IN DEFENCE OF REAL HISTORY

MARIA FORTUNA-SUDOR

Beside the captain Zbigniew Radłowski against German film-makers of the serial –UFA Fiction and ZDF (the 2md programme of the German TV) there was the World Union of National Army Soldiers. As the Redoubt of Good Name monitoring the process and supporting plaintiffs wrote, they had accused the film-makers of ‘violation of personal rights understood as a right to the national identity, national pride and national dignity as well as freedom from speech of hatred’.

A verdict

Under the verdict announced on 28 December 2018 in the District Court in Cracow, the film-makers of the serial ‘Our mothers, our fathers’ are supposed to publish their apologies on the Polish and German televisions, on their internet websites and pay 20 thousand zlotys of redress to the captain Zbigniew Radłowski. The apologies are to be presented on TVP1 and on channels of the German TV: ZDF, ZDFneo and Sat3 ( these TV stations broadcast the serial), and on the websites of ZDF and UFA Fiction this information is to be for three months. The court also made the defendants to commit to give a statement before every time the serial is broadcast in any country that ‘all characters of the National Army soldiers in the serial are fictional and any similarity to real people is unintentional, that these were the Germans who were occupying Poland in the years 1939-1945, pursuing the policy of extermination of Poles and Jews, and the National Army soldiers in a definite majority were helping Jews, hiding them despite the threat of being killed’.

The court was not dealing with the evaluation of all Poles’ behaviours, as it was restricted to demand a lawsuit in this issue and was dealing with evaluating and a way of presenting the National Army soldiers in the German serial ‘Our mothers, our fathers’ – said a judge Kamil Grzesik. He also noted the plaintiffs – the captain Zbigniew Radłowski and the World Union of the National Army soldiers. He reminded about the life history of the captain Radłowski who, as a 16-year-old boy, and his family were arrested by Gestapo in 1940 and in 1941 was transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. When he was released from the camp, he returned to Warsaw where he began his conspiracy activity in the Union of Armed Struggle and then – a fight in the battalion Chrobry. He took part in the Warsaw Uprising and after its collapse he was pursuing a further fight for free Poland. Referring to the recalled facts, the judge said: - In the opinion of the court, the life of Mr. Radłowski, his historic past are the reason for accepting the fact that the film which gives a false picture of the National Army soldiers, directly presents the good of Mr. Zbigniew Radłowski, and this is the good in the form of worship and dignity of Mr. Radłowski. Referring to another plaintiff, the judge reminded that the purpose of the World Union of the National Army Soldiers is, among the others, defence of the dignity of the good name and remembrance of the National Army, its soldiers and the structures of the underground Polish country and he emphasized: - In the opinion of the court, the basis of the activity of the World Union of the National Army Soldiers, its main statutory purpose, beside the help to those who are still alive, is mainly caring about remembrance of the National Army soldiers.

The film

The three-episodes serial ‘Our mothers, our fathers’ broadcast in June 2013 in TVP1, raised a hot discussion in Poland on the way of presenting Poles in it during the Nazis occupation – the film was criticized, among the others, for presenting partisans from the National Army as anti-semites and for making Poles co-responsible for the Holocaust. Representatives of the defendant in the judicial process which began in July 2016, were defending the serial saying, among the others, that it had a great significance for a debate taking place in Germany. There were arguments that the serial presented heroism of the National Army soldiers, including the exceptions of unworthy behaviours and it was emphasized that it is a feature film so, in relation to it, creative freedom of its authors was permitted.

The judge Grzesik emphasized that the key to solve the dispute was an evaluation of the character of the film. He reminded that the serial included authentic fragments of chronicles and he noted: - Even if they were not authentic fragments of chronicles, as we are not sure about it, they were constructed in such a way that they referred to authentic chronicles. He also referred to a way of presenting those fragments, including among the others the fact that they were black and white and referred to the times of the Second World War: - They finished and after them there were colourful, feature scenes. They were to raise a viewer’s belief that this film is a part of authentic history. And he added: - Everybody who saw the subtitles after the film, could conclude that if professors consulters signed under this film, it shows authentic events. The judge also noted fragments of the BBC radio program placed in the film, as well as authentic newspapers or particular dates and towns names. – I think that this film cannot fulfill conditions completely about which the defendant speaks, that is, a complete feature film – he said. – It may be showing fictional events at the background of authentic historic events and it is to raise a viewer’s belief that these events are real history.

A statement

After hearing the verdict, the 94-year-old captain Zbigniew Radłowski said: - I have lived long, I experienced a lot, but no of my previous experiences has prepared me for this situation – for the necessity of a fight for a historic truth in courts a few dozen years after the Second World War ended. This truth about the events which were experienced by lots of million Poles, seemed to us so obvious that impossible to question. And he added: - I did for Poland what I could, for those who were killed and for our deceased mates from the National Army.

He also appealed to Poles: - Everything is in your hands and in your hearts. Do what you can to defend the truth, so that you could not be ashamed of the mistakes not made by your fathers, grandfathers or great-grandfathers, so that you would not have to pay for the crimes which they did not commit. Remember that you have all kinds of reasons for pride. Poles are a courageous and excellent nation, ready to go with help and pay the highest price for it: the price of life. After that experience there were applause and cheers: ‘Honour and glory to heroes!’, but the judge reminded that the court is not a place for such a form of behavior.

A moral overtones

Dr. Józef Wieczorek participated in the announcement of the verdict but also in the court cases preceding it. The author of an academic blog of a non-conformist was publicizing information about the court hearings and placed recordings of the court cases on the YouTube channel: Józef Wieczorek TV. An observer admits that the verdict announced in December is very important for Poles. He notes: - In the film ‘Our mothers, our fathers’, undoubtedly personal rights of the National Army soldiers have been violated. No wonder that they began to feel insulted by the content in the serial. I think that what is important in the verdict is acknowledging that an individual, including the captain Radłowski, the National Army soldier, in this case, can be in the role of a plaintiff. Generally, such individual plaintiffs were rejected in the Polish court. Certainly, the captain received support from the World Union of the National Army Soldiers and from the Redoubt of the Good Name but it was him who was the main plaintiff in this court case. It must also be emphasized here that independent media took part in this judicial process. I observed that perhaps those were not crowds but other successive court cases. The fact that representatives of the society turned out to be interested in the court trial is important for its procedure. I think that this is the essential role of media to inform also about what is happening in the courts. Dr Wieczorek notes that the verdict is not final and that directly after it is announced, the representative of the defendant party informed that there would be an appeal from the verdict: - One can suppose that the court case will be submitted to the Tribunal in Strasburg. But what is important is the moral character of this verdict. Awareness that it is not possible at all to start a court case about such issues. It is also important for development of Polish-Jewish relations which should be based on facts, on historical truth.

Translated by Aneta Amrozik

Niedziela 2/2019 (13 I 2019)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Lidia Dudkiewicz • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl