Institute of National Remembrance

The Institute of National RemembranceCommission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (Polish: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej – Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu; IPN) is a Polish government institution in charge of prosecution, archives, education, and, since 2007, lustration, in relation to crimes against the Polish nation.[2] The IPN investigates Nazi and communist crimes committed between 1917 and 1990, documents its findings, and disseminates them to the public.[3]

This is about the Polish institution. You may also be looking for the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance.
Institute of National Remembrance
Instytut Pamięci Narodowej
The logo of IPN
IPN headquarters at 7 Wołoska Street in Warsaw
MottoOur history creates our identity.[1]
Purposeprosecution, archives, education, and lustration in context of crimes against the Polish nation.[2]
HeadquartersWarsaw, Poland
  • 7 Wołoska Street
Region served
Republic of Poland
Official language
Jarosław Szarek
Main organ
Several hundred
RemarksThe IPN Headquarters in Warsaw co-ordinates the operations of eleven Branch Offices and their Delegations

The Institute was established by the Polish Parliament on 18 December 1998[4] and incorporated the earlier, 1991-established Main Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (which had replaced a 1945-established body on Nazi crimes).[5] It began its activities on 1 July 2000.[6] The IPN is a founding member of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience.[7]


IPN's main areas of activity,[3] in line with its original mission statement,[4] 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.[4] The Institute informs about the patriotic traditions of resistance against the occupational forces,[4] and the Polish citizens' fight for sovereignty of the nation, including their efforts in defence of freedom and human dignity in general.[4] 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:[3]

  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,[3]
  2. deportations to the Soviet Union of Polish soldiers of Armia Krajowa,[3] 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,[3]
  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,[3]
  5. crimes under the category of war crimes and crimes against humanity.[3]

It is the IPN's duty to prosecute crimes against peace and humanity, as much as war crimes.[4] 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,[4] and educate the public about recent history of Poland.[3] IPN collects, organises and archives all documents about the Polish communist security apparatus active from 22 July 1944 to 31 December 1989.[4]

Following the election of the Law and Justice party, the nationalist government formulated in 2016 a new IPN law. The 2016 law stipulates that the IPN should oppose publications that dishonor or harm the Polish nation and that history should be popularized as "an element of patriotic education". The new law also removed the influence of academia and the judiciary on the IPN, and four Law and Justice candidates were appointed to the IPN kolegium replacing the former independent members.[2]

A 2018 amendment to the law, often referred to as the Holocaust Law,[8] added an article 55a that attempts to defend the "good name" of Poland and its people against any accusation of complicity in the Holocaust.[9] Initially conceived as a criminal offense (3 years and jail) with an exemption for arts and research, following an international outcry, the article was modified to a civil offense that may be tried in civil courts and the exemption was deleted.[8] Defamation charges under the act may be made by the IPN as well as by accredited NGOs such as the Polish League Against Defamation.[8]


IPN was created by special legislation on 18 December 1998.[4] The IPN is divided into:[10][4][11]

  • 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)[10]
  • local chapters.

On 29 April 2010, acting president Bronislaw Komorowski signed into law a parliamentary act that reformed the Institute of National Remembrance.[12]


IPN is governed by the director, who has a sovereign position that is independent of the Polish state hierarchy. The director may not be dismissed during his term, unless he commits a harmful act. Prior to 2016, the election of the director was a complex procedure, which involves the selection of a panel of candidates by the IPN Collegium (members appointed by the Polish Parliament and judiciary). The Polish Parliament (Sejm) then elects one of the candidates, with a required supermajority (60%). The director has a 5-year term of office.[13] Following 2016 legislation in the PiS controlled parliament, the former pluralist Collegium was replaced with a nine-member Collegium composed of PiS supporters, and the Sejm appoints the director after consulting with the College without an election between candidates.[13]

Leon Kieres

The first director 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 IPN granted some 6,500 people the "victim of communism" status and gathered significant archive material. The institute faced difficulties since it was new and also since the Democratic Left Alliance (containing former communists) attempted to close the institute. The publication of Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland by Jan T. Gross, proved to be a lifeline for the IPN as Polish president Aleksander Kwaśniewski intervened to save the IPN since he deemed the IPN's research to be important as part of Jewish-Polish reconciliation and "apology diplomacy". [13]

Janusz Kurtyka

The second director 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. The elections were controversial, as during the elections a leak against Andrzej Przewoźnik accusing him of collaboration with Służba Bezpieczeństwa caused him to withdraw his candidacy.[13].[14] Przewoźnik was cleared of the accusations only after he had lost the election.[14]

In 2006, the IPN opened a "Lustration Bureau" that increased the director's power. The bureau was assigned the task of examining the past of all candidates to public office. Kurtyka widened archive access to the public, and shifted focus from compensating victims to researching collaboration. Andrzej Friszke sees Kurtyka's term as the beginning of politicization of the IPN. Kurtyka's management was absolutist, and he surrounded himself with many PiS supporters. An official "history policy" was formulated that promoted martyrological and romantic formulations of history. Kurtyka has a close relationship with PiS party during his term. Researchers whose views were not aligned with the director left the IPN, and they were replaced with researchers of a similar viewpoint. [13]

Franciszek Gryciuk was acting director from 2010 to 2011.

Łukasz Kamiński

Łukasz Kamiński, was elected by the Sejm in 2011 following the death of his predecessor. Kamiński, an insider, headed the Wroclaw Regional Bureau of Public Education prior to his election. During his term the IPN faced a wide array of criticism calling for an overhaul or even replacement. Critics founds fault in the IPN being a state institution, the lack of historical knowledge of its prosecutors, a relatively high number of microhistories with a debatable methodology, overuse of the martyrology motif, research methodology, and isolationism from the wider research community. In response, Kamiński implemented several changes, including organizing public debates with outside historians to counter the charge of isolationism and has suggested refocusing on victims as opposed to agents.[13]

Jarosław Szarek

Jarosław Szarek was appointed to head the IPN on 22 July 2016.[15] Szarek is affiliated with PiS, and in his campaign to be elected said that "Germans were the executors of the Jedwabne crime and that they had coerced a small group of Poles to become involved". Following his appointment, Szarek dismissed Krzysztof Persak who was the coauthor of the two-volume 2002 IPN study on the Jedwabne pogrom. In subsequent months, the IPN was featured in media headlines for releasing controversial documents, additional Wałęsa documents, memory politics in schools and efforts to change communist street names, and legislation efforts.[2] According to historian Idesbald Goddeeris, this marks a return of politics to the IPN.[2]



Following the public debate on Jan T. Gross's book Neighbors, the IPN conducted an in-depth investigation into the Jedwabne pogrom. The investigation was politicized, and the IPN's director was involved in defending Poland's good name outside of Poland during the investigation.[16]

While the IPN's output of new historical knowledge has been significant, it has also faced criticism from academia for one-sided bias.[2]


The IPN's Public Education Office (BEP) vaguely defined role in the IPN act is to inform society of communist and Nazi crimes and institutions. This vaguely defined role allowed Paweł Machcewicz, BEP's director in 2000, freedom to create a wide range of activities.[2]

Researchers at the IPN conduct not only research, but are required to take part in public outreach.[17] BEP has published music CDs,[18] DVDs, and serials. It has founded "historical clubs" for debates and lectures. It has also organized outdoor historical fairs, picnic, and games. [2]

The IPN Bulletin (Polish: Biuletyn IPN) is a high circulation popular-scientific journal,[19] intended for lay readers and youth.[17] Some 12,000 of 15,000 copies of the Bulletin are distributed free of charge to secondary schools in Poland, and the rest are sold in bookstores.[19] The Bulletin contains: popular-scientific and academic articles, polemics, manifestos, appeals to readers, promotional material on the IPN and BEP, denials and commentary on reports in the news, as well as multimedia supplements.[19]

The IPN also publishes the Remembrance and Justice (Polish: Pamięć i Sprawiedliwość) scientific journal.[19]

Board games

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


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).[20]

Following the election of a Law and Justice government in 2005, in a series of legislative amendments during 2006 and the beginning of 2007 file access and lustration powers were radically expanded.[21] However, several articles of the 2006-7 amendments were judged unconstitutional by Poland's Constitutional Court on 11 May 2007.[22] Following the court ruling the IPN's lustration power was still wider in relation to the original 1997 law, and include loss of position for those who submitted false lustration declarations as well as a lustration process of candidates for senior office as well as .[21]

An incident which drew criticism involved the "Wildstein list", a partial list of persons who allegedly worked for the communist-era Polish intelligence service, copied in 2004 from IPN archives (without IPN permission) by journalist Bronisław Wildstein and published on the Internet in 2005. The list gained much attention in Polish media and politics, and IPN security procedures and handling of the matter came under criticism.[23][21]

Individuals opposed by neo-Endeks (modern-day adherents of National Democracy principles), such as liberal clergy, independent journalists, Jacek Kuroń, and Zygmunt Bauman, have been targeted with "leaks" from the IPN archives about their alleged past communist ties.[24]

In 2006 there was widespread protest against the IPN's publications about Kuroń. Nine Solidarity activists wrote the Polish president, complaining that the IPN was systematically slinging dirt at the Solidarity movement. In response, 200 individuals signed an open letter defending the IPN and stating that "[The] history of Solidarity and anti-communist resistance in Poland cannot be damaged by scholarly studies and [the] resulting increase in our knowledge of the past."[25]

In 2008 two IPN employees, Sławomir Cenckiewicz and Piotr Gontarczyk, published a book, SB a Lech Wałęsa. Przyczynek do biografii (The Security Service and Lech Wałęsa: A Contribution to a Biography). Reading more as political indictment than scholarship, major controversy ensued.[26] The book's premise was that in the 1970s the Solidarity leader and later President of Poland Lech Wałęsa was a secret informant of the Polish communist Security Service.[27] Michael Szporer writes that the book should have been more nuanced in its judgment of anti-communist leaders, and that it unfairly singled out Wałęsa.[28]

As of 2012 some 10% of IPN's personnel (215 workers of which 26 are prosecutors) are in the Lustration office. Between 2007 and 2012, prepared four internet catalogs of: former Communist officials, security officers, those targeted by Security, and of people presently holding public office. In the same period, the IPN handled nearly 150,000 "vetting declaration.[29]



In 2005, after Law and Justice's (PiS) electoral victory, the IPN focused on crimes against the Polish nation.[30] Part of PiS's platform was historical policy (Polish: polityka historyczna) on the national and international level to promote the Polish point of view. During PiS's control of the government between 2005 and 2007, the IPN was the focus of heated public controversies, in particular in regard to the past of Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa. As a result, in scholarly literature the IPN has been referred to as a "Ministry of Memory" or as an institution involved in "memory games".[17]

Historian Dariusz Stola concludes that the IPN is a Ministry of Memory, but bureaucratic in nature and not Orwellian. Stola notes that ironically the IPN has come to resemble past communist institutions that it was set up to deal with: centralist, heavy-handed, bureaucratic, ineffective, and focused on growth and quantity over quality.[29]

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."[31]

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 toward particular political views.[32][13]

Several scholars have criticized the IPN for turning in recent years, with the rise of the Law and Justice government and the 2018 amendment to the IPN law, from objective historical research towards historical revisionism.[30][33][34]

Following the disruption of the 2019 New Polish School of Holocaust Scholarship conference in Paris,[35] the IPN was criticized by French higher-education minister Frédérique Vidal,[35][36] who said the disturbances had been "highly regrettable" and "anti-Semitic", and that the disturbances organized by Gazeta Polska activists appeared to have been condoned by the IPN, whose representative did not condemn the disruption and which criticized the conference in social-media remarks that were re-tweeted by the Polish Embassy in Paris.[37]

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."[38] 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.[38] These statements were widely criticized by other historians including Dariusz Libionka, and the IPN issued a statement saying that the "In connection with the thesis in the article by Tomasz Panfil in the Gazeta Polska, the Institute of National Remembrance declares that position presented there is in no way compatible with the historical knowledge about the situation of the Jewish population in Poland after September 1, 1939." 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."[39] In October 2017, education minister Anna Zalewska presented the historian with a medal for "special merits for education".[38]

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".[40][41]

See also


  1. The Institute of National Remembrance Guide, Warsaw 2009 Archived 12 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine (PDF 3.4 MB)
  2. Goddeeris, Idesbald. "History Riding on the Waves of Government Coalitions: The First Fifteen Years of the Institute of National Remembrance in Poland (2001–2016)." The Palgrave Handbook of State-Sponsored History After 1945. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2018. 255-269.
  3. "Nauka polska: Instytucje naukowe – identyfikator rekordu: i6575". Archived from the original on 16 May 2007. Retrieved 22 April 2007.
  4. About the Institute From IPN English website. Last accessed on 20 April 2007
  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 978-9-63386-092-2.
  6. Instytut Pamięci Narodowej (12 June 2015). "15 lat Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej w liczbach". Komunikaty. Archived from the original on 22 June 2016. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  7. 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.
  8. Hackmann, Jörg. "Defending the “Good Name” of the Polish Nation: Politics of History as a Battlefield in Poland, 2015–18." Journal of Genocide Research 20.4 (2018): 587-606.
  9. Soroka, George, and Félix Krawatzek. "Nationalism, Democracy, and Memory Laws." Journal of Democracy 30.2 (2019): 157-171.
  10. (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
  11. (in Polish)About the Institute From IPN Polish website. Last accessed on 24 April 2007
  12. Archived 28 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  13. 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.
  14. (in Polish) Olejniczak: Kurtyka powinien zrezygnować, Polish Press Agency, 13 December 2005, last accessed on 28 April 2007
  15. Senat zgodził się na wybór Jarosława Szarka na prezesa IPN, PAP, 22 July 2016
  16. Wolentarska-Ochman, Ewa. "Collective remembrance in Jedwabne: Unsettled memory of World War II in postcommunist Poland.", History & Memory 18.1 (2006): 152-178.
  17. Behr, Valentin. "Historical policy-making in post-1989 Poland: a sociological approach to the narratives of communism." European Politics and Society 18.1 (2017): 81-95.
  18. The Populist Radical Right in Poland: The Patriots, Rafał Pankowski, page 38
  19. The Post-communist Condition: Public and Private Discourses of Transformation, John Benjamins Publishing Company, page 172, chapter by Marta Kurkowska-Budzan
  20. Tom Hundley, Poland looks back in anger, 1 December 2006, Chicago Tribune
  21. Szczerbiak, Aleks. "Deepening democratisation? Exploring the declared motives for “late” lustration in Poland." East European Politics 32.4 (2016): 426-445.
  22. "Polish court strikes down spy law". BBC News. 11 May 2007. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  23. Wojciech Czuchnowski, Bronisław Wildstein: człowiek z listą, Gazeta Wyborcza, last accessed on 12 May 2006
  24. Grabowski, Jan, "Rewriting the History of Polish-Jewish Relations from a Nationalist Perspective: The Recent Publications of the Institute of National Remembrance", Yad Vashem Studies 36 (2008).
  25. List w "obronie historyków z IPN", Polish Press Agency article reprinted on Wirtualna Polska. Last accessed on 20 April 2007.
  26. Totalitarian Societies and Democratic Transition: Essays in memory of Victor Zaslavsky, pages 406-7, Vladislav Zubok, CEU Press
  27. Harry de Quetteville (14 June 2008). "Lech Walesa was Communist spy, claims book". Daily Telegraph. Berlin. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  28. Solidarity: The Great Workers Strike of 1980, Michael Szporer, Lexington Books, 2012, p. 286.
  29. Stola, Dariusz. "Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance: A Ministry of Memory?." The convolutions of historical politics (2012), page 54, quote: Thus the secret of IPN this paper may reveal is the following: this is indeed a Ministry of Memory, but not of the Orwellian type. It is a regular continental European bureaucracy, with usual deficiencies of its kind, and a part of Polish government administration, which is not famous for its effectiveness. Relatively safe from major threats, be it a hostile political takeover, budget cuts or competition, it is increasingly self-centered and cost inefficient. In this aspect IPN paradoxically resembles the institutions of the communist period it is to deal with: bureaucratic, centralist, heavy, inclined to extensive growth and quantity rather than quality of production, and decreasingly effective
  30. Ambrosewicz-Jacobs, Jolanta. "The uses and the abuses of education about the Holocaust in Poland after 1989.", Holocaust Studies 25.3 (2019): 329-350.
  31. On the Side of Geremek, New York Review of Books, 25 September 2008, Adam Michnik
  32. Peters, Florian. "Remaking Polish National History: Reenactment over Reflection". Cultures of History Forum. Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  33. Benjakob, Omer (3 October 2019). "The Fake Nazi Death Camp: Wikipedia's Longest Hoax, Exposed". Haaretz. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  34. ורדי, מואב (6 October 2019). העולם היום - 06.10.19. Event occurs at 5:28.
  35. Behr, Valentin (2019). "Entre histoire et propagande. Les contributions de l'Institut polonais de la mémoire nationale à la mise en récit de la Seconde Guerre mondiale". Allemagne d'aujourd'hui (in French) (228): 82–92. doi:10.3917/all.228.0082.
  36. Jakub Iwaniuk (4 March 2019). "La Pologne minimise les incidents lors d'un colloque sur la Shoah à Paris". Le Monde (in French).
  37. Colloquium on the Shoah in Paris: France protests with Poland, Le Figaro, 1 March 2019
  38. Poland honors historian who said Nazi invasion wasn’t so bad for Jews, Times of Israel (JTA), 24 October 2017
  39. Polish institute rebuffs historian who said Nazi invasion not that bad for Jews, Times of Israel (JTA), 5 October 2017
  40. Poland urged to fire publisher of works by Holocaust denier, AP, 3 October 2017
  41. Polish body urged to sack official who published David Irving’s books, Jewish News, 3 October 2017
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