On July 3, Mission Reconciliation, a Polish Christian organization, will conduct a March of Life, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the tragic pogrom that killed 42 Jews after the Holocaust and led to the migration of most of the Jews who remained in Poland after the war.
Before the Holocaust, Kielce, like the rest of Poland, had a significant Jewish population with 24,000 Jews making up a third of the city’s population. After the war, only 200 remained, returning to their homes from the Nazi extermination camps. On July 2, 1946, a Polish boy went missing. When he returned home two days later, he informed his father that Jews had kidnapped him. A police search ensued, though later investigations proved the boy’s claims were entirely fabricated. Shooting broke out and 42 Jews were killed with approximately 80 more wounded. It was the deadliest pogrom after the World War II and considered the catalyst that led to the remaining Polish Jews fleeing their country in the wake of the Holocaust.
After the pogrom, a Jewish delegation asked Pope Pius XII to condemn the pogrom, but he refused, claiming that it was difficult to communicate with the Church in Poland because of its isolation behind the Iron Curtain.
On Sunday, Protestants and Catholics representing several churches will gather to show solidarity with the Jewish people and express regret for the past. The march will begin at the site where the Ludwików Steelworks once stood. 70 years ago, several hundred factory workers forced open the gate and set off to commit the massacre. The march will follow the route the workers took.
The director of the event, Edward Ćwierz, explained, “We want to walk the same route which, in the past, was the route of death. We want to change it into the road of life and oppose present-day anti-Semitism.”
The march will end with a prayer ceremony at the Jewish ceremony. Prayers at the gravesites of Jews murdered in the Kielce pogrom will take place at the Jewish Cemetery in Pakosz. This ceremony was organized by the Jan Karski Society in Kielce and the Polish Chief, Rabbi Michael Schud.
The event will conclude with a Celebration of Life and Reconciliation at the city park in Kielce.
In January, the Christian Church “Cenacle” in Kielce organized a hugely successful parade in front of the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw i a show of support. Also represented were the Foundation “Polania” Krakow, the Church of Evangelical Christians, the Church “New Jerusalem”, the Church Mission “New Beginning”, and the Movement “Poland for Jesus”. The stated purpose of the rally was to protest growing anti-Semitism in Europe as a result of the rise of Islam, and the numerous and “unjust UN resolutions” against Israel.