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Tajne oblicze GL-AL PPR Dokumenty

Reviewer: Anna Cienciala

Tajne oblicze GL-AL PPR Dokumenty
(The Secret Face of the People's Guard-People's Army of the Polish Workers' Party: Documents)
Selected and edited by Marek J. Chodakiewicz, Piotr Gontarczyk and Leszek Zebrowski. 3 vols. Warsaw: Bourchard Edition. 1997-99.

The Gwardia Ludowa (People's Guard) 1942-1944, renamed the Armia Ludowa (People's Army) in January 1944, was the military arm of the Polska Partia Robotnicza (PPR, or Polish Workers' Party), set up to rule postwar Poland. In the first years of the Polish People's Republic, it was touted as the only underground force that really fought the Germans in World War II. This was done to legitimize communist power in the eyes of the Polish people. Therefore, the main military underground organization during World War II, the AK (Armia Krajowa, or the Home Army, that recognized the Polish government in London), and also the radical right wing NSZ (Narodowe Sily Zbrojne, or National Armed Forces, the military arm of the Stronnictwo Narodowe, or National Party, which sometimes recognized that government), were condemned as representing the interests of landowners and capitalists, oppressors of minorities, and 'fascists.' The AK was said to consist of 'robber bands' that not only robbed Polish people but also exposed them to German retribution. It was also charged with attacking the GL-AL units, collaborating with the Germans, and murdering Jews, though this was a charge leveled more often at the NSZ. However, in October 1956 came the liberalization of historical writing at the specialized monograph level, and, from the mid-1960s onward, publications dealing with war time resistance ceased throwing mud at the AK. At that time, Mieczyslaw Moczar became head of the war veterans' union, ZBOWID (Zwiazek Bojowników o Wolnosc i Demokracje, or Association of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy). He worked to make it his power base but could not expand it without including veterans of the AK. At the same time, he and his "partisans" (partyzanci, the popular nickname for Moczar and his group) came to dominate the historiography of the resistance movement with writings touting the Gl-AL, a trend that continued until the fall of communism in 1989.

The three-volume set of documents under review aims to show not only that the GL-AL was far less numerous than regime historians claimed in the past, but also that it consisted mainly of robber bands; that their leaders often collaborated with the Germans; that they murdered members of the 'nationalist' resistance and, contrary to the long-accepted view of a pro-Jewish AL, that it also murdered Jews. Finally, the aim is to show that regime historians falsified documents to prove that the GL-AL fought battles with the Germans, when the lion's share of the fighting was really done by 'nationalist' forces. In the 1990s, three young right-wing historians set out to destroy the PPR-GL-AL legend and, at the same time, rehabilitate the image of the NSZ.

Of the three editors, Leszek Zebrowski is the most active, having published a documentary collection on the NSZ, while Piotr Gontarczyk has several articles to his credit including one polemicizing with Ryszard Nazarewicz's book, Armia Ludowej dylematy i dramaty (the dilemmas and dramas of the Peoples' Army), Warsaw, 1998 (see Piotr Gontarczyk, "Uwagi o pracy Ryszarda Nazarewicza Armii Ludowej dylematy i dramaty.," Dzieje Najnowsze, vol. 31, no. 4 (1999), 61-79, henceforth: DN 31/4). The editors of Tajne Oblicze (henceforth: TO) have certainly done a great deal of research in the Central Committee archives of the PZPR (Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza, or Polish United Workers' Party, 1948-90), renamed the Archiwum Akt Nowych (Modern History Archives) in Warsaw.

There never was much doubt that the GL-AL numbers were vastly exaggerated in communist publications which some communist historians, including the above-mentioned Ryszard Nazarewicz, accept today (Ryszard Nazarewicz, "Odpowiedz na 'Uwagi' Piotra Gontarczyka," DN 31/4, 81-98). The documents selected by the editors show that in spring 1944, when the AL was at its peak, it did not have 20,000-30,000 members as claimed, but probably at most 4,000 (TO 1, 23-24). It was also known during the war that some GL-AL units robbed Polish people by making 'requisitions' to support themselves; in particular, they attacked such 'class enemies' as landowners, lower level Polish administrators and police who were allowed to function by the Germans, but who were often also members of the 'nationalist' resistance, i.e., AK or NSZ. Nazarewicz admits this indirectly when he states that the PPR (Polska Partia Robotnicza, the communist Polish Workers' Party) prohibited requisitions from "peasants" unless they were paid for. But he also says that while robberies and other violent acts were committed by "demoralized" GL-AL units, these were severely condemned by the PPR leadership (ND, 31, 4, 87). Finally, the editors cite a document from a volume published in Ukraine to show that the task of Soviet partisans in former eastern Poland was not only to fight the Germans but also to expose the Poles--who insisted on the restoration of Poland with its prewar eastern frontier and who feared Soviet rule--to German retribution. This much is clear from a little known, top secret letter to Stalin of January 1943 from Pantaleimon Ponomarenko, the first secretary of the Belarusian Communist Party and head of the Central Staff of the Partisan Movement (TO 3, 249-250 and note 9, p. 253). This rings true, but Nazarewicz alleges that this document is not adequately identified (ND, 31, 4, 84).

These volumes demonstrate the communist regime's deliberate falsification of wartime history in order to bolster its own dubious legitimacy. . . . However, this collection of documents can also be compared to a religious work in which ideological exegesis overwhelms the text.

Nazarewicz also strongly denies that the GL-AL had a policy of murdering Jews (ND 31, 4, 86), and the documents published in the work under review bear him out. There is a whole section on "The Communist Underground and the Jews" (TO 2, 43-84), but the documents in question indicate that while some individual commanders (including the Volga German Karol Lemichow-Hercenberger "Lemiszewski," Grzegorz Korczynski, Eugeniusz Iwanczyk and Wladyslaw Sobczynski) ordered their units on occasion to kill Jews, it was not PPR-GL-AL policy to do so. Furthermore, Nazarewicz points out that the cases against Korczynski and some others previously charged with murdering Jews, were dropped for lack of evidence. (ND, 31, 4, 96). Thus, the traditional image of the PPR- GL-AL as supportive of the Jews seems justified. Indeed, one of the editors of the work under review, Marek J. Chodakiewicz, explains why the two were natural allies: the PPR-GL-AL needed more supporters, the Jews needed help to survive, and both looked forward to liberation by the USSR. (TO 1, note 9, 34). It is interesting to note that at the time of the infamous Kielce pogrom of 4 July 1946, which resulted in the loss of some forty Jewish lives, Iwanczyk was the Kielce governor while Sobczynski was the head of the Security Police in the Kielce Governorship (UB, or Urzad Bezpieczenstwa, TO 1, note 29, 24).

The reader may gain the impression that the documents on GL-AL slaughter of Jews in World War II are meant not only to destroy the "legend" of its support for them, but also to counterbalance the well known anti-Semitism of the NSZ and its political arm. Nazarewicz claims that Zebrowski and his collaborators began to attack him after he published some documents found in the German Federal Archives in Koblenz, showing NSZ collaboration with the Gestapo. These documents were subsequently published in Polityka, on 14 November 1992 (ND, 31, 4, 82). Indeed, even without such documents, the National Democrats' attitude toward the Jews was well known. For example, in March 1943, one underground SN paper, Barykada, thanked the Germans for their significant help to the Poles in eliminating "the parasite" Jews from Polish soil. On 5 May 1943, during the Ghetto rising, another SN paper, Wielka Polska, refused to recognize the rising as an act of courage and stated that it had nothing to do with the Polish question. (Teresa Prekerowa in Jerzy Tomaszewski et al., eds., Najnowsze Dzieje Zydów w Polsce, Warsaw: PWN, 1993, p. 362). For the sake of fairness, however, we should note, that some SN groups were more moderate. Thus, in July 1943, another SN paper, Walka, condemned the German use of force against the Jews, while stating that it did not resign from the economic and political struggle against them (ibid). The authors of this article failed to realize that, by that time, at least half of Poland's three and a half million Jews had already been exterminated by the Germans.

As for PPR collaboration with the Gestapo, the most glaring example in the TO documents is the action carried out on 17 February 1944, to seize the anti-communist archives of the KWC (Kierownictwo Walki Cywilnej, or Civilian Resistance Directorate), kept in an apartment on 27 Poznanska Street in Warsaw, The documents on this action, published in the Appendix to TO, 2, consist of a report by Home Army counter-intelligence; a report by the anti- communist section of the national underground, "Antyk;" the communist Security Police interrogation testimony of the chief organizer of the action, the communist Boguslaw Hrynkiewicz, and an unidentified man named Jerzy Fronkiewicz. The last two men claimed that Marian Spychalski, then AL chief of staff, had approved the action, as well as the agreement with the Gestapo that the anti-communist part of the archive should go to PPR and the rest to the Gestapo. This testimony was given when Spychalski was in jail (1952) and "evidence" was being collected against him.

The editors state that Wladyslaw Gomulka, PPR leader in 1944, confirmed the information when interrogated at the same time, though no force was used against him (TO 2, 227). However, the work cited there, Andrzej Garlicki's Z tajnych archiwów (Warsaw: BGW, 1993, p. 145), quotes Gomulka as saying that Spychalski showed him the captured archive, but not that Gomulka had approved the action. Nazarewicz claims that Gomulka learned of the action after it was over and says the PPR had nothing to do with it (DN, 31, 4, 93). Whatever the case may be, it is curious that the Gestapo did not use the opportunity to capture both the alleged AL raiders and the director of the archive, Waclaw Kupecki, who was, after all, a member of the Security Department of the Government-in-Exile Delegate's Office. We are told however that the AL men poisoned Kupecki with cyanide; that some unaidentified persons who were with him at the time of the raid disappeared without a trace; and that the Gestapo accepted its share of the archive, whatever that was. Thus, this alleged PPR cooperation with the Gestapo is murky at best.

What riles the TO editors (especially Leszek Zebrowski) most is that the party historians 'doctored' reports and memoirs by individual veterans, and that they falsified documents in order to support the myth that the GL-AL was the only real force to resist the Germans. The editors certainly demonstrate how this was done, though in at least one case they commit an error of their own. They state that a name was changed by the copiers of a document (from Wladyslaw Konowicz to Lazar M. Kaganovich) and then go on to say that the latter was Stalin's father-in-law (TO 2, 17, note 14). In fact, Lazar M. Kaganovich (b. 1893) was only 14 years younger than Stalin (b. 1879). It was his son who married Stalin's daughter Svetlana, but she soon divorced him. For some reason, the editors also fail to mention that Helena Wolinska, who figures in several documents, later was appointed a judge by the communist regime, and in that capacity, she condemned the Home Army leaders to death. Since the late 1990s, the Polish government has been trying to have her extradited from England.

What is more questionable than these lacunae, however, is the TO editors' wholesale condemnation of the historians who, they claim, were at the party's disposal and wrote whatever was needed. There were, indeed, such historians but not all who wrote about the resistance movement belonged to this category and those that did sometimes changed their minds. Maria Turlejska, who is cited as the author of the first falsified history of GL-AL (TO 1, pp. 5, 11,17, see also index, vols. 2 and 3) was, indeed, an ideological communist who followed the party line for many years, but later she turned against it. It is surely worth mentioning that she published a book in the underground press under the pen name Lukasz Socha, Te pokolenia zalobami czarne. Skazani na smierc i ich sedziowie, 1944-1954 (these generations black with mourning: those condemned to death and their judges, 1944-1954, 1st ed. in Krytyka, Poland, 1986, 2nd ed. in Aneks, Paris, 1989). The book documents the rigged trials and death sentences imposed on individuals and on whole groups targeted by the communist authorities in the Stalinist period of Soviet-occupied Poland. Another historian whom the editors classify as being at the party's disposal is Czeslaw Madajczyk. He is charged with stating in the preface to documents on the correspondence between the PPR Secretaries and the Comintern, that their radio contact was due to friendship and the telecommunication services provided by Moscow (TO 2, p. 12). What Madajczyk actually wrote was the following:

The PPR, though not a section of the Comintern, felt itself to be part of the international workers' movement, hence the constant contact between the party leadership and the Comintern and its Secretary. The PPR leadership regularly informed the executive committee of the Comintern of the more important events connected with its activity, and the Comintern, in turn, transmitted this information to Polish communists in the USSR. This type of information was destined not so much for the Comintern as for an ally in the war. This is confirmed by the fact of maintaining this contact even after the dissolution of the Comintern in the spring of 1943. (Korespondencja miedzy sekretarzami PPR a sekretarzem generalnym miedzynarodówki komunistycznej, Warsaw: Wojskowa Akademia Polityczna, 1967, p. 1, trans. A. M. C.)

Of course, these statements camouflage the realities of the PPR-Comintern relationship, but they may have been the price agreed with the censor for publishing the documents in the first place. It should also be noted that Madajczyk edited a collection of documents on the Soviet mass murder of Polish prisoners of war in spring 1940 (Dramat Katynski, Warsaw: Ksiazka i Wiedza, 1989).

The three volumes of TO documents are not an easy read because, for almost every document, there are numerous endnotes in which the editors, mainly Leszek Zebrowski, write polemical comments. This collection can be compared to a religious work in which exegesis overwhelms the text. It would have been far more readable if the editors turned into authors and wrote a book citing documents to support their arguments. However, they probably assumed this would open them to the charge of using documents to demonstrate their views--which is what they have done anyway. The work is valuable in that it demonstrates the communist regime's deliberate falsification of wartime history in order to bolster its own dubious legitimacy. But the reader not well versed in Polish history might well wonder if all the GL-AL units were murderous bandits praying on the Polish population, or whether the PPR was just a puppet of Moscow? After all, some AK and NSZ units also committed crimes and it is known that at least some Polish communists were ideologically motivated. Wladyslaw Gomulka, a prewar communist and PPR leader in 1943-48, was certainly not a puppet. During the war, he often followed his own line, while after the war he opposed forced collectivization and the expulsion of Yugoslavia from the Cominform. He suffered for his independent views, along with many of his supporters, in the years 1947-55.

The Gontarczyk-Nazarewicz polemic is worth reading for the information it provides on the controversial subject of communist and anti-communist historiography concerning the AL and the PPR (DN, 31, 4, pp. 61-98). Even without knowing Nazarewicz's arguments, however, a reader can note at least one instance where the editors' interpretation of a document is more than dubious, while the lack of comment on another reveals their ideology. The first case is an excerpt from a document stating the following: "Makowiecki denied the information about a list of communists allegedly prepared by BIP, which was allegedly in the hands of the Gestapo." The note to this document says this is a typed report from December 1943, but does not say to whom Makowiecki made this statement, or who signed the report. Nevertheless, after identifying Makowiecki a.k.a. "Malicki" as the director of the information department of BIP (Biuro Informacji i Propagandy), and also the chairman of the "Democratic Party" [he was a Social Democrat, A.M.C.], the note goes on to say that he was shot on 13 June 1944 on the orders of the Counter-Intelligence of the [Polish] Government Delegate's office and the AK. The note continues that for many years, the execution was attributed to NSZ, but "The above GL report confirms his collaboration with the communists." (TO 2, p. 215, doc. no. 108). Now, by any scholarly standards, the excerpted statement by Makowiecki fails to "prove" such collaboration. The second case concerns the lack of editorial comment on an AK counter-intelligence report of March 1944 about "communist and NKVD agents in AK and the Government Delegate's office." The report lists Jewish members of BIP, including Wokulski a.k.a. Tomasz, a.k.a. Makowiecki, as well as his secretary Werschell [Widerszal, a Social Democrat, A.M.C.]; also the historian Marceli Handelsman, who allegedly occupied a high position in the AK, and Halina Krahelska, a publicist and a Social Democrat. The AK report labels all of them, along with other "Jews," as communist spies. (TO 3, doc. no. 60, pp. 193-197). There are no end note polemics with this document, suggesting the editors' agreement with these charges, as well as with the anonymous author's advice that such "tentacles" should be "surgically removed." Indeed, this opinion is repeated by the editors at least twice elsewhere in TO. As it happened, Makowiecki and his wife, also his secretary, Ludwik Widerszal, were murdered, while Handelsman (who didn't occupy a high position in the AK), and Krahelska were denounced to the Gestapo by unknown persons in 1944. They were taken to German concentration camps where they died in 1945: Handelsman at Dora-Nordhausen and Krahelska at Ravensbrück. There is no proof whatever that any of them collaborated with, or spied for, the PPR. The order to murder the first three is, indeed, thought to have been given by Witold Bienkowski of the Internal Affairs Department of the Government Delegate's office, to two counter-intelligence officers, Wladyslaw Niedenthal and Wladyslaw Jamontt, both known for their extreme right wing views and thus good candidates for such an accusation (Grzegorz Mazur, Biuro Informacji i Propagandy SZP-ZWZ-AK 1939-1945, Warsaw, 1987, pp. 286-289). In fact, the majority of the people working in the Information Office of BIP, that is, with Makowiecki, were either Social Democrats or Social Democrat sympathizers. This meant they supported Socialism--but one based on the ballot box, so they could not have supported communism. However, this subtle point escaped their enemies, for the BIP Information Office was viewed by the SN and its sympathizers as the heart of the "left" in the underground movement. Furthermore, the fact that there were "Jews" among them reinforced the SN stereotype of "Jewish Communism." Some right wing officers in AK counter-intelligence shared this view and intensified their attacks on BIP in 1944 to such a degree that its head, Lt. Col. Jan Rzepecki, protested. In writing to AK chief of staff, General T. Pelczynski in late August 1944 (during the Warsaw Uprising!), he complained of "a heap of rumors, guesses and stupidities about BIP" contained in a counter-intelligence report by Samuel "Jakub" Kostrowicki (head of section "996" of counter-intelligence in Department II of the AK High Command). Rzepecki stated he had grounds to believe that "the counter-intelligence had not ceased ferreting out Jews, masons and communists in BIP, and that it is continuing to practice this sport in a highly unintelligent fashion." (ibid, pp. 288-289, trans. A. M. C.)

To proceed to something on a lighter note, the editors also fail to question the NSZ claim that General Zygmunt Berling, commander of the Kosciuszko Division and then the Polish First Army that fought alongside the Red Army, was a Jew. In support of this, they cite a biography of Berling stating that the latter gave "the Mosaic faith" as his religion when a student at the Jagiellonian University (TO 3, p. 147, note 3, and p. 243, note 2, citing Stanislaw Jaczynski's Zygmunt Berling, Warsaw: Ksiazka i Wiedza, 1993, p. 147). What they fail to notice is the information contained earlier in the same book: that on 4 May 1896, the infant Berling was baptized in his parents' parish church in Limanowa (ibid., p. 18). When he was a student, Berling may have proclaimed the Jewish faith as an act of rebellion against the upbringing received from his parents, or as a simple prank, or a challenge to the staid authorities of the Jagiellonian University.

Tajne Oblicze has not aroused much interest in Polish historical circles, except for some communist historians. The most prominent of these is Professor Ryszard Nazarewicz, with whom Leszek Zebrowski conducted polemics both in the text (TO 3, pp. 10-11) and in many of his notes. Gontarczyk repeated many similar charges in his attack on Nazarewicz's book, which the latter answered, it must be admitted, in a very effective fashion (DN 33, 4, pp. 81-98).

In conclusion, one can agree with the 1997 evaluation of Professor Pawel Wieczorkiewicz, then head of the Historical Institute at University of Warsaw, who wrote a comment on vol. 1 and whom the editors quote in vol. 3: "Tajne Oblicze... is a malicious, publicist gloss to PRL [Polska Republika Ludowa , or the Polish People's Republic] hagiography. . . . this is a publicist book-- it should not pretend to be called a historical work. . . . However, it is precisely its exposure of the 'output' of PRL historiography that is most important in Tajne Oblicze. The book shows the mechanism of falsification." (TO 3, pp. 11-12). Zebrowski accepts the positive judgment but rejects the "publicist" label in a lengthy note.

Tajne Oblicze was published with the aid of the Foundation "Niezalezny Zespól Badawczy" (Independent Research Group), whose address, telephone number and bank account are provided on the last page of vols. 1 and 3. According to the statement printed with the above information, the foundation's goal is to "support and disseminate scholarly research, mainly in the field of most recent Polish history, on topics neglected in Poland for ideological reasons. The NZB's interest is directed particularly at the younger generation" [trans. A.M.C.]. One may assume that the NZB foundation sympathizes with the right wing views of recent Polish history.

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