Re­sis­tance fighter faces ex­tra­di­tion, 50 years on


AN 88-YEAR-OLD Ox­ford woman faces be­ing sent back to Poland for her al­leged in­volve­ment in the death of a na­tion­al­ist hero more than 50 years ago.

A Pol­ish court this week re­newed ef­forts to se­cure the ar­rest of He­lena Brus, a sur­vivor of the War­saw ghetto, af­ter two failed ex­tra­di­tion at­tempts stretch­ing back a decade.

As a mil­i­tary pros­e­cu­tor un­der the Com­mu­nist regime in Poland, she is said to have signed the ar­rest on trumped-up charges of Gen­eral Emil Fiel­dorf, leader of the Pol­ish Home Army against the Nazis, who was put to death in 1953.

Mrs Brus, née Wolin­ska, lives in a block of flats in a leafy, tree-lined street of North Ox­ford. When the JC rang her in­ter­com on Wed­nes­day, Mrs Brus said clearly that she was not ready to talk to the press. “I will not speak about my case be­cause I don’t know what’s go­ing on.” She re­fused to com­ment fur­ther.

But in De­cem­ber 1998, at the time of the first ex­tra­di­tion re­quest, she told the JC: “If they don’t like you, they ac­cuse you of be­ing an ex-Com­mu­nist and a Jew.”

In 1971, she came to Bri­tain af­ter leav­ing Poland with her hus­band Wlodz­imierz Brus in the wake of the Com­mu­nist Party’s an­ti­semitic purges. Prof Brus, who be­came an Ox­ford Uni­ver­sity eco­nom­ics don, died this Au­gust.

Jes­mond Blu­men­feld, the con­venor of the Ox­ford Jewish con­gre­ga­tion’s ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme, said: “They weren’t mem­bers of the com­mu­nity but he is buried in our ceme­tery.”

Jonathan Web­ber, vice-chair­man of the In­sti­tute of Pol­ish-Jewish Stud­ies, who lives in Ox­ford, said the case has its roots in the bit­ter strug­gles be­tween Pol­ish na­tion­al­ists and Com­mu­nists dur­ing and im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the Sec­ond World War.

He­lena Brus — whom he has known for 20 years — had been “a courier in the War­saw ghetto for the Com­mu­nist un­der­ground. She was blonde and blue-eyed and spoke flu­ent Pol­ish. Af­ter the war, she got in­volved, as many Jews did, with the Com­mu­nist party, which took power.”

She had es­caped the ghetto, fol­low­ing Wlodz­imierz’s ear­lier dis­ap­pear­ance, but they met by chance in the street in War­saw some time later, he said, and sub­se­quently re­mar­ried. “Each had as­sumed the other was dead.”

Jews in­volved in Pol­ish pol­i­tics dur­ing the pe­riod had tended to­wards the left, Prof Web­ber ex­plained, while the Home Army had con­tained some an­ti­semitic el­e­ments who spread it about that Poland was be­ing be­trayed to Stalin’s Rus­sia by the Jews.

Mrs Brus, he said, “would say that they are pick­ing on her sim­ply as an ex­er­cise to pick on a Jewish Com­mu­nist, when so many other Com­mu­nists have not been pros­e­cuted”.

Prof Web­ber added: “Of­fi­cially, the gov­ern­ment is not in­volved in an­ti­semitic be­hav­iour, but there are cir­cles who do have grudges and re­sent­ments of all kinds and who would like to con­front that.

“They think it would be a good idea to put Lena Brus on trial.”

In June last year, the Home Sec­re­tary told the Pol­ish au­thor­i­ties that they would not be pro­ceed­ing with the ex­tra­di­tion re­quest.

But since Poland has joined the Euro­pean Union, its ju­di­ciary has now been able to is­sue a Euro­pean ar­rest war­rant un­der a new fast-track ex­tra­di­tion scheme.

He­lena Wolin­ska

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