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Institute of National Remembrance — Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation ( ; IPN) is a Polish government-affiliated research institute with lustration prerogatives and prosecution powers founded by specific legislation. It specialises in the legal and historical sciences and in particular the recent history of Poland.

IPN investigates both Nazi and Communist crimes committed in Poland, documents its findings and disseminates the results of its investigations to the public.

According to a law passed on March 15, 2007, IPN was to be mandated to carry out lustration procedures prescribed by Polish law. However, key articles of that law were judged unconstitutional by Poland's constitutional court on May 11, 2007 so the role of IPN in the lustration process is at present unclear.

Purpose

IPN's main areas of activity and mission statement include:

IPN collects, archives and organises documents about the Polish communist security apparatus (22 July 1944 to 31 December 1989).

Organisation

IPN was created by special legislation on 18 December 1998.

IPN is governed by the Chairman. This chairman is chosen by a supermajority (60%) of the Polish Parliament (Sejm) with the approval of the Senate of Poland on a request by a Collegium of IPN. The chairman has a 5-year term of office.

The first chairman of the IPN was Leon Kieres, elected by the Sejm for five years in 8 June 2000 (term 30 June 2000–29 December 2005).

The current chairman is Janusz Kurtyka, elected on 9 December 2005 with a term that started 29 December 2005.

The IPN is divided into:
  • Main Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (Główna Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni Przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu)
  • Bureau of Provision and Archivization of Documents (Biuro Udostępniania i Archiwizacji Dokumentów)
  • Bureau of Public Education (or Public Edudation Office, Biuro Edukacji Publicznej)
  • Lustration Bureau (Biuro Lustracyjne) (new bureau, since October 2006)
  • Local chapters


Activities

Research

The research conducted by IPN from December 2000 falls into four main topical areas:
  • Security Apparatus and Civil Resistance (with separate sub-projects devoted to Political Processes and Prisoners 1944-1956, Soviet Repressions and Crimes committed against Polish Citizens and Martial Law: a Glance after Twenty Years);
    • Functioning of the repression apparatus (state security and justice organs) - its organizational structure, cadres and relations with other state authority and party organs
    • Activities of the repression apparatus directed against particular selected social groups and organizations
    • Structure and methods of functioning of the People's Poland security apparatus
    • Security apparatus in the combat with political and military underground 1944-1956
    • Activities of the security apparatus against political emigreés
    • Security apparatus in combat with the Church and freedom of belief
    • Authorities vis-a-vis social crises and democratic opposition in the years 1956-1989 f) List of those repressed and sentenced to death
    • Bibliography of the conspiracy, resistance and repression 1944-1989
  • War, Occupation and the Polish Underground;
    • deepening of knowledge about the structures and activities of the Polish Underground State
    • examination of the human fates in the territories occupied by the Soviet regime and of Poles displaced into the Soviet Union
    • assessment of sources on the life conditions under the Soviet and German Nazi occupations
    • evaluation of the state of research concerning the victims of the war activities and extermination policy of the Soviet and German Nazi occupiers
    • examining the Holocaust (Extermination of Jews) conducted by Nazis in the Polish territories
      • Response of the Polish Underground State to the extermination of Jewish population
      • The Polish Underground press and the Jewish question during the German Nazi occupation
  • Poles and Other Nations in the Years 1939-1989 (with a part on Poles and Ukrainians);
    • Poles and Ukrainians
    • Poles and Lithuanians
    • Poles and Germans
    • Communist authorities - Belarusians - Underground
    • Fate of Jewish people in the People's Republic of Poland
    • Gypsies in Poland
  • Peasants vis-a-vis People's Authority 1944-1989 (on the situation of peasants and the rural policy in the years 1944-1989)
    • inhabitants of the rural areas vis-a-vis the creation of the totalitarian regime in Poland;
    • peasants vis-a-vis the Sovietisation of Poland in the years 1948-1956;
    • attitudes of the inhabitants of rural areas towards the state-Church conflict in the years 1956-1970;
    • the role of peasants in the anti-Communist opposition of the 1970s and 1980s.


Among the most widely reported case investigated by the IPN thus far is the Jedwabne Pogrommarker, an infamous pogrom of Polish Jews "committed directly by Poles, but inspired by the Germans" in 1941. A selection of other cases include:

Education

IPN is involved in dissemination of its research results in the form of publications (particularly the "IPN Bulletin" and "Remembrance and Justice" periodicals), exhibitions, seminars, panel discussions, film reviews, workshops and school lessons. Since December 2000 IPN has organized over 30 academic conferences (particularly the Warsaw Congress of Science organized every year in September); 22 exhibitions in various museums and educational competitions involving thousands of students. "IPN Bulletin" is of an informative and popular-scientific character and contains articles pertaining to the history of Poland in the years 1939-1990 as well as describes the current IPN activities. "Remembrance and Justice" appears every half a year and is a scientific historical magazine. IPN also publishes books which are usually edited as collections of documents, reports and memories, but also scientific elaborations (78 of such publications have appeared till April 2007).

The Public Education Office co-operates on a permanent basis with the Ministry of National Education and Sport, having signed a Co-operation Agreement in 2001. IPN gives opinions of curricula and textbooks on history that are used in Polish schools and is involved in teacher training activities. The IPN also co-organizes postgraduate diploma studies on history at the Jagiellonian University and the University of Maria Curie-Skłodowskamarker.

Lustration

On 18 December 2006 Polish law regulating IPN was changed and came into effect on 15 March 2007. This change gave IPN new lustration powers. However, key articles of that law were judged unconstitutional by Poland's Constitutional Court on May 11, 2007, making the role of IPN in lustration unclear and putting the whole process into question.

Criticism

Wildstein list

Wildstein list refers to the partial list of names of people who allegedly worked for the communist era Polish intelligence service, which was copied from IPN archives in 2004 by journalist Bronisław Wildstein and published in the Internet in 2005. The list gained much attention in Polish media and politics, and during that time IPN security procedures and handling of the matter were criticized.

IPN presidential election

The election of a new IPN president in December 2005 was also criticised. Janusz Kurtyka, the incumbent IPN president, was challenged by Andrzej Przewoźnik, a historian from the Jagiellonian University. Przewoźnik's candidature received a severe setback after documents were found which suggested his possible co-operation with Służba Bezpieczeństwa, the Communist Poland's internal intelligence agency and secret police. Przewoźnik was eventually cleared of the accusations, but not before he lost the election.

Government abuse

One of the most controversial aspects of IPN is a by-product of their role in collecting and publishing previously secret archives from the Polish security apparatus: revealing secret agents and collaborators (a process called lustration)

In 2006 and 2007 the use of IPN by the Polish government - primarily by the ruling Prawo i Sprawiedliwość party (PiS) - came under criticism by some journalists and politicians. One of the major policy changes of PiS was to raise the issue of unresolved crimes from the times of the communist People's Republic of Poland. Critics of the government noted that the abandonment of the thick line policy would oblige all politicians, civil servants and others in positions of public trust to undergo a background check by the IPN. Since the results of these background checks are public, it is alleged that the motive of the PiS government is not justice but a smear campaign on their opposition. Further, IPN itself has been criticized for reliance on possibly falsified documents from the Polish communist secret police (Służba Bezpieczeństwa). In addition to pro-opposition media in Poland, this issue has also been highlighted by some media outlets outside Poland, such as The Guardian, Chicago Tribune and Newsday. The Guardian drew a parallel to McCarthyism in the United Statesmarker and journalist Matthew McAllester of Newsday described the events as a political witch hunt.

Wielgus affair

Stanisław Wielgus, former Roman Catholic archbishop of Warsaw, was a communist secret police informer. Archbishop Wielgus is the highest-ranking Church leader to admit that he agreed to spy for an East European communist state.

Similar documents, catalogued and made public by IPN research, surfaced several in Polish politics, with varying accusations as to what faction of Polish politicians is trying to use them to damage another faction. Such discussions were common in Polish politics even before IPN centralized the communist archives: Jan Olszewski's government in 1992 after the Interior Minister, Antoni Macierewicz, was accused of using such documents for political gain. Later Vice-Premier Janusz Tomaszewski was forced to resign merely because he was called before the lustration court in 2000. Such documents also were mentioned during Polish presidential election, 2000, when it was alleged two recent Polish presidents and candidates to the elections, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, and Lech Wałęsa, might have had contacts with communist secret police.

Criticism of IPN by Russian sources

IPN has been criticized by Russian sources, for investigating crimes committed by the Soviets on Polish people. Russian magazine Ogonyok accused IPN of "rewriting history" and called it a "Ministry of Truth".

Praise

IPN actions have also attracted support. In 2006 an open letter was published, declaring that :
"History of Solidarity and anti-communist resistance in Poland cannot be damaged by scientific studies and resulting increase in our knowledge of the past. History of opposition to totalitarianism belongs to millions of Poles and not to one social or political group which usurps the right to decide which parts of national history should be discussed and which forgotten."


This letter was signed by a former Prime Minister of Poland, Jan Olszewski; the Mayor of Zakopanemarker, Piotr Bąk; Polish-American Professor and member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Councilmarker Marek Jan Chodakiewicz; Professors Maria Dzielska, Piotr Franaszek and Tomasz Gąsowski of the Jagiellonian University; Professor Marek Czachor of Gdańsk University of Technologymarker, journalist and writer Marcin Wolski; Solidarity co-founder Anna Walentynowicz and dozens of others.

References



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