Findings and Progress of the Investigation into Criminal Activity
of Communist State Officers during the Poznań Events
The investigation into the developments that took place on 28th-29th June.1956 in Poznań (referred to in literature as the Poznań Events, Poznań Protests, Poznań June 1956 or Poznań Uprising) was instituted by the District Commission for the Investigation of Crimes against the Polish Nation in Poznań on 6th September1991.
Upon dissolving the Commission for the Investigation of Crimes against the Polish Nation, the proceedings were suspended on 28th January01999.
Once the Departmental Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation was established in Poznań, the proceedings were re-started on 22nd November 2000 and it has been continued under catalogue number S 23/00/Zk.
The subject matter of the investigation is currently defined as criminal activity of communist state officers, involving taking the life of many people, causinginjuries, illegal detentions and the maltreatment of arrested protesters during, and in connection with, the developments that took place on June 28th-29th, 1956 in Poznań.
Although the events at the core of the social revolt in question lasted ‘only’ two days, it should be remembered that they involved several tens of thousands of people whose lives had intertwined and crossed at that time.
Conclusions drawn from the collected material allow us to assume that the estimated number of the aggrieved parties within the meaning of the Code of Criminal Procedure (killed, wounded, detained, arrested and persons who were beaten and maltreated after detention and during interrogations) would amount to at least 1,319. It includes: 50 killed civilians, probably at least 523 wounded civilians (the total number of at least 573 wounded includes at least 15 Security Office (UB) officers, 7 Civic Militia (MO) officers and 28 soldiers) and a minimum of 746 detained and arrested. These figures, in particular in regards to the detained, arrested and wounded (assumed on the basis of the analysed source materials) must be subject to verification in the investigation. What should be noted here is that the activities consisting of criminal maltreatment of the detained, arrested or interrogated were being committed long after 28th June.1956.
The above information alone is suffice to indicate the scale of the present proceeding, which seems unprecedented.
It is obvious that, according to provisions of Article 45 section 3 of the Act of 18.12.1998 on the Institute of National Remembrance , the Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (i.e. Journal of Laws of 2007 no. 63, item 424, as amended), - it is necessary to establish, and, to interview the aggrieved parties (and if they are dead, at least one of persons who have entered into their rights pursuant to Article 52 § 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure) and inform them of their rights.
If the objective of comprehensive clarification of circumstances of the case, as set forth in Article 45 section 3 of the aforementioned act, is to be met, persons ‘belonging to the opposing camp’, i.e. UB and MO officers, soldiers, etc. must be also be interviewed (upon prior instruction as required).
The above operations are being systematically performed. Even though, from a formal point of view, the investigation has quite a long history, it should be noted that from a total of over 1,000 witnesses who have been interviewed so far, only 68 were interviewed between 1991and1999, whereas the rest have been interviewed since 2001. Another important point is that the former District Commission for the Investigation of Crimes against the Polish Nation in Poznań was primarily involved in the laborious issue of certificates for the events’ participants during the proceeding. Upon restarting the investigation, the main case files consisted of four volumes; now they have grown to reach the number of 100 along with 45 appendices, the latter being traditional source documents as well as records of documents and videos on VHS, CDs and DVDs, forming an integral part of the evidence.
Apart from interviews, what is also highly time absorbing is the analysis, processing and u source documents held by a number of entities and sometimes requiring time-consuming search queries (personal files of officers, materials from pre-trial proceedings and other).
As regards the main themes of the investigation, i.e. casualties of the events, it has been agreed that for now it should be assumed that 58 people died during the events and in connection with injuries they had sustained then. This figure includes 50 civilians, 4 soldiers (including one soldier from the Internal Security Corps, one cadet from the Military Academy of Armoured and Mechanised Formations, one soldier in active service and one regular soldier), 1 militia officer and 3 UB officers. This figure has been identified following considerable work in connection with legal proceeding which verified accounts on casualties present in different sources.
It should be added here that in the second half of 2006, exhumations and probing were carried out, respectively in Leszków near Piła (at the prisoner of war cemetery of Soviet and Polish soldiers from 1945) and in Biedrusko (in a nearby forest). They failed, however, to corroborate the hypotheses which transpired from some witnesses’ testimonies that there were previously unknown graves of casualties of the events, in particular of soldiers who refused to shoot at the protesters.
Publications about casualties have been verified, as they provided very different figures. Having collected relevant documentation and interrogated family members, or even friends of the deceased, it was established that these figures sometimes included persons who died a natural death, e.g. Stanisław Bańka, who died of uraemia on 30th July 1956. The information from families (or other sources) about persons who were said to have died during (or in connection with) the events, but which have not been officially entered on the lists of casualties, have been also verified in the normal manner upon their receipt in the investigation. All such cases have been verified negatively. In most cases, these were soldiers who usually died outside Poznań and had nothing to do with the events. As indicated above, it was ultimately assumed that 58 people died either during the events or later from injuries suffered at that time.
The courts and law enforcement at the time, both during and after the events, refused any operations concerning the casualties (in particular protesters) aimed at identification of their circumstances of death, not to mention the causes, the weapons, shells or bullets that either killed or injured were not been secured, and relevant ballistic testing and autopsies of casualties were not performed. The exception to this as the the autopsy of Zygmunt Izdebny, UB corporal, which was carried out after the exhumation and only in order to be used in a court proceeding later referred to as the ‘trial of three’( i.e. the proceeding against Józef Foltynowicz and others) and the autopsy of Ryszard Fick, a cadet of the Military Academy of Armoured and Mechanised Formations. Given these facts, is incredibly difficult now to identify the individuals who caused the death of different people, in particular civilians.
Even if we succeed in interviewing eye witness to a fatal shooting (which is not a rule in the present case), this is by no means equal to identification of the perpetrator. In 1956, the circumstances of death of non-protesters were investigated in much greater detail. For example, among successfully completed proceedings there is the case of Bronisław Falas, a soldier who was doing his compulsory military service and was accidentally fatally shot by a cadet of the Military Academy of Armoured and Mechanised Formations in Poznań,. There is alsothe case of Zygmunt Izdebny, whose death defendants from the above described ‘trial of three’ were accused of, and the death of Franciszek Krystek, a militia officer, who died of injuries suffered in an accident that happened whilst chasing participants of the events
For the above reasons, the difficulty in identifying perpetrators of body injuries in over 523 civilians wounded during the Events appears evident.
Despite the aforementioned obstacles, both for killed and wounded an effort has been made to identify the circumstances they were wounded or shot to death. It involves a comparison and analysis of relevant documents followed by their usage in the proceedings, i.e. through identification and interrogation of witnesses to these events, even if only indirect.
A special focus has been placed on the death of the youngest casualty, Roman Strzałkowski, which has become both symbolic and mythical.
Having accumulated a large amount of documents addressing this matter and having interviewed many witnesses, we were able to verify over a dozen versions of the death of this person, found both in investigation materials and the literature devoted to the Poznań June 1956 uprising.
It can be assumed with a high degree of probability that Roman Strzałkowski was fatally shot on 28th June.1956 between 12:30 pm and 3.30 pm on the premises of UB garages, and more specifically in a building referred to as their dispatch office or in its vicinity. It cannot be explicitly asserted at the moment, however, whether he was killed accidently or on purpose.
What is certain is that the key to solving this mystery is the late Teresa S., referred to in literature as Teofila Kowal. It is most probable that Teresa S. saw how Romek died, yet, for some reason she has never revealed the truth about it. When comparing her numerous accounts and explanations of this matter, one can quickly spot a number of contradictions in the trial testimonies. Indeed, it is not out of the question,that she did not witness Romek’s death at all (it is symptomatic that she never mentioned this event during the early stages of the proceeding in connection with which she was arrested), but she ‘became a witness’ for some reasons we can only speculate about – possibly in order to lay charges of such a symbolic and disturbing death on the protesters, which transpires from her testimony in the ’trial of nine’ (the case against Zenon Urbanek and others). Obviously, these are only hypotheses that need to be researched. What is clear though is that the death of Teresa S. makes it very difficult to solve this mystery although it does not preclude this possibility completely.
From the examination of Roman Strzałkowski’s shirt he was wearing at the time of shooting and death it is clear that the perpetrator who shot Romek was below him he and was at his right side (looking from the direction of the shot), which for example allows for the dismissal of the official version, pushed among others by the prosecution in the ‘trial of nine’, that Romek was shot by demonstrators who were shooting in the area of Kochanowskiego Street from the building of the Social Security Office.
Even if we pass over the undecided issue of the circumstances of first shots that were fired in the city, most of all at Kochanowskiego Street in front of the WUBP building besieged by protesters, it should be remembered that the peculiarity of the Poznań revolt of 1956 was that, initially, it was the protesters who took the offensive, and eventually there was a mutual exchange of shots in the streets that would result in chaotic firing from both groups. What is also characteristic is that following these armed clashes, it was mostly among people who did not participate in the armed part of the Poznań June 1956 uprising who were killed. Therefore, any assertions of the number of killed and wounded must be approached with extreme caution. As some authors point out, it cannot be ruled out that some civilians might have been shot by other civilians, which might have resulted from the overall chaos and the lack of skill in handling weapons.
It is also difficult to provide a clear-cut division of stages in the developments on 28th-29th June 1956. That is, to neatly differentiate between when it was still a peaceful demonstration, when it became an attack on public institutions, the periods of mutual clashes and the unilateral pacification. With all this, the events of the Poznań June 1956 uprising, as a whole, defy any classical legal and penal evaluation. They cannot be addressed wholly as a single communist crime, one of the reasons being that their emergence was sparked by a revolt of Cegielski workers, with other plants soon following suit. In this situation, it is necessary to evaluate different segments of actions by communist state officers, including those by individuals, obviously in the context of the legal regulations in force in 1956,after 1956, as well as those in force currently. It must be remembered that the goal behind the investigation is to examine the events referred to as the Poznań June 1956 uprising through the prism of acts without a statute of limitation, namely communist crimes, and clear evidence must be the basic tool here. No historical or social and political reasons may influence the result of this effort. Verified evidence cannot be replaced by assumptions, presumptions or even ‘commonly accepted views’ on a given matter. The results of the present investigation shows that there is more to the issue than just the historical dimension. In the course of the investigation, Marian S., a former MO officer, was accused of physical and moral maltreatment of Marian K. in the period from June 30th to July 4th, 1956 in Poznań, while he was an officer of the Poznań-Jeżyce District Civic Militia Headquarters. The maltreatment of Marian K., detained in connection with taking part in the Poznań events and placed in militia custody in the aforementioned MO unit, involved threats against his life made using a gun and hitting him with this gun in the head a number of times, and then together and in collaboration with other unidentified MO officers beating him with fists and a truncheon all over his body. Marian S. exceeded his powers as an officer in the position of a senior clerk of the operational section at the aforementioned MO unit in order to coerce a guilty plea and the desired testimony from Marian K. Thus, he committed a communist crime to the detriment of the aforementioned aggrieved party in the form of reprisals consisting in an infringement of the right to bodily inviolability and the right to humane treatment in detention. The aforementioned act has been recognised as a crime under Article 286 § 1 and Article 246 in connection with Article 36 of the Criminal Code of 1932 and in connection with Article 2 section 1 of the Act of 18thDecember 1998 about the Institute of National Remembrance..., and upon bringing this case up as a separate proceeding, an indictment against the aforementioned person was sent to the Poznań Grunwald – Jeżyce District Court.
By virtue of a judgement on 21st April 2009, Marian S. was found guilty of the crime he had been accused of and sentenced to one and a half years imprisonment, suspended for a period of 2 years. This was a final and binding sentence. Even though it has been passed in a single case, it should be considered symbolic because, according to the investigation findings, many people detained in any form were subject to violence from officers, not to mention the threats they received.
The above case, which ended in a final and binding sentence, is the fruit of both an analysis and a detailed research of almost 100 similar incidents, which was possible owing to the collected evidence. The operations involved collecting source documents, analysing personal files of officers, interweaving the aggrieved parties and showing them visuals with pictures of potential perpetrators or interweaving their next-of-kin (if the aggrieved party was dead). So far, it is only this single case in which the collected evidence was relevant and sufficient enough to bring this issue to a successful conclusion in court. The operations related to the maltreatment of the events’ participants have not been completed, however. This matter is still being addressed, and further clarified where necessary, during ongoing interviews of people who were detained, arrested or interrogated after the events.
When providing insight into the specific nature of the present investigation, we cannot but mention the obstacles it faces. The major problems include dispersed source material on this matter, the death of witnesses and aggrieved parties and potential suspects, poorer recall by witnessed–the natural course of things - of experiences and observations from 1956,confabulation occurring subconsciously or even intentional misleading the investigator through deliberate provision of false testimony. Such false testimony was among others provided by a UB officer who was among the people gathered and active in the besieged WUBP building in Poznań on 28th June 1956, which he consistently denied.
In connection with the above case, the Bydgoszcz South District Prosecution Office issued an indictment against the former UB officer for an offense under Article 233§1 of the Criminal Code on the basis of materials separate from this investigation, and the District Court in Bydgoszcz sentenced him to a fine.
Given the many themes of the investigation its degree of complexity and the nature of the case, as well as the number of potential aggrieved parties identification of which even if they are dead is - next to the obligation of clarification of all circumstances of the case – on one hand one of singularities of an investigation by a prosecutor of the Departmental Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation, and on the other hand an obligation under the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance..., the date of completing the present proceeding remains unknown.
Apart from interrogating persons detained and arrested in 1956 (which has been already described above) along with key witnesses to the events, who have been identified on the basis of search queries of source materials, the proceedings now focus primarily on identification and interrogation of persons wounded during the events (and if they are dead, of their next-of-kin). This part of the proceedings has reached a very advanced stage.
What is also being finalised is the issue of possible persecution of soldiers who took part in the events. As has been established (on the basis of the analysis of relevant registers of cases, source materials, testimonies from witnesses and information obtained at present) there are no grounds to claim that any soldier had been sentenced by court for their ‘improper’ attitude during the events (improper from the point of view of the then authorities). It is true that a small number of legal proceedings were conducted in this respect, but all of them were eventually discontinued. The case of a soldier who was said to have refused to shoot at protesters (and to give such order to his subordinates) on 28th June 1956 has been analysed in depth. For this refusal he was sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment. On the basis of files of a criminal proceeding that was then held against him, it has been established that he had indeed been sentenced in 1957 , yet for offences committed outside Poznań, after the events and without any connection whatsoever with the events, and even lacking any political context. What is more, the military unit, where the aforementioned soldier was undertaking his military service at that time in the rank of private, did not participate in quashing the Poznań demonstration at all. The aforementioned soldier has been recently interviewed as a witness and testified that he had not been involved in any way in the events of the Poznań June 1956 uprising.
hypotheses have already mentioned about soldiers who had refused to shoot at protesters or perform other orders were shot to death has not been proven.
Another issue widely addressed over the last year has been the participation of foreigners in the events in the general sense. These operations involved interviewing the daughter of a Bulgarian citizen, a permanent resident of Poland since 1936, who was wounded during the events as well taking action to clarify the circumstances of the injury of an Israeli citizen whose identity is yet to be established. The analysis of ample source documents that have been performed may indicate directions for further action in connection with legal proceedings also in this respect. Apart from other activities, this searchis aimed at identification of other aspects of foreigners’ involvement in the events, for example their assistance given to protesters during the events as well as photo and video documentation. Its’ result may also determine the contents of a request for international legal assistance to Denmark that is being prepared on the basis of currently held materials.
To end with, we would like to once again announce that any aggrieved parties or persons who have any relevant information on the present matter, and have not been interviewed yet, are still requested to contact the local Commission (Departmental Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation in Poznań, ul. Rolna 45a, 61-487 Poznań; phone +48 61 8356906).