July 25, 2021
Book Reviews Polish/Jewish Relations

A New Book Debunks the Claim by the 2000-2003 Investigatory Commission that “Found Poles Guilty” of Jedwabne

Jedwabne. Historia Prawdziwa. Volume I and II.

By Tomasz Sommer, Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, and Ewa Stankiewicz.

Reviewed by Jan Peczkis

JEDWABNE: THE REAL HISTORY, is the title of these mostly-Polish volumes. My review is limited to the 75-page English-language summary. Because I obtained this summary as a review copy, it has no pagination. For this reason, I have, in my manuscript, changed the Word font to Arial 12, so that the summary occupies 78 pages, which is close to the reputed 75 pages of the printed version. Consequently, the page numbers referenced below will usually be at or close to those in the printed version.

In the first part of my review, I discuss the 2000-2003 IPN Investigative Commission, headed by Prosecutor Radoslaw Ignatiew, and whose findings were published in Wokol Jedwabnego. The data has finally been declassified, and its “Jan T. Gross was right” media-touted conclusion is now shown to be invalid. In the latter part of my review, I discuss facts pertinent to the Jedwabne massacre itself.

Owing to the length of my review, I first provide an outline of major topics:

NOT ALL HISTORIANS ACCEPTED THE BLAME-POLES NARRATIVE

JEDWABNE UPDATE: THE LID IS OFF: THE 2000-2003 COMMISSION’S FINDINGS WERE POLITICAL

THE 2000-2003 IPN COMMISSION CONFORMED TO WASSERSTEIN’S NARRATIVE

WASSERSTEIN: AN EYEWITNESS? OR A STORYTELLER?

THE 2000-2003 COMMISSION IGNORED GERMAN-IMPLICATING JEWISH TESTIMONIES

THE 2000-2003 COMMISSION DISTORTED THE UNWELCOME FIND OF BULLET SHELLS

THE 2000-2003 COMMISSION DISREGARDED THE LOMZA DISTRICT COURT FINDING THAT THE GERMANS BURNED THE JEWS IN THE BARN

COMMUNIST DURESS AND MANIPULATION AT THE 1949 LOMZA TRIALS

LOMZA TRIALS: THE 2000-2003 COMMISSION BRUSHED OFF COMMUNIST TORTURES

MODERN HOLOCAUST SCHOLARS IN DENIAL ABOUT COMMUNIST TORTURES

JAN GROSS’ FANTASY OF A LARGE, SPONTANEOUS ANTISEMITIC RIOT

JEDWABNE A GERMAN-DISGUISED CRIME

GERMAN PERPETRATORS AND A FEW MOSTLY-COERCED POLES

OBEYING THE NAZIS: MILGRAM DOUBLE STANDARD ON JEWS AND POLES

JEDWABNE EXHUMATION NECESSARY. NO VALID EXCUSES NOT TO

 

NOT ALL HISTORIANS ACCEPTED THE BLAME-POLES NARRATIVE

Despite all the Polonophobic innuendo about the presumably-proven Polish guilt for Jedwabne that followed the 2000-2003 Commission “findings”, there were some historians that openly disagreed. Sommer et al. write, “The dissenting side included István Deák, Tomasz Strzembosz, Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, Jerzy Robert Nowak, Piotr Gontarczyk, Bogdan Musiał, Antoni Sułek, and some others.” (p. 8).

JEDWABNE UPDATE: THE LID IS OFF: THE 2000-2003 COMMISSION’S FINDINGS WERE POLITICAL

For the longest time, the data used by the 2000-2003 Commission was secret, as explained by Sommer et al., “With a few exceptions, the Jedwabne material was kept sealed because of the statutory secrecy of an on-going investigation. For the most part, it remained inaccessible to scholars for many years. This obstacle has now been surmounted. We have been able to study hitherto secret material. This includes 39 volumes of investigative findings and court acts/files as well as much other evidence regarding the mass murder at Jedwabne.” (p. 3).

What does this volume of data mean? The authors are unambiguous. They conclude that, “What was touted as the truth of the Jedwabne mass murder – having been firmly and conclusively ‘established’ by prosecutor Ignatiew – must instead be seen for what it is: a flimsy hypothesis propped up by a loose interpretation of cherry-picked facts.” (p. 12). They add that, “…Ignatiew’s charges constitute nothing more substantial than a historical hypothesis based on material that was cherry-picked under specific political pressure.” (p. 9).

THE 2000-2003 IPN COMMISSION CONFORMED TO WASSERSTEIN’S NARRATIVE

The authors comment,

“Public prosecutor Radosław Ignatiew’s investigation at the beginning of the 21st century used Wasersztejn’s narrative as its main frame of reference for interrogating witnesses. Wasersztejn’s tale was the yardstick for questioning and assessing a witness’s testimony… Moreover, Ignatiew ignores all witnesses, whether Christian or Jewish, whose depositions conflict with – or worse, contradict – the charges of the prosecution, especially those based on the Wasersztejn narrative.” (p. 4).

WASSERSTEIN: AN EYEWITNESS? OR A STORYTELLER?

So Jan T. Gross’ Neighbors is largely based on Wasserstein, as is the 2000-2003 Commission that (surprise) largely “confirmed” him. As a further irony, it is doubtful if Wasserstein was even an eyewitness. Sommer et al. write, “Wasersztejn may very well have been present in Jedwabne during the mass murder. However, what he really saw is anything but clear. Most likely he didn’t witness very much, hiding as he was at a safe distance from the mayhem. Or he may have been absent from the little town altogether. His several testimonies regarding where he was during the actual killing are contradictory. Further, with the passage of time, successive versions of his tale grew ever more fantastic and incoherent. One cannot exclude the possibility that Wasersztejn simply conjured up his story, incorporating as his own narrative the shreds of stories overheard from Poles and from other Jews.” (p. 4).

THE 2000-2003 COMMISSION IGNORED GERMAN-IMPLICATING JEWISH TESTIMONIES

Some Jews had written about the Germans being the ones that committing the Jedwabne crime. (pp. 8-9). They include:

https://www.jewsandpolesdatabase.org/2019/11/04/jedwabne-german-deed-maik/

https://www.jewsandpolesdatabase.org/2019/11/04/jedwabne-german-deed-zissman/

The authors conclude, “All these witnesses disappeared from both Gross’s narrative and the IPN investigation… The exclusion of such testimonies makes sense only in light of the immense political pressure that has influenced everything touching on Jedwabne ever since the controversy erupted in 2000.” (p. 9).

THE 2000-2003 COMMISSION DISTORTED THE UNWELCOME FIND OF BULLET SHELLS

The authors describe the futility of attempts to explain away the damning evidence of bullet shells at the site, “Next, the public prosecutor, Radosław Ignatiew, wrongly claimed that access to firearms in 1941 was ubiquitous among the local population. In addition, he failed to consider a key type of German weaponry that was most likely used in the commission of the crime. To account for shells from German guns, Ignatiew alleged that there were firefights around the barn area in 1945, though no such battles took place there at that time.” (p. 3). So the facts stand: The use of firearms, by itself, almost certainly implicates the Germans, and not the Poles, as perpetrators of the Jedwabne crime.

THE 2000-2003 COMMISSION DISREGARDED THE LOMZA DISTRICT COURT FINDING THAT THE GERMANS BURNED THE JEWS IN THE BARN

Sommer et all comment, “In 1949, the judge and jurors of the District Court in Łomża had no doubt that Germans were the perpetrators of the crime. The court verdict states plainly that “these [Jewish] persons were burned by the Germans en masse in the barn of Bronisław Śleszyński.”…But Public Prosecutor Ignatiew, following in the footsteps of Jan Tomasz Gross, completely failed to take that judgment of German culpability into account. Instead, he gave more weight to the confessions of the accused than to any other evidence. Ignatiew ignored the fact that those confessions had been coerced under torture during interrogation sessions at the Łomża prison and, for that reason alone, they should not have been treated as credible sources.” (p. 31. Emphasis in original).

On top of all this, it needs to be stressed that there still is “no proof whatsoever” that Poles torched the Jew-filled barn. (p. 44).

COMMUNIST DURESS AND MANIPULATION AT THE 1949 LOMZA TRIALS

Sommer et al. realize that, “Polish judges, prosecutors, militiamen, and secret police investigators had very narrowly defined roles to play and very little room to maneuver. The Communist script had to be followed throughout.” (p. 17).

Let us take a closer look at the duress faced by the Jedwabne defendants. The Polish Communists, well-taught by the Soviets, relied on confessions of guilt as the primary method of conviction, and they had choice ways of getting those confessions of guilt. The authors provide extensive detail on Communist torture methods, particularly in reference to defendants’ confessions in trials. (pp. 16-30). These included the konwejer (prolonged sleep deprivation with nonstop interrogation) and the stojka (prolonged standing for days). The mere threat of maltreatment induced many defendants to confess to whatever they were accused of.

It should be stressed that these Communist methods were not limited to high-level or high-profile cases. They were also used in routine trials. Moreover, the Communists did not rely solely on duress or the threat of duress. They also falsified testimonies and depositions.

Many Jedwabne defendants later retracted their earlier “confessions”. For instance, Sommer et al. write, “Sometime in the mid-1970s, one direct witness, Avigdor Kochaw, changed his mind about how events had unfolded. In retrospect, he justified the retraction by claiming that his deposition had been falsified by the individuals who took it. Thus, if we can believe him, Kochaw’s original testimony, confirming the direct and principal guilt of Poles, had been contrived by the prosecution or the secret police. Other witnesses, including Christian Poles, appear to have been similarly intimidated and misrepresented.” (p. 4).

LOMZA TRIALS: THE 2000-2003 COMMISSION BRUSHED OFF COMMUNIST TORTURES

The authors point out that,

“Moreover, he [Ignatiew] presumed the legitimacy of all associated court sentences delivered in Stalinist times under dubious legal circumstances, which commonly involved the torture of suspects and scripted court proceedings imposed from above…” (p. 14).

“The documents amassed by Public Prosecutor Ignatiew reveal that, although he knew as a matter of course that torture had been applied against the accused in the Jedwabne investigation, he unfortunately had no clue about the sources, logic, history, and practice of the Soviet investigative system that was implanted in Poland.” (p. 30).

MODERN HOLOCAUST SCHOLARS IN DENIAL ABOUT COMMUNIST TORTURES

Consider the likes of The August Trials, by Andrew Kornbluth. Sommer et al. comment,

“For example, neither Andrew Kornbluth nor Marci Shore are capable of understanding the system’s nuances and complexity. Both accept Stalinist documents at their face value; both gloss over the crucial factor of torture in the investigative process… In reality, everything was contrary to such post-modernist musings. We have shown that, in the Jedwabne investigation and trial, the Communists used torture, manipulated the evidence, and influenced the court politically.” (p. 28).

JAN GROSS’ FANTASY OF A LARGE, SPONTANEOUS ANTISEMITIC RIOT

Jan T. Gross would still have us believe in a massive, self-directed, Jew-killing Polish act, in which Germans merely stood around and took photographs while Poles slaughtered so many Jews. Such a scenario is farfetched, to say the least. Sommer et al. write, “Under either German or Soviet occupation, the subject people had no scope for going on a violent rampage as independent agents. If the occupiers were directly present, what took place could have resulted only from their wishes and their orders. And practically every source corroborates the presence of Germans in Jedwabne on that day. Their leadership is therefore indisputable.” (p. 3).

JEDWABNE A GERMAN-DISGUISED CRIME

Jan T. Gross has argued that the Einsatzgruppen units were already well past Jedwabne when the massacre took place. Wrong. (p. 32).

The authors remind us of German documents that prove that the Germans were trying to pass off their crimes as that of the locals. They add that, “Further, all these units operated according to an insidious strategy developed at the highest level of the SS leadership. Namely, the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, ordered his underlings to ‘incite pogroms surreptitiously.’ The idea was to create a perception that the locals were behind the anti-Jewish genocide.” (p. 32). SS General Walter Stahlecker was one of the chief architects of this policy.

This salient fact has been stressed by several historians. See, for example:

https://www.jewsandpolesdatabase.org/2019/11/04/nazis-saw-jews-and-poles-similarly-breitman/

https://www.jewsandpolesdatabase.org/2019/11/04/jedwabne-a-german-crime-definitive-work-longerich/

https://www.jewsandpolesdatabase.org/2019/11/04/polish-collaboration-sporadic-ezergailis/

GERMAN PERPETRATORS AND A FEW MOSTLY-COERCED POLES

The authors conclude that, “The research has confirmed that our original hypothesis, formed some 20 years ago, was correct. The Germans were the perpetrators of the crime, and the participation of a few Poles was of negligible importance.” (p. 2).

To underscore the unimportance of the Poles, the authors add, “Among our most important conclusions are the following. First, new evidence has allowed us to better reconstruct the identity of the perpetrators and the dynamics of the crime. The German murderers operated as a rather large yet fluctuating group, numbering perhaps as many as a couple score of police and military personnel from various formations, as indicated by the variety of Nazi uniforms they wore. Direct local Polish participation was limited to about a score – rather than a few score – of draftees and others.” (p. 2).

[The “variety of Nazi uniforms they wore” has been invoked by Ignatiew and by journalist Anna Bikont as evidence that the Poles just invented the Germans at Jedwabne. In actuality, the variety of uniforms is hardly surprising in view of the known diversity of participating Germans (including Volksdeutschen) at Jedwabne.]

OBEYING THE NAZIS: MILGRAM DOUBLE STANDARD ON JEWS AND POLES

The authors discuss how Jews have seized on Stanley Milgram’s blind-obedience experiments in order to exculpate the conduct of the Judenrat and the Jewish Ghetto Police. So why don’t they also excuse any Poles that participated in the Jedwabne massacre? The authors conclude, “Regardless, the findings of Milgram and others obviate Ignatiew’s historically oriented thesis as to why the inhabitants of Jedwabne allowed themselves to be coerced by the Germans to carry out actions that would facilitate their crime. The Polish participants did what they were ordered to do because most people do what they are told to do. Most simply obey authority.” (p. 47).

JEDWABNE EXHUMATION NECESSARY. NO VALID EXCUSES NOT TO

The authors plainly state that, “Only an exhumation can shed additional light on the most important remaining questions associated with this crime. For one thing, it would reveal how the first batch of victims were murdered at the barn before the succeeding group was brought there and the place set on fire.” (p. 5).

Rabbi Michael Schudrich, whose objections stymied the original partial exhumation, and which have long prevented a new, full exhumation, does not speak even for all Jews. Sommer et al. comment, “However, there are many strains in Judaism; not every single one rejects exhumation. Even Orthodox Jews allow for exceptions. Further, many Jews happen to be secular, and even atheist. They view their Jewishness either as an ethno-nationalist or an ethno-cultural label. Religious considerations do not apply to them.” (p. 57).

In most nations, secular law trumps religious law, even in the Jewish State, “Also in Israel, bodies and even human fragments are frequently disturbed. This occurs during archeological excavations and police procedures at crime scenes (e.g., criminal or political murder sites).” (p. 28). So why not in Poland?

Jedwabne Update: DEFINITIVE WORK. Jedwabne a German-Disguised Crime. Long-Suppressed Information Now Available: 2000-2003 “Poles are Guilty” IPN Commission Refuted. Sommer, Chodakiewicz, Stankiewicz

To obtain a copy of this outstanding new work, go to:

http://www.ksiegarnia-warszawska.pl/ksiazki/historia-polski/jedwabne-historia-prawdziwa-t-1-2-t-sommer-m-j-chodakiewicz-e-stankiewicz

 

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