In many cases, this has led to protests by the addressees of those decisions. In their letters, to which I was obliged to respond personally on many occasions, they use bitter words, demonise the IPN prosecutors and hurl the worst possible accusations at them. The facts are actually trivial. Procedural decisions simply require the use of statutory terms.
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And this is how the legislative authority has chosen to name the crimes committed by the Germans and citizens of their allied states against Polish citizens during the last world war. Therefore, what were the results, in terms of legal proceedings, of the actions taken by the prosecutors and judges employed in the former commissions for investigating crimes? While explaining this issue, to avoid quoting numerous boring provisions, I shall return to the name of the institution.
The difference is fundamental. The former did not have full prosecutorial rights, and primarily had no right to file indictments to the court. Its role was limited to investigating cases and collecting evidence. There, a prosecutor whose day-to-day job consisted in dealing with totally different kinds of investigations, examined the evidence submitted by a totally different prosecutor in terms of the possibility to file the indictment.
These two facts augured badly for the entire procedure. Such a solution was ineffective for two mundane reasons.
Cases related to war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity are not easy. They are nearly always interdisciplinary in nature and result from facts occurring in a specific historical context. Without the knowledge of that context, a prosecutor or a judge is not able to correctly assess a particular crime being the subject of the case. Moreover, due to the substantive criminal law provisions in a situation where international criminal law regulations are also taken into consideration, and due to reasons related to evidence, which is often totally different from the evidence in investigations routinely carried out by prosecutors, it is very easy to make a mistake.
It is even possible to graduate from a law school without coming across these regulations. It is also worth noticing that over the years, as the witnesses started growing older or died, clear and unequivocal evidence became increasingly scarce. Even in the late s and until the end of the s, the law enforcement and prosecution authorities and courts of common jurisdiction were quite busy dealing with cases related to German crimes in occupied Poland.
He was responsible, inter alia , for the massacre of the population of the Warsaw city centre. In , he was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Warsaw Provincial Court. At this point, there is a need to mention that apart from Geibel, virtually none of the German criminals responsible for genocide and war crimes from the time of the Warsaw Uprising were tried. Quite the contrary— Heinz Reinefarth, who commanded the policing operation in Wola, became a respected citizen of the Federal Republic of Germany after the war.
He was elected mayor of Westerland, on the island of Sylt.
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No one knew or wanted to know about his criminal past. It was only in that a plaque commemorating the Warsaw Uprising and crimes committed by the former mayor of that town was placed on the town hall. Unfortunately, in the post-war period, the communist authorities were much busier convicting their opponents from the pro-independence underground in trials that most often had little to do with justice.
Furthermore, Polish patriots were kept in the same prisons or even cells as German criminals. This was a specialised authority that employed very experienced people who had great legal expertise. It is worth mentioning that the judges included Emil Rappaport, an outstanding pre-war judge and professor of law. The good reputation of the Tribunal is confirmed by its legacy in the form of its verdicts.
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Unfortunately, it was only active for two years and managed to judge only the most serious crimes. Only seven trials were held before the Tribunal. This was only the tip of the iceberg.
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Such is the case of the communist government which also controlled the judiciary and their actions in regard to the prosecution of war criminals. Having collected evidence that was sufficient to file an indictment, the prosecutors and judges employed by the aforementioned commissions for the investigation of crimes stated, for reasons unknown, that the person in question was certainly in the Federal Republic of Germany. Therefore, the files, often the originals, were handed to West German law enforcement authorities. In most cases, they were received by a specialist prosecution unit, commonly known, due to the location of its headquarters, as the Ludwigsburg Central Office.
At this point, it has to be clearly stated that the said action was totally against the law, as there were no legal regulations that would allow criminal proceedings to be concluded in such manner. To make the matter appear legal, they made references to a specific provision of the Criminal Procedure Code, which actually never provided for suspending an investigation due to the files being sent abroad, and suspended the investigation. What is really shocking is the fact that no one was ever interested in the further course of the case.
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Relevant enquiries were sent only sporadically. The Germans informed the Polish authorities on the progress of the case on very rare occasions. The files continued to be sent even when the scarce pieces of information on the cases showed that the actions taken by the German authorities were ineffective. The fact that the Germans often issued curious decisions against the interest of the Polish victims did not lead to any reflection that could stop such activities.
The West German judiciary failed to deal with the cases concerning crimes against Poles committed during the last world war. This is surely against the image of the state that managed to deal with the criminal legacy of the Second World War, that the Federal Republic of Germany has carefully created and cultivated. On many occasions, I was able not only to learn about particular decisions, but also carry out their in-depth analysis for professional purposes and due to my participation in scientific conferences. The image implied by these materials is more than grim.
Let me begin with the statement that in none of the examined cases, maybe apart from a single exception, did I see the submission of evidence from Poland lead to the conviction of a perpetrator for crimes against citizens of our country. Of course, there might be more cases in Germany that concluded in perpetrators being convicted, but the fact that the IPN prosecutors have been very busy carrying out relevant checks since — i.
The first 89 cases that I examined were investigations into the mass murders of Poles committed by Germans from 1 September until about November , mainly in the Polish part of Pomerania, the western area of Greater Poland and Upper Silesia. Unfortunately, these atrocities are relatively unknown to the inhabitants of the other parts of Poland, although the total number of victims in Pomerania itself is estimated at 30,, Let me remind you that most of these crimes were not committed by members of the SS, Gestapo or the Police, but ordinary Germans, most often members of a paramilitary organisation named Selbstschutz.
Formally speaking, they were citizens of the Second Polish Republic of German descent, who inhabited lands near the border between the two countries. Though the evidence collected by the Commission was usually very reliable, the decisions in regard to those cases that were made in Germany were not only defective, but also very peculiar. As a result, on 5 September , the decision was made to discontinue the case.
You will not be charged until it is released. They had sometimes been soldiers as well as witnesses, and their generation grew up with the trauma of the war deeply embedded—a trauma that would change the course of the Russian nation. Alexievich gives voice to those whose memories have been lost in the official narratives, uncovering a powerful, hidden history from the personal and private experiences of individuals. Translated by the renowned Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, Last Witnesses is a powerful and poignant account of the central conflict of the twentieth century, a kaleidoscopic portrait of the human side of war.
Svetlana Alexievich was born in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, in and has spent most of her life in the Soviet Union and present-day Belarus, with prolonged periods of exile in Western Europe. Starting out as a journalist, she developed her own nonfiction genre, which gathers a chorus of voices to describe a specific historical moment. Reviews Review Policy. Published on. Flowing text, Original pages.
Best For. Web, Tablet, Phone, eReader. Content Protection. Learn More. Flag as inappropriate. It syncs automatically with your account and allows you to read online or offline wherever you are. Please follow the detailed Help center instructions to transfer the files to supported eReaders. More related to World War II. See more. William Lloyd. This history of the Life Guards traces the regiment's story right to the end of its existence and its amalgamation with the Blues and Royals. David E. Just days before Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June , Stalin refused to believe the detailed - and correct - intelligence from his own security agencies that the attack was imminent.
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