Stanisław Radkiewicz (Template:IPA-pl; born January 19, 1903 in Rozmierki, died December 13, 1987 in Warsaw) was a Polish communist activist with Soviet citizenship, member of the pre-war Communist Party of Poland and of the post-war Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR). As head of the Polish communist secret police (Urząd Bezpieczeństwa or UB) between 1944 and 1954 he was one of the chief organizers of Stalinist terror in Poland in those years.
Unlike some other individuals responsible for the Stalinist terror in the 1940s and 1950s, Radkiewicz was never held responsible for his crimes, although in 1956, after the Poznań protests and his official "self-critique" he was removed from his post as Minister of Public Security and made the Minister of State Agricultural Farms (PGRs).
Early life[edit | edit source]
Radkiewicz was born in the village of Rozmierki in the powiat of Kosów Poleski in the Polesie Voivodeship. He was the son of farmer Franciszek and Paulina née Lenczewska. He finished third grade. In 1915, together with his family he was deported by the retreating Tsarist army to Russia. During the Bolshevik Revolution he joined the Komsomol. After the Polish-Soviet War, in 1922, his family moved back to their home village, but Stanisław soon moved to the Soviet Union where he worked in the Polish Bureau of the Communist Party of Byelorussia. In 1925 he was send clandestinely by Moscow back into Poland to take charge of the youth section of the illegal Polish Communist Party (KPP). Three years later he was arrested for activity against the sovereignty and independence of the Polish Republic and sentenced to four years in prison. After being released he served as a functionary of the KPP. He was arrested again 1937 and served half a year in prison. In 1938 on the orders of Joseph Stalin the KPP was disbanded and its leaders executed as part of the Great Purge. Radkiewicz however was spared as he enjoyed Stalin's confidence and was in fact put in charge by Stalin of liquidating KPP's party cells in Poland.
World War II[edit | edit source]
During World War II he volunteered for the Red Army but was later transferred and made a political commissar of the Polish 1st Tadeusz Kościuszko Infantry Division and later a Division General. He was also a delegate to the first Polish Sejm under communist rule.
Head of secret police[edit | edit source]
Radkiewicz was made head of the UB secret police in 1944, shortly after the formation of the Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN) "Lublin Committee" explicitly with Stalin's approval. In 1945 (actually, December 31, 1944), the PKWN was transformed into the Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland and the UB was renamed Ministry of Public Security of Poland (MBP) although it continued to be known by its UB acronym partly because of the fact that local offices continued under the old name. In the period after 1945, the secret police grew rapidly under Radkiewicz's direction, with twelve thousand agents in April 1945 and twenty four thousand in December 1945. At its height, in 1953, the organization had thirty three thousand agents. Under Radkiewicz's tenure, the UB became better organized, developed its standard methods of operation and perfected techniques of terror that it used against political opponents. It constituted a "state within a state" in communist Poland and even high-ranking members of the communist party were afraid of it.
Radkiewicz's UB focused its activities on several main areas:
- agitation and armed terror, including secret murders, directed at the only legal political opposition to the communist party, the Polish People's Party (also known as "Polish Peasant Party", PSL) (which was forced to merge into the communist controlled satellite United People's Party (ZSL) in 1949)
- tracking down, arresting and executing members of the anti-communist underground organizations, such as Freedom and Independence (WiN), National Armed Forces (NSZ) or other "Cursed soldiers" and non-violent civilian organizations. Additionally, the UB played a significant role in organizing Operation Vistula.
- attacking and suppressing the activity of the Catholic Church in Poland, as well as other, non-Catholic, religious organizations.
Action against the Polish People's Party[edit | edit source]
In December 1945 Radkiewicz direct a general action against the only legal opposition party in Poland at the time, the PSL. The purpose of the action was to ensure a communist victory in the upcoming elections and in the Polish people's referendum of 1946. On Radkiewicz's orders, PSL candidates in the elections were harassed and removed from electoral lists, ballots send to areas of high PSL support were intercepted and never delivered so that voting never took place, PSL town hall meetings were attacked by units of Milicja Obywatelska (MO) and UB and finally, particularly active members of the party were murdered. Radkiewicz issued an order to his agents in which he instructed them to prepare an action of "liquidating" members of the PSL which, according to him opposed communist rule in Poland and which supposedly supported the anti-communist underground. The order also stated that these liquidations were to be made to look as the work of the anti-communist underground, combined with a press campaign directed against "anti-government terrorist bandits", which would place the blame for the murders on various anti-communist organizations. As a result, between the spring of 1945 and January 1947, at least 140 members of the PSL were murdered by the UB, among them notable figures such as Narcyz Wiatr and Władysław Kojder. (The leader of PSL, Stanisław Mikołajczyk, in the face of widespread election fraud and growing state terror against his party, fled Poland in April 1946).
Action against the Catholic church in Poland[edit | edit source]
As early as September 1945, Radkiewicz ordered the organization of the 5th Department of UB whose task was to "counter organizations and groups active against the interests of the (communist) party". Within the 5th Department, Section V was charged with investigating and building actions against the Catholic Church. Within the section, Sub-Section I was charged with investigating those active in the Catholic Church (including the clergy) while Sub-Section II's focus was to be on the Catholic press and secular Catholic organizations.
The head of the 5th Department was Julia Brystiger who, together with Radkiewicz organized the secret police's operations aimed at the Catholic Church in Poland. In October 1947, Brystiger - who was an interrogator of political prisoners widely known for her sadism and Gestapo-like methods of torture during questioning - presented a seminar entitled On the Clergy's Offensive Against Our Task at a conference for secret police chiefs and Radkiewicz was the main discussant. In her presentation Brystiger stated that the "final time of merciless fight with the Church" was coming soon and that in order to win it the secret services of the Communist party would need to employ "any means necessary". Radkiewicz, in his follow up remarks noted that "The clergy is not like the PSL (The Polish People's Party). With them it won't be as easy as it was with the PSL". As a result, in the autumn of 1950 Radkiewicz split Section V of the 5th Department into its own department (also the 5th) whose purpose was exclusively "fight against the clergy".
The actions against the Catholic Church took several forms, including harassment of priests and nuns, attempts to alienate the Polish church from the Vatican via the use of moles and agent provocateurs, seizure and expropriation of church property, and staging of incidents which were meant to embarrass the Catholic hierarchy in the eyes of the public and Western opinion (for example, planting of weapons in Churches). In particularly "difficult" cases of politically active priests and Catholics who "didn't get the message", Radkiewicz ordered their elimination from public life, or, if all else failed, murder.
Party membership[edit | edit source]
In December 1954 Radkiewicz was removed from the position of Minister of Security, and in July 1955 he stepped down from the Political Bureau of the communist party. After workers' unrest in Poznan in 1956, several other members of the security services responsible for the Stalinist terror in Poland were put on trial (among others Roman Romkowski, Józef Różański and Anatol Fejgin), but Radkiewicz went unpunished. After he made a public critique of his actions, he was made the Minister of State Farms. In May 1957 he was removed from the Central Committee of the communist party and, for three years, from the party itself. From 1960 until 1968 he served as the general director of the Bureau of State Reserves and retired in 1968.
References[edit | edit source]
- Institute for National Remembrance, "Wystawa „Ludzie UB”" (Exhibition "Men of UB"), 
- Norman Davies, "God's playground: a history of Poland in two volumes", Oxford University Press, 2005, pg. 414, 
- Ryszard Terlecki, "Miecz i Tarcza Komunizmu. Historia aparatu bezpieczenstwa w Polse, 1944-1990" (Sword and Shield of Communism. A history of the Polish security services, 1944-1990), Wydawnictwo Literackie, Krakow, 2007, pg. 62
- Timothy Snyder, "To Resolve the Ukrainian Problem Once and for All: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ukrainians in Poland, 1943-1947", Journal of Cold War Studies 1.2 (1999) 86-120, 
- Hanna Diskin, "The seeds of triumph: church and state in Gomułka's Poland", Central European University Press, 2001, pg. 47, 
- Devil's Choice By David Dastych
- A. Kemp-Welch, "Poland under Communism: a Cold War history", Cambridge University Press, 2008, pg. 83, 
- Teresa Torańska, ""Them": Stalin's Polish puppets", Harper & Row, 1987, pg. 384,