they did so singing "Katiusha," with all the little Jewish and White Russian kids parading along beside them, joining in their song. This was a scene worthy of a Sigmund Romberg operetta. ... And contrary to Western propaganda, being part of the Soviet Union gave the overwhelming majority of those in our community the security of belonging to a civil society, or at least one that was a hell of a lot more civil than anything we'd experienced before. ... Even my rebbe was a relatively happy man under the atheistic Communists. ... When a plebiscite was held in October and November 1939 on whether we actually wanted to be part of West Byelorussia, the majority of people ... (my mother and father included) voted "Yes". Michel Mielnicki, a Jew from Wasilków near Bialystok
The majority of the youth expressed great enthusiasm. They kissed the soldiers, climbed the tanks, they gave an ovation. Even earlier, before the Red Army had entered the town, a part of Jewish youth organized meetings and demonstrations. For us Jews it was politically very unwise that a part of the Jewish community had a very bad attitude towards Polish society and the Polish army. A Jew from Warsaw who found himself in Luck, in Volhynia
One day, while we were waiting for the Russians to occupy Lida, I went to the City Hall. To my surprise, I found a friend occupying the mayor's chair. He explained that, while a member of the left wing Zionist youth movement Hashomer Hatzier, he had also been a member of the Communist Party. ... He asked if I would like to join the militia, and I did. ... I remained in the militia under Russian supervision. For the moment, I was happy. As a militia member I had privileges and money ... One day I had the pleasure of escorting a former teacher of mine [at the high school of the Piarist Fathers], a blatant anti-semite, to jail. Russian soldiers arrested him and I was told to accompany them. As we marched the prisoner through the streets of Lida to the jail, I walked in front with my rifle and two Russian soldiers with bayonets behind him. What his fate was, I don't know. Samuil Manski, a Jew from Lida
"The Jews welcomed the Red Army with joy. The young people spent all their days and evenings with the soldiers." In Grodno, "all sorts of appointments were filled predominantly with Jews, and the Soviet authorities entrusted them, too, with the top positions." In Zólkiew, "The Russians rely primarily on Jews in filling positions ..." In Lwów, "I must admit that the majority of positions in the Soviet agencies have been taken by Jews." A Jewish observer to the pro-Soviet demonstrations in Lwów related, "Whenever a political march, or protest meeting, or some other sort of joyful event took place, the visual effect was unambiguous-Jews." In Wielkie Oczy, the Jewish doctor recalled how local Jewish youths having formed themselves into a "komsomol" toured the countryside smashing Catholic shrines. Yad Vahem archives
Jews were involved in desecration of Christian religious artifacts. In Volozhyn [Wolozyn], a Jew who was told to prepare the market square for the erection of a statue of Stalin detonated a large cross that stood in the way. In Wiszniew, Jewish Communists took down the flags [religious banners?] of the local church, affixed red flags to the flagpoles, and paraded with them across town to the market square. In Zolkiew [Zólkiew], militiamen, some of them Jews [the rest were likely Ukrainians], expropriated a monastery in order to house [Jewish] refugees from western Poland. Compiled by Israeli historian Dov Levin
Some of the Jews, including Toleh Kagan, Baruch Gamzu and even Arke Rabinowitz, the Rabbi's son received permission to carry arms. ... One day, Issar, the decorator's son Itzik, burst into the priest's house with a gun and stole a radio. Suprasl Memorial Book
Like every new and strange regime the Soviets needed collaborators (this time upon ideological background) from the population, which they could find easily, especially among us Jews. Zabludów Memorial Book
At the outset of Soviet rule, several local Jewish communists worked in the interim town council, including A. Eckstein (vice mayor), Rozental (head of police), Kochman (his deputy), Mendel Blumenstein (head of the prison), Shkulnik (his deputy), and the lawyer Hausknecht (head of the post office). Stanislawów, Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities
A Jewish Communist who had been released from prison by the outbreak of the war and reached the town of Chelm [Chelm], which was under Soviet rule at the time (it was subsequently handed over to the Germans), describes the entire town as having been in Jewish hands; the mayor was Jewish, and all the policemen and municipal office holders were Jewish Communists with the exception of "a few Poles." In Zamosc [Zamosc], so many Jews joined the local militia that they accounted for a majority in its ranks. Compiled by Israeli historian Dov Levin
The communist Jews were glad to meet their comrades. They all took over control of the municipal offices and enjoyed the power tremendously. The festivities didn't last long, since Germany and the Soviet Union signed a treaty that determined the border between the U.S.S.R. and the Third Reich would be the Bug River. And so again, the Russians left and the Germans came back. About 2,000 Jews who belonged to the Communist Party joined the Red Army, and fled to the East. Avraham Gafni, A Jew from Miedzyrzec
The changes were implemented by the militia and a committee of citizens, the majority of whom were Jews. By and large they were the dregs of the shtetl, led by a few Jewish communists, who now found themselves in charge ... The Poles were contemptuous of the Jewish rabble parading through the streets with red armbands and rifles which they hardly knew how to use, glorying in power that was all too short-lived. A couple of months after they had done the dirty work, [some of] these Jewish officials were replaced by Russians and Ukrainians. Mark Verstandig, a Jew who found himself in Mosciska
The NKVD (Soviet Secret Police) soon created a climate of fear in Jody. A few of our Jewish boys worked with the NKVD and a few Jews became prominent in the new government of Jody. ... The NKVD was systematically arresting and deporting thousands of people. Anyone that was rich in Poland, or was a Polish government employee, or anyone they did not like or just suspected may be an enemy of the state was at risk. A new system of informers developed and many innocent people were arrested and deported without any trial. Peter Silverman, a Jew from Jody
When the Jewish Communists came home, they helped to organize a new government system in our city. The Russian authorities appointed a Jewish mayor and he appointed many Jewish and Ukrainian Communists to various top positions at city hall, police, fire, banking, and other institutions. Within days, the police came at night, with prepared lists, to round up the Polish intelligentsia, government employees, army officers, and nationalists with their families were taken to the railway station. They were being expelled, and sent to Siberia. The same transport also included a few rich Jews who owned large stores, but their families were left behind. With the reorganization of city life the Russians used the Jews in every aspect of commerce, banking, and reorganization of the villages according to their system. The educated Ukrainians took part in the reorganization, but the Poles had difficulties getting a decent job. They were considered second class citizens. Czortków Memorial Book
In Lubcz: Not only was the chairman of the local soviet Jewish; so were the managers of all the retail shops, without exception. The same was true for a local winery and canned food factory, the district office, the chief accounting division of the local tax office, and a footwear cooperative. Moreover, a majority of the 200 Soviet clerks who were brought in to fill positions of responsibility were Jews. Compiled by Israeli historian Dov Levin
In Bialystok: "In practice, in filling positions and offices Jews were somewhat favoured because they were trusted more than Poles who were treated with some disrespect." In Wilno: "The Bolsheviks were generallly disposed favourably toward the Jews and had total confidence in them. They were assured of their entire sympathy and devotion. For that reason they put Jews in all the managerial and responsible positions and did not entrust them to the Poles who had occupied them previously." In Grodno: "When the Bolsheviks entered Polish territory, they were very mistrustful of the Polish population, and they fully trusted the Jews. They deported to Russia the more influential Poles and those who before the war held important jobs, and all of the offices were filled mostly with Jews, who everywhere were entrusted with positions of power. For these reasons, the Polish population generally assumed a very hostile attitude. ... It needs to be mentioned that the Jews themselves stirred up this hatred because as soon as the Russian armies entered, they showed their disregard for the Poles and often humiliated them. The coming of the Bolsheviks was greeted by Jews with great joy. Now they felt proud and secure, they almost considered themselves in charge of the situation; towards the Poles they were condescending and arrogant, and they often let them feel their powerlessness and scorned them because of it. "In Grodno there were numerous occurrences when a Polish woman approached a Jewish vegetable vendor who refused to sell to her: 'Get out of here, you Pollack, I don't want to know you.' There were many Jews who at any opportunity took special delight in mentioning to Poles that their time was over, that now nothing depended on them, and that they had to obey the Soviet authority. The economic situation of the Jews in the occupied territory was much better than that of the Polish population." In Lwów: "The attitude of other nationalities toward the Jews was strained throughout this period to some degree, and this was brought about exclusively by the fact that Jews pushed to take over the leading positions." Until April 1941, "the majority of the better jobs were filled by Jews." Wartime accounts from the Ringelblum archives; Israeli historian Ben-Cion Pinchuk
At that time being Jewish in Lwów made life easier. The Soviet authorities did not trust the Poles nor the Ukrainians who dreamed of a free Ukraine ... There remained the Jews. They were the only ones who greeted the Red Army with flowers, like saviours. ... Ninety percent of the members of our (engineering) association were Jews. A similar situation prevailed in all of the associations and cooperatives in Lwów which encompassed all of the branches of industry, production and trade. Is it surprising that the Poles, who endeavoured not to cooperate with the Russians in accordance with instructions from the Polish government in London, regarded the Jews as collaborators, as Bolshevik agents? Henryk Reiss, a Jew from Lwów
Even before the Soviets entered, citizens' committees or militias were spontaneously formed in many places to replace the local Polish administration ... These committees often acted as hosts to Red Army units. ... the Soviet commanders relied on such welcoming committees and militias. The Soviets armed them or authorized them to carry the weapons that they had already acquired ... Their primary immediate task involved ferreting out hiding Polish officers and policemen. ... In some areas, particularly in the larger towns ... they were predominantly Jewish, often organized by communist sympathizers. ... In any case, the initial collaboration of ethnic minorities allowed for the effective penetration of local society. The effect of this collaboration on the occupier's administration cannot be overestimated. ... They were carrying out a social revolution in eastern Poland, which could not be accomplished without local support ... A new administration was quickly established in the conquered territories. ... In higher administrative echelons, the gmina [the smallest territorial administrative unit], either Soviet officials or Polish communist sympathizers (usually Jews) always held supervisory positions. In addition to committees, militia detachments were formed, which were soon subsumed under the command of the NKVD (the Soviet secret police) operatives. Historian Tomasz J. Gross (1981)
... the important role played by the Jews during the transition period and the first phase of organizing the new regime. There were many places, usually those removed from the major routes of the advancing Red Army, where the interregnum lasted for some days. The power vacuum created was filled quite often by local temporary executive committees. Jews played a prominent role in those committees ... The creation of the temporary committees was a local initiative ... There were places where committees were created to organize the reception for the Soviet units and provide what they considered new Soviet-like authority as a temporary replacement for the disintegrating Polish administration. 'Revolutionary committees', as some of the committees were called ... consisted almost entirely of Jews, with a few Ukrainians. A citizens' militia served as the executive tool of the committees. In the two organizations Jews played a dominant role ... Expression of suppressed grudges and hatreds against the haughty Polish officials could be detected during the transition. ... it was a time for settling scores, a time of retribution. Detectives and policemen were disarmed and arrested. Polish officials reported that they were told by local Jews 'Your time has passed, a new epoch begins.' The Polish population felt itself alienated and threatened and tried to avoid public attention ... There were many instances of arbitrariness and of settling accounts with those who were well-to-do or in authority in the old regime ... Arbitrarily they make arrests and investigations,' related a survivor. ... Jews participated in disproportionate numbers in the Soviet-established institutions ... Jewish youth formed special organizations whose role was to facilitate the establishment of the new regime. In many places the first Soviet-appointed institutions contained a very high proportion of Jews. Governmental and economic institutions, the militia in particular-organized by the authorities as a local police force-employed many Jews. The shtetl Jews ... were willing to fill every available opening, thus playing an important role in the initial stages of building the Soviet system in former Eastern Poland. Israeli historian Ben-Cion Pinchuk
Many Jews, confident that the changes following the Soviet annexation would be long-lasting, preferred to adjust to the new circumstances. Quite a few collaborated with the authorities, some out of ideological identification and others for reasons of sympathy and gratitude. ... Unlike non-Jewish resistance groups affiliated with the majority peoples (e.g., Ukrainians and Lithuanians), Zionist groups did not reject the fact of the annexation of their areas of residence. ... Labeling of the Soviet administration as a "Jewish regime" became widespread when Jewish militiamen helped NKVD agents send local Poles into exile. ... Landlords and estate owners must have harbored much bitterness when forced to greet, with strained politeness, young Jews who came to confiscate their property. Israeli historian Dov Levin
The Soviet governing apparatus entered the provinces of Eastern Poland well prepared in its experience of rooting out enemies of the regime. The most active and sophisticated arm of the administration that came from the East was the security police, the NKVD. Within three or four weeks the NKVD had spread its net over the entire territory. It was a relatively easy task to locate and eliminate the first-line political leaders, those of them who did not escape into non-Soviet territories were apprehended in the first few weeks. But, in order to achieve the much broader aim of destroying the existing leadership infrastructure and undesirable elements of all kinds, the authorities had developed a refined search and control method. State, city and police archives were among the first institutions to be occupied and guarded by the new rulers. They were curious to discover the secrets guarded in the archives. Local collaborators translated from Polish and prepared detailed lists of suspects, to be used in the future. A fine net of informers was spread throughout the territories, in every institution, factory, enterprise and tenement. Local former Communists and new recruits were included among the informers. ... local Jewish Communists played an important role in locating former political activists and compiling the lists of 'undesirables' and 'class enemies'. The NKVD tried, often with success, to recruit people who had previously been active in Jewish institutions and political organizations and thus created an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and fear among former friends and colleagues. Israeli historian Ben-Cion Pinchuk
The degree of organisation and planning necessary on the part of the Soviet authorities was considerable ... Lists of the victims, their precise whereabouts and destinations had to be drawn up. So meticulous and precise was this preparation that cases are recorded of Poles being taken from prison to be reunited with their families at the railway station; also, children taken from school to be reunited with their parents at the station. Trusted personnel had to be mobilised to carry out the operations: the NKVD, local militias, the Army, and even trusted civilians were employed. Herschel Wajnrauch was a Soviet citizen-a journalist brought in to work on a Jewish newspaper in Bialystok. He recalled: 'The Soviet police did not have enough people to carry out the mass arrests, so ordinary Soviet [i.e. local] citizens were used to help. Our newspaper was asked to provide two people, and I was one of them. We were given weapons and went with the Police to arrest these people and send them to Siberia.' The whole operation [i.e., the first mass deportation in February 1940, which included few non-Poles] was carried out in such secrecy that it came as a complete surprise to most victims. British historian Keith Sword
I don't know exactly how my father became involved with the NKVD ... I remember, however, the NKVD commissars from Moscow, who would most often arrive at our house after dark, sitting in the living room, smoking one cigarette after another until they could barely see each other through the haze, talking in low voices with Father, as they went over their lists of suspected fifth columnists (so-called Volksdeutscher Poles), Polish fascists, ultranationalists, and other local "traitors" and "counter-revolutionaries." It was my understanding that he served as advisor to the NKVD about who among the local Poles was to be sent to Siberia, or otherwise dealt with. ... "We have to get rid of the fascists," he told [my mother]. "They deserve to go to Siberia. They are not good for the Jewish people." ... Naturally, word of Father's clandestine activities got out. The black limousine that the commissars parked in our driveway when they came to visit was sufficient in itself to blow any cover he might have desired. Consequently, when the Germans invaded Russia in June 1941, the name of Chaim Mielnicki was on the hit list of both the local anti-Semites [?]... Michel Mielnicki, a Jew from Wasilków
In Lwów, there were jailers and denouncers, quite a few Jewish denouncers, in fact a very large number. Jews were more inclined to collaborate with the Soviet authorities. Many prewar Communists appeared on the scene, like mushrooms after a rain, and prewar Polish Communists were for the most part Jews. Aleksander Wat, a Polish-Jewish intellectual
The local Jewish Communists-those who remained-had more of an opportunity to implement their Marxist ideology. Luba [Libke] Ginunski was the head of the local party, which included among its most active members Hayyim Shuster, his girlfriend Meitke Bielicki, Ruvke Boyarski di Bulbichke (the potato), [who headed the komsomol], Velvke Katz, and Pessah Cofnas. Among Luba's priorities was the redistribution of land and property. The estates of the great Polish magnate Seklutski [?] and those of other members of the Polish nobility were parceled out ...Within Eishyshok [Ejszyszki] itself, the shtetl Communists had prepared a list of people to be deported. Yaffa Eliach, U.S. Holocaust historian
Suddenly, at one in the morning [in June 1941], the N.K.V.D. arrived with search warrants, according to an official list from the [almost exclusively Jewish] Communist Civilian Committee. ... After a thorough search the N.K.V.D. men ordered us in a sharp tone: "We give you 15 minutes to get dressed and pack your things. You will be sent out to Siberia. Cars are already waiting." ... From the entire area they were bringing people to the train station [in Grajewo] in order to send them to Siberia. People were stuffed into wagon cars like packed herring. There were many Polish people as well. Altogether there were 72 wagons for approximately 300 of us. Before placing us in the cars the N.K.V.D. frisked everyone over again and surveyed the lists of names. Szczuczyn Memorial Book
During the night of June 14, 1941, the town was shocked when NKVD and militia members took hundreds of people from their houses and placed them under arrest. Most of the arrested had been officials of the Polish government, landowners, officers in the Polish army ... That night similar raids took place throughout ... close to 30,000 people, entire families among them, were arrested and deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan. ... Jews played a relatively large role in the Communist party apparatus that was behind the action. Yitzhak Arad, a Jew from Swieciany
The welcome extended to the Bolsheviks was above all a demonstration of a separate identity, of being different from those against whom the Soviets were waging war-from the Poles-a refusal to be identified with the Polish state. In no other country in Europe did the clash of Jewish interests and attitudes with those of the surrounding population reach such dramatic proportions as they did in Poland under the Soviet occupation of 1939-1941. In other occupied countries, the Jews were in conflict with parts of the surrounding population-with local collaborators, for example-but they were united in solidarity with the rest of society. In Poland, under the Soviet occupation, it was the Jews who were regarded as collaborators. This should be borne in mind if one wants to speak honestly about mutual relations between Poles and Jews. Aleksander Smolar, Polish-Jewish intellectual
We Jews have to acknowledge that there were Jews in the service of the Communists, or even the Nazis, who committed crimes against the Poles, and also against other Jews. However, they never said that they were doing this in the name of the Jewish nation. Nevertheless, the time has come for us Jews to feel and understand the Polish pain in order for the Poles to feel and understand our pain. Michael Schudrich, rabbi of Warsaw and Lódz
Testimonies from Jedwabne
Many eyewitnesses from Jedwabne, a small town near Lomza, attest to particularly brutal behaviour on the part of local Jews. They not only fingered and denounced Poles, but also eagerly participated in their arrest, round-up and deportation to the Gulag. Several hundred Poles were deported from Jedwabne and its surroundings. Rev. Marian Szumowski, the Catholic pastor, was arrested by a local Jew in the service of the NKVD and was sent to prison in Minsk, Byelorussia, where he was sentenced to death on January 27, 1941.
The Jews greeted the Soviets with flowers. ... The Jews formed a citizens' militia and many of them were employed by the NKVD. After the Soviet authority was fully organized the Jews drew up lists of Poles to be deported to Siberia. ... At first they arrested a number of people from the intelligentsia, that is, teachers, officials, merchants, wealthier farmers and Rev. Marian Szumowski. ... When the NKVD called on their homes several people were away ... These individuals started to hide and organized a resistance movement. After a while the Jews tracked them down and the NKVD arrested them. All traces of them vanished. Only Dr. Jerzy Kowalczyk returned. (Account of Jan Sokolowski.)
The Red army was welcomed by the Jews, who erected gates for them. The former authorities were replaced with local Jews and Communists. The police and teachers were arrested. ... Searches took place at the homes of the wealthier farmers. They seized their furniture, clothing and valuables, and in a few days they came to arrest them at night. (Account of Józef Rybicki.)
As soon as the Soviet army arrived a town committee sprang up spontaneously ... its members were Jews. The militia was also composed of Jewish Communists. There were no repressions at first because they [the Soviets] did not know the population. Arrests started only after local Communists had made their denunciations. Searches [for weapons] were carried out by local militiamen ... (Account of Tadeusz Kielczewski.)
The Soviet authorities set up a militia which consisted mostly of Jewish Communists. They started to arrest ... those whom the police laid complaints against. ... The local [Polish] population for the most part boycotted the voting [on October 22, 1939]. Throughout the entire day the militia, brandishing their rifles, compelled them to come to the polling station. The sick were bought by force. Soon after the elections they staged a raid and arrested entire families who were deported to the Soviet Union. (Account of Kazimierz Sokolowski.)
When the Russians came into Jedwabne, the Jews handed over lists of all the Polish intellectuals. The Russians rounded them up, took them to Russia, and executed them. (Account of Jerzy Ramotowski.)
When the Russians entered they did not have to seek out trouble-making Poles. [The Jews] handed over many people to the NKVD who were then shipped to Siberia. The Jews informed them who lived where and what they did. My father was also denounced, and I know exactly who did it. My father worked in a sawmill owned by a Jew. The Russians came looking for weapons. My father had one, so they arrested him and shipped him to Russia, to Arkhangelsk. I never saw him again. (Account of N.N.)
The Jews betrayed their Polish neighbours to the Soviets. Three Jews and one Soviet drove up for my father. Among them were our baker and a glazier. They took my father because he was a retired policeman. I never saw him again. (Account of Jadwiga K.)
At the end of April 1940 a local Jew arrived at our home in the uniform of a Russian militiaman and told my father to report to the NKVD. ... my mother followed that policeman to check who else he went for because there were more than a dozen names written on his list. (Account of Kazimierz Odyniec.)
At the beginning of the war a cousin, the wife of a policeman from Krynki, was staying with my husband's family together with her 12-year-old son. When the Russians arrived they went from house to house to look for Poles to deport to Siberia. When they asked who the boy was, my husband's brother said that it was his son. At this their Jewish neighbour, Chilewski, (whose brother ran around the square with a red flag), spoke out: "Take him away, he's the son of a [Polish] policeman." (Account of Helena Kozlowska.)
Before the war when the police arrested the four sons of Zelman Lewinowicz, their father begged my grandfather and father to vouch for them that they were not Communists. And so they did [unwittingly making a false statement]. And in return, under the Soviet occupation when Poles were being shipped out to Siberia, Lewinowicz's wife told my father: "Don't be afraid, Bronek, we won't take you." Why did she say that? Because Jews accompanied the Russians to capture Poles. They were armed with rifles and looked for Poles in the villages. (Account of Janina Biedrzycka.)
After the Red Army entered ... many people were arrested at the instigation of Jewish Communists ... The day of the election, on March 31, 1940, at Easter time, the NKVD was in action. We were not allowed to go to church until we cast our votes. They called out our names as we walked by and we were handed a marked ballot to throw in the box. The agitators and denouncers were local Jews. Patrols armed with rifles walked about the streets. The population remained passive in the face of this threat. So ended the elections of the deputies. ... Searches took place at the larger farms and furniture, clothing and valuables were confiscated. People were taken to meetings by force. ... The committees were composed of military men, Jews and local Communists. (Account of Marian Lojewski.)
The Jews armed themselves and entered the NKVD en masse. Arrests and deportations of the Polish population to Siberia ensued. The first transport left in December 1939. Among those arrested were priests, soldiers, and the well-to-do, who were called 'kulaks'-the Polish bourgeoisie. The temperature fell to minus 40°C. In this frost people were put on sleighs and driven to the train in Lomza. There they were loaded into freight wagons like cattle. The Jews began to hit them with the butts of their rifles to hurry up the cargo because they were cold. ... An old Jewish woman by the name of Kuropatwa came to our home and reported that the Jewish Communists were helping the NKVD ship Polish families off to Siberia. The daughters of Mrs. Kuropatwa, Pesa and Chaja, stood and cried at that terrible sight of the savagery into which Jews and the NKVD had fallen. ... The Poles lived in fear. (Account of Teodor Eugeniusz Lusinski.)
The vileness of these deeds was readily apparent to everyone. The bodies of children who froze on the way to Lomza were strewn on the road. But the deportations continued unabated.
I remember when the Poles were being carted off to Siberia. On each wagon there was a Jew with a rifle. Mothers, wives and children were kneeling down before the wagons begging for mercy and help. The last such transport left the 21st of June 1941. (Account of Jan Kazimierz S.)
A member of one of the last Polish families to be deported recalled the arrival of the NKVD on June 20, 1941, with detailed lists of Poles. Her mother, who knew Russian, asked the NKVD officer where he was from. When he replied "from near Moscow" she asked him how was it that he had such detailed information, to which he answered: "Your Jews denounced you." The wagon that took the six members of this family to the train station was guarded by a local Jew. Only four of them returned from Siberia five years later: the grandmother and a brother died in exile.
Similar conditions prevailed in the entire region. According to a report from vicinity of Jedwabne.
Before every arrest [in the outlying village of Makowskie], which took place only at night, there arrived a few soldiers and the local militia, composed mostly of our own Jews. They surrounded the house of the person they came to arrest. A few of them entered the home and ordered him to lie on the floor. One of them held a gun to his head and the remaining carried out a thorough search, taking all documents, photographs and papers bearing seals. (Account of Antoni Sledziewski.)
A corporal in the interwar Polish army from the village of Witynie near Jedwabne, who was next in command of the local Polish underground organization, was delivered into the hands of his sadistic NKVD torturers on July 4, 1940 by a local Russian resident and a Jew by the name of Jocher Lewinowicz, who had been put in charge of the newly formed village cooperative. After enduring months of torture in various prisons, he was coerced to confess and was sentenced to eight years in the Gulag. He was deported to the far northern reaches of Russia in January of the following year.
An eyewitness (Waclaw Baginski) from Radzilów, a nearby village, reported a similar state of affairs. There too the Jews came out in large numbers to greet the Soviet invaders for whom they had erected two triumphal gates. Apart from two Soviet commandants, the entire militia and administration was in the hands of local Jews. Local collaborators drew up lists of "enemies of the people" and Jewish militiamen, armed with rifles, executed the deportations together with Soviet officials. Entire Polish families were transported to nearby railway stations in the middle of winter and again shortly before the Soviet retreat in June 1941.
Jan T. Gross did not bother to interview any Polish eyewitness, and has summarily dismissed their testimonies as worthless, even though many of them were recorded during the war and deposited in the Hoover Institution. Gross made an exception for a few he selected out of the many testimonies taken in the course of the postwar Stalinist investigations, but only those supportive of his interpretation of the events.
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