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Between negotiation and acceptance: the Znak community versus People’s Poland, with special consideration of the German question

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The Znak Community holds a special place in Polish history after 1945. This situation occurred because of running independent publishing and human activity associated with the Znak in the structures of the democratic opposition on the one hand, on the other hand, having over twenty years of political representation in parliament and acceptance of the alliance with the Soviet Union resulting from the adoption of neo-positivist conception. This contradiction is reflected in the first part of the title of this paper. Special consideration of German issues, in turn, allows us to better understand the character of the relationships between the Znak Community and the communist state. This attitude towards the West German state was the platform for understanding, but that does not mean, however, that the former conflicts did not occur. An example is the case of the Polish Episcopate message to the German bishops.

This paper deals with some aspects of the German issues, published in Tygodnik Powszechny in 1945-1953, as well as speeches of the Znak Parliamentary Members. To achieve this, the text is divided into two parts. The first deals with issues concerning the rights of the Polish western border on the Oder-Neisse line, collective responsibility for Nazism and German revisionism and rearmament. In the second part there are quotes from some of Jerzy Zawieyski’s and Stanisław Stomma’s speeches delivered in a public forum. They focused largely around appeals to the German authorities for recognition by the Bonn republic of the inviolability of borders and support peace policy promoted by the Polish People’s Republic. The final turning point is Brandt-Cyrankiewicz treaty signed in 1970, which was a cornerstone of normalization of Polish-German relations. Then the primary purpose of the character of the Znak Community was attained: the recognition of the Polish western border by West Germany.


The German Issue in Tygodnik Powszechny (1945-1953)

A few days before the end of the Second World War, Jerzy Turowicz wrote in Tygodnik Powszechny in defence of Poland’s historical rights to the Recovered Territories. He stated things clearly: Poland had occupied the new lands, taken away from Germany, under a law that never expired. Using the phrase ‘The Polish sword strikes in service of the law’,1 Turowicz sought to stress that there was no need to wait for a peace conference to be called and new borders formally established to confirm this fact. What, according to the editor, was the source of Poland’s historical rights, ‘emerging from the existence of real, concrete ties between this nation and this land’?2 He claimed that the new lands were once part of the Polish state, and were inhabited by Polish tribes, before being unlawfully stolen and Germanized.3 Turowicz does not stop, however, at historical rights. Geopolitical arguments also come to the aid of the border marked by the rivers Oder and Neisse – peace will reign in Europe if all its parts are healthy. Thus Poland, in the post-war order, as an important part of the new reality, had to be strong and independent of Germany.4 This was to be achieved by the new lands. Associating the north-western lands with Poland and est ablishing Polish rights to them, Turowicz relies on the fulfilment of several duties, or conditions. Among these are the resettlement of the Polish population, and the joining of the region to the Polish socio-economic and cultural entity.5

At the moment when Jerzy Turowicz’s article appeared in Tygodnik Powszechny, we can be sure that no one – the author and the publication included – could have guessed how important it was to be for the history of post-war Poland. Without Turowicz and Tygodnik Powszechny, the Znak community would never have come to be. In defining the Znak community, we ought to state that it was focused around publishing centres, such as the above-mentioned Tygodnik Powszechny, Znak, and Więź, and community organisations (the Catholic Intelligentsia Club).6 Moreover, it had political representation in parliament. Initially this role was filled by the Znak Catholic Parliamentary Members’ Circle (1957-1961), and then by the Znak Parliamentary Members’ Circle (1961-1976). We might say that the Znak community was more a loose-knit federation of several centres bound by social ties than a tight organization with a clear centre. One link in the community was its relationship with the Catholic Church and Christian values, as well as its conviction that it was necessary to be involved in the socio-political life of People’s Poland.7 This decision was tied to the need to adopt a clear position toward the state that was established after World War II. By the same token, we ought to stress that Znak had no uniform opinion on this issue; it rather drifted ‘between acceptance and negation’, and then tried at one stage to take a concrete stance. The main factors generating this state of affairs were the ideological convictions and intellectual standpoints within the Znak community itself, the evolution of the communist system, and the kinds of issues and problems in relation to which a given stance is formed (whether it agreed with the position of the authorities or not). There were issues where cooperation with the communist authorities could occur harmoniously, regardless of differences in world view and without resorting to various concepts that justified involvement. We observe such overlap in many aspects of the German problem. This issue thus serves as a good point of departure for analysing the Znak community’s acceptance and negation of People’s Poland. On this basis we can see where the standpoints converge, and where the differences arise.

The following article will present selected aspects of the German issue found in the articles that appeared in the pages of Tygodnik Powszechny from 1945-1953, and in several speeches by the Znak MP Circle, with a turning point at the end in the Brandt-Cyrankiewicz Accord8 signed in 1970, addressing the bases for the normalization of mutual relations. The year 1970 is critical in that, along with this pact, one of the most pressing problems of People’s Poland was solved, and the basic aim of the Znak community’s activities was realized: the German state’s recognition of Poland’s western border. To use Stanisław Stomma’s definition, after the ‘ground zero period’ and the ‘initial period’, the ‘normalization period’ began.9 Apart from the development of social, economic, and cultural exchanges between the two countries, interpersonal contacts were forged. At the same time, the German question ceased to be a point of reference in PRL/Znak relations.

To return to 1945, back in April Tygodnik Powszechny had published two articles raising the issue of Poland’s rights to the western lands. In both cases these rights were justified by demonstrating the links between these lands and the Slavs, or with Slavic history. Kazimierz Piwarski wrote of the lands stolen by Germanic tribes and the historical injustices done to the Slavs.10 Germany’s military defeat was to create the opportunity to base the western border of the Polish state on the Oder and the Neisse, and to open ‘prospects of revindication’. The author declares himself in favour of a ‘western program’, which would involve the rebuilding of Polishness on new lands, with the participation of newly arrived Poles and the involvement of academics to popularize knowledge concerning the ‘western Polish borderlands’ and ‘Slavic issues’.11 Tadeusz Milewski, in turn, outlines a brief sketch of the origins of the Slavs in Central and Eastern Europe, their history, borders with the Germans, and the German conquest. He laments the fact that, instead of finding a common path, the Czechs and Poles chose to diverge, which aided Germanization.12 Thus he hopes that in the new post-war reality Western Slavdom will be rebuilt, with borders resembling the original ones.

In two articles both titled ‘The Geographical Foundations of the Western Borders’, Ludwik Górski ponders the western border of Poland, which was to serve as a natural division between Western Slavdom and the Germanic world. The value of such a border would not be in ‘its basis on a natural barrier, but on the massive, nearly sevenfold shortening of the Polish-German border’.13 To Górski’s mind, the geographical-economic unity of the state relied upon its building a permanent and stable Polish- German border. Above all, it was the colonization of new areas by Poles that was crucial here. At the same time, through the emergence of Polishness in western lands, ‘the great historical process of the struggle of the Polish nation and its proper native region would be fulfilled … ’14

Edmund Osmańczyk also devoted a series of articles to the German issue in the pages of Tygodnik Powszechny. He felt the new western border was the most advantageous. Nonetheless, he did not rule out German aggression. He discounted claims that by disputing border issues with the Germans, the Poles were setting the stage for German revenge, and thus another war, because ‘every Polish/German border with one exception – on the Bug River – has prompted the Germans to seek “revenge”.15’ Osmańczyk feels that the German aggression after World War I was the result of the Versailles Treaty, or flawed border arrangements. This is why, given its international situation, Poland should also adopt strategies to avert future dangers from its western neighbour. He indicates three such strategies: upholding the ‘anti-Prussian’ idea in the world; taking possession of the left bank of the Oder, which is the main economic artery of the western lands; and liberating the Neisse from ‘German violence’.16 Apart from the above recommendations, Osmańczyk postulates the creation of an unchanging canon of realistic policies with regard to Germany. At its basis should be the premise that Polish-German peace is dependent on Polish strength, not German weakness, because such weakness is only transitional.17 At the same time, he cautions against faith in international allies. He emphasizes: ‘Poles are the source of our secure borders. Their wisdom, prudence, perseverance, work and dynamics decide upon how secure the borders will be within and beyond the Recovered Territories’.18

A slightly different vision of Polish security was provided by Andrzej Józef Kamiński. His article ponders how to stop the Germans from causing another war and from attacking Europe and the world. He sees a chance for this in educating the Germans, which can be achieved through ‘instilling the ethical ‘Nuremberg’ concepts in Germans, which regard war as an evil in itself ... and getting it out of Germans’ heads that anything apart from ruin and concussions can be achieved through warfare ...’19

Kazimierz Rakowski also considered ways of stopping the Germans from declaring war and attacking Europe and Poland once more. He saw the aggressiveness of the western neighbour less in a lack of ethics and an affinity for war than in the possession of certain Prussian attributes. ‘These attributes are not inherent to the German character, but have been acquired over the past centuries. They are organically linked with the creation, development, and success of the Prussian Kingdom’.20 This is why he saw the chance for peace less in the education of the German nation than in a peace treaty. This, alongside the granting of the western lands to Poland, was to bring about the liquidation of the Prussian landowners, i.e. the Junkers.21

An author identified only as ‘Bonawentura’ calls the German loss of lands a landmark event in the history of both Poland and Europe. He thought that Poland’s rights to them stemmed from the ‘banditry’ committed by the Third Reich.22

Immediately following the war, a great deal of ink in Tygodnik Powszechny was devoted to the guilt of the German nation and the punishment of its war criminals. A frequent pretext was the court trials they underwent.

Father Piwowarczyk reflected upon the sentences at the Nuremberg trial. He calls the trial the ‘court of the world and history’. The International War Tribunal is, to his mind, a representation of all nations, and the crimes of the accused were unequalled in the history of the world.23 The weekly newspaper’s editor demands a collective trial against the German nation, to take place during a future peace conference. He is left in no doubt that Hitler’s crimes weigh upon the consciences of the entire German nation, excepting those who condemned Nazi methods and ideology. Father Piwowarczyk devotes a great deal of space in his article to the question of the collective responsibility of the German nation as an issue of grave importance, arising from this premise: ‘If the German nation is not guilty, then we ought to cease prosecuting those few hundred or thousand Nazis promptly, invite the nation as soon as possible to the “round table”, and allow them access to all the goods of the human community’.24 In his verdict on the Germans, Father Piwowarczyk takes a stance of solidarity. From this point of view the nation is, above all, a moral unit, because ‘it works as a unit and all its actions are attributed to all its members as individuals, insofar as the latter do not refuse their consent’.25 The individual, adds the editor, ‘is responsible to the whole insofar as the two are in solidarity, and thus is responsible not only for what he has done, but also for what the whole has done with his consent’.26 Blame lies not only on the shoulders of those who have exercised power in the state and were directly involved in crime. According to Father Piwowarczyk, it is also shared by the German workers and farmers, and by those working for the economy and administration, since they tolerated Hitler’s rule. A Christian principle concerning the neglect of moral imperatives is invoked here. The author finds the source of the German misfortunes in the disappearance of morality in the nation. The other cause of evil resided in the acceptance of Pagan theories. The German nation was meant to have adopted them because ‘[...] they are deep in the roots of German thought, German philosophy, German law, and German poetry’.27 In Piwowarczyk’s opinion, the trial of the entire nation was just in relation to the whole world because ‘[...] a nation with no moral sense must, in the interests of peace, be incapacitated, or we risk reviving its instincts’.28

In another article, significantly titled ‘Where Is the German Confiteor?’ Father Piwowarczyk revisited the subject of the responsibility of all Germans for Nazism. Departing from the title, he inquires into the ‘collective conscience of Germany’. He calls on the whole of the German nation to do penance. It is not only those who give and execute the orders who share guilt for the crimes, but also those who did nothing to oppose the ‘bestiality of Nazism’.29 On this last point, the author speaks of a sin of omission. This time, the cure for the German conscience and the recipe for peace is not a collective process, but a Christian education. Seeing the last chance in Christianity, he states that ‘if Christianity can not educate a “new German”, then nothing can’.30

Father Piwowarczyk dismisses accusations by German Catholics that Tygodnik Powszechny was driven by hatred toward Germans. He points out the sense of justice resulting from the fact that it was Poland that had been wronged in Polish/German relations, and was the victim of German imperialism. He saw the opportunity for reconciliation in the Germans fulfilling several conditions, namely punishing their criminals, admitting their guilt, and redressing the wrongs done. This last condition was to be fulfilled by the German state forfeiting the western lands.

Osmańczyk saw the resettlements from the ‘Recovered Territories’ as an act of justice against the Germans. Interestingly enough, apart from the concept of national justice, he deployed the notion of religious justice, which was meant to involve a retrieval of the above-mentioned lands not only for the Poles, but for the Catholics as well.31 The Prussian Drang nach Osten, in Osmańczyk’s view, was ‘inextricably linked with the slogan Away from Rome! Since the sixteenth century the spread of Prussia had meant the contraction of Catholicism in the East. The Oder-Neisse border – let us be frank – has restored Catholic lands we thought lost for good’.32 At the same time, he regrets that the German Catholics had failed to resist the slogans of nationalism and revisionism. He sees the only chance for the rebirth of Catholicism in Germany in an honest effort to reconcile with Polish Catholics.

Like Father Piwowarczyk, Andrzej Józef Kamiński saddled the whole of the nation with the blame for the Nazi crimes. To demonstrate this collective guilt, he used the trial of twenty doctors accused of conducting concentration camp experiments. While the Nuremberg Trial sentenced the main politicians of the Third Reich, in the doctors’ trial the nation itself was sentenced.33 This was due to the fact that the accused held high social status and represented German science. Like Piwowarczyk, Kamiński saw Christianity as the hope for the Germans, and for building a democracy. He stated that it was ‘high time for a great moral apostleship in Germany, for a mission in Germany to revive the spirit of Christianity’.34 He suggested an end to talk of German suffering, and that its citizens be moved to repent.

At the end of 1947 the trial of the Auschwitz camp personnel was held. In Tygodnik Powszechny Stefan Kisielewski and Stanisław Stomma wrote on the subject. Kisielewski thought the trial aimed to ‘crush the obdurate resistance of the German spirit, and its overriding aim was to transform and convert Germany’.35 Apart from the educational role, Kisielewski saw this sort of trial as serving to punish the guilty and to highlight their crimes, which it did quite successfully. The author does regret the fact that it did not achieve its prime goal, which was to make the convicted Germans cognizant of their guilt. Stomma, in turn, appeals for a denial of revenge. This springs from the conviction that does no good. As an alternative, he proposes humanist care for man and the upholding of a balance between repression and prevention, and Christian humanism.36

In the early 1950s, articles in Tygodnik Powszechny dealing with Germans and the German Federal Republic (created in 1949) cautioned against the latter’s revisionism, revindication of the western lands, and remilitarisation. They stated that people who had belonged to the Nazi party had reclaimed important positions and had been rehabilitated. Regret was expressed that the denazification process had been revealed as a fiction, something felt most acutely by people with ‘non-damaging pasts’. They persuaded the reader that ‘we are witnesses to an increasingly powerful West German propaganda campaign to take revenge and to shape military sentiments in the name of territorial revindication.’37 The attack on the Oder-Neisse border was bemoaned, and West Germany contrasted with East Germany. It was ‘the Communists ruling East Germany who were able to radically conquer the imperial and nationalist traditions of the eternal Prussian policy of invasion.’38

Józef Klimek presented arguments used by the revisionists. Apart from questioning the permanence of the borders, they raised economic, humanitarian, and demographic issues.39 He felt that they falsified statistics and exploited the fates of the resettled population for their propaganda. Józefa Golmont called revisionism a distortion and falsification of historical truth. Exploiting the resentments of the resettled population, it became a kind of ‘political speculation’.39

Antoni Gołubiew, in turn, felt that historical experience taught that the Polish nation should be cautious with the Germans. He also referred to the ‘general treaty’ signed in Bonn on 27 May 1952, which he saw as increasing the danger of an armed conflict and encouraging German revisionism.40 Gołubiew suggests a program for establishing mutual relations based on peaceful co-existence, overcoming nationalist tendencies in Germany, and the recognition of the new border as just.

In an article titled ‘The Brown Phantoms Haunt Us’, Jerzy Turowicz warned of the remilitarisation of Germany. He stated that

[a]s divisions between the Rhine and the Elbe are preparing even today to carry their flags of war to the East, flags which bear a striking resemblance to the swastika, it is vital to raise our voice in protest against the remilitarization of Germany, which directly threatens the most sacred interests and rights of our nation, to say nothing of world peace.41

The German Issue in the Speeches of the Znak Parliament Members’ Circle

In the post-war years the Znak community stood for ‘social minimalism’, i.e. the involvement of Catholics only in the spheres of culture and religion. This situation changed in 1956, with Władysław Gomułka’s return to power. From then on the work of this community and above all of the Znak Parliamentary Members’ Circle in the political forum was closely linked to recognition of the geopolitical situation, which included support for the policies of the First Secretary. In many cases this support went beyond these factors and was based on wider acceptance. The crux of this was contained in a parliament statement by the Circle’s leader in 1960:

Poland’s international policy has the clear support of all of Polish society. The foreign policy of the Polish government is – how shall I put it – fully ratified by the nation. As we know, there are ideological disputes in Poland, and there are various views on internal problems, but when it comes to international policy, the unity of the nation is encouraging indeed.43

On 21 October 1960, parliament discussed the report of the PRL delegation to the 15th session of the UN General Assembly. The delegation was headed by Gomułka, whose speech of 27 September supported Soviet disarmament proposals and described West German policy as revisionist and threatening to peace in Europe.44 Stanisław Stomma, who took the floor in the discussion, generally enlarged upon the words of the first secretary, rejecting revisionism and appealing for peace in the nuclear age. Fully concurring with Gomułka’s speech, he stated that the latter’s views ‘were carefully noted and acknowledged by the world, and would surely resonate and be received with all due seriousness.’45 We can be sure that Stomma received them with due seriousness, particularly insofar as West Germany was concerned. Thereafter he called attention to three tendencies in the West German state. He was disquieted by the non-recognition of the present borders, the propaganda calling for territorial changes, and the growth in military power. In spite of these facts, he believed that an active policy would be able to break down the bad experiences of the past. He declared that ‘we do not want to breed hostility toward the German nation in our country; on the contrary, we want to conquer history’s bad legacy, to purge hearts of hostility on either side of the border. But this must be a mutual desire.’46 Here the head of the Znak Parliamentary Members’ Circle listed the conditions that Germany would have to fulfil to overcome ‘history’s bad legacy’. First and foremost, West Germany must seek ‘a general shift in historical orientation, a critical evaluation of its history, a break with its tradition of conquest, a break with its way of looking at lands east of Germany as a sphere of expansion to be taken by whatever means.’47 Moreover, he called upon the Germans to make a critical appraisal of their own history and to recognize their historical guilt, including responsibility for the partitions, the attack on Poland in September 1939, and the crimes committed during the occupation. He moved on to postulate that the territorial decisions remain firm and the border decisions of 1945 be recognized.

Curiously enough, Stomma saw the greatest obstacle to Polish-German reconciliation not in the problems formulated above, but in disagreements over the issue of world peace. He saw the issue of peace as an example of a debate on the future of humanity and the development of world politics. He put forward a dilemma – on the one hand, détente and peace, and on the other, tension and ‘peace through nuclear arms’.48 West Germany was made out to be a state that chose the latter option, i.e. the division of the world and the Cold War. In contrast, the deputy chairman of the External Affairs Commission saw People’s Poland as a country that fostered peace and détente in Europe. As an argument in support of this thesis there were ‘concrete proposals provided during the latest UN session by the Polish delegation – a return to the Rapacki Plan, and an arms freeze proposal, to stop nuclear arms at their present level.’49

A few days before the conflict erupted over the proclamation of the Polish bishops to their German counterparts, Jerzy Zawieyski made a parliamentary speech on the ceremonies to mark the 20th anniversary of the introduction of Polish church administration in the western lands. The ceremony for this occasion took place on 31 August and 1 September 1965 in Wrocław. Simultaneously, the Polish bishops published a pastoral letter emphasizing the role of the Church in strengthening the ties binding the new lands and their settlers with the rest of the nation. Zawieyski stressed that the Episcopate border on the Oder and Lusatian Neisse was inviolable, and this, he felt, was the position of the nation as a whole.50 He mourned the response of West Germany toward the church ceremonies, and of revisionist circles in particular. Zawieyski saw a counterbalance to the German policy primarily in the Polish state’s involvement in the defence of peace. Here he referred to the Rapacki Plan and Władysław Gomułka’s project to freeze nuclear arms.51 Apart from the ritual denunciation of the German revisionists, the chairman of the Warsaw Catholic Intellectuals Club pointed out the positive events occurring in West Germany. One example was the memorandum of the German Evangelical Church. Of the authors of this document he said that ‘they address an issue heretofore considered a taboo of sorts with far-sighted courage, and they long to make real progress in how the Oder-Neisse border and Polish-German relations are apprehended.’52

For the approaching Millennium celebrations, the Polish bishops responded to letters and invitations from episcopates of various countries, among which was a letter of 18 November 1965 addressed to the German bishops. Apart from enumerating Polish grievances at the hands of the Germans and recalling German sufferings, the proclamation included these famous words: ‘We reach out our hands ... to you and grant you forgiveness, and we ask to be forgiven.’53 The authorities’ response to the Church’s gesture was, above all, anti-Church propaganda. The rulers appealed to enduring anti-German sentiments in society. The primate and episcopate came under harsh attack, with the Church being accused of betraying the Polish national interest.

On 13 December MP Janusz Zabłocki of the Znak Circle took the floor. Without mentioning the bishops’ letter, he peppered his speech with anti- German remarks, and made the acknowledgement of the Oder-Neisse border a condition of reconciliation.54 Two days later, Jerzy Zawieyski spoke before Parliament on behalf of the Circle. In the first part of his speech he defended the episcopate. He claimed that the position of the Polish Church on the status of the western lands was uniform and identical with the position of the nation as a whole. He recalled the services of the Church in joining these lands with the rest of the country and in opposing German revisionism.55 He then expressed regret that ‘in the Polish bishops’ letter there were statements that were painful for society, and statements that could be erroneously interpreted.;56 Zawieyski had his own grudge against the Episcopate for how the proclamation was announced, and particularly for their not finding a proper way of informing the Polish government. Apart from these accusations against the bishops, the MP criticized the German press and episcopate. The former came under fire for suggesting the abandonment of the resolutions of the Potsdam Conference, while the German Church was accused of lacking a clear standpoint in response to the letter, which could have given the impression that it was counting on the border issues being regulated in the future in the form of a compromise.57 Considering the tense world situation and the role that the West German state played in the rising tensions, Zawieyski appealed, moreover, for the cessation of polemics and the unity of the Polish nation. This effort is important ‘lest the facts and polemics in the world be interpreted as a division in Poland against the backdrop of our most pressing matters, toward which the government and the episcopate, along with the whole nation, have documented their solidarity for twenty years.’58

Jerzy Turowicz also appealed for an end to polemics surrounding the 14 January 1966 proclamation at a session of the Polish Committee for a United National Front. We might say that this session was a warm-up for the parliamentary debate. The editor of Tygodnik Powszechny stood up in defence of the good intentions of the Polish bishops, while the whole debate, he said, could create an impression of divisions in Polish society over the inviolability of the western border.59 He also pointed out the moral significance of the letter.

In March 1969, at the conclusion of the parliamentary session, the Znak Circle placed in the hands of Zenon Kliszko, the vice-marshal, a memorandum intended as an ideological-political declaration. It listed the tasks and goals that the MPs set for themselves in their future work. An acceptance of the general outlines of the state’s foreign policy is evident. Among international issues, the German question was problem number one for the Circle. The memorandum indicated three factors that could affect mutual relations. These were the reluctance of West Germany to acknowledge the inviolability of the Oder-Neisse border, its non-recognition of East Germany, and its demand for access to nuclear weapons.60 The MPs pointed out that there were communities in West Germany that sought reconciliation, but stressed that these had little impact on Bonn’s policies. At the same time, they warned of developing neo-Nazi movements. This is why the Znak Parliament Members’ Circle felt that ‘[c]onsidering the state of things, and the growing economic superiority of West Germany in Western Europe, the main dictate for the security of our country is special vigilance, so that Bonn’s policy should not become a factor that shapes the international situation.’61

In the new parliamentary term, Stanisław Stomma took the floor at the plenary session that discussed the declaration of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers on the prospects of Polish/German relations. He repeated the theses contained in the memorial three months earlier concerning West Germany’s non-recognition of the Oder-Neisse border and the lack of acceptance of the existence of a second German state. In spite of real guarantees of the western borders and good relations with East Germany, these factors, according to the leader of the Znak Circle, kept the German issue wide open.62 He then defined the state’s interest vis-avis the Germans: it included the normalization of relations, freedom from belligerence, and peaceful co-existence. He recalled Gomułka’s speech of 17 May 1969 suggesting that West Germany sign a treaty acknowledging the western border of Poland. Stomma took this as a proof ‘of Poland’s good will’, which ‘repudiates the claims of some nationalist circles in West Germany to the effect that Poland is not striving for reconciliation.’63 The historical aim of Poland, in Stomma’s view, should be to reconcile with the Germans and to strive for peaceful and friendly relations. He saw good will and the Germans’ honest evaluation of history as conditions of overcoming the past. He postulated a varied approach to German communities, encouraging the rulers to

condemn outbursts of nationalism that seemed geared toward conflict, while treating favourably ... circles courageous enough to speak the truth, to discard the ballast of the past and strive for the forming of honest relations with Poles. ... We should go halfway to meet the new tendencies in Germany and those people with the courage to conquer the old ways.64

Stomma also saw reconciliation with Germany as dependent on the Poles’ approach. He spoke in favour of a certain type of behaviour. Above all he opposed ‘vulgar propaganda’, suggesting not a nationalist position, but one that was open to and ready for reconciliation.

The head of the Znak Parliament Members’ Circle devoted a great deal of space in this speech to the USSR, and specifically its influence on Polish/ German relations. He saw cooperation with Moscow on the German question as a wise principle for the Polish government. He believed that:

Only through alliance with the Soviet Union, only through the guarantee of this mighty superpower is there a chance that our relations with the Germans can begin sensibly and constructively to come together [...] Our ally to the east might also lead to stability and to better relations with our neighbour to the west.65

In Stomma’s view, the alliance with the USSR fostered good relations with the Germans, because it made us a real partner to the German state. The train of reasoning of the vice-head of the Commission for Foreign Affairs went as follows: we can be a partner to Germany, as co-operation between Poland and the Soviet Union has ruled out reconciliation with our neighbours at Poland’s expense and undermined German anti-Polish policy.66

Stomma and Gomułka’s hope for reconciliation with the West Germans came to fruition in 1970. First a coalition of the Social-Democratic Party and the Liberals came to power in West Germany, and then on 7 December Chancellor Willy Brandt signed a normalization treaty with Poland in Warsaw. The Bonn Republic had acknowledged the Oder-Neisse border.


We certainly cannot say of the Znak community that it formed an opposition to People’s Poland, particularly from 1956-1976. It would be hard to draw such a conclusion with regard to a movement whose members held seats in Parliament, which had representatives in the State Council and the Polish Committee of the National Unity Front,67 and which could legally publish magazines and run club activities. One justification of the community’s acceptance of the system could be the concept of neo-positivism and the resulting recognition, for reasons less to do with world view than politics and geopolitics. In 1956 and 1957 Znak activists often appealed to the ‘October ideas’ as criteria for evaluating the government. These ideas could be summarized in four points: lawful rule, democracy, restoration of economic life, and sovereignty and the dictate of national interest in foreign policy.68 In practice, hope for the evolution of the system toward greater democracy expired fairly soon. It might have seemed that the conditions for neo-positivism were exhausted in the late 1950s, when a sharp turn away from October occurred. Nothing could be more mistaken, however. There was still one variable, apart from the defence of the position attained, which was the basis for the Znak community’s acceptance and even affirmation of People’s Poland. This was the dictate of national interest in foreign policy, i.e. alliance with the USSR as a security guarantee for Poland in the international arena. Soviet dominance was regarded as positive, as only thus was it possible to maintain the new borders and realize the concept of the ‘Piast State’.69 The fact that Poland had no diplomatic relations with West Germany additionally strengthened these convictions. Relations with the West German state were a platform where there was more frequently agreement than debate with the rulers. In the post-war years, articles in Tygodnik Powszechny concerning Germany on the one hand reflected the prevalent mood in Poland, and on the other coincided with the communist standpoint. The stress on historical and geopolitical rights to the western lands and the cautions against revisionism, German nationalism, and West Germany tendencies toward revindication and remilitarisation were sure not to evoke the authorities’ opposition.

After 1956 the Znak Circle joined the leaders of People’s Poland in appealing for the Bonn Republic to recognize the irrevocability of the borders. It expressed support for the peace policy propagated by People’s Poland in the form of the Rapacki Plan. This did not mean that there were no quarrels between the Znak movement and the rulers on the German question.

One example of such a quarrel might be the Episcopate’s proclamation to the German bishops. Despite the none-too-clear parliamentary speech on the issue by Jerzy Zawieyski, Znak did not join in the anti-German and anti-Church propaganda.

In conclusion, we ought to ponder an assessment of the Znak Community’s involvement in the ‘real socialist’ system, especially in terms of Polish- German relations. As for the political balance sheet, it comes out as none too impressive. And this was not only because, by the mid-1970s, Znak was dropping out of political life and crossing over to the opposition. We ought to emphasize that the position of the Znak movement abroad, particularly in West Germany, was disproportionate to the structures at its disposal. As the vice-chairman of the Commission for Foreign Affairs, Stanisław Stomma met with the most important German politicians, including the West German ambassador to Vienna, Carl Hermann Mueller-Graf, in 1957; minister of foreign affairs Heinrich von Brentano in 1958; and West German President Gustav Heinemann in 1969. Yet the movement’s influence on real relations between Poland and West Germany, including the border pact, was minor. The 1970 accord was more a result of ‘great power politics’, and in particular Brandt’s new concept of Ostpolitik.

We ought to stress, however, that while the political achievements of the people involved with Znak are dubious, the community did have success in the social sphere. The Znak movement played a major role in building positive contacts between Poles and Germans, and in engaging both nations and states to come together.

On 7 October 1990, and thus with the perspective of time, Stanisław Stomma recalled in the pages of Tygodnik Powszechny the three goals that were important for his community in Polish/German relations: unity, normalization, and friendship.70 German organizations like Pax Christi, the Bensberg Circle, the Central Committee of German Catholics, and the ‘Sign of Penance’ Action doubtless helped forge religious and cultural contacts.71 This was most assuredly the foundation for the reconciliation that occurred after the fall of Communism in Poland and the unification of Germany.


Łukasz Miłek, PhD candidate, Jagiellonian University. Born in 1981. Graduated in history and political studies at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. Currently he is preparing a dissertation focusing on the history of the Znak Community in the People’s Republic of Poland. His research interests include: history of democratic opposition and the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of Poland, history of Polish political parties before and after 1989.



1 J. Turowicz ‘Nowe ziemie’, Tygodnik Powszechny 6 (1945), p. 1.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid. p. 2.

5 Ibid.

6 The Catholic Intelligentsia Club was established on the wave of the October thaw in 1956 in Warsaw. Apart from the Warsaw club, the communist authorities also agreed to the operations of clubs in Krakow, Lublin, Wrocław, and Poznań. The Catholic Intelligentsia Club was an association of secular Catholics recognized by the Polish Church.

7 The common name of the Polish state during the communist rule from 1944- 1989. The official name was initially the Polish Republic, and after 1952 the Polish People’s Republic (abbreviated as the PRL).

8 A pact between the Polish People’s Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany to normalize mutual relations. It was signed on 7 December 1970 in Warsaw by PRL Premier Jozef Cyrankiewicz and West Germany Chancellor Willy Brandt. Therein, West Germany recognized the Polish western border at the Odra and Lusatian Neisse rivers. Official relations between the two countries were then initiated.

9 S. Stomma, Pościg za nadzieją (Paris, 1991), p. 169.

10 K. Piwarski, ‘Wiedza polska-dla ziem zachodnich, Tygodnik Powszechny 3 (1945), p. 3.


12 T. Milewski, ‘Słowiańszczyzna zachodnia przed tysiącem lat’, Tygodnik Powszechny 5 (1945), p. 1.

13 L. Gorski, ‘Geograficzne podstawy granic zachodnich’, Tygodnik Powszechny 20 (1945), p. 1.

14 Idem, ‘Geograficzne podstawy granic zachodnich’, Tygodnik Powszechny 21, p. 5.

15 E. Osmańczyk, ‘Niemcy’, Tygodnik Powszechny 3 (1946), p. 2.

16 Idem, ‘O bezpieczeństwie zachodniej granicy’, Tygodnik Powszechny 28, p. 1.

17Idem, ‘Niemcy’, p. 2.

18Idem, ‘O bezpieczeństwie zachodniej granicy’, p. 3.

19 A.J. Kamiński, ‘Propaganda wojny czy pokoju?’, Tygodnik Powszechny 27 (1947), p. 4.

20 K. Rakowski, ‘Idee przewodnie traktatu pokojowego z Niemcami’, Tygodnik Powszechny 3 (1947), p. 1.

21 Ibid.

22 Bonawentura, ‘Sprawa niemiecka’, Tygodnik Powszechny 8 (1951), p. 1.

23 J. Piwowarczyk, ‘Wyrok w Norymberdze’, Tygodnik Powszechny 41 (1946), p. 1.

24 Idem, (1948) ‘Zbiorowa odpowiedzialność narodu niemieckiego’, Tygodnik Powszechny 26, p. 1.

25 Ibid.


27 Idem, Wyrok w Norymberdze, p. 1.

28 Ibid.

29 Idem, (1947) ‘Gdzie niemieckie confiteor’, Tygodnik Powszechny 30, p. 4.

30 Ibid.

31 E. Osmańczyk, ‘O umocnieniu katolicyzmu w Nadodrzu’, Tygodnik Powszechny 26 (1948), p. 3.

32 Ibid.

33 A.J. Kamiński, ‘Proces norymberski nauki niemieckiej’, Tygodnik Powszechny 20 (1947), p. 6.

34 Idem, ‘Z zagadnień moralnych młodzieży niemieckiej’, Tygodnik Powszechny 44 (1947), p. 4.

35 S. Kisielewski, ‘Czy proces oświęcimski spełnił zadanie?’, Tygodnik Powszechny 3 (1948), p. 2.

36 S. Stomma, ‘Zwycięstwo nad zemstą’, Tygodnik Powszechny 3 (1948), p. 2.

37 ‘W sprawie Niemiec zachodnich’, Tygodnik Powszechny 45 (1950), p. 2.

38 Ibid.

39 J. Klimek, ‘Gliniane nogi ‘Rewizjonizmu’’, Tygodnik Powszechny 40 (1952), p. 1.

40 J. Golmont, ‘Przeszkodzić sianiu nienawiści...’, Tygodnik Powszechny 7 (1953), p. 1.

41 A. Gołubiew, ‘“Układ ogolny” w Bonn’, Tygodnik Powszechny 23 (1952), p. 1.

42 J. Turowicz, ‘Brunatne upiory straszą’, Tygodnik Powszechny 47 (1951), p. 1.

43Przemówienie sejmowe Stanisława Stommy 21 października 1960 r. w dyskusji nad sprawozdaniem delegacji PRL na XV sesję ONZ, quoted in: A. Friszke, Koło posłów ‘Znak’ w Sejmie PRL 1957-1976 (Warsaw, 2002), p. 317.

44A. Fiszke, op. cit., p. 313.

45Przemówienie sejmowe Stanisława Stommy 21 października 1960 r., p. 313.

46Ibid., p. 315.

47 Ibid.

48 Ibid., p. 317.

49 Ibid., p. 316.

50Przemówienie sejmowe Jerzego Zawieyskiego 12 listopada 1965 r. w debacie budżetowej (fragmenty), quoted in: A. Friszke, op. cit., p. 446.

51 Ibid., p. 447.


53 W. Roszkowski, Historia Polski 1914-2005 (Warsaw, 2006), p. 278.

54 A. Friszke, op. cit., (Warsaw, 2002), p. 67.

55Oświadczenie Koła Posłów ‘Znak’ złożone przez Jerzego Zawieyskiego na plenarnym posiedzeniu Sejmu 14 grudnia 1965 r. w związku z Listem biskupów polskich do biskupów niemieckich, quoted in: A. Friszke, op. cit., p. 452.

56 Ibid., p. 453.

57 Ibid.

58 Ibid.

59A. Friszke, op. cit., p. 68.

60Memoriał Koła Posłów ‘Znak’ złożony Zenonowi Kliszce w marcu 1969 r., quoted in: A Friszke, op. cit., p. 522.


62Przemówienie Stanisława Stommy na plenarnym posiedzeniu Sejmu 28 czerwca 1969 r. w dyskusji nad oświadczeniem prezesa Rady Ministrów dotyczącej perspektywy stosunków polsko-niemieckich (fragment), quoted in: A. Friszke, op. cit., p. 525.

63 Ibid., p. 526.

64 Ibid., p. 527.

65Ibid., p. 526.

66 Ibid.

67 On the State Council and the Polish Committee for the National Unity Front see A. Dudek, Z. Zblewski, Utopia nad Wisłą. Historia Peerelu (Warsaw, Bielsko Biała, 2008), passim.

68Przemówienie sejmowe Stanisława Stommy w debacie nad składem i programem rządu 27 lutego 1957 r., quoted in: A. Friszke, op. cit., p. 163.

69 S. Stomma, Trudne lekcje historii (Krakow, 1998), p. 158.

70S. Stomma, ‘Pojednanie, normalizacja, przyjaźń’, Tygodnik Powszechny 40 (1990), s. 1.

71For more on the subject of this organization see: W. Bartoszewski, O Niemcach i Polakach. Wspomnienia. Prognozy. Nadzieje, ed. and commentary R. Rogulski, J. Rydel (Krakow, 2010), passim.


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