In August one of Russian TV channels presented a documentary film by Radik Kudoyarov True Story. Sharp Turn in Polish History. Archives, photo and cinema material is used to highlight some burning problems of Polish foreign and internal policy in the period between the two world wars. The half-fascist dictatorship led by Pilsudski closely cooperated with Hitler’s Germany. The both governments reached a full understanding on the Munich collusion, the conquest of Austria and the division of Sudetenland. The authors of the film have come to a right conclusion saying that if Poland had joined the Soviet Union against Germany, the humanity could have been spared the horrors of the Second World War. Since Poland stopped being a part of Russian empire to become independent in 1918 the country’s leadership stepped on the path of confrontation with Russia, especially after the Red Army held a victory near Warsaw and Ukraine was divided into two parts. Germany developed friendly ties with Pilsudski playing a double game. On the one hand, Berlin was pushing the Polish government to support the German policy of occupying Austria and Czechoslovakia; on the other hand, it incited Ukraine’s nationalists to strike Poland from behind.
The film proves that Ukraine’s nationalists, including well-known OUN (the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) leaders like Bandera and Lebed, had contacts with German intelligence since 1923. According to some Polish and German historians, they were involved in the assassination of Polish Minister of Internal Affairs Bronisław Wilhelm Pieracki on July 16, 1934. The very next day the Polish government announced the establishment of the first concentration camp in Bereza Kartuska (Kartuz Bereza Biaroza Kartuskaja), the territory of contemporary Belarus, near Kobrin or Kobryn, a city in the Brest oblast of Belarus and the center of the Kobryn region.
For the next five years they sent there all who expressed dissent. The Bereza Kartuska camp was no different from German concentration camps, including the use of extremely cruel tortures. Perhaps it even went farther than what they did in Germany. For instance, the torture called “red lane” when a prisoner had to cross crawling along a 50 meters long lane covered by brick rubble and beaten glass to be locked in isolation cell afterwards without any medical help. Isolated prisoners were given food once in two days. Beighner, the first commandant of the camp, and some prison guards had received training in Germany by the time had experience of running such camps.
The assassination of the Polish Minister of Internal Affairs was aimed at establishing a strong hand regime in the country and intensifying tough repressions against the people of West Ukraine and West Belarus sparking resistance as a result. It led the Polish government into a trap of its own making; it had nothing to do but to implement the policy of indulgence in the relationship with the more powerful Western partner.
In the period between the two world wars the Polish leaders were unable to see reality. They were late to start preparations for German intervention. Actually no resistance was offered to German mechanized troops. The Polish ruling circles wanted to take revenge on Russia and return to the days of Poland being a great power. For this purpose they came up with the Intermarium concept which is revived by some political forces in Poland and Belarus.
The film touched upon such a sensitive issue for Poland as its cooperation with German fascist regime pursuing and exterminating Jews.
Belarusians accounted for a large part of prisoners. All requests of their successors for compensations and justice, as it was done in Germany, have been left without reply. It’s impossible to understand why the contemporary Polish authorities refuse to be responsible for the criminal deeds of their predecessors. There is no difference between the crimes committed in Polish and German concentration camps.
The Polish government is not ready to admit the responsibility for the past in the year of 75th anniversary since the start of the Second World War. So it never said it was sorry and never paid compensations to the descendants of prisoners held in Polish concentration camps those days. But the history proves that sooner or later the Polish government will have to answer for the crimes of the past.
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The film is shot very professionally, a well done job. It is acute nowadays. Today the Polish elite are too flush with haughtiness to care about national interests. That is something the Polish people have paid for dearly in the past. As a result the country has been divided three times in its history. The dramatic history of Poland should never be rewritten to serve as a warning to the people of the country.