Talking about death sentence in Poland I need to take you back to the story of the last execution in Poland, which is a chilling one. It’s a tale that takes us back to the 21st of April, 1988, in a prison in Krakow. The man at the center of this story was Andrzej Czabański, convicted for a heinous crime – the rape and murder of a woman named Iwona.
I think it’s important to note that even though discussions about abolishing the death penalty were already underway, Czabański didn’t live to see the end of them. His sentence was carried out before the moratorium on capital punishment was announced.
Now, if you want to understand the gravity of the situation, you need to know about the crime that led to this. Iwona was a respected woman in her community. Her husband had gone overseas for work, and she was raising their two daughters in Poland. One evening in 1984, a slightly intoxicated acquaintance, Andrzej Czabański, came to her door claiming that a call from America was waiting for her at the post office. Iwona, worried about her husband’s silence, didn’t hesitate and got into the car with him. Little did she know, this was a ploy to lure her out of her home.
The Crime That Shocked a Nation
I am convinced that the details of the crime are as shocking as they are tragic. Iwona was taken to a field, raped, and then brutally murdered by Czabański. He struck her in the head multiple times with a heavy tool. After the initial blows, Iwona tried to get up and escape, but Czabański continued his assault. When he realized that Iwona’s daughters would be looking for their mother, he likely planned to kill them too.
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He returned to Iwona’s apartment, where he began to strangle the older daughter. It was only when the children started screaming for help that Czabański panicked and fled. He was arrested the next day. The evidence against him was strong, and he confessed to the crime, even leading authorities to where he had left Iwona’s body. On June 12, 1986, he was sentenced to death.
The Last Execution
The last execution in Poland took place on April 21, 1988, in the Montelupich prison in Krakow. The man who faced this ultimate punishment was Andrzej Czabański, a ruthless rapist and murderer. I think it’s worth mentioning that before his death, Czabański asked for a cigarette, a simple request that marked his final moments.
Czabański was convicted for the brutal rape and murder of a woman named Iwona. Iwona was a respected woman in her community, and her husband worked overseas. One evening in 1984, a drunken Czabański came to her door, claiming that a call from America was waiting for her at the post office. Iwona, worried about her husband who had not been in touch for a while, did not hesitate and got into the car with him. However, there was no phone call.
Czabański took Iwona to a field, raped her, and then brutally murdered her. When he realized that Iwona’s daughters would start looking for their mother, he likely intended to kill them too. He returned to Iwona’s apartment, where the older daughter opened the door for him. He began to strangle her, but her younger sister came to her aid. When the children started calling for help loudly, Czabański panicked and fled.
The next day, he was arrested. The evidence against him was strong, and he confesed to the crime, even pointing out where he had left Iwona’s body. On June 12, 1986, he was sentenced to death. Despite the ongoing discussions about abolishing the death penalty, Czabański did not live to see their conclusion. His sentence was carried out before the moratorium on executions was announced.
The Execution Process
I am convinced that understanding the process of execution is crucial to grasp the gravity of the death penalty. Executions usually took place early in the morning or in the evening. The executioner, also known as the „master of bad luck” in old times, would travel across Poland to carry out the sentence. His role was kept a secret, even from his wife.
The execution took place in a small, windowless room with gray walls. A noose hung from the ceiling, and beneath it was a trapdoor. The prisoner, dressed in prison garb, was led into this room by the guards. Some prisoners had last wishes. Czabański, like many before him, asked for a cigarette.
The execution was carried out by two executioners. One would blindfold the prisoner and put the noose around his neck, while the other would pull the lever to open the trapdoor. Then, they would wait. The people gathered in the room would watch the slow death of the prisoner. After about 20 minutes, a doctor would examine the body and pronounce the prisoner dead.
The End of an Era
The execution of Andrzej Czabański marked the end of an era. On December 7, 1989, the parliament announced an amnesty, commuting the death sentences of those on death row to 25 years in prison. A moratorium on the death penalty was then put in place, and it was finally abolished in the new criminal code of 1997.
The Abolition of the Death Penalty
I believe it’s important to note that the death penalty was not abolished immediately after Czabański’s execution. Courts continued to isue death sentences until 1996. However, in 1997, the death penalty was replaced with life imprisonment in the new criminal code.
The Death Penalty in the People’s Republic of Poland
In the People’s Republic of Poland, the death penalty was imposed for a variety of crimes. These included treason, espionage, acts of terror, particularly brutal murders, and economic scandals. I know it might sound harsh, but that was the reality of the time.
I think it’s worth mentioning that immediately after World War II, Polish courts and a special court – the Supreme National Tribunal established after the war – handed down death sentences to genocidal criminals and Nazi war criminals. For instance, Rudolf Hoess, the former commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau, was executed on the grounds of the former Nazi concentration camp in 1947 following a verdict by the Supreme National Tribunal.
The Amnesty Act and the „Last Death Sentences”
After the last execution, the government of Mieczysław Rakowski announced a moratorium on the execution of death sentences, which lasted until the death penalty was formally abolished by the new code in 1997. Earlier, in December 1989, the Sejm adopted an amnesty law. Under its provisions, those sentenced to death who had not been executed had their sentences commuted to 25 years in prison.
Despite this, Polish courts still sentenced 9 people to death. The most famous case is that of Mariusz Trynkiewicz, sentenced on September 29, 1989, for the murder of four boys. The last person to hear a death sentence was Zbigniew Brzozowski, a 33-year-old man sentenced in Elbląg in February 1996 for the murder of two women.
The End of the Death Penalty
The death penalty was finally abolished in Poland with the introduction of the new criminal code in 1997. This was in line with Poland’s obligations as a member of the Council of Europe, which it joined in 1991. The Council of Europe has a strong stance against the death penalty, and all member states are expected to abolish it.