This unit was developed by Barbara Węglarz    Bibliography   Didactic Comments  

Information Text   Source Sheet   Worksheet

Information Text: Krakow – Communism 1945-1956 – The policy of the communist regime

The fragment of the “Pod Baranami” Palace – the seat of the Soviet war commander, colonel Fedysienki. Photo: Barbara Węglarz

On January 17, 1945, General Hans Frank left Kraków in advance of the Soviet army. It was the end of the five year German occupation. The entering Soviets took over the city and, consequently, handed it over to Polish communists and their supporters.

In the citizens’ opinion, a new occupation started. The regime imposed a night-time curfew, compulsory registration of men aged 16 to 65, returning weapons, writing machines and radio sets.

The communist government set up the Kraków National City Council responsible for controlling bureaus, offices, public institutions and companies. The Council decided the city budget and finances, and it influenced the make-up of the City Administration Board with the president of the city. The Kraków civil officials who did not support the new government were released on the grounds of accepting bribes, arrogant conduct or in order to improve administrative procedures. Judges were assessed according to their ideological criteria. Many of them, considered the enemies of the system, lost their positions and were imprisoned.

Initially, the people in Kraków invested their hopes for change in political groups and their charismatic leaders (among others, Witold Witos and Stanisław Mikołajczyk). Unfortunately, it quickly turned out that there was no place for disloyalty, or one’s own opinions.

The Independence Underground was fighting against the new occupant. However, armed resistance was not its main objective: it focused on information and propaganda activities, although from time to time, attacks on prisons and police stations were organized, and death sentences were carried out. Yet, as the result of repression and arrests, the Underground activities were growing weak.  Prisons, in which “animal conditions” existed, were filled up with political prisoners. The real aim of organized trials (mostly show trials) was the legalization of heavy sentences (death penalties, sentences to gulag work camps).

Furthermore, conflicts between Jews and Poles were another substantial problem in post war Kraków. After Germans had left the city, the Kraków Jews reopened their businesses and took up trade. Many of the Jews were active supporters of the new political system, and the regime willingly entrusted them with administrative positions, including executive positions. That fact deepened the isolation of the Jewish community and attracted the dislike of the Polish inhabitants who considered the Jews “Stalin’s toadies.” The government skilfully fomented and excited mutual animosity, which was not difficult. Anti-Semitism was widely spread in Europe, and Poland was no exception. In Kraków, the Jewish pogrom in Kazimierz, the Kraków district traditionally inhabited by the Jewish minority, was the most dramatic post war manifestation of anti-Semitism. Not only regular citizens, but also soldiers and policemen encouraged by the authorities took part in the pogrom. The rumour that the Jews had carried out a ritual killing of a Christian boy gave rise to violence. The incident provided the communist regime with a pretext to discredit Poles in the eyes of the Western world. The pogrom negatively influenced the already complicated and mostly hostile relations between Poles and Jews, many of whom decided to leave the country or change their foreign-sounding surnames into Polish ones. 

The constantly enlarged apparatus of propaganda, manipulation and agitation helped the regime submit and enslave the Polish nation.