That communism can have a strong nationalist streak is well-known from the regimes of Nicolae Ceauşescu and Slobodan Milosovic. In Poland Mieczysław Moczar [pronounced Myeh-chee-slav Moht-char] has been called a National Communist for unleashing the virulent state-sponsored anti-Semitic campaign, as a consequence of 1968 student strikes. Described as charming by the media, the notorious Minister of Security, a former WWII communist partisan, attempted to seize power at critical moments in Poland’s post war history: 1968, 1970 and 1980.
Moczar [December 25, 1913--November 1,1986] tried twice to replace Władysław Gomułka as First Secretary of the United [Communist] Workers Party. The Security Bureau [SB] had a hand in provoking and deftly steering the March Events in 1968 that weakened the regime; and, in 1970, it contributed to creating the conditions for violence that lead to a bloody suppression of the December strikes on the Baltic Coast and finally toppled Gomułka. Moczar’s emissary, former “peoples’ partisan,” General Grzegorz Korczyński advised firing on the strikers, ordered by Gomułka on the 15th.
Moczar briefly returned to the spotlight for the third time as preferable to the Soviet invasion at the height of the Solidarity era after the fall of Gierek as Party Secretary. The Times of London on November 25, 1980, compared him to Charles de Gaulle. Moczar headed the ultra-patriotic Union of Combatants for Freedom and Democracy [ZBoWID], which had about half a million members, consisting of veterans, peoples’ partisans, their families, and prisoners from the concentration camps; General Wojciech Jaruzelski was the Union deputy. The Union was founded to diminish the role of the 400,000 strong Nationalist Home Army in WWII, as well as of Polish armies on the Western front. As a member of the Politburo Moczar was briefly considered as a replacement for Party Secretary Stanisław Kania but was eased out by General Wojciech Jaruzelski in 1983.
In Moczar’s early life, it is difficult to distinguish fact from fiction since, as his biographer observed. Moczar worked hard at becoming a myth, colorizing his life to fit the times, even aggrandizing his role and achievements. He inflated his biography by portraying himself as a patriot and a communist coming to Poland’s defense, with dubious facts, such as being a German POW in Guben, or a member of a Stahanovite brigade in the USSR.
From what we know, Moczar was born Mikołaj Demko [or Diomko] fourth child of Tichon [Tiszon] Demko, probably a Ukrainian, and Bronisława Wierzbicka, daughter of textile worker in Lódź. Mikolaj’s three older sisters died shortly after birth but younger Irena, also a communist activist, survived. His father was a member of the Communist Party [KPP] and some conflict with his second Jewish “wife” [they never married] Dora Cwajfeld [Zwejfel] may have contributed to Moczar’s anti-Semitism. He followed his father’s footsteps into the Communist Party and was jailed for his activities in Red Aid to the children of Spanish Republic on May 26, 1938.
“Moczar,” a nom-de-guerre, originates from Moczary [swamps] the name of the partisan band he commanded in the marshes of eastern Poland during WWII. At the beginning of the war, he was recruited by Soviet military intelligence, initially as an agent to secure contacts in Bydgoszcz in Nazi-occupied Poland for the Intelligence Division of the Western Headquarters of the Special Unit of the Red Army. After the war Moczar had experience liquidating armed opposition to the communist regime, AK and UPA [Ukrainian Partisan Army].
On January 23, 1945, Minister of Security Stanislaw Radkiewicz appointed Colonel Moczar as director of security in Lódź where with the help of his Soviet “advisors” he weeded out anti-communist resistance and helped falsify elections in 1947. However he was not known for appreciating Soviet advisors even then, which led to his Stalin era demotion. Moczar also had a hand in brutally crushing the ten-day long strike that began on September 13-23, 1947. Moczar’s security forces were implicated in at least one major political murder on Bolesław Sciborek, an underground officer of Peasant Battalions and a deputy secretary of the Peasant Party on December 5, 1945.
During the Stalinist period, Moczar briefly fell out of favor but, after self-criticism and denouncing Gomułka, he was appointed governor of the Olsztyn region and later held administrative posts in Białystok. In his letter to the Politburo of the Party at the time he wrote, “For us, the Party faithful, the USSR is our fatherland. Our borders I can’t describe. Today they extend beyond Berlin, but tomorrow they may reach Gibraltar.” When Gomułka reemerged as a result of de-Stalinization in 1956, Moczar, at 50, was promoted to the rank of Minister supervising security forces and secret police, in effect signaling the reversal of Gomułka’s liberalization policies. The New York Times reporter David Halberstam wrote shortly after his expulsion from the country: “They [the Communists] believe that concessions by the state may be construed by the population not as generosity but as weakness, particularly by a population as volatile as the Poles.”
Moczar was a clever puppet master, pulling strings secretively behind the scenes and staging conditions that would eventually depose Party Secretary Gomułka. He nearly succeeded in becoming Communist Party Secretary in 1968 and only failed after the December 1970 revolt on the Baltic Coast because he was unacceptable to the Russians. In 1968, the security apparatus under Moczar used the student strikes to unleash the so-called “anti-Zionist” campaign as a smoke screen to cleanse the Party and the army of the Muscovites, Polish communists, including a contingent of Jews that survived WWII and the Stalinist purges in the Soviet Union, forcing hundreds top officials to resign or be replaced.
Seen by some as an internal Party squabble, the campaign cast a wide net, forcing expulsions from cultural organizations, film and entertainment industry and academia, but most crudely touching the lives of ordinary citizens. Nearly 20,000 [13,300 according to Institute of National Remembrance] Poles of Jewish descent had to relinquish their Polish citizenship and leave their homeland on one-way exit documents, mostly to United States, France and Scandinavia.
The Moczar faction of hard-liners from the ranks of SB and Union of Combatants for Freedom and Democracy backed the military solution in Czechoslovakia to eradicate revisionism in 1968 and martial law in Poland in 1981. In 1970, Moczar’s “partisans” forced Gomułka’s downfall while the instability and chaos they helped create on the Baltic Coast were calculated to prevent the Soviets from intervening in Poland’s “internal affairs.” In A History of Poland Oscar Halecki observed: “At least 500 people lost their lives and civil war seemed near.” The staging of events by the secret police to secure political power was characteristic of communist societies.