Lustration in Poland

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Lustration in Poland refers to the policy of limiting the participation of former communists, and especially informants of the communist secret police (from the years 1944–90), in the successor governments or even in civil service positions. Lustration, "cleansing", derives from Latin lustratio, a Roman purification ceremony. The first lustration bill was passed by the Polish Parliament already in 1992, but it was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland. Several other projects were then submitted and reviewed by a dedicated commission, resulting in a new lustration law passed in 1996.


In the years 1997–2007 lustration was dealt with by the office of Public Interest Spokesperson (Rzecznik Interesu Publicznego), who analyzed lustration declarations and could initiate further proceedings, including submitting a request to the courts to initiate a legal lustration proceeding. The declarations may be seen as forms of public confessions, through which offices are exchanged for truth in a similar way as amnesty was exchanged for truth in South Africa.[1] Owing to its resemblance with the South African truth and reconciliation process, the Polish lustration system of the period is seen as the most innovative among all lustration models in Central and Eastern Europe.[2]


On 18 December 2006 Polish law regulating Institute of National Remembrance (pol. Instytut Pamięci Narodowej - IPN) was changed and came into effect on 15 March 2007. This change gave IPN new lustration powers .[3] The first Polish lustration laws were adopted in 1997;[4] only since 2007 do they officially involve IPN, which has now replaced the old Polish lustration institution, the Public Interest Spokesman.[3][5] According to the revised Chapter 5a of the Act of 18 December 1998 on the Institute of National Remembrance – Commission for Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (Ustawa z dnia 18 grudnia 1998 r. o Instytucie Pamięci Narodowej — Komisji Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu),[6] the Lustration bureau of the Institute of National Remembrance performs the following functions:

  1. maintains the register of lustration statements;
  2. analyzes lustration statements and collects information necessary for its correct assessment;
  3. prepares lustration procedures;
  4. notifies the respective bodies about non-performance by non-judicial bodies of obligations in accordance with this Law;
  5. prepares and publishes catalogues of documents containing personal data:
a) produced by this individual (or with their participation) in connection with their activities as a secret informant
b) from the content of which it follows that the relevant individual was regarded by security services as a secret informer or operational assistant collecting information.

Lustration by IPN was to be obligatory for 53 categories of people born before August 1, 1972, and holding positions of significant public responsibility, including lawyers, public notaries, attorneys, journalists and academic workers.[6] However, key articles of that law were judged unconstitutional by Poland's Constitutional Court or Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland on May 11, 2007, making the role of IPN unclear and putting the whole process into question.[7] Most importantly, the part of the law that would have required about 700,000 people in the above 53 categories to submit declarations on whether they had spied for the secret services has been thrown out.[8] With this key change, the role of IPN in the lustration process is at present highly unclear. Some influential opinionmakers[9] and politicians in Poland are now declaring that, since the whole lustration process in the old format is essentially over, the secret police archives should simply be thrown open. Others oppose such a move, arguing that the release of all of the personal and confidential information contained in the files would cause unacceptable harm to innocent people.[10]

Controversy surrounding counterfeit files and fake police reports[edit]

The former head of the State Protection Office (UOP), General Gromosław Czempiński, and others have described a process by which counterfeit top-secret files and faked police reports were produced by the Communist secret service in the People's Republic of Poland.[11] Their purpose was to undermine the credibility of prominent opponents of the ruling party and many other persons by ruining their good names as private individuals. Fałszywka (pl: fałszywki) contained fake revelations about opposition members' working as alleged police informants under the communist system.[12] The communist secret service used them frequently, said Czempiński, adding that often the officers who "signed" them were created out of thin air.[13] Writer Jerzy Urban noted that, if available, signatures of alleged collaborators on unrelated documents were xeroxed and pasted into fałszywkas before their reprinting.[11]

The presence of fałszywkas in the secret police archives makes the process of lustration extremely sensitive in Poland, leading to a number of highly publicized cases for slander or libel. Many prominent politicians, such as the Minister Władysław Bartoszewski (a former Auschwitz concentration camp prisoner),[14] and Professor Jerzy Kłoczowski (a member of the UNESCO Executive Board),[15] have been among their targets. Kłoczowski was defended against a libelous SB fałszywka by a 2004 letter published in the newspaper Rzeczpospolita, signed by many Polish intellectuals, including Professor Jerzy Buzek, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, Professor Władysław Bartoszewski, Professor Andrzej Zoll, Józef Życiński, Andrzej Wajda, Professor Barbara Skarga, Professor Jan Miodek, Professor Jerzy Zdrada, Aleksander Hall, Władysław Frasyniuk, Professor Adam Galos, and Krystyna Zachwatowicz.[16][17]

The extensive use of fałszywkas (fake documents) in communist Poland was confirmed during a 2000 court case by a 1985 document written by Major Adam Styliński during an internal investigation at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The document described how fałszywkas were produced and disseminated during martial law in Poland.[18] Lech Wałęsa had been a target of fake police reports as early as the early 1970s.[19][20][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roman David (2006), In Exchange for Truth: Polish Lustration and the South African Amnesty Process, Politikon. South African Journal of Political Studies 32(1): pp. 81-99.
  2. ^ Roman David (2011), Lustration and Transitional Justice: Personnel Systems in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  3. ^ a b (in Polish) Najważniejsze wiadomości – Informacje i materiały pomocnicze dla organów realizujących postanowienia ustawy lustracyjnej IPN News. Last accessed on 24 April 2007
  4. ^ Mark S. Ellis, Purging the past: The Current State of Lustration Laws in the Former Communist Bloc (pdf), Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 59, No. 4, Accountability for International Crimes and Serious Violations of Fundamental Human Rights (Autumn, 1996), pp. 181–96
  5. ^ (in Polish) Biuro Lustracyjne IPN w miejsce Rzecznika Interesu Publicznego, Gazeta Wyborcza, 15 March 2007, Last accessed on 24 April 2007
  6. ^ a b (in Polish) Nowelizacja ustawy z dnia 18 grudnia 1998 r. o Instytucie Pamięci Narodowej – Komisji Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu oraz ustawy z dnia 18 października 2006 r. o ujawnianiu informacji o dokumentach organów bezpieczeństwa państwa z lat 1944–1990 oraz treści tych dokumentów. Last accessed on 24 April 2006
  7. ^ BBC News
  8. ^ > News > World - Polish court strikes down legislation on screening Poles for communist-era collaboration
  9. ^,79328,4127958.html Adam Michnik: Otwórzmy teczki (Let's open the files)
  10. ^ Jan Lityński, Otwarcie teczek zalegalizuje przestępstwa PRL (Opening the files will legalise the crimes of the Polish People's Republic). Gazeta Wyborcza. (in Polish)
  11. ^ a b Jerzy Urban (October 2012). "Alfabet Urbana 2". Numer archiwalny (in Polish). Tygodnik "NIE" w internecie. Archived from the original on 2013-04-16. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  12. ^ Małgorzata Kundzicz (2012-08-20). "Były burmistrz podał do sądu posła. Wszystko przez teczki SB (Former Mayor takes an MP to court. Everything because of the SB files)". Serwisy Miejskie - Artykuły. Gazeta Olsztyńska. Archived from the original on April 21, 2013. Retrieved September 19, 2012.
  13. ^ Editorial (February 20, 2012). "Czempiński u Olejnik: teczka Lecha Wałęsy to fałszywka. Ja się na tym znam. (– Wałęsa file was a "fałszywka" says Gen. Czempiński...)". Teksty. Gazeta Wyborcza. Retrieved September 20, 2012. I had the privilege to see them - says Gen. Gromosław Czempiński - they were Xeroxes of Xeroxes. Transl. from Polish: ...miałem okazję to oglądać, to są to kserokopie z kserokopii - mówił b. szef UOP gen. Gromosław Czempiński.
  14. ^ Editorial (October 9, 2008). "IPN: SB preparowało materiały kompromitujące Bartoszewskiego (Materials to defame Bartoszewski were fabricated by SB, says IPN)". Wiadomości (in Polish). Gazeta Wyborcza. Retrieved September 20, 2012. Z zapisu w katalogu IPN wynika, że spreparowane materiały wytworzono jako "element kombinacji operacyjnej SB mającej na celu skompromitowanie Bartoszewskiego w środowisku dziennikarskim i inteligenckim jako agenta SB".
  15. ^ Dr Andrzej Myc, Rada i Komitetu Wykonawczego Solidarności Walczącej; Romuald Lazarowicz, Biuletyn Dolnośląski. "Jerzy Kłoczowski: TW Historyk". Zmory przeszłości (Nightmares of the Past) (in Polish). Wydawnictwo Lena Heleny Lazarowicz. Retrieved August 12, 2012. External link in |publisher= (help)
  16. ^ Editorial (2004-11-12). "Protest intelektualistów w obronie prof. Kłoczowskiego (The Protest of Polish intellectuals in defence of Prof. Kłoczowski)". Wydarzenia. Katolicka Agencja Informacyjna. Archived from the original on April 18, 2015. Retrieved September 27, 2012. Included in the article, is the full text of protest by the Polish intellectuals against slander of Prof. Jerzy Kłoczowski based on an SB fałszywka
  17. ^ Editorial (2008-05-13). "Historia "Historyka" (z dziejów Zjednoczonego Frontu Antylustracyjnego)". Salon 24. Niezależne forum publicystów. Retrieved September 27, 2012.
  18. ^ Wojciech Czuchnowski, Maciej Sandecki (December 22, 2011), "SB fałszowała kwity na Wałęsę," Gazeta wyborcza. (in Polish)
  19. ^ "SB a Lech Wałęsa. Przyczynek do biografii (The SB and Lech Wałęsa. A Contribution to a Biography)" (in Polish). Instytut Pamięci Narodowej ( February 16, 2006. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
  20. ^ Wiadomości (2008-10-08). "Białystok: IPN o śledztwie w sprawie wytwarzania dokumentów kompromitujących Wałęsę". Archiwum (in Polish). PAP. Retrieved September 26, 2012. Re: Książka Sławomira Cenckiewicza i Piotra Gontarczyka
  21. ^ Roger Boyes, "Lech Walesa was a Communist spy, says new book," The Times, 25 June 2008.

Further reading[edit]

  • Mark S. Ellis, Purging the past: The Current State of Lustration Laws in the Former Communist Bloc (pdf), Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 59, No. 4, Accountability for International Crimes and Serious Violations of Fundamental Human Rights (Autumn, 1996), pp. 181–196], covering a dozen former Communist countries in 1996
  • "Explaining Lustration in Eastern Europe: 'A Post-communist politics approach'", Szczerbiak, Aleks, Brigid Fowler and Kieran Williams. SEI Working Paper No 62.
  • Lavinia Stan, "Transition, Justice and Transitional Justice in Poland," Studia Politica, Vol. 6, No. 2 (July 2006), pp. 257–284.
  • Lavinia Stan, "The Politics of Memory in Poland: Lustration, File Access and Court Proceedings," Studies in Post-Communism Occasional Paper No. 10 (April 2005).
  • Roman David, Lustration and Transitional Justice: Personnel Systems in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.