Institute of National Remembrance

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Institute of National Remembrance
Instytut Pamięci Narodowej
IPN logo.png
The logo of IPN
Empark Mokotow Business Park ul. Postepu 2020.jpg
IPN headquarters at 1 Kurtyki Street in Warsaw
Formation18 December 1998(22 years ago) (1998-12-18)
PurposeEducation, research, archive, and identification. Commemorating the Struggle and Martyrdom. Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation. [1]
Headquarters Warsaw, 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 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 state research institute in charge of education and archives with investigative and lustration powers. Since 2020, the headquarters of Institute of National Remembrance is located at Postępu 18 Street in Warsaw. The institute has also eleven branches in others cities and seven delegation offices in additional towns. [2]


In 2018, the institution's mission statement was amended to include "protecting the reputation of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Nation". [3] The IPN investigates Nazi and communist crimes committed between 1917 and 1990, documents its findings, and disseminates them to the public. [4]

The institute was established by the Polish Parliament on 18 December 1998 [5] 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). [6] It began its activities on 1 July 2000. [7] The IPN is a founding member of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience. [8]

Some scholars have criticized the IPN for politicization, especially under Law and Justice governments. [9] [10]


IPN's main areas of activity, [4] in line with its original mission statement, [5] 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. [5] The Institute informs about the patriotic traditions of resistance against the occupational forces, [5] and the Polish citizens' fight for sovereignty of the nation, including their efforts in defence of freedom and human dignity in general. [5] 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: [4]

  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, [4]
  2. deportations to the Soviet Union of Polish soldiers of Armia Krajowa, [4] 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, [4]
  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, [4]
  5. crimes under the category of war crimes and crimes against humanity. [4]

It is the IPN's duty to prosecute crimes against peace and humanity, as much as war crimes. [5] 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, [5] and educate the public about recent history of Poland. [4] IPN collects, organises and archives all documents about the Polish communist security apparatus active from 22 July 1944 to 31 December 1989. [5]

Following the election of the Law and Justice party, the government formulated in 2016 a new IPN law. The 2016 law stipulated that the IPN should oppose publications of false information that dishonors or harms the Polish nation. It also called for popularizing history as part of "an element of patriotic education". The new law also removed the influence of academia and the judiciary on the IPN. [11]

A 2018 amendment to the law, [12] added article 55a that attempts to defend the "good name" of Poland. [13] Initially conceived as a criminal offense (3 years of 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. [12] Defamation charges under the act may be made by the IPN as well as by accredited NGOs such as the Polish League Against Defamation. [12] By the same law, the institution's mission statement was changed to include "protecting the reputation of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Nation". [3]


Main entrance Wejscie do Instytutu Pamieci Narodowej ul. Woloska 7.JPG
Main entrance

IPN was created by special legislation on 18 December 1998. [5] The IPN is divided into: [14] [5] [15]

On 29 April 2010, acting president Bronislaw Komorowski signed into law a parliamentary act that reformed the Institute of National Remembrance. [16]


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. [17] 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. [17]

Leon Kieres

Leon Kieres Leon Kieres VII kadencja Kancelaria Senatu.jpg
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". [17]

Janusz Kurtyka

Janusz Kurtyka Kurtyka Janusz.jpg
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. [17] [18] Przewoźnik was cleared of the accusations only after he had lost the election. [18]

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. [17]

Franciszek Gryciuk

Franciszek Gryciuk Franciszek Gryciuk, 15.06.2010.jpg
Franciszek Gryciuk

In 1999, historian Franciszek Gryciuk was appointed to the Collegium of the IPN, which he chaired 2003–2004. From June 2008 to June 2011, he was Vice President of the IPN. He was acting director 2010–2011, between the death of the IPN's second President, Janusz Kurtyka, in the 2010 Polish Air Force Tu-154 crash and the election of Łukasz Kamiński by the Polish Parliament as the third director.

Łukasz Kamiński

Lukasz Kaminski Lukasz Kaminski Sejm 2016.JPG
Łukasz Kamiński

Łukasz Kamiński, was elected by the Sejm in 2011 following the death of his predecessor. Kamiński 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. [17]

Jarosław Szarek

Jaroslaw Szarek Jaroslaw Szarek 1(cropped).jpg
Jarosław Szarek

On 22 July 2016 Jarosław Szarek was appointed to head IPN. [19] He dismissed Krzysztof Persak, co-author of the 2002 two-volume IPN study on the Jedwabne pogrom. In subsequent months, IPN featured in media headlines for releasing controversial documents, including some relating to Lech Wałęsa, for memory politics conducted in schools, for efforts to change communist street names, and for legislation efforts. [11] According to historian Idesbald Goddeeris, this marks a return of politics to the IPN. [11]



Archive at the former IPN headquarters at 28 Towarowa Street in Warsaw Akta Instytut Pamieci Narodowej 05.JPG
Archive at the former IPN headquarters at 28 Towarowa Street in Warsaw

The research conducted by IPN from December 2000 falls into four main topic areas[ better source needed ]:


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. [11]

Researchers at the IPN conduct not only research but are required to take part in public outreach. [26] BEP has published music CDs, [27] DVDs, and serials. It has founded "historical clubs" for debates and lectures. It has also organized outdoor historical fairs, picnic, and games. [11]

The IPN Bulletin (Polish : Biuletyn IPN) is a high circulation popular-scientific journal, [28] intended for lay readers and youth. [26] 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. [28] 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. [28]

The IPN also publishes the Remembrance and Justice (Polish : Pamięć i Sprawiedliwość) scientific journal. [28]

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


On 18 December 2006 Polish law regulating IPN was changed and came into effect on 15 March 2007. This change gave IPN new lustration powers. 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. [29] However, several articles of the 2006-7 amendments were judged unconstitutional by Poland's Constitutional Court on 11 May 2007. [30] 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 . [29]

An incident which caused controversy 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. [31] [29]

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) which caused a major controversy. [32] 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. [33]


According to Georges Mink  [ fr ], common criticisms of the IPN include: its dominance in the Polish research field, which is guaranteed by a budget that far supersedes that of any similar academic institution; the "thematic monotony... of micro-historical studies... of no real scientific interest" of its research; its focus on "martyrology"; and various criticisms of methodology and ethics. [17] Some of these criticisms have been addressed by Director Łukasz Kamiński during his tenure and who according to Mink "has made significant changes"; however, Minsk, writing in 2017, was also concerned with the recent administrative and personnel changes in IPN, including the election of Jarosław Szarek as director, which he posits are likely to result in further the politicization of the institute. [17]

According to Valentin Behr, IPN research into the communist era is valuable, noting that "the resources at its disposal have made it unrivalled as a research centre in the academic world"; at the same time he noted that the research is mostly focused on the era's negative aspects, and that it "is far from producing a critical approach to history, one that asks its own questions and is methodologically pluralistic." He also noted that in recent years that problem is being ameliorated as the Institute work "has somewhat diversified as its administration has taken note of criticism on the part of academics." [26]

According to Robert Traba, [34] "under the... IPN, tasks related to the “national politics of memory” were – unfortunately – merged with the mission of independent academic research. In the public mind, there could be only one message flowing from the institute’s name: memory and history as a science are one. The problem is that nothing could be further from the truth, and nothing could be more misleading. What the IPN’s message presents, in fact, is the danger that Polish history will be grossly over-simplified." [34] :43 Traba notes that "at the heart of debate today is a confrontation between those who support traditional methods and categories of research, and those who support newly defined methods and categories... Broadening the research perspective means the enrichment of the historian’s instrumentarium"; he puts the IPN research, in a broad sense, in the former: "[a] solid, workshop-oriented, traditional, and positivist historiography... which defends itself by the integrity of its analysis and its diversified source base", but criticizes its approach for leading to a "falsely conceived mission to find “objective truth”" at the expense of "serious study of event history", and a "simplified claim that only “secret” sources, not accessible to ordinary mortals", can lead to that objective truth. Traba quotes historian Wiktoria Śliwowska, who wrote that "The historian must strive not only to reconstruct a given reality, but also to understand the background of events, the circumstances in which people acted. It is easy to condemn, but difficult to understand a complicated past. [... Meanwhile, in the IPN] thick volumes are being produced, into which are being thrown, with no real consideration, further evidence in criminating various persons now deceased (and therefore not able to defend themselves), and elderly people still alive – known and unknown." [34] :57-58 Traba concludes that "there is... a need for genuine debate that does not revolve around [the files] in the IPN archives, “lustration,” or short-term and politically inspired discussions designed to establish the “only real” truth", and suggests that adopting varied perspectives and diverse methodologies might contribute to such debate. [34] :67

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 pasts of Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa and PZPR secretary Wojciech Jaruzelski. [26] As a result, the IPN has been referred to as "a political institution at the centre of 'memory games'". [26] [35] [36]

Organizational and methodological concerns

Valentin Behr writes that the IPN is most "concerned with the production of an official narrative about Poland’s recent past" and therefore it lacks innovation in its research, nothing however that situation is being remedied under recent leadership. He writes that IPN "has mainly taken in historians from the fringes of the academic field" who were either unable to obtain a prominent academic position or ideologically drawn to the IPN's approach, and that "in the academic field, being an ‘IPN historian’ can be a stigma". Behr explains this by pointing to a generational divide in Polish academia, visible when comparing IPN to other Polish research outlets, and claims that "Hiring young historians was done deliberately to give the Institute greater autonomy from the academic world, considered as too leftist to describe the dark sides of the communist regime". He praises IPN for creating hiring opportunities for many history specialists who can carry dedicated research there without the need for an appointment at another institution, and for training young historians, noting that "the IPN is now the leading employer of young PhD students and PhDs in history specialized in contemporary history, ahead of Polish universities". [26]

Historian Dariusz Stola states that the IPN is very bureaucratic in nature, comparing it to a "regular continental European bureaucracy, with usual deficiencies of its kind", and concludes that in this aspect the IPN resembles the former communist institutions it is supposed to deal with, equally "bureaucratic, centralist, heavy, inclined to extensive growth and quantity rather than quality of production". [37]

See also


  1. Remembrance, Institute of National. "Institute of National Remembrance – Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation". Institute of National Remembrance. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
  2. Remembrance, Institute of National. "Branch Offices and Delegations". Institute of National Remembrance. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  3. 1 2 "Full text of Poland's controversial Holocaust legislation". The Times of Israel. 1 February 2018. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Nauka polska: Instytucje naukowe – identyfikator rekordu: i6575". Archived from the original on 16 May 2007. Retrieved 22 April 2007.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 About the Institute From IPN English website. Last accessed on 20 April 2007
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Czech Prime minister Petr Nečas (14 October 2011). "The years of totalitarianism were years of struggle for liberty". Platform of European Memory and Conscience. Archived from the original on 30 March 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  9. Ambrosewicz-Jacobs, Jolanta. "The uses and the abuses of education about the Holocaust in Poland after 1989.", Holocaust Studies 25.3 (2019): 329-350.
  10. Goddeeris, Idesbald (2018). "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 UK. pp. 255–269. ISBN   978-1-349-95306-6.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 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.
  12. 1 2 3 Hackmann, Jörg (2 October 2018). "Defending the "Good Name" of the Polish Nation: Politics of History as a Battlefield in Poland, 2015–18". Journal of Genocide Research. 20 (4): 587–606. doi:10.1080/14623528.2018.1528742 via Taylor and Francis+NEJM.
  13. Soroka, George; Krawatzek, Félix (13 April 2019). "Nationalism, Democracy, and Memory Laws". Journal of Democracy. 30 (2): 157–171. doi:10.1353/jod.2019.0032 via Project MUSE.
  14. 1 2 (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
  15. (in Polish) About the Institute From IPN Polish website. Last accessed on 24 April 2007
  16. Archived 28 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Mink, Georges (2017). "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 .
  18. 1 2 (in Polish) Olejniczak: Kurtyka powinien zrezygnować, Polish Press Agency, 13 December 2005, last accessed on 28 April 2007
  19. Senat zgodził się na wybór Jarosława Szarka na prezesa IPN, PAP, 22 July 2016
  20. 1 2 3 4 Public Education Office IPN website. Last accessed on 24 April 2007
  21. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Security Apparatus and Civil Resistance Central Programme. IPN pages, last accessed on 25 April 2007
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 6 War, Occupation and the Polish Underground State Programme. IPN pages, last accessed on 25 April 2007
  23. 1 2 3 Extermination of Jews by German Nazis in the Polish Territories Programme. IPN pages, last accessed on 25 April 2007
  24. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Poles and Other Nations in the Years 1939–1989 Programme. IPN pages, last accessed on 25 April 2007
  25. 1 2 3 4 5 Peasants vis-a-vis People's Authority 1944–1989 Programme. IPN pages, last accessed on 25 April 2007
  26. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Behr, Valentin (2 January 2017). "Historical policy-making in post-1989 Poland: a sociological approach to the narratives of communism". European Politics and Society. 18 (1): 81–95. doi:10.1080/23745118.2016.1269447. ISSN   2374-5118.
  27. The Populist Radical Right in Poland: The Patriots, Rafał Pankowski, page 38
  28. 1 2 3 4 The Post-communist Condition: Public and Private Discourses of Transformation, John Benjamins Publishing Company, page 172, chapter by Marta Kurkowska-Budzan
  29. 1 2 3 "Szczerbiak, Aleks. "Deepening democratisation? Exploring the declared motives for "late" lustration in Poland." East European Politics 32.4 (2016): 426-445" (PDF).
  30. "Polish court strikes down spy law". BBC News . 11 May 2007. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  31. Wojciech Czuchnowski, Bronisław Wildstein: człowiek z listą , Gazeta Wyborcza, last accessed on 12 May 2006
  32. Totalitarian Societies and Democratic Transition: Essays in memory of Victor Zaslavsky, pages 406-7, Vladislav Zubok, CEU Press
  33. Harry de Quetteville (14 June 2008). "Lech Walesa was Communist spy, claims book". The Daily Telegraph. Berlin. Archived from the original on 17 June 2008. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  34. 1 2 3 4 Traba, Robert (2016). "Two Dimensions of History: An Opening Sketch" (PDF). Teksty Drugie. 1: 36–81.
  35. Stryjek, Tomasz (2018). "The Hypertrophy of Polish Remembrance Policy after 2015: Trends and Outcomes". Zoon Politikon. 1.9: 43–66.
  36. Michlic, Joanna Beata (2020). History “Wars” and the Battle for Truth and National Memory. Constructions and Instrumentalization of the Past. p. 115.
  37. Stola, Dariusz. "Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance: A Ministry of Memory?." The convolutions of historical politics (2012), pp. 54-55.

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