TCS Daily

Poland's Horror Without End

By Kamila Pajer - August 5, 2005 12:00 AM

It is hot in Poland, and not because of summer -- though summer this year is really beautiful. It is because of the election campaigns for the parliament and the presidency planned for this autumn. And it is particularly because of the political purification ritual that heats up the country every time elections take place.

This occurs frequently in the press when prominent politicians are revealed to have been communist Secret Service (SB) collaborators. Among those named are the present Prime Minister Marek Belka, presidential candidate Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and most probably one of the other contenders for this post, Stan Tyminski. The latter has proudly announced the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) gave him a status of "non-sufferer" of communism - in other words, a collaborator of the SB.

The SB files are kept in the IPN and the institute decides if a person was a "sufferer" or a "non-sufferer" of communism. The most important job of the institute seems however to be restricting access to the files to very few -- only those who are able to prove they really, really need to read them. And the president of IPN, Leon Kieres, has just announced that due to election campaigns he is "suspending the access to the files" and is going to verify the intentions of journalists who try to examine them. He explains this is because some of the journalists dare to criticize the IPN and, so, unless they stop, they might not see any files any more. The IPN president uttered the statement even though a recent poll shows about 40 % of Poles want the access to the SB files to be considerably greater during the campaigns and that over 60% of the respondents claim the files of politicians are important for them.

Poland -- the first of the communist regimes to change -- was the last of the Eastern bloc to adopt a lustration, or purification, bill. The Polish Lustration Act requires candidates for high public office to declare if they collaborated with the SB. The declarations are then checked by the Lustration Court. All those who already work in the media or in the judiciary system are not required to declare anything. And all those who reveal they collaborated with the communist regime for the detriment of the public are not blocked from any public position.

Unlike in the East Germany, where the secret police Stasi files were made widely accessible to the public, in Poland access is blocked. This prolongs the status of accusations, suspicions and impunity. Thus, as German commentator Klaus Bachmann put it, East Germany "chose a horror ending [by] lustrations, opening files. ... Poland chose a horror without an end."

Early this year a journalist of Polish major daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita, Bronislaw Wildstein, published on the internet the list of people for whom the IPN possesses documents in its archives. The next day Wildstein was dismissed from Rzeczpospolita. Kieres apologized in the Parliament for allowing the list to leave the institute. This is strange, for officially the list was not classified and everyone could read it.

A month later when thousands of Poles were mourning the passing of the Pope, Kieres announced that close to the Pope there was an SB collaborator: Konrad Hejmo, a Polish Dominican monk in the Vatican. Then, the IPN published a long report on Hejmo. Poles had reason to hope the institute had started a new policy of a wide access to information about the SB. However, a week later the IPN blocked the access to the files again when the Special Parliamentary Commission established to investigate an oil scandal, asked the IPN for the files of Prime Minister Belka and the President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

The revelations of the commission prove also how unwise it was for Poland to abandon the lustration process and how dangerous it was for the country's economy. The commission revealed so far that the president's friends and Polish ministers were doing business with a former KGB agent, that the Office for the Protection of the State (previously SB and today the Internal Security Agency) was paid millions of U.S. dollars for the "service" of helping the petrol mafia to avoid problems with the revenue offices, and that the mafia was helped by the former Interior Minister Krzysztof Janik and former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy in return for financing the ex-communist SLD party.

Fighting the mafia in Poland is therefore nearly impossible. Not only do the former SB agents who run criminal organizations have considerable experience in cheating and destroying others, but they also are supported by some of the most prominent politicians. This includes the judiciary system, where many judges are former SB agents. The law does not require businessmen willing to cooperate with state firms to present any declaration of their former occupation. Many of today's businessmen operating on the Polish market are simply former nomenklatura members or ruling party members and among them many are SB agents who got rich via "taking over" public property.

The so called "privatization" that was called switching from socialism to capitalism and that completely compromised the capitalistic system in Poland most often meant giving public firms and enterprises to the nomenklatura and granting them generous state help when they failed. The country's economy has been ruined by the various monopolies granted to the nomenklatura businessmen, generous public loans they've gotten and never return. It is corruption on a very large scale.

Above all this Poles are taught a moral system that requires former victims to forgive those who never apologized and do not even intend to change or improve. Instead, we must constantly finance their "businesses" to the detriment of creditors, their families and the country.


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