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The former Mayor of Jedwabne talks about himself and the anniversary celebrations
A conversation of Waldemar Piasecki with Krzysztof Godlewski),
W cieniu Jedwabnego (In the shadow of Jedwabne),

Przegląd 37, September 16, 2002
Translated in FORUM : ZNAK Christian Culture Fundation

In July 2001, immediately after the anniversary celebrations Krzysztof Godlewski, the mayor of Jedwabne, handed in his resignation. This was the result of an earlier conflict between Godlewski and the city council related to the upcoming celebrations. It had been voted (12:6) that the city authorities would be absent during the celebrations (according to the law the mayor, as a host, is obliged to welcome the head of the state and other guests).


Godlewski opposed this decision and announced his participation during the celebrations - and the resignation from his post immediately after July 10th, 2001. The decision was accepted in the ratio of 12 to 6. Before the celebrations in Jedwabne various parties tried to use the tragedy (and Godlewski) to achieve their political goals. Godlewski recalls he did not have time to participate in those games, because he had his duties. "I never agreed to be a mayor for a particular party - he says. - This was a deal with the country of Poland".


For his attitude Godlewski received the Jan Karski Award (along with rabbi Jacob Baker). Currently Godlewski is staying in the US; he hasn't reached a decision whether to stay for good (with his family), but he is looking for a job.


Krzysztof Godlewski arrived in Jedwabne in 1966, at the age of eleven. He recalls that the history of the murder was present in the memory of the inhabitants of the little town. Sometimes he heard fragments of sentences about someone "being next to the barn where the Jews were burned". However, according to the official plaque, it were the Germans who had murdered the 1600 Jews.


The article in the Lomza "Kontakty" (19988/89 issue) showing the participation of Poles in that crime met with no response. Later the case of the murder in Jedwabne arose the interset of Agnieszka Arnold, Jan Tomasz Gross and Andrzej Kaczynski of "Rzeczpospolita". For Godlewski Gross's book was a great shock; he strongly disagreed with the thesis formulated by the author about a "generally positive attitude" of the local community towards the committed crime. He hoped that the IPN investigation would show that the crime had German perpetrators with a marginal participation of Poles. The results of the investigation, which were made public only recently, were a great surprise for him.


A crucial moment was the announcement of the official apology of president Kwasniewski. At that time it became obvious that the old obelisk will have to be removed and the surrounding of the place where the crime had taken place would require special care. Mayor Godlewski, as a host, considered it his duty that Jedwabne acted with dignity. Personally he was deeply moved by the fact that innocent people had been tortured and killed. Among the people driven to the barn not even one person distinguished himself by undertaking anti-Polish actions. The majority of the victims were old men, women and children. Godlewski assumed that an end has to be put to the profanation of their memory ; he decided to commemorate the place of their burial and supply an appropriate religious service.


However soon after the president's apology a cynical game with the memory of the martyrs from Jedwabne had started. Some expressed the opinion that Poles' pleading guilty shall cause an avalanche of financial claims from Jews; that from now the world on shall perceive Poles as co-perpetrators of the Holocaust along with the Germans; that an attack at the Catholic faith will take place. Most of the inhabitants of Jedwabne gave in to this atmosphere. Godlewski admits that he and his family had a lot of trouble because of this situation. With gratitude Godlewski recalls that for the entire time he had the unshakable support of his family.