close window

Extracts (translated) from witness statements, 2000

These are the recollections of a man who was 15 years old in 1941:

'We knew what happened on July 10 in Jedwabne, though our mother told us not to leave the house that day. We heard agonising screams, turning into a quiet lament, and we saw black smoke above the Jewish cemetery, 3 kilometres away as the crow flies.

Two days later the Germans - for whom we all had to work - sent for twenty men to go to Jedwabne. They told us to bring spades. There were three policemen guarding the smouldering ruins of the barn, just next to the cemetery. Others must have been at work there before us: there were heaps of corpses covered with thin layers of sand. The bodies on the top were charred remains, the ones below were scorched, below them they were just grimy, but at the bottom even the clothes were untouched: these had died not by fire but by suffocation.

We dug a trench by the barn, and we buried them. The bodies were so tangled up we couldn't separate them. But people still tried to search them, to find valuables. I found a box with coins in it, and people came running, so the policeman came and searched everyone and took away their finds. Some people got away with it by tucking their finds into their shoes.

The corpses were all Jews who had died not only on July 10 but also earlier, killed in the town, or at the Jewish cemetery. People said some had been made to dig their own graves. It was hot weather and the dogs were already getting at the bodies. It wasn't the first time I'd had to bury someone, but this really got to me. Even now I can't get rid of the nightmare.'

The following is the recollection of another man who was 15 years old in 1941:

'A friend and I, with some other local people, were walking behind the column of Jews. Once the column got near to the barn, they were brutally ordered to enter it, and in many cases were "helped", so to speak, by German soldiers who kicked them, beat them up, and pushed them in. Once in, the big barn door was closed. A military lorry full of soldiers came up at high speed; some of the soldiers jumped down, the rest began handing down metal cans of petrol. The solders on the ground poured the petrol on and around the barn, and set light to it. The barn went up straight away, with leaping flames and smoke. There was a terrible wailing and lamenting from inside.'

close window