The Polish foreign minister has asked the Jewish community for forgiveness for the Kielce Pogrom of 1946, which was an “act of Polish anti-Semitism,” according to a letter he wrote to the World Jewish Congress.
“The new democratic Poland deeply regrets and mourns all the injustice suffered by the Jewish people,” Dariusz Rosati also said in the letter. “In 1996, we shall shed tears over the victims of the infamous Kielce Pogrom, which was committed 50 years ago during the chaos of the Polish civil war.”
Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, said, “This is an important development in Poland’s confrontation with its history, leading to a more honest dialogue in Polish-Jewish relations.”
Kielce, a southern Polish city that had a Jewish population of 24,000 at the outbreak of World War II, was virtually eliminated during the Holocaust. When the Soviet army captured Kielce in January 1945, only two Jews remained.
Polish anti-Semitism was intense in the mid-1940s, and rumors spread that masses of Jews would soon return to claim their former houses and belongings. It was also rumored that the blood libel, the false accusation that Jews murder Christian children and drain their blood for ritual use, was taking place.
In early July 1946, a mob attacked and massacred 42 Jews and wounded about 50 more. The event, which touched off a mass Jewish migration from Central and Eastern European countries, ended the 1,000-year history of the Jews of Poland.
The foreign minister said in the letter, “For centuries, we have benefited from the contribution of the Jewish community living in Poland. They have enriched our economy, our culture and our social life.” He said his country was committed to “solving problems regarding restitution of former Jewish property in present-day Poland.”
“We shall seek the just and proper solution to this important issue,” Rosati said. “To all those who wish to reclaim their Polish citizenship, we extend our friendship and we offer assistance.”