Portion of the article
Shadow of the Files
By Anne Applebaum
Wednesday, February 16, 2005; Page A19
WARSAW -- For the past 15 years, every time I've returned to Warsaw -- a city I first saw shrouded in the gloom of martial law -- I've been surprised anew by the scale of the changes. Every year there are more new buildings and more small businesses. Every year the middle class seems larger, and the once-vast gap between the average Pole and the average European seems smaller. Last week was no exception. While I was there, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was also in Warsaw, while the Polish president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, was in Washington -- and nobody made a fuss about either visit. Business as usual, in other words, in an ex-communist country that is now an active member of NATO and the European Union.
Yet not everything has changed. Quite by accident, my visit to Warsaw also coincided with the unexpectedly fierce renewal of a debate that last gripped the country a decade ago. At stake was a list of actual and potential secret police informers, preserved intact from the communist era, discovered in an archive, electronically copied by a journalist, and then somehow posted, in an unverifiable form, on the Internet. Since it appeared the country has been convulsed by an intense, déjà vu frenzy. One acquaintance told me that she walked into her office the morning after the story broke and found everyone silently scanning the list with their doors shut, looking for the names of friends, neighbors or themselves. The list was the most sought-after item on Polish Google. On the day I visited, crowds of people were standing outside the Institute of National Memory, where the files are kept, clamoring to see their files.
The Communists were never punished. There was no "Nuremburg Trials" equivalent, and certainly no gallows. Instead, the Eichmanns and Goerings of the Soviet Bloc are now the "reformed Communists" - still in power! What is wrong with this picture?
Ah ~ those skeletons in the closet.