10 April 2017
The article appeared in the Lietuvos Rytas daily on February 5. We proposed the publication of Korkuć’s opinion article to Lietuvos Rytas, however the newspaper decided not to print the version we proposed. Instead, Korkuć’s article also appeared in the 15 min.lt portal.
Momentuous discovery or plain ignorance?
Eldoradas Butrimas published an article in "Lietuvos Rytas" titled “The recesses of the past once again disturb Poland”, which was inspired by the publication of a not so comprehensive book in Poland by another journalist, Marek Łuszczyna.
Drawing on the “sensational” information provided by Łuszczyna, the journalist Butrimas introduces Lithuanian readers to “discoveries” claiming that terror was widespread in post-war Poland. At the same time, the publications seem to have forgotten what Communism was about. Strangely enough, the publications indicate that Poles today decide to hide this Stalinist period.
The Republic of Poland was a sovereign state, which in 1939 was attacked from several sides by totalitarian powers - Germany and the Soviet Union. Left to its own devices, Poland succumbed – but it did not surrender. Despite having all of its territory occupied, the Republic of Poland remained a militant party and a member of the anti-German coalition from the first to the last moments of the war.
Despite the occupation of its territory, the Polish state still existed: it had its own authorities (represented by the Polish authorities in exile), constantly operating diplomatic missions around the world. The legal continuity of the Polish state was maintained, being internationally the only legal representative of the whole territory and of the citizens of the Republic of Poland.
In 1939-1941, the Soviet Union occupied almost half of Poland's territory. In 1944, when the Republic of Poland was still fighting as a member of the anti-German coalition against the Germans for freedom, Stalin, in his own way, took over part of the Polish territory already occupied by the Red Army. He forcefully re-annexed almost half of the territory of the Republic. And then - enslaved all the rest west of the Bug line. He began to create an alternative state: a totalitarian and communist one. Non-sovereign, subordinate to Moscow, managed by Communists designated by the Kremlin.
Moscow prevented the return of the Polish state authorities to the country, and attempts to rebuild underground structures of the Republic of Poland were consistently and bloodily destroyed with the assistance of the NKVD, the Soviet army, and over time by the Soviet-led communist forces.
Stalinist terror brought about a new stage in the martyrdom of the Polish nation. It is well-known that Poland, like Lithuania at the end of the war, was a victim of Soviet aggression. The Soviet occupation of Poland, which was an Allied country, was more camouflaged, but the effect was similar: independence resistance movements were crushed by divisions of the NKVD and communist security services developed under the control of the NKVD and the Soviet-controlled army.
Polish society did not have any influence on this regime: neither on its constellation, nor on its actions. Power was in the hands of a regime put in place by Stalin. It was anti-Polish, Communist, Stalinist. The Communist authorities, acting on Moscow's recommendations, fought the Republic of Poland politically and with propaganda in the international arena.
In Poland it used police and military methods: murdering, arresting and sending people to communist camps in the country and exporting tens of thousands of officials of the Polish Underground State and soldiers of the Home Army to the USSR. The destruction of the national structures of the Polish state was a precondition for the stabilization of the communist state.
Lessons not learned
To claim that this Stalinist invention was simply Polish in nature, and that communist camps, prisons, and even mass terror were Polish (not mentioning their communist, forced anti-Polish character), is a falsification of history.
A similar falsification can also be described with regard to Communism in Lithuania, when one depicts both prisons and terror as being simply Lithuanian.
After all, there are those who, either as a result of ignorance or by deliberately lying, claim that it was the "freely expressed will" of Lithuanian society in 1940 that led to a Lithuanian request to be a member of the USSR. The claim that the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic was simply Lithuania (sovereign, managed by its own citizens) is the same type of falsehood as the claim that the Polish People's Republic was simply Poland (sovereign, managed by its own citizens).
In Poland, too, there were neither free elections nor civil liberties during the communist period. Soviet communism took hold of Poland and state leaders were chosen and accepted by Moscow. It matters little that the Lithuanian SRS was directly incorporated into the USSR, while the Mongolian variant was chosen for Poland, based on the greater appearances of separatism, but it all came down to one and the same thing: the lack of sovereignty of the state, the lack of citizenship - the subordination of everything to the Soviet Union.
Soviet totalitarianism used the German totalitarian camp and prison infrastructure to carry out its crimes. Poland, however, never hid these facts.
The disclosure and popularization of knowledge about communist rule - alongside the German crimes - was and is the most important goal of the 1998 Act on the National Remembrance Institute, a nationwide institution dealing with revealing the truth about communist and German terror.
Indeed, some post-communist politicians or those who whose parents were part of the state-terror infrastructure, have problems calling communism for it really is. But this is phenomenon that is well-known in all post-communist countries. Finding politicians who do not understand the importance of adopting a scientific approach to sources is also not difficult. But pretending that the crimes of the Stalinist regime are a taboo subject in independent Poland is a complete absurdity.
Hundreds of publications have already been printed in Poland about the system of Stalinist terror and the crimes committed by Soviet communism.
Many of them describe in detail the system of Soviet and Communist camps created by the NKVD and then by the UB. Each of these facilities has already been described by Bogusław Kopka in 2002, in his meticulous study: ‘Labour Camps in Poland 1944-1950: An Encyclopedic Guide’. This work, as well as numerous other publications, also describes the use of German camp infrastructure. Including the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where the NKVD and then the UB created camps in which once again people died - including innocent victims of mass arrests by the security services.
The so-called Central Labour Camp in Jaworzno has been described on many occasions. During the German occupation an Auschwitz subsidiary operated there, later the communists transformed it into a new camp complex.
Thanks to the co-financing by the Ministry of Culture and the National Heritage Institute, two volumes of studies titled "The camp of two totalitarian regimes Jaworzno 1943-1956" (Jaworzno 2007) came out in 2007. And a recent “journalistic discovery” is that the so-called Central Labour Camp was at the centre of the camp system at the time. One of these volumes includes information about research carried out by Prof. Ryszard Terlecki – who is today the chairman of the parliamentary group of the ruling majority.
The communist repression of Silesian inhabitants can be read about, for example, in the extensive monograph "Silesian Voivodeship, 1945-1990" published jointly by the IPN and the University of Silesia in Katowice (Katowice 2007). We have also written about these issues in a cross-sectional volume (M. Korkuć, J. Szarek, P. Szubarczyk, J. Wieliczka-Szarkowa, "In the Shadow of a Red Star." (Cracow, 1917-1956). The co-author is the current president of IPN.
Poland has presented this problem (also in the context of the camp system) internationally as well. In 2008, within the capacity as an envoy of the Polish Ministry of Justice and IPN, I spoke about this at a public hearing held in Brussels. On behalf of Poland I spoke both about the post-war exploitation of the German camps of Auschwitz and the camps in Jaworzno and the whole network of communist terror that should not and must not be forgotten. The result of this hearing organized by the Slovenian Presidency of the EU is the volume "Crimes committed by totalitarian regimes" (Ljubljana 2008). It also contains my text, which highlights the activities of the Polish NKVD camps in Poland, as well as the communist UB.
In Auschwitz the victims of the NKVD and UB camps are commemorated by a plaque written in Polish, in German and in English. Such forms commemoration will also be found in Świętochłowice and other places. Various publications also mention the torturous conditions that the Soviets and the communists created for the Poles in Silesia, using a typical Stalinist mandate while interrogating "German collaborators”.
Is this what hiding something looks like? Anyway, why would Poland conceal the crimes of Stalinism, when Polish society was also a victim? This is simply absurdity.
However, Łuszczyna (and Butrimas) have a simple objective. To demonstrate that all of this constitutes a "corpse in the closet" of the Polish nation. By making a "discovery" of the very existence of the camps, the journalist put emphasis on the adjective “Polish”, ostentatiously omitting the communist character of the camps, and the fact that they were created by the power imposed and maintained in Poland by the Soviet empire. On the cover of Łuszczyna’s book, the word communist is simply crossed out, probably to drill home the point that concentration camps and communist terror in general were the product of Polish society.
The "Polishness" of the camps as described by Łuszczyna has as much factual basis as stating that the authorities and services of the Lithuanian SRS were the embodiment of the Lithuanian state, ostentatiously ignoring their imposed, communist or Soviet character. Would anyone who knows the history of Lithuania write about Lithuanian terror, Lithuanian prisons and Lithuanian anti-state attacks against Lithuania, ignoring the fact that these were Soviet, communist, imposed by force?
In such a scenario, who would the Lithuanian underground hero Jonas Žemaitis be? The leader of the anti-Lithuanian underground movement, against Lithuania?! By going down this road we are only one step away from repeating the communist propaganda that we are dealing with forest bandits against our homeland and not with an independence resistance movement.
The same applies to the Poles, the Polish independence underground movement, which also alerted the free world about the atrocities, the camps and the communist terror that were taking place in the Polish lands under Stalinist rule in this part of the Soviet empire.
Victims of ignorance
There is no space here to list all of the absurdities put to paper by Łuszczyna. An example of his primitive argumentation is the portrayal of the Stalinist perpetrator Salomon Morel, the sadistic commandant of the camp in Świętochłowice and Jaworzno, as a criminal representative of the Polish nation, although he himself was a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust and not some "Polish-nationalist".
It is not Morel’s nationality that is of crucial importance here, but rather his affiliation with his service to the Soviet empire, whose protection his ministry enjoyed. After all, we know that within the Communist Party there was the belief that the Soviet Union was the one and only communist fatherland.
So we know of Lithuanians and Poles, who individually joined the ranks of the Soviet empire. But what does this change? After all, we know that the Kremlin (and not the Polish or Lithuanian nation) created criminal communist systems for our societies. It was by the will of Moscow that Stalinist torturers gained control over the lives – and deaths – of ordinary people.
The description of Łuszczyna’s book and listing the countless manipulations would require a separate article. It remains to be hoped that it is simply a matter of shortcomings in the education of journalists.