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Vandals deface Polish monument to massacre of Jews
By VANESSA GERA
Associated Press
2011-09-01 09:52 PM
Vandals desecrated a monument marking the spot in Poland where hundreds of Jews were burned alive during World War II, scrawling "they were flammable" and a swastika on the memorial.

The message of hate was strongly condemned by Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, who said Thursday that there is no place in Polish society for extremists who commit such acts.

The monument in the town of Jedwabne honors the victims of July 10, 1941, when about 40 Poles hunted down Jews, closed them in a barn and set it alight. Between 300 and 400 Jews were killed in a notorious case of local people collaborating with the Nazis in killing Jews during the Nazis' wartime occupation of much of Eastern Europe.

The vandals used green paint to spray the symbols of a swastika and "SS" _ the name of an elite Nazi force _ on the monument, as well as the phrases "I don't apologize for Jedwabne" and "they were flammable."

Sikorski expressed "unequivocal condemnation" of the act of vandalism and expressed solidarity with anyone affected by it. He said he was convinced the perpetrators would be caught and face justice.

Police discovered the desecration Wednesday during a patrol and are trying to find the culprits.

The massacre came to light only a decade ago with the 2000 book "Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland," by sociologist Jan Tomasz Gross, which sparked outrage and soul-searching in Poland.

The book led to a government investigation that confirmed that Poles _ and not Nazi Germans _ were to blame for the killings. Poland's then-president Aleksander Kwasniewski apologized for his country's sins, but some Poles today remain in denial that such horrors were committed by their own people.

Meanwhile, Polish officials on Thursday were commemorating the anniversary of the German attack on Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, that marked the start of World War II.

The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants said in a statement that they were "horrified" by the desecration.

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