Editing Principles

With Chronicles of Terror, a project of the Witold Pilecki Center for Totalitarian Studies, Poland’s unique historical experience is given a chance to reach a wider audience both in Poland and abroad. From now on, personal accounts describing the experience of victims and witnesses of the terror of two totalitarian regimes will become known to a wider public, beyond the scholarly community.

The collected testimonies tell a story of many individuals, citizens of pre-war Poland who, following the invasion of the Second Polish Republic by Germany and the Soviet Union, experienced the consequences of living under a double occupation.

The main purpose of this edition of primary sources is to make the archival material available to all interested parties: Poles and the international community, scholars and students, journalists and creators of culture, families and local communities. We wish to popularize the archival materials in the holdings of the Institute of National Remembrance and other partner institutions.

The repository is not intended as a critical edition of primary sources. The creation of such an edition would require years of effort and a large research team. Instead, we present a readily available digital archive containing scans and fully searchable transcripts of the original documents. Our database of depositions currently includes more than 1000 testimonies (of which more than 700 have been translated into English).

It has been our aim to make as few amendments to the original material as possible. The task of analysing and interpreting it is left up to the reader. Our goal is to create digital versions of original documents with only a basic editing touch. We want to give voice to the sources, for it is on their proper critique that knowledge of the past should be based.

The editing principles followed in adjusting the source material for online publication are those commonly used by Polish authors (see publications by Ireneusz Ihnatowicz, Józef Szymański, Janusz Tandecki and Krzysztof Kopiński). To ensure consistent linguistic standards, we have followed PWN’s Słownik Języka Polskiego and Adam Wolański’s Edycja Tekstów. Grammar and spelling mistakes were corrected, as were slips of the pen (lapsus calami). These corrections are unmarked in the text, bearing in mind, however, that we have made every effort to reproduce the documents as faithfully as possible. The language of the sources is modernized only to a small extent in order to preserve their original sound. Editing annotations, put in square brackets, are kept to an absolute minimum and all proper names (surnames, place names) are given in their original version.

We do not reveal the identity of those who appear in accounts recording cases of rape. Rape is a particularly humiliating crime, hence out of respect for victims and their families, we have decided to conceal their identity. Whenever it is possible to identify a victim of rape, we provide only the victim’s initials, replacing the removed text with square brackets.


All documents in the repository of the Witold Pilecki Center for Totalitarian Studies come from the holdings of the Institute of National Remembrance (their originals are stored in the Institute of National Remembrance archive) and are made available to the public under the provisions of the Act of 18 December 1998 on the Institute of National Remembrance – Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation.

The repository features the depositions of witnesses who, after World War II, testified about crimes committed by the Germans during the occupation of Poland from 1939 to 1945. The depositions were held by the Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland and its legal successors.

The testimonies record the experience of Polish victims of Nazi terror. Many testimonies contain graphic details, and therefore minors should use them under adult supervision.

Documents available in the repository should be interpreted in accordance with the methods and tools of historical research. The contents of the depositions were affected by the circumstances in which they were made as well as by the various intentions of interviewers and witnesses. Sometimes human memory also proved fallible. Not all cases in which witnesses were heard ended in conviction.

We welcome all your comments and remarks regarding the material published in the repository. We wish to obtain detailed information about the people and events mentioned in the testimonies in question. We also want to obtain a comprehensive knowledge of all relevant source material recording the experience of Polish victims of Nazi terror. All the remarks should be sent to the following address:

Witold Pilecki Center for Totalitarian Studies Foksal 17 00-372 Warszawa
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Please read our privacy policy. Use of the repository signifies your acceptance of its terms and conditions.

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