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Tadeusz Żenczykowski, codename "Kania", chief of Operation N

Operation N (Polish: Akcja N, where "N" comes from the Polish word "Niemcy," meaning "Germans" or "Germany") was a complex of sabotage, subversion and black-propaganda activities carried out by the Polish resistance against Nazi German occupation forces during World War II, from April 1941 to April 1944. These activities were organized by Office N, which in October 1941 was transformed into an Autonomous Sub-Department N of the Bureau of Information and Propaganda of the Union for Armed Struggle, later of the Home Army. It was headed by Tadeusz Żenczykowski (codename Kania).

Operation N constituted part of a psychological-warfare campaign against the German occupation. It produced German-language newspapers and leaflets, ostensibly distributed by German anti-Nazi groups.



"Germany is kaput!" A defeatist 1943 poster distributed in the General Government by Operation N after the Battle of Stalingrad

Autonomous Sub-Department N comprised five sections:

  • organization,
  • studies,
  • subversive actions,
  • editing,
  • distribution of publications.

Work was carried on with extraordinary precision. The studies section collected special information about the history and geography of Germany, especially about the German language, its dialects, jargons used by various milieus and professional circles, terms used in state administration, about politics, the economy, and opinions current in the army, among the civilian population, etc.

On that basis, thousands of leaflets, pamphlets and periodicals of various political persuasions were produced, from communist to monarchist, as well as satirical and religious periodicals.

In order to act efficiently, there were necessary appropriate local agencies, a set of secret printing houses, printing machines, documentation, files. Ca 700-950 persons participated in the Action N (editors, translators, printers, couriers and distributors), including boy scouts of Szare Szeregi. Ca 20,000-30,000 copies of various publications were distributed per month (newspapers, periodicals, leaflets etc). In total, during 1942-1944 over 1 million copies of various publications and propaganda materials.


Der Klabautermann - an issue of the periodical dated 3 January 1943 - a satire against the Third Reich, showing Nazi terror and genocide, on the right Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler

That action was aimed at confusion, moral pressure and undermining the morale of Germans. Because of that, there were edited and distributed various publications, addressed for civilian citizens of Third Reich, for German soldiers, for Volksdeutsche, officers of occupational administration. Among periodicals, the following titles were published regularly:

  • Der Soldat (Engl.: Soldier), published by turns with a monthly Der Frontkämpfer (Engl.. The Front Combatant) - both the periodicals suggested the existence of a wide anti-Nazi opposition inside the German army; an alleged conspiracy organisation was to include circles of the body of generals and higher officers of the army.
  • Der Hammer (Engl.: Hammer), and Der Durchbuch (Engl.The Breakthrough) - monthlies addressed for Germans of social-democratic and left-wing views.
  • Der Klabautermann (Engl.: ship ghost, affecting seamen with misfortune) - a satirical periodical.
  • Die Ostwache (Engl.: Guard in the East) - addressed for German occupational administration in the East.
  • Die Zukunft (Engl.: The Future) - a periodical for Polish Volksdeutsche, under a bilingual title.
  • Kennst Du die Wahrheit? (Engl.: Do You Know the Truth?) - a periodical addressed for Germans from the prewar area of the Third Reich and also for the Volksdeutsche in occupied Poland.

Apart from that, two counterfeit issues of the Polish-language so-called reptile press the Goniec Krakowski daily (English: Kraków Courier) were published, and on 21 March 1943 10,000 copies of a counterfeit issue of a similar daily Nowy Kurier Warszawski (English: New Warsaw Courier) were published. Additionally, defetist pamphlets and leaflets were published. Their alleged authorship was to indicate some German anti-Nazi conspiracy organisations; they were to affirm the certainty of the close downfall of the Third Reich. All texts were elaborated by Polish translators in correct German language, with consideration of German regional dialects. Because of that, long after the war the actions were attributed to Germans.


Stress was put on simulation of activities of non-existing German resistance groups and on impersonation of them. To that purpose a separate analytical cell was created in the Bureau of Information and Propaganda (Section II of Studies of the Sub-department of "N" Propaganda) headed by Michał Mendys, it carried studies upon Nazism, its social and political context, structural changes, personal staff and current directions of activities. Studies were carried upon ways of communication of the Nazi party with the community, its party jargon and language notions. There were studied the prewar history of German opposition organisations, their foundations and political programs, conflicts and groups in Wehrmacht. As a result from then to twenty fictitious German organisations were created, among them:

The New European Order. Operation N leaflet shows Hitler as a bloody assassin; in background are imprisoned European nations.
  • Heimatsbund "Freiheit und Frieden" (Engl.: Homeland Association "Freedom and Friendship") - an underground civil organisation, with its alleged seats in Muenchen and Berlin, appealing in the name of German civil population to stop their excessive sacrifices and their excessive work in the military industry of Germany.
  • Süddeutscher Freiheitsbund (Engl.: Freedom Association of Southern Germans) - an organisation allegedly active in Munchen and Wien. It postulated new elections to the Reichstag, free from electoral falsifications and demanded the politics of NSDAP to be condemned by the whole nation.
  • Der Verband Deutscher Frontsoldaten (Engl.: Association of German Soldiers of the Front Line) - an anti-Nazi organisation desirous of as quick conclusion of an armistice with the Allies as possible, and criticising the politics of NSDAP.
  • Soldatenbund "Hindenburg" (Engl.: Soldiers' Association "Hindenburg") - an alleged military organisation aiming at making German soldiers to be conscious that it is not possible to win the war with the USSR, constantly stressing the high losses of Wehrmacht in the Eastern front, and calling to overthrow Adolf Hitler.
  • Verband der freien Deutschen Nordamerikas (Engl.: Association of Free Germans of North America in New York) - an organisation allegedly representing Germans living in the United States of America, denouncing the enormity of German crimes, opting against nazification of Europe and calling fellow-citizens to fight against Adolf Hitler and NSDAP.
  • Der Deutsche Demokratenbund (Engl.: German Democratic Association) - organisation to criticise the allies of the Third Reich i.e. Axis powers, in order to arise distrust to the allies and to weaken mutual relations. It persuaded that the alliance with Italy will result in a catastrophe for Germany. It warned against the increase of the strength of Japan - an outcome of the irresponsible politics of Adolf Hitler who had promised it influence in Asia and Polynesia without any warranty that Japan would declare war on the USSR.
  • Der Soldatenrat einer Infanteriedivision im Osten (Engl.: Soldiers' Council of an Infantry Division in the East) - an organisation to object against high losses in people and equipment in the eastern front. It addressed leaflets and an open letterers to German soldiers fighting in the eastern front, in which it protested against the mendacity of German propaganda and absence of the freedom of speech, at the same time demanded to disclose the actual state of German losses, to make a change in the position of the supreme commander of German army, and warned of the looming military defeat.
  • Österreichische Freiheitsfront (Engl.: Austrian Front of Liberty) - allegedly created in Wien in 1943; it addresses leaflets to Austrians, in which it stressed that for 5 years, since the Anschluss Austria is placed under the yoke of the Nazi authority and is suffering the burdens of war imposed by German fascists. In leaflets and proclamations it was stressed that Austrians were dying for not their own cause, were suffering hunger and persecutions in the interest of Germany. The organisation called for a fight against Nazi Third Reich and for the institution of local organisations under the banner "Austria for Austrians" (Germ. "Österreich den Österreichern").

Other activities

Operation N poster satirizes the German motto "Gott mit uns" ("God is with us"). At left: Hitler. At right: Himmler. In center: Christ.

Apart from publication of periodicals and leaflets, Operation N also assumed other forms, among them actions of sending leaflets, false orders or official notices to personally indicated Germans, whose data were collected in special files. In February 1943, to Germans living in Warsaw it was sent out a false notice of the institution of a curfew for them, with a warning that its neglect may have caused injury or death. In 1943 in a next notice the Germans were informed that gas-masks would be distributed on some days; because of insufficient quantity of masks it caused chaos and panic among the addressees of the message.

On 30 April 1942 a false order was sent out to 209 factories under German administration, ordering to grant all workers an off-time day, due to the celebration of the day of NSDAP, with the obligation to pay out full salary by the employee.

In February 1944 a false order was issued specifying the sequence of evacuation of all Germans out of the area of the General Government, falsely signed by the Higher Commander of SS and Police general Wilhelm Koppe, which evoked a next wave of fears. According to that ordinance, the Gestapo was to be evacuated first, then the SS, SA, officials of the German administration, the Reichdeutsche (i.e. Germans coming from the prewar territory of the Reich - Germany) and Volksdeutsche.

Similar actions of disinformation were repeated periodically and also actions of street propaganda were carried. Since September 1943 the word "October" was being written on walls, to evoke fears of the coming month of October. Under a separate Action "tse-tse" Germans were annoyed by phone calls with threats, by letters, false notices or by sealing up the keyholes of their flats with gypsum. The "tse-tse" actions were carried by scouts of Szare Szeregi (ca 19 units) and every German was to receive two "stings" (any two of anti-German acts to be chosen). This was connected with the action of Small sabotage (e.g. painting of "Kotwica" i.e. the "Sign of Fighting Poland"), also done by Szare Szeregi.


Operation N peaked in 1943, when the network covered most of Poland, including Szczecin, Wrocław and towns of eastern Poland. In the spring of 1944 the operation was suspended. Several factors contributed to this:

  • the uncovering, by the Gestapo, of Operation N's main Warsaw printing-house and of the whole operation in the period, December 1943 – March 1944 (though no order was issued for the operation's winding-down, and the network remained in readiness);
  • a substantial shift in the attitude of German community towards the policy of the Third Reich due to constant military discomfitures in the front and systematic bombardments by the Allies;
  • a change in political situation inside Poland: the German propaganda dropped down, while that of Polish communists of the Polish Workers' Party and that of the USSR intensified, which resulted in the institution in November 1943 by the Bureau of Information and Propaganda of Armia Krajowa of "Operation Antyk" to conduct anti-communist and anti-soviet propaganda.


  • Grzegorz Mazur, Biuro Informacji i Propagandy SZP-ZWZ-AK 1939-1945 (Bureau of Information and Propaganda of Służba Zwycięstwu Polski/Związek Walki Zbrojnej/Armia Krajowa), Instytut Wydawniczy PAX, Warszawa, 1987, ISBN 83-211-0892-X (Polish)
  • Halina Auderska, Zygmunt Ziółek, Akcja N. Wspomnienia 1939-1945 (Action N. Memoirs 1939-1945), Wydawnictwo Czytelnik, Warszawa, 1972 (Polish)
  • Marek Ney-Krwawicz, Armia Krajowa. Szkic Historyczny (Armia Krajowa. A Historical Essay), Wydawnictwo Ars Print Production, Warszawa, 1999, ISBN 83-87224-17-0 (Polish)

See also

External links



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