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Gazeta Wyborcza - IPN Investigation in Szczuczyn

Written by: Agnieszka Domanowska; Originally Published: June 15, 2012 Online *
Copyright Permission Granted By Gazeta Wyborcza

Beaten with Scythes and Hoes, the Jewish Women Did Not Try to Defend Themselves
By: Agnieszka Domanowska

The Jewish women brutally murdered in Bzury, were not the only women from the Szczuczyn ghetto to die in August 1941. Yet another atrocity came to light during the Bialystok IPN's investigation, initiated 71 years after the crime. The perpetrators are probably the same.


This tragedy occurred on a farm near Szczuczyn belonging to Mrs. D. (the IPN prosecutors know her name, but requested that it should not be disclosed ). The circumstances were almost the same as in Bzury: the Jewish women, on loan from the ghetto in Szczuczyn for work in the fields, were taken from the farm and killed - scythes, hoes, sticks and buried on the field.

Who did the beating? Poles, residents of Szczuczyn and surrounding areas. It's already known that at least three of the six perpetrators (who are now dead), were the same ones guilty of the murder of 20 women on a farm in Bzury. Radoslaw Ignatiew, the Bialystok IPN prosecutor who led the long-lasting investigation into the murder in Jedwabne, has now taken up case of the Szczuczyn ghetto. He suspects that the Szczuczyn and Bzury cases were not the only occurrences of Jewish women being murdered.

Jews were free labor. Property owners borrowed women from the ghetto for labor - that was a common practice at the time. Farmers paid the Germans a certain amount for renting people from the ghetto to help on the farm. According to Radoslaw Ignatiew, everybody profited from the deal - the Germans, who received cash, Poles, because they profited from cheap laborers. Including the Jews, who were happy because they could obtain food outside the ghetto.

In the Book of Remembrance of Szczuczyn is a letter by Chaje Sojka Golding dated the 22 July 1947. She wrote to her cousin informing him what had happened in Szczuczyn in August 1941 '' On Tuesday. Farm managers demanded that women working in the fields at harvesting wheat and for work on vegetable gardens. They chose more than 80 women. Gutka Rozental was chosen along with them. Others went willingly in the hope that they may bring back a basket of potatoes. They went and never came back. They were killed, some with scythes on the fields of of wheat, others with hoes, yet other ones in the vegetable gardens''.

It appears that the Bzury crime was not the only one of it type. I have come across files on another occurrence. More women, 11 victims of Jewish origin. They were killed in a field near Szczuczyn, where they were employed. Among the murderers, there are indications that three of them come from Bzury. This case was dropped in March 1950, because some of the perpetrators were dead, while they could find no proof against others. The circumstances of the murders in Bzury seem to indicate that they acted out of racial hatred. There was also the motivation of robbery, says the prosecutor Ignatiew.

One of the state archives still contains a number of cases from Szczuczyn. But that's really a rarity. When, during the 60s came the order to clean up archival assets, it was the turn of the August decrees. The director of one of the regional National Archives, who was supposed to authorize the destruction of the judicial documents, did not agree. He requested courts to keep files on acts covered by the August decree. It is thanks to people like him that files on these penal procedures were kept. The files contain the identities of the perpetrators, as well as witnesses and the circumstances of the crime.

Ignatiew managed to ascertain the names of 22 people, still alive, who used to live in Szczuczyn and Bzury in 1941 and were at least 12-13 years old at the time.

Who were the women? The name of only one victim is known. But it's not known where she was murdered. The women had relatives, acquaintances. It's hard to imagine that no trace was left after such a tragedy. The bad luck consists on the fact that, in many cases, the whole Jewish community had been murdered and, those who could have known anything, went abroad - says Ignatiew. - We are trying to ascertain the personal data of the persons killed. We have, a few times, managed to contact families of the Jewish victims, to inform them that the prosecutor is conducting enquiries into the murders of their relatives.

The women working in the Bzury farm still have not been identified, they were between 15 and 30 years old.

Read as well: Report from the interrogation of the woman in whose farm worked the Jewish women.
Przeczytaj tez: Protokl z przesluchania gospodyni spod Szczuczyna, u ktrej pracowaly Zydwki http://wyborcza.pl/1,76842,11935551,Bili_kosami_i_motykami__Zydowki_sie_nie_bronily.html#ixzz1ycQtz7xK


Testimony of female farm owner on murder of Jewish women

The case is growing day by day. Ignatiew shows two thick volumes containing documents. They contain the report of the interrogation of the female farm owner, who employed the Jewish women. July 1948:

During the German occupation I received Jews, from the ghetto. They worked on my field.

How many times did Jews work on your field? - asks the clerk.

- Frequently, but now I don't remember how many times.

Who looked after the Jews in the ghetto?

-  Jews and Poles. It was always a [German] military police who gave me [people] for work.

Did all the Jews return to the ghetto?

- The Jews always went back from the fields. Except once, they didn't. Jewesses, numbering 11 women, because they were murdered in the fields.

Who participated in the murder, where were they buried?

- I didn't see that. I will only certify that it was at lunchtime. When I was going home with the women. Suddenly some people came on bicycles and sat in the ditch. I don't know them. I know that one of them was Danowski, I don't know his first name. One of them asked me: Are they all Jewesses? I said that two were still in my home. He demanded that I bring them. But these people were drunk. I started to cry and begged them not to take away these Jewesses. To which one of them said: you bitch, you pine for the Jews? You will be the first one to be thrown in the hole. They went to get the two Jewesses from my home and brought them to the field, so I went running after the cows and I met three of the torturers. The women didn't come back. They were eliminated there. One of them told people that he buried the Jewesses."



Copyright 2012 Gazeta Wyborcza

Translated from Polish by: Piotr Wapinski.

* The translation adheres to the online version of the article, which appeared in the June 15, 2012 Edition of Gazeta Wyborcza.

Edited by: Jose Gutstein. All rights reserved.
Permission granted by Gazeta Wyborcza.

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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