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Walesa Condemns Anti-semitism in Move Many Hope Will Be Echoed

June 11, 1990
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The American Jewish Congress has expressed hope that Eastern European political and church leaders will follow the example of Lech Walesa’s recent unequivocal condemnation of anti-Semitism.

“Your clear statement, calling things by their names, is an important contribution to better Polish-Jewish relations, based on truth,” the AJCongress’ Warsaw representative, Stanislaw Krajewski, wrote to the Polish Solidarity leader June 7.

“Your condemnation of anti-Semitism will help in the ‘necessary,’ as you have written, defense against its resurgence,” Krajewski wrote.

The letter was sent on behalf of Robert Lifton, president of the AJCongress, and Henry Siegman, executive director, in praise of Walesa’s statement last week urging that Poles mark the 44th anniversary of the pogrom in Kielce, the worst pogrom of the post-Nazi era.

Walesa proposed that a memorial plaque be erected at the site of the pogrom, which occurred on July 4, 1946. On that day, a crowd of Poles, incensed by a recurrence of the old blood-libel rumors against Jews, attacked the building that housed the Jewish Committee.

Almost all the Jews who were in the building were shot, stoned or hacked to death with axes or other blunt instruments.

In other parts of Kielce, Jews were murdered in their homes or dragged outside and slain in the streets. A total of 42 Jews were killed that day.

Following the Kielce pogrom, 100,000 Polish Jews, more than half of them survivors of concentration camps, fled the country.

The remaining Jewish population was reduced several times afterward when anti-Semitic campaigns purged government positions of Jews.


Walesa issued his statement after anti-Semitic expressions and accusations surfaced in the campaigning for local elections held May 27. It was prominently displayed June 5 in the entire Polish press, including front-page space in leading newspapers.

“Anti-Semitism has not disappeared from our communal life,” the Solidarity leader said. “We have to fight its relies and defend ourselves against its coming back.”

He reminded Poles that “whoever and in whomever’s interest provoked this pogrom, it was our compatriots who did it and they did it on Polish soil.”

Walesa described the Kielce pogrom as “the most mournful ever in the history of relations between Poles and Jews in the last half-century.”

Krajewski responded, “Your words have not only a moral but also a political significance. Alarmingly, many persons try now to use anti-Semitism as an instrument in political battles, represent the number of Jews in ridiculously enormous proportions and perceive an enemy in everyone who has some Jewish ancestors.”

The letter said Walesa’s influence was a buttress against the resurgence of anti-Semitism.

Krajewski said AJCongress hoped that “following the condemnation of anti-Semitism by Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki and yourself, other East European political and ecclesiastical leaders will make statements in a similar spirit.”

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