The Institute of National Remembrance – Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (Polish: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej – Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu; IPN) is a Polish government-affiliated research institute with lustration prerogatives,[2] as well as prosecution powers.[3] It was created by legislation enacted by the Parliament of Poland.[2] The Institute specialises in the legal and historical examination of the 20th century history of Poland in particular.[4] IPN investigates both Nazi and Communist crimes committed in Poland between 1939 and the Revolutions of 1989, documents its findings and disseminates the results of its investigations to the public.[4]

The Institute was established in law by the Polish Parliament on 18 December 1998,[3] and incorporated the earlier 1991-passed Main Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (which itself had replaced a 1945-passed body on Nazi crimes).[5] It began its activities on 1 July 2000. During the first fifteen years following its inception the IPN collected over 90 kilometres (56 mi) of archives, released 1,794 publications, organized 453 exhibits, held 817 conferences, and launched 30 educational internet portals. In the same period, the Institute researchers held interviews with over 103,000 witnesses and interrogated 508 individuals charged with criminal offences, leading to 137 sentences by the courts of justice.[6]

According to a new law which went into effect on 15 March 2007, IPN was to be mandated to carry out lustration procedures prescribed by Polish law.[2] However, key articles of that law were judged unconstitutional by Poland's constitutional court on 11 May 2007, so the role of IPN in the lustration process is at present unclear.[7] The IPN is a founding member of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience organisation.[8]


IPN's main areas of activity,[4] in line with its original mission statement,[3] include researching and documenting the losses which were suffered by the Polish Nation as a result of World War II and during the post-war totalitarian period.[3] The Institute informs about the patriotic traditions of resistance against the occupational forces,[3] and the Polish citizens' fight for sovereignty of the nation, including their efforts in defence of freedom and human dignity in general.[3] IPN investigates crimes committed on Polish soil against Polish citizens as well as people of other citizenships wronged in the country. War crimes which are not affected by statute of limitations according to Polish law include:[4]

  1. crimes of the Soviet and Polish communist regimes committed in the country from 17 September 1939 until fall of communism on 31 December 1989,[4]
  2. deportations to the Soviet Union of Polish soldiers of Armia Krajowa,[4] and other Polish resistance organizations as well as Polish inhabitants of the former Polish eastern territories,
  3. pacifications of Polish communities between Vistula and Bug Rivers in the years 1944 to 1947 by UB-NKVD,[4]
  4. crimes committed by the law enforcement agencies of the Polish People's Republic, particularly Ministry of Public Security of Poland and Main Directorate of Information of the Polish Army,[4]
  5. crimes under the category of war crimes and crimes against humanity.[4]

It is the IPN's duty to prosecute crimes against peace and humanity, as much as war crimes.[3] Its mission includes the need to compensate for damages which were suffered by the repressed and harmed people at a time when human rights were disobeyed by the state,[3] and educate the public about recent history of Poland.[4] IPN collects, organises and archives all documents about the Polish communist security apparatus active from 22 July 1944 to 31 December 1989.[3]


Main entrance

IPN was created by special legislation on 18 December 1998.[3] IPN is governed by the chairman. This chairman is chosen by a supermajority (60%) of the Polish Parliament (Sejm) with the approval of the Senate of Poland on a request by a Collegium of IPN. The chairman has a 5-year term of office. The first chairman of the IPN was Leon Kieres, elected by the Sejm for five years on 8 June 2000 (term 30 June 2000 – 29 December 2005). The second chairman was Janusz Kurtyka, elected on 9 December 2005 with a term that started 29 December 2005 until his death in the Smolensk airplane crash on 10 April 2010. Franciszek Gryciuk was acting chairman from 2010 to 2011, when the current chairman, Łukasz Kamiński, was elected by the Sejm.

The IPN is divided into:[2][3][9]

  • Main Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (Główna Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni Przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu)
  • Bureau of Provision and Archivization of Documents (Biuro Udostępniania i Archiwizacji Dokumentów)
  • Bureau of Public Education (or Public Education Office, Biuro Edukacji Publicznej)
  • Lustration Bureau (Biuro Lustracyjne) (new bureau, since October 2006)[2]
  • local chapters.

On 29 April 2010, acting president Bronislaw Komorowski signed into law a parliamentary act that reformed the Institute of National Remembrance.[10]



Archive at the former IPN headquarters at 28 Towarowa Street in Warsaw

The research conducted by IPN from December 2000 falls into four main topical areas:

  • Security Apparatus and Civil Resistance (with separate sub-projects devoted to Political Processes and Prisoners 1944–1956, Soviet Repressions and Crimes committed against Polish Citizens and Martial Law: a Glance after Twenty Years);[11]
    • Functioning of the repression apparatus (state security and justice organs) – its organizational structure, cadres and relations with other state authority and party organs[12]
    • Activities of the repression apparatus directed against particular selected social groups and organizations[12]
    • Structure and methods of functioning of the People's Poland security apparatus[12]
    • Security apparatus in combat with the political and military underground 1944–1956[12]
    • Activities of the security apparatus against political emigreés[12]
    • Security apparatus in combat with the Church and freedom of belief[12]
    • Authorities dealing with social crises and democratic opposition in the years 1956–1989 f) List of those repressed and sentenced to death[12]
    • Bibliography of the conspiracy, resistance and repression 1944–1989[12]
  • War, Occupation and the Polish Underground;[11][13]
    • deepening of knowledge about the structures and activities of the Polish Underground State[13]
    • examination of the human fates in the territories occupied by the Soviet regime and of Poles displaced into the Soviet Union[13]
    • assessment of sources on the living conditions under the Soviet and German Nazi occupations[13]
    • evaluation of the state of research concerning the victims of the war activities and extermination policy of the Soviet and German Nazi occupiers[13]
    • examining the Holocaust (Extermination of Jews) conducted by Nazis in the Polish territories[13][14]
      • Response of the Polish Underground State to the extermination of Jewish population[14]
      • The Polish Underground press and the Jewish question during the German Nazi occupation[14]
  • Poles and Other Nations in the Years 1939–1989 (with a part on Poles and Ukrainians);[11][15]
    • Poles and Ukrainians[15]
    • Poles and Lithuanians[15]
    • Poles and Germans[15]
    • Communist authorities – Belarusians – Underground[15]
    • Fate of Jewish people in the People's Republic of Poland[15]
    • Gypsies in Poland[15]
  • Peasants and the People's Authority 1944–1989 (on the situation of peasants and the rural policy in the years 1944–1989)[11][16]
    • inhabitants of the rural areas during the creation of the totalitarian regime in Poland;[16]
    • peasant life during the Sovietisation of Poland in the years 1948–1956;[16]
    • attitudes of the inhabitants of rural areas towards the state-Church conflict in the years 1956–1970;[16]
    • the role of peasants in the anti-Communist opposition of the 1970s and 1980s.[16]

Among the most widely reported cases investigated by the IPN thus far is the Jedwabne Pogrom, a pogrom of Polish Jews "committed directly by Poles, but inspired by the Germans" in 1941. A selection of other cases include:


IPN is involved in dissemination of its research results in the form of publications, particularly the IPN Bulletin (Biuletyn IPN, Pamięć.pl) and the Remembrance and Justice periodicals, exhibitions, seminars, panel discussions, film reviews, workshops and school curricula.[11] Since December 2000 IPN has organized over 30 academic conferences (particularly the Warsaw Congress of Science organized every year in September); 22 exhibitions in various museums and educational competitions involving thousands of students.[11] "IPN Bulletin" is of an informative and popular-scientific character and contains articles pertaining to the history of Poland in the years 1939–1990 as well as describes the current IPN activities.[11] Remembrance and Justice appears every half a year and is a scientific historical magazine.[11] IPN also publishes books which are usually edited as collections of documents, reports and memories, but also scientific elaborations (78 of such publications have appeared till April 2007).[11]

The Public Education Office co-operates on a permanent basis with the Ministry of National Education and Sport, having signed a Co-operation Agreement in 2001.[11] IPN gives opinions of curricula and textbooks on history that are used in Polish schools and is involved in teacher training activities.[11] The IPN also co-organizes postgraduate diploma studies on history at the Jagiellonian University and the University of Maria Curie-Skłodowska.[11]

Board games

The Institution of National Remembrance has created several board games to help educate people about recent Polish history


On 18 December 2006 Polish law regulating IPN was changed and came into effect on 15 March 2007. This change gave IPN new lustration powers.[21] However, key articles of that law were judged unconstitutional by Poland's Constitutional Court on 11 May 2007, making the role of IPN in lustration unclear and putting the whole process into question.[7]



In 2008, Adam Michnik said that the IPN is "engaging in activities that destroy this memory. Today’s memory police resort to the hateful methods of the communist secret services and direct them at a victim of this very secret service. These policemen violate the truth and fundamental ethical principles."[22]

Concerns have been raised of politicization of the IPN, starting with its legal mandate (no comparable institution in any other European country holds prosecutorial power) and continuing to its choice of staff, which at times tended towards particular political views.[23][24]

Role in lustration and Wildstein list

One of the most controversial aspects of IPN is a by-product of its role in collecting and publishing previously secret archives from the Polish communist security apparatus, the Służba Bezpieczeństwa: revealing secret agents and collaborators (a process called lustration).[25] One incident which drew criticism involved the so-called Wildstein list; a partial list of names of people who allegedly worked for the communist era Polish intelligence service, which was copied from IPN archives (without IPN permission) in 2004 by journalist Bronisław Wildstein and published in the Internet in 2005. The list gained much attention in Polish media and politics, and during that time IPN security procedures and handling of the matter came under criticism.[26]

IPN presidential election

The election of a new IPN president in December 2005 was controversial. Janusz Kurtyka, the incumbent IPN president, was contested by Andrzej Przewoźnik. Przewoźnik's candidature received a severe setback after documents were found which suggested his possible co-operation with Służba Bezpieczeństwa, Communist Poland's internal intelligence agency and secret police. Przewoźnik was cleared of the accusations only after he had lost the election.[27]

Przewoźnik and Kurtyka both died in the 2010 Polish Air Force Tu-154 crash.

Employee incidents

In September 2017, a historian in charge of education in Lublin for the IPN, wrote in a column in Gazeta Polska that "after the aggression of Germany into Poland, the situation of the Jews did not look very bad" and "although the [Nazi] occupation authorities took over, they ordered the wearing of armbands with the star of David, charged them heavy taxes, began to designate Jews-only zones only for the Jews, but at the same time permitted the creation of Judenrat, that is, organs of self-government."[this quote needs a citation] In 2014, the same historian said in an expert opinion to a Polish court that the Nazi party was a leftist party and that the swastika is an ambiguous symbol.[citation needed] These statements were widely criticized by other historians,[who?] and the IPN issued a statement saying that the "position presented there[where?] is in no way compatible with the historical knowledge" and that it expects the historian "will, in his scientific and journalistic activities, show diligence and respect to the principles of historical and research reliability."[28] In October,[year needed] education minister Anna Zalewska presented the historian with a medal for "for special merits for education".[29]

In October 2017, the Simon Wiesenthal Center urged the IPN to fire the deputy director of its publishing office because he had published several books by Holocaust denier David Irving. The IPN responded that the official "is not a Holocaust denier himself so there is no reason to dismiss him".[30][31]


IPN actions have also attracted support. In 2006 an open letter was published, declaring that:[32]

"History of Solidarity and anti-communist resistance in Poland cannot be damaged by scientific studies and resulting increase in our knowledge of the past. History of opposition to totalitarianism belongs to millions of Poles and not to one social or political group which usurps the right to decide which parts of national history should be discussed and which forgotten."

This letter was signed by a former Prime Minister of Poland, Jan Olszewski; the Mayor of Zakopane, Piotr Bąk; Polish-American Professor and member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council Marek Jan Chodakiewicz; Professors Maria Dzielska, Piotr Franaszek and Tomasz Gąsowski of the Jagiellonian University; Professor Marek Czachor of Gdańsk University of Technology, journalist and writer Marcin Wolski; Solidarity co-founder Anna Walentynowicz and dozens of others.[32][33]

See also


  1. ^ The Institute of National Remembrance Guide, Warsaw 2009 (PDF 3.4 MB)
  2. ^ a b c d e (in Polish) Nowelizacja ustawy z dnia 18 grudnia 1998 r. o Instytucie Pamięci Narodowej – Komisji Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu oraz ustawy z dnia 18 października 2006 r. o ujawnianiu informacji o dokumentach organów bezpieczeństwa państwa z lat 1944–1990 oraz treści tych dokumentów. Last accessed on 24 April 2006
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k About the Institute From IPN English website. Last accessed on 20 April 2007
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Nauka polska: Instytucje naukowe – identyfikator rekordu: i6575
  5. ^ Tismaneanu, Vladimir; Iacob, Bogdan (2015). Remembrance, History, and Justice: Coming to Terms with Traumatic Pasts in Democratic Societies. Central European University Press. p. 243. ISBN 9789633860922. 
  6. ^ Instytut Pamięci Narodowej (12 June 2015). "15 lat Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej w liczbach". Komunikaty. 
  7. ^ a b http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6648435.stm BBC News
  8. ^ Czech Prime minister Petr Nečas (14 October 2011). "The years of totalitarianism were years of struggle for liberty". Platform of European Memory and Conscience. Retrieved 14 October 2011. 
  9. ^ (in Polish)About the Institute From IPN Polish website. Last accessed on 24 April 2007
  10. ^ [1] Archived 28 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Public Education Office IPN website. Last accessed on 24 April 2007
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Security Apparatus and Civil Resistance Central Programme. IPN pages, last accessed on 25 April 2007
  13. ^ a b c d e f War, Occupation and the Polish Underground State Programme. IPN pages, last accessed on 25 April 2007
  14. ^ a b c Extermination of Jews by German Nazis in the Polish Territories Programme. IPN pages, last accessed on 25 April 2007
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Poles and Other Nations in the Years 1939–1989 Programme. IPN pages, last accessed on 25 April 2007
  16. ^ a b c d e Peasants vis-a-vis People's Authority 1944–1989 Programme. IPN pages, last accessed on 25 April 2007
  17. ^ Prokurator IPN: prawda o pogromie kieleckim czeka na wyjaśnienie, Virtual Poland, 1 July 2006
  18. ^ Tomasz Konopka, "Śmierć na ulicach Krakowa w latach 1945–1947 w materiale archiwalnym krakowskiego Zakładu Medycyny Sądowej", Pamięć i Sprawiedliwość (IPN), nr 2 (8)/2005
  19. ^ Robert Witalec, Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej nr 11 ""Kos" kontra UPA"[permanent dead link], ISSN 1641-9561.
  20. ^ Tomasz Kalbarczyk, Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej nr 1-2 "Powrót Łemków"[permanent dead link], ISSN 1641-9561
  21. ^ (in Polish) Najważniejsze wiadomości – Informacje i materiały pomocnicze dla organów realizujących postanowienia ustawy lustracyjnej IPN News. Last accessed on 24 April 2007
  22. ^ On the Side of Geremek, New York Review of Books, 25 September 2008, Adam Michnik
  23. ^ Peters, Florian. "Cultures of History Forum: Remaking Polish National History: Reenactment over Reflection". Retrieved 2018-03-27. 
  24. ^ Mink, Georges. "Is there a new institutional response to the crimes of Communism? National memory agencies in post-Communist countries: the Polish case (1998–2014), with references to East Germany". Nationalities Papers. 45 (6): 1013–1027. doi:10.1080/00905992.2017.1360853. 
  25. ^ Tom Hundley, Poland looks back in anger, 1 December 2006, Chicago Tribune
  26. ^ Wojciech Czuchnowski, Bronisław Wildstein: człowiek z listą, Gazeta Wyborcza, last accessed on 12 May 2006
  27. ^ (in Polish) Olejniczak: Kurtyka powinien zrezygnować, Polish Press Agency, 13 December 2005, last accessed on 28 April 2007
  28. ^ Polish institute rebuffs historian who said Nazi invasion not that bad for Jews, Times of Israel (JTA), 5 October 2017
  29. ^ Poland honors historian who said Nazi invasion wasn’t so bad for Jews, Times of Israel (JTA), 24 October 2017
  30. ^ Poland urged to fire publisher of works by Holocaust denier, AP, 3 October 2017
  31. ^ Polish body urged to sack official who published David Irving’s books, Jewish News, 3 October 2017
  32. ^ a b List w "obronie historyków z IPN", Polish Press Agency article reprinted on Wirtualna Polska. Last accessed on 20 April 2007.
  33. ^ Copy of a letter, Tezusz, Last accessed on 20 April 2007

External links