The Kielce Pogrom

By Anna Williams

In Poland after World War II Anti-Jewish sentiment abounded from civilians to government officials. In the town of Kielce on July 4, 1946 a pogrom was carried out claiming the lives of over 40 Jews and 2 Poles. Events leading up to the pogrom are as follows.

On July 1, 1946 Henryk Blaszczyk, a nine-year-old boy, set out to visit family friends in a neighboring village 25 kilometers (15 miles). He left home without his parents knowing. His parents searched for his all day and declared him missing by midnight. On July 3, when Henryk returned home, he told a story about a man who had hid him in a cellar in Kielce for those days in order to avoid punishment for leaving town without permission.

The next day Henryk´s father reported to the police that Henryk had been held at the Jewish house, the house where Jewish families lived in Kielce. Apparently, when passing this house, his father had asked if it was there that he had been held. The boy confirmed and pointed to a man standing outside and said that he had put him in the cellar. In response, three police patrols were dispatched to the Jewish house. Being in the center of town, this police appearance drew much attention. Crowds began to gather outside the Jewish house and rumors spread that Jews had kidnapped and murdered Polish children. About 100 soldiers were sent to maintain the crowds. However, the only knowledge about the events they gleaned from the crowd, so they too believed that they were dealing with Polish children murdered by Jewish hands.

The pogrom broke out when the soldiers and the policemen entered the Jewish house. They started shooting, killing one Jew immediately and injuring several others. They were ordered outside, where the crowd attacked them and the soldiers looked on. The second phase of the pogrom began at about 12noon when the Ludwikow steel workers arrived from the mill. For the next three hours they killed about 20 more Jews. Neither the military, the secret police commanders, nor the local political leaders from the Polish Workers' Party intervened.

On July 8, 1946 the victims of the Kielce pogrom were buried in the Jewish cemetery in Kielce. Within a few months, civilians, soldiers, and policemen were tried and sometimes sentenced to death for their participation in the pogrom. However, many of the trials were carried out randomly and did not seek the true perpetrators.

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