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Polish Mayor Resigns Over Memorial

August 6, 2001

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ The mayor of a town where Poles murdered hundreds of their Jewish neighbors in 1941 said Monday that he has resigned because town councilors failed to support efforts to memorialize the wartime massacre.

The resignation of Jedwabne’s mayor, Krzysztof Godlewski, follows the July 10 commemoration in which President Aleksander Kwasniewski begged forgiveness for the massacre but insisted Nazi occupiers were behind it. He said residents bore no collective responsibility.

Research published last year revealed that Poles, not Nazis, killed the Jews of Jedwabne. The report contradicted decades of communist propaganda that taught Poles to believe they were heroic victims _ not collaborators _ in Nazi atrocities.

The mayor, who stepped down Sunday, said he had threatened to resign even before the July 10 ceremony because of councilors and townspeople ``who cannot acknowledge the truth.″ Godlewski also said the local council refused to approve spending to build a new road leading to a memorial to the slain Jews.

``There were personal attacks connected with the fact that I was involved in commemorations,″ he said. He refused to identify his critics but said they included town authorities who deny Poles took part in the massacre.

The head of the town council, Stanislaw Michalowski, said he was also resigning from the post in solidarity with the mayor.

Though some right-wing groups dispute the new research on Jedwabne, it seems to have left little doubt in the minds of many officials. A government investigation into the massacre, in which as many as 1,600 Jews were rounded up and burned alive in a barn, is to be completed later this year.

Godlewski said many people in Jedwabne had trouble accepting the truth in particular because media reports tried to ``make us equal to the Nazis in extermination of Jews.″

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