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Old crimes found against Polish Jews

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Old crimes found against Polish Jews

By Monika Scislowska, Associated Press, 11/3/2002

WARSAW - Poles committed wartime crimes against Jews in at least 24 places, a government researcher said yesterday.

Pawel Machcewicz, the researcher, has edited a report, ''Around Jedwabne,'' which goes on sale in bookstores tomorrow. It follows findings that Poles carried out a massacre that had hitherto been attributed to the Nazis.

''It brings to light information that was so far buried in the archives and puts the facts in a broad perspective, reflecting all the complexity of the events,'' Machcewicz said of ''Around Jedwabne.''

While the survivors named dozens of victims and perpetrators, Machcewicz said it was hard to establish figures for the number of Jews killed by Poles because of conflicting testimony and a lack of evidence.

Two years ago, a government institute began investigating the persecution of Jews by Poles in northeastern Poland, after a Polish historian, Tomasz Gross, published a book asserting that Poles murdered as many as 1,600 of their Jewish neighbors in the village of Jedwabne. Previously, Poland had laid the massacre to German forces.

The report led to soul-searching among Poles.

The investigation by the Institute of National Remembrance put the number of victims at Jedwabne as high as 1,000, Machcewicz said. Officials had suggested the number could be lower.

In compiling their report, researchers dug out records from investigations dating from 1946 to 1958, from trials, and from translated written testimonies that Jewish survivors gave to a history commission.

Survivors told of crimes from robbery to pogroms across northeastern Poland in the weeks after the Nazi invasion in 1939. In most places, the aggression against Poland's Jews was planned and inspired by the Nazis, but not everywhere, Machcewicz said.

The report also draws on the records of 60 investigations and trials in the years after the war, when Poland came under communist rule.

At that time, 93 Poles were charged with crimes against Jews in 23 locations. Seventeen people were convicted and received sentences ranging from prison terms to the death penalty. One was executed.

''The facts were not known at the national scale because there was no free press in Poland then and no papers wrote about them,'' Machcewicz said.

This story ran on page A18 of the Boston Globe on 11/3/2002.

© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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