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Communist past fells Polish archbishop

Stanislaw Wielgus's resignation is the latest example of post-Soviet Europe's struggle to address its past.

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The hand of history in Eastern Europe continues to reach from the communist past – most dramatically in Sunday's resignation of Stanislaw Wielgus, Archbishop of Warsaw, a half hour before his inauguration as the central figure in the powerful Polish Catholic Church.

Mr. Wielgus, who for weeks denied working for the hated communist secret service, stepped down after evidence against him grew too extensive, outstripping even what many church colleagues assumed: Over 20 years, Wielgus met with secret police more than50 times, took three days of secret agent training, and signed at least two documents promising to spy for secret police on trips abroad, according to the well-respected Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita.

Revelations of such participation – especially inside a Polish nation governed by the ardently patriotic twins, Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski, who have made it a mission to ferret out communist collaborators – threatened to split the influential Polish church, as well as the mainly Catholic citizenry.

How to deal with informers or spies continues to roil Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and other former Soviet states, 17 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Two key issues are the type and severity of laws and methods designed to determine the degree to which individuals collaborated, and such individuals' fitness for current jobs.

The secret police, particularly in states such as East Germany, penetrated deeply into the fabric of society, often forcing or coercing ordinary people to inform on each other. Much of the internal debates in Eastern Europe have to do with the extremely subjective question of the degree and willingness of collaborators.


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