Postcard from Warsaw

Wojciech Jaruzelski is on trial for the crimes of Poland's brutal martial-law era. But the old communist has some unlikely allies. Even some victims say he should be spared

Janek Skarzynski / AFP / Getty

General Wojciech Jaruzelski (L), Poland's last communist-era leader, and former head of the Polish communist party Stanislaw Kania (R) leave court after a hearing in the long-running legal case over the former regime's martial law crackdown in 1981, on April 24, 2008 in Warsaw.

Twenty-seven years ago this month, Poland's capital was a different place: instead of showcasing new boutiques and McDonald's, the streets of Warsaw were guarded by tanks and lined with small bonfires to warm the hands of military patrols. On Dec. 13, 1981, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland's Prime Minister, imposed martial law, initiating a brutal 19-month crackdown on the pro-democracy Solidarity trade-union movement in which an estimated 90 people were killed and 10,000 detained. Now, in a case long postponed by political squeamishness and red tape, Jaruzelski and six other former top officials face charges of violating Poland's constitution and unlawfully enforcing...

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