Polish victims of ‘IDA’ Heroine speak up
When in 1999 I was in Oxford, they did not let me into their home. They lived in an affluent Victorian town house overlooking the beautiful, verdant district in this academic city. Their neighbors thought of them as staid retirees who came here from Poland in the early seventies. Here, they were the respected Mister and Madam professors. He, Włodzimierz Brus, was an economics professor, who also taught Russian and Central European philology at Wolfson and St. Anthony's College. His wife, Helena Wolińska-Brus, was a frequent participant in the academic symposia, but, even more so, she was an ardent socialite.
Seven decades after her crimes, this bloody Stalinist prosecutor became the inspiration for Paweł Pawlikowski, and a heroine of his Oscar winning motion picture "Ida," which is gaining acclaim around the world.
Members of the real Polish émigré circles, who were forced to leave their homeland in the aftermath of the Soviet takeover of Poland after World War II, remembered that Wolińska manifestly supported the "Solidarity" movement and condemned Martial Law imposed on Poland by the Jaruzelski’s Communist junta. The couple was friends with prof. Norman Davies and other prominent Oxford’s scholars. They all knew that she was the Stalinist prosecutor. In Poland, for example, she was defended by Prof. Andrzej Friszke - the same man who snidely referred to the searching and exhumations of the missing Doomed Soldiers as “meaningless digs.”
||Colonel Helena Wolińska-Brus, Pawlikowski's "Wanda"
This is not surprising, as it is exactly at the “Łączka" meadow and in Służewiec, Warsaw, where Wolińska’s victims still lie in their unmarked death pits. It is not an accident that the victims' families called her “a monster in a military uniform.”
- She was an inconspicuous-looking, small and stocky Jewish woman. She would receive visitors wearing her badly fitted uniform that was bursting at the seams. I had been going to see her for two and a half years - every two weeks. Always, like a robot, she would repeat the same words: “the case is under investigation” – says Hanna Mickiewicz, the wife of the Home Army Economic Intelligence Chief who was incarcerated by the Polish Secret Police (Urząd Bezpieczenstwa “UB”) on trumped-up charges in 1950. Adam Mickiewicz was “lucky”, because even with ruined health, he was released from prison and alive.
In 1953, Wolińska arrested another Home Army soldier, Juliusz Sobolewski. After many efforts, his wife Krystyna Sobolewska at last received a permission to see Madam Wolińska in her office. Madam Colonel sat behind a gigantic desk which obscured her from view almost entirely. Krystyna asked for help for her unjustly arrested husband, but Wolińska responded coarsely: “This is the worst day of my life; Stalin had just died.” And she threw the dumbfounded Sobolewska out the door. Her husband Juliusz Sobolewski died as a result of murderous UB experiments, namely he was exposed to X-ray radiation – later found to be premeditated, unnecessary, and unlawful exposure to the radiation that was a direct cause of his death. The commutation of his death sentence supported by General Franciszek Jóźwiak was simply overturned by Madam Colonel. Years later, Krystyna Sobolewska would say: “It is difficult to wish Wolińska incarceration, death sentence, or the gallows. I only dream about one thing – that she is recognized and declared as an inquisitor and a horrible human being. Let this monster in military uniform at last cease to live as a wife of a respected Oxford professor.”
General Jóźwiak was Wolińska’s lover. Before WWII he was a member of the communist WKP(b) and KPP, a “heroic” freedom-fighter in the People’s Guard, People’s Army, and after that, the founding father and chief of the People’s Militia and Deputy Head of the dreaded secret police. In 1956,Wolińska gave him “the boot,” and rekindled her relationship with Włodzimierz Brus-Zylberberg – a communist and Stalinist economist and Agitprop Officer in the Communist Berling’s Army.
The Three lives of Helena Wolińska-Brus
In the early stages of the Polish Prosecution efforts for Wolińska extradition from London to Poland, the “Daily Mail” wrote: “Behind the ornate windows of a stunning Victorian mansion in North Oxford, an 80-year-old wife of a leading Oxford academician, awaits for the door-bell to ring […] The carefully crafted life of professor Brus, an emigrant [from Poland], and his wife, had collapsed. Both of them are hiding in the house behind closed curtains, anxiously waiting for news from the Polish Embassy in London or the British Home Office.”
We also waited …
“A nice lady. Open, witty, warm. It was a shock to me when I found out many years later that Poland demanded her extradition” – said in “Gazeta Wyborcza” interview Paweł Pawlikowski who came to Oxford from Poland as a young boy. He met Wolińska when he was taking classes from her husband, prof. Włodzimierz Brus at Oxford during the eighties. Strangely enough Mr. and Mrs. Brus allowed Paweł into their home and hosted afternoon teas for him. And that is how he became inspired “how many personalities can be hidden inside of a single human being.” This is how one of the main heroines of “Ida”, Wanda – played by an excellent Agata Kulesza - was born.
Several of Wolińska’s personalities came under scrutiny of Ann Appelbaum, the wife of Radek Sikorski. Ann wrote in 1998 “The Three Lives of Helena Brus” poining out that during the war she [Wolińska] was in the Warsaw Ghetto, and this fact had shaped her future.
Not surprisingly, Adam Michnik’s "Gazeta Wyborcza," Moscow’s chief apologist in the aftermath of the Smolensk Crash, was far more reserved. For a long time the paper simply ignored Wolińska’s crimes, and in the end - when the case began to resonate loudly throughout the world – it at last published its lengthy diatribe. Emphasizing, that having spent time in the ghetto gave her absolution for her later crimes - and that she would forever remain a victim and never a villain. The reporting by the somber Jewish Telegraph Agency sounded eerily similar. We paraphrase: the suffering experienced in the Ghetto by Wolińska, empowered her later to prosecute the Poles (read: these horrible, inhuman Polish anti-Semites from the Home Army). "The Independent," on the other hand, stressed that Wolińska is one of the few remaining members of the Jewish minority in Poland who survived the Holocaust: "So it would be an extradition to a country of places like Auschwitz and Birkenau." "The Sunday Times" followed similar suit. We paraphrase: "Can a Jew count on justice in the country of Auschwitz, Majdanek and Treblinka, where depressing and deeply-rooted anti-Semitism, straight from the Middle Ages, is still firmly entrenched? [... For, the] Polish anti-Semitism is being alarmingly reborn" – it read.
None of the articles that came to Wolińska’s aid, had even mentioned that after all it was neither Poland, nor these “anti-Semitic” Poles who built and operated the industrial centers of mass murder, but rather, that the Poles were as much victims of those death camps as the Jews, and that the death camps on the Polish soil were the creation of the Germans for the extermination of the local population to make room for the German race. Nowhere, in these newspaper articles it was mentioned that these “Polish Anti-Semites” sent to their deaths by Colonel Helena Wolińska-Brus, (Pawlikowski’s “Wanda”) only a few years earlier risked their own lives, and the lives of their entire families to harbor Jews from certain death from German hands. Oh sweet irony!
What were the three lives of this fervent communist court-murderer, and Oscar movie heroine? She was born in 1919 in Warsaw as Fajga Mindla Danielak, who died on 26 November 2008 in Oxford as Helena Brus. On November 21, 1950, as a Colonel Helena Wolińska at the request of lieutenant Zygmunt Krasinski from III Department MBP, (established for the sole purpose of hunting, torturing, and murdering members of the anti-communist resistance), approved an unlawful arrest of the General August Emil Fieldorf, nom de guerre "Nil”, the head of the Home Army’s "Kedyw.”
Consequently, this arrest led to the investigation, prolonged and inhumane torture, conviction and murder of one of the greatest heroes of the Polish Anti-German Underground Resistance; all based on fabricated charges of which Wolińska was very well aware. Just like many other Doomed Soldiers at the time, Gen. Fieldorf was hung on 24 February 1953 at the Mokotów Prison in Warsaw.
The Polish extradition request for Colonel Wolińska supported by the European Arrest Warrant was submitted to Her Majesty’s Government, and was backed by additional citations of gross violations of the law, perpetrated against 23 additional individuals who were deprived of liberty, life and limb; among them Bishop Czesław Kaczmarek and countless Home Army soldiers. Among those wronged by Wolińska was even a high-ranking communist apparatchik, named Zenon Kliszko, who at the time of his arrest was Gomułka’s right-hand man.
Part and parcel of communist ethos, Wolińska issued an arrest warrant for Fieldorf 11 days after his arrest and failed to present any evidence against him. She broke the law for the second time on February 15, 1951, when his detention was unlawfully extended, once again without formal charges, ex post, without even a vague description of the act for which he was detained. By doing so, she acted in collusion with the secret police involved from the very beginning in mercilessly torturing the general.
III Polish Republic is just like the Communist Polish People’s Republic
“Wolińska was sought by a warrant because of my request. After all, she was the very first communist prosecutor upon whose orders my father was arrested. She was as culpable in the death of “Nil” as the other prosecutors and judges in his case,” – said several years ago Maria Fieldorf-Czarska, daughter of the General, and described how the murderers of her Father had not been persecuted in the III Polish Republic.
“The District Court in Warsaw made the trial “classified”, and closed it to the public. Only I, alone, was allowed to enter the courtroom; the journalists were asked to leave. They even asked me to turn off the microphone. I said that I don’t appreciate that my dad’s case was once again adjudicated behind closed doors; as was during the communist times. The court-sanctioned murder of my Dad in 1952, also took place behind closed doors. In response, the Prosecutor warned me that she would hold me in contempt of court if I further insist.”
When the fate of the request for Wolińska’s extradition to Poland was still being weighted, Maria Fieldorf told the “Sunday Telegraph: “My Dad is recognized throughout the world as a genuine Polish patriot, who valiantly fought for his country against the Germans. By issuing an arrest warrant for him, Wolińska - who herself was victimized by the Germans, and whose family died at their hands – had in fact issued a death sentence against him. For the good of my Dad, and my country, until the last day of my life, I will fight for her extradition; so she can stand in the majesty of Law - the very justice that was denied to my father.”
Maria Fieldor did not live long enough to see justice done. She didn’t live long enough to learn that the remains of her father were located. Her words were prophetic:
- The prosecutor Wolińska will share the fate of Judge Maria Górowska, who was the presiding judge that sent General Fieldorf to his death, and whom they didn’t bring to justice either. Many people made sure that [such trial] would never take place. Górowska died under an assumed name in 1998, just as her forever-stalled court trial, for being an accessory to a “court-sanctioned murder”, was about to begin.
The “Dolores from Warsaw”
In interviews for the British press, Wolińska said that this "moronic thing" about her "doesn’t interest her an iota." She said that she would not travel to Poland (by all appearances, her native country), as she cannot count on a fair trial; she doesn’t care about the Polish authorities, and as far as the prosecuting attorney who dared to bring these charges against her is concerned … well … she would “have his head." Already, while with the communist “People’s” partisans from “GL” and “AL”, and with the colorfully sounding pseudonym “Lena”, she was known for her vulgarities. Her filthy language horrified even the most hardened Stalinists, but they were afraid of her, because on more than one occasion – “careers ended”, and “arrests” of those who stepped on her toes, “followed.” One of the Stalinist judges, who released Jehovah Witnesses arrested on Wolińska’s orders, said this about a phone call he received from her: “Dolores from Warsaw had called me, and asked on what basis the Jehovah Witnesses were released. I responded that it was based on the court decision. She said then: “Don’t try to be so clever, you motherfuckers.”
There were few notable exceptions to the opposition against the extradition, like the already mentioned "Daily Mail" that considered it to be justified: "Poland is a democratic country, it is friendly towards the United Kingdom. There is no reason to question the impartiality of the Polish judiciary. In Wolińska’s case, the British government is morally treading muddy waters."
Helena Wolińska was of course defended by her husband, Włodzimierz Brus who enthusiastically cited not at all atypical orotundities that his wife was ... a proverbial "scapegoat". Lo and behold, no one had bothered to present the most important piece of evidence that could have paved the way for the prosecution of this proverbial "goat". In the early seventies, when Wolińska applied for her British citizenship, she had to truthfully answer whether she had ever participated in the persecution, and whether she was ever a subject of an investigation against her? Had she responded in the affirmative, her citizenship request would have been denied. Therefore, she had to lie. The proof? During 1956-1957, there was an official investigation against Wolińska, (as well as other Stalinist officials), conducted by two committees of the Polish Attorney General Marian Mazur. Both committees set forth a number of serious allegations, subject to criminal prosecution - including arrest without evidence of guilt and not reacting to complaints about criminal investigative methods imposed upon the prisoners. At that time, Wolińska was quietly let go from the prosecutor's office "due to the fact that the nature and extent of the allegations from the period when she served with the Chief Military Prosecutors Office in the official leadership position disqualifies her as a prosecutor"; so she was demoted and relieved from duty.
Afternoon tea with the criminal is an “I-O-U”
In the film “Ida”, Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Wanda” commits suicide. In fact, Wolińska died of natural causes in 2008 in Oxford. Polish “Rzeczpospolita” wrote: “According to the official press release, her funeral was to take place at a local church. The people who arrived for the ceremony found out that somebody else’s funeral was scheduled for that time. In this way, Wolińska’s family fooled the attendees and journalists who wanted to attend her funeral. Wolińska was buried in secrecy according to the Jewish rite, and her funeral was attended by around ten people; among them, professor Kołakowski. The ceremony is said to have been peaceful and dignified, and nothing disturbed the burial of the communist prosecutor. A few months later, in July 2009, Professor Leszek Kołakowski followed her to his grave. It would be interesting to know whether Paweł Pawlikowski was in attendance for the funeral of this communist murderer? In the end, afternoon teas should mean something!
Among the sparse inscriptions in Hebrew, one will not find a single word about Poland on the gravestones of the Brus family at the Jewish cemetery in Oxford; not a word about the place of their birth, or about their relationship with Poland. They both served Poland indeed, but in the worst possible way. For this particularly “nice, open, witty, and warm" lady - despite her crimes – became no other than an inspiration for the film director who was rewarded with an Oscar. Tadeusz Sobolewski, an Adam Michnik’s “GW” critic, was so impressed by the message projected by the film that he wrote: "Bloody Wanda was a communist, a Stalinist prosecutor, who sent to death ‘enemies of the people’. Now she is drinking. Now she determines her own punishment herself.” And that's the point, you see – so that the communist criminals themselves hand down the punishment on themselves, so that in the end there is no punishment at all. And then - after death – they live on in films that whitewash their crimes.
After all, the director of “Ida” admits that he is trying to understand Wolińska. Perhaps, he, and he alone would also uniquely understand the "depth", the "complexities", and "inner-turmoil" experienced by such "heroines" as Irma Grese, or Maria Mandl? Would he understand Joseph Mengele as well? I wonder what the families of the victims of such human beasts in uniforms - among them the family of General August Emil Fieldorf, nom de guerre “Nil”, or survivors of Mengele’s “medical research” would - think about them? What do the surviving Doomed Soldiers think about them?
Written by Tadeusz M. Płużański
Tadeusz M. Płużański is an acclaimed Polish historian, and son of Tadeusz Płużański, co-defendant in the case of Witold Pilecki, the “Volunteer for Auschwitz.”
"Zegota": Saving the Europe's Jews
ZEGOTA-Council for Aid to Jews in Occupied Poland(1939-1945). ZEGOTA was the only government-sponsored (London-based Polish Government-in-Exile) social welfare agency established to rescue Jews in German-occupied EUROPE.
The Man Who Volunteered for Auschwitz: Captain Witold Pilecki', report provided Allies with detailed information about German atrocities being carried out in Auschwitz Concentration camp.
NSA (National Security Agency): Eavesdropping on Hell: Historical Guide to Western Communications Intelligence and the Holocaust, 1939-1945
The petition by the Polish League Against Defamation:
Ms Agnieszka ODOROWICZ
Director of the Polish Film Institute
Ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście 21/23
Warsaw, 18 January 2015
I am writing to you in the name of thousands of Poles, concerned about the impact of the message being delivered by the film “Ida”, the production of which the Institute that you head up has been co-funding.
Recent Oscar-nomination of the film and earlier rave reviews have marked the presence of the film which shall be viewed the world over, often by people that have a faint idea about Poland, a country they may be hearing about for the first time.
Not going in too deeply into the film and its artistic merits (here any opinion would be viewed as subjective) what needs to be said here is that there are two important understatements, which cannot in anyway be justified for any artistic-related reason:
First of all – there is no mention in the film that the parents of the heroine were murdered during the German occupation of Poland, in fact there is no mention at all of Germany in the film !
A viewer who does not know history goes away with the impression, that the murder of Jews in Poland are commonplace and that the historic event referred to as the Holocaust was caused by the Poles.
Secondly – the story portrayed in this film might have occurred, but the authors of the film present the motivation of the murderers of the parents of the heroine in a manner in which foreign viewers might believe a version not in sync with historic fact, i.e., that the murderers motive was to gain profit, while from a Polish perspective the historical context is obvious, i.e., the fear of being discovered for hiding Jews from the Germans.
In summary - from a historical point of view the film is faulted. And again, not going into much detail as to the artistic intent of the film’s authors – its final form of expression is outright anti-Polish. A viewer, not knowing European history, comes away from the film convinced that it was the Poles who murdered |Europe’s Jewish population and stole its property.
This film showing a unique story leads its viewers to a false conclusion and untrue picture of Poland and events around it, during World War 2.
This is why we demand from you to cause the authors of the film to have a frame inserted at the beginning of its screening, showing clearly the following information, that:
1. Poland was under German occupation during the years 1939-1945
2. The German occupying forces pursued a policy of extermination of the Jews.
3. In German Nazi-occupied Poland, the death penalty was in-force against Poles hiding Jews, not only directed at those responsible, but also their families. Despite this penalty threat, many Poles harbored Jews.
4. In this manner, many thousands of Poles were killed sacrificing their lives for their neighbors and fellow citizens of the Republic of Poland – the Jews persecuted by the Nazis.
5. The legal authorities of the Polish Underground State, recognized by the Allies, punished cases of Jewish persecution by Poles that were demoralized by the cruel and ruthless German occupation to the fullest extent possible.
6. The highest Numbers of Righteous Among the Nations, as recognized by Yad Vashem, has been attributed to the Poles.
Since you head up a POLISH cultural institution, I consider it obvious, that this postulate be realized by you.
With kind regards,
President of the Board
The Polish Anti-Defamation League
Tel. 502 733 189