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July 14, 2016 1:06 pm

Polish Education Minister Denies Pogroms Against Jews

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Polish Education Minister Anna Zalewska appeared to deny Polish responsibility for two massacres of Jews. Photo: Adrian Grycuk via Wikimedia Commons.

Polish Education Minister Anna Zalewska appeared to deny Polish responsibility for two massacres of Jews. Photo: Adrian Grycuk via Wikimedia Commons. – Polish Education Minister Anna Zalewska has come under fire for remarks appearing to deny Polish responsibility for two massacres of Jews, one during the Holocaust and the other after the end of World War II.

Zalewska had addressed the Jedwabne massacre of 1941, during which Poles burned alive more than 300 Jews inside a barn, and the Kielce massacre in 1946, in which 42 people were shot by Polish police because of a false blood libel accusation. The anniversaries of both pogroms were observed in Poland last week.

For many years, Poles tended to avoid discussing these pogroms, and when they did address them, they denied that Polish antisemitism had been a motive and instead blamed the Germans for the massacres. But the book Neighbors, published in 2000 by Polish-American sociologist Jan Tomasz Gross, began to change Polish perspectives on the issue, creating greater soul-searching in Polish society and leading to official state apologies for the pogroms.

But when Zalewska was asked about the two pogroms by a journalist in an interview on the public broadcaster TVN, she said that ”Jedwabne is a historical fact that has led to many misunderstandings and very biased opinions.”

When the journalist retorted that “Poles burned Jews in a barn,” Zalewska responded, “That’s your opinion.”

The head of Never Again, an anti-racism watchdog group, told the Associated Press on Thursday that it is “appalled by those comments which amount to denial of the historical truth about anti-Semitic pogroms.”

Former Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski tweeted that if the government of Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo “doesn’t fire Zalewska, then nobody should be surprised if her government is considered ‘Judeo-skeptic.'” Sikorski was referring to several members of the populist ruling party, Law and Justice, who have made controversial statements pandering to extreme nationalists.

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  • Steve Zupcic

    The current right-wing Polish government is just dripping with crap like this. There had been some attempts at coming to terms with their history of anti-Semitism and their role in the Shoah, but like right-wing governments everywhere, they seem to be crawling back into their hole of denial again.

  • Stefan

    Actually, the research done by jan Gross that led him to blame Poles for the events at Jedwabne has been soundly challenged to the point where historians are now calling him a fraud. The only involvement of Poles that has been admitted and apologized for in the past for that event is the forced involvement of Poles. The ones doing the forcing were the German death squads, that had wiped out and murdered the residents of hundreds of Polish villages during the prior two years of German occupation.

  • Minister Zalewska’s statements were outrageous indeed, and it’s shameful for us, Poles, to have such education minister. (There are loud calls for her resignation in Poland but there’s zero chance that the ruling party will do anything to her.) However, I’m sad to see that the Algemeiner did a shoddy job in this news brief: Perhaps the most glaring mistake is the suggestion that Poles “blamed the Germans” for the Kielce massacre, which happened in 1946, when the Germans were long gone. Likewise, for the case of Jedwabne in 1941, it is jarring that not even a few words are said about the obvious role of Germans in July 1941 in what used to be the Soviet-occupied Eastern Poland… Other then that, I’m glad to see the idiot Zalewska widely condemned for her outrageous statements!

  • Rita Crespi

    First of all, this dim bulb should interview some of the Polish survivors of the Holocaust. Where is she getting her information? The Department of Denial?

    • Stefan

      You mean the author of the article that falsely claims Poles were responsible for Jedwabne?