Online Module: The Holocaust and Fundamental Rights

Doc. 2: Testimonies of eyewitnesses

Bibliography

  • Julius L. Baker, The Destruction of the Jewish Community of Jedwabne, Poland, in: Yizkor book [memorial book] Jedwabne, Jerusalem/New York 1980.

  • Testimony of Szmul Wasersztajn in front of the Jewish Historical Commission in Białystok, 5 April 1945. Source: Jewish Historical Institute (Warsaw), collection no. 152 (301/152). Translation from the Polish original printed in: Jan T. Gross, Neighbors, pp. 16.

  • Testimony of Rivka Fogel. Source: Julius L. Baker [ed.], Yizkor book Jedwabne, Jerusalem/New York 1980, p. 101.

  • Interview with Halina Popiołek, a 13-year-old Polish girl and inhabitant of Jedwabne at the time. Source: Adam Wilma, "Broda mojego syna", in: Gazeta Pomorska, 4 August 2000.

Portrait of Rabbi Julius Baker"The Jewish community came into being two to three hundred years ago, and it ended with the beginning of the destruction of all Jewish presence in Poland. The Jews of Yedwabne were the first to be burned alive - because they were Jews. This was the accomplishment of the Gentile neighbors, the depraved and the defilers of humanity, with the permission of the Nazis, the monsters of history."

Rabbi Julius L. Baker in his article "The Destruction of the Jewish Community of Jedwabne", Yizkor book [memorial book] Jedwabne, Jerusalem/New York 1980.

 

Portrait of Szmul Waserstzajn"On the morning of July 10, 1941, eight Gestapo men came to town and had a meeting with representatives of the town authorities. When the Gestapo asked what their plans were with respect to the Jews, they said, unanimously, that all Jews must be killed. When the Germans proposed to leave one Jewish family from each profession, local carpenter Bronislaw Szlezinski, who was present, answered: We have enough of our own craftsmen, we have to destroy all the Jews, none should stay alive. Mayor Karolak and everybody else agreed with his words. For this purpose Szlezinski gave his own barn, which stood nearby. After this meeting the bloodbath began… Beards of old Jews were burned, newborn babies were killed at their mothers' breasts, people were beaten murderously and forced to sing and dance. In the end they proceeded to the main action--the burning. The entire town was surrounded by guards so that nobody could escape; then Jews were ordered to line up in a column, four in a row, and the ninety-year-old rabbi and the shochet [Kosher butcher] were put in front, they were given a red banner, and all were ordered to sing and were chased into the barn. Hooligans bestially beat them up on the way… Bloodied and wounded, they were pushed into the barn. Then the barn was doused with kerosene and lit, and the bandits went around to search Jewish homes, to look for the remaining sick and children. The sick people they found they carried to the barn themselves, and as for the little children, they roped a few together by their legs and carried them on their backs, then put them on pitchforks and threw them onto smoldering coals."

Testimony of Szmul Wasersztajn in front of the Jewish Historical Commission in Białystok, 5 April 1945. 

 

"The Jews were kept in the hot sun from eleven in the morning until that evening. They selected forty people at a time and sent them to the cemetery where they were forced to dig ditches in which they were buried alive. In the market place the goyim put Lenin's statue on a board, and forced the Jews to carry it and sing Bolshevik songs. They put a big stone on the head of Rabbi Avigdor Bialystocki and made him carry it through the market place. The goyim grabbed Yudke Nadolnie's daughter Gitele, cut off her head and played with it as if it was a ball."

Testimony of Rivka Fogel, who was hiding herself under nearby trees during the pogrom. 

 

"I saw how they ordered young Jewish boys to take off Lenin’s monument, how they were told to carry it around and shout ‘War is because of us’. I saw how they were beaten at the time with rubber truncheons, how Jews were massacred in the synagogue, and how the massacred Lewiniuk, who was still breathing, was buried alive by our people… They chased them all to a barn. Poured kerosene all around. It took but two minutes, but the scream… I can still hear it."

Interview with Halina Popiołek, a 13-year-old Polish girl and inhabitant of Jedwabne at the time.

 

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