The Polish village of Jedwabne's other half was clubbed, drowned, gutted, and set ablaze in July 1941. There were 1600 fatalities, all Jews, including men, women, and children. Jews and Christians had previously coexisted peacefully, but by the conclusion of the war, not a single Jew had received mercy. Women's experiences and action are too frequently viewed as inferior to men's in comparison. Contrarily, women played a significant role in the Jedwabne Massacre, much like males did. In fact, according to Gross, women were crucial to preserving the lives of war victims. Therefore, the paper explores the various roles played by women and how they differ or compare with with the roles of men in the murder of Jedwabne Jews. .

Women have long been pictured as home-keepers during conflicts. This stereotype was also common in the explanation of the Jedwabne massacre. However, literature by Gross show that women played both differing and similar roles to men. Some women were accomplices while others played the role perpetrators. Moreover, few other women saved the Jewish families. It is evident that they played diverse roles. To begin with, not only murderers but also rescuers put their lives in danger in order to save the Jews. Antonina Wyrzykowska is an example of a woman who helped the Jews in the Jedwabne massacre. She is best remembered for her heroic acts of helping Jews to flee by hiding them in her farm. Despite the regular search in the properties of the Nazis, Antonina was relentless. In fact she and her family were beaten by locals and the Red Army. Along with Jan Gross, Anna Bikont (a polish journalist) refuses to let Poland whitewash in a dark past. The general believe before the Gross’s article was published was that Germans had killed Jedwabne Jews. On the contrary, the author shocks the Polish people and the rest of the world when she disclosed that most of deaths were caused by the Jews’ neighbors.

A popular figure in the Jewish massacre is Irena Sendlerowa, 91, a woman who saved 2500 Jewish children. In fact, she helped the change their identity documents. More so, Zegota was credited to saving 40,000 Jews who would have been punishable by death. Similarly, Snaislaw and Marriana Ramotowski played a savior role by rescuing a number of jews including a woman called Rachela Finkelsztejn. She took the war expats in and hid them in her pigsty. After the end of the war, her statement led to the trial of 8 murderers who were part of the pogrom leadership. The perpetrators had signed an agreement with the Germans and organized civic guard over the town. Marianna testified to the trials of the Laudanski’s brothers (Zygmunt and Jerzy) who were among the key perpetrators of the war. After the revelation of Jan Gross in 2000, it was evident that the two brothers were among the individuals who burnt 300 Jews. Heroes such as Leszek Dziedzic had to immigrate to America in fear of his life.

In contrast to the above impact of women, the writer states that some females killed, cheered and laughed at the burning Jews. Gross’s chronicle of the inhumane activities explore an ice-age systematic falsehood. At Cracow and Kielce (towns in Poland), individuals were hunted down and taken to the uprising death camp. One sect of the women played the role of accessory on the domestic front. Many of them were washerwomen, seamstresses, nurses and cooks to the militants. Like most conflicts and wars, the wives and daughters of the radicalist were left at home. Although most of these women were supporters of the massacre artists, some of them could not stand the harsh realities of the battle. There is little mention in literature of any foot soldiers during the massacre.

There is also the perspective of how the Jewish women dealt with the battle. The significance of the contribution of the women was increasingly apparent as the massacre raged on. Women took charge of their farms and defended their neighborhoods. Although most of them were not combatants, they were a subject of consequent killings. They were also victims of rape, violence and death. These women struggled to maintain their homesteads by fighting the raged neighbors. In fact, some Jewish women strove to drown themselves and their families in order to escape imminent torture. Most of them were burned alive in a barn and their surviving children were tortured to death. Their children were tied together by their legs and then they were thrown into smoldering fire.

In comparison to women, men also played the role of savior. Among other heroes include the town’s mayor Krzysztof Godlewski who sacrificed himself for the sake of the war. He was dubbed the “Jewish Dodlewski” due to his support for the victims. In fact he erected a monument to commemorate the fatalities. He resisted all the pressure from the town council and as a result, he was coerced to resign. He and his family underwent a lot of physical and mental aggression from his neighbors. The deposed mayor was forced to immigrate to Chicago due to the constant victimization of his family. Nearly all these heroes are confronted by late-night calls, threats and insulting shouts in the streets.

Marek Edelman was the only leader from the Warsaw Ghetto uprising that chose to stay in Poland after the massacre. He narrates that he was beaten up by the Poles because he supported the Jewish communities. His case was not uncommon because anti-Semitic agitation had been promoted across the country. Among other men that played a role in the crisis include the Lomza priests. They staunchly advocated for the ant-Semitic campaigns. Jews had to sit back in the classroom in order to avoid insults from teachers and students. The priests and their followers initiated the war as Poles justified the beating and smashing of windows of Jewish homes. In fact, most of Polish newspapers proclaimed that the country needed to get rid of the Jews.

Bronislaw Szlezinski (leader of the millitants) was asked by the Germans to spare at least one family in each profession. He responded that his community had enough professionals and therefore all Jews had to be destroyed. He later coordinated the pogrom and coerced the Polish citizens in the town to join hands in the murders of the Jews. On that fateful morning of July 10th 1941, Jews were forced out of their homes and gathered in the town square. They were enslaved and stoned. Most of the citizens were from Jedwabne and the nearby locations. Jan Gross refers this situation as the industrialization of murder. In fact Jedwabne books and clubs were used in beating up the victims. The German’s participation in the killings was confined to a few photographing events. According to Gross, half of the town’s men participated in the killings because the massacres were concentrated on sports stadiums. Women and children watched the killings with bemusement.

Lomza priests were the head of the Catholic Church. They were anti-Semitic and those who disagreed with their ideology were ostracized. Moreover, the only Polish doctor in the community refused to provide any medical help to the Jews. Benito also Mussolini played a role in ordering the arrest of all Jews in the region and then he instructed that they should be executed Steadfast heroism was notable in a number of cases in the massacre.

In the compelling story titled Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland, Jan Gross conducts an empirical study on what caused the massacre. Research shows that motivation was general and not gender-based. Moreover, the victims were of all ages, gender and sexes. Four major factors emerge as the motivations of Jedwabne massacre and they include:


Anti-Semitic culture was intensely entrenched in the country. For instance in the 19th Century and beginning of 20th century, Polish state did not exist. Later, the nation emerged and it was shaped by cultural and religious bonds. Antisemitism was used as the sociopolitical glue of national reformations. In the 1920s, Anti-Semitism took hold and it promoted radical right wing nationalists as evidenced from the utterances of the Catholic Church. Jews felt increasingly discriminated by their noisy anti-Semitic groups. In fact, they were segregated from universities and instead Jewish students were called for pogroms. Catholic Poles considered Jews as political and ideological enemies of Poland. Catholics compelled Poles to perceive Jews as aliens by openly advocating for anti-Semitic stereotyping. Mr. Gross’ book generated heated responses as he explained that Jewish officials were the agents of murder. Full of sadness and terror, most Polish and Jewish readers could not believe that their forefathers could have done something as disgracing as that. Gross write, “This story is literally the stuff of nightmares.”

Threat of punishment

Although literature by Gross shows that the Killings were carried out by Poles (both men and women), it is clear that the decisive role was inspired by the Germans. The local inhabitants were vulnerable to Sovietization and this did not go well with Germans. In Steven Erlanger’s book titled Hitler’s Willing Executioners, the author explains that Germans and a few Polish citizens who occupied the city encouraged the torture and slaughter. In fact, the whole massacre was planned by Polish officials’ in order to avoid punishment by Hitler. Among them was the former mayor and the town council’s management. Bronislaw Sleszybski (the individual who volunteered his barn) was later recognized by the Germans. The Plaque was also blamed on the Gestapo and the Nazi occupation police. For many of the Poles, literature by Gross enlightens women were not only watchers but also perpetrators. The presence of German military personnel was tantamount to the acceptance of the locals to participate in the crime. It is therefore justifiable to ascribe that mass murder was done with the fear of being ostracized after the massacre. Literature by Ann shows states that at least forty 40 men and women were actively involved in the mass murder.

Authority of the Catholic Church

In the World War II, the church reach the Zenith of its power and influence. Therefore, it had wielded influence on the Polish community. Imbued by anti-Semitism, the church propagated antipathy against the Jews. Many of the political divisions were attributed to the Catholic Community. The Catholic individuals that historically supported the Jewish community neglected them and therefore, the local Polish community believed that the church had no problem with the butchery. Certainly, God-fearing Catholics were among the individuals committing the brutalities. While there were acts of commission of the atrocities, there are still others who stood by and watched. This in itself can be seen betrayal of the Christian and Catholic way. Despite the various heroics acts by some of the Christians, it is evident that in some way they contributed to the death of the Jews.

Lastly, Insatiable greed by the Catholic Church is considered as one of the forces that caused the mass murders. Irresistible need to get hold of the Jewish properties encouraged the locals to rally against the Jewish community. Gross notes, “They grabbed all they could get their hands at.” According to Kaczynski, the third day of German occupation was exemplified by the fact that local Polish bandits were robbing Jewish property.


To conclude, pre-war anti-Semitism, greed, Catholicism and collaboration between Jedwabne locals and Germans are cited as some of the major causes of the massacre. The role of women varies and it compares with those of men in almost equal measure. Some women such as Zegota, Antonia and Sendlerowa rescued children and adults from the angry Jedwabne mob. Similarly some men played the savior role. In contrast, men participated largely in the murder of the Jewish citizens. Women played accessory roles in the actual deaths of the victims.


Bikont, Anna. 2016. The Day We Burned Our Neighbors Alive. Crime and the Silence. New York.

Gross, Jan Tomasz. 2001. Neighbors: the destruction of the Jewish community in Jedwabne, Poland. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Kaczynski, Andrzej. 2000. Burning Alive. "Rzeczpospolita."

Kopp, Kristin Leigh, and Joanna Niżyńska. 2012. Germany, Poland, and postmemorial relations: in search of a livable past. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Polonsky, Antony, and Joanna B. Michlic. 2004. The neighbors respond: the controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Deadline is approaching?

Wait no more. Let us write you an essay from scratch

Receive Paper In 3 Hours
Calculate the Price
275 words
First order 15%
Total Price:
$38.07 $38.07
Calculating ellipsis
Hire an expert
This discount is valid only for orders of new customer and with the total more than 25$
This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Find Out the Cost of Your Paper

Get Price