Kapuscinski, Herbert and the Debate on Lustration

Thomas Urban in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. (Translated in Sign and sight.):

So Ryszard Kapuscinski was at it as well! The famous reporter and prize-crowned author, whose books on the Orient, Africa, Latin America and the Soviet Union have been translated into numerous languages, also wrote reports for the SB, the Polish secret police, under the code name ‘Vera Cruz’ and ‘Poet’. He is the last in a line of intellectuals who have recently been outed as informers: the novelist Andrzej Szczypiorski, the poet Zbigniew Herbert, the novelist, poet and dramatist Henryk Grynberg, and one of the greatest narrators of Jewish suffering and founder of the famous Wroclaw mime theatre Henryk Tomaszewski. The philosopher and sociologist Zygmunt Bauman was even an officer in the secret police during the Stalin era, and kept very quiet about it.

The Kapuscinski case has added fuel to the Polish debate on lustration, the process of x-raying its citizens for evidence of secret police involvement. And there we were thinking it had all come to an end, with the recent decision of the constitutional court to squash great sections of the lustration law which the ruling Kaczynski twins were trying to push through. Now only civil servants can be subjected to examination, not, as the government intended, journalists of all types, from editors of local rags, to political chat show hosts. Foreign commentators celebrated the court’s verdict as an end to the witch hunt – ignoring the thousands of informers and opportunists in the media, writers’ associations and universities who stand to profit from the decision, including names that are famous in Germany.

I didn’t know of this case of another “informant”, but it seems oddly poetic, no pun intended:

The poet Zbigniew Herbert, who died in 1998, even succeeded in elegantly duping the SB. He filled his reports, for example, with interpretations of the poems of the Nobel Prize laureate Czeslaw Milosz, who lived in exile and was hated by the regime, as well as long-winded cultural-philosophical observations which undoubtedly went well over the heads of the leading officers. It was his resistance against an insensate system. And he never harmed or betrayed anyone.