While on the way to Gdansk, I find myself contemplating the sites we visited yesterday. We visited several memorial sites where pogroms happened in the Northeast part of Poland. Prior to this trip, I had little knowledge of violence against the Jews other than the ghetto liquidations and the horrors of the extermination and concentration camps. One particular site especially left me thinking, that was Jedwabne. There are conflicting witness reports and research done that question whether the Nazi’s were the perpetrators or were the Poles complicit in the act. Previously, the memorial stone only mentioned the Nazi’s and how they were the ones that murdered the Jews in the pogrom. Recently, the stone was changed just to remember those who were murdered, but no blame was placed on the stone. This is due to research that confirmed that Poles were not innocent in this atrocity. However, it is a really complicated situation. The poles did not have agency, they truly could not make their own decisions in some cases.
This situation really makes me wonder, how can a victim do these horrendous things to another victim? Did those who committed this act want to save themselves from the Nazi’s or was it an act based on deeply rooted antisemitism? The Poles were victims of the Nazi’s and so were the Jews. So, I have a hard time answering the questions in my head. Partly, I believe that the Nazi’s wanted to create a divide between different victims. They did this in the camps by making prisoners functionary in discipline and rewarding this behavior and by having Jewish police officers in the ghetto. During this time people were put into impossible situations and it is definitely hard to understand.