Yedvabne massacre - AP - July 2011
Former Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki placing a pebble on a monument to victims of the Yedvabne massacre. Photo by AP
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WARSAW - Poland yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of a dark spot in the country's history - the massacre of some 340 Jews in a pogrom during World War II.

Poland President Bronislaw Komorowski, in ceremonies attended for the first time by a representative of the Catholic Church, asked Jews for forgiveness for the deed committed by their fellow Poles.

"The Polish republic hears the never-ending scream of their citizens... I again ask for forgiveness," Komorowski said at the ceremonies in the eastern town of Yedvabne.

In 1941, after Nazi Germany's takeover of what till then had been an area under Soviet occupation, a number of pogroms by Poles against their Jewish neighbors took place in the region. In Yedvabne, at least 340 Jews were murdered, most of the victims having been herded into a barn that was then set on fire. Others were beaten to death.

Public debate over Poland's own role in the Holocaust was only first triggered with a book publication in 2000 on the subject. A year later, then-President Aleksander Kwasniewski apologized for the pogroms on behalf of the Polish people.