Opposition MPs walked out of parliament yesterday because the chamber commemorated an underground officer who fought towards Nazi-German occupation and the imposition of communism in Poland, however has additionally been accused of battle crimes towards civilians.
Their actions had been criticised by members of the national-conservative ruling celebration and the far proper, who see the determine in query – Zygmunt Szendzielarz, broadly identified by his nom de guerre “Łupaszko” – as a nationwide hero.
Controversy over state commemoration of Polish anti-communist partisan accused of battle crimes
Yesterday, 8 February, was the anniversary of Szendzielarz’s dying in 1951, when he was executed by the postwar communist authorities on the age of 40. Beforehand, he had fought within the underground resistance towards Nazi German occupation in the course of the Second World Conflict, after which towards the Soviet-backed communists afterwards.
In his honour, parliament held a minute’s silence and a brief prayer on the behest of Elżbieta Witek, the speaker of the home. Some MPs then shouted “honour and glory to the heroes” and “down with communism”, reviews Niezależna.
Nevertheless, a variety of deputies from the biggest opposition group, the centrist Civic Coalition (KO), determined as an alternative to stroll out of the chamber. MPs from The Left (Lewica), the second-largest opposition group, remained within the room however refused to take part within the commemoration, remaining seated as an alternative.
Sejm upamiętnił majora Zygmunta Szendzielarza ps. “Łupaszka” w 71 rocznicę jego zamordowania przez komunistycznych oprawców. Lewica siedzi. Platforma wychodzi z sali. Taki obraz wolnej Polski. pic.twitter.com/mo1o1hYgJY
— Tomasz Grabarczyk (@grabarczyktomek) February 8, 2022
Their behaviour was condemned by right-wing figures. “Disgrace!!!” tweeted Adam Andruszkiewicz, an MP from the caucus of the ruling Regulation and Justice (PiS) celebration and a secretary of state within the prime minister’s workplace.
“It’s unhappy that, 30 years after [the end of communism], a big a part of the Polish parliament are nonetheless individuals who specific opposition to Polish heroes in such a shameful manner,” mentioned Tomasz Grabaczyk, press secretary for the far-right Confederation (Konfederacja) celebration.
An MP from his celebration, Michał Urbaniak, accused The Left and Civic Coalition of being “continuers of the custom of the murderers of the Cursed Troopers”, the latter time period (żołnierze wyklęci in Polish) being the title given to anti-communist partisans.
The prime minister himself, Mateusz Morawiecki, didn’t criticise opposition MPs instantly, however famous that “not everybody was in a position to admire the sacrifice [Szendzielarz] made for freedom and democracy”. He referred to Szendzielarz as a “hero”.
Requested why she had been amongst these to stroll out of the room, Katarzyna Lubnauer of KO advised state broadcaster TVP that Szendzielarz was a “bandit”.
Magdalena Biejat of The Left condemned the speaker of parliament, Elżbieta Witek, for her “scandalous choice…to honour a prison”. Her celebration colleague Adrian Zandberg mentioned that Szendzielarz’s “subordinates murdered dozens of girls and youngsters”.
Zandberg was referring to an episode in 1944 when the unit Szendzielarz commanded – the Dwelling Military Fifth Wilno Brigade – attacked the village of Dubinki (now Dubingiai in Lithuania) as a reprisal for the bloodbath of ethnic Polish civilians by a Lithuanian battalion that operated beneath the authority of the Nazi-German occupier.
Skandaliczna decyzja Marszałek @elzbietawitek, która postanowiła uczcić zbrodniarza bez konsultacji z prezydium Sejmu. https://t.co/dmjwdJVSbE
— Magda Biejat (@MagdaBiejat) February 8, 2022
Szendzielarz’s unit killed dozens of Lithuanian civilians in Dubinki and different settlements, 75% of them girls and youngsters, in keeping with analysis by Paweł Rokicki, a historian from Poland’s state-run Institute of Nationwide Remembrance (IPN). There’s “little doubt that it was a battle crime “, wrote Rokicki in 2015.
Nevertheless, since PiS returned to energy in that 12 months, the IPN has modified its strategy to Szendzielarz. Lately, it has hung a big banner of him to “honour the reminiscence of the troopers of the anti-communist underground”.
In 2007, president Lech Kaczyński – a founding father of PiS – posthumously awarded Szendzielarz the Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta. In 2016, the present president, Andrzej Duda, participated in a funeral ceremony throughout which Szendzielarz’s recovered stays had been reburied at Powązki Army Cemetery in Warsaw.
On the anniversary of Szendzielarz’s dying final 12 months, Duda laid a wreath at his tomb. He was criticised for doing so by Anna-Maria Żukowska, an MP from The Left, who accused him of “venerating a assassin of girls and youngsters”.
Her celebration has additionally expressed opposition to the Nationwide Day of Remembrance of the Cursed Troopers, honouring underground partisans like Szendzielarz who resisted the introduction of communism in Poland after World Conflict Two.
They argue that collectively honouring all such figures – who embody real heroes like Witold Pilecki and Basic Emil August Fieldorf but additionally a minority accused of battle crimes – is inappropriate.
The @WorldJewishCong recounts the story of Witold Pilecki, the Polish underground officer who intentionally had himself imprisoned at Auschwitz to assemble intel on the camp and organise resistance inside it, then after the battle was executed by the communists pic.twitter.com/o14zkfaT43
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 13, 2019
Fundamental picture credit score: Bartosz Banka / Agencja Gazeta
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a variety of publications, together with International Coverage, POLITICO Europe, EUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.