The Toruń trial and its background

Kidnappers of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko were presented with an indictment on 10 December 1984, while on 27 December the proceedings were instituted in the Provincial Court in Toruń presided over by its chairman – Judge Artur Kujawa. The defendants testified until 14 January 1985. From 15th to 28th January witnesses and court appointed experts testified. On 29 January closing speeches were made by prosecutors, followed by legal counsels and defendants, then on 7 February – auxiliary prosecutors and defence counsels. The accused, (Grzegorz Piotrowski and Adam Pietruszka) were sentenced to 25 years, (Waldemar Chmielewski) 14 years and (Leszek Pękala) 15 years. The sentences were successfully reduced on appeal – in 1989 Chmielewski was the first one to come out of prison.
For the time being we do not know “what happened” before the priest died. However, we do know what happened after his death. This incoherent and partial information tell us a lot about the perpetrators. If Colonel Pietruszka told Captain Piotrowski the following about the priest: “Only the soil can straighten up such a villain", then his speech style was similar to the one of General Jaruzelski’s and the government spokesman Jerzy Urban’s. After the priest’s death in 1984 General Jaruzelski said at the Council of Ministers meeting: “But according to our statistical data, between 3% and 5% [of clergymen] who present an active, offensive and clearly anti-socialist approach. If we accept these figures, there would be about a thousand [such priests]. Can we imprison a thousand? No, we can’t. Can we imprison a hundred? No, we can’t. Can we imprison ten? Maybe! Then, we would have to consider the labourers’ reactions. [...]
Comrades! It is more convenient for us to punch a priest, Father Jancarz or anyone else by showing [another priest - a positive one] – and this is an example of a civic attitude. This is the area which is beneficial for us. [...] The more intelligent of them [clergymen] feel that a stereotype of immaculate Popiełuszko is not easy to uphold. He is a martyr not in the name of God, but politics, spreading hatred. [...] It seems to me that we came across this idea much too late, or it was comrade [Jerzy] Urban’s idea to quote in extenso some of [Father Popiełuszko's] homilies.” It was not accidental for the prime minister to mention these persons – next year General Kiszczak recommended the “positive priest” – a bee-keeper, a candidate for MP to the Sejm of the Polish People’s Republic – to archbishop Dąbrowski, while Father Kazimierz Jancarz, the vicar in Kraków-Mistrzejowice, e.g. celebrated holy masses for the homeland, which were also celebrated by Father Jerzy Popiełuszko. Therefore, here we are speaking about “using” the priest’s death to the current political game to 1) discredit the murdered priest; 2) use his death as a propaganda for further attacks to the Church and Catholicism as such; 3) make members of the higher order of clergy “remove’ other proud priests, who are listed as potential victims, using blackmail.
Since 1948 the Party leaders have had lists of priests, inconvenient for the authorities, laid on their desks, therefore, individual cases were discussed at meetings of the Council of Ministers, the Secretariat and the Political Office of KC PPR/PZPR (the Central Committee of the Polish Workers’ Party/Polish United Workers' Party) into the 80s. This dangerous interest by the most powerful leaders in particular priests may signify that decisions on several deaths were taken at the highest level of those in power. It is without question that leaders of the Party gave their consent and bear political and moral responsibility for murders committed by the internal Security Service. On 19 November 1984 General Kiszczak already was anticipating a line of defence during the “Toruń trial” in a conversation with archbishop Dąbrowski: murderers “will attempt to add the activities of the following priests, Jankowski, Jancarz, Małkowski, etc. to the case [...] Some correspondents accuse me of requesting the death penalty for three perpetrators, but not for Father Zych who was an accomplice in the murder case of the policeman Karos”. Then on 28 February after the proceedings: “Is confrontation needed and if so, for whom? The Church can now benefit from different privileges”, etc.

During the “Toruń trial” prosecutor Leszek Pietrasiński made a speech against victims and the Catholic Church as a whole. Here are the feelings of Waldemar Chrostowski, the victim: “Piotrowski and his accomplices committed the crime secretly; the prosecutor slanders Jerzy publicly in front of everyone present here”. The speech by Pietrasiński was commented on by the Secretariat of KC PZPR in 1985 in the following way (in materials sent to its members by Marian Orzechowski): “the main task of the party is to uncover the Church policy and prevent it from being managed during the whole period of creating socialism. […] This is also a task for us. I should mention the prosecutor’s speech in the case against Piotrowski. It has influenced political opinions of believers more positively than thousands of religious talks.”
Similar arguments or evidence appeared in 1989 after the murders of the priests, Stefan Niedzielak, Stanisław Suchowolec and Sylwester Zych. It was suggested that they all died of alcohol. During the investigation after Father Niedzielak's death, there were attempts made to discredit him, e.g. by an accusation that he traded soil brought from Katyń. Charges were brought by prosecutors, which were aimed at the victim to keep up the appearance of an ongoing investigation. There was propaganda of a similar nature accusing Father Popiełuszko during the court proceedings against his murderers. As perpetrators and their patrons (defenders) lacked restraint, common sense assumes the possibility of secret activities from an unknown origin, to provide false information to gain sympathy from the public, by propaganda accusations directed at the victims of the crime. It is not surprising that perpetrators, promoters and persons responsible for crimes try to turn events to their advantage, but why did they act in such a foolish and clumsy way? I think there are several possibilities, which are not mutually exclusive: 1) the anti-religious propaganda was aimed mostly at those who had already been convinced, who belonged to the “in power” group: Security Service, Civic Militia officers, Polish Army officers, members and officers of PZPR, etc.; 2) this was undoubtedly a good old set of tricks and gimmicks which proved so – rumours, slanders, obloquies – used almost automatically; 3) authors of false information and accusations presented a similar, primitive mentality as their potential audience.”

A piece of an article: J. Żurek, “Idź i zabij” (“Go and kill”), “Głos. Tygodnik Katolicko-Narodowy”, No. 7-8 (1126-1127), 18–25 II 2006.