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May 25, 2012

the Lopuchowo forest in Poland where 2,000 Jews were executed by the Nazis during WWII

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 8:58 am

This quote is from an article in Jweekly.com about a group of San Francisco Bay Area teens who participated in this year’s March of the Living:

Walking through the Lopuchowo forest near Tykocin in northeastern Poland, Zoe Weitzman imagined she could hear the cries of the 2,000 Jews who were executed there by the Nazis in August 1941. Weitzman, 19, a senior at Los Gatos High School, says she will never forget the experience.

I visited Tykocin in October 1998 on my first trip to Poland.  I was with a private tour guide, who wanted me to visit the nearby Lopuchowo forest after seeing Tykocin.  She told me that this was where the Nazis had executed thousands of Jewish residents of Tykocin.

I thought to myself at the time:  Seriously?  The Nazis wasted bullets when Tykocin was only a short distance from Treblinka where the Jews could have been gassed?  This didn’t make any sense to me.  I didn’t believe it.  So I told my guide that I didn’t want to take the time to see the forest.  “We’ve got to get to Treblinka,” I said. “We’re losing light.”

A few years later, I heard about the small town of Jedwabne in Poland where, just days after the Nazis occupied the town, on July 10, 1941, the Polish residents murdered almost all of the Jews in the town.  Just like Tykocin, the town of Jedwabne had a population that was half Jews and half Catholics.

I purchased the book by Jan Gross entitled Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne and learned the truth about Jedwabne.  The story of what had really happened in Jedwabne had been kept secret for 60 years.  As I read the book, I thought of Tykocin and the Jews who were allegedly shot by the Nazis, only a few miles from the gas chambers of Treblinka.

This quote is from the website jedwabne.net:

In the small town of Jedwabne in Northeast Poland, Jews lived side by side with local Poles for over two centuries; by the outbreak of the Second World War, they constituted more than half of the town’s 2,500 inhabitants. Relations were peaceful for the most part until July 10, 1941 when, just days after the Germans occupied Jedwabne, almost the entire Jewish population of the town was murdered. Beginning in the morning, Jews were chased, beaten and killed with clubs, knives and iron bars. Women were raped; a small girl’s head was cut off and kicked about. Jews were rounded up from their homes and brought to the market square where the town rabbi and others were forced to carry the statue of Lenin and to sing, “The war is because of us.” At the end of the day, all remaining Jews were forced into a nearby barn that was then doused with gasoline and set on fire. Music was played to drown out their cries. No Jewish witnesses were meant to survive, but seven managed to escape.

A memorial plaque that was erected at the site of the barn after the war read: “Here is the site of the massacre where the Gestapo and Hitler’s gendarmes burned alive 1600 Jewish people. 10.VII. 1941.” Such was the official version of history for almost 60 years, until the appearance of the book Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community of Jedwabne, Poland by Jan T. Gross, a Polish-born Professor at NYU.  In the course of his research, Gross discovered that, in fact, it was not the recently arrived Nazis, but local Polish residents who had carried out this massacre. The book, first published in Polish in May 2000, caused a painful and far-reaching public debate. The dispute was fueled by the realization that the book would soon appear in English, making the story widely known beyond Poland’s borders.

Did you catch that?  The Nazis were blamed for burning Jews alive in a barn in Jedwabne, when it was actually the Polish residents of the town who had murdered the Jews.  Did the same thing happen in Tykocin?

Notice the dates of the massacres:  In July 1941, the Jews were killed by the Poles in Jedwabne, but in August 1941, the Jews from Tykocin were killed in the Lupuchowo forest by the Nazis.  What are the chances of that happening?