26 December 1901|
Warsaw, Warsaw Governorate, Congress Poland, Russian Empire
10 April 1984 (aged 82)|
|Known for||Head of State Security Services (Urząd Bezpieczeństwa)|
Jakub Berman (26 December 1901 – 10 April 1984) was a prominent communist in prewar Poland. Toward the end of World War II he joined the Politburo of the Polish United Workers' Party. Between 1944 and 1953, he was considered Joseph Stalin's right hand in the Polish People’s Republic – in charge of the Ministry of Public Security.
Jakub Berman was born into a middle-class Jewish family in Warsaw on 26 December 1901. His younger brother was Adolf Berman. He received a law degree in 1925 from the Warsaw University. He was a member of the Communist Youth Union, and in 1928 joined the early Communist Party of Poland. He worked on his doctoral thesis as an assistant to Marxist sociologist Prof. Ludwik Krzywicki, but was never to finish it. In September 1939, after the Invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the USSR, he fled to the Soviet occupied eastern part of Poland – first to Białystok and then in the spring of 1941 to Minsk. There, he worked as an editor at Sztandar Wolności (The Banner of Freedom), the Polish-language bulletin of the Belarusian Communist Party.
After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Berman escaped to Moscow and later became an instructor at the Comintern school in the city of Ufa (south-east of Kuibyshev), training displaced Polish communists who formed the new Soviet sponsored Polish Workers' Party. In December 1943, he met with Joseph Stalin at the Kremlin, gained his trust and became a prominent figure among Polish communists in the USSR. In 1944, Berman joined the Politburo of the Polish Workers' Party. Upon his return to Poland in 1944 – together with a hardliner Bolesław Bierut and an economist Hilary Minc – Berman formed a triumvirate of Stalinist leaders in postwar Poland.
Between 1944 and 1956, Berman was a member of the Politburo of the Polish United Workers' Party (PUWP). He was responsible for propaganda, and ideology; put in charge of the State Security Services (Urząd Bezpieczeństwa, UB), the largest and the most notorious secret police force in the history of the People's Republic of Poland, employing 33,200 permanent security officers, one for every 800 Polish citizens. He coordinated the preparation of numerous political trials, persecuting several hundred members of the Polish Resistance, specifically the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), the Peasant Battalions (BCh) and the National Armed Forces (NSZ).
After the death of Bolesław Bierut – the first secretary of the PUWP – Berman resigned from the PUWP Politbiuro in June 1956, incriminated by Dir. Józef Światło who defected to the West. He was relieved from Central Committee of PUWP in the fall of 1956, and in 1957 dismissed from PUWP altogether, as responsible for the "Stalinist-era errors and distortions" (abuse of power and gross human rights law violations). Subsequently, Berman worked in the state-run "Książka i Wiedza" ("Book and Knowledge") publishing house until retirement in 1969. He died in Warsaw.
- "Jakub Berman’s Papers Received at the Hoover Institution Archives", Archived 2010-11-30 at the Wayback Machine. Stanford University Hoover Institution, August 11, 2008 by the Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior University Library and Archives Recent Acquisitions
- Polish Secret Police, The "Bezpieka": Dossiers of Polish secret police functionaries