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Anti-semitic Violence Reported in Polish City of 1946 Pogrom

An official of the Simon Wiesenthal Center has expressed grave concern over anti-Semitic violence at a folk festival in the Polish city of Kielce last month.

Dr. Shimon Samuels, European director of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, discussed the incident with Deputy Interior Minister Krzystof Kozlowski and government spokesman Henryk Wozniakowski at a meeting here Friday.

Samuels protested the way the local authorities handled an April 29 assault by right-wing thugs at a concert of Klezmer music by a Jewish folk-music group from Vinnitsa in the Ukraine.

The group was performing at an international folk festival in Kielce, some 60 miles northeast of Krakow.

In the incident, a gas grenade was thrown into the theater during the performance, injuring two people. The group’s car was smashed.

According to the Interior Ministry, the Kielce police chief said in his report that the attack was “probably motivated by anti-Soviet feelings.” No arrests were made.

The incident occurred on the same day a New York Times story was filed from Krakow. The Times report was about a Jewish festival, mounted by non-Jews and also replete with Klezmer music, and about lingering anti-Semitic sentiment there.

A Jewish filmmaker walking through the center of Krakow was reportedly asked if he was Jewish and then told by a drunken man, “Then I’ll kill you. You’ve got no right to be here. You’re in my house.”

In the Kielce attack, Samuels noted that eyewitnesses affirmed that the incident was anti-Semitic, and complained that the local law-enforcement officials took no action whatever to find the perpetrators.

“Though the incident may be atypical of current Polish-Jewish relations, it is particularly disturbing in light of Kielce’s history as the site of Poland’s bloodiest post-war pogrom,” Samuels said.

He was referring to the 42 Jewish Holocaust survivors from Kielce, who returned there only to be massacred by local extremists on July 4, 1946. The Jews, gathered at the Jewish Committee in Kielce, were killed by a crowd spurred by rumors of blood libel, a medieval slur claiming Jews murdered Christians for their blood.

The victims of the Kielce pogrom were among the 200 Kielce Jews who survived, out of a prewar Jewish population of 25,000. There are currently 200,500 people living in Kielce.

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