Watch: New Netflix Film Explores how Polish Authorities Tracked Gay Men in 80s

Wednesday September 22, 2021
Originally published on September 22, 2021

Tomasz Zi?tek in "Operation Hyacinth:
Tomasz Zi?tek in "Operation Hyacinth:  (Source:Netflix)

In the 1980s there was Polish serial killer targeting gay men and the anti-gay government saw an opportunity. Not so much to track down the killer, but to track down the LGBTQ population.

That's the subject of the upcoming Netflix film "Operation Hyacinth," out next month. Piotr Domalewski directs the movie with a script by Marcin Ciasto, who told the website that the movie "was inspired by the 1985-87 militia action 'Hyacinth', aimed at the milieu of homosexuals of the Polish People's Republic. However, despite its strong historical background, it is not a historical film, but a fictional story about the entanglement in the system, love and pursuit of freedom."

Operation Hyacinth, the Daily Mail reports, "led to information being collected on at least 11,000 gay men in the 1980s."

While homosexuality was legal in Poland, Communist officials began focusing on collecting data on the minority in the 1960s, believing homosexuality to be a pathology.

"But it was not until Operation Hyacinth that personal data and police files started being collated on a nationwide scale, with police using the hunt for the serial killer - as well as the need to combat the newly-emergent AIDS virus - as justification," adds the DM. "After being arrested, men were forced to sign statements declaring that they were gay and, shockingly, that they were 'not interested' in children."

A secret police organization called SB (S?u?ba Bezpiecze?stwa) intimidated gay people, arresting them and issuing "gay cards," maintaining the information in secret police files called a "pink briefcase."

What prompted the action were the murders, which began with the death of a gay man in Gdansk, who had collected hundreds of correspondences with other gay men that the police used to start the murder investigation that grew into something more sinister.

"Polish historians have previously said that the real reason was to gather compromising evidence which could later be used for blackmail, because those arrested would be more willing to cooperate with the security services," writes the DM.

The information was also used to gather information against members of the anti-communist opposition, such as those in Solidarity trade union movement.

"According to LGBT activist Krzysztof Tomasik, some of the 'pink briefcase' folders survived, and the information they contain could still be useful in blackmailing politicians and other high-ranking people," adds the Daily Mail.

FilmNewsEurope describes the film as "a crime story set in the 1980s and it follows Robert, a young policeman with principles, who picks up the trail of a serial killer who targets gays. During the investigation Robert (Tomasz Zi?tek) meets Arek (Hubert Mi?kowski). He decides to use him as an informer, unaware of how much this relationship is going to affect not only his work, but also his private life."