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July 4: Aftershock of the Holocaust

July 3, 2015

1177eb8d0d0879804e3696f7c17c9e49The Kielce Pogrom, in which a mob of Polish police officers and civilians murdered at least 42 Jews, took place on this date in 1946. Kielce, in southeastern Poland, had been occupied by 24,000 Jews, one third of the town’s population, prior to the Holocaust. Two hundred Jewish survivors had returned to or settled in Kielce, mostly from the USSR, in 1946, with some able to reclaim their confiscated property. On July 1, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “a 9-year-old non-Jewish boy, Henryk Blaszczyk, left his home in Kielce, without informing his parents. When he returned on July 3, the boy told his parents and the police, in an effort to avoid punishment for wandering off, that he had been kidnapped and hidden in the basement of the local Jewish Committee building on 7 Planty Street,” which was sheltering up to 180 Jews. Police and a crowd of some 1,000 steelworkers then set upon the building and its refugees, demanding their valuables and their weapons; shots were fired, and a pogrom followed. The brutal violence in Kielce sparked the exodus of more than 75,000 Jews from Poland to occupied Germany, where they mostly ended up in Displaced Persons Camps. To read an historian’s accounting of the controversies surrounding the Kielce pogrom, click here.

“Uniformed soldiers and a number of civilians forced their way into the building. I had already been wounded. They told us to get out and form a line. Civilians, including women, were on the stairs. The soldiers hit us with their rifle butts. Civilians, men and women, also hit us.” —Baruch Dorfman, survivor