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 materials which, so far, have been locked away in archives and hardly accessible.
The testimony database 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 of the original documents and their transcripts, fully searchable in Polish and English.
It has been our aim to make as few amendments to the original material as possible. The task of analyzing 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 follow PWN’s Słownik Języka Polskiego and Adam Wolański’s Edycja Tekstów. Grammar and spelling mistakes are corrected, as are slips of the pen (lapsus calami). These corrections are unmarked in the text, bearing in mind, however, that we make 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, with obvious spelling mistakes corrected.
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.
Descriptions of photographs (especially biographical notes on the witnesses and other people mentioned in their testimonies) were prepared on the basis of the relevant literature, searches conducted in various archives and digital repositories, and information obtained from the families. The following sources were of particular use:
Gliński J. B., Słownik biograficzny lekarzy i farmaceutów – ofiar II wojny światowej, vol. 1–5, Warsaw 1997–2012;
Jacewicz W., Woś J., Martyrologium polskiego duchowieństwa rzymskokatolickiego pod okupacją hitlerowską w latach 1939–1945, vol. 1–5, Warsaw 1977–1981;
Kto był kim w Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej, ed. J. M. Majchrowski, Warsaw 1994;
Polski wkład w przyrodoznawstwo i technikę. Słownik polskich i związanych z Polską odkrywców, wynalazców oraz pionierów nauk matematyczno-przyrodniczych i techniki, vol. 1–4, ed. B. Orłowski, Warsaw 2015;
Polski Słownik Biograficzny, vol. 1–52, publication by multiple authors, Kraków 1935–2018;
Słownik artystów polskich i obcych w Polsce działających (zmarłych przed 1966 r.). Malarze, rzeźbiarze, graficy, publication by multiple authors, vol. 1–10, Warsaw 1971–2016;
Słownik biograficzny adwokatów polskich, vol. 1–3, publication by multiple authors, Warsaw 1980–2018;
Słownik biograficzny historii Polski, vol. 1–2, ed. J. Chodera, F. Kiryk, Wrocław 2005;
Słownik biograficzny teatru polskiego, vol. 1–3, publication by multiple authors, Warsaw 1973–2017;
Słownik biograficzny techników polskich, vol. 1–24, publication by multiple authors, Warsaw 1989–2013;
Zeszyty Oświęcimskie, vol. 1–29, publication by multiple authors, Oświęcim 1957–2016;
as well as the following portals and websites:
„Encyklopedia teatru polskiego” (http://www.encyklopediateatru.pl/osoby);
"Powstańcze Biogramy" (www.1944.pl/powstancze-biogramy.html);
Information about prisoners available on the website of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum: (http://www.auschwitz.org/muzeum/informacja-o-wiezniach);
Information about people of culture available on the Culture.pl website maintained by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute: (https://culture.pl/pl/tworcy).