From the Editor
This issue contains texts dealing with the censored or "crowded out" portions of Polish history. In spite of some recent publishing activity in Poland, scholarly knowledge of the crowded-out portion of the Polish experience is still limited to a narrow circle of American and Polish society. It will take many Sarmatian Reviews publishing many more documents to make a dent in the general ignorance of the subject. While censorship forbids the circulation of a proscribed book, crowding out eliminates such books in a subtler way: not by direct banishment but by printing a small number of copies of an offending book, or by flooding the market with a large number of books written by "acceptable" writers. This situation prevailed in Soviet-occupied Poland in 1945Ñ1989. Not only Lenin profited from the largesse of communist publishers. The writers who served the regime: Wladyslaw Broniewski, Jerzy Andrzejewski, Kazimierz Brandys and scores of others were published in hundreds of thousands of copies, thus crowding out writers like Zbigniew Herbert, Stefan Kisielewski, J. M. Bochenski, Stanislaw Rembek, Jozef Wittlin. Another way of crowding out certain authors is to use poor quality paper for unwanted publications. The pages of Zygmunt Krasinski's The Undivine Comedy, reissued by PIW in 1977 on fifth-class printing paper, are now yellow and crumbly. Needless to say, the "classics" of Marxism-Leninism were published on excellent paper.
Our lead item, the NKVD Instruction, begs the question of cui bono? Who would profit from a disunity and fragmentation of Poland, a country remarkably unified in terms of nationality and religion after the slaughter and border changes of World War II?
Since none of the post-1989 serials that published the Instruction gave specific information as to how it was obtained, it is legitimate to ask whether the Instruction is authentic, and if not, under what circumstances it was found useful (and by whom) to put it into circulation. If it is authentic, the Instruction suggests that the plans to annihilate the Polish nation and its traditions have not been figments of some hot-headed person's imagination. And, if there had been such plans, it is unlikely that the circles and ideologies in which these plans originated have entirely disappeared in the dustbin of history.
There is no doubt as to the authenticity of the texts concerning library purges in 1949, 1950 and 1952. So far as we know, they have never before been published in any language. Only a portion of the memos and the checklists of proscribed books has been translated. The complete set of documents provides material for a PhD dissertation.
In these step-by-step instructions one is struck by the attention to detail. It is as if a small number of clever manipulators were faced with the task of ruling a nation while the nation's intelligentsia and the working classes refused to collaborate. Apparently the only ones that were willing to collaborate were people of exceptionally low intelligence, to whom things had to be explained in embarrassing detail. For instance, one of the memos concerning the purging of libraries says that the purged books are to be entered on the list of "lost" books. What should one wonder about first, the naivete of this idea (who would think that the books were actually lost), or the corruption of the mind that conceives of such ideas?
It is remarkable how strongly these purges were resisted by Polish librarians. Text #3 says that the 1949 purge succeeded in removing only 0.3 percent of all books and the 1950 purge destroyed 1.8 percent, while the checklists contained thousands of titles. Apparently the librarians removed the endangered books from the shelves before the censors had an opportunity to lay their hands on them.
The titles of books to be purged indicate that the Soviet-appointed authorities intended to eradicate the concept of citizenship among Poles, as well as undermining among them a sense of moral rectitude. Thus the books that taught how to be a good citizen or a good Christian were purged.
The conversation with Professor Jacek Trznadel touches upon a phenomenon all too common in post-communist Poland: a carefree ironic tone adopted by those who now reminisce about the services they rendered to the Soviet- appointed authorities.
Wlodzimierz Kolaczkiewicz's "Life" will remain one of those precious documents which make Poland Poland. Poles indeed can be proud to have produced people such as Kolaczkiewicz. For all the gloating of the post-communist Left about the 1993 elections, it is the Kolaczkiewiczes and not the Kwasniewskis who give Poland its distinct identity.
Among the reviews we publish two concerning the same book. We plan to publish such duos in the future as well.
Our thanks and acknowledgements for permissions to reproduce go to the Archiwum Akt Dawnych in Warsaw (documents concerning the purges of Polish libraries); to Andrzej Gelberg of Tygodnik Solidarnosc (Trznadel and Kolaczkiewicz texts); to Institut Litteraire in Paris (Rembek title page) and to the editors of Antyk (the text of the NKVD Instruction).
Jeske-Choinski's book (featured by permission on the cover page) comes from a private collection. Other illustrations in this issue are title pages of some "crowded out" works of Polish literature and history .
Return to January 1994 Issue
The Sarmatian Review
Last updated 01/13/00