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2016-07-04

70th anniversary of the Kielce Pogrom.

About 200 people marched through the streets of Kielce, as they commemorated the victims of the 1946 Kielce Pogrom. Prayers were said by representatives of various religions.

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Representatives of the Jewish Community of Krakow are laying flowers at the pogrom victims' grave (photo by Krzysztof Bielawski/POLIN Museum) 

During the ceremony, a letter from Prime Minister Beata Szydło was read out, in which she stressed: "In Poland, there is no consent for religious stigmatisation or racism. It is our moral duty and an important element of reconciliation to remind people of the crime committed in Kielce."

The ceremonies were led by Bogdan Białek, a psychologist, journalist and president of the Jan Karski Society. It was mainly due to his efforts that the conspiracy of silence about the pogrom was broken in Kielce.

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Ceremonies in front of the building in which the 1946 pogrom took place (photo by Krzysztof Bielawski/POLIN Museum) 

Bogdan Białek reminded the participants that when he had organised the observances in 2000, only a dozen or so people had come, mostly from outside Kielce.

"Today, there are about two hundred of us, perhaps more. Today, there are even two marches," said Bogdan Białek. "The anniversary is commemorated with numerous conferences. The first was already held in January, and two took place in April and in May. Tomorrow, there will be two more."

His words were echoed by Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, who made a reference to Elie Wiesel's visit to Kielce.

"Elie Wiesel asked whether contemporary Kielce was ready to remember old Kielce. Thanks to you, today, I can say yes," said Rabbi Michael Schudrich. "Perhaps not everyone is here, but there are many more than 20 years ago. This has happened thanks to Bogdan Białek and others."

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A meeting at the pogrom victims' grave (photo by Krzysztof Bielawski/POLIN Museum) 

In an emotional address, Bogdan Białek referred to the growing nationalist sentiment in Poland and other European countries.

"Could the crime of 1946 be repeated? I'm afraid so," said Bogdan Białek. "I wonder who inspires, provokes these young Poles, these patriots who manifest their attachment to the Church and homeland, to 'Sieg Heil', to make the vilest gesture? Who inspires, who provokes perpetrators of beatings and insults of foreigners or immigrants and refugees living in Poland?" [photo] A fragment of the exhibition on the pogrom at the Jan Karski Society's Institute for the Culture of Encounter and Dialogue (photo by Krzysztof Bielawski/POLIN Museum)

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A fragment of the exhibition on the pogrom at the Jan Karski Society's Institute for the Culture of Encounter and Dialogue (photo by Krzysztof Bielawski/POLIN Museum)

Kamil Mrozowicz, who comes from Jedwabne, addressed the gathering.

"I am here because of the need to remember those whose lives were brutally ended," Kamil Mrozowicz said while full of emotions. "I am here, because you are here. Being in my place in Jedwabne, I am often with you. Being in my place without you, I am often alone, while a few people who think as I do are blocked by school, authorities, and other residents."

Miriam Michalska also addressed the gathering in front of the building where the pogrom took place in 1946.

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Miriam Michalska making her speech (photo by Krzysztof Bielawski/POLIN Museum) 

"I am Jewish, I am Polish. I live in Kielce," said Miriam Michalska. "I am not here to hold somebody accountable, but to remember. Memory requires responsibility. I want memory to let us build mutual relations and a better tomorrow."

Author: Krzysztof Bielawski
Source: own information

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