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Jakub Berman

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Jakub Berman
Jakub Berman
Jakub Berman
Born26 December 1901
Died10 April 1984(1984-04-10) (aged 82)
Known forHead of Department of Public Security

Jakub Berman (26 December 1901 – 10 April 1984) was a communist activist in the Second Polish Republic (prior to World War II). In communist Poland, he was a member of the Politburo of the Polish Workers' Party (PPR) and then the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR). Berman was in charge of the Ministry of Public Security and was considered Joseph Stalin's right hand in Poland.


Jakub Berman was born into a middle-class Jewish family in Warsaw on 26 December 1901. His younger brother was Adolf Berman. Jakub received a law degree in 1925 from the University of Warsaw.[1] He was a member of the Communist Youth Union and in 1928 joined the Communist Party of Poland. He worked on his doctoral thesis as an assistant to Marxist sociologist Prof. Ludwik Krzywicki, but never completed a doctorate.[1] In September 1939, after the Invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, he fled to Soviet-occupied eastern Poland – first to Białystok and then in the spring of 1941 to Minsk.[1] He worked there as an editor at Sztandar Wolności ('The Banner of Freedom'), a Polish-language bulletin published by the Communist Party of Byelorussia.

After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Berman escaped to Moscow. Later he became an instructor at the Comintern school in Ufa, training displaced Polish communists, activists for the new Soviet-sponsored Polish Workers' Party (PPR).[1] In December 1943, he met with Joseph Stalin at the Kremlin, gained his trust and became a prominent figure among the Polish communists in the Soviet Union. In 1944, Berman joined the Politburo of the Polish Workers' Party and returned to Poland. Together with the hardliner Bolesław Bierut and economist Hilary Minc, Berman formed a triumvirate of Stalinist leaders in postwar Poland.[1] In late 1949 Stalin attempted to remove Berman from his position of power, accusing him of participation in an international anti-communist conspiracy and illicit foreign contacts, but the effort somehow did not succeed.[2]

Berman became a member of the Politburo of the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR), a successor of the PPR, and remained in that capacity until 1956. He was responsible for cultural affairs, propaganda and ideology. He was put in charge of the state security apparatus, the large and notorious in Stalinist Poland secret police force.[1] Berman coordinated the preparation of numerous political trials and during his tenure at least 200,000 people were imprisoned and some 6000 executed on political charges.[1] Hundreds of former members of the Polish resistance movement in World War II were persecuted, especially from the Home Army and the National Armed Forces.

After the death of First Secretary Bierut, Berman resigned from the PZPR Politburo in June 1956. He was incriminated by his former co-worker in the security services Józef Światło, who defected to the West. Berman was relieved from the Central Committee of the PZPR in the fall of 1956 and in 1957 dismissed from the party altogether, as responsible for the "Stalinist-era errors and distortions" (a euphemism for abuse of power and gross violations of citizens' rights).[3] Subsequently, Berman worked in the state-run Książka i Wiedza ('Book and Knowledge') publishing house until his retirement in 1969.[1] Jakub Berman died in Warsaw in April 1984.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "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
  2. ^ Jerzy Eisler, Siedmiu wspaniałych. Poczet pierwszych sekretarzy KC PZPR [The Magnificent Seven: first secretaries of the PZPR], pp. 36–37. Wydawnictwo Czerwone i Czarne, Warszawa 2014, ISBN 978-83-7700-042-7.
  3. ^ Polish Secret Police, The "Bezpieka": Dossiers of Polish secret police functionaries