A report on Martial law in Poland

Polish T-55 tanks enter the town of Zbąszyń while moving east towards Poznań, 13 December 1981
Polish T-55 tanks enter the town of Zbąszyń while moving east towards Poznań, 13 December 1981
Gierek in the White House with President Gerald Ford, 1974
A ration card for sugar, 1976
Edward Gierek (right) with President Jimmy Carter (left) during his state visit to Warsaw, 1977. The loans and Solidarity were among the chief topics discussed
General Jaruzelski was determined to suppress any opposition along with the Solidarity Movement
A censored regional newspaper that reported about the Bydgoszcz events, in which the militia abused Solidarity members. The censorship was to prevent the slander of state services
The Military Council of National Salvation (WRON), which was founded on 13 December and presided over the military junta. Its Polish abbreviation "WRONa" means a crow bird, and members of the council were known to the opposition as evil "Crows"
ZOMO squads with police batons preparing to disperse and beat protesters. The sarcastic caption reads "outstretched hands of understanding" or "outstretched hands for agreement", with batons ironically symbolizing hands
The former PZPR headquarters in Gdańsk (right). ZOMO machine-gunned demonstrators from the rooftop
An intercity travel pass, 1981
A censored telegram, 1982
Food, alcohol, and cigarettes rationing card
Students in Edinburgh, Scotland collecting signatures for a petition in support of Solidarity in 1981
Jaruzelski in a TV studio announcing the introduction of martial law
Units of the Citizens' Militia and ZOMO race to disperse crowds of protesters

Martial law in Poland (Stan wojenny w Polsce) existed between 13 December 1981 and 22 July 1983.

- Martial law in Poland
Polish T-55 tanks enter the town of Zbąszyń while moving east towards Poznań, 13 December 1981

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Polish People's Republic

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Country in Central Europe that existed from 1947 to 1989 as the predecessor of the modern Republic of Poland.

Country in Central Europe that existed from 1947 to 1989 as the predecessor of the modern Republic of Poland.

The Polish People's Republic in 1989
Poland's fate was heavily discussed at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. Joseph Stalin, whose Red Army occupied the entire country, presented several alternatives which granted Poland industrialized territories in the west whilst the Red Army simultaneously permanently annexed Polish territories in the east, resulting in Poland losing over 20% of its pre-war borders - areas primarily inhabited by ethnic Belarusians or Ukrainians. Soviet-backed Polish communists came to power and oversaw the country's entry into the Warsaw Pact in 1955.
Border changes of Poland after World War II. The eastern territories (Kresy) were annexed by the Soviets. The western territories, referred to as the "Recovered Territories", were granted as war reparations. Despite the western lands being more industrialized, Poland lost 77,035 km2 (29,743 sq mi) and major cities like Lviv and Vilnius.
The 1970 Polish protests were put down by the Communist authorities and Citizens' Militia. The riots resulted in the deaths of 42 people and over 1,000 injured.
Queues waiting to enter grocery stores in Warsaw and other Polish cities and towns were typical in the late 1980s. The availability of food and goods varied at times, and the most sought after basic item was toilet paper.
The new Warszawa Centralna railway station in Warsaw had automatic doors and escalators. It was a flagship project during the 1970s economic boom and was dubbed the most modern station in Europe at the time of its completion in 1975.
Lech Wałęsa co-founded and headed the Solidarity movement which toppled Communism. He later became the President of Poland.
The 1980 Gdańsk Shipyard Strike and subsequent Summer 1981 Hunger Demonstrations were instrumental in strengthening the Solidarity movement's influence.
Logo of the Polish United Workers' Party
Władysław Gomułka and Leonid Brezhnev in East Berlin, 1967
An abandoned State Agricultural Farm in south-eastern Poland. State farms were a form of collective farming created in 1949.
Łódź was Poland's largest city after the destruction of Warsaw during World War II. It was also a major industrial centre in Europe and served as the temporary capital due to its economic significance in the 1940s.
Female textile workers in a state-run factory, Łódź, 1950s
Supersam Warsaw, the first self-serve shopping centre in Poland, 1969
Pewex, a chain of hard currency stores which sold unobtainable Western goods and items
Ration cards for sugar, 1977
Bar mleczny, a former milk bar in Gdynia. These canteens offered value meals to citizens throughout Communist Poland.
Trybuna Ludu (People's Tribune) was a government-sponsored newspaper and propaganda outlet
Andrzej Wajda was a key figure in Polish cinematography during and after the fall of communism
Allegory of communist censorship, Poland, 1989. Newspapers visible are from all Eastern Bloc countries including East Germany, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia
The 237-meter Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, constructed in 1955. At the time of its completion it was one of the tallest buildings in Europe
Smyk Department Store, 1960s
Polish university students during lecture, 1964
One of many schools constructed in central Warsaw in the 1960s
Jerzy Popiełuszko was a Roman Catholic priest who supported the anti-communist opposition. He was murdered by the Security Services "SB" of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
A demographics graph illustrating population growth between 1900 and 2010. The highest birth rate was during the Second Polish Republic and consequently under the Polish People's Republic.
A typical socialist apartment building in Warsaw representing the style of functionalism, built due to the ever-growing population and high birth rate at the time
Konstantin Rokossovsky, pictured in a Polish uniform, was Marshal of the Soviet Union and Marshal of Poland until being deposed during the Polish October in 1956.
Poland's old and new borders, 1945

On 13 December 1981, Jaruzelski proclaimed martial law, suspended Solidarity, and temporarily imprisoned most of its leaders.

Polish United Workers' Party

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The communist party which ruled the Polish People's Republic as a one-party state from 1948 to 1989.

The communist party which ruled the Polish People's Republic as a one-party state from 1948 to 1989.

Statute of the Polish United Workers' Party, 1956 edition
Władysław Gomułka, at the height of his popularity, on 24 October 1956, addressing hundreds of thousands of people in Warsaw, asked for an end to demonstrations and a return to work. "United with the working class and the nation", he concluded, "the Party will lead Poland along a new way of socialism".
First Secretary of PZPR Edward Gierek (left) with Speaker of the House of Representatives Carl Albert (right), Washington D.C., 1974
PZPR's newspaper "Trybuna Ludu" issue 13 December 1981 reports martial law in Poland.
Dom Partii building in Warsaw, former headquarters of PZPR

On the other hand, the Polish United Worker's Party was responsible for the brutal pacification of civil resistance and protesters in the Poznań protests of 1956, the 1970 Polish protests and throughout martial law between 1981 and 1983.

Jaruzelski in 1981

Wojciech Jaruzelski

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Polish military officer, politician and de facto leader of the Polish People's Republic from 1981 until 1989.

Polish military officer, politician and de facto leader of the Polish People's Republic from 1981 until 1989.

Jaruzelski in 1981
Jaruzelski in 1968
Jaruzelski (right) with Fidel Castro (left) in Poland, May 1972
Jaruzelski in a television studio, preparing to announce the imposition of martial law, 1981
Jaruzelski meeting with Yuri Andropov in Moscow, 1982
Jaruzelski (second from right) with other communist leaders and members of the Warsaw Pact, Berlin, 1987
Jaruzelski with Nicolae Ceaușescu
Jaruzelski in 2006
Jaruzelski's grave at Powązki Military Cemetery in Warsaw

Fearing a Soviet intervention similar to those in Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968), Jaruzelski imposed martial law in Poland on 13 December 1981 to crush the anticommunist opposition.

Solidarity logo

Solidarity (Polish trade union)

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Polish trade union founded in August 1980 at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, Poland.

Polish trade union founded in August 1980 at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, Poland.

Solidarity logo
30th anniversary mural depicting the murdered priest Jerzy Popiełuszko who publicly supported Solidarity during the 1980s
The logo of Solidarność painted on an overturned Soviet era T-55 in Prague in 1990
Students in Scotland collect signatures for a petition in support of Solidarity in 1981
Solidarity, ETUC Demonstration—Budapest 2011

Government attempts in the early 1980s to destroy the union through the imposition of martial law in Poland and the use of political repression failed.

Wałęsa in October 2019

Lech Wałęsa

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Polish statesman, dissident, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who served as the President of Poland between 1990 and 1995.

Polish statesman, dissident, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who served as the President of Poland between 1990 and 1995.

Wałęsa in October 2019
Wałęsa during the strike at the Lenin Shipyard, August 1980
Wałęsa signs autographs during the strike in August 1980
President Bush meets privately with Wałęsa, November 1989
Wałęsa speaks at a tourism trade fair in Berlin, 2011
Wałęsa speaks on VIII European Economic Forum, 2015
Signature Lech Wałęsa-Bolek on the collaboration agreement with Security Service from the Kiszczak archives
Wałęsa receiving the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award, 2011
Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport
Shooting of Walesa. Man of Hope on the Solidarity Square in Gdańsk
Premiere of Walesa. Man of Hope in Warsaw, 2013

After martial law in Poland was imposed and Solidarity was outlawed, Wałęsa was again arrested.

Citroën Traction Avant, a car commonly used by the UB

Ministry of Public Security (Poland)

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The secret police, intelligence and counter-espionage agency operating in the Polish People's Republic.

The secret police, intelligence and counter-espionage agency operating in the Polish People's Republic.

Citroën Traction Avant, a car commonly used by the UB
The PKWN Manifesto, issued on 22 July 1944
Jakub Berman
Józef Światło, born Izaak Fleischfarb, defected to the West and spoke publicly of UB's brutal actions
Ministry office in Warsaw (current Ministry of Justice)
Office of Public Security regional location in Szczecin, Poland
Ministry of Public Security organization for 1953, (Organizacja Ministerstwa Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego na rok 1953, M Malinowski)
Ministry of Public Security field organization, 1953
Stamp of the Committee for Public Security, 1954–1956

Throughout the martial law (1981-1983), SB played a key role in wiretapping telephones in public areas and institutions.

Patch of the Citizens' Milita (MO) and ZOMO

ZOMO

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The ZOMO (Zmotoryzowane Odwody Milicji Obywatelskiej), known in English as Motorized Reserves of the Citizens' Militia, were paramilitary-police formations during the communist era in Poland.

The ZOMO (Zmotoryzowane Odwody Milicji Obywatelskiej), known in English as Motorized Reserves of the Citizens' Militia, were paramilitary-police formations during the communist era in Poland.

Patch of the Citizens' Milita (MO) and ZOMO
ZOMO in action during the martial law in Poland, 1981 or 1982.
"ZOMO arrived for an action", a political caricature from the 1980s showing ZOMO squads forming the word "Gestapo"

The first ZOMO units were deployed in 1956 and became particularly infamous for their ruthless handling of political opponents under Polish martial law (1981–1983).

Poland's old and new borders, 1945

History of Poland (1945–1989)

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The history of Poland from 1945 to 1989 spans the period of communist rule imposed over Poland after the end of World War II.

The history of Poland from 1945 to 1989 spans the period of communist rule imposed over Poland after the end of World War II.

Poland's old and new borders, 1945
Map showing the different borders and territories of Poland and Germany during the 20th century, with the current areas of Germany and Poland in dark gray
Destroyed Warsaw, January 1945
The PKWN Manifesto, officially issued on 22 July 1944. In reality it was not finished until mid-August, after the Polish communist Moscow group was joined by the late-arriving Warsaw group, led by Gomułka and Bierut.
Postwar Polish communist propaganda poster depicting "The giant and the putrid reactionary midget", meaning the communist People's Army soldier and the pro-Western Home Army soldier, respectively
ORMO paramilitary police unit during street parade at the Victory Square, 9 June 1946, Warsaw
Logo of the Polish United Workers' Party
The show trial of Captain Witold Pilecki, sentenced to death and executed May 1948
The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, initially called the Stalin's Palace, was a controversial gift from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin
Avenue of the Roses, Nowa Huta
1951 East German stamp commemorative of the Treaty of Zgorzelec establishing the Oder–Neisse line as a "border of peace", featuring the presidents Wilhelm Pieck (GDR) and Bolesław Bierut (Poland)
Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, Primate of Poland
Władysław Gomułka
The Fourth Congress of the Polish United Workers' Party, held in 1963
The Polski Fiat 125p, produced in Poland from the late 1960s, was based on technology purchased from Fiat
Standard-bearers of the 27 Tank Regiment, mid-1960s
Dziady, a theatrical event that spawned nationwide protests
Demonstrators in Gdynia carry the body of Zbigniew Godlewski, who was shot and killed during the protests of 1970
Edward Gierek
Queue line, a frequent scene at times of shortages of consumer goods in the 1970s and 1980s
Millions cheer Pope John Paul II in his first visit to Poland as pontiff in 1979
Lech Wałęsa speaks during the strike at the Gdańsk Shipyard, August 1980
25th anniversary of Solidarity, summer 2005 in Gdańsk
General Wojciech Jaruzelski led the People's Republic during its final decade and became one of the key players in the systemic transition of 1989–90
Apartment block residences built in People's Poland loom over the urban landscape of the entire country. In the past administratively distributed for permanent use, after 1989 most were sold to residents at discounted prices.
Adam Michnik, an influential leader in the transformation of Poland

The growing strength and activity of the opposition caused the government of Wojciech Jaruzelski to declare martial law in December 1981.

Martial law in Egypt: Egyptian tanks used in a checkpoint near midtown Tahrir during the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

Martial law

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Imposition of direct military control of normal civil functions or suspension of civil law by a government, especially in response to an emergency where civil forces are overwhelmed, or in an occupied territory.

Imposition of direct military control of normal civil functions or suspension of civil law by a government, especially in response to an emergency where civil forces are overwhelmed, or in an occupied territory.

Martial law in Egypt: Egyptian tanks used in a checkpoint near midtown Tahrir during the 2011 Egyptian revolution.
Polish ZOMO squads with police batons preparing to violently disperse protesters during martial law in Poland, 1981–1983. The sarcastic caption reads "outstretched hands of understanding" or "outstretched hands for agreement", with batons ironically symbolizing hands. 91 protesters died at the hands of the ZOMO and the Secret Services (SB)
2018 martial law in parts of Ukraine

Such incidents may occur after a coup d'état (Thailand in 2006 and 2014, and Egypt in 2013); when threatened by popular protest (China, Tiananmen Square protests of 1989); to suppress political opposition (martial law in Poland in 1981); or to stabilize insurrections or perceived insurrections.

A fragment from the Bogucice Parish visitation report from 1598 that mentions the name Katowice for the first time

Katowice

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Capital city of the Silesian Voivodeship in southern Poland, and the central city of the Upper Silesian metropolitan area.

Capital city of the Silesian Voivodeship in southern Poland, and the central city of the Upper Silesian metropolitan area.

A fragment from the Bogucice Parish visitation report from 1598 that mentions the name Katowice for the first time
Baildon steelworks, 19th century
Katowice in the 1930s
Parachute Tower, one of the symbols of the Polish Defense of Katowice
3 Maja Street is one of the main promenades in the city
Katowice International Conference Centre, built in 2015
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Cathedral of Christ the King, seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Katowice
The Great Synagogue in Katowice was destroyed by the German Nazis during the invasion of Poland on 4 September 1939
Plac Grunwaldzki in Koszutka under construction, 1950s
Modernist Osiedle Gwiazdy built in late 1970s and the light cubes of the New Silesian Museum
Scientific Information Center and Academic Library
KTW towers under construction, 2021
Nikiszowiec, a historic workers' housing estate
Spodek, a multipurpose arena from 1971
Galeria Katowicka shopping center
Silesia City Center – a large shopping mall in Katowice. Located over former coal mine "Gottwald"
High-rise buildings in Śródmieście, the most urbanized part of the city
A historical townhouse on the corner of Stawowa and Mickiewicz Streets
Las Murckowski
Silesian Library in Katowice
University of Silesia in Katowice – Faculty of Theology
Pesa Twist tram in Katowice
City by bike bicycles in Józefowiec district
Katowice Central Station
Spanish fans at the EuroBasket 2009 in Katowice
2012 FIVB Volleyball World League match in Katowice
Maria Goeppert Mayer
Wojciech Kilar
Kazimierz Kutz

The Special Platoon of the Motorized Reserves of the Citizens' Militia (ZOMO) was responsible for the brutal handling of strikers protesting against Wojciech Jaruzelski's declaration of martial law and the arrest of Solidarity trade union officials.