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Norman Davies: Jaruzelski played 'positive role' in late 80s

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 25.06.2014 12:59
  • Professors Norman Davies and Patrick Vaughan on the legacy of General Wojciech Jaruzelski
Historian Norman Davies has argued that Poland's last communist leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski played 'a positive role' in the path to Polish democracy in the late 80s.

Jaruzelski (L) and Nicolae Ceausescu. Photo: wikipedia

Jaruzelski's grave has been under 24-hour surveillance in Warsaw's Powazki Military Cemetery since his funeral on 30 May, with Poles deeply divided over the general's legacy.

After halting the Solidarity trade union's advance by declaring martial law in 1981, Jaruzelski then reopened talks with the opposition in 1988.

“He could have taken absolutely the opposition line,” Davies argued in an interview with Polish Radio reporter Nick Hodge.

“He realised - thanks I think to a number of younger communists around him – they knew the game was up.”

Davies likewise subscribes to Jaruzelski's claim that declaring martial law in 1981 during Solidarity's surge was “the lesser of two evils,” staving off a Soviet invasion.

Jaruzelski's career also saw him serve as Minister of Defence from 1968-1972, a period in which the army opened fire on protesting workers in Gdynia in 1970.

Professor Patrick Vaughan, a historian who lectures at Krakow's Jagiellonian University, was one of the few Westerners to have interviewed Jaruzelski in person.

“I got the impression that he was still in denial about the nature of the system he served,” Vaughan told Polish Radio.

“That it wasn't just a system of modernisation and so-called social justice – he still didn't accept the fact, or the idea, that this was a foreign occupation [of Poland], and a very brutal system responsible for some of the most heinous crimes of the 20th century.”

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