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September 2001

Volume XXI, No. 3

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz responds

To begin with, I would like to thank Professor Anna Cienciala for writing about a collection of communist underground documents I co-edited. However, since her review is less than fair, I would like to clarify a few things.

Most importantly, I reject her charges that the editors set out to substitute one propaganda stereotype for another. Rather, we published the documents that hitherto had been inaccessible to non-communist scholars. The documents speak for themselves. Admittedly, they make for a shocking and self-condemnatory read. After all, had they not been so compromising for the communists, they would have been made accessible before 1989. They should be read alongside the earlier documentary collections and the hagiographical works at which Mr. Nazarewicz (quoted by Professor Cienciala) and his comrades excelled. Only in juxtaposition with those earlier works can The Hidden Face be appreciated for what it is: a corrective to a white spot of Polish history.

That is not to say that the truth lies in the middle, between the communist propaganda of yore and our documentary collection, as Professor Cienciala has implied. The Hidden Face allows us to reconstruct the unknown side of the communist underground, the side that seriously challenges, if not outright negates, the myths concerning the Polish Workers' Party (PPR) and its guerrilla force, the People's Guard and People's Army (GL/AL).

The Hidden Face has received many favorable reviews in Poland. Poland's eminent historian, Professor Tomasz Strzembosz, wrote the following: "In The Hidden Face, the documents have not been doctored. They reflect the reality of life in the GL and AL. These two armed formations have many compromising facts on their record. . . . The Hidden Face is of course a selection. . . . The historian, making his choices, often does not publish documents in their entirety. It is important to note that this is always marked [in The Hidden Face]. The London edition of The AK in documents also has many lacunae." (Strzembosz, as quoted in Piotr Lipinski, "Tajne oblicze: Gwardzisci uciekli w zboze," Gazeta Wyborcza, 24-26 December 1997, 23). Dr. Cezary Chlebowski has stated that [in The Hidden Face] "every document brings forth a drama or is otherwise a rare gem [co dokument, to dramat lub ratyras]," and he called the editors "the three historical musketeers" (Cezary Chlebowski, "Oni poderwali naród do boju," Tygodnik Solidarnosc, 2 January 1998, 16). Professor Cienciala thus incorrectly stated that historians glossed over our work.

She seems to agree with our main point when she admits that the minuscule PPR and GL/AL perpetrated deeds of "revolutionary banditry," killing and robbing Polish independentists of the Home Army, the Peasant Battalions, and the National Armed Forces. Nonetheless, in some instances, she seems to rely on Nazarewicz too heavily to appreciate the documentary value of our work.

Such is the case with her treatment of the alleged collaboration between the Nazi security services and the communist underground. The Home Army documents, corroborated partly by communist secret police (UB) interrogation records, strongly suggest that such collusion indeed took place. Professor Cienciala (after Nazarewicz) claims that "the PPR had nothing to do with it." She seems surprised that in the course of the joint operation the Gestapo failed to catch "the alleged AL raiders." Well, I would like to ask her to re-read the documents (and not their interpretation by Nazarewicz) to see that in fact "the alleged AL raiders" posed as members of the pro-Nazi collaborationist wing of the Miecz i Plug [Sword and Plough] movement. At least one of the leaders of MiP, Boguslaw Hrynkiewicz, was a triple agent: a PPR infiltrator, an NKVD operative, and a Gestapo informer. Of course, Hrynkiewicz remained a loyal communist. He organized the raid jointly with either the Gestapo or the Abwehr. The Nazis supplied their men and the communists theirs, disguised as "Polish fascists." Why would the Gestapo want to capture their own collaborators? Indeed, the world of secret services must be even more confusing than the universe of diplomatic intrigue that Professor Cienciala describes so well in her valuable books. At any rate, a soon-to-be-published monograph on the Miecz i Plug movement by Aneta Wojcieszkiewicz should clear the murkiness of the Gestapo- PPR affair.

Professor Cienciala is similarly baffled when she deals with communist guerrillas and the party leader Wladyslaw Gomulka. She worries that "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?" The PPR and GL/AL largely eschewed establishing their own clandestine infrastructure in the countryside, because after 1941, they advocated "active struggle." That strategy rendered a secret net hard to maintain. First, the peasants resented "active struggle" because it caused needless Nazi reprisals. Second, very few Poles were willing to feed the communists who were identified with Poland's other enemy, the USSR. Third, the peasants were reluctant to feed anyone because most food was confiscated by the Nazis. Therefore most, if not all, communist units had to support themselves by robbing peasants (see e.g. Mariusz Bechta, Rewolucja, Mit, Bandytyzm: Komunisci na Podlasiu, 1939-1944, Warsaw-Biala Podlaska: Rekonkwista-Rachocki i ska, 2000). Robberies obliged the peasants to organize self-defense groups and to turn to the independentists for protection. The latter were at the time fighting off the communist assaults on the Polish elite. The answer then is, yes, there were some ideological communists, including NKVD agents, in the ranks of the GL/AL partisans, but there were also bloody revolutionaries devoid of all scruples in their treatment of the Polish population and its traditional elites, including members of the independentist underground. Thus, ideological communists worked hand-in-glove with common bandits. That included Wladyslaw Gomulka, who was well aware of the situation in the countryside as well as of some of the activities of the NKVD within his own ranks.

Gomulka was a curious case, although it is hard to agree with Professor Cienciala that he "was certainly not a puppet." As Peter Raina stressed in his often overlooked biography of Gomulka, the communist leader was as faithful a Stalinist as Tito, and for a longer period of time. During the war, he was independent only to the extent that the PPR lost radio contact with Moscow. He did his best to follow the Stalinist party line, as he understood it without any proper instructions. He must have done his job well. After all, in 1944 the NKVD dispatched Leon Kasman to replace Gomulka but, after learning the details of the latter apparatchik's conduct, Stalin judged him obedient enough and allowed him to stay in power. Stalin was not disappointed. In fact, more independentists were killed by the communists during Gomulka's first reign (1944-1949), than when Stalinism bloomed fully (1949-1956). Initially, after 1944, Gomulka did not elucidate any original policy for Poland. He simply toed the party line that Poland was "a people's democracy," a system different from Soviet socialism (a precise description was provided by Stalin's then-favorite, Evgen Varga, in 1946). Hence, in congruence with Stalin's wishes, Gomulka promised that there would be no forced collectivization of agriculture. In 1948, tardy to sense that change was afoot in the Kremlin, Gomulka defended Tito, who advocated similar (no longer orthodox Stalinist) views. According to communist tactic, Gomulka had to be sacrificed as one identified with a "deviationist" party line. He was dismissed and isolated in a comfortable villa. As the recently published documents suggest, Gomulka was persecuted only to the extent that he was served plain bread instead of baguettes with his morning coffee. In 1956, he returned to power preaching his views of the "people's democracy" party line. What alternative did he have? More orthodox Stalinism which had just been discredited by Khrushchev? True, Gomulka was less of a puppet after 1956, but then the post- Stalin Soviet leadership did not demand as much servility as Stalin did.

There are also several other mistakes in the review. Barykada was not a clandestine political paper of the National Party (SN), but rather a small newssheet of a local military underground cell of the NSZ in Konstancin-Jeziorna near Warsaw. The issue Professor Cienciala quoted with understandable disapproval appeared in March 1944 and not in 1943--see the excellent monograph by Wojciech Jerzy Muszynski, W walce o Wielka Polske: Propaganda zaplecza politycznego Narodowych Sil Zbrojnych, 1939-1945 (Warsaw-Biala Podlaska: Rekonkwista-Rachocki i ska, 2000).

Finally, Professor Cienciala states that, on the one hand, "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 on the other hand, she inexplicably apologizes for the historians responsible for falsifying history. Her favorites are the secret police man Colonel Nazarewicz, the secret police agent Maria Turlejska ("Ksienia"), and the party hack Stanislaw Madajczyk. Our documents compromise their "scholarship" unequivocally. After we questioned his integrity, Nazarewicz accussed us of "possessing material means of unknown origins," i.e. of being on the payroll of some secret organization, perhaps a Western intelligence agency (Ryszard Nazarewicz, "Slepa nienawisc," Dzis, December 1997, 123). Turlejska and Madajczyk kept silent for the most part. Marcin Zaborski scathingly criticized even the "dissident" work of Turlejska as ignorant at best. To preempt charges against him, Madajczyk, who tended to be so sparse with footnotes that it was sometimes hard to differentiate in his work between his own analysis and that of the unknown experts of the independentist underground, has recently discovered the Holocaust of the Jews. Sure, people do change. But more often they simply change their rhetoric. It seems that a liberal-sounding Stalinist is more palatable to Professor Cienciala than the shooting from the hip right-winger Leszek Zebrowski. She cares neither for the reality of nationhood nor for the combative style of the main editor of our volume. That is fair enough. But is it sufficient reason to rely on an ex-UB Colonel as her interpreter of our collection of PPR and GL/AL documents?

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, Los Angeles, California

Assessment of a book

I was surprised to read in a review that Barbara Wachowicz's book Nazwe Cie Kosciuszko is "a book for children" (SR, 21/2, April 2001). Does that mean that the book is for those 6, 8, 10 years of age? Nazwe Cie Kosciuszko is suitable for students and adults. It is informative and easy to read, and it nicely depicts a popular hero. The book is widely read by people of all age groups in Poland.

Aleksandra Ziólkowska-Boehm, PhD
Wilmington, Delaware


Professor Anna Cienciala regrets to have misled the SR readers about Svetlana Alliluyeva's marriage to Kaganovich Jr. (SR, April 2001, p. 798) In fact, she married the son of Stalin's close collaborator and creator of "Socialist Realism," Andrei Aleksandrovich Zhdanov (1896- 1948).

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