A leadership delegation from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in Poland this week for a series of meetings with senior government officials and Jewish community leaders, joined on Sunday with leaders of the Polish Jewish community and dozens of concerned Polish citizens for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Jedwabne pogrom.
On July 10, 1941, about 350 Jews were murdered by their Polish Catholic neighbors, while the town was under Nazi occupation. Most of the Jews were forced into a barn, which was then set on fire. Some estimates put the number of victims significantly higher. The events of the Jedwabne pogrom were largely unknown until 2001.
“The Nazi regime had no monopoly on murderous anti-Semitic hatred. On this spot, Polish Jews were burned to death by their Polish Catholic neighbors,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO, who is leading the delegation along with Marvin D. Nathan, ADL National Chair. “Some sectors of Polish society today are still struggling with this history. We came to Jedwabne to mourn the victims and to show solidarity with the Jewish community of Poland, which faces rising anti-Semitism.”
Seventy-five years later, anti-Semitism is still very much a concern in modern day Poland. ADL’s Global 100 survey of anti-Semitic attitudes found in 2014 that 45 percent of Polish adults believed a majority of anti-Semitic stereotypes tested. In the 2015 follow-up survey, 37 percent of respondents agreed with a majority of stereotypes. In 2011, vandals painted a swastika and anti-Semitic messages on the Jedwabne memorial, including the messages, “they burned easily,” and “Do not apologize for Jedwabne.”
Since the nationalist Law and Justice government entered office in November 2015, instances of anti-Semitic rhetoric have increased at right-wing political demonstrations. Most notably, an effigy of a Hassidic Jew holding an E.U. flag was burned at an anti-immigrant demonstration in Wroclaw, and, at a pro-government demonstration in Warsaw, a huge banner read: “We demand that the government eliminate Jewish Masonry in Poland. It threatens the Polish people.”
Polish leaders, including President Andrzej Duda and party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, have recently made notable statements condemning anti-Semitism at commemorations of Holocaust-era pogroms.
The Jedwabne ceremony was led by Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich and included remarks by Mr. Greenblatt, Ichak Lewin whose family was murdered in the barn, and Ruth Cohen-Dar, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli embassy in Warsaw. Wreathes were laid by representatives of President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.