WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s defense minister signed an order Friday that will give researchers access to most of the Warsaw Pact’s top-secret archives, including decisions related to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.
The document, signed by Radek Sikorski at a press event, will make almost all the 1,700 volumes of files, currently held at the Defense Ministry archives, available through the state Institute of National Remembrance early next year.
Sikorski said he will have to decide whether or not to declassify “a few” documents that may still be significant to Poland’s security.
Led by the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact was formed in the Polish capital in 1955 as the East bloc’s counterbalance the West’s military alliance,
NATO. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved in 1991 after the fall of communism.
“We will be able to see now how the Warsaw Pact worked, how Poland was made dependent on the big neighbor,” Sikorski said in reference to the Soviet Union.
As an example of the documents on file, Sikorski showed a 1979 map detailing potential Warsaw Pact targets in case of a nuclear war with NATO — among them Brussels, Belgium, and the German cities of Munich and Cologne.
Poland recently opened its communist-era secret police files, leading to allegations of past collaboration behind the Iron Curtain. In one case, a priest who worked closely with Polish-born
Pope John Paul II was accused of collaborating with communist authorities. A Roman Catholic investigator later concluded the priest spoke too loosely about the inner workings of the
Vatican but was not an informer.
Also, in Germany, numerous public figures have been discredited by the files of East Germany’s secret police, the Stasi, which were opened after reunification in 1990.
The Warsaw Pact files, however, are mostly about military matters.
Sikorski, who saw the files at a military archive near Warsaw on Thursday, said they include documents “concerning the infamous invasion of Czechoslovakia.”
Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland’s last communist leader, was the defense minister at the time of the invasion of Czechoslovakia. He has expressed regrets over his role in sending Polish troops to join other Warsaw Pact armies.
The files will be handed over to the state institute, which makes old documents available to researchers. It also has prosecutors to investigate Nazi and communist crimes against Poles.
The institute’s head, Leon Kieres, said the opening of the files will help clarify Poland’s communist-era history.
“Every person has the right to know the history of his life and every nation has the right to know how its fate was decided,” he said.