Them: Stalin's Polish Puppets
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It is to Toranska's credit that she managed to get these persons to reveal the details of the system they were working for.
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Each had served in the leadership of the Stalinist "Polish People's Republic" between 1945 and 1956, and played some part in implementing the various Stalinist policies: propaganda and press control, agricultural collectivization, purges of the non-communist parties and the anti-Nazi Home Army, and dealings with Stalin and Khrushchev. One (Staszewski) has turned against communism; the others are unrepentant.
Taken piece by piece, "Them" offers remarkable first-person glimpses of history -- feuds within the Politburo, decisions to repress farmers in 1954 and avert Soviet military intervention in 1956, the purge and reappearance of Party Secretary Gomulka, the attempts of the Party leader Bierut to ask Stalin to locate earlier Polish Communist figures who had been executed during the Soviet Great Purge of 1937 and 1938.
Taken as a whole, the accounts of arrests, rhetorical formulae, executions, and repression amounts to a remarkable self-portrait of the Stalinist mind.
A number of the top Communists ignore the strong resistance of Polish peasants to collectivization and insist that Poland never adopted Soviet-style collective farming only because it never became a priority for Polish Communists. In fact, the top Polish Communist leaders take credit for the fact that, even during the days of Stalin, Polish Communism never was as harsh as Soviet Communism, or even that of many other eastern European nations.
Stefan Staszewski recognized the fact that the imposition of Communism on postwar Poland caused nothing short of a civil war: "But, good Lord, there was nothing to compare with the period of violence, cruelty and lawlessness that Poland experienced in the years 1944-7. Not thousands but tens of thousands of people were killed then, and the official trials that were organized after 1949 were merely an epilogue to the liquidation of the Home Army, of activists of independent parties, and of independent thought in general."(p. 139). [Perhaps, just perhaps, this atmosphere of "violence, cruelty, and lawlessness", if nothing else, had something to do with the 600 postwar Jews killed by Poles in property disputes, the so-called Kielce Pogrom, etc., trumpeted by Jan Thomas Gross in his widely-publicized book FEAR.]
There is some interesting information presented by the interviewees. For instance, Jakub Berman claims (p. 246) that the idea of Poland as the seventeenth Soviet republic had still been propagated as late as the beginning of 1943. Berman also asserts (p. 248) that there never was any chance that the Curzon Line would have been extended in a manner that left Lwow (Lviv, Lvov, Lemberg) on the Polish side of the postwar Polish-Soviet frontier. Edward Ochab had this to say on Chinese attitudes towards Soviet hegemony over Poland: "All I know is what Chou En-lai told us when he came to Poland in 1957. He said they had opposed the Soviet proposal to intervene in Poland and asserted that the Poles, even if they go astray, should find their own solutions to their own problems."(p. 70).
While some commentators have tried to minimize the fact or at least significance of the strongly disproportionate Jewish participation in Communism (the Zydokomuna), the top Communists surveyed in this book do not do so. For example, Roman Werfel, a Communist Jew himself, had this to say about the much-hated Communist terror police, the UB (U. B., or Bezpieka): "There's one principle you have to stick to in beating, however: Johnny has to be beaten by Johnny, and not by Moshe. I can see now that there were too many Jews in the security services, because we hadn't considered the security services in that light."(p. 109). Jakub Berman, a Jewish Communist also, contrasts the unwillingness of educated Poles to accept Communism with the willingness of a very disproportionate number of Jews to support Communism: "...like Bierut, I was against too large a concentration of Jews in certain institutions; it wasn't the right thing to do and it was a necessary evil that we'd been forced into when we took power, when the Polish intelligentsia was boycotting us."(p. 321). Considering the fact that postwar Polish Jews constituted only 1% of Poland's population, this fact assumes added significance. Ironically, Communists progressively turned against the Zydokomuna, and the various top Communists interviewed in this book lament the growth of open anti-Semitism in the ranks of the Communists.
Jakub Berman, who died (in 1984) soon after being interviewed, suggested (p. 354) that Poles are slow to accept realities, and that they would freely accept Communism within 50 or 100 years. How one wishes that Berman had lived another five years! The refusal of older Poles to accept the Communism forced upon them (1944-1989) should serve as an inspiration for modern Poles' refusal to accept the anti-Christian and anti-moral dictates forced upon them by the European Union.