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I also had some correspondence with him about the Polish issue of Revolutionary History Volume 6, no. We had some difficulty communicating because he had no English, for though he spoke Russian and German as well as Polish, his French was no better than mine and so we spoke in fractured French. Hass, a small man, was a most impressive individual and seemed quite fearless. We were in Moscow just before the collapse of Stalinism later that year, and, faced with some minor bureaucratic hurdle of the usual Russian kind, Hass went for the minor bureaucrats in his fluent Russian with such fury and contempt that I wondered if we would both end up in the Lubianka, even though I assumed that hopefully he knew what he was doing.
But he was lucky, lucky to have survived. At the time of the Hitler-Stalin partition of Poland in , he was on the Soviet side of the line. It is not generally appreciated that the Trotskyists maintained themselves in German-occupied Poland for about three years, producing underground journals until most of them were murdered, but generally as Jews rather than as Reds.
But this was not so on the Russian-occupied side, for, needless to say, the first people the NKVD arrested were the Trotskyists. However, because of a bureaucratic muddle between the different sections of the Russian political police Hass was sent to Vorkuta and not immediately executed. But it would be entirely in keeping with his character if he had refused to serve. Again he was lucky, and because of his education was employed in the office rather than down the mine where he says he would certainly have died.
He finished his sentence in the labour camp in , but had to do the same job in the same area as a sort of ticket-of-leave man. Again he was quite fearless, and though it was forbidden he seemed to have travelled through parts of Russia which he was not supposed to do. After the death of Stalin, things got easier and most of the few Poles surviving in the camps were returned home. He went rather later in , among the last if not the very last, after some agitation by a Catholic student organisation seeking the return of all the Poles.
Those who had returned earlier had brought news of his existence and survival. The arrival in Warsaw was quite a performance. At the railway station there was a welcoming delegation of students, but he stepped up on the soap-box provided, announced that he was coming back as a revolutionary to overthrow the bureaucracy and then sang the Internationale giving the clenched fist salute.
This everyone thought rather astonishing if not totally mad. Politically he does not appear to have been so active for some years afterwards, the times were much less propitious, but he managed to do a massive amount of historical work and produce a few articles about the working-class movement in Poland in the interwar period, and he became the foremost expert on Polish freemasonry with its political role.
Most of his efforts, however, bore their publishing fruit later. With the rise of the working-class movement in Poland in the late s he again became active. A few weeks later in December the coup occurred, the shutters came down and the bureaucracy negotiated in prison and made a deal with the right wing of Solidarity — helped always by the Church. Hass with the rest of the far-left was kept in prison another year until the situation had been stabilised.
When he came out the world had changed, for the possibility of revolutionary situations never last for very long as they are but fleeting moments of opportunity. Hass believed they had made mistakes, but the number of cadres was tiny, and the bureaucracy and the Holy Church were far from stupid.
It was then in this period late in his life that most of most of his scholarly work was finally published, including four of his five books on freemasonry in , , and Only in at the age of 61 was he made a member of the History Institute of Polish Academy of Science, and in he was made a professor.
Hass never gave up, he remained true to his convictions to the end of his life, and he was a man of enormous, almost suicidal, courage. He leaves a wife and son. E-mail me at tcrawford revhist. I will send you my snail-mail address for cheques or POs. Note 1. The interview was never published probably because it needed a certain amount of editing and checking, and Hass was in prison and therefore unavailable.
Ludwik Hass (1918–2008)
Ludwig Haas (Schauspieler)