The Polish government said Wednesday it is considering carrying out exhumations at a World War II-era site where Jews were burned alive in a barn by their Polish neighbors, something which would violate Jewish religious law.
The matter concerns the 1941 pogrom in the Polish town of Jedwabne, where Poles burned alive more than 300 Jews during the German wartime occupation of the country.
An exhumation began in 2001 but was stopped at the time by then-justice minister Lech Kaczynski out of respect for Jewish law, which objects to disturbing buried remains.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told private broadcaster Polsat News on Tuesday that authorities are considering starting the exhumations again and that prosecutors will have the final say.
Moving forward with the exhumations would threaten new controversy following recent spats with Israel related to Holocaust memory.
Poland was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II and six million of its inhabitants died during the conflict, including three million Jews.
Warsaw has long been at pains to state that Poland did not collaborate as a nation in the Holocaust, although individual Poles committed what the Polish ambassador to Israel recently described as “abominable crimes.”
In 2018, the events at Jedwabne were at the center of a controversy over an article written by a Princeton University professor saying that Poles killed more Jews than Germans during World War II.
Polish prosecutor Michal Binkiewicz was demoted after he dismissed the investigation into the possible insult of the Polish nation by professor Jan Gross in October 2016 and June 2017.
The prosecutors’ office had opened a libel investigation against Gross operating under a section of the criminal code that says that “any person who publicly insults the Polish nation is punishable by up to three years in prison.”
In 2017 a historian in Poland sought the exhumation of bodies at Jedwabne, citing a witness that he said claims Germans organized the slaughter.