in the Polish Peoples Army uniform
|Born||27 February 1919
|Died||27 November, 2008
|Other names||Fajga Mindla Danielak|
|Known for||State Security Services (Służba Bezpieczeństwa)|
Lt. Col. Helena Wolińska-Brus (1919 – 26 November 2008), born Fajga Mindla Danielak, was a military prosecutor in Poland with the rank of lieutenant-colonel (podpułkownik), involved in Stalinist regime show trials of the 1950s. She has been implicated in the arrest and execution of many Polish anti-Nazi resistance fighters including key figures in Poland's Home Army. From 1999 to 2008, Poland sought the extradition of Wolińska from the United Kingdom to stand trial in Poland. The official charges against her were initiated by the Commission for Investigating Crimes against the Polish Nation.
Wolińska was accused of being an "accessory to a court murder," classified as a Stalinist crime and a crime of genocide, which is punishable by up to ten years in prison. Among other alleged crimes, she organised the unlawful arrest, investigation and trial of, Poland's wartime general Emil August Fieldorf, a legendary commander of the underground Polish Home Army during World War II. Emil August Fieldorf was executed on 24 February 1953 and his family were never shown the body. Communist authorities concluded in a 1956 report already that Wolińska had violated the rule of law by her involvement in biased investigations and staged questionable trials that frequently resulted in executions.
Wolińska was born to a Jewish family in Warsaw, where she married Włodzimierz Brus (born Beniamin Zylberberg). They were separated during the Holocaust. Wolińska joined the People’s Guard and became a mistress to Franciszek Jóźwiak, the commander of the Gwardia Ludowa and the first commandant of the communist state police Milicja Obywatelska in postwar Poland. She met her husband again in 1944 having thought he was dead. They remarried in 1956, once she separated from her new partner, now a deputy minister of stalininst Secret Police (1945–1949) and a member of Politburo of the governing communist Polish United Workers' Party (until 1968). She was fired from her job as prosecutor during the Polish October of 1956.
Wolińska and her first husband left Poland in 1968 after Polish 1968 political crisis and spent the rest of her life in the United Kingdom. Wlodzimierz Brus became a professor of economics at Oxford University and died in 2007. Wolińska lived in Oxford until her death, having previously acquired British citizenship.
Two applications for Wolińska-Brus' extradition had been made by Poland. First in 1999, by the Institute of National Remembrance and the Polish Prosecutors related to the case, and again in 2001. The Polish indictments alleged that 24 anti-Nazi fighters were unlawfully imprisoned because of Wolinska's illicit actions as prosecutor. Both requests were refused by the British Home Office; in particular, stating her advanced age and the period of 50 years since the alleged crimes occurred.
In an interview with The Guardian, Wolińska said she would not return to "the country of Auschwitz and Birkenau", claiming she would not receive fair trial in Poland. Despite her involvement in Stalinist-era crimes she called to forget that period in her life and, in her own words, "not to disrupt her with this silly prosecution".
Accusations of anti-Semitism were rebuffed by Polish Foreign Affairs Minister (1995, 2000–2001), soldier of Polish underground Home Army (1942–1945), Auschwitz survivor Władysław Bartoszewski: "On my indictment affidavit, in red pencil, is signature of Helena Wolinska. Affirming the accusations against me, she knew that I was co-founder of Council to Aid Jews. I am an example that explanations of certain people around Wolinska and her own that there is an anti-Semitic action, are baloney." The Polish media and government in turn criticized the inefficiency of the international extradition process.
In 2004, Poland joined the European Union, allowing access to the European extradition procedures. In January 2006 her prosecutorial pension was revoked. Later that year Polish president Lech Kaczyński revoked the Polonia Restituta decoration that Wolinska was awarded by the Polish communist authorities in 1954. In 2007 the Commission for Investigating Crimes against the Polish Nation asked Polish prosecutors to issue a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) against Wolinska, which was duly issued on 20 November 2007; this was the third attempt at her extradition.
Helena Wolińska-Brus died on 26 November 2008 in Oxford, UK. She was buried two days before the announced funeral date (5 December 2008), in a private ceremony at Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford with only a few family members attending.
Notes and references
- Investigation against Ms. Helena Wolińska-Brus. Institute of National Remembrance (English)
- "Są zbrodnie bez kary," (There are crimes without justice) by Piotr Szubarczyk, IPN Gdańsk, 23-24 February 2008. Nasz Dziennik. No. 46 (3063)
- "The Three Lives of Helena Brus" by Anne Applebaum, blog copy from The Sunday Telegraph 1998
- Nick Hodge, "Controversial communist prosecutor dies in UK." Krakow Post, 31 December 2008. Retrieved from the Internet Archive.
- "Widow faces extradition over death of war hero." The Times, 20 November 2007. Retrieved 22 November 2007]
- Based on a 1957 report of Mazur Committee called in communist Poland to investigate the liability of former employees of Stalinist military prosecutors offices and courts.(Komisja Mazura - in Polish), Raport - full text (in Polish)
- Foreign relations of Poland
- Postanowienia Prezydenta RP o pozbawieniu odznaczeń. PiS. 18 August 2006. (Polish)
- The Daily Telegraph, 21 November 2007. Retrieved 22 November 2007; The Times, 20 November 2007. Retrieved 22 November 2007
- EX-STALINIST ACCUSED Casting the First Stone Warsaw Voice
- Old BBC news story
- East European Constitutional Review, New York University Law School 1999
- Polish enemies fight over Gen Emil Fieldorf The Daily Telegraph, November 25, 2007. Retrieved: November 25, 2007.
- "From Holocaust to hunted at 88", Chicago Tribune
- Aldona Zaorska, Sąsiedzi. Najbardziej okrutni oprawcy polskich patriotów, Warszawa 2012, ISBN 978-83-932704-4-6.