The massacre at koniuchy



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108 Korchak, Plamia pod peplom, 321.

109 Nick Bravin, “In Other Words: Baltic Ghosts,” Foreign Policy, May/June 2009.

110 Dovid Katz, “‘Genocide Industry’ Has Hidden Agenda,” Irish Times, May 30, 2009.

111 “Germany Awards in Vilnius Former Red Guerrilla Featured in Mass Murder Case,” Baltic News Service, www.bns.lt, October 29, 2009.

112 Gordon Brown, “Women of Courage: Rachel Margolis,” The Independent, March 9, 2011.

113 Voices on Antisemitism, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, November 6, 2008. Internet: . Professor Polonsky goes on to state: “One of the issues that we have to understand is that all of the countries of Eastern Europe were subjected to two occupations—a Nazi and a Soviet occupation. For the Poles, the Lithuanians, Latvians, the Ukrainians, they were faced with two enemies, or faced with how to choose between them. The Jews were in a different position. For the Jews, the Nazis were unequivocally enemies, whose goal was to destroy physically Jews in Eastern Europe. Soviets were potential allies. So we’re talking about a very complicated situation in which two totalitarian systems are in conflict, and in which a lot of innocent people on all sides are suffering. And what we need to do is to understand the complexity of these events and show some empathy for all those people—including Jews—caught up in this tragic conflict.”

114 Piotr Zychowicz, “Winni i tak nie przepraszają: Z prof. Anthonym Polonskym rozmawia Piotr Zychowicz,” Rzeczpospolita, September 20–21, 2008.

115 Antony Polonsky, “Introduction” to Margolis, A Partisan from Vilna, 40–42. Polonsky repeated these charges in The Jews in Poland and Russia, vol. 3, 524–25.

116 Antony Polonsky, for example, continues to insist that more than more than 1,000 Jews were killed in Jedwabne. See Polonsky, The Jews in Poland and Russia, vol. 3, 422. The January 2008 issue of History ran a highly charged letter from Joanna Michlic and Antony Polonsky which blatantly misrepresents the findings of the prosecutor of the Jedwabne massacre investigation and historians at the Institute of National Remembrance regarding the number of victims, the respective degree of German and Polish involvement in the crime, and the participation of local Jews in the persecution of Poles during the Soviet occupation. Compare with Paweł Machcewicz and Krzysztof Persak, eds., Wokół Jedwabnego: Studia; Dokumenty (Warsaw: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej–Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu, 2002), vol. 1, 17, 80, 104, 330–31. Polonsky’s approach to many complex issues is equally troubling. For example, he reduces the events in Ejszyszki, where the Home Army attacked a home that harboured a Soviet counter-intelligence officer, to “the Polish AK attacking Jews,” thereby unwittingly conflating Communists and Jews. See Polonsky, The Jews in Poland and Russia, vol. 3, 608. Joanna Michlic’s standard approach is label historians whose views (and facts) she does not agree with as primitive, blame-shifting “ethno-nationalists” (read: “anti-Semites”), who “use a range of strategies to rationalize and justify early postwar anti-Jewish violence and to minimize its cruel nature.” See Joanna B. Michlic, “‘The Past That Will Not Go Away:’ The Polish Historical Debate about Jan T. Gross’s Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz (2006, 2008) and the Study of Early Postwar Anti-Semitism,” Conference Paper, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, March 17–19, 2009. Michlic’s strategy is simply one of attempting to monopolize and control the discourse, and not tolerating any deviation from her own views. (Another example of this approach is her strident review of Gunnar Paulsson’s excellent study Secret City.) On the other hand, as is to be expected of someone who sees everything through the prism of anti-Semitism, this ardent champion of Jan Gross’s methodology has nothing unfavourable to say about Jews who collaborated with Soviet invaders in 1939–41 and with the postwar Stalinist regime. Although Michlic does not allude to, or concede, the possibility of “ethno-nationalist” Jewish historians, her writings are a clear indication that such historians do in fact exist.

117 Glass, Jewish Resistance during the Holocaust, 2–3, 5, 68, 97.


118 According to Kazimierz Krajewski, the foremost authority on the topic, a self-defence group was created in Naliboki in August 1942, at the urging of the Germans, in the wake of a nearby assault on German troops by Soviet partisans, to avoid a threatened “pacification” of this small town by the Germans. After the Belorussian police outpost was closed, the townspeople were given a small quantity of rifles (around 22) and told to guard the town against marauding bands and to ensure the delivery of food quotas imposed on the farmers. The self-defence group did not engage in armed confrontations with the regular Soviet partisans. In March and April of 1943, Major Rafail Vasilevich, a Soviet partisan commander, met with Eugeniusz Klimowicz, the leader of the self-defence unit and clandestine Home Army commander. The Soviets began to exert pressure on the Poles to leave their posts and join the Soviet partisans in the forest, but did not sway Klimowicz. Both sides reached a non-aggression agreement whereby the town and the surrounding settlements were to remain under Polish control. When the self-defence group was summoned to the nearby village of Nieścierowicze to fend off marauders, two of its members were wounded. The local Soviet command did not question the validity of such interventions. (The Soviets also ordered the Bielski group to take food only from specified villages—see Duffy, the Bielski Brothers, 112, 166.) However, the morning of May 8, 1943, a surprise attack on Naliboki was launched by the Stalin Brigade, under the command of Major Vasilevich, with the participation of the Bielski detachment. The Soviets murdered some 130 people, including three women, a teenage boy and 10-year-old child. Most of the victims were actual or presumed members of the self-defence group who were targeted for execution. The town was pilfered and a large part of it, including the church, school, and municipal buildings, was burned to the ground. The townspeople were accused of collaboration with the Germans because, during the assault, a visiting Belorussian policeman had fired a shot at a Soviet commissar. See Krajewski, Na Ziemi Nowogródzkiej, 387–88. See also Komisja Historyczna Polskiego Sztabu Głównego w Londynie, Polskie Siły Zbrojne w drugiej wojnie światowej, vol. 3: Armia Krajowa, 529; Polskie Siły Zbrojne, Armia Krajowa, Drogi cichociemnych: Opowiadania zebrane i opracowane przez Koło Spadochroniarzy Armii Krajowej (London: Veritas, 1954), 133, translated into English as Poland, Home Army, The Unseen and Silent: Adventures from the Underground Movement Narrated by Paratroops of the Polish Home Army (London: Sheed and Ward, 1954), 144; Antoni Bogusławski’s afterword in Łopalewski, Między Niemnem a Dźwiną, 245; Pilch, Partyzanci trzech puszczy, 135; Wacław Nowicki, Żywe echa (Komorów: Antyk, 1993), passim; Wacław Nowicki, “W imię prawdy o żołnierzach AK: List otwarty do prof. A. Hackiewicza,” Słowo–Dziennik Katolicki, August 11, 1993; Zygmunt Boradyn, “Rozbrojenie,” Karta, no. 16 (1995): 127; Piotrowski, Poland’s Holocaust, 102; Boradyn, Niemen–rzeka niezgody, 100–101; Chodakiewicz, ed., Tajne oblicze GL-AL i PPR, vol. 3, 251, 253; Gasztold, “Sowietyzacja i rusyfikacja Wileńszczyzny i Nowogródczyzny w działalności partyzantki sowieckiej w latach 1941–1944,” in Sudoł, ed., Sowietyzacja Kresów Wschodnich II Rzeczypospolitej po 17 września 1939, 277–78, 281–82; Boradyn, Niemen–rzeka niezgody, 100–101; Chodakiewicz, Żydzi i Polacy 1918–1955, 328; Leszek Żebrowski, “Naliboki,” in Encyklopedia “Białych Plam” (Radom: Polskie Wydawnictwo Encyklopedyczne, 2003), vol. 12: 264–69.

119 Musial, ed., Sowjetische Partisanen in Weißrußland, 191. Soviet reports also mention robberies carried out by Kiva (Akiva) Shimanovich, some of them together with Itsek Rubezhevskii, the brother of Boris Rubin (Rubizhewski). Ibid., 201.


120 Entries for many of the partisans mentioned here by name can be found in the website of the Partisans, Ghetto Fighters and Jewish Undergrounds, Internet: < http://www.partisans.org.il>.

121 Piotr Zychowicz, “Bohater w cieniu zbrodni,” Rzeczpospolita (Warsaw), June 16, 2007. Wacław Nowicki also recalled how, in February 1940, local Jews assisted the NKVD in identifying former state officials and military people among the Polish residents for deportation to the Gulag.

122 Nowicki, Żywe echa, 98, 100.

123 Piotr Zychowicz, “Bohater w cieniu zbrodni,” Rzeczpospolita (Warsaw), June 16, 2007.

124 Correspondence from Maria Chilicka, dated March 3, 2004 and February 6, 2005 (in the author’s possession). The reference to women partisans undoubtedly refers to Jewish women since there were very few non-Jewish women in the Soviet partisan movement in this area.

125 Vasilii Chernyshev, a Communist Party apparatchik, was nominated the leader of the Soviet partisans in the Baranowicze district by General Pantelemon Ponomarenko, the first secretary of the Communist Party of Belorussia and later chief of general staff of the partisan movement in Western Belarus. Neither Chernyshev nor Ponomarenko had a military background prior to their appointments to those positions. Chernyshov adopted the nom de guerre of Major General Platon, a military rank he never actually held.

126 This report from May 10, 1943 is reproduced, in Polish translation, in Gasztold, “Sowietyzacja i rusyfikacja Wileńszczyzny i Nowogródczyzny w działalności partyzantki sowieckiej w latach 1941–1944,” in Sudoł, ed., Sowietyzacja Kresów Wschodnich II Rzeczypospolitej po 17 września 1939, 281–82. See also Boradyn, Niemen–rzeka niezgody, 88. The local Home Army commander, Eugeniusz Klimowicz, was charged with various crimes in Stalinist Poland directed at “Fascist-Nazi criminals,” among them with the murder of Soviet partisans. He was brought to trial before a military tribunal in Warsaw in October 1951 and sentenced to death. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. In 1957, after the death of Stalin, his conviction was overturned and the proceeding against him was eventually discontinued for lack of evidence. Klimowicz described the events leading up to the pacification of Naliboki in a petition for clemency, dated May 30, 1956, forwarded to the head of the Supreme Military Tribunal. See letter to: Ob. Prezesa Najwyższego Sądu Wojskowego w Warszawie, sygnatura Akt Sr 749/51. In his petition, Klimowicz mentions that Jews detained in Naliboki were all released unharmed after brief interrogations, including one Chaja Szymonowicz, who had denounced Klimowicz during the Soviet occupation. The reality was that any Polish partisan suspected of conspiring against or engaging in armed confrontation with Soviet partisans during the German occupation was branded a Nazi collaborator in the postwar Stalinist period and libel to put on trial and sentenced to death or a long term of imprisonment for that reason alone. See, for example, Borodziewicz, Szósta Wileńska Brygada AK, 104 n.7, 194 n.6, 200, 260.

Klimowicz’s testimony about the conduct of some local Jews during that period is borne out by other witnesses. A rabble of pro-Soviet Jews and Belorussians came to arrest the Catholic pastor of Naliboki, Rev. Józef Bajko, in September 1939, intending either to hand him over to the Soviet authorities or to possibly lynch him (as had been done in other localities). A large gathering of parishioners foiled these plans, allowing Rev. Bajko to escape before the arrival of the NKVD. See Wierzbicki, Polacy i Białorusini w zaborze sowieckim, 115. When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, reportedly an unnamed priest, who allegedly was known as a notorious anti-Semite, intervened on behalf of Jews who were beset in Naliboki by local bands. See Cholawsky, The Jews of Bielorussia during World War II, 272. Rev. Bajko assisted Jews in other ways during the German occupation and he and his vicar, Rev. Józef Baradyn, were locked in a barn and burned alive in August 1943 on suspicion of helping Jews and partisans. See Wacław Zajączkowski, Martyrs of Charity, Part One (Washington, D.C.: St. Maximilian Kolbe Foundation, 1987), Entry 378.



127 Boradyn, Niemen–rzeka niezgody, 89.

128 The Naliboki massacre is under investigation by the Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation of the Institute of National Remembrance. Anna Gałkiewicz, the prosecutor heading the investigation in the Regional Commission in Łódź, issued summary reports of the investigation on September 5, 2002 and May 15, 2003, titled respectively, “Śledztwo w sprawie zbrodni popełnionych przez partyzantów radzieckich na żołnierzach Armii Krajowej i ludności cywilnej na terenie powiatów Stołpce i Wołożyn” and “Omówienie dotychczasowych ustaleń w śledztwach w sprawach o zbrodnie w Nalibokach i Koniuchach.” These reports are posted online at

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