Polish President Condemns Vandalism of Jewish Massacre Memorial

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski apologized on behalf of people who spray-painted swastikas and slogans on a monument to Jews murdered during World War II.

“Even if this was just simple stupidity or an immature outburst, we should pray that human sensitivity, our Christian sensitivity, was also expressed in the fact that we are able to say and repeat with deep respect -- we’re sorry,” Komorowski said today in Cieszyn, Poland.

The slogans in green paint included “They were flammable” and “I’m not sorry about Jedwabne,” a reference to a massacre in northeastern Poland. Poland’s German occupiers were blamed for the deaths on July 10, 1941 ,until historians discovered that about 40 Poles had herded their Jewish neighbors into a nearby barn and set it alight, killing more than 300 people.

“I don’t think these people represent Polish society, but the event itself is a challenge for Poland,” Michael Schudrich, Poland’s chief rabbi, said in a telephone interview today. “The basic problem to society is not that you have some people willing to desecrate such a monument, but what the good people do, how they react.”

A book by Polish-born Princeton professor Jan Tomasz Gross on the Jedwabne murders, published in 2000, sparked a debate about Polish participation in the Holocaust. An estimated 3 million Polish Jews were killed during World War II, mostly in Nazi concentration camps.

“Non-Jewish Poles also suffered horribly under the Nazis,” said Schudrich. “I’m certain that the vast majority of Poles are appalled by what’s just happened.”

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