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Lenin clue at mass grave site

Some 1,600 Jews in the town of Jedwabne were massacred  

WARSAW, Poland -- Workers have discovered fragments of a Vladimir Lenin statue while uncovering a Jewish mass grave in Poland.

Some historians believe Jews were forced to haul the statue of the Soviet founder there before they were massacred by their Polish neighbours in 1941.

A professor leading the investigation, Witold Kulesza, told the Associated Press on Thursday the statue showed signs of charring. Witnesses have said many victims were burned alive in a barn at the site.

Archeologists have also found skulls, bones and personal effects of victims, who were killed in the northeastern village of Jedwabne in July 1941 after Nazi troops invaded, supplanting the previous Soviet occupiers.

The exhumation is part of a government probe launched after the publication of a book last year that described in detail how Poles -- not Nazi troops -- killed as many as 1,600 Jews in Jedwabne.

Polish-born Jan Gross claimed in his book "Neighbours" that Poles set fire to a barn in Jedwabne after herding all the local Jews inside and that they later buried their bodies in a ditch.

He said his work was based on evidence given by surviving residents and testimony from a post-war trial of the alleged culprits.

Warsaw Rabbi Michael Schudrich said skulls found so far have shown no evidence of bullet wounds. Some historians who dispute details of the pogrom have suggested that such wounds would indicate Nazi troops were responsible for at least some of the killing.

Some historians have suggested Poles acted out of revenge for what they saw as Jewish co-operation with repressive Soviet occupiers, who left the Lenin statue behind when they fled the invading Germans.

Jews objected to the exhumation saying it violates Jewish religious law, but Polish authorities proceeded.

Poland's Institute of National Remembrance, which is investigating the 1941 massacre, said physical evidence is necessary in case any charges are brought against surviving perpetrators.

Under a compromise, workers are to dig only to the first layer where human remains are found. They are to examine and photograph remains, then put them back in place.

Young Polish Jews have been reading prayers during the digging in an effort to minimise desecration of the remains.

Personal effects that could help identify victims are being cataloged and removed.

Schudrich said he had hoped a formal reburial with a religious ceremony could be conducted on Thursday night, but Kulesza said he needed "at least one more day."

• Polish bishops to mark pogrom
May 2, 2001
• Holocaust victims remembered
April 19, 2001
• Europe remembers the Holocaust
January 27, 2001

• Holocaust Memorial Day - January 27, 2001
• Institute of National Remembrance

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