Movie on WWII Jewish Massacre Shocks Poles
By The Associated Press
April, 04 2001
A televised documentary on the World War II massacre of Jewish villagers by their Polish neighbors is picking up where a book's revelations left off, shocking even more households with the awful reality.
"I have heard about the massacre and read a little about it, but the film made me very painfully aware that something very terrible really took place there," Magdalena Raczkowska, 35, an office clerk said today.
Recent revelations about the 1941 massacre in Jedwabne and nearby communities in northeastern Poland have stunned the country and devastated the national assumption, nurtured in the communist era, that Poles were always victims and never collaborators in Nazi-era atrocities.
Poles were confronted with the reality in their living rooms for the first time when Part I of the documentary, titled "Neighbors" was aired on state television Tuesday night, viewed by an estimated 2 million people in the nation of 40 million. The second and final part of the documentary compiled by Polish journalist Agnieszka Arnold will air tonight.
In the documentary, Arnold interviews witnesses, participants and survivors of the massacre of an estimated 1,600 Jews in Jedwabne and 800 in Radzilow and other nearby villages.
Seeing and hearing witnesses on film intensified the shock even for Poles already trying to confront the truth about what happened in Jedwabne.
"It was a very gloomy, very disturbing and shocking piece of truth about us, about our past," Barbara Labuda, an adviser to President Aleksander Kwasniewski, said today in a radio interview.
Teresa Kaminska, who heads a team of advisers to Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, said it was the "most shocking documentary I have seen in recent years."
"...It happened on our land, our compatriots did it, so we absolutely have to discuss it and we have to seek pardon," she said.
"How can you understand that people who for thousand years lived side by side, who participated in each other's holidays, in everyday life, suddenly become enemies?"
In the documentary, some Poles from around Jedwabne are shown recalling the massacre in a matter-of-fact way; others say they still suffer when they think of it. Jewish survivors also talk of their lives and escapes, and there are accounts of Poles who helped save Jews from the pogroms.
Those interviewed include two Jedwabne teenagers who say they want to know the truth about what happened in their village.
Acceptance about what really happened in Jedwabne has been difficult for a nation that lost 6.5 million citizens, including 3 million Polish Jews, under Nazi occupation.
A monument blaming the Jedwabne massacre on Nazi troops was removed last month and will be replaced with one listing the names of the victims.
President Aleksander Kwasniewski has said he will offer an apology in July on the 60th anniversary of the killings, and Poland's new National Remembrance Institute has launched its own investigation.
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