Szwagrzyk, OBEP Wrocław
Jews in the Management of the UB: Stereotype or Reality?
The problem of
participation of persons of Jewish origin in the management of the Communist
apparatus of repression, especially in the Ministry of Public Security and its
local extensions, belongs to particularly contentious
and complex fields of research.
The discussion going on for ten-plus years now on the subject is dominated by
extreme, mutually exclusive opinions,
and the arguments employed are rarely supported by statistical data based on
analyses of personnel files of the UB functionaries.1
In the opinion of many Poles, Jews constituted the majority of the officer cadre of the secret political police in the post-war Poland. Without getting into the causes of the overrepresentation of Jews and persons of Jewish extraction in the management of the security apparatus in Poland, nor their individual motivations in joining this force, it is worth keeping in mind, that after the war they constituted not fully one percent of the Polish population. The reports of the anti-Communist underground from the years 1945-1946 paint a catastrophic picture of a violated country, in which power was to be assumed by Jews: “NKVD helped by the remaining Jews organizes bloody orgies.”2 [...] “Wherever one turns, there can be felt their [Jews - K.S.] cordial relations with the Soviets and vice versa, and the support given them by the Soviets and the PPR [Polish Workers Party], as well as by the administrative and Security authorities.”3 “The most important and best paid state positions are filled by Jews. In the state administration, the intermediate and higher educational system, the judiciary and military, there are Jews in the superior positions.”4 [...] “After the Red Army had entered Poland, the Jews-Communists, offering themselves without reservation to the NKVD as the experts on social relations and the land, were [...] the factor contributing the most to mass arrests, executions, deportations, especially of the members of the Polish independence movement.”5
Similar convictions about the exceptional role of Jews in installing the Communist system in Poland were articulated after the fall of Communism as well: “[...] after the year 1944 there began in Poland the bloody rule of Jew-Commune, enforced with the help of Soviet tanks and bayonets,”6 and Jews were “the revolution’s helpers”7 hiding under “good, Slavic names”8 and inthe UB, in which: “[...] the key positions were always occupied by Jews.”9
After the year 1989 historiography has gained a number of works, in which that question became the subject of scientific analyses based on knowledge derived from the earlier unknown and inaccessible archival sources. Especially significant was the article “Żydzi - władza komunistów” [“Jews - the Rule of Communists”] by Krystyna Kersten published in 1992. The basis for the author’s argument for “parting with the myth that the UB equaled Jews”10, was the note by Bierut [the head of government] from November 21, 1945, stating that “[...] in the autumn of 1945 of the 500 managerial positions in the Ministry of Public Security the Jews occupied 67, which was 13%,” making 1.7% of the total of the MBP employees (438 of 25,600 persons).11
Radically different data were presented in the autumn of 1945 by the Soviet advisor to MBP, colonel Nikolai Sielivanowski, who noted in the report to People’s Commissar of Interior Lavrenti Beria dated October 20, 1945, “[...] In the Ministry of Public Security are employed 18.7% Jews, 50% of the managerial positions are occupied by Jews. In the 1st Department of the Ministry 27% are Jews. They occupy all managerial positions. In the Personnel Department [human resources] – 23% are Jews, in the managerial positions – 7 persons. In the Department of Functionaries (special inspection) – 33.3% are Jews, all occupy important positions. In the Health Department – 49.1% are Jews, in the Finances Department - 29.9% are Jews.”12
In 1949 the USSR ambassador to Poland, Viktor Lebiediev, went even further in his estimates, writing: “[...] in the MBP, beginning with the deputy ministers, throughout the department managers, there is not one Pole, all are Jews .”13
The content of Selivanowski’s and Lebiediev’s reports was also the basis for the article Żydzi w UB. Próba weryfikacji stereotypu [Jews in the UB: An Attempt at Verification of the Stereotype]14 by Andrzej Paczkowski, published in 2001. The third source for his analysis — in addition to the above two — was the content of the internal MSW Informator about the bezpieka [the UB] cadres prepared in 1978 for internal use; it was published in 2000 by Klub Inteligencji Katolickej [Club of Catholic Intelligentsia] in Lublin, with a foreword by Mirosław Piotrowski.15
Summing up the Informator’s data about nationality of the functionaries in the MBP, A. Paczkowski calculated that of the 447 managerial positions (excluding the voivodeship UBP’s [Offices of Public Security]), 131 (29.6%) were occupied by persons whose nationality was filled out as “Jewish.”16
One of the latest voices in the discussion about the nationality of the cadres of the security apparatus was an article by August Grabski, undermining not only the rationale for conducting such research, but also ascribing nationalistic phobias to those taking part in it : “[...] to the (neo)endeckie [nationalistic] tracers of the ethnic origins of the state and Party functionaries in the early years of People’s Poland [Polski Ludowej], the security area is of a singular interest. That area [...] is also fixed most strongly in the society’s imagination as one dominated by Jews”. In the author’s opinion: “Emphasizing the ethnic origins of a part of the personnel in the apparatus of People’s Poland [Polski Ludowej] by some publicists and historians of the right, in the situation when there was no dissimilarity between their politics and the politics of the PPR [Polish Workers Party], leads to the conclusion that such a procedure is only a function of their racist prejudices.”17
The Objective and the Criteria of Research
To establish the numerical data regarding nationality of the management of the security apparatus in the years 1944–1956 in Poland, it is necessary to describe the objective of the research and the criteria which will be the bases for such analyses. The objective is to establish what part of the managerial cadre constituted the Jews and persons of Jewish extraction, who with Belorussians, Poles, Russians and Ukrainians occupied the highest positions in that institution. Despite assertions that it isn’t possible to perform such a statistical analysis,18 from a scientific point of view, it is essential to attempt to do just that. Without that, it would be difficult to imagine preparing a “collective portrait” of the MBP-UB social environment, with all its identifiable characteristics, such as social background, age, education, party affiliation, conduct during the war, or nationality.
It seems that one of the main reasons for differences in evaluating this problem is the different criteria used for determining nationality [ethnicity]. Thus the determinants, depending on the researcher’s individual choices, can be (used individually or jointly): the sound of the given name and surname, the parents’ names, the creed, or sometimes the entry in a personal questionnaire in the space: “nationality.”
Determining nationality of the Jews-Communists creates many complications. Tomasz Gross even asserts that “the Communists of Jewish ethnic origin [...] worked in the security service area as Communists, not as Jews or Poles or, for instance, Georgians, and theirs weren’t Jewish objectives, but the objectives of the people’s government.”19 Therefore the conclusion follows that a person who became a Communist supposedly automatically lost his or her ethnicity [przynależność narodową - being a member of a particular national/ethnic group]. However, such a criterion raises the question: does this person lose that identity irretrievably, or does has he or she have a chance of repossessing it when one's world view changes?
question has merit, as not a small number of the UB Communists of Jewish origin,
during the emigration waves in the years 1956–1957 and 1968–1969, radically
revised their previous convictions, abandoning Communism and its ideology. [KM:
As Schatz notes, many of these former communist officials emigrated to Israel.
Schatz, J. (1991). The Generation: The Rise
and Fall of the Jewish Communists of Poland. Berkeley: University of
California Press, p. 314.]
Equally difficult — if not irresolvable — is the problem of national self-identification. A number of officers of Jewish extraction broke off their connection to their familial roots long before the WW II erupted. They considered themselves Poles with liberal convictions,20 displaying along strong emotional ties to Poland. They also most often changed their given names and surnames, seeing such a step as a natural consequence of an already made choice. For this group, the events of 1967–1968 were exceptionally painful, when as a result of an unleashed anti-Semitic campaign, the traces of Jewishness were tracked even in those who didn’t know one word in their ancestors’ tongue.
The analyses are based on the data contained in the 1978 MSW Informator [the Ministry of Interior internal publication] regarding the cadres of the state security apparatus, and the earlier files contained in the personnel dossier of its employees, mainly the special questionnaires and biographical notes filled out by employees. It would seem that the MSW Informator, worked on in the 1970’s, should have been based on the personal files of the functionaries and become a consolidated summary of their content. However, quite numerous differences between those two sources suggest that during the work on the former [the 1978 Informator], the sources that were used, at least in regard to determining nationality, are unknown to us as of now. At any rate, the data in the personnel files in the space “nationality” were not always identical with the nationality provided in the Informator. Perhaps, the final decision on this touchy matter was provided through the instructions by Biuro “C” [Office “C” – an inside control cell] to the employees.
For instance, Aleksander Dyszko-Wolski was ascribed Jewish nationality, being the son of Abraham and Baszewa, maiden name Goldwasser (both of Jewish faith). True enough, yet the personal file contained the description “nationality: Polish,” “religion Reformed Evangelical.”21 The former director of the Department of Prisons MBP [Ministry of Public Security], son of Maksymilian, of Roman Catholic faith, and Sabina, maiden name Łapówkier, was also recognized as a Jew.22
The personnel files as a rule inform of Polish nationality of the UB functionaries even when the officers’ given names and surnames were typically Jewish, for instance, in the files of Józef Arski (Mordechaj Falksman),23 Mieczysław (Mojżesz) Baumac,24 Michał Drzewiecki (Maurycy Aron-Holzer),25 Artur Nowak (Abraham Lerner),26 Henryk Piasecki (Izrael-Chaim Passes),27 or Czesław (Chaskiel) Ringer.28
There were only a few instances where the apparatus managers admitted Jewish nationality; for example: Adam Bienia,29 Leon Fojer,30 Michał Hakman,31 Edward Kalecki,32 Mieczysław Mietkowski,33 Zygmunt Okręt,34 Leon Rubinstein,35 Józef Światło,36 Michał Taboryski.37
Tadeusz Diatłowiecki38 and Bernard Konieczny,39 who
revealed their Jewish faith [“wyznanie mojżeszowe” – Moses faith], all others
had filled out in the space “faith”: none [“bezwyznaniowy” – committed to no
The examples of interpreting national origin based on political convictions or by personally declaring it by the functionaries, create realistic reasons for doubting the possibility of formulating an objective assertion regarding who is (was) or isn’t (wasn’t) a Jew. However, that statement doesn’t mean that, likewise, there are no acceptable criteria allowing the identification of persons of Jewish origin. Regardless of the sound of a given name and a surname, the world outlook and the chosen path in life, those will be such officers whose parents were of Jewish origin.
This study analyzed the following: the content of the MSW Informator and personnel files of 450 persons occupying managerial positions in the Ministry of Public Security, complemented by data drawn from other sources.40 As the results show, in the period of 1944–1954 of the 450 top managers of the Ministry of Public Security (from the head of department up), 167 were of Jewish origin (37.1%). After the MBP (Ministry of Public Security) was dissolved and its place was taken by Kds.BP (Committee for Public Security) in 1954, that number dropped to 86 managerial positions (34.5%). In that period (1944-1956), among the 107 managers and deputy managers of the voivodeship offices of state security, there were 22 of Jewish origin (20.5%). After having included other high positions in the voivodeship offices of the UB/UdsBP (the heads of department and the deputy managers of department), the most persons of Jewish origin were located in the security apparatus of the voivodeships of: Szczecin (18.7%), Wrocław (18.7%), Katowice (14.6%), Łódź (14.2%), Warszawa (13.6%),41 Gdańsk (12%), and Lublin (10.1%). In the remaining voivodeships that figure was about 7%, reaching the lowest level in Zielona Góra Voivedeship (3.5%).42
In light of the statistical data presented, the thesis regarding a major [“dużym”, literally: “big”] participation of Jews and persons of Jewish extraction in the management of the UB has been arrived at based on true premises and as such reflects historical truth. However, the research results don’t answer the question: to what degree the numbers can make an argument in the highly charged discussion going on for many years now?
My thanks to Tadeusz Korzeniewski for help in translating from Polish. KM
Some of the footnotes:
2 Report of the Commandant of the Home Army’s [Armia Krajowa] Białystok Operational Territory to the Central Command from 1.21.1945 [in:] Armia Krajowa w dokumentach [Home Army in Documents] 1939-1945, v. 5, Ossolineum 1991, p. 251
3 Information Report of WiN [Freedom and Sovereignty] General Command from April 1946 [in:] “The Union ‘Freedom and Sovereignty’ [WiN] in Documents,” v.1, Wrocław 1997, p. 454
4 Report of WiN General Command for June 1946, ibid., p. 622
5 WiN [Freedom and Sovereignty] Memorial to the United Nations, ibid., v.2, p. 85
11 ibid. [as in 10: K. Kirsten, Żydzi - władza komunistów (“Jews - the Rule of Communists”) (in:) eadem, Polacy(Poles)..., p.84
12 Special Dossier of J.V. Stalin. NKWD Reports from Poland 1944-1946, editors T. Cariewskaia, A. Chmielarz, Warsaw 1998, p. 421.
13 Poland in the
Documents from Russian Archives 1949-1953, Warsaw 2000, p. 46.
40 Among others: IPN 0397/397, Biographical Notes of Some Emigrants to Israel, MSW [Ministry of Interior], Office of Passports and Identification Documents, 1970.
41 Jointly WUBP [the UB of the Voivedeship] and UBP [the UB] for the City of Warsaw
42 Data from the book Aparat bezpieczeństwa w Polsce. Kadra kierownicza, t. 1 (1944-1956), [Security Apparatus in Poland: Managerial Cadres, v.1 (1944-1956)], to be published, editor K. Szwagrzyk