Jews mixed on honoring Polish rescuers


ROME, June 21 (JTA) —A new plaque in Warsaw commemorating Polish Catholics who saved Jews during World War II is the first step in a larger project to memorialize all Poles who rescued Jews during the war.

Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek and Cardinal Josef Glemp unveiled the plaque this week on the outer wall of Warsaw’s All Saints Church.

Plans are being made to erect a larger monument inside the church listing the names of all Polish rescuers.

The monuments come amid an intense debate over Polish behavior during the Holocaust, touched off by the publication last year of the book “Neighbors” by Jan Gross.

The book details how local Poles — not Germans — brutally massacred 1,600 Jews in the village of Jedwabne in 1941.

Jewish reaction has been mixed to the new plaque honoring the Righteous Poles and the announcement of plans for the monument. Many fear the honor could be manipulated to whitewash Polish anti-Semitism.

“My feelings are ambivalent,” a board member of the Union of Polish Jewish Communities said. “It is good to honor those Righteous Poles. At the same time, this church has been the scene of anti-Semitic activities. Anti-Semitic books are on sale in the bookshop in its basement.

“I do not trust those who are involved in the project,” he added. “I am afraid that the Righteous are treated as a veil that would cover the shameful pages of Polish history.”

He noted that Catholics who saved Jews in Jedwabne were forced to leave town after the war because of their neighbors’ hostility — adding that even in recent weeks at least one Pole who helped Jews left Jedwabne.

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