Wąsosz pogrom

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The Wąsosz pogrom was the World War II mass murder of Jewish residents of Wąsosz in German-occupied Poland, on 5 July 1941. The massacre was carried out by local Polish residents without participation of Germans.

Circumstances surrounding the pogrom

When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, the village of Wąsosz (Podlaskie Voivodeship) was taken by the Germans in the second week of the war.[1] At the end of September, in accordance with the German–Soviet Boundary Treaty, the area was transferred by the Nazis to the Soviet Union.[1]

The Soviet Union invaded Poland from the East two weeks earlier, on 17 September 1939, pursuant to the secret protocol of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The Red Army overran 52.1% of territory of Poland with over 13,700,000 inhabitants.[2] The Soviet occupation zone included 5.1 million ethnic Poles (ca. 38%),[2] 37% Ukrainians,[2] 14.5% Belarusians,[2] 8.4% Jews,[2] 0.9% Russians and 0.6% Germans.[2] There were also 336,000 refugees who escaped to eastern Poland from areas already occupied by Germany – most of them Polish Jews numbering at around 198,000.[2]

Following the Nazi German invasion of the Soviet Union, German Wehrmacht re-entered Wąsosz on 22 June 1941.[1] The Jews of the town, at that time, were 40% of the town's population some 500 people.[3]


On the night of 4 and 5 July 1941, a small group of men armed with axes and iron clubs murdered several dozens of the Jewish inhabitants of Wąsosz. The killings were performed in a brutal manner, regardless of the victims' age or sex.[4] The corpses of the murdered Jews were thrown into a large pit that was dug out side the town.[3] According to the Institute of National Remembrance's investigation, the number of victims is at least 70.[5][6] According to a report date 14 July 1941 by German security division 221/B "After the Russian withdrawal, the Polish populace of Wąsosz filled a barn with Jews, and killed them all before the German force entered [the town]".[3]


Menachem Finkielsztejn, a resident of Radziłów, described in a post-war testimony how Poles from Wąsosz arrived in Radziłów on 6 July saying that "It was immediately known that those who came had previously killed in a horrible manner, using pipes [?] and knives, all the Jews in their own town, not sparing even women or little children". However, they were chased away by the local townfolk of Radziłów, who then massacred the Jews of Radziłów on 7 June, killing the entire community except for 18 survivors.[7][8][9] According to Andrzej Żbikowski the townfolk of Radziłów drove away the Wąsosz killers so that they could kill and steal the property of the Jews for themselves.[4]

Fifteen surviving Jews remained in the town until 1 July 1942, when they were moved to the Milbo estate where some 500 Jews were employed in various works. In November 1942 the survivors were moved to the Bogusze transit camp and from there onward to Treblinka extermination camp and Auschwitz concentration camp.[1]

In 1951, Marian Rydzewski was tried and acquitted for participating pogrom before a communist court.[10][11][12]

IPN investigation

The crimes committed in Wąsosz were investigated by Institute of National Remembrance of Poland,[13] under the direction of the IPN prosecutor Radosław Ignatiew who earlier investigated the atrocities in Jedwabne.[14]

In 2014, Polish Jewish leaders were reportedly divided regarded exhumation of the bodies of the Jewish victims. Some, such as Poland's chief rabbai Michael Schudrich are opposed due to the dignity of the dead. Others, such as Piotr Kadicik the president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, support the exhumation.[10][15]

In 2015, while on vacation, Ignatiew was removed from the investigation and replaced with Malgorzata Redos-Ciszewska. The exhumation was not carried out, and the investigation was closed in 2016. The IPN did not identify any additional perpetrators beyond two Polish men sentenced for their actions shortly after World War II.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d Abraham Wein, ed. (1989). Pinkas hakehillot Polin. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem. Retrieved 17 March 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Trela-Mazur, Elżbieta (1998) [1997]. Włodzimierz Bonusiak; Stanisław Jan Ciesielski; Zygmunt Mańkowski; Mikołaj Iwanow (eds.). Sovietization of educational system in the eastern part of Lesser Poland under the Soviet occupation, 1939-1941 [Sowietyzacja oświaty w Małopolsce Wschodniej pod radziecką okupacją 1939-1941]. Kielce: Wyższa Szkoła Pedagogiczna im. Jana Kochanowskiego. pp. 43, 294. ISBN 978-83-7133-100-8.. Also in: Trela-Mazur 1997, Wrocławskie Studia Wschodnie, Wrocław.
  3. ^ a b c Bender, Sara (2013). "Not Only in Jedwabne: Accounts of the Annihilation of the Jewish Shtetlach in North-eastern Poland in the Summer of 1941". Holocaust Studies. 19 (1): 1–38. doi:10.1080/17504902.2013.11087369. S2CID 142940545.
  4. ^ a b Shared History, Divided Memory: Jews and Others in Soviet-occupied Poland 1939-1941, edited by Elazar Barkan, Elizabeth A. Cole, Kai Struve, essay authored by Andrzej Zbikowski, pages 349-350, Leipziger Universitätsverlag
  5. ^ a b Polish Institute Stops Investigation Into WWII Murder of 70 Jews, JPost (JTA), 14 March 2016
  6. ^ Podlaskie: IPN umorzył śledztwo ws. mordu Żydów w Wąsoszu w 1941 r.
  7. ^ Testimony of Menachem Finkielsztejn, Jewish Historical Commission, 27 June 1945, L.p. 72
  8. ^ The Holocaust: Europe, the World, and the Jews, 1918 - 1945, Norman Goda
  9. ^ Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz, Jan T. Gross, page 42
  10. ^ a b Wasosz Pogrom Mass Murder Investigation Sharply Divides Jewish Leaders, 5 October 2014, NBC News
  11. ^ Antisemitism: An Annotated Bibliography, Sara Grosvald, page 180
  12. ^ The Rise and Fall of Jewish Communities in Poland and Their Relics Today: District Bialystok, page 224, Arnon Rubin, Tel Aviv University press
  13. ^ (in Polish) Sprostowanie do artykułu redaktor Anny Bikont "Pięć lat po Jedwabnem" zamieszczonym w "Gazecie Wyborczej" z dnia 4-5.03.2006 r.
  14. ^ (in Polish) "Śledztwo w sprawie zbrodni na Żydach w Jedwabnem zostanie prawdopodobnie umorzone do końca marca" Informacyjna Agencja Radiowa, 2003-01-21
  15. ^ Polish Jews Split Over Plan to Exhume Victims of 1941 Massacre, Haaretz (JTA), 18 September 2014

See also