Bronisław Wildstein

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Bronisław Wildstein

Bronisław Wildstein (born June 11, 1952 in Olsztyn, Poland) is a former Polish dissident, a journalist, freelance author and, from May 11, 2006 to February 28, 2007, he was the CEO of Telewizja Polska, state-owned television. Wildstein rose to nationwide prominence in Poland in January and February 2005, after he had smuggled a file of informers and victims of the former communist secret police (Służba Bezpieczeństwa) out of the Institute for National Remembrance (IPN) and then distributed it among fellow journalists.[1] The file is commonly referred to as "Wildstein's List" (Polish: lista Wildsteina).

Biography[edit]

Bronisław Wildstein was born in Olsztyn. His father Szymon Wildstein was a Jewish military doctor and communist in the Second Republic of Poland.[2] His mother Genowefa Wildstein was peasant, anti-communist and member of the Armia Krajowa (the underground home army acting under the German and Soviet occupation during the II World War).

When he was five years old, he got tuberculosis, so his family moved to Przemyśl for the better environment.

From 1971 through 1980, Wildstein studied Polish literature at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. In the 1970s, he joined the oppositional Komitet Obrony Robotnikow|KOR (Committee for Defence of Workers), an influential highbrow forerunner to the Solidarity (est. 1980), and in 1977 co-founded the Student Committee of Solidarity (Studencki Komitet Solidarności). From 1980, he lived in France, where he worked as a journalist for the Polish monthly Kontakt and Radio Free Europe.

After the fall of communism he returned to Poland. From 1994 until 1996, he worked for a Polish daily paper Życie Warszawy, before its transformation into Życie, which had a more conservative political profile. Most recently, he was a salaried employee of the prestigious, moderately conservative to centrist daily Rzeczpospolita, which dropped him as a salaried employee in the wake of the public controversy over "Wildstein's List" (although he continues to contribute as a freelance writer).[3]

Currently, Wildstein publishes essays for weekly newsmagazine Do Rzeczy.

Wildstein and the controversy over the vetting of Polish society[edit]

Background[edit]

In his books and essays, Wildstein vehemently argues for a thorough review of the communist past not only of politicians, but of Polish society as a whole. So far, a comprehensive vetting of public figures regarding contacts with the former communist apparatus of oppression has been procrastinated and was only carried out to a limited extent and rather inconsequentially.

Ever since the fall of communism, the question of vetting (lustracja) has been a bone of contention between two political camps that both emerged from the former anti-communist opposition: The liberal wing - prominently represented by Adam Michnik and his Gazeta Wyborcza, the country's largest daily - call for a comprehensive reconciliation between former operatives and opponents of the People's Republic, by symbolically making a final stroke, or "thick line" (gruba kreska) separating the former, communist era from the present without seeking revenge. The opponents of this approach, the patriotic-conservative camp criticizes this attitude as too propitiatory and calls for a morally rigorous approach, with the thorough vetting of all persons in leading positions in politics, business, or the media born before 1972.

In the vetting controversy, Wildstein was one of the most determined critics of the "thick line" policy and advocated a hard-nosed screening even at the expense of social peace. Wildstein himself helped to uncover a prominent secret-police informer: Lesław Maleszka, a journalist with the anti-vetting liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza, formerly a fellow student and close friend of Wildstein's, had been reporting on the oppositional Student Solidarity Committee (see above) he had co-founded with Wildstein. Maleszka himself has been implicated with the mysterious death of Stanislaw Pyjas.

Wildstein's List[edit]

Main article: Wildstein list

In early 2005, the vetting debate reached a peak after Wildstein had abstracted an inventory of the files stored at the Institute for National Remembrance (IPN) which also manages the files of the former secret police, colloquially known as teczki in Polish. The list contained nothing but the names of roughly 240,000 persons on which such a file exists. Wildstein burned this inventory to CD-ROMs and took it to the offices of his employer, the daily Rzeczpospolita, from where he began to distribute it among colleagues. Soon afterwards, the list was made available on several anonymous websites, which soon attracted a lot of traffic. Until then, access to files for the general public had been restricted.

Public debate began when Rzeczpospolita's rival, the anti-vetting Gazeta Wyborcza reported that Wildstein had copied and distributed the inventory. One cause for irritation was the fact that the list contained only names of persons with no information on whether they were informers or victims; not to mention the fact that the practice of totalitarian regimes often renders it difficult or impossible to distinguish collaborators from victims. Also, coincidental identity of names occurs frequently, making the list even more difficult to judge. Wildstein himself claimed to have copied and passed on the list as a tool for investigative journalists. In the meantime it is assumed that he acted with tacit approval or was even actively assisted by at least one IPN employee; an internal inquiry as well as preliminary legal proceedings are underway to investigate the circumstances.

While critics claim that Wildstein's disclosure of the list has created a climate of suspicion and irresponsibly endangered social peace, others regard it as a courageous act of civil disobedience. According to them, Wildstein created a fait accompli and thus helped to initiate an overdue review of the past, which had so far been protracted by ex-communist old boys' networks in politics and business and opinion-making relativist intellectuals.

On January 31, 2005 - two days after Gazeta Wyborcza had denounced his manoeuvre - Rzeczpospolita's editor-in-chief dismissed him as a salaried employee, although he continues to contribute freelance articles. With this move, the paper apparently tried to distance itself from the radical advocates of lustracja and remove itself from the focus. On February 1, the popular weekly Wprost offered Wildstein a job and declared it would also publish the list if "technically possible".[4] Also, numerous journalists and public figures, including Józef Glemp, declared their solidarity with Wildstein.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Poland in uproar over leak of spy files". The Guardian. 5 February 2005. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  2. ^ Rafał Kalukin: Bronisław niezłomny
  3. ^ "Bronisław Wildstein odchodzi z "Rzeczpospolitej"" (in Polish). Gazeta Wyborcza. 31 January 2005. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  4. ^ ""Wprost" za Wildsteinem" (in Polish). Wprost. 1 February 2005. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 

External links[edit]