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 postwar 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 wartime Home Army. Post-communist Poland sought the extradition of Wolińska-Brus from the United Kingdom on three separate occasions between 1999 and 2008. The official charges against her were initiated by the Institute of National Remembrance, which investigates both Nazi and Communist crimes committed in Poland between the years 1939 and 1989.
Wolińska-Brus was accused of being an "accessory to a court murder," which is classified as a Stalinist crime and a crime of genocide, and is punishable by up to ten years in prison. She was also accused of organising 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. Fieldorf was executed on 24 February 1953, following a show-trial in which Wolińska-Brus was the prosecutor, and his family were never shown the body. A 1956 report commissioned during Poland's period of de-Stalinization concluded that Wolińska-Brus had violated the rule of law by her involvement in biased investigations and had also staged questionable trials that frequently resulted in executions.
Wolińska-Brus was born to a Jewish family in Warsaw, where she later married Włodzimierz Brus (born Beniamin Zylberberg). They became separated during the German occupation of Poland after Wolińska-Brus escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto. She joined the communist People’s Guard and became the mistress of its commander, Franciszek Jóźwiak, who she married in 1942, thinking that her first husband was dead. However, she met Brus again in 1944 and they eventually remarried in 1956, after she had separated from Jóźwiak, now a deputy minister of the Stalininst Secret Police (1945–1949) and a member of the 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-Brus and her first husband left Poland after the 1968 Polish political crisis and they spent the rest of their lives in the United Kingdom. Wlodzimierz Brus became a professor of economics at Oxford University and died in 2007. Wolińska-Brus lived in Oxford until her death, having previously acquired British citizenship.
The first of three applications for Wolińska-Brus' extradition to Poland was made in 1999, initiated by an investigation carried out by the Institute of National Remembrance. A second application was submitted in 2001. The Polish indictments were based the claim that Wolińska-Brus had fabricated evidence which led to the execution of general Emil Fieldorf and the wrongful arrest and imprisonment of 24 other anti-Nazi resistance fighters. Both requests were refused by the British Home Office; in particular, because of her advanced age and the long period of time that had elapsed since the alleged crimes occurred (the latter reason was considered to be very unfair by the Polish authorities, given that any proper investigation of her alleged crimes only became possible after the fall of communism in Poland in 1989).
In an interview with The Guardian, Wolińska-Brus said she would not return to "the country of Auschwitz and Birkenau", claiming that she would not receive a fair trial in Poland. She also claimed that her accusers were motivated by anti-Semitism. The interview contained a quote from Fieldorf's daughter, Maria, accusing Wolińska-Brus of having been "one of those careerists who are the pillars of any dictatorship."
Accusations of anti-Semitism were rebutted by, among others, Władysław Bartoszewski, Polish Foreign Affairs Minister (1995, 2000–2001), soldier of the underground Polish Home Army (1942–1945) and Auschwitz survivor, who had also been prosecuted by Wolińska-Brus: "On my indictment affidavit, in red pencil, is the signature of Helena Wolińska. Affirming the accusations against me, she knew that I was co-founder of the Polish Council to Aid Jews. I am a living example of the fact that the statements made by Wolińska and certain people around her about anti-Semitism are nonsense." Bartoszewski received the award of Righteous Among the Nations in 1966 and is an honorary citizen of Israel.
The Polish media and government also criticized the inefficiency of the international extradition process.
In 2004, Poland joined the European Union, which made possible a third attempt to extradite Wolińska-Brus. In January 2006 her prosecutorial pension was revoked and later that year Polish president Lech Kaczyński also revoked the Polonia Restituta decoration that she was awarded by the Polish communist authorities in 1954. In 2007 the Institute of National Remembrance asked Polish prosecutors to issue a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) against Wolińska-Brus, which was duly issued on 20 November 2007;. However, this third attempt to extradite her also failed.
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." at the Wayback Machine (archived July 13, 2011) Krakow Post, 31 December 2008.
- "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.