Ceremony marks 71st anniversary of Kielce pogrom

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — Jews, Christians, Muslims and Buddhists prayed together at the gravesite of the victims of the 1946 Kielce pogrom, marking 71 years since non-Jewish neighbors killed 37 Jews who had returned home after surviving the Nazis.

“We are here to say that we remember and we will not let such excesses happen again,” Michał Sobelman, a spokesman for the the Israeli Embassy in Poland, said Tuesday at a ceremony organized by the Jan Karski Society, a group named for the Polish underground figure who delivered news about the genocide of Europe’s Jews during World War II.

The ceremony was attended by local residents and visiting clergy, including Imam Abdul Jabbar Koubaisy, secretary general of the Islamic League in Poland; Michael Schudrich, the chief rabbi of Poland, and Michal Czernuszczyk, a Buddhist monk representing Uji Mikolaj Markiewicz, abbot and spiritual leader of the Kannon Zen Center in Warsaw.

Students from schools in Kielce, a city in south-central Poland about 115 miles from Warsaw, read the names of the victims in a ceremony held next to the building where the pogrom had occurred and sang a lullaby in Yiddish dedicated to the children who were killed. Three non-Jews also were killed in the pogrom.

Schudrich thanked the youngsters, stressing that the young generation gives him “a lot of hope.”

Separate commemorations were organized by the local government. At noon, Kielce Mayor Wojciech Lubawski and a representative of President Andrzej Duda laid a wreath at a house where the pogrom took place.

“Innocent people have been killed and it is our duty to remember,” Lubawski told journalists.

The pogrom, in July 1946, took place after some 200 Jews, many of them former residents of Kielce, returned from Nazi concentration camps, the Soviet Union and places where they took refuge. The city had been cleared of its Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

It was sparked by a rumor based on a false report that Jewish residents of the town had kidnapped a Christian boy. A crowd attacked Holocaust survivors who lived in a building at Planty Street.

Right-wing organizations in Poland have asked the Polish Institute of National Remembrance to open an investigation into the incident, which they say was not inspired by anti-Semitism.

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