2009 | 31 | 345-387
Article title


Title variants
Languages of publication
The prison system being organised since August 1944, became a part of the Ministry of Public Security. Such a solution, dictated by political considerations, copied the Soviet model, which treated the prison guard as a part of the armed organ of the government. Identification of prison staff with the Ministry of Safety was expressed in the wording of official vows made by the guards which started: "I, a public safety officer". This unity was stressed for decades in prison staff politics, in employee certificates, and in the assessment of the implementation of tasks assigned to prison guards. The primary task put in words on the 4th of October 1944 by Boleslaw Bierut was "to render harmless those who oppose the program of PKWN [the communist Committee of National Liberation]." This directive and the subsequent resolutions and decisions of the party (PPR, PZPR) and ministries (MBP, MSW) requiring repressive treatment of political prisoners was noted in the subordinate units as a political and official license for brutality and sadism towards such prisoners. Since the beginning of the postwar system of prison system detention centres, prison and labor camps were places of repression and extermination of the citizens who were considered political opponents. Apart from the repressive measures the prison system also performed an oppressive function towards society, which was to serve the pacification pro-independence feelings. Since November 1944, the prisoners started to be classified into one of the following groups: common criminals, Volksdeutsches, persons cooperating with Germans, anti-state. Since February 1945, the term "anti-state prisoner" started to define an accused (convicted) associated with the AK and NSZ [anti-communist military organizations], war criminals and collaborators. Putting the former soldiers of the AK, NSZ, and BCH with the rest of prisoners stigmatised them, and was a part of an affliction and persecution. In practice, their status was lower (worse) than the status of other prisoners, particularly Germans. In the fifties, the rules for classification of the convicted changed twice, each time worsening the situation of political prisoners. Based on the principle of so-called unity of jurisdiction and performance required tougher sentences along with accordingly tougher prison treatment. Types of prisons corresponded to prisoners’ classification. In April 1945, eight major prisons were singled out, where the political prisoners were consigned after judgment. In January 1946, two large prison units were given the status of the central prisons, namely the facilities in Rawicz and Wronki. They retained the status of objects for political prisoners until 1956. The essential precondition for the problem and repressive and exterminative nature of these prisons was appointment of the positions of a chief, his deputy, and heads of special (operational) and political-educational departments. Apart from the first organization (1945) period, when prisons were governed by the pre-war governors, in the next period, since 1946, personnel policy of prisons was reduced to filling the positions with candidates who ensured implementation of repressive functions towards political prisoners. Candidates were selected according to specific criteria: the length of the KPP (PPR) [communist] party membership, the class origin, loyalty to the government, no objections to the new political system, commitment to the party (PPR, PZPR), negative attitude to the church (religion), positive evaluation of candidate’s services. Equally important were the informal criteria, such as an recommendation of the candidate by the party or political organs such as Główny Zarząd Informacji WP, Główny Zarząd Polityczno-Wychowawczy WP, organ kadrowy MBP, nationality (especially Jewish), and various types of social and even family ties. Presented profiles of twenty prison governors contain information derived from their personal files, confronted with the opinions from the memoirs of former political prisoners who all experienced sentences in prisons managed by the chiefs personally. Common features of sixteen of the governors were most often: crude personality, sadism and brutality towards political prisoners, total submission to the ruling ideology and intoxication with power. Some of them were simply criminals in uniforms.
Physical description
Document Type
Publication order reference
YADDA identifier
JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.