Mieczysław Moczar (original name Mikołaj Diomko, pseudonym Mietek, December 25, 1913 in Łódź – November 1, 1986) was a Polish communist who played a prominent role in the history of the Polish People's Republic. He is known for his ultranationalist, xenophobic and antisemitic attitude which influenced Polish PZPR Party politics in the late 1960s. During this time, General Moczar and his supporters challenged Władysław Gomułka’s authority.
Moczar was a member of the Communist Party before World War II. During the occupation, Moczar organized communist guerillas in the Lublin and Kielce regions. His active role in the Communist underground during the resistance allowed him to become known as “the leader of Poland’s ‘Partisans’” in the 1960s. Immediately following World War II, Moczar became secret police chief in Łódź, but was dismissed from his position in 1952 on charges of “nationalist deviation.” During this “period of widespread suspicion against the self-made Communist veterans of the Communist resistance,” Moczar was briefly held in detention. When Władysław Gomułka returned to power as the First Secretary of the Polish United Workers’ Party in 1956, Moczar started to work for the Interior Ministry. In the early 1960s, Moczar served as Vice Minister of the Interior. In December 1964, he was named the Minister of the Interior, a position he maintained until 1968. Moczar was a highly placed member of the Polish United Workers Party, a member of its Central Committee from 1965 to 1981 (one of its secretaries in 1968-1971) a candidate member of the Politburo in 1968-1970 and full member from 1970-1971 and 1980-1981. He was a general in the Polish People's Army and held many high level posts in the government, serving as Minister of the Interior (1964-1968) and chairman of The Supreme Chamber of Control of Poland (1971-1983). He is best known for his role in the so-called March 1968 events in Poland, in which he led the faction of hardliners inside the Communist Party.
Moczar as Minister of the Interior
Moczar’s position as Minister of the Interior put him in charge of the police. When Moczar was appointed to this position in 1964, it was perceived to be “a reaction to recent liberalizing trends in Poland.” Gomułka, who was known for his centralist approach, was seen as trying to balance contending factions in the party and Government by appointing Moczar. Moczar was known for favoring stricter police controls and discouraging Poles from all foreign contacts. According to a New York Times article from the time, “General Moczar’s promotion is […] regarded by many Poles as symbolic of the increased police activity that has occurred since the great liberalization at the end of the Stalinist period in 1956.” Lajos Lederer, a correspondent for the London Observer, called Moczar “a De Gaulle-type figure who is both an authoritarian Communist and a strong Polish nationalist.” A popular joke in Poland from the time period illustrates how the average citizen viewed Moczar. “What do you get when you take away the ‘czar’ from Moczar?” (‘Czar’, pronounced like Char, means charm in Polish). The answer is “Mo,” which were the initials for the Polish police, “Milicja Obywatelska”.
Moczar and the "Partisans"
The “Partisans” formed Moczar’s main power base. Most of the “Partisans” were men in their 40’s and 50’s who were veterans of the Communist underground like Moczar himself. Moczar tended to play down the significant role of the Home Army while glorifying smaller pro-Communist resistance movements. The “Partisans” used Polish nationalism to gain support and indeed, some believed that “Moczar appear[ed] to have virtually no program other than ultra-nationalism”. The nationalism of some of the “Partisans” began to reveal anti-Semitism in the mid-1960s. One of the specific targets of the “Partisans” and especially of Moczar, were the so-called “Muscovites”, Poles who escaped to the Soviet Union during World War II and then returned with the Red Army. Many of the “Muscovites” were Jewish, and held important roles in the Party and the secret police during the period of Stalinist terror. Moczar used this fact as part of his campaign of antisemitism.
Moczar's role in the March 1968 Events
When student protests erupted in March 1968, Moczar wanted to suppress the students by police force. It is widely considered that Gomułka’s reliance on Moczar during the 1968 events made Moczar “become too strong for his own [Gomułka’s] safety.” Moczar used the student uprising to begin an anti-Semitic campaign, and he soon became a driving force in the 1968 purging of Jews from important posts. He accused Jewish students of having instigated the demonstrations. J. Anthony Lukas observed two chief purposes for Moczar’s anti-Semitic campaign: “to clear Jews out of responsible positions so those can be filled by General Moczar’s supporters, and to fix responsibility on non-Jewish leaders, probably including Mr. Gomułka, for failure to act more decisively against [what Moczar called] “the Zionist Infiltration’.” The Moczar-driven campaign of anti-Semitism caused a mass emigration of Polish Jews in 1968, many of whom were distinguished doctors, professors, lawyers, engineers, etc.
Gomułka versus Moczar
In 1968, Gomułka was re-elected First Secretary and thus prevented Moczar from gaining more power. Gomułka began to isolate Moczar by removing anti-Semitic propagandists close to Moczar and by removing his supporters from key positions. A report from Radio Free Europe in 1971 refers to Gomułka’s campaign as an attempt to “de-Moczarize” the security service and mass media. By 1969, Moczar was no longer Gomułka’s main rival, although he remained a member of the Central Committee and a member of its Politburo. Edward Gierek, working on a very different campaign of patriotism based on loyalty to advance the technological progress of the country rather than past wartime activities, replaced Moczar as Gomułka’s chief opponent.
Author of the book:
- Barwy walki (The colours of a fight or Colors of Struggle or Color of Battle, first released in 1962) (1963, 1979, 1988) Published by Krajowa Agencja Wydawnicza, ISBN 8303022466.
This book is a personal memoir by General Moczar. It was made into movie in 1965, and viewed as an effort to strengthen the “Partisans,” as it “depicts the Partisans as the spearhead of Polish resistance.”
- Costello, Michael. “The Political Fortunes of Mieczysław Moczar,” report for Radio Free
Europe, 2 June 1971. Accessible online at: <http://files.osa.ceu.hu/holdings/300/8/3/text/43-4-166.shtml>.
- Dziewanowski, M.K. The Communist Party of Poland. Cambridge, Harvard University
- Lederer, Lajos. “New Group Threatens to Take Over in Poland,” Los Angeles Times,
25 September 1966: F3.
- Lukas, J. Anthony. “Concern Over Anti-Semitism,” New York Times, 20 April 1968: 1.
- “Poland Appoints 3 New Ministers,” New York Times, 13 December 1964: 12.
- “Polish Faction Uses War Film in a Fight for Party Supremacy,” New York Times,
20 January 1965: 13.
- “Polish Leaders Recall War Days.” New York Times, 10 June 1962: 23.
- Randal, Jonathan. “Gomulka’s Rival Wins High Posts,” New York Times,
10 July 1968: 9.