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Henryk Minkiewicz

Henryk Minkiewicz (1880-1940) was a Polish socialist politician and a General of the Polish Army. Former commander of the Border Defence Corps, he was among the Polish officers murdered in the Katyń massacre.


Early life

Henryk Minkiewicz was born January 19, 1880[1] in Suwałki, then in the Russian Empire.[1] After graduating from a gymnasium in Mariampol (modern Marijampolė, Lithuania), he was admitted to the Imperial University of Sankt Petersburg, where he studied biology and geography. However, in 1898 he became a member of the Polish Socialist Party (PPS) and in 1902 he had to flee to Kraków, then in Austro-Hungarian Galicia, in order to avoid arrest by the Okhrana. There he joined the Medical Faculty of the Jagiellonian University and, simultaneously, Faculty of painting at the Academy of Fine Arts.[1]

Polish nationalism

In 1904 he finally left the studies and devoted himself entirely to politics. A close friend of Józef Piłsudski, Minkiewicz entered the Central Committee of the PPS. He was also an active member of various paramilitary organizations, including the Organizacja Bojowa of the PPS-Revolutionary Faction, the Związek Walki Czynnej and the Związek Strzelecki. During his duty in terrorist Armed Organization, in 1909, together with Kazimierz Pużak Minkiewicz was in the execution squad to murder a provocateur and police agent Edmund Taranowicz.

World War I

After the outbreak of World War I, Minkiewicz joined the 2nd Brigade of the Polish Legions.[1] Initially in the rank of porucznik and a commanding officer of a company, with time he was promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel and became the commanding officer of the 3rd Infantry Regiment. During the battle of Kostiuchówka, on July 6, 1916 he was wounded in action and taken prisoner by the Russians. Officially a Russian citizen serving in enemy formations, he risked being executed for high treason. However, Minkiewicz managed to escape captivity and, after the Oath Crisis of 1917, joined the Polnische Wehrmacht, where he was promoted to the rank of Colonel. A commander of an infantry brigade and then the garrison of Warsaw, in November 1918 he headed the action of disarmament of soldiers of the Central Powers in the city.

Independent Poland

Joining the Polish Army as one of the first high-ranking officers, he initially served as a commander of an Operational Group during the Polish-Ukrainian War. Promoted to the rank of generał brygady on July 1, 1919, he became the commanding officer of the Polish 2nd Legions Infantry Division, with which he fought in the Polish-Bolshevik War. Soon before the victorious battle of Warsaw, on July 25, 1920, he became the deputy military governor of Warsaw and deputy commander of Franciszek Latinik's 1st Army.

After the war, in 1924 he was promoted to the rank of generał dywizji and became the first commanding officer of the newly-formed Border Defence Corps. Although quite successful as its commander, he became conflicted with Józef Piłsudski and on May 7, 1929 he was dismissed. Although officially in active service, he was left without assignment and settled in a small villa in the village of Jamno near Brześć Litewski (modern Brest, Belarus). In 1934 he was officially retired.[1]

World War II

During the Polish Defensive War of 1939, his wife Maria née Markowska was killed by Soviet bombardment. Soon afterwards Minkiewicz was arrested by the NKVD[2] and imprisoned in Kozielsk concentration camp[3][4].


As a highest ranking officer in the camp[5] he served as the representative of all the inmates. On April 7, 1940, together with the fourth transport of Polish officers,[6] he was transported to the Katyn woods and murdered, probably on April 9, 1940.


  1. ^ a b c d e Editor Anna Cienciala Katyn A Crime Without Punishment Yale, 2007 ISBN 978-0-300-10851-4 Page 400
  2. ^ Stanoslaw Swianiewicz In the Shadow of Katyn Witold, 2004 ISBN 1-894255-16-X Page 233
  3. ^ J.K.Zawodny Death in the Forest Notre Dame, 1962 Page 143
  4. ^ The Crime of Katyn Polish Cultural Foundation, 1989 ISBN 0 85065 190 0 Page 18
  5. ^ The Crime of Katyn Polish Cultural Foundation, 1989 ISBN 0 85065 190 0 Page 22
  6. ^ The Crime of Katyn Polish Cultural Foundation, 1989 ISBN 0 85065 190 0 Page 60


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