The film “Zielona Granica” (English: “Green Border”) directed by Agnieszka Holland has caused a lot of controversy in recent weeks. It has become part of the current political debate and has become an element of the upcoming elections. Due to this, there were many negative emotions surrounding the director. Many people tried to find anti-Polish elements in her past, and one of them was the alleged photo with Bolesław Bierut. In the photo we see a young girl held in the arms of the former president of the Polish People’s Republic and the secretary general of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party.
The photo has been circulating online for several days and has become very popular. Obviously, it can be found on social media, for example on X (formerly Twitter) here or here. We can also find them on JBZD.com.pl or Obrazkowo.pl. The discussed photograph was also included in an article on the website Niepoprawni.pl.
Bierut and Agnieszka Holland?
We decided to find the source of these photos, because the information that Agnieszka Holland was in them seemed questionable. This type of material has already been reproduced on the Internet numerous times with false context. We found the photo in the archives of the Polish Press Agency (under the name: pap_19500101_05E.jpg). According to the description, it was taken on 8 July, 1955 during Bolesław Bierut’s visit to Germany, specifically during his visit to the steelworks plant in Stalinstadt (today’s Eisenhüttenstadt).
You can see the press report here: DPA / Picture Alliance.
After obtaining the above information, we decided to look into the archives of the German press. The communist daily “Neues Deutschland” (English: “New Germany”), which was the propaganda organ of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, actually mentioned Bolesław Bierut’s visit. In the issue of 9 July, 1955 there was a short mention of the visit of the Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party to Stalinstadt. Only the next day the newspaper devoted practically the entire front page to the visit of the Polish delegation to the GDR and the propaganda of Polish-German friendship.
Here you will also find the photo in question. It has been slightly altered, but there is no doubt that it is the same photograph. It was placed in the upper left corner of the front cover, and a much more detailed description of Bierut’s visit, of course supported by aggressive propaganda, was featured below. It states that the former president of the Polish People’s Republic held talks not only with dignitaries, but also ordinary workers. There was also an “unforgettable, heartfelt meeting with the Young Pioneers” (Jungen Pionieren). This last information is especially important because, according to the description of the photo in the PAP archives, the girl visible in the photo is wearing a Pioneers’ shawl. Everything indicates that Bolesław Bierut is holding a German scout in his arms, not Agnieszka Holland. It seems highly doubtful that the future director was in Germany in 1955.
The above photo, of course, is purely propaganda and its purpose is to warm Bierut’s image. As the head of the Polish United Workers’ Party, he was responsible for introducing Stalinist terror in Poland.
Accusations against Agnieszka Holland of anti-Polish attitude and possible connections with the communist authorities result primarily from the fact that her father Henryk was a communist activist and closely cooperated with the authorities after World War II. However, this does not mean that the director is visible in the photo in question. We found no evidence to support this. On the contrary, all circumstantial evidence indicates that the photo shows a girl member of the German scout organization Jungen Pionieren. Once again, we are dealing with a photo that has been shared on the Internet without proper reflection and making sure that its description is factually correct.
Staatsbibliothek Zu Berlin:
The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/1993/08/08/magazine/holland-without-a-country.html