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Penitence and Prejudice: The Roman Catholic Church and Jedwabne

Filed under: World Jewry
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 14:3-4 (Fall 2002)

The recent revelations about the slaughter of the Jews of Jedwabne in July 1941 precipitated an unprecedented collective soul-searching in Polish society. The Roman Catholic Church in Poland has been deeply involved in this discussion. The author contends that it is impossible to view the reaction of the Catholic clergy, intelligentsia and grassroots in monolithic fashion. Catholic elements can be found behind various barricades in this debate. Not surprisingly those elements within the Church that demonstrated the greatest sympathy for Jews were among the most eloquent voices calling for contrition. Those who generally viewed the Jews with suspicion found additional reason to give expression to their antipathy. In that respect the Church and the broader community of believers that identifies with it reflects the society in which it is rooted.

A free and fair examination of Polish society’s reaction to the Shoah was impossible after the imposition of the Stalinist Gleichschaltung [streamlining] in Poland.1 When a confrontation with history finally was possible – ten years after the rebirth of a truly independent Poland – it was more painful than most people (especially those uninitiated in the complexity and sensitivity of these issues) could have imagined. In the beginning of 2000, the publication of the now-renowned work by Jan Tomasz Gross, Sasiedzi [Neighbors] (and the film by Agnieszka Arnold of the same name screened on prime time nationwide Polish television), on the slaughter at Jedwabne, precipitated a national debate the likes of which Poland had never seen. The whole of Polish society was convulsed by an extraordinary self-examination. At least in terms of its scope and the depth of emotions it aroused this public discussion and even soul-searching was utterly unprecedented.2 Jedwabne, an unspectacular and little-known hamlet near Lomza, suddenly became one of the most recognized places in Poland and even a powerful metaphor of sorts, not unlike the word “Auschwitz.”3

Significantly, this was largely an internal debate. People living outside Poland (Jews and non-Jews) did contribute to the discussion, but above all it was Polish voices coming from within Poland that dominated the discourse.4 The Polish intelligentsia had been grappling with many of these issues for some years before but the Jedwabne revelations finally brought them to the grassroots level.

The discussion revolving around Jedwabne is already seen as a watershed for Polish society. It has had a far deeper resonance than that which emerged from the Goldhagen debate,5 which gripped Germany and which contributed the phrases “ordinary Germans” and “willing executioners” to our lexicon – even making them household words. However far reaching the debate in Germany was, there was never any real question about the fact that Germans had committed the crimes that had been attributed to them even if the magnitude of that participation was a matter of debate. In Poland, however, what was at play was something far deeper. Jews living abroad had often presented bitter indictments of Poles, often accusing them of collaboration, not “merely” crimes of omission (failing to rescue their neighbors) but also commission (actual murders).6 For the most part (but with notable exceptions),7 these accusations were never accepted by Polish society. Most Poles continued to see themselves as entirely blameless for the tragedy that had befallen the Jews of Poland; and continued to speak of Poland as a “land without Quislings.”8 If anything, much of Polish society saw Jews guilty of “anti-Polonsism.” And here it is significant to point out that this view was shared by both dogmatic Communists and Catholics alike – whatever their differences on other issues.

The Church, an especially formidable institution in Poland, clearly could not, and would not, remain on the sidelines in the face of such an all-important debate – one that would obviously affect the way in which Polish society perceives itself. But in order to understand the reaction of the Church to Jedwabne it is necessary to elaborate several caveats, which are often forgotten when dealing with this institution.

While Poland has traditionally been a stronghold of Roman Catholicism, the Roman Catholic Church, despite the tendency to view it in monolithic, hierarchical terms, does not speak with one voice and has not for many years if ever. Whatever united front vis-à-vis Communism that did exist has melted away. Not only is the Church a community of believers, each of whom interprets Catholicism in their own personal way, but as an institution it is also quite varied. In Poland, that is true just as it is in other countries. The “Church” has a myriad of monastic orders each with its own hierarchy, agenda and outlook. At times these operate on a very different wavelength than that of the Vatican to which they remain, at least ostensibly, loyal and subordinate. Thus Redemptorists, Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, Camedulians, Benedictines do not see eye-to-eye on every issue, and not the least on the Jewish Question. Even within orders there are differences from cloister to cloister, and even within one cloister.

Moreover, in present-day Poland, at any kiosk we can find publications that identify themselves as Catholic, yet often emit entirely contradictory messages. However, the fact that a component of the media calls itself “Catholic” does not mean that it appears with the imprimatur of the Episcopate.9 Suffice it to mention the celebrated independent weekly Tygodnik Powszechny, that was founded by the late lay Catholic intellectual Jerzy Turowicz,10 on the one hand, and the nationalist paper Nasz Dziennik, on the other. Certainly Fathers Michal Czajkowski and Henryk Jankowski would have little in common even though both see themselves as faithful servants of the same Church. Father Jankowski, an important priest in the Solidarity movement throughout the 1980s and Lech Walesa’s former confessor in Gdansk, has consistently blamed Jews for the imposition of Communism in Poland. In 1995 he compared, for example, the Star of David to the swastika and the hammer and sickle.11 Father Czajkowski, a professor of Theology, is the Catholic head of the Polish Council of Christians and Jews and is especially active in the Poland-Israel Friendship Society. As such he is an eloquent advocate of deeper relations with the Jewish People and the Jewish State. Certainly this dichotomy of views was nowhere more evident than in the way in which the Polish Catholics confronted the story of Jedwabne.

But even before we discuss Jedwabne one has to look at the Roman Catholic Church in Poland and the influence it wields on Polish society. One must recognize that before World War II, the Church was imbued with anti-Semitism and propagated a message of suspicion and even antipathy toward Jews. This issue has been thoroughly examined in the writings of Professor Ronald Modras, author of a groundbreaking monograph on the subject.12 This is said not as an indictment, but mainly to point out that the Catholic Church cannot be seen as an entirely dispassionate observer of the Jedwabne debate, utterly untainted.13 Certainly, in Jewish circles, and not without good reason, the Church is seen as responsible for a good measure of the anti-Semitism with which Poland is identified. It should also be pointed out that in recent years there have been a number of episodes that have further embittered the Jewish perception of the Church in Poland. The belief that the Church has been engaged in a deliberate attempt to appropriate memory of the Holocaust is widespread. This culminated in the imbroglio over the Carmelite Convent erected at Auschwitz, the ramifications of which are still felt today.14

It must also be pointed out that it was ironically after the war, during the long years of Communist rule that the Church in Poland again reached the zenith of its power and influence. That was especially so, because the reborn Poland was more homogenous that it had ever been with only an insignificant number of non-Catholics. During the war, the non-Catholic minorities were either, as in the case of the Jews, murdered, or in the years immediately following, in the case of the Germans and Ukrainians, ejected via expulsions or exchanges of territory.

The Roman Catholic Church, we recall, represented the only viable opposition to Communist rule and was the only real guardian of national values – in much the same way it had during the long period of foreign rule after the partitions of Poland. Consequently the Church drew and sheltered a diverse group of Poles (including non-Catholics, Jews among them) who, under normal circumstances, would have very little in common and an utterly divergent Weltanschauung.15 The standing of the Church in Polish society was also elevated by the election of the charismatic Krakow Cardinal Karol Wojtyla to the Papacy, which he used as a springboard for an unremitting assault on the Communist regime. Any post-mortem of the Communist bloc cannot ignore the important role played by Pope John Paul II in bringing about its demise.

In the period leading up to the collapse of so-called People’s Poland, the Club of Catholic Intellectuals, and publications that identified themselves as Catholic, notably the aforementioned Tygodnik Powszechny, but also Znak and WiezK were among the avant-garde in Poland that chipped away at the taboo on Jewish subjects – paving the way for the eventual defrost. Indeed, many of the most important way stations leading up to the Jedwabne discussion were initiated by Catholic lay intellectuals. These included the publication of the now-famous article by Professor Jan Blonski “Biedni Polacy patrza na getto” [Poor Poles Look Upon the Ghetto] in Tygodnik Powszechny (18 January 1987) which called on Poles to reassess their own role as bystanders and of a special (February-March 1983) issue of Znak devoted to Judaism, Jews, Polish-Jewish history and the Holocaust, that coincided with the fortieth anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. That double issue of Znak included Stefan Wilkanowicz’s provocative essay “Antysemitizm, Patriotyzm, Chrzescijanstwo” [Anti-Semitism, Patriotism, Christianity].16 These Catholic intellectuals continued this discussion after the fall of Communism, but by then their writings were free of the constraints of censorship.17

However, the ecumenical teachings of the Second Vatican Council were not widely known in Poland, let alone internalized. Anti-Semitic publications were (and continue to be) sold in certain churches, both in Warsaw and the provinces. In that respect some observers believe that little has changed since before the war. In 1937 two Protestant ministers from North America,18 themselves hardly philo-Semitic, described their shock at seeking in Polish churches sold alongside rosaries, bibles and other religious articles, anti-Semitic literature not less vile than that purveyed by Julius Streicher, the notorious publisher of the Nazi hatesheet Der Stuermer.19

Certainly for some more nationalistically inclined members of the clergy and lay Catholics, the “National Communism” that existed in Poland was, as much as they decried it, actually very comfortable indeed. It meant, of course, homogeneity and monoculturalism – the fact that Polish Catholics (the two have often been used as synonyms in Poland) did not have to deal with any “other.” Anti-Semitism, even in the presence of a Jewish community that was more virtual than real, was part and parcel of their worldview. Given the present status of the Church, some appear to long for the clarity and simplicity of those times.

Today the role of the Church has changed dramatically. On the face of it, the Church no longer has to occupy itself with politics and the struggle against Communism. As such, it has certainly lost power, prestige and influence. But old habits die hard, and the Church struggles to find its place in the new Poland – struggling for a place in society among many other competing institutions and ideologies – or simply agnosticism and secularism of the kind that it so often decries. Moreover, there has been a degree of resentment against certain actions of the Church, particularly its attempt to recover all its pre-war property (before the enactment of legislation affecting private property was initiated) and questioning the extent to which important social institutions would be displaced as a result. Much of the public, including people who identify themselves as believers, tends to ignore Church teachings on a number of subjects where they are inconvenient, such as abortion, divorce and contraception. But the Church remains a very powerful and potent body, even as its influence is waning, and even despite the fact that the broad all-encompassing national coalition that identified with the Church has fallen apart.20

Many of the political divisions that fragment Polish society are mirrored within the Roman Catholic Church itself. And not surprisingly, the reaction to the Jedwabne revelations roughly followed those contours. Those clergymen and lay Catholic intellectuals who had traditionally displayed the greatest sympathy toward Jews expressed the greatest collective contrition. Those who have long been suspicious of, and even hostile toward Jews (the Polish pontiff’s eloquent admonitions on the evil of anti-Semitism notwithstanding) demonstrated the most bitter skepticism and even furious indignation when the story of Jedwabne became common knowledge.21 As Father Stanislaw Musial explained:

One cannot be surprised that after the publication of the truth about Jedwabne, that public opinion has split into two camps. One, undoubtedly the more numerous, is situated on the center and the political right of the spectrum, thinking nationalistically. It either negates the participation of Poles at Jedwabne, or tries to play it down….The second small camp sees in the publication of the truth about Jedwabne a chance for the cleaning of Polish memory of the period of the occupation, and a stimulus toward fighting anti-Semitism in Poland today.22

Certainly, the fact that God-fearing Catholics carried out this massacre, or at least as people who saw themselves in such terms, made it especially uncomfortable for the most nationalistic elements of Poland’s clergy. The slaughter at Jedwabne and neighboring communities was clearly well beyond the scope of the 1995 declaration of the Polish Episcopate Commission for Dialogue with Judaism issued on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkeanu. That document emphasized the heroism of Polish rescuers but acknowledged “those who were capable of actions unworthy of being called Christian. There were those who not only blackmailed, but also gave away Jews in hiding into German hands.”23

While these were acts of commission in every sense, they still represented those who “abetted” the crime – not those who committed the murders themselves. Significantly, even this document of contrition “contextualized” the actions of the blackmailers and bounty hunters (szmalcownicy) and others who betrayed Jews when it noted: “Nothing can justify such an attitude, though the inhumane time of war and the cruelty of the Nazis, at times led Jews, themselves tormented by the occupant, being forced to hand over their brothers into the hands of the Germans.”24 The same document quoted the 1991 Polish Bishops’ Pastoral Letter that was read at all Catholic churches and chapels on 20 January 1991, which stated: “In spite of numerous heroic examples of Polish Christians, there were those who remained indifferent to that inconceivable tragedy. In particular, we mourn the fact that there were also those among Catholics, who in some ways had contributed to the death of Jews.” Clearly in using the word “contributed” the Bishops had not contemplated the notion that Poles had actually taken part in the killing or even initiated it, but rather, that they had been accessories to the crime.

Nationalist elements in the Church, including the country’s Primate, had long played a game of what one might call “competitive martyrdom” with the Jews. Over time the public acceptance of the view that Polish Roman Catholics were the greatest victim of the war has eroded. This was clear particularly when it became evident that at least 90 percent of the victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau were Jews – findings that the Church ultimately admitted in its 1995 Declaration,25 and which have been reinforced according to most public opinion surveys. In certain circles, nonetheless, the fact that the contentious Carmelite convent was eventually removed from the periphery of the camp at Auschwitz I (as were the crosses later planted by Kazimierz Switon and his fellow travelers) is perceived as a capitulation before the Jewish forces that have their eyes set on overrunning Poland.

In a radio address of 4 March 2001 Cardinal Glemp – who has a long history of insensitive and often hostile26 utterances toward Jews – declared:

  1. The murders carried out through the burning alive of the Jewish population driven into the barn by Poles are an undeniable fact.
  2. It was a crime carried out by a group of believers, but who had morally descended into barbarism.
  3. The facts of the murder and the group of killers are known.
  4. The only current that systematically persecuted Jews was Nazi totalitarianism
  5. The Church accepts the words of Chief Rabbi Schudrich, that the murder of innocent people in Jedwabne was not a local tragedy but the tragedy of the whole world. It is entered into the tragedy of great crimes of the 20th century alongside those in Katyn,27 Dachau, Auschwitz, in Rwanda, in the Balkans or among neighbors in Palestine. We mourn for the innocent blood shed among every nation.28

Glemp’s attempt to “contextualize” the slaughter by comparing it to the bloodshed in the Middle East, and one assumes that his use of the word “neighbors” was hardly incidental, led the way for the response from the nationalist wing of the church. Some priests acted with even less restraint than Glemp himself, notably among them Father Edward Orlowski, the parish priest presiding over the church in Jedwabne itself. Clergy and lay Catholics who thought in these terms railed against the notion that Poles were directly to blame for the killings. Significantly, Radio Maryja, a self-identified Catholic station headed by Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, a renegade Redemptorist,29 was an especially forceful, even virulent, forum for such views – utterly rejecting the research of Gross.30

The Catholic media chose to quote historians critical of Gross’s research. They explained that Gross was mistaken, his methodology and findings flawed. Most of the evidence, they declared, pointed to the Germans having carried out the slaughter, or at least that Poles who had participated had been compelled by force to do so. This can be seen in terms of what Michael Shafir calls “deflective negationism.”31 The historians pointed to what they saw as an over-reliance on testimony taken in the post-war trial of some of the perpetrators, which was conducted at a time when the normal procedures of justice were flouted. They criticized, not without some reason, Gross’s failure to cull German archives in order to establish the precise role of Germans in the slaughter. One example of this is the article by historian Antoni Macierewicz, who is the publisher of the Catholic nationalist weekly Glos, chairman of the Ruch Katolicko-Narodowy (Catholic National Movement), and a founder of the Liga Polskich Rodzin (League of Polish Families – a self-proclaimed Catholic nationalist party that presently has 38 deputies in the 444-seat Sejm). In an article entitled “The Revolution of Nihilism,” Macierewicz accuses Gross of “undertaking a hate campaign directed at Poles and Poland, declaring a journalistic and propaganda war on us.” He rhetorically asks, “Is the hubbub surrounding Jedwabne intended to eclipse the responsibility of Jews for communism and the Soviet occupation?” Macierewicz goes on to attack Gross and his methodology, quoting the findings of Professor Tomasz Strzembosz of the Catholic University of Lublin,32 one of Gross’s leading critics. He concludes by declaring that:

there has never been a serious inquiry to identify the Germans who planned the atrocity, gave the order, supervised their execution, and filmed it. The involvement of Poles, although shocking, is definitely not equivalent to the involvement of Jewish police who murdered their fellow Jews in the ghettos, delivered them into the hands of their executioners, and drove them unto the Umschagplatz. Those who, instead of establishing facts, joined in the campaign against the Polish nation by trying to shoulder Poles with blame for the Holocaust under German occupation while “forgetting” that the real perpetrators were the Germans, bring shame upon the profession of historian. Prof. Strzembosz’s article restores honor to Polish historians, who previously maintained a cowardly silence in the face of the campaign against Poland and the Poles. I would like to believe that there are also Righteous Ones among the Jews who would not have succumbed to the pressure of the pervasive hatred toward Poland.33

Finally, almost as an argument of last resort, some of the historians, and the priests who chose to quote them, claimed that the fury of Poles who did carry out the murders could best be explained, if not legitimized, in terms of terrible transgressions committed by Jewish collaborators with the Soviets. While the killings were wrong, they claimed that one had to see (and understand) them in the context of Jewish transgressions against Poles in the period of Soviet occupation of eastern Poland between September 1939 and the summer of 1941.

Some priests, such as Father Orlowski, and the Bishop of Lomza, Stanislaw Stefanek, claimed that at the heart of the Jedwabne controversy was what Norman Finkelstein dubbed “Holocaust Business.”34 Those Catholics who seek to defend Poland’s good name against the “Jewish assault,” or to at least “contextualize” the killings at Jedwabne, generally point to a Jewish role in the imposition of Communist rule in Poland. As they see it, at the core of what happened in Jedwabne, and other acts of violence directed against Jews, is the issue of Zydo-komuna [Jewish-Communism]. They claim that while Poles may have been responsible for some of the Jewish deaths in Jedwabne and elsewhere, such outrages must be seen in light of the Jews’ behavior during the Soviet occupation from September 1939 until June 1941.35 That behavior, they declare, was treasonous. Jews who accepted the Stalinist grip on Poland, and even strengthened it precipitated whatever outrages were perpetrated. In other words, a “tit for tat” quality can be ascribed to the slaughter in Jedwabne.36 Jedwabne’s own Father Orlowski, for example, declared:

Let us tell the whole truth – change must occur on both sides, and not just one. For dialogue applies to both sides. By blaming one side, we will always be biased.

When the two totalitarian states divided Poland between themselves, they took advantage of ethnic minorities in order to set them at odds with each other. Here, the Jews and the Poles co-existed well. Things began to deteriorate only after the outbreak of the war, and the conflict reached its peak when the Germans attacked the Soviet Union. We must admit the whole truth – young Jews supported Communism, and the Soviets used the Jews against Poland. Later when the Germans came, they tried to use the Poles against the Jewish community. One cannot say that the crime was committed by the Poles. What happened in Jedwabne happened all over Europe. However, it cannot be excluded that some Poles were compelled to take part in this crime, others felt like exacting vengeance on the Jews, and some may have been downright criminals. It is also difficult to accept that Polish society as a whole treated the Jews so cruelly. If it is only individuals who did so, then they did it as part of German operations.37

In this spirit, Father Orlowski, Walesa and others such as the Bishop of Lomza, Stanislaw Stefanek and Cardinal Glemp, have called for Jews to apologize to Poles for wrongdoing committed during the period of Soviet occupation on eastern Poland and in the post-war period. Particularly virulent was the reaction of Father Jankowski. In April 2001, the Gdansk priest, best known for his vituperative anti-Jewish homilies, went so far as to place a model of a burned barn with human bones inside in a symbolic Easter sepulcher in St. Bridget’s Church. He claimed that the replica was supposed to represent the Jedwabne barn in which Jews had been burned and added a sign to it that declared: “Jews killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and they also persecute us.” Father Jankowski hastened to explain that “the book by Prof. Jan T. Gross has stirred a lot of controversy. This is just a political manipulation, so as to humiliate the Poles and give world opinion an image of the Pole as a Jew-killer and anti-Semite.” The Arch-bishop of Gdansk, Tadesuz Goclowski, eventually intervened to force Father Jankowski to remove the contentious display.38

Father Czajkowski, on the other hand, in a roundtable discussion held at the municipal offices in Jedwabne on 22 February 2001 attended by the mayor of the town, Father Orlowski, and others, claimed:

The acts of contrition proclaimed by the Pope do the Church good, because they make it credible in the eyes of others. Perhaps there is no such thing as collective guilt, but every community needs a kind of collective responsibility, felt by everyone who considers himself a part of this community. Can anyone say that the Pope does not love the Church because he discusses its sins? He discusses the inquisition, the pogroms, and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain precisely because he feels such a strong attachment to this Church. It is the same when we talk about our sins. We do not do so because we are bad Poles, but because we love Poland so much.39

On 27 May 2001, All Saints Church in Warsaw was the venue of a special penitential mass, led by Cardinal Glemp and attended by many of the most important members of the clergy. On that occasion regrets were expressed for the killings at Jedwabne. Bishop Stanislaw Gadecki apologized to God in the name of the Polish Episcopate, for the killings in Jedwabne and elsewhere: “Once again,” he declared, “we condemn all signs of intolerance, racism and anti-Semitism which we know are sinful.” The deliberate choice of venue for that mass (a church that had stood in the wartime Jewish ghetto) was particularly ironic. All Saints’ Church is widely known as a nest of anti-Jewish activity.40 The anti-Semitic journal Szczerbiec41 advertises that the bookshop in the basement of the sanctuary is a place that sells the publication. Thus, while a mass dedicated to expiation was offered upstairs, downstairs anti-Semitic texts were being sold and anti-Jewish stereotypes reinforced.

But the absence of the same priests, and especially Cardinal Glemp, at the ceremony organized at the site of the massacre on July 10 was the cause of considerable consternation in circles devoted to improving ties between Jews and Catholics in Poland. Cardinal Glemp essentially claimed that there was no need for him to repeat his statement of contrition. As a Catholic priest he had given unto God what was God’s, President Kwasniewski could give unto Caesar what was Caesar’s. Significantly, Father Orlowski did not attend, having distributed a flier entitled “Jedwabne Does Not Apologize” that urged his parishioners to stay home. Later in the day, however, the elderly Jedwabne-born Rabbi Jacob Baker, who had the good fortune of leaving Jedwabne for the United States before the war, paid him an unexpected visit that made headlines.

Of course, we do not always hear about the positive developments – which are far less likely to capture headlines. For example, in the wake of the revelations about Jedwabne, the lay Catholic intellectual Stefan Wilkanowicz and the Znak Christian Culture Foundation brought the entire junior year of the Jedwabne lyceum to Krakow for a seminar, which included a confrontation with Jewish culture. This episode received little attention in the media. The Jewish part of the program included meeting with a Holocaust survivor, Bernard Offen, with whom the youngsters lit Jahrzeit candles at the site of the German concentration camp Plaszow and with whom two-thirds of the group attended Friday evening services at the historic Remuh Synagogue in Kazimierz. One can only speculate on how this exposure to Jews and Judaism will affect the attitudes of the young Catholics of Jedwabne, but certainly it is a positive step in breaking down the walls of suspicion and hostility. Another example, also largely unreported, was that of Father Wojciech Lemanski, who prominently displayed a reference to the Jedwabne massacre in the Easter crèche of his church in Otwock near Warsaw. Father Lemanski movingly wrote about his motivations for doing so in Wiez.42

Some priests and lay Catholics long active in dialogue with Jews call for genuine introspection. Thus we find, for example, Archbishop Zycinski writing in an article entitled “Banality of Barbarism” in the liberal Catholic intellectual review Wiez, expounding on the futility of seeking to contextualize Gross’s findings:

It would be insane to suggest that there could be any justification for the collective burning of human beings in barns….The Jedwabne drama carries a bitter, true lesson about mankind. It is especially bitter for those who would like to treat Nazi barbarism as a local manifestation of genocide, frighteningly foreign to the commendable remainder of the human family….The evil spiral does not recognize any ethnic boundaries and we cannot treat any environment as insensitive to the emission of primitivism. That bitter truth guards against ideological delusions in which some attempt to elevate to supremacy ties of blood or a common culture….We do not look for some imaginary historical documents that would change the Jedwabne tragedy into a trivial incident Such documents cannot exist because the death of innocent beings cannot ever be reduced to the rating of an incident. Today it is necessary for us to pray for the victims of that murder, demonstrating the spiritual solidarity which was lacking at the hour of their departure from the soil of their fathers, on which they live.43

To the archbishop of Lublin’s voice was added that of the Archbishop of Gniezno, Henryk Muszynski,44 Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek,45 who serves as rector of the Papal Theological Academy of Krakow, and those of other priests46 such as Fathers Michal Czajkowski,47 Lukasz Kamykowski, Stanislaw Musial, Stanislaw Obirek, and others.

Even clergymen who have been active in dialogue with Jews do not always see eye to eye on the subject of reconciliation and at least one has changed his stance dramatically in recent years. Professor Waldemar Chrostowski, a Roman Catholic priest who is rector of the Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw (formerly the Academy of Catholic Theology) and who in 1997 was forced to resign as co-chairman of the Polish Council of Christians and Jews after defending the actions of Father Jankowski, claims that it is impossible to speak of any real “dialogue” between Poles and Jews:

In the 1990s several more or less demonstrative apologies took place and they didn’t change anything….On the contrary they created a specific fashion for apologies…and fashions tend to trivialize the meanings of serious messages…a one-sided and humiliating repentance of Poles does not help in the development of a dialogue….A true reconciliation is difficult because it also requires an honest look at the future and genuine participation on the Jewish side….Reconciliation has a very important meaning…in order to reach it; lasting change in the mutual perception on both sides is absolutely necessary. Reconciliation implies reciprocity. Not because the faults of Poles and Jews are identical or even comparable, but simply because faults did exist on both sides.48

It is often believed, mistakenly so, that the Church could wave a magic wand and anti-Semitism would disappear. We know that is not the case – that it is self-delusion to think so. Poland’s Catholic believers elect to ignore many of the teachings of the Church, despite the impassioned pronouncements of the much beloved Pope John Paul II. Those who are convinced that Jews are the root of all evil will continue to believe that irrespective of what the Church, or its priests, tells them.49 That being said, however, clearly the message of antipathy toward Jews preached in many Churches in Poland, which emanates even from the highest circles – including that of the country’s primate – cannot but sustain existing anti-Jewish sentiment and even reinforce it.

So what can we say about the Roman Catholic Church in Poland – and its reaction to events in Jedwabne? The glass is either half full or half empty depending on how one wants to view it. Whether one looks at Zycinski or Chrostowski, Czajkowski or Orlowski – whether you want to look at the community of believers who read Tygodnik Powszechny and Znak or who read Nasz Dziennik and listen to Radio Maryja. In that respect the Church is little different than the broader society from which it stems.

*     *     *


* An abridged version of this text was presented at the VI International Conference on Anti-Semitism, sponsored by the Tel Aviv University Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, held in Mexico City in October 2002. The author would like to express heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Annamaria Orla-Bukowska of the Sociology Department of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow for shar-ing her insights. The author alone, however, is responsible for the views expressed here, and especially for their shortcomings.
1. For a discussion of the evolution of collective memory in Poland before Jedwabne, see Michael Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1997).
2. See Laurence Weinbaum, The Struggle for Memory in Poland: Auschwitz, Jedwabne and Beyond, World Jewish Congress Policy Study No. 22 (Jerusalem, 2001) for a discussion of the Jedwabne debate and its context.
3. In an article entitled “Jedwabne to nowe imie holokaustu” [Jedwabne is a new name for the Holocaust] that appeared in the Warsaw daily Rzeczpospolita (10 July 2001), Father Stanislaw Musial, S.J. noted: “During the penitential service in Warsaw on 27 May the Bishop Stanislaw Gadecki, in his introduction to the liturgy mentioned Jedwabne alongside Auschwitz and other places of extermination. And rightly so, for Jedwabne is a new name for the Holocaust.”
4. For a selection of those voices in English translation, see Thou Shalt Not Kill – Poles on Jedwabne (Warsaw, 2001). This anthology was published by Wiez, a Catholic intellectual review.
5. Intense public debate emerged after the publication, especially the German edition, of Daniel Goldhagen’s book, Ordinary Germans: Hitler’s Willing Executioners (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1996).
6. A different but especially popular charge was that Poland was chosen as the venue of the death camps because “the Nazis” believed that they could rely on the cooperation of Poles in killing the Jews.
7. Perhaps the most significant deviation from the accepted canon was the publication in January 1987 in the independent Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny of an article by Prof. Jan Blonski entitled Biedni Polacy patrza na getto [Poor Poles Look Upon the Ghetto] calling upon Poles to accept a degree of responsibility for the fate of their Jewish neighbors during the Shoah. The editor of the newspaper, Jerzy Turowicz, later reported that no other article in his long career (spanning over four decades) ever produced such a strong reaction from his readers as did Blonski’s.
8. It should be pointed out here that when Jews and Poles speak of Quislings and collaboration they are not always speaking the same language. Poles who participated in the struggle against the Germans (including the Home Army, some elements of which were hostile to Jews, even while others were involved in rescue activity) and killed Jews, are not necessarily seen by Polish society as Quislings. The struggle for survival of the Jewish population was not seen as a part of the general struggle of the Polish population against German occupation. In other words, one could be indifferent about the fate of Jews, and even betray them, without necessarily being seen as a collaborator (though in some cases summary execution was carried out for such collaboration). Aleksander Smolar explained this paradox: “In Poland the phenomenon of collaboration as a means of realizing a national interest under foreign rule did not exist. There were no people who would fill the role of a Petain or Quisling….In other countries occupied by the Germans, anti-Semitic pogroms were announced by collaborationist governments and parties, but the underground was generally anti-Fascist, democratic and an enemy of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism belonged to the syndrome of betrayal. Paradoxically, Poland was the only country in which anti-Semitism preserved its patriotic and national legitimacy (strengthened by the Soviet occupation of 1939-1941), but also its democratic legitimacy….Exactly because this Polish anti-Semitism did not have the stigma of collaboration with the Germans, it could very well prosper during the war not only on the street, but also in the underground press, in political parties and in armed units.” See Aleksander Smolar “Tabu i Niewinnosc” [Taboo and Innocence] Aneks 41-42 (1986), p. 99. Writing in the wake of the revelations about Jedwabne, Father Stanislaw Musial noted: “Is it not true that during the German occupation, many Poles were of the opinion that Poland has two enemies, an external one – the Germans, and an internal one – the Jews? It is only owing to the unremitting contempt of Hitler for the Poles that he did not consciously seek, by means of various promises and gratification, the massive collaboration of the Poles in the extermination of the Jews.” Musial, op.cit. There is evidence that this phenomenon of seeing the enemy both in the Germans and the Jews, was not unique to Poland, but also existed in other occupied countries, most notably, in the Netherlands, as well.
9. Often this is not well understood, if it is understood at all. For example in his book Ziemia i chmury [Earth and Clouds], Israeli Ambassador to Poland Shevach Weiss identifies Nasz Dziennik as “a [the] paper of the Church” (p. 98). Significantly, Radio Maryja, which calls itself Catholic and which is run by a Roman Catholic priest, is embroiled in controversy with the country’s primate – who has banished its representatives from the offices of the Episcopate.
10. Although a layman (Jerzy Turowicz) edited the paper from its inception there was always a Catholic priest who served as an advisor to the editor. For a time Father Stanislaw Musial occupied that post. However, since the death of Turowicz, the paper has been edited by Father Adam Boniecki.
11. Those remarks were censured by a number of priests, most notably, Father Stanislaw Musial, Father Michael Czajkowski and the Secretary of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Father Tadeusz Pieronek. In the autumn of 1997, after a string of inflammatory utterances against Jews, including the suggestion that Jews could not be tolerated in government and the declaration that “the Polish people, humiliated by this minority have become the laughing stock of the international community” Archbishop of Gdansk Tadeusz Goclowski issued a warning to Father Jankowski. When Father Jankowski spoke out again using such language he was banned from preaching in St. Bridget’s Church for one year.
12. Ronald Modras, The Catholic Church and Antisemitism in Poland 1933-1939 (Chur, Switzerland: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1994).
13. The war time record of the Church, itself a victim of severe repression in occupied Poland, was a mixed one. Some Jews sought and received sanctuary in Roman Catholic institutions in Poland, and Polish priests and nuns account for a disproportionate share of those honored as “Righteous Among the Nations” at Yad Vashem. For a discussion of Jews sheltered in convents, see Ewa Kurek-Lesik, Gdy Klasztor znaczyl zycie [When the convent meant life] (Krakow: Znak, 1992). An especially unusual case was the 1942 protest of Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, a well-known novelist and a founder of the underground rescue group Zegota. Kossak-Szczucka’s views represented a mix of extreme nationalism and Roman Catholicism but she called for the rescue of Jews, even while seeing in them a deleterious social element that under normal circumstances (i.e., in a free Poland) should be combated. On the other hand, it is clear that many Catholic clergymen did not speak out forcefully enough, if at all, on the evils of anti-Semitism, and the blackmail, betrayal and even murder of Jews, was not an uncommon phenomenon among those who identified themselves as Catholic believers. In the period immediately after the war, when anti-Jewish violence was rife in Poland, the Church also failed to effectively intervene to stem attacks on Jews, and can be seen as even abetting them. After the pogrom in Kielce in 1946, Cardinal August Hlond suggested, for example, that the Jews themselves were to blame for the outrages by holding important posts in the Communist regime, and accused them of attempting, collectively, to impose on Polish society a system alien to the Nation. This was in keeping with his pre-war position. In 1936 the Cardinal had issued a pastoral letter in which he called for Catholics to refrain from taking measures against the Jews that would be incompatible with Christian ethics, but accused the Jews of serving as the vanguard of atheism and Communism. He also suggested that Jews corrupt morality, disseminate pornography and engage in usurious practices.
14. Describing this phenomenon in the wake of a 1979 mass celebrated at Birkenau by Pope John Paul II, Professor Edward Alexander wrote: “Who can be sure, now that Pope John Paul II has celebrated mass at Auschwitiz, and Carmelite nuns have established a convent just outside the death camp, that even this ultimate Jewish abattoir may not be in process of becoming a Christian holy place? “Sie werden es von uns wieder stehlen,” [They will steal it from us] Martin Buber predicted. See Edward Alexander, The Jewish Idea and Its Enemies (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1988), p. 102. See also Henryk Grynberg “Appropriating the Holocaust,” Commentary, November 1982. Grynberg was among the first to raise this issue. For an account of the Auschwitz controversy, see Emma Klein, The Battle of Auschwitz – Catholic-Jewish Relations Under Strain (London: Vallentine-Mitchell, 2001). For a discussion of religious symbols at Auschwitz, see Annamaria Orla-Bukowska “Religious Symbols, Political Power: The Cross, the Star of David, and Auschwitz-Birkenau,” in E. Haas, ed., Symbols, Power and Politics (Bern: Peter Lang Verlag, 2002). On the other hand, there is widespread ignorance in Jewish circles about the genesis of Auschwitz I as a concentration camp established for political prisoners. That ignorance often precludes recognition of the fact that Polish non-Jews accounted for the majority of the first inmates incarcerated there. Another bone of contention, though far less well known, revolves around the ongoing presence in a Church in Sandomierz of a large oil painting by the Italian artist Carlo de Parvo and dating back to 1712 that depicts Jews preparing to kill Christian babies. The Jewish community in Sandomierz suffered from a series of blood libels dating back to 1698, when the community parnas Aaron Berek was put to death. This violence was orchestrated by Father Stefan Zuchowski, who was the author of an anti-Semitic tract entitled Odglos processow krymynalnych na Zydow [Report of Criminal Trials of Jews]. For a Jewish reaction to the presence of the painting, see Adam S. Ferziger, “Blood Libels and Human Kindness,” Jerusalem Post, 15 May 2000.
15. As Andrzej Korbonski noted in the 1970s: “Conventional wisdom has long been that the Poles are strongly religious. This view is based on such evidence as crowded churches, a homogeneous population, and an increase in the numerical strength of the clergy. My own impression is that if indeed the church is still popular today, it is much less because of its religious or spiritual role, and infinitely more because of its function as the only true bastion of independence from Communist control. It could be shown that in the past the church enjoyed its greatest popularity at the height of government persecution and that it lost support when church-state relations improved,” Andrzej Korbonski, “Poland,” Teresa Rakowska-Harmstone and Andrew Gyorgy, eds., Communism in Eastern Europe (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1979), p. 51.
16. Other Catholic-initiated actions include the sponsorship by the Bishop of Kielce, of a film by Marcel Lozinski based on interviews and eyewitnesses to the 1946 pogrom in that city. The film premiered in Warsaw’s Club of Catholic Intelligentsia in 1987. That club also sponsored “Jewish Culture Weeks” beginning in the second half of the 1980s. But this activity was mainly confined to the urban intelligentsia and hardly affected the grassroots, neither the average clergy nor average believers.
17. For a discussion on the Church reaction to anti-Semitism during the decade after the fall of Communism (but before the Jedwabne revelations and the debate they precipitated), see the proceedings of the conference held at the Loyola Marymount University (a Jesuit institution in Los Angeles) on 20 January 1999 on this subject, edited by Bohdan W. Oppenheim and published as Kosciol Polski Wobec Antysemityzmu 1989-1999 [The Polish Church on Antisemitism 1989-1999] (Krakow: Wydawnictwo WAM, 1999).
18. Canon Gould and Conrad Hoffman.
19. Archiwum Akt Nowych, Ambasada RP w Londynie 1148.
20. After an 80 percent approval rating in 1989/1990, sympathy with the Church plummeted and the rate of antipathy toward the Church climbed sharply, peaking in 1992, when those who disapproved of certain Church actions rose above the numbers of those who approved of it. In 1994/1995 it reached a “normal” center, where it has remained ever since.
21. In fact, research on the slaughter in Jedwabne had been published as early as 1966 by the Polish-Jewish historian Szymon Datner. See his “Eksterminacja Zydow Okregu Bialystockiego,” [The Extermination of the Jews of the Bialystok Region], Biuletyn Zydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego w Polsce [Bulletin of the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland] (1966). Significantly, Datner never identified the murderers as Poles, but rather referred to them as “bands” and “scum.” Moreover, he wrote of the victims using the passive, rather than the active form. The Jewish residents of Jedwabne “had been raped,” and “burned.” In other words, one had to read between the lines to realize that local Poles had been responsible. But in any event Datner’s research had been largely ignored until the publication of Sasiedzi.
22. Rzeczpospolita, 10 July 2001.
23. For the full text of that document see Goeffrey Wigoder, Jewish Christian Relations: Agenda for Tomorrow, World Jewish Congress Policy Forum No. 14 (Jerusalem 1998), p. 26.
24. Ibid.
25. Wigoder, Jewish Christian Relations, op. cit., p. 25. Still that document stresses the fact that Auschwitz was initially established as a concentration camp for Poles and contends that “there is probably no Polish family that has not lost someone close at Auschwitz or another camp.” It also praises the heroism of Father Maximillian Kolbe (himself a controversial figure because of his record of anti-Jewish antipathy before the war) who sacrificed his life to rescue another non-Jewish prisoner.
26. There is, of course, no consensus on just what constitutes anti-Semitic speech. Some of Glemp’s defenders for example, would say that his remarks stem from ignorance not actual antipathy. Few Jews, however, would subscribe to that theory and in Jewish circles Glemp is perceived as an anti-Semite.
27. “‘Katyn’ became an unofficial metonym for all persecution under the Soviet occupation and subsequent rule – the tyranny, massacres, jails and gulags,” writes Annamaria Orla-Bukowska, “Re-presenting the Shoah in Poland and Poland in the Shoah,” R. Lentin, ed., Representing the Shoah in the 21st Century (Oxford: Berghan, forthcoming).
28. This summary of the main points of Cardinal Glemp’s address on Radio Jozef was composed by Father Adam Boniecki and appeared in an article entitled “Prymas o Jedwabnem” [The Primate on Jedwabne], Tygodnik Powszechny, 11 March 2001. In a subsequent interview in May, Cardinal Glemp took a harsher stand and appeared to retract his pronouncements about the role of local Poles in the massacre at Jedwabne. Moreover, he attempted to analyze anti-Jewish sentiment in Poland in terms of what he claimed were traditional unscrupulous Jewish mercantile practices, Jewish sympathy for Communism and the “bizarre customs” of Judaism.
29. At the time of this writing Father Rydzyk and Cardinal Glemp were engaged in a row that captured headlines in the Polish press.
30. Radio Maryja has also propagated classic Holocaust revisionism and its leading proponents in Poland, Dr. Dariusz Ratajczak and Professor Ryszard Bender, have presented their views on its programs.
31. Michael Shafir, “Between Denial and ‘Comparative Trivialization’ – Holocaust Negationism in Post-Communist East Central Europe,” Hebrew University, Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Acta – Analysis of Current Trends in Antisemitism, no. 19 (Jerusalem, 2002), p. 23.
32. Professor Strzembosz’s critique of Gross was published in Rzeczpospolita, 27-28 January 2000. It appeared in English translation in the Wiez anthology, Thou Shalt Not Kill – Poles on Jedwabne, op. cit.
33. Antoni Macierewicz, “Rewolucja nihilizmu” [The Revolution of Nihilism], Glos [Voice], 3 February 2001. For the text in English translation, see Thou Shalt Not Kill – Poles on Jedwabne, op. cit., pp. 205-215. Drawing attention to the misdeeds (real and imagined) of Jewish Ghetto policemen, and of Jewish collaborators, is a favorite tactic of Polish nationalists in responding to accusations of complicity in the destruction of Polish Jewry. It was long a prominent theme of Communist propagandists, especially during the anti-Jewish campaign in the wake of the Six-Day War.
34. Finkelstein, interviewed in Rzeczpospolita, suggested that the Jewish world was preparing an assault on Poland in the same way it “extorted” money from the Swiss. Norman Finkelstein, “Goldhagen dla poczatkujacych” [Goldhagen for Beginners], Rzeczpospolita, 20 June 2001. See Stanislaw Stefanek, “Odebrac Polakom dobre imie” [Taking the Good Name Away From Poles], Nasz Dziennik, 13 July 2001. This theme was also regularly trumpeted in the Catholic weekly Niedziela, which ran a series of articles by Jerzy Robert Nowak, entitled “100 Klamstw J.T. Grossa” [One Hundred Lies of J.T. Gross].
35. For an account of this period, see Jan Tomasz Gross, Revolution From Abroad – The Soviet Conquest of Poland’s Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988).
36. This view has gained credence in certain segments of the Polish diaspora as well. A book presently being prepared for publication in the United States in Polish-Catholic circles that is quite typical of this type of argumentation is: M[aria] B. Szonert, World War II Through Polish Eyes. It tells the story of a young man who learns about the history of Poland from talking with his elderly grandmother:

“Grandma, is it true that the Polish people burnt 1,600 people in a barn in Jedwabne?” Danusia reaches for his hand and looks deeply into his eyes. “The way you put it, Konrad, is dangerous…it’s a very dangerous oversimplification.” “Yes or no Grandma! I know that the people dispute the number because no barn could hold 1,600 people. But whether we talk about 1,600 people or 400 people, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we killed defenseless civilians.” “Well, Konrad. Every action must be judged in its context. First you must know more about the Jedwabne killings in order to make an informed judgment….There are many things you don’t know. So far no one has told you the whole story. But it is your moral obligation to hear the whole story before making any judgment.” The Grandmother then goes on to explain that the Jews betrayed Poland; they had hoped to eradicate the Poles and make Jedwabne a purely Jewish town. “In Jedwabne the NKVD armed the self-proclaimed Jewish militia groups and gave them plenty of opportunities to settle old accounts with their Polish neighbors. The Soviets put the Jewish militia groups in charge of implementing the program to annihilate the Polish population through killings, imprisonment and deportations to the Soviet Far East….The Jewish minority had a lot at stake in collaborating with the Soviets. They immediately took over administration of Jedwabne and assumed control over the assets and estates of the deported, imprisoned, or executed Poles….Hundreds of thousands of Poles were loaded into the cattle trains and sent into oblivion in the Soviet east. Their Jewish neighbors led the NKVD squads under the cover of night to the Polish homes and later escorted the deportees to the train stations. They also took part in the executions of the Poles.” Danusia takes a deep breath. “Now picture this,” she pauses. “In June of 1941, the Germans take over Jedwabne on their way to Moscow. By doing so, they also freed many Poles imprisoned by the Jewish militia in Jedwabne’s prisons. The released prisoners realize that their families are gone and their possessions lost. The mass graves in the NKVD prisons, full of murdered Poles, are still open, ready to claim more victims. The memories of unspeakable atrocities are painfully fresh in people’s minds….The truth is that in Eastern Poland the Jews committed the crimes against the Poles under the Soviet occupation and the Poles retaliated on the Jews under the subsequent German occupation….In times of catastrophe such as World War II, despair and confusion reins, civilized norms evaporate, and the worst human instincts thrive. By pointing fingers at each other, we all miss the most important lesson of this horrible war.” Konrad turns on the television. CNN News reports from Jerusalem: “And this war in the Middle East. Grandma, those killings, suicide attacks, and constant funerals….There must be a lot of hatred there.” Danusia sadly nods her head. “And we just sit here and watch….After all, what can we do?” Konrad sighs.

In the copy of Szonert’s typescript in the author’s possession a passage crossed out in pencil has Konrad talking to his grandmother about what he sees on CNN. “You know, this one scene sticks in my mind all the time. A Palestinian man with a boy, his son I guess, both hiding against the wall on the street. And then, two shots came from the camera side and hit the father first and the son next. Both of them, the father and the son, were killed instantly while the whole world was watching. The two Palestinians didn’t have any guns.” The author would like to thank Mrs. Miriam Akavia for her courtesy in sharing this work received from its author. What is generally missing from this and other such accounts is that Jews often constituted a disproportionately large number of those deported by order of the NKVD, at least 25 percent and even as many as 40-50 percent, according to some estimates. They also forget that there were no shortage of opportunistic Poles (as well as those who genuinely believed in the Communist idea) willing to do the Soviet bidding – and even including some of the anti-Communist perpetrators of the slaughter at Jedwabne who offered their “services” in defense of the Communist regime. But that of course is not the subject of our present discussion.
37. “A Discussion about Jedwabne in Jedwabne – We are Different People,” Thou Shalt Not Kill – Poles on Jedwabne, op. cit., pp. 297-298. This exchange originally appeared in Wiez, April 2001.
38. Polish News Agency (PAP), 12 April 2001; and Rzeczpospolita, 14 April 2001.
39. “A Discussion About Jedwabne in Jedwabne,” op. cit., pp. 303-304.
40. A 17-year-old student interviewed by Ruta Pragier in the book Zydzi czy Polacy [Jews or Poles] (Warsaw: Oficyna Wydawnicza Rytm, 1992, pp. 199-200) described the atmosphere in that Church in the late 1980s:

I was looking for interesting lectures. I came upon one in the church on Grzybowski Place [All Saint’s Church – LW] – which, I did not then know was one of the oases of antisemitism. Where the question of Jews was concerned I encountered there pronounced enemies….It never entered my head that those who were for independence, Solidarity and democracy – could think that way!…I was astonished that one could be a patriot, and at the same time reject tolerance. The view of these people, their existence, constitute for me a complete turn around of my view of picture of the world. Consequently I stood up and said that this is not true, that what they are saying is nonsense. To that they said: “Listen, no Pole can like Jews.” “What do you mean,” I erupted, “I am a Pole and indeed I like Jews, because I consider that the Jews are an important element in the history and culture of Poland and they made an important contribution to it. Jews should be respected, because like us they survived despite the fact that they were not independent. They preserved their national consciousness – just like we did. It was difficult for them, they suffered like we did and if we regard heroism and suffering in our nation with piety, than they deserve a similar respect.” And there was a horrible outburst…I heard “You know what? If you are a philo-semite than you are a semite.”

This exchange, of course, took place in the Church itself. Ironically, All Saints’ Church, which stood on ground that was a part of the Warsaw Ghetto until August 1942 (when the ghetto was reduced), served as a hiding place for dozens of Catholics of Jewish origin whom the German racial laws had classified as Jews and who survived round-ups concealed in its basement. This rescue effort was organized by Father Marceli Godlewski, the prelate of the church, who before the war was known for his anti-Jewish views.
41. Szczerbiec, 2-3 (March-May 2001). This is the organ of the extra-parliamentary Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski (NOP) [Party of Polish National Rebirth].
42. Wojciech Lemanski “Chrystus w zgliszczach stodoly”[Christ in the remnants of the barn], Wiez (June 2001). Father Lemanski’s crèche in Otwock, stood in sharp contrast to that of Father Jankowski in Gdansk. Both can be seen as extreme metaphors for the reaction of the Catholic clergy to the Jedwabne revelations.
43. Jozef Zycinski, “Banalizacja barbarzynstwa,” Wiez, March 2001. This article also appeared in English translation in the anthology Thou Shalt Not Kill – Poles on Jedwabne, op.cit., pp. 252-257. In his 4 March 2001 radio address Cardinal Gemp took issue with Archbishop Zycinski’s views regarding the search for documents that would mitigate the magnitude of the tragedy.
44. In an interview in Tygodnik Powszechny (25 March 2001) Archbishop Muszynski, who was the first chairman of the Episcopate Commission for Dialogue with Judaism, spoke of the need to assume moral responsibility for the massacre at Jedwabne.
45. See his article in Wprost, 13 May 2001 entitled “Prawda Jedwabnego” [The Truth of Jedwabne]. See also his interview by Monika Olejnik in Gaezta Wyborcza, “Za zbrodnie trzeba przepraszac” [On must ask forgiveness for a crime], 6 March 2001.
46. Some of these priests are known for their outspokenness on other issues as well. Father Obirek, for example, was strongly censured for his suggestion that the veneration of the Pope in Poland was akin to worship of a golden calf.
47. Father Czajkowski was co-author of a stirring open letter to the Jews of Jedwabne calling for Polish expiation and prayer, for which he was reprimanded by Cardinal Glemp. See “Do Zydow w Jedwabnem,” Rzeczpospolita, 13 April 2001.
48. Pawel Paliwoda, “Kto utrudnia dialog – wywiad z ks. Chrostowskim,” Zycie, 10 April 2001. In an address on 5 March 2001 at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw, Father Chrostowski decried Catholic and non-Catholic elements of the media that had displayed the conciliatory attitude toward Jews:

There are among us, circles, connected by family, professional, social and financial ties, that readily speak about and propagate views that Jews like. Far less often are they willing to respect the Catholic and Polish identity and sensitivities. Here I have in mind the group of people linked with Gazeta Wyborcza [the country’s leading liberal daily – LW], Tygodnik Powszechny, Znak and Wiez. But this is not a complete list of titles. To this could be added other “friendly” women’s journals, radio studios and television programs in which debate on Catholic and Polish – Jewish themes takes place on the principle of mutual choice of speakers and mutual adoration. Whoever does not fit the imposed scheme or departs from it, sooner or later become the object of severe criticism or is essentially ignored. The speakers never allow for the full truth of certain essential and important aspects of mutual relations to be spoken of. The dialogue of the church with Judaism is not only meetings and conversations of people of different faiths, but also an internal Church dialogue on the very dialogue itself. If that does not exist or is stifled, then the inter-religious dialogue essentially looses its sense and even leads us astray.

49. This is particularly so since in Poland, anti-Semitism rooted in socio-economic grounds (but which elements of the Church have also fostered) has generally been stronger than that based on traditional Christian theology.

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LAURENCE WEINBAUM is director of research at the Institute of the World Jewish Congress in Jerusalem. He is the author of a monograph on relations between the New Zionist (Revisionist) Organization and the Polish government in the late 1930s, and also co-author of Die Jeckes—Deutsche Juden aus Israel erzaehlen [The Yekkes—Recollections of German Jews in Israel]. He regularly writes on Jewish affairs in Poland and elsewhere in eastern and central Europe. His latest work, published as a WJC Policy Study, is The Struggle for Memory in Poland: Auschwitz, Jedwabne and Beyond.