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President champions museum of communist crimes

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 17.08.2012 12:57
President Bronislaw Komorowski championed a museum of communist crimes on Friday while observing excavation work in Warsaw aimed at finding victims of Stalinist repressions.

Komorowski at Powazki: photo - PAP/ Rafal Guz

“Poland is one of the few countries in the former Soviet bloc which does not have a museum of communist crimes,” the president said, as cited by the Polish Press Agency.

“Such a place should be created,” he added, noting that two Warsaw sites have already been proposed for such an institution.

Komorowski raised the concept during a visit to the Powazki Military Cemetery in Warsaw, where a state-backed excavation is under way that may lead to the identification of the remains of some of Poland's most noted wartime resistance figures.

About 184 people are thought to have been buried in unmarked graves in a portion of the cemetery, relating to a rash of communist show trials held between 1948 and 1956.

So far, some 71 skeletons have been excavated, while DNA samples have been obtained from 90 relatives of prominent victims of Stalinist repressions.

The majority of the victims were buried in graves of about three people, with most appearing to have been shot through the head at close range.

Historians believe that among those interred at the site are such figures as General Emil Fieldorf (codename Nil), former head of a crack division of Poland's wartime underground Home Army (AK), and also Witold Pilecki, who deliberately got himself incarcerated at the Auschwitz death camp so as to garner an intelligence report. The ultimate report was one of the key documents used to try and convince the Western Allies that the Holocaust was taking place.

Historian Dr. Krzysztof Szwagrzyk, who is leading the project, noted that the first results concerning the identification of remains should be available in a few weeks from now.

Wawel entombment?

In spite of the fact that no identifications have been made as of yet, a campaign has already been launched for Witold Pilecki to be laid to rest in the crypts of Wawel Cathedral, alongside kings and a number of national heroes.

Michal Tyrpa, chairman of the Paradis Judaeorum Foundation that is dedicated to Pilecki's memory, has written a letter to President Komorowski proposing the idea, describing Pilecki as “a universal symbol of heroism.”

Following his escape from Auschwitz, Pilecki fought in the doomed Warsaw Rising against the Nazi occupiers.

After the war, with Stalin extending his grip across Central Europe, Pilecki agreed to collect intelligence information for the Polish government-in-exile in London. He was executed following a show trial in 1948, a fate shared by many former resistance leaders.

The current excavation is being carried out with the cooperation of two state-backed bodies, the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), and the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites (ROPWiM).

It is part of a nationwide programme entitled “The search for unknown burial places of victims of communist terror in the years 1944-1956." (nh)

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