Extermination of Jews by Nazis in the Polish Territories

The scale of the crimes conducted by the Nazis on Polish citizens of Jewish descent in World War II, as well as the need to base contemporary Polish-Jewish dialogue on reliable historical knowledge, provide the justification for the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) to take up research on issues connected with the Holocaust.

Research and documentation
 
The research and documentation project on "The extermination of Jews in Poland" concentrates on three major aspects:
  • the activities of the Polish Underground in response to the extermination of Jews;
  • the attitude of the Polish Underground press to the Jewish question during the German occupation;
  • the influence of the Holocaust on Polish-Jewish relations.
Response of the Polish Underground State to the extermination of Jewish population
 
The basic aim is to provide a scholarly review of the documentary evidence relating to the activities of ωegota - the Council of Aid to Jews, and of the units of the Delegation of the Government of Poland which cooperated with it. The study will also include documents relating to individual acts of help extended to Jews outside the structures of the Polish Underground. This is achieved by:
  • creating a bank of information on archival records, recollections and biographical materials, concerning the activities of Żegota;
  • producing a list of people who cooperated with ωegota, and a list of Jews who received its aid and/or were saved by Żegota;
  • compiling a list of initiatives mounted to help Jews, which can be verified by reference to documentary evidence;
  • compiling and publishing a selection of source materials concerning Żegota;
  • supporting the initiative of the "Committee for the Commemoration of Poles who saved Jews", whose task is to accumulate documentation and witnesses' relations about unregistered cases of providing help for Jewish people.
These tasks will be implemented with the help of the following source materials:
  • the legacy of the Polish underground military and civil authorities and the dispersed recorded recollections (including those held by the Archive of Modern Records (AAN), the Peoples' Movement Historical Institute, the Polish Institute and General Sikorski Museum in London and the Polish Underground Movement Study Trust in London, the Hoover Institute in Stanford, the Eastern Institute in Warsaw);
  • the documents kept at the so-called Ignacy Schwarcbart Archive, and the documentary evidence of aid financed by Jewish centres abroad, which was transmitted via the Delegation of the Government of Poland and Żegota (archives in London and the United States - the World Congress of Jews, the American-Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the American Bund);
  • the accounts by Jews who were saved and by people who provided assistance to them (from the collections of the Jewish Historical Institute as well as the Israeli Institute of Remembrance Yad Vashem in Jerusalem);
  • documents held by Jewish Historical Institute relating to the "honorary courts" (internal arbitration procedures) of the Central Committee of Jews in Poland.
 
The Polish Underground press and the Jewish question during the Germany occupation
 
The aim is to compile bibliographies of items in the press concerning the fate of the Jewish population. The results of these archival inquiries will be made available on the IPN's web-site. The goal of the inquiry is to illustrate a varied attitude of given political groupings of the Polish Underground with regard to the Holocaust.
 
Influence of the policy of the German occupation authorities with regard to the Jews on Polish-Jewish relations. The scope of collaboration
 
The basic aim is to create a data base of terror acts against Jews in which the Polish population participated. The data base will have a division into periods, areas and types of hostile behaviour.
This topic will be pursued with the help of the source materials, through the investigation of files and court documentation relating to war criminals and collaborators (from the collection of the Head Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation) as well as other documentary sources such as German and Soviet wartime courts.
 
Educational activities
 
Besides academic research and work on the documents, the Public Education Office is planning activities of an educational nature, such as a direct participation in teaching history of the Holocaust in Polish schools.
To this end, the Office has established links with institutions like the Ministry of Education, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, the International Youth Centre in Oωwi꣩m and the Jewish Historical Institute.
Assistance in the production of a detailed strategy for these activities was provided by the international conference "Dissemination of knowledge on the Holocaust and the martyrdom of nations - current status and future plans" which took place in Poland, in Duszniki on 17-19 January 2001 and was co-organised by the Institute of National Remembrance.
 
Publication projects

'The Katzmann Report'

The Katzmann Report is one of the most important testimonies relating to the extermination of Polish Jews. It is a report of SS-Gruppenfuehrer Fritz Katzmann, entitled "Loesung der Judenfrage im Distrikt Galizien" submitted on June 30, 1943 to the SS and police chief F. W. Krieger in Cracow The Report was published in German and Polish. A Polish translation of the report had already been published in the 1950s, but with the censors taking out references on the communist underground, and without a scholarly edition that came with the contemporary edition. The present edition is furnished with a scholarly introduction and extensive footnotes.

Collection of studies and source materials regarding 'Jedwabne'

The planned volume, under the provisional title Jedwabne. Documents, Inquiries, Analyses will contain a selection of documentary sources on the crimes committed against Jewish inhabitants of the towns of Jedwabne and other townships in the Białystok region in the summer of 1941.
The basic aim of the publication will be to reconstruct the background, causes and true course of the tragic events, which came to pass in Radziłów and Jedwabne. Establishing the historical truth, whatever it may be, is an essential precondition of a sincere Polish-Jewish dialogue. That is the purpose to be served by the volume which is now being prepared by the IPN. The volume will contain:
  • investigation and court materials, both from 1949-1953 and the 1967-1974;
  • statements taken from Jews who were saved;
  • German and Soviet documents;
  • materials belonging to the Polish Underground State.
The volume will be supplemented with:
  • historical studies regarding Polish-Jewish relations in the Białystok region in the inter-war period and under Soviet occupation in 1939-1941;
  • a chronology of events regarding the "Jedwabne question" (information on existing Polish publications on the murder in Jedwabne);
  • an analysis of the court proceedings of 1949 and the investigation of 1967.
The planned date of publication of the Polish text is the second half of 2002. An English version is also anticipated.

Collection of studies and source materials surrounding The Żegota organisation

The collection of documents will contain a selection of various source materials highlighting the complexity and tragedy of the situation of the Jews who hid on the "Aryan side" and the problems encountered by Poles who brought them help.

The book will contain not only documents speaking of numerous cases of blackmail, extortion, denunciations, the activities of German agents and the Polish Policja Granatowa (so-called Navy-Blue Police), the repressions against people and institutions bringing aid to Jews. In its overall conception, the volume is to reveal the fullest possible catalogue of typical situations with which those who provided assistance and shelter.

The backdrop to the presentation of the fate of individuals, and both the smaller and/or more spectacular demonstrations of solidarity and help extended to the Jews who were being hunted down and murdered will be provided by the official documents, press statements, and the published opinions of influential personages, with a view of revealing the atmosphere of those years: the climate of fear and terror, the daily dangers that could not be anticipated, the economic hardship, the occupant's policy towards the Polish and Jewish populations which aimed at stirring up deep antagonisms towards one another, and finally the varied attitudes of the main Polish underground groupings to the question of helping the Jewish population.