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Poland erects Jewish memorial

JEDWABNE, Poland -- A momument has been erected to the memory of Jews massacred by their Polish neighbours in the Polish village of Jedwabne.

The large concrete and wood monument was put in place on Saturday, days before official ceremonies commemorating the 60th anniversary of the crime.

The new monument replaces a smaller one built in the 1960s blaming "Gestapo and Nazi soldiers" for the killing and burning alive of 1,600 Jews in the village in 1941.

In March, that monument was removed after a national debate about Poles' role in the massacre was sparked by the publication last year of "Neighbours," a book by Jan Tomasz Gross, a Polish Jewish emigre.

The monument stands in the middle of a large patch of grass, lined by granite stones that outline the walls of the barn where the Jews were burned on the outskirts of Jedwabne, some 190 kilometers (118 miles) northeast of Warsaw.

Charred wooden planks symbolising a burned Jewish gravestone are at the center of the large concrete monument. Around the wood is the new inscription and the Jewish prayer for the dead.

The new inscription, in Polish, Hebrew and Yiddish reads: "In memory of the Jews of Jedwabne and surrounding areas, men, women, and children, fellow-dwellers of this land, murdered and burned alive at this site on 10 July 1941. Jedwabne, July 10, 2001."

Jewish organisations, which protested the original inscription, were also disappointed that the new monument, while no longer blaming the crime on the Nazis, failed to mention that the Jews were killed by their non-Jewish neighbours.

Because of the solemn nature of Tuesday's ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the killings, there will be no official unveiling of the monument, officials said.

President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who has promised an apology for the massacre, will lead the commemorations attended by some 3,000 people, including families of the victims and top Polish officials.

Poland's National Remembrance Institute is investigating the massacre but it will not complete its work in time for the anniversary as originally planned.

Gross's book alleged that people living in Jedwabne had been responsible for the massacre of 1,600 local Jews during World War II.

Neighbours says that a mob butchered much of the local Jewish population before rounding up the rest in a large barn which was then set alight.

Post-war evidence had always indicated that German Nazis had been directly responsible for the killings during their occupation of Poland.

Polls show 50 percent of people see no need to apologise for the massacre while a separate survey revealed that one-third of Poles doubt that villagers were involved in the killings.

Poles suffered badly under the Nazi occupation, with a fifth of its population dying.

One Jedwabne town councillor added: "People forget Jews were also saved by Poles."

• Jedwabne Tragedy
• Institute of National Remembrance
• Jews in Poland
• Polish Institute of National Remembrance

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