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Ordinary Polish people who collaborated with the Communist authorities?


Bren 1 | 3
22 Mar 2014  #1
I have recently been reading about East Germany and the Stasi. One of the remarkable facts, at least to me, was the number of ordinary people who collaborated with the Communist authorities. As I have some connection with some Polish families in England I started to wonder about the situation in Poland. When I asked my Polish friends they were very tight lipped and did not wish to talk about the matter at all. Did I speak out of order? Is this a sore point in Poland? Is there anything I can read which will shed light on this period of Polish history? (It would need to be in English!)

Any comment/advice would be welcome.
Wroclaw Boy
23 Mar 2014  #2
Do you understand the concept of structural violence Bren? as in 'if one person has the ability to become an informant' we all do? Obviously its a taboo area, but not surprising when you begin to discover human behavioral patterns. I can't help you in terms of resources for actual events only the psychological angle from somebody with an arm chair fascination.
f stop 25 | 2,513
23 Mar 2014  #3
What exactly do you mean by cooperating, Bren?
Joining a government organization in order to get a place to live, or a job, or their child in Uni?
Marching in the May 1 parade, or not trying to blow up the party headquarters?

Most people were just trying to live and take care of their families. Some may actually believed in idealistic communist tenets. I think asking somebody who lived in communist Poland, not of their own choice and presumably not in jail, whether they've cooperated with the government is ignorant and insulting.

As an aside, do you think everybody paying taxes in US is cooperating with the US government?
tazm
23 Mar 2014  #4
I cannot answer your question directly as I am a 1st generation US citizen of Polish decent, but even I am smart enough to know you have greatly insulted your friends (or acquaintances) by insinuating they would have committed the serious offence of informing on neighbors or family. Most living in Poland during this time considered their nation occupied by the Soviets just as they were occupied by the Nazis. In my opinion fstop's previous reply is correct in you are showing your ignorance of the situation these people were living in. You owe each of them a most sincere apology.

You should also know the Polish Parliament established the IPN (English name: Institute of National Remembrance) a commission for the prosecution of crimes against the Polish Nation. They are NOT like the Stasi or Soviet NKVD-my understanding is they control and investigate the files left by the secret police so those who were unfairly persecuted may find justice. PER THE WEBSITE: Chief Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (Główna Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu) is an investigating department of the IPN and simultaneously a specialised part of the public prosecutor's office of the Republic of Poland. It conducts penal proceedings concerning the Nazi and Communist crimes ("actions performed by the officers of the communist state between September 17, 1939 and July 31, 1990 which consisted in applying reprisals or other forms of violating human rights in relation to individuals or groups of people" Art. 2 Act on the Institute) and other crimes which are classified as crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on Polish citizens and on people of Polish nationality who were citizens of other countries, between 1 September 1939 and the end of 1990.

Maybe if you go to their webpage and read some of the information you will understand just how this issue is still affecting families today-this is NOT long forgotten history but a very painful part of the Polish National Psyche.
krecik89 3 | 60
23 Mar 2014  #5
Bren is using the word collaborate. The evidence suggests less Poles collaborated with the SB as did East Germans with the Stasi. I think it is taboo with ordinary people but scandals are regularly splashed across the news about some famous politician who supposedly collaborated.

At its height in the 80s it's claimed there were 84000 informants. I'd agree it was a difficult time and it's easy to judge from today's perspective. However, many informants were in a privileged position when Poland entered the free market they had many contacts and often got rich. I think there could be a case for naming prominent politicians and businessmen as informants to give the public knowledge of how they possibly came to be in such a privileged position. Was it through hard work or collaboration?

This thread is about ordinary Polish people collaborating, not politicians/businessmen. Please keep to the topic.
gucio
23 Mar 2014  #6
One very well known part of it was that any one in government job, such as policeman, local authority office, or even a teacher could lose their job, if they were seen going to Church on Sunday. This was widespread. So watch out, it could be playing ount " in the cinema near you".
f stop 25 | 2,513
23 Mar 2014  #7
I don't think either one of you got my point.

The most numerous crimes against the government back then was black marketing and bribes, and EVERYBODY was doing it. And everyone knew it was against the law. Everyone, but the biggest puts kombinowal.

Ratting out your neighbour, or "collaborating" as some like to spin it, was not a political act, but a underhanded move by somebody driven by envy, revenge or self preservation.

You mad at your neighbor? Drop a dime on him! Did you get busted and can get off by giving up your dealer? Give him up! It should sound familiar, it is very succesfully done in the US. Certainly not the thing only seen in communist countries.

Incidentally, the kind of people that did the "collaborating" back then are the same kind that demand punishment for the "collaborators" now. Politics has nothing to do with it, but they throw it in because it's to their advantage, same way the law was used to one's own advantage back then.

But there is another, much more insidious implication on those that managed to adopt, or even thrive in those times. It doesn't matter if they may accomplished it with wisdom and work ethic. They must have done it by knowing somebody in government! If you tear their life apart, you'll probably find something, because either they were not "clean" or knew someone who wasn't.
OP Bren 1 | 3
23 Mar 2014  #8
There seems to be an underlying feeling in the responses to my original question that I am somehow looking to blacken the character of the Polish nation. That is wrong. I was simply interested in the response of Polish people to the aftermath of communist rule and how it compared to that of East Germany. There seems to be a great deal of literature relating to E Germany but very little readily available about Poland. Clearly, my curiosity is a cause for resentment for some.
iammir 1 | 9
24 Mar 2014  #9
Bren...seems like your inquiry to your friends touched upon a sensitive subject- and by some of the replies you received here- it's quite obviously an emotion igniter. Just wanted to defend your natural curiosity by saying you DID NOT INSULT ANYONE. And I'm sure your friends didn't take it that way.
Kowalski 7 | 621
24 Mar 2014  #10
All PZPR party members - about 3 000 0000 members at its peak - to some degree were collaborating with SB. You may argue they were not ordinary people but I think they were. Almost all polish families had some relative in PZPR as the membership would be required to get and hold ANY supervisor type job position, sometimes to get a flat or a coupon for a car or other benefits, would help get passport or holiday package in Bulgaria.

They had contact with SB officer on monthly basis, on party members meetings and depending on their position, milieu, relatives would inform or answer questions or be left alone. Some to avoid PZPR membership would join PZPR coalition partners like United People Party or Democratic Party and this was considered less shameful. Many would go to party meetings hiding and would never tell anyone they were the members.

It would be fair to say that many PZPR members would try to say as little as possible when in contact with SB, often claiming they knew absolutely nothing and PZPR membership actually would protect them - any member of PZPR was treated by SB with degree of respect and given a benefit of doubt.
Harry
24 Mar 2014  #11
One of the remarkable facts, at least to me, was the number of ordinary people who collaborated with the Communist authorities.

The percentage in Poland was about the same as everywhere else across the eastern bloc. I'd be happy to have a fairly large bet that that percentage was pretty much identical to the one the UK would have seen if the commies had ever got into power there.

When I asked my Polish friends they were very tight lipped and did not wish to talk about the matter at all.

You were lucky that they didn't want to talk about it: there are few things more pathetic than watching Poles try to claim that hardly any Poles joined the party (especially if said Poles go on to claim that most people in the party were Jews anyway). It is a sore point with a lot of people in Poland, probably more of a sore point than in other countries in the former eastern bloc.

membership would be required to get and hold ANY supervisor type job position

Sorry but that very simply is not true, at least not for the '60s, '70s (i.e. when the party was at its peak) and '80s. I know more than a few people who had senior supervisor positions who were most certainly not in the party. I know people who had senior positions working for Poland overseas who were not in the party.

sometimes to get a flat or a coupon for a car or other benefits, would help get passport or holiday package in Bulgaria.

That's a very strange statement; I know lots of people who got a flat and/or a car without needing to join the party. I very much doubt that being in the party hurt one's chances of getting those things but it was not necessary by any means.
szczecinianin 4 | 345
24 Mar 2014  #12
I know more than a few people who had senior supervisor positions who were most certainly not in the party.

Most of the people I know who were in senior positions were in the party, to the best of my knowledge. It would have been impossible to make a career in (for example) the military without being a member of the party. People were often forced to choose between their career and their principles.
jon357 63 | 14,123
24 Mar 2014  #13
Is there anything I can read which will shed light on this period of Polish history?

Three and a half million members, some of whom were very keen and optimistic about a brave new world, some who were cynical opportunists and most on a continuum somewhere in between.

I know people who had senior positions working for Poland overseas who were not in the party.

You're right. There were even other political parties, albeit affiliated to the PZPR

There was also a substantial presence of organised workers in Poland long before the formation of the PZPR.
Harry
24 Mar 2014  #14
It would have been impossible to make a career in (for example) the military without being a member of the party.

I know for a fact that it was possible to make it to the rank of captain (i.e. in charge of the ship) in the Polish merchant navy and be given command of a freighter which sailed the globe without being a party member.
szczecinianin 4 | 345
24 Mar 2014  #15
Perhaps, for that job, technical ability was more important than politics.

However, in many professions, (police, army, academia), membership of the party counted for more than ability.

In local administration, it still does, even though the names of political parties may have changed.
f stop 25 | 2,513
24 Mar 2014  #16
Harry

I know for a fact that it was possible to make it to the rank of captain (i.e. in charge of the ship) in the Polish merchant navy and be given command of a freighter which sailed the globe without being a party member.

Keep in mind that very few people today will admit to being a party members back then. Better still, it's considered rude to even ask that question.
Kowalski 7 | 621
24 Mar 2014  #17
I very much doubt that being in the party hurt one's chances of getting those things but it was not necessary by any means

It was not necessary but would definitely enhance your chances by large. Say, as a regular party member you'd wait 3-7 years for your flat being on the list among single mothers and without PZPR card your waiting time was 15-20 years. The same goes for holiday package, getting a phone line and advancing at your job - surely you could get things done yet things were much easier to get through party channels.
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
13 Dec 2015  #18
Merged: Centre for the Prosecution of Communist Crimes - Morawiecki

Senior Sejm Marshal Kornel Morawicki is calling for a Centre for the Prosecution of Communist and Fascist Crimes. It will identify and put on trial those invovled in the communist state's crimes, especially those holding public office. "I dream of a law-abiding Poland, one where that bandits and criminals do not guide major state organs, where accounts are settled with the former system and no-one boasts of having been in the PZPR."

Wise sentiments except isn't that what the IPN is all about? Or, in their fierce attack on anythingn that hints of de-communisation, vetting and account-settling, have the Michnikites already knocked the teeth out of that venerable institution to protect their blood-stained families?

Artykuł opublikowany na stronie:
naszdziennik.pl/polska-kraj/148881,centrum-scigania-zbrodniarzy-komunistycznych.html
delphiandomine 83 | 17,596
13 Dec 2015  #19
Erm... Polonius, I don't know how to explain this to you, but this means that Stanisław Piotrowicz should go immediately, right?
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
13 Dec 2015  #20
Stanisław Piotrowicz

What he has he been convicted of?
delphiandomine 83 | 17,596
13 Dec 2015  #21
"I dream of a law-abiding Poland, one where that bandits and criminals do not guide major state organs, where accounts are settled with the former system and no-one boasts of having been in the PZPR."

Seems fair to me. PiS have a high profile PZPR public prosecutor who is known to have conducted acts of repression against individuals in the PRL, hence he should be first to be investigated and put on trial.
Harry
13 Dec 2015  #22
Seems fair to me.

Not really. The problem is that the records now have been so thoroughly gone over and added to that pretty much no paperwork is reliable. For example, if the IPN's records are to believed, not one single SB employee ever even questioned The Dear Leader Chairman Kaczynski's sexuality.
delphiandomine 83 | 17,596
13 Dec 2015  #23
To be fair Harry, what many Solidarność members are saying - that Kaczyński simply wasn't involved - could explain that perfectly.

There's that classic quote of his where he talks about going to church and not knowing anything about martial law being introduced. Meanwhile, all over Poland, people were being woken up in dawn raids to take them off to internment camps. Hmm.
Harry
14 Dec 2015  #24
what many Solidarność members are saying - that Kaczyński simply wasn't involved - could explain that perfectly.

No, it wouldn't. It may or may not be the truth, but the fact that according to IPN records not even a single single SB employee ever even questioned whether the fact that The Dear Leader Chairman Kaczynski showed no interest in women might make him a good target for a macho honey-pot sting simply shows that the records have been got at. There's lots on record about Walesa cracking a joke about The Dear Leader Chairman Kaczynski turning up to a party with his husband but you really want to believe that nobody at the SB even considered ever finding out if there was any truth behind the claim that the reason that The Dear Leader Chairman Kaczynski isn't interested in women is the normal reason?!
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
14 Dec 2015  #25
Kaczyński simply wasn't

...targeted for detention. They did not put every opposition activist behind bars. Kaczyński himself thinks he was left at liberty so he woudl lead the SB to underground Solidarity hideouts, printeries, safe houses, etc.

Incidentally, the Blowhards who trumpet how super-liberal, ultra-tolerant and "anything goes" they are, now are suddenyl prying in other people's sexuality. 300% HYPOCRITES!
Harry
14 Dec 2015  #26
Kaczyński himself thinks he was left at liberty so he woudl lead the SB to underground Solidarity hideouts, printeries, safe houses, etc.

A very curious claim the laugh-ability of which has been pointed out several times here and which you have pointedly failed to address.

Of course, we should point out that collaborating with the SB was in no way illegal. Or at least it wasn't for Poles, I do understand that it may well be against the laws of other nations for their citizens to collaborate with the organs of foreign powers such as the SB.

prying in other people's sexuality.

There's no need to pry into the obvious. The point is that the questions about his sexuality openly existing in Solidarnosc history but not in the IPN's files clearly shows that the IPN's files are no longer reliable.
Dougpol1 30 | 2,853
14 Dec 2015  #27
I know more than a few people who had senior supervisor positions who were most certainly not in the party.

Absolutely. My father in law would have gladly starved rather than pay lip service to the Party, even under threats and entreaties for 15 years from various mining directors.

I completely fail to understand how people say "But I had no choice" or "But you weren't there..." These are apologists and opportunitists. Of course some people value status and money more than others, and good luck to them, but I always sneer when I meet people who were in the Party for their own advancement.

My best mate, RIP, was a Party member, because he believed in it and was genuine. Fair play to him, and he never ordered any shipyard workers to be shot dead, or any students to be blacklisted, more to the point (he was a university lecturer...)

I can say hand on heart that I would never have signed up to the Scum though. Even if they had caught me with the proverbial pants-down scenario...
delphiandomine 83 | 17,596
14 Dec 2015  #28
Kaczyński himself thinks he was left at liberty so he woudl lead the SB to underground Solidarity hideouts, printeries, safe houses, etc.

Of course he thinks that, because he doesn't want to admit that he wasn't actually there.

but I always sneer when I meet people who were in the Party for their own advancement.

You mean people like Piotrowicz, who not only joined the Party willingly, but also took part in oppressing human rights before joining PiS?


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