The Polish Anti-Defamation League (RDI) is suing Argentina’s Pagina12 website over an article titled Rostros familiares (Familiar Faces) about the Jedwabne massacre, which the RDI claims included a picture, taken posthumously, of a group of partisans who fought against the Soviet-supported Polish government and died in 1950, Radio Poland reported Saturday.
The Jedwabne pogrom was committed by a group of at least 40 Poles on July 10, 1941, and resulted in the murder of at least 340 Polish Jews of all ages, who were locked in a barn and set on fire. In 1949, the Polish Communist government tried the culprits for treason and murder. Since then, Polish officials have blamed the Germans for instigating the massacre, but Jewish survivors have insisted that the Polish murderers were happy to carry out those murders all by themselves.
The RDI insists that the website’s connecting the pogrom with communist-era independence fighters is “manipulation” and “against the Polish nation and the good name of Polish soldiers.”
RDI accused Pagina12 of an attempt to “confirm Polish anti-Semitism to its readers” and, while at it, demonstrated “huge ignorance about history, for which it should officially apologize to all Poles.”
It appears that Poles are convinced the world owes them an apology for their collaboration with the Nazis as well as for the murders of Jews they initiated themselves.
“One of the most disturbing elements of this story,” writes Federico Pavlovsky in Pagina12, was that those murderers “were men and women of all ages, and of the most diverse professions. Good citizens. And what the Jews saw, to their greatest horror and bewilderment, the last thing they saw – were only familiar faces.”
“They saw their own neighbors turned into volunteer killers. An example of the mob fury […] eliminates the limits and individual responsibilities,” Pavlovsky notes, citing various reports that the Jedwabne people of the postwar period knew perfectly well that the Jews of the village had been murdered by their neighbors during the war, and not by the Nazis.
The Polish Anti-Defamation League would have none of that. “This is the first court proceeding in which we will use the new law,” the RDI announced, referring to a law meting out jail terms of up to three years to anyone who accuses Poland of being complicit in the Holocaust or other crimes against humanity during World War II and the communist-era.
In Poland, the new rules are seen as a way of fighting the use of the phrase “Polish death camps,” which many say implies the country’s involvement in the Holocaust. Poland’s ruling conservatives say such phrases distort history.
Of course, the expression “Polish death camps” was the title of a 1944 article by Polish resistance fighter Jan Karski published in the American magazine Collier’s.