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Gazeta Wyborcza - A Conversation With IPN Prosecutor, Radoslaw Ignatiew

Written by: Anna Bikont; Originally Published: August 28, 2001 Online; August 29, 2001 In Print *
Copyright Permission Granted By Gazeta Wyborcza

Radzilow Was Earlier
-- A Conversation with IPN Prosecutor, Radoslaw Ignatiew
By: Anna Bikont

-- From the time when the Jewish population was herded to the marketplace in Radzilow, until the time when people were burned inside a barn, and also later on, when Jews were murdered near the unused ice-pit, witnesses saw no Germans there, at least no Germans in uniform.


Anna Bikont: On behalf of the IPN, you are managing the inquiry not only into the case of the murder of Jews in Jedwabne, but also in Radzilow. Could IPN reach any of the perpetrators of the crime committed in Radzilow?

Radoslaw Ignatiew, IPN Prosecutor: I have questioned some witnesses who saw the Jews herded in the marketplace and then driven to a barn by Piekna Street on the 7th of July 1941. Their testimonies confirm the information found in the archives. After the war, there were several criminal cases pertaining to the participation of some inhabitants of Radzilow in this crime. We know the name of a person who poured a flammable liquid onto the thatched roof of the barn and then set it afire. A few of the witnesses testified about it. The same person allegedly killed a young Jewish woman who managed to get out of the burning barn. We know that this person most probably still lives and we are in the process of finding where the person lives.

Q: In light of your determinations until now, are the criminal acts in Jedwabne and in Radzilow different, or it is the same "scenario"?

A: The events were very much alike. The Jewish population was first herded in the market and ordered to weed grass. Sometime later, the Jews were driven to a barn and set afire. In both localities, individual persons were also killed in the process.

Q: A dozen or more inhabitants of Jedwabne were jailed after the trial of 1949. They had been sentenced for their participation in the burning of the Jews. Were any people sentenced in the trials concerning Radzilow?

A: From the files of the trials that have been analyzed until now, one could conclude that the culprits from Radzilow were exculpated. But I have a deposition of a witness who claims he had to testify for the benefit of the culprits in two trials, although he knew they had participated in the crime. This witness told me he was afraid of the revenge. He also thought his family would be exposed to danger had he disclosed the whole truth then.

Q: I spoke to an inhabitant of Radzilow who told me that the barn was surrounded by Germans carrying heavy machine-guns. He described to me a place from which he could observe the scene. It was a meadow near Matlak (a river), where he took cows out to pasture. I went there, it was almost a mile away, and he couldn't [possibly] see anything from that place. Do other witnesses, when they talk to a Prosecutor, depart from the truth in the same way?

A: It's quite often that witnesses confabulate, trump up accounts. Sometimes this may be an unconscious act, like completing the gaps in their memory with some news read in newspapers or heard over the radio. For example, when the media informed of some cartridge cases found on the site of the Jedwabne barn, some of the witnesses began to tell they had heard shots. And there was nothing about these shots in the depositions of the eyewitnesses I had questioned earlier.

Q: Did any witnesses with whom you spoke about Radzilow mention that they had seen Germans take part in the crime?

A: It results from the testimonies which I have obtained until now, that from the time the Jewish population was being herded to the marketplace until the time when these people were burned in the barn, and also later on, when Jews were being killed near the unused ice-pit, that the witnesses saw no Germans there, at least no Germans in uniforms, except for one who could take pictures from a balcony at the marketplace. We are checking the information about an earlier visit of Germans to Radzilow, Germans who were supposed to hand over a few rifles to one of the perpetrators.

Q: Is it possible that one could be sentenced now for a crime committed 60 years ago?

A: The war crimes, the crimes against humanity, cannot be proscribed. The IPN Prosecutor's Office's aim is not only to determine the truth and to prosecute the criminals; our goal is also to give, at least moral compensation, to the close relatives of the murdered people. We would like them to see that the Polish State can lay claims for the benefit of its citizens, notwithstanding their ethnicity.

WITNESSES ARE SOUGHT

The IPN Prosecutor, Mr. Radoslaw Ignatiew, appeals to all witnesses who know something about the crime in Radzilow to call the IPN Prosecutor's Office in Bialystok. The phone numbers are the following: (+48.85): a prefix for calling from abroad, (0-85): a prefix for calling from Poland; the numbers: 664-73-71 or 664-71-86. They also may write letters to the following address: IPN (Oddzialowa Komisja Scigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu), postal code 15-637 BIALYSTOK, ul. Warsztatowa 1a, Poland (for: Mr. Radoslaw Ignatiew). The call number of the case: S15/01/Zn.

IPN Prosecutor declares: "I will contact, in person, all persons who declare they know important information about the Radzilow case. The privacy of these persons, their names, addresses and other personal data, will be protected under the law as the secret information of the inquiry. I guarantee," said Prosecutor Ignatiew, "that this information will not be disclosed in public."


Copyright 2001 Gazeta Wyborcza


Translated from Polish by: David M. Dastych.

* The translation adheres to the printed version of the article, which appeared in the August 29, 2001 Edition of Gazeta Wyborcza.

Edited by: David M. Dastych and Jose Gutstein. All rights reserved.
Permission granted by both Gazeta Wyborcza and Anna Bikont.

IPN = National Remembrance Institute in Poland. It is the agency, with the support of the Polish government, that is in charge of investigating the crimes in Radzilow and Jedwabne.

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