Poland’s Memory Crisis

Reconciliation is not following in the wake of the search for truth about the past in one fomer Warsaw Pact country, Colin Graham reports.

Re-visiting the past always risks re-opening old wounds but - if Poland's current bout of self-examination of its post-war Communist experiences is anything to go by - it can also lead to new and even more serious injuries. The Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), formed by the Polish government in 1998 to investigate crimes committed during the Nazi occupation and subsequently under Communist Party rule up to 1989, has played an increasingly controversial role in the nation's political life.

In mid-May, the IPN’s case against nine members of the Communist government which imposed martial law in Poland in 1981 was thrown out by Warsaw’s regional court for lack of evidence. The judge ordered the institute to probe more deeply. In instructing the IPN to obtain documentation from foreign archives, to interview leading world figures of the time – including Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev – and to ask more historians for their views on the military clampdown on the Solidarity trade union, the court found itself being praised by the defendants and slammed by politicians on the right, who are desperate for the Communists to be saddled with the responsibility for repressing the largest anti-government movement to emerge in any country behind the Iron Curtain.

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