Thursday, December 10, 2009

IPN - Polish for 'False Memory Syndrome'?


Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) has accused a diplomat who spent years in a communist prison of being a communist secret agent.

The IPN’s education office released a statement yesterday accusing Maciej Kozlowski - who is currently Deputy Director of the Department of Africa and the Middle East - of being the communist collaborator code-named “Witold”, even though he was arrested for smuggling in copies of the oppositionist Kultura magazine across the Polish-Czechoslovakian border in 1969.

He was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment for spying for the CIA. Koalowski - a former Polish ambassador to Israel (1999-2003) - but was released in 1972.

But the IPN - a body set up in the 1990s to look into Nazi and Communist crimes towards the Polish nation - has forwarded to the prosecutors claims that he falsified a vetting statement - which all public officials must sign - saying he had never collaborated with any communist agents.
The IPN says that Kozlowski worked for the communist Division II Security Service based in Krakow from 1965 to 1969, specialising in counter-British intelligence.

If it is proved that he was, in effect, a double agent, then he would have to leave his post at the Foreign Ministry.

Kozlowski said in a previous case which was dropped in 2000 that if the communist secret services have files on him then it is only because he was an opposition activist, not because he was a spy.

Kaczynski’s historical attack dogs

Since 2005, the IPN has been accused of acting as an organiser and prosecutor of witch hunts against opponents of the Kaczynski twins. The Jaroslaw Kacztynski government (2005-07) widened the institute’s powers and broadened the vetting process against not just public officials but anyone working in the public arena, including journalists (and including the beatroot, even though he is British and was drunk in a university bar in London for most of the 1980s). The Constitutional Tribunal has since ruled that this part of the IPN’s functions was unconstitutional.

But the IPN has continued to spray allegations of communist collaboration around on a daily basis. Earlier this year two historians from the institute released a book, rehashing allegations that Lech Walesa was the 1970s communist collaborator “Bolek”.

Walesa has now taken President Lech Kaczynski to court for slander, after he made the same accusation.

British historian Norman Davies wrote in the Guardian that Poles should find these constant attacks embarrassing. "Those who are once again attacking Lech Walesa's good name must not realise how they are damaging Poland's reputation abroad in doing so. People in the West, in particular, are not aware of the complex nuances of Polish politics. For this reason I hold the view that attacks against Lech Walesa are a deeply unpatriotic act. ... ”

Last week Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced that he wants to de-politicise the work of the IPN. The government has submitted a draft bill which proposes a change in the IPN’s board and a speedier access to files held by them.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party (critics say the IPN is its historical attack dog) has said it will oppose the move.

Ryszard Kalisz from the ex-communist SLD said his party has repeatedly called for abolishment of the IPN. But since that proposal has little support then he would support any legislation which illuminates “pathology” from the work of the institute.

Political sclerosis

The IPN is not just an archive populated by a bunch of dusty historians. It has legal powers to prosecute. As such, it has become the modern day Polish equivalent of Joseph McCarthy. For the current board under its president Janusz Kurtyka, a communist collaborator is someone whose name was held in communist secret service files. For whatever reason. That seems enough to bar them from public service today.

Still, a name is enough for some with an axe to grind. As Salvador Dali said of memory and remembrance: “The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels: it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant.”

24 comments:

ge'ez said...

Davies is spot on.

Is there anywhere in English to find some brief bios of the IPN board members? What kind of historical and contemporary political profile does Kurtyka have?

Hey, looking at the old BR post... whatever happened to Opamp and Michael Farris? I'm hoping the latter didn't hook up with the Mariavites.

jannowak57 said...

This article is typical of the misunderstanding of the importance of the IPN to Poland and it’s people.

We are entitled to our own national memory, from September 1939 to 1989, we were forced to accept a national memory (or history) imposed on us by others in order to further their specific interests.

Conspicuously the following were the main perpetrators:

Germany

Soviet Union / Russia

Functionaries of the PRL occupation government.

Our WW2 allies the US and UK

Each of these entities has a vested interested in either a wholly falsified version of our history or at least one with some cosmetic changes. The historical documents in the custody of the IPN are key to unraveling the truth and to the great disgust of some parties contain large numbers of inconvenient truths.

Rather than use this material to proceed with thorough scholarly research in order to find the truth, the opponents of the IPN have chosen another route that of attach and smear. The method of attack to this point has been to go after the IPN and its staff in order to halt the work or discredit the process.

It is clear the opponents of the IPN wish to bury the truth.

jannowak57 said...

What Ryszard Kalisz (from the ex-communist SLD) thinks couldn’t possibly be more irrelevant. Why would the views of an organization beholding to Moscow for its very existence be considered. We mustn’t forget they got a million US dollars to transform themselves from communists to social democrats over night from the Kremlin. No doubt Moscow was trying to encourage a pluralistic democracy to form in Poland, I strongly believe we should return the favour. Ryszard Kalisz represents to this day those who fear exposure of their past as functionaries in an occupation government or willing participants in the mechanism of repression thus from him you constantly hear repeated calls for abolishment of the IPN. He is without credibility in this debate.

jannowak57 said...

You attribute a quote to Salvador Dali, I am curious about at what stage of his life he made this pronouncement? Was it when he was embracing both anarchism and communism or later when declaring himself an anarchist and monarchist? Seems truth perpetually eluded him.

jannowak57 said...

“For the current board under its president Janusz Kurtyka, a communist collaborator is someone whose name was held in communist secret service files. For whatever reason. That seems enough to bar them from public service today.”

This statement is a stretch to say the least; the files have a coding system that identifies those named with clarity as agent, informer or victim of persecution.
With respect to both Mr. Walesa and Kozlowski they are both entitled to a judicial process on a number of levels to refute allegations or clear their names. Norman Davies should grasp the concept of due process, a person’s fame or status in the media does not grant them special exemption from the law of the land.

beatroot said...

jan, I was not saying, for one minute, that Poland does not need an institute such as IPN. I was saying that it should be a historical research centre with Poland and other nation's best most specialist historians.

But take away it's prosecutor function and take away that rancid
politics.

Geez, I will try to get some bio for you about the current board and the president - they are the important people there.

beatroot said...

and yeah, Geez, what happened to Opamp (he was our conservative spokesman) and farris, who was always entertaining and he got good understanding for one of us foreigners. Last time I heard he was still somewhere in Poznan, but maybe he just slipped out of the bog scene. Although, saying that, there are, still, not that many english blogs in Poland.

jannowak57 said...

I don’t see any problem with having prosecutors work for this agency this is very specialized work. What would be gained by maintaining a separate agency responsible for undertaking prosecutions?

In both scenarios the defense lawyer and the judge are separate and independent entities.

Just encase I misunderstand, your not suggesting we stop prosecuting?

keith said...

Since anyone working for the Polish state was working for the legal government of the time on what basis is anyone prosecuted by the IPN? Also talking of due process of Law is any prosecution going to withstand examination by the Court of Human Rights?

ge'ez said...

57 wrote:

"the files have a coding system that identifies those named with clarity as agent, informer or victim of persecution."

What? The secret police coded their persecuted victims as such?

And again, if the commies were/are not to be trusted, how can we be certain that someone they identified as an agent or an informer was in fact such?

beatroot said...

Jan says:

"What would be gained by maintaining a separate agency responsible for undertaking prosecutions? "

But that is how it is done in criminal cases all the time, jan. Crimes are prosecuted in the normal way. They take advice from lawyers in many different types of cases. The law is meant to be seen over by objective, impartial judges and legal people. The IPN is none of those.

jannowak57 said...

keith said... “was working for the legal government of the time on what basis is anyone prosecuted”

The legality of the PRL government is totally irrelevant; there are many examples of people being brought to justice after the fall of a totalitarian state. If you were part of the mechanism of repression you do not have any “Human Rights” court or protection that prevents prosecution or even civil action. Do not loose sight of the precedent set at the Nuremberg trial “I was just following orders” was not a permissible defence.

ge'ez said.. “how can we be certain that someone they identified as an agent or an informer was in fact such? And “What? The secret police coded their persecuted victims as such?”

The index of names relates to actual files, a partial index was released by a man call Wildstein, he released some hundred thousand plus names but the entire archives could contain as many as 1.5 million names. In the process they examine the actual files. Only the actual files, however, can reveal who were SB officers, informant or the targets of their investigations. A prosecution is based on more than someone’s name appearing in an index.

Beatroot said: “ The law is meant to be seen over by objective, impartial judges and legal people. The IPN is none of those.”

The judges and defense lawyers do not work for the IPN the aggrieved party gets their day in court. The prosecutor presents the IPN’s information to the court and they determine the verdict. Once a prosecutor decides he has enough evidence to file charges he is no longer an impartial party.

beakerkin said...

Beatroot

1) Should people be held accountable
for their actions?
2) How do you propose to deal with crimes committed by Communists?

The truth is that it is once again for the Polish people to decide this matter. The Polish people are more than capable of handling their own affairs. No doubt the Polish people will deal wisely with this issue. These trials will
be fairer than the way Communists treated others. In reality Commies
frequently kill their own.

Jan

Would you be in favor of some clemency for lower level types for complete and thorough documentation of these crimes? How important is it to thoroughly document the crimes? In reality sometimes justice requires making deals with smaller fish in order
to solve larger issues.

At a certain point a nation has to move forward and heal. Would trying
lower level types aid in the process of moving forward?

ge'ez said...

57: "A prosecution is based on more than someone’s name appearing in an index."

And I ask, how much more and based on what exactly? Again, how can you trust a communist to make a truthful assessment of an individual in a written report? What happens when it was to that particular communist's advantage to list someone as an informer and make up crap about the information provided?

Not all "the Polish people," I would imagine, think the IPN, as presently constituted, is the best vehicle to determine guilt.

jannowak57 said...

ge'ez said... “And I ask, how much more and based on what exactly?”

As with any case before courts there is a burden of proof before the jurists determine the out come of a case. Some of these files contain the smoking gun such as a signed document agreeing to be an official informant or agent for the SB. The defense can compel the SB officers involved to testify as well as anyone else named in the files. It thing it is not that difficult to sort out who was doing what.

This isn’t going away.

jannowak57 said...

beakerkin said... “Would you be in favor of some clemency for lower level types”

I think a truth and reconciliation process would have help society in general much as was done in South Africa.

The current process leaves the low level people off the table anyway and really only deals with two types of people those who were involved with violence or murder also those who choose to lie during the vetting process. This constitutes a rather small group of people. When the IPN names some one as a collaborator of the PRL’s mechanism of repression there is rarely any judicial sanction involved.

The documents are fundamental to properly understanding the history of the nation and to form a national memory not based on lies inspired by foreign interests and former PRL functionaries.

We are moving forward by removing the lies embedded in our national memory by others.

ge'ez said...

57: "The defense can compel the SB officers involved to testify as well as anyone else named in the files. It thing it is not that difficult to sort out who was doing what."

Yea, but is this what the IPN as presently constituted is doing? The courts are the courts. The IPN is or *should be* something else. I'm sorry but I don't dismiss the possibility that the IPN is capable of propagating their own lies.

jannowak57 said...

ge’ez at some point I have to say that there exists a judicial system in Poland which may not be perfect but is as functional as in most stable democracies, and there lay your checks and balances. If malicious behaviour was the motive for bringing a case forward than it still does not alter that there is a burden of proof in order to get the jurists to pronounce a verdict. There have been than one politically motivated prosecution in the US because a prosecutor was trying to make a name for himself. The judges do not work for the IPN or the government of the day.

In short the complaints against the IPN are not credible.

ge'ez said...

But the judicial system in Poland seems to be doing nothing while all the IPN does is attempt to raise innuendo to a level of societal judgement.

beakerkin said...

Jan

Thank you for thoughtful response. Ultimately, I have faith that the Polish people will deal wisely with this issue.

Whatever, the Polish people decide will be more just than the legal system Commies used to further their foul ideology.

varus said...

Jan 57 wrote:"As with any case before courts there is a burden of proof before the jurists determine the out come of a case."

As i understand the Polish criminal system, there are no jurists; a jury as a Brit or American would understand does not exist in Poland and i am guessing that in the case of IPN prosecutions it also is somewhat missing.

This may be a small question of semantics as i am sure you probably meant the judges acting as a coherent body. However, it is an important issue as the point being discussed here is the politicization of the IPN and i would think that we can stretch that to the judicial process as well.

keith said...

No one seems to have addressed my question: the legal basis for prosecutions of collaborators with communist states.

Surely there is no basis in a Liberal Democracy for prosecution solely base on political beliefs? And duress is a possible defence as is the argument that prosecutions involve ex post facto laws.

Anonymous said...

For the current board under its president Janusz Kurtyka, a communist collaborator is someone whose name was held in communist secret service files. For whatever reason. That seems enough to bar them from public service today.

You are making gross statements here, beatroot. I am not really sure it is based on anything substantial.

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