(JTA) – Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski asked for forgiveness at a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the Jedwabne massacre.
Sunday’s ceremony marked the 1941 pogrom in the Polish town where at least 340 Jews were murdered. Most were burned to death in a barn.
"Today, Poland can still hear the never-fading cry of its citizens," Komorowski said. "Once again, I beg forgiveness."
Also Sunday, Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich recited the Mourners’ Kaddish at a monument to the massacre victims.
"Holocaust survivors view Jedwabne as a symbol of the widespread, but little acknowledged, collaboration by the local population in the countries occupied by the Nazis in the slaughter and the plunder of the Jews during World War II," Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said in a statement. "The wholesale participation by their fellow citizens — their neighbors — in the persecution of the Jews is very much neglected and still largely suppressed in most of the European nations who were conquered by or allied with the Nazi regime. The Holocaust was not solely a German affair.
"The ceremonies today at Jedwabne is a welcome and important step in the confrontation with the truth by the Polish nation," he said.
Jedwabne Mayor Krzysztof Moenke did not attend the memorial ceremony, which Steinberg called a "disgraceful failure." Steinberg said that Moenke’s actions show "that much remains to be learned and taught."