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Jakub Berman (26 December 1901 – 10 April 1984) was a communist activist in the Second Polish Republic (prior to World War II). In communist Poland, he was a member of the Politburo of the Polish Workers' Party (PPR) and then of the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR). Berman was in charge of the Stalinist Ministry of Public Security and was considered the second most powerful politician in Poland, after Bolesław Bierut (until Bierut's death).

Jakub Berman
Jakub Berman
Jakub Berman
Born26 December 1901
Died10 April 1984(1984-04-10) (aged 82)
NationalityPolish
OccupationPolitician
Known forHead of Department of Public Security

Biography

Jakub Berman was born into a middle-class Jewish family in Warsaw on 26 December 1901. His younger brother was Adolf Berman. Jakub became a member of the Communist Youth Union and in 1928 joined the Communist Party of Poland.[1] He was arrested a few times, but unlike many other activists, had not been imprisoned for a prolonged period.[2] He received a law degree in 1925 from the University of Warsaw.[1] He wrote a magister thesis entitled Służba domowa w Warszawie w końcu w. XVIII oraz próby jej zrzeszenia się zawodowego ('Domestic servantry in Warsaw at the end of the 18th century and its attempts to establish a trade association'). Berman's academic adviser, Marxist sociologist Prof. Ludwik Krzywicki, wanted to hire Berman at the university as his assistant, but it was not allowed because of Berman's Jewish origin. Krzywicki's efforts to find Berman a mainstream non-university job also failed and Berman ended up working for a Jewish agency, in a poorly paid position.[3][4] The family was supported largely by Berman's wife, Gustawa née Grynberg, who was a well-regarded physician and dentist.[4]

Berman's social contacts in Warsaw included many communism-sympathizing members of Polish intelligentsia; Janina and Władysław Broniewski, as well as Wanda Wasilewska, were among his associates.[5]

On 6 September 1939, after the Invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, Berman followed government directions for "able-bodied men" and took a train going in the eastern direction.[6] He went to Białystok, by that time occupied by the Soviet Union. With his friend Alfred Lampe, Berman was active in Polish-communist circles there and became a Soviet citizen. In March 1941 he moved to Minsk, where he worked as an editor at Sztandar Wolności ('The Banner of Freedom'), a Polish-language bulletin published by the Communist Party of Byelorussia.[5] Berman's doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of Krzywicki and entitled O strukturze miast polskich na podstawie spisu ludności w 1791 r. ('On the structure of Polish cities based on the population census of 1791'), was brought to Białystok by his friend and colleague Irena Sawicka, but burned in Minsk when a dormitory where Berman and other journalists were housed was bombed by the Germans.[5][7]

After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Berman escaped to Moscow. Later he became an instructor at the Comintern school in Kushnarenkovo near Ufa, where he trained displaced Polish communists, activists for the new Soviet-sponsored Polish Workers' Party (PPR).[1][8] With the help from Georgi Dimitrov and Jerzy Borejsza, Berman was able to bring there his wife and daughter Lucyna.[8]

In December 1943, Berman met with Joseph Stalin at the Kremlin, gained his trust and became a prominent figure among the Polish communists in the Soviet Union. In 1944, Berman joined the Politburo of the PPR and returned to Poland. Together with Bolesław Bierut, general secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR), a successor of the PPR, and economist Hilary Minc, Berman formed a triumvirate of Stalinist leaders in postwar Poland.[1] In late 1949 Stalin attempted to remove Berman from his position of power, accusing him of participation in an international anti-communist conspiracy and illicit foreign contacts, but the effort somehow did not succeed.[9]

Berman became a member of the Politburo of the PZPR and remained in that capacity until 1956. He was responsible for cultural affairs, propaganda and ideology. He was put in charge of the state security apparatus, the large and notorious in Stalinist Poland secret police force.[1] Berman coordinated the preparation of numerous political trials and during his tenure at least 200,000 people were imprisoned and some 6000 executed on political charges.[1] Hundreds of former members of the Polish resistance movement in World War II were persecuted, especially from the Home Army and the National Armed Forces.

After the death of First Secretary Bierut, Berman resigned from the PZPR Politburo (and from the position of first deputy prime minister) in May 1956.[10] He was incriminated by his former co-worker in the security services Józef Światło, who defected to the West. Berman was relieved from the Central Committee of the PZPR in the fall of 1956 and in 1957, in the aftermath of the Polish October, dismissed from the party altogether, as responsible for the "Stalinist-era errors and distortions" (by which they meant dogmatic and sectarian party attitudes as well as breaking of the rule of law).[11] Subsequently, Berman worked in the state-run Książka i Wiedza ('Book and Knowledge') publishing house until his retirement in 1969.[1] Jakub Berman died in Warsaw in April 1984.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Jakub Berman’s Papers Received at the Hoover Institution Archives", Archived 2010-11-30 at the Wayback Machine Stanford University Hoover Institution, August 11, 2008
  2. ^ Lucyna Tychowa and Andrzej Romanowski, Tak, jestem córką Jakuba Bermana [Yes, I'm the Daughter of Jakub Berman], p. 27. UNIVERSITAS, Kraków 2016, ISBN 97883-242-3013-6.
  3. ^ Lucyna Tychowa and Andrzej Romanowski, Tak, jestem córką Jakuba Bermana [Yes, I'm the Daughter of Jakub Berman], pp. 28–29.
  4. ^ a b Lucyna Tychowa and Andrzej Romanowski, Tak, jestem córką Jakuba Bermana [Yes, I'm the Daughter of Jakub Berman], p. 21.
  5. ^ a b c Lucyna Tychowa and Andrzej Romanowski, Tak, jestem córką Jakuba Bermana [Yes, I'm the Daughter of Jakub Berman], pp. 45–51.
  6. ^ Lucyna Tychowa and Andrzej Romanowski, Tak, jestem córką Jakuba Bermana [Yes, I'm the Daughter of Jakub Berman], p. 38.
  7. ^ Lucyna Tychowa and Andrzej Romanowski, Tak, jestem córką Jakuba Bermana [Yes, I'm the Daughter of Jakub Berman], pp. 51–55.
  8. ^ a b Lucyna Tychowa and Andrzej Romanowski, Tak, jestem córką Jakuba Bermana [Yes, I'm the Daughter of Jakub Berman], pp. 57–63.
  9. ^ Jerzy Eisler, Siedmiu wspaniałych. Poczet pierwszych sekretarzy KC PZPR [The Magnificent Seven: first secretaries of the PZPR], pp. 36–37. Wydawnictwo Czerwone i Czarne, Warszawa 2014, ISBN 978-83-7700-042-7.
  10. ^ Jerzy Eisler, Siedmiu wspaniałych. Poczet pierwszych sekretarzy KC PZPR [The Magnificent Seven: first secretaries of the PZPR], p. 120.
  11. ^ Andrzej Werblan, Szkice i polemiki [Sketches and polemics], p. 172, published in 1970 by Książka i Wiedza, Warsaw