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Henryk Grynberg Responds

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Dear Ted Lipien,

Your recent in-depth article "Communist era spy scandals still haunt U.S. government broadcasters" contains some distortions and discrepancies on my "secret past" which actually was much less dramatic or significant.

Under pressure, I did sign a cooperation agreement with Polish intelligence (not military intelligence) on October 11, 1956 and received a one-time assignment to bring to the next meeting written characteristics (in Polish opinie) of three fellow students (two of them Jewish), no more than a page each. I presented those three persons as good intelligent students loyal to the state ideology and those were the only "reports" I was asked to do or have done in writing or otherwise. My contacts with the Polish intelligence or whatever secret services lasted no more than five months during which time I did nothing else for them.

I had no apartment or permanent address in Warsaw until 1962 when I was allowed to move with an elderly couple and I lived there until I left Poland in 1967. That place could not and was not used as "a contact point" by anybody, the less so by "the military intelligence" with which I had no contact at all. Repeating such nonsense amounts to spreading harmful false information about me even if it is published "according to a Polish newspaper report" (which I have never seen or heard about). I did not need to make "numerous efforts to terminate [my] cooperation". I simply stopped showing up after a meeting in February 1957 when I was told that I would be assigned to make acquaintance with a young woman at a university dancing party. I had never accepted any payment so it was rather easy to exit. Then in the Fall of 1959, shortly before my trip to Israel to see my mother, an intelligence officer came to my apartment in Lodz requesting that I take a letter to Israel and mail it there. I refused and that was the end of my spy story.

Yes, I felt threatened on perhaps two occasions soon after I had announced breaking with Communist Poland, but that never affected my writing. I only restrained me from talking about my "secret past". But I did tell the FBI about it on two occasions: when applying for work with U.S. Information Agency, and later for U.S. citizenship.

I admitted to my close but short encounter with Polish secret services the moment a journalist of a Warsaw newspaper (Zycie Warszawy) asked me about it - not "after the Polish media publicized" it. And I never felt "shame" because I had played that cat-and-mouse game. I had no better choice and I have not compromised even one bit of my integrity. I did keep silent even after the fall of communism because I did not want to constantly explain inaccurate or distorted media reports which I have to do now.

I kindly request that this response be promptly published on your FreeMediaOnline.


Henryk Grynberg


In an earlier version of this story I was not not as precise as I should have been in stating that Mr. Grynberg's cooperation with the secret police lasted only a short time and that a reference to military intelligence was not mine but came from a Polish media report. The reason for this ambiguity stemmed from my attempt to explain that Mr. Grynberg and perhaps others were no longer working for the secret police after leaving Poland. In Mr. Grynberg's case, however, his cooperation with the secret police, as he points out, had ended much earlier (1957), and he did not leave Poland until 1967. In his interviews with the Polish media, Mr. Grynberg did not say or claim that his cooperation lasted more than a few months. Nor was it my intention to imply the opposite. In my article, I was making a point that most of those who did cooperate ceased their cooperation once they were safely out of the reach of the secret police. To his credit, Mr. Grynberg stopped his cooperation while still in Poland. While the earlier version of this story clearly stated that Mr. Grynberg was trying to protect his family, it may have also created inadvertently an erroneous impression that at the time he wanted to obtain a passport for himself to travel abroad. It was not my intention at all to suggest that Mr. Grynberg was motivated by anything other than his desire to protect his family. I pointed out in the article that others who cooperated with the secret police felt some shame because they wanted to obtain passports. For Mr. Grynberg, the reasons for submitting to pressure had been far more serious. I hope that the article sufficiently reflects my personal belief that Mr. Grynberg and many others in similar situations have been victims of an inhuman regime. I apologize to Mr. Grynberg and our readers for any errors and ambiguous statements in an erlier version of this story.

Ted Lipien

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