- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2005

WARSAW — Sixteen years after the fall of communism in Europe, former Eastern Bloc countries are stepping up efforts to come to terms with their communist past as secret police archives slowly and partially open.

The European Union’s members from Eastern Europe, and Romania and Bulgaria, which are expected to enter the European Union in 2007, have been faced with why so little has been done to bring to justice those responsible for past crimes by the state security apparatus.

“It is not a process of retaliation. We have governments run by the rule of law,” said Kazimierz Woycicki, from Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance. “I understand this can be inconsistent with the common concept of justice. Some may say, ‘We wanted justice, but got the rule of law.’”

Mr. Woycicki was among speakers discussing the history and legacy of the communist security apparatus last week at an international conference in Warsaw, set up by several organizations in Poland, Germany, Czech Republic and Slovakia.


Some speakers verified through archival research the abominable record of communist secret police organizations in the new EU countries. Kidnappings, forced collaborations, false imprisonment and killings were accepted institutional practices.

Richard Cummings, former director of security for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, described how secret police carried out a decades-long campaign of threats and violence against Radio Free Europe, including KGB-assisted killings of employees, plots by Czechoslovak agents to poison the staff and an attempt to blow up the station’s Munich headquarters, to be carried out by Carlos the Jackal and assisted by Romanian intelligence services.

In 2005, many former secret police officers seem to have not only escaped justice, but fared well. No formal research has been conducted on their fate or whereabouts, but there are plenty of stories about former communist secret police officers who leveraged their experience and connections to gain unfair advantage in business or slide into political office after 1989, when communism collapsed.

In Romania, for example, the identity of officers from dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s Securitate have not been revealed. According to a Romanian source close to the archives, the current state security agency is protecting them.

Some countries have made efforts to filter them out, a process known as “lustration.” The Czech Republic, since 1991, has used lustration in attempting to block former agents from ministerial but not elected posts.

Hynek Fajmon, an EU parliament member from the Czech Republic, said lustration is imperfect, but has been an effective legal screening process.

“Without [lustration], we would have full ministries of [former communist agents], because they were sitting there [at the fall of communism], and they would have remained sitting there,” Mr. Fajmon said.