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The pope’s secret file

Date: March, 2006

There are over 50 miles of secret police files at the Institute of National Remembrance (Instytut Pamięci Narodowej — IPN) in Warsaw and its branches throughout Poland. Among other things, one can find there US army counterintelligence manuals, accounts on American leftists cozying up to the Communists, surveillance records of US diplomats and visitors, including compromising pornographic material, files of CIA spies captured by the Communists, and numerous reports on “The Main Enemy”: the United States of America.

Most of the files, however, concern Poland and the Poles. They show how, for half a century, the Communist secret police endeavored to control and terrorize an overwhelmingly Christian population. No one was immune, not even the most prominent son of Poland, Pope John Paul II.

Here’s a story about a single case of the secret police active measures against Karol Wojtyla. The agent involved was Father Konrad Stanisław Hejmo, a Dominican priest. His code name during the initial courting period was “Dominik”. After his recruitment his secret police pseudonym was “Hejnał” (Signal). It appears that, technically, Hejmo never signed an affidavit formalizing his status as a secret collaborator (tajny współpracownik — TW). Instead, he was classified as “operational contact” (kontakt operacyjny).

Hejmo’s recruiter and case officer was Colonel Wacław Głowacki of the Security Service (Służba Bezpieczeństwa SB). The Colonel was with the 5th Section of the IV (anti-Church) Department of the Ministry of Interior (MSW). Later, after 1982, the agent was transferred to the civilian intelligence at the II Department of the MSW.

Over 700 pages of documents and several magnetic tape spools of recordings reflect the volume and quality of Father Hejmo’s work. The contacts between the agent and the secret police date most likely to 1973. At that time, the priest worked to launch a Dominican periodical On the Way (W drodze). By approaching the SB, Hejmo intended to ease oppressive Communist censorship regulations and paper distribution limitations for his publication.

The relationship became more formal in November 1975. At the end of the following year, the SB opened up his file of a “candidate for a secret collaborator.” Next, they registered him as a full fledged TW but strangely enough, in violation of their own rules, never asked him to fill out the appropriate paperwork.

Father Hejmo informed his secret police handlers not only about Karol Wojtyła, both before and after his elevation to the Throne of St. Peter, but also about Radio Free Europe, anti-Communist intellectuals, and dissident Catholic priests, including Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, who was subsequently murdered by the SB. Further, Father Hejmo wrote pro-Communist articles in the Church publication On the Way. He condemned the anti-regime activities of his fellow Dominicans, for instance during the 1977 hunger strike in solidarity with the Czech dissidents.

Hejmo’s reports were supposedly made available to Colonel Tadeusz Grunwald of the so-called “D” Group (Disintegration — Dezintegracja) of the IV Department of the MSW to implement active measures against Christian faith in general and dissident priests and lay activists in particular. Grunwald’s men specialized in black propaganda, malicious gossip, and forgeries. The objective of the Group was to destroy the Faith by creating and exacerbating conflict within the Church.

Father Hejmo hoped not only that his collaboration would be good for the periodical he was the editorial secretary of, but also, not so incredibly, that the secret police would help him become the head of the Dominican order in Poland. He further accepted a few tokens and gifts from his handlers: mostly alcohol. On the other hand, his secret police friends did not trust him. His phone was tapped and mail read. The contacts with the priest stopped briefly in 1980 because Hejmo was transferred to the Holy See.

Before August 1981, Father Hejmo was re-recruited in Rome under a false flag: SB officers pretending to be BND operatives. The priest was not aware of this initially at least. Each of his three contacts approached him separately. The first one, Andrzej Madejczyk (“Lakar”), had been a Communist secret police agent in Poland. Later, “Lakar” emigrated to Germany, where, reportedly, he became the SB resident in Cologne. Father Hejmo never informed his other SB handlers that Andrzej Madejczyk had identified himself to the priest as a BND officer. (In time, allegedly, “Lakar” was either turned by the West German intelligence (Bundesnachtrichtendienst — BND) or recruited by the East German secret police, the Stasi.)

While in Rome, Father Hejmo initially worked at the Polish section of the Vatican press office. His Church superiors charged him with open source acquisition and analysis. Hejmo read Western press daily. He focused on the Pope and the Episcopate of Poland, including its head, the formidable and staunchly anti-Communist Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński. The agent supplied his output both to his Church superiors and his secret police handlers. In May 1984, he was transferred to a post devoted to assisting Polish pilgrims in Rome. Throughout, Father Hejmo’s contact with the Pope was quite limited. He only dined with the Pontiff on very rare occasions. The agent nonetheless vainly bragged about his “access” to the Pope.

Curiously, no reports by Hejmo on the Pope himself have been found. Nonetheless, he was able to procure documents from the Office of the Secretary of State, as well as supply information gathered from his conversations with fellow priests and other visitors, Polish in particular.

It has been suggested by a few apologists that, since he never formalized his status as an agent, Father Hejmo was aware neither in Poland nor at the Vatican that he was used by the secret police. He was simply overly garrulous. Further, the argument goes, the intelligence provided by Father Hejmo from the Vatican was of poor quality and consisted mainly of gossip. However, it has been established that Father Hejmo accepted money for his services from Andrzej Madejczyk. He may have not signed the spy personnel affidavit but he did sign receipts for at least 20,000 German marks, a remuneration for his pains and labors.

Further, the intelligence the agent provided was probably used by the Communists to construct a psychological and physical portrait of the Pope and his surroundings. It also contained important inside information about the Episcopate of Poland and its anti-Communist effort. Last but not least, it is highly likely that some of the Hejmo reports were forwarded to the KGB. The priest continued his nefarious activities until July 1988. As late as December 2005, he suffered no real punishment for his misdeeds from either Church or secular authorities.

Father Hejmo gained notoriety in the West because of media coverage. However, as I mentioned, his is just a single case connected to John Paul II. There are about 100 sets of secret police files regarding Karol Wojtyła. Each set contains between a single and a score of files. Marek Lasota in his forthcoming Karol Wojtyła w dokumentach bezpieki [Karol Wojtyła in secret police documents] treats the subject comprehensively: a legion of agents snitching on the future Pope already from the mid-1940s.

First secret police reports about Karol Wojtyła date from May 3, 1946. The agents noted him on that day in Cracow because of his involvement in a massive anti-Communist student demonstration that was crushed with tanks.

Then, the letters of denunciation flowed occasionally when Wojtyła was parson at St. Florian Church.

However, the secret police opened a permanent file on him only after he was consecrated as the bishop of Cracow in 1958. At any given time, up to a dozen of agents, both religious and lay Catholics, reported on Wojtyła. Those were often his close confidantes. Three of them were priests who worked at the metropolitan curia and one was a lay administrative director of the influential liberal Catholic Universal Weekly (Tygodnik Powszechny). In addition, reports poured in from a few score of agents who met him occasionally or heard of his “misdeeds” from other sources.

Further, his apartment was bugged as well as each subsequent residence after the bishop moved. His home and office phones were tapped as well as at the editorial offices of the Universal Weekly. The secret police rumor mill churned out stories and produced forgeries of his alleged lack of patriotism, immoral sexual behavior, and the like. The secret police classified him as “an extremely dangerous ideological enemy.”Soon, Wojtyła became the Archbishop of Cracow and, finally, Pope. Nonetheless, active measures continued. When the Pope triumphantly returned to Poland in 1979, the Communists had eight agents and four secret police officers infiltrating his immediate entourage.

During the papal visit, tens of thousands of agents and secret police officers (in addition to hundreds of thousands of regular police and military) were deployed to contain the situation throughout Poland. For example, there were 480 agents posted for the papal visit in Cracow alone. At the peak of its expansion in 1984, the secret police had 8,334 agents among the Catholic religious and lay (employed or involved with the Church voluntarily). Rather significantly, there seems to have been relatively few nuns and lay women among the turn-coats.

Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance estimates that between 10 and 15% of all Catholic religious and lay people were secret police agents or contacts. To put it into perspective, some calculate that about 30% of all journalists were agents.

Altogether in Poland, between 1944 and 1989 about 3 million people (over 800,000 at the peak in the 1980s) denounced their fellows to the secret police in a formalized way. That is less than 10% of the nation which, by the Communist block standards, is rather low. As many as 30% of all East Germans collaborated. In the Soviet Union, the proportions were probably even higher.

Please remember that there are over 50 miles of secret police files in the archives in Poland. The search for the Truth has hardly begun.