photo - IPN/Jacek Turczyk
It is believed that ethnic Poles carried out the crime.
The investigation into the murders was launched in February this year by Poland's Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), the state-backed body charged with probing crimes against Polish citizens.
Some twenty Jewish women, aged between 15 and 30, were murdered in August 1941 on the outskirts of the village of Bzury, which today lies in north east Poland, but was then a part of lands occupied by the Nazi-German regime.
According to IPN's current appeal, “the assailants told the women to strip to their underwear, then they killed the victims with shovels, batons and clubs made the previous day.”
IPN states that the women had been resident in the Jewish Ghetto that was created by the Germans in the nearby town of Szczuczyn.
The victims were brought out to perform free agricultural labour in the village of Bzury, and once this had been carried out, the assailants took the women into nearby woodland.
It is alleged that the women were raped before being clubbed to death.
Following the war, a trial was held under the Poland's newly installed communist regime.
However, only one man, Stanislaw Zalewski, was convicted.
As noted by IPN prosecutor Radoslaw Ignatiew in an interview with the Polish Press Agency, six other men were charged, but the case against them collapsed owing to an apparent lack of evidence.
IPN is carrying out the new investigation under the banner of the “Last Witness” programme, which aims to reach out to people who can still recall wartime events.
Nevertheless, prosecutor Ignatiew notes that the six men initially linked to the crime have already died, and that it is unlikely that anyone else who may have been involved is still alive.
Ignatiew has stated that he is aware of another similar crime in the region, in this instance concerning the murder of 11 Jewish women.
Wartime crimes committed by ethnic Poles against Jews went largely unexplored during the last decades of communist rule in Poland.
However, in 2001, Neighbours, a book by Princeton academic Jan T. Gross, shone a light on the massacre of Jews by Poles in the village of Jedwabne in 1941.
The book sparked a public debate, as well as an apology to the Jewish nation by the then president Aleksander Kwasniewski.
Polish-Jewish relations have become a recurrent theme in the Polish media. (nh)