On 1 July 1946, an eight-year-old boy called Henryk Blaszczyk went missing from his home in Kielce, central Poland. His panic-stricken parents went to the police, but two days later little Henryk turned up with a basket of cherries, having gone on an epic expedition to pick fruit from the family’s old house some twenty kilometres away. Frightened of getting into trouble, however, Henryk concocted a story about having been kidnapped by Jews. The police investigated, quickly realised that the boy was lying and gave him a stern telling-off. In the meantime, however, the news had got out.
Before the war, Kielce’s Jewish population had been some 20,000 strong. Now it was down to just 380. But as news of Henryk’s story spread across the town, mobs, including local policemen and soldiers, gathered to wreak revenge on the ‘Christ-killers’ who were supposedly kidnapping little boys. Jewish girls were