Europe

Poland divided over burial of Wojciech Jaruzelski

  • 27 May 2014
  • From the section Europe
Media captionThe BBC's Caroline Hawley takes a look back at Wojciech Jaruzelski's life

Poland's last communist leader, Gen Wojciech Jaruzelski, will be buried in Warsaw's Powazki cemetery, officials say, despite widespread opposition.

But it will not be a state funeral and there will no day of national mourning.

Critics say Gen Jaruzelski does not deserve to be buried at such a prestigious cemetery because he was a traitor who had blood on his hands.

His daughter says it was his wish to be buried alongside other soldiers, a move supported by World War Two veterans.

He died aged 90 on Sunday after a long illness.

'Comrades-in-arms'

His supporters have since called for him to be buried with full military honours in the Lane of Honour at Powazki cemetery.

His only daughter, Monika, said her "father saw himself as a soldier and always wanted to be buried alongside his comrades-in-arms".

Leszek Miller, a former Communist Party colleague of Gen Jaruzelski and prime minister, sent a letter to President Bronislaw Komorowski requesting a national day of mourning.

But the president refused, explaining he was too divisive a figure.

"A day of national mourning would be inopportune, due to the fact that it should be express the sentiments of the entire nation," spokeswoman Joanna Trzaska-Wieczorek said.

The funeral will nevertheless be organised and funded by the state.

The head of the Institute of National Remembrance, the state body that investigates communist-era crimes, said the general should not be buried at Powazki cemetery because he had fought against values that modern-day Poland was built on, such as freedom, truth and human dignity.

Martial law

Gen Jaruzelski became known around the world for his 1981 decision to impose martial law and launch a crackdown on the pro-democracy Solidarity movement.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Armoured vehicles rolled onto Poland's streets in December 1981 after the general imposed martial law

Thousands of people were arrested and dozens killed as the Soviet-backed authorities moved to quash protests and strikes, sending tanks onto the streets.

The general later insisted that he chose martial law as the lesser evil because it saved Poland from a potentially bloody Soviet invasion.

He lifted martial law two years later and after growing unrest was forced to negotiate with Solidarity in 1989. The movement was legalised and won Poland's first free elections.

The next year the Communist Party was dissolved and Gen Jaruzelski resigned as president.

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