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    Director of IPN in Katowice on Coalition Politicians’ Ideas: Abolishing the Institute Means Impunity for Criminals

    The National Institute of Remembrance (IPN) is engaged in locating and honoring Polish heroes who were clandestinely murdered or judicially executed and buried in unworthy conditions in various places. The abolition of the institute means that the Polish state acknowledges that there is no need to search for heroes, restore their names, and provide them with a dignified burial, and that there is no longer a need to pursue war and communist crimes, allowing unjudged criminals to sleep peacefully and feel absolved,” says Dr. Andrzej Sznajder, Director of the IPN in Katowice, in an interview with Niezalezna.pl.

    Politicians of the current ruling coalition increasingly propose the abolition of the IPN. Are you concerned about this?

    Dr. Andrzej Sznajder: It is difficult to answer such a question because I find it hard to understand the intentions of politicians who raise such slogans. If someone proposes such an idea, they should responsibly explain how the tasks currently performed by the institute will be carried out. I get the impression that many proponents of this idea are not fully aware of the range of tasks the IPN handles, limiting it to the famous files, i.e., the functioning of the archive, which is of course a very important but not the only element of the entire institute’s activity.

    Let me remind you that besides compiling and making documents available, the IPN also conducts scientific research, educational activities, investigations into war and communist crimes, vetting cases, commemorating Poland’s past, and finally, searching for Polish heroes who were clandestinely murdered or judicially executed and buried in unworthy conditions. Over several years of its operation, the IPN has found the remains of nearly 2,000 such heroes.

    Thanks to this, these murdered individuals received a dignified burial…

    After the identification process, the IPN organizes funeral ceremonies with due honors and prepares a worthy place of burial for these heroes. We pay respect and honor to them not only as heroes but also as ordinary people because that is what they deserve. If we look at just this one aspect of the IPN’s activities, it must be said that abolishing the institute means that the Polish state acknowledges that there is no need to search for heroes, restore their names, and provide them with a dignified burial, and that there is no longer a need to pursue war and communist crimes, allowing unjudged criminals to sleep peacefully and feel absolved.

    Which investigations by the Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation in Katowice are particularly important?

    We must mention at least three important investigations. In 2012, during the trial of the authors of martial law, the Warsaw District Court, taking into account the IPN’s request, issued a landmark ruling. It sentenced Kiszczak to two years suspended for participation in a criminal group of an armed nature under the leadership of Wojciech Jaruzelski.

    In 2014, the investigation into the involvement of communist services in the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II concluded. It proved the involvement of Bulgarian services in preparing the attack and provided many arguments that the order came from Moscow. It also revealed a large disinformation campaign by the communist services to cover up traces leading to the actual perpetrators.

    The third most important ongoing investigation is the inquiry into the murder of Father Franciszek Blachnicki. Thanks to prosecutor Michał Skwara from the Branch Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation, it was unequivocally proven that Father Blachnicki was murdered by poisoning. The question of who ordered, planned, and carried out the murder remains open. Prosecutorial activities in this matter are still ongoing.

    What other aspects of the Katowice branch’s activities are very important?

    Our historians, researchers, and educators are interested in the interwar period, especially from 1919 to 1922, which includes the Silesian Uprisings, the Plebiscite, and the return of part of Upper Silesia to Poland. Until 2017, when we began preparations for the centenary of these events, this topic was on the periphery of historians’ interests. It was believed that the subject was exhausted and, besides, these were local and regional events, just one of many chapters in Poland’s grand history, which was reborn in 1918. In the Katowice branch of the IPN, we took on the challenge of retelling the history of the Silesian Uprisings to the entire country. This was achieved through an exhibition presented in dozens of cities nationwide, special supplements in large-circulation newspapers, hundreds of educational activities, meetings, and various school projects involving teachers and students.

    Nearly 30 scientific and popular science books on the process of Silesia’s return to Poland have been published. I believe no other scientific center has published more in recent years. Since 2019, the Katowice branch of the IPN has also been conducting an operation to search for and mark the graves of Silesian Uprising veterans. In response to our appeal, we have received nearly 300 indications so far, and almost 100 of them have been marked with the “Tobie Polsko” sign. Each such marking is a separate ceremony and significant event, gathering dozens of participants at the cemetery: family members, local government representatives, the school community, and local associations.

    So, returning to the first question, if someone insists on abolishing the IPN, they must also say: this is unimportant for the Polish state.

    What should be said to those who talk about such plans?

    I will repeat after Wojciech Młynarski: we do our job. The tasks of the institute are very clear, described by the IPN Act, and we carry them out. I won’t even say that we do it to the best of our abilities. The characteristic of the institute, seen through the lens of the people who work here, is that they truly treat their work as a mission. The commitment of the people, whether we are talking about archivists, educators, or historians, goes far beyond eight hours. This work genuinely matters to us! We feel that we are doing things that are important and needed by society.

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