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Surveillance in Poland during communism


kie 13 | 42
17 Sep 2012 #1
Hello.

bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19344978

I have heard about the East German files and that were kept and the figures around the number of spies per person, but I haven't heard much about what was it was like in Poland (assuming it was similar).

Can anyone inform as to the estimated number of spies there were, what happened to the files in Poland etc. It would be also interesting to here of any anecdotes people have about such activity that went on and the people involved.

Thanks, Kieron.

sorry, should have put in history section, can it be moved please?
pawian 223 | 24,571
17 Sep 2012 #2
I have heard about the East German files and that were kept and the figures around the number of spies per person, but I haven't heard much about what was it was like in Poland (assuming it was similar).

Not really similar, except for stalinst 1950s. In Eastern Germany, the communist grip on the society was always much tighter than in Poland. East German soldiers shot a few hundred people on the Berlin Wall, after all.

While Solidarity was born in Poland, not Eastern Germany. .

Can anyone inform as to the estimated number of spies there were,

Nobody is able to provide exact info on the number of spies/agents in Poland, but I heard about 100.000 informers who worked for communist secret services at the peak times. But their number varied through decades.
rybnik 18 | 1,453
18 Sep 2012 #3
Can anyone inform as to the estimated number of spies there were, what happened to the files in Poland etc. It would be also interesting to here of any anecdotes people have about such activity that went on and the people involved.

My friends and I, Americans studying abroad during the PRL-days, never had any problems in that regard.
p3undone 8 | 1,132
18 Sep 2012 #4
rybnik,would you have known?
rybnik 18 | 1,453
18 Sep 2012 #5
good point p3undone!
Obviously, if the spying was done well, we wouldn't have known.
I'm just assuming since none of us were summoned anywhere to answer questions, that we weren't spied on. Clearly, we still could've been.
p3undone 8 | 1,132
18 Sep 2012 #6
rybnik,I think that it may not have been direct,but I'm sure they had their informants and kept tabs,even if to a small degree.
rybnik 18 | 1,453
18 Sep 2012 #7
believe you me. most of us were very paranoid about that especially my roommate P.T. But after a while you just get on with it.
p3undone 8 | 1,132
18 Sep 2012 #8
rybnik,Oh I hear you,I don't think that it was something to worry about,just par for the course and out of your control anyway.As long as you did what you were there for I don't think anyone was ever at any kind of risk,I think that would have been paranoid thinking.
rybnik 18 | 1,453
18 Sep 2012 #9
My roommate to the very end saw spies and bugs everywhere.
p3undone 8 | 1,132
18 Sep 2012 #10
rybnik,yet It turned out ok for him I assume?this is a classic example of how cold war propaganda shaped our perception back then.
rybnik 18 | 1,453
18 Sep 2012 #11
depends on what you mean by ok. Sure, he finished school and has a practice in Pensy but his time in Poland was non-stop "on guard". He could've gotten to know some Poles/Polkas, immersed himself a bit and lived among them. He chose to remain stiff, on-the-ready. I feel he missed out on the best part of the journey.
p3undone 8 | 1,132
18 Sep 2012 #12
rybnik,I meant that he wasn't shipped to the Russian gulag lol;).I'm glad that you obviously must have enjoyed your time and was able to take advantage of some of the things that Poland has to offer.
rybnik 18 | 1,453
18 Sep 2012 #13
right lol he did ok
the only one that I know of that got into trouble was a guy named Lance. He was the direct antithesis to PT. He dove head-first into the culture. So much so that he joined the Student Solidarity, began marching and was deported! He finished his medical studies in France.
p3undone 8 | 1,132
18 Sep 2012 #14
rybnik,better that he had not been spying and got caught or he wouldn't have just got deported.
delphiandomine 88 | 18,094
18 Sep 2012 #16
rybnik,I think that it may not have been direct,but I'm sure they had their informants and kept tabs,even if to a small degree.

Almost certainly, although probably not in any majorly obsessive way. It's quite likely that for instance, the security in their dormitories would have been agents (or informers).

I've read somewhere that those 'money changer' guys were usually actually agents.

I'm just assuming since none of us were summoned anywhere to answer questions, that we weren't spied on.

Generally speaking, they wouldn't have unless you did something to provoke them. The hard currency was in such demand by that time that they wouldn't wanted to have upset you ;)
rybnik 18 | 1,453
18 Sep 2012 #17
The hard currency was in such demand by that time that they wouldn't wanted to have upset you ;)

not just us but a lot of Poles would've been upset! lol
boletus 30 | 1,361
18 Sep 2012 #18
Obviously, if the spying was done well, we wouldn't have known.

The word would be passed around: "watch him, he seems to be from 'spółdzielnia ucho' (The Ear Cooperative)'". They operated also in academic environment, but often in a clumsy way: always at night time in best restaurants, surrounded by "cinkciarze" (cincz many, cieńć many, change money), easy girls and prostitutes, spending money on expensive drinks for themselves, their victims, or potential collaborants. Dormitories actually were not good environments for the informers, because of intimacy of living together. Little details were the tale tellers. Tourist groups (I was a part of one such informal band) were not their hunting grounds either; they were just too lazy for the extensive efforts as it was much easier to find their prey in town.

We had one informer in our class; he was quickly discovered and visibly ostracized. He dropped from the academic courses, has become a visible alcoholic, and then vanished somewhere. I did not know more than two among students in our Math-Phys-Chem faculty, by there were many so-called "eternal students" of Law, and some of them had a reputation of being the informers.

I knew many people studying "zero-perspective" course of studies: archeology, ethnography, history of art. Some of them could not get any job after graduation and decided to work for the militia (this is how police was called then), as experts in various fields. They probably never spied on anybody, but there was a shadow of the doubt following them around.

One such archeologist worked for the Voivod's Office, running the Department of Religion, or whatever it was called. They kept track of all black sheep among the clergy in order to blackmail them and use them for propaganda purposes. That worked both ways: the dirty boys would get apartment for their girlfriends or boyfriends, etc. So he was kind of spy, though he did it openly.

Yes, those were strange times to live. But definitely not as bad as in DDR.
rybnik 18 | 1,453
18 Sep 2012 #19
Yes, those were strange times to live. But definitely not as bad as in DDR.

very interesting Boletus.
Maybe I was so naive or just too concentrated on finishing school, that I did not notice anything amiss.
sobieski 106 | 2,118
18 Sep 2012 #20
I think Poland handled the opening the of the SB files very clumsily. It would have been better to follow the German example.
But this for sure suited the Catholic Church which was infiltrated into the higher levels, and have no interest whatsoever to disclose old sins. 1. Who was corrupted between the men of the frock 2. And what made them do it.

Now we have the situation that PIS set up an organization just to discredit its opponents...disclosing files on convenient (election) election times. And conveniently overlook for example one of the prime commie collabos, the ducks' father.

No it would not have been in the interest of the episcopate, nor the smolenkists to open the files at once to everybody. Too many would have been very embarrassed.

No chance for blackmail in the long-run as well.
rybnik 18 | 1,453
18 Sep 2012 #21
It would have been better to follow the German example.

How did the Germans do it?
All out in the open; lets the chips fall where they may?
delphiandomine 88 | 18,094
18 Sep 2012 #22
I think Poland handled the opening the of the SB files very clumsily. It would have been better to follow the German example.

Either the German or the Russian example would have been fine. The current situation benefits no-one, as no-one believes a word that's in those files.

But this for sure suited the Catholic Church which was infiltrated into the higher levels, and have no interest whatsoever to disclose old sins. 1. Who was corrupted between the men of the frock 2. And what made them do it.

It certainly suited them, for they were anything but blameless. Look at what happened in the former East Germany - many people discovered that the priests were actually collaborating - and the RCC was far too savvy to risk a similar thing happening in Poland. I suspect we'll never know the full truth, but then again - anyone with half a brain knows that the links between the RCC and the PZPR were far stronger than they'd like to admit. The wonderboy himself, Davies, openly refers to a village near Wroclaw being divided between the Party boss and the main priest, both of them doing well for themselves.

And conveniently overlook for example one of the prime commie collabos, the ducks' father.

Daddy Kaczynski was certainly one of the worst guys - former AK member turned Communist manager in a few short years. How on earth could that happen under Stalinism, especially considering the fate of many of his comrades?
boletus 30 | 1,361
18 Sep 2012 #23
Daddy Kaczynski was certainly one of the worst guys - former AK member turned Communist manager in a few short years. How on earth could that happen under Stalinism, especially considering the fate of many of his comrades?

Careful here, you have no proof here. By repeating the same allegation over and over you won't make it more true and you will start loosing your own credibility.
Harry
18 Sep 2012 #24
The current situation benefits no-one, as no-one believes a word that's in those files.

Yep. Sadly, the best thing that can be done now is to simply lock the files up for 100 years.

It certainly suited them, for they were anything but blameless.

If even Glemp admits 15% of priests collaborated, who knows who much blame there is to put on the RCC!
sobieski 106 | 2,118
18 Sep 2012 #25
Careful here, you have no proof here. By repeating the same allegation over and over you won't make it more true and you will start loosing your own credibility.

Actually, the facts speak for themselves. An AK-member making such a post-war career, getting a fine apartment in elitist Żoliborz and his sons 1. appearing on TV (yes I know in a childrens' program, but the fact they could do it) and later the same sons were able to study and later on during the hard times led a comfortable life.
TheOther 6 | 3,602
18 Sep 2012 #26
How did the Germans do it?

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Commissioner_for_the_Stasi_Archives
bstu.bund.de/SharedDocs/FAQs/DE/17-english_basics.htm
boletus 30 | 1,361
18 Sep 2012 #27
Actually, the facts speak for themselves. An AK-member making such a post-war career, getting a fine apartment in elitist Żoliborz and his sons 1. appearing on TV (yes I know in a childrens' program, but the fact they could do it) and later the same sons were able to study and later on during the hard times led a comfortable life.

Still just an allegation. I think sofjufka gave somewhere quite a rational explanation: you restore the apartment building and you get the flat as a reward. Many pre-war owners of "kamienica" were put in a similar position: do the maintenance of the building and we will let you stay in one flat.
rybnik 18 | 1,453
18 Sep 2012 #28
Thanks TheOther!
sobieski 106 | 2,118
18 Sep 2012 #29
This does not explain why his sons had a comfortable time in hard eighties.
And to come back to the essence...Pis and the episcopate would never have liked the German way of opening the archives.


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