Friday, August 04, 2006

UK refuses extradition to Poland of Stalinist prosecutor


She’s very old, lives in Oxford, and claims that the extradition is part of an anti-Semitic witch hunt. (photo: the only one I can find, taken back in her Stalinist heyday)

Great Britain has refused to hand over 79 year old Helena Wolinska - on ‘humanitarian grounds’ - for trial in Poland for sentencing to death, among others, the hero of the Polish Home Army during WW II, Emil August Fieldorf, who was accused and sentenced in a one-day show trial and then executed in 1953 for ‘conspiring with the Nazis’.

Even the communists, as part of the Stalinist thaw of 1956, admitted that Wolinska presided over show trials and frequently broke the constitution with her judgments.

Wolinska, an Auschwitz survivor, ironically moved to Britain after the anti-Semitic ‘partisan’ communist purges of 1968.

She has said all along that the extradition charges, made in 1999, were because she was Jewish.

The daughter of her most famous victim, Maria Fieldorf, hasn’t helped to dispel this impression, unfortunately. She is reported as saying:

"Poland has said sorry to Jews too many times. Now it is their turn to apologise to Poland"…"The sad truth is that our secret services in the 1950s were dominated by Jews. They were disposed to Communism, perhaps it is genetic. All the people connected with the arrest and prosecution of my father were Jewish, and most of them went to Israel. Nobody says sorry to us, but nowadays we have to say sorry to Jews all the time."

Oh, dear.

Since she left Poland Wolinska has been leading an uneventful life married to Oxford University economist Wlodzimierz Brus.

Is it worth dragging someone to Poland for what they did 50 years ago, even if they have a personal history they would rather forget? Her record does look bad and it looks like she was acting in revenge when she was executing Polish Home Army fighters. But isn't this fixation with the past an excuse for not confidently facing the future? Does Poland spend too much time in its painful history?

More?
See The Three Lives of Helena Brus, by Ann Applebaum

35 comments:

ignacy said...

Tough and disturbing questions, BR. I don't have any easy answers. My first reaction was to joke about it as per my comment in a previous post.

Brus is disgustingly unrepentent. Fieldorf's daughter is viciously anti-Semitic.

Has Adam Michnik editorialized on this case yet?

beatroot said...

I asked those questions as I'm buggered if I know the answers.

But this battle over history here does take up lots of political energy that could be much better spent actually improving lives for the people today.

Warsaw Crow said...

Playing the victim is still Polish politics raison d'être - give it another 50+ years.

Perhaps Polish Intelligence is planning to trick her over to judge the Miss World contest.

zuza said...

"Poland has said sorry to Jews too many times. Now it is their turn to apologise to Poland"

That's correct. There were apologies for Jedwabne, for example, but there were no apologies for the massacre commited by Jewish-Communist partisans in Koniuchy and Naliboki villages. There were apologies for Kielce pogrom (even if there are strong premises saying that the whole thing was a NKVD set-up), but there were no apology for unnaturally high percent of the Jews in communist security services. And to be honest, I'm not a fan of any apologies for the sins commited by someone's father or grandfather but after these all apologies given to Jews, I understand Poles who are.

…"The sad truth is that our secret services in the 1950s were dominated by Jews."

That is historical truth.

"They were disposed to Communism, perhaps it is genetic."

Well, one can have problem with that. To me it sounds like a paraprahe of Mr Icchak Shamir's, a former Israeli prime minister, famous remark, namely: "Poles suck in anti-Semitism with their mothers' milk".

"All the people connected with the arrest and prosecution of my father were Jewish, and most of them went to Israel."

Please don't blame her. Her father indeed had this luck .

"Nobody says sorry to us, but nowadays we have to say sorry to Jews all the time."

Unfortunately, yes.

zuza

zuza said...

"But this battle over history (...)"

This battle has to be fought. Just like the Germans, Norwegians or French dealt (or were trying too) with Nazis and their collabolators, and just like the Israelis hunted for mr. Eichmann, 16 years after the war. And finally - just like the Czechs, East Germans or Slovakians did it a dozen or so years ago with their communists. If there were no strong and powerful anti-lustration and anti-decommunization lobby in media (yes, magnificient and very tollerant for red criminals, "the people of honour" like he used to say, mr. Michnik, goes here first), business and politics through all these years, we would be in completely different point now.

beatroot said...

Zuza, Fieldorf’s daughter…and Wolinska…seem to have an unhealthy obsession with Jewishness.

What all of them can’t get through their heads is that there were secular ‘Jewish’ Stalinists, there were secular ‘catholic’ Stalinists. What they had in common, most importantly, is that they were all Stalinists.

To suggest that the Jewishness was a determinant of their Stalinism is about as ridiculous as claiming that Michnik, Kuron etc led the fight against Stalinism in the 1960’s – and spent time in jail for it - because they were Jewish (something the anti-Semites noticeably never do…which is interesting in itself).

Kuron etc led the fight against Stalinism because they had the guts and intelligence that was lacking in many of their compatriots at that time, not because they were Jewish.

Wolinska was a Stalinist because she was a Stalinist. Michnik was a hero not because he was Jewish but because he was/is a hero.

Period.

Peter said...

The crimes Wolinska is alleged to have committed include (judicial) murder which is not affected by the statute of limitations as far as I know. However, she is 79.

Zuza: Can you be more precise? Exactly what proportion of the secret services was Jewish? And what is the source of this "historical truth"? You have taken the trouble to use quotation marks. Who are you quoting? Where does this information come from? Has it been verfified?

I'd love to know. I've heard it said so often but never heard it proved.

ignacy said...

Zuza fits too well into Gross's new book. Zydokomuna this, Zydokomuna that. Amng anyone who is not twisted with irrational hate, his chapter on "Zydokomuna" should refute the twisted idea that Jews were in the majority or controlled the party (that screwed them).

BTW, I don't think Kuron was Jewish, BR. A common misperception that's borne out of his having been active in the communist party during his youth. Ties into the whole Zydokomuna phenonemon which shows how easy it is to fall into it, even for a non-Pole.

zuza said...

"What all of them can’t get through their heads is that there were secular ‘Jewish’ Stalinists, there were secular ‘catholic’ Stalinists. What they had in common, most importantly, is that they were all Stalinists."

Maybe not Catholic (because we're not talkig about religion) but just Polish Stalinists. There were, I know. But the fact is that Stalin didn't trust Poles much and relied upon minorities in conquering Poland and setting up new communist services. Because of this, Jews and also Belarusians or Ukrainians were given top jobs in these services, while Poles occupied the lower ones. Jews which few survived Shoah were overrepresented in a highest degree - depending on a time period and place - from about 25-30% to even 75-80% in executive (like in Silesian department of Security Buearau - start reading from John Sack's "Eye for an Eye", National Institute of Rememberance (IPN) last November's bulletin, or even some works of Norman Davies - don't remember actually which). I don't blame Jewish nation for that, but, while we try to deal with our history honestly, many Jewish historians just denies the fact that this overrepresentation could influence some anti-Jewish attitudes after the war and they blame only that old, genetic Polish anti-Semitism.

"To suggest that the Jewishness was a determinant of their Stalinism is about as ridiculous as claiming that"

Yes, I also disagree with this suggestion (even if pre-war Communist Party of Poland and smaller communist parties were mainly Jewish - but and just pointed at a similiar remark made by an Israeli PRIME MINISTER, not some ordinary Jew.

"Michnik, Kuron etc led the fight against Stalinism in the 1960’s – and spent time in jail for it - because they were Jewish (something the anti-Semites noticeably never do…which is interesting in itself)."

In fact Mr Kuron wasn't Jewish and there are even problems with Michnik's jewishness in ethnic terms, even if Michnik himself likes to act as a suffering Jew. Few weeks ago his colleague from opposition, Antoni Zambrowski, claimed in a article that he was taken from Polish orphanage and then raised in a Jewish communist family. Anyway, when it comes about people like Michnik or Kuron or some many ethnic Jews, yes, there were against Stalinism but not anti-communist, as they critisized it from first the Trockyist and then social-democratic position. Because of this I'm ideologically closer to some real anti-communist Polish Jews like Bronislaw Wildstein (now a chief of public TV) or an excellent poet Marian Hemar.

"Michnik was a hero"

Yes, definitely WAS. Until 1989 or even earlier. Then he started to praise communist criminals like Jaruzelski or Kiszczak and strongly opposed any decommunization and attacked everybody who wanted to deal with the totalitarian past.
-----

"Zuza fits too well into Gross's new book. Zydokomuna this, Zydokomuna that. Amng anyone who is not twisted with irrational hate, his chapter on "Zydokomuna" should refute the twisted idea that Jews were in the majority or controlled the party (that screwed them). "

Learning a Polish history from Mr Gross books is an extremely bad idea. This guy has some serious anti-Polish complex (even if his mother WAS Polish) and his works are to some high extent based on communist-made anti-Catholic and anti-Polish propaganda. There's also one thing which links him to communist services - in 1968 happenings he was denouncing many of his opposition colleagues in the SB investigation, including Mr Michnik's wife. Few know this fact. And nowadays there are really few historicians here (but unfortunately not in ignorant US or West generally) which treat him serious - most of those mainstream does not. Even Michnik critisized his new book indirectly, by slamming Elie Wiesel who made a review of "Fear" (in Washington Post) where he just repeated Gross dumb statements about Polish vicious anti-Semitism.

zuza said...

And just the last thing:

"She has said all along that the extradition charges, made in 1999, were because she was Jewish.

The daughter of her most famous victim, Maria Fieldorf, hasn’t helped to dispel this impression, unfortunately. She is reported as saying"

Even if someone does not like some of Mrs Fieldorf's opinions - remember that these are her private statements. Whereas the extradition demand is based on specific, documented Wolinska's crimes, not on views of an ordinary citizen. And there is no slightest evidence that the Polish judicary passes judgments based on racial prejudices, also when it's about communist crimes. These days Polish services passed Adam G., the kid involved in this famous MP3-killing, to the Belgians regardless of some anti-Polish or anti-Gypsy (Adam G. is Polish Gipsy) attitudes which for sure exist on the margins of Belgian society (as such "anti-" attitudes are everywhere). In other words Mrs Wolinska's claims just doesn't make sense.

beatroot said...

Ignacy: I don't think Kuron was Jewish

Cheers for that. Although you could forgive me for thinking he had Jewish family. He was very active fighting anti-Semitism at a time when this was not very fashionable. And he probably did have Jewish ancestry, somewhere back in Lvov.

But Jew is not being used to mean anything to do with practicing religion anyway. Not in Poland, at any rate. And defiantly not back in the 1960s.

Michnik has said that the only time he thought about being ‘Jewish’ was when anti-Semites ‘accused’ him of being one.

Jewish in this context means ‘not Polish’ to the fools that believe nationality is synonymous with ethnicity (a very 1930s concept).

Romerican said...

Does Wolinska have a logical explanation to support her claim that the prosecuters are anti-semitic? I'm new to this issue and didn't see this point addressed. Is it merely spurious rhetoric as a defense against murder charges? Or is there really a gang of Jew hating Poles out to get her?

The question about 50 years and limitations is an interesting one. I, for one, have been glad to see the continued hunt for important nazi figures that took place for decades. Then again, I'm imperfectly pro-lustration as well.

There are many offense that ought fall into the live and let live category, but there are a handful of high crimes which ought not be so readily let off the hook (having said that, I should note I'm a believer that the standard of proof required for successful prosecution ought be significantly high.)

beatroot said...

I am surmising here but she was censored twice by her fellow commies – once in 1956, when there was a change of guard here, from old style Moscow based Stalinist to a more national Polish Stalinism. The next was in 1968 when the ‘partisan’ commies - who had fought in Poland against the Nazis - plus a younger generation who had come through the ranks via a peasant upbringing, got rid of Jews from the party (most of the Jews that were left here went to Austria, then Israel).

Then in 1999 extradition was requested from the UK where she was living after 1968. The government Poland had then was the post-Solidarity AWS coalition – a bit like what we have now but plus some more reasonable and moderate elements.

So she views the purges as being anti-Semitic in nature and the extradition too...

Anonymous said...

Of course she should be extradited and punished. If 90 year old consentration camp guards are still tried then why shouldn't she be? Is she above the law because she's Jewish and playing the race card?

StefanMichnik said...

Don't forget about me! Greetings from Sweden:)

TCO said...

Hang her.

sonia said...

Zuza,

I'm ideologically closer to some real anti-communist Polish Jews like Bronislaw Wildstein (...) or an excellent poet Marian Hemar

Me too. And I might add Szymon Szechter (Michnik's uncle) and his wife Nina Karsov to that list as well...

As for Wolinska's extradition...

I find it disgustingly hypocritical that the same people who wanted to extradite Pinochet from England to Spain a few years ago don't seem to care about Zwolinska and her crimes.

Besides, I don't want her to have a fair trial. She doesn't deserve it. She should died unpunished and then rot in hell for eternity. And the Brits should be ashamed for giving refuge to such a monster...

beatroot said...

I was against the extradition of Pinichet (not a British government's business, the Chilians should do what they want with the old bugger) and the old Stalinist now has British citizenship so there is not much the Poles can do all these years later. Tough.

StefanMichnik said...

Please don't ignore me guys:) Sweden is so borring!

Michael Farris said...

"Sweden is so borring!"

Nu...det kann jag tro.

"Please don't ignore me guys"

Who wants to extradite you where and why? I probably approve but it would be nice to have the details.

beatroot said...

Stefan Michnik is the brother of Adam. He was a general or something during commie times but is now living in Sweden. Many would like to see him dragged back and put under the thumb screw.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it ironic that there is so much focus on antisemitism now that Israel is on the loose in the middle east? As if we shouldn't forget who the real victims really are...

beatroot said...

I think you had better explain yourself a little clearer.

Michael Farris said...

Beat, thanks, the truth was boring after all.

Zaratustra said...

Her extradition at this point is probably a waste of energy and money - better have the UK government pay her pension than pay for 6 years of trial on Polish ulta-effient courts.

Her use of 'antisemitism' as a defense line falls into a pattern of use of this 'drill word' to argue any case involving Jews. I recommend this 'What is Antisemitism' article:

http://www.counterpunch.org/neumann0604.html

While overly radical in my judgement, the article is worth reading.

Eugene said...

Here is a quote from a book commentary by Anne Applebaum on the Norman Davies publication "Europe", borrowing from an earlier reference which has already been utilized in a previous debate here on 'The Beatroot'.

"...it is about time that Jews in the West learn to stop behaving as if the uniqueness of the Holocaust automatically excludes Jews from being accused of any form of bad behavior. It is also about time that historians acknowledge that, in the postwar era, there were some Jews who took part in Communist atrocities, and learn to discuss this fact as part of history, asking why it might have happened: suppressing it will simply create the anti-Semitism we should be attempting to eradicate."

Any criminal whether it be a former Communist or Nazi, regardless of their age, ethnic origin or religion, should be given a fair trial. Their religion shouldn't be an obstacle to potential conviction or imprisonment. The exaggerated, tired, worn out weapon or defense mechanism of accusing one of anti-semitism is out of the question.

beatroot said...

And those comments stopped davies getting a job at Stanford University.

Eugene said...

Beatroot,

That quote was made by Mrs. Applebaum herself (and not Norman Davies) in commenting on the book "Europe" written by Norman Davies.

It is true, Davies was prevented from getting a prestigious teaching position at Stanford Univerisity for writing what he did in his books. Those within the History Department found his views unacceptable. The court ruled in that particular case that it couldn't intervene in university hiring policy and bylaws, no matter how factual his historical analysis was.

It is interesting that Applebaum's comments did not preclude her from getting a position with the Washington Post, not that it would be justified. Her literary works are excellent, as are Davies.

Are there double standards in who is allowed to publish such information publicly and make such statements, or are only certain individuals targeted?

beatroot said...

There are probably double standards.

In Davies case I think that was a scandal. When I was teaching at (American) university there was something called 'academic freedom'.

I think at Stanford there has never been.

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Roman Werpachowski said...

We should not let the debate over Wolinska's case slide into counting how many Jews were involved in what. Wolinska does not and would not answer for "Jews", she answers for herself and what she did personally. The question of her ethnicity is irrelevant here.

What I find astonishing is how many people believe her accusations that "she won't get a fair trial in Poland". This is complete nonsense. Poland has a judiciary independent enough to become an EU member. This should speak for itself. The time it takes to convict former communist officials in Poland for almost any crime (because the relevant courts demand hard evidence, and this is often hard to obtain after so many years) shows that such trials are fair. After all, if Polish judges were a bunch of bloodthirsty monsters seeking revenge, such people like Jaruzelski or Kiszczak would be sentenced quickly. They weren't, because the fairness of the trials allowed them to efficiently defend themselves.

Poland did give up its own citizens to other countries' courts on the basis of the European Arrest Warrant. If Poland is refused the same, then the whole process is not fair.

W/r to her age: Wolinska would most probably not go to jail, precisely because of her age. The conviction, if passed, would be a symbolical one.

Anonymous said...

You douche bags who wrote this articel make me sick. Your lack of the basic facts about the circumstances shows why you get mislead by the simplest of premises.

"Is it worth dragging someone to Poland for what they did 50 years ago, even if they have a personal history they would rather forget? Her record does look bad and it looks like she was acting in revenge when she was executing Polish Home Army fighters. But isn't this fixation with the past an excuse for not confidently facing the future?"

First of all you dumb fuck there is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity. The jews have made sure of this in their search for Nazi war criminals even if they don't extradite their own citizens charged with similar crimes. Secondly why would she want revenge on the Polish home army? They didn't put her in Auschwitz you shithead. The Gernabs did. But people like you perpetuate the myth that the home army had something to do with it. It's strange how facts are 'created' by people like you while you forget the role of most western european societies and how they actively collaborated with the german killing machine. How many people know that so many Norwegians, Danes, Belgians and Dutchmen served in Hitler's armed SS? How many people knwo that while Hitler hid in his bunker he had Frenchmen fightinh for him in the streets of Berlin defending him from the Red Army? You are so ignorant. You dumb fuck.

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Ekstradycja z UK said...

Surely at the age of 79 she was medically unfit to stand trail in the fist place!