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German supply train blown up by Armia Krajowa

The Polish resistance movement fought against the occupation of Poland (1939–1945) during World War II. The fight against the Nazi occupation of Poland was an important part of the European anti-fascist resistance movement and had the largest partisan army in occupied Europe. It is most notable for disrupting German supply lines to the Eastern Front, provision of military intelligence to the British, and for saving more Jewish lives in the Holocaust than any other Allied organization or government. It was a part of the Polish Underground State.

Contents

Organizations

Soldiers from Kolegium "A" of Kedyw on Stawki Street in Wola district - Warsaw Uprising 1944

The largest of the Polish resistance organizations was the Home Army (in Polish, Armia Krajowa or AK), loyal to the Polish Government-in-Exile in London. The AK was formed in 1942 from the Union for Armed Combat (Związek Walki Zbrojnej or ZWZ, created in 1939) and incorporated most other Polish resistance groups (except for the communists and some far-right groups). It was also the military arm of the Polish Secret State. From 1943 the AK was increasingly in competition with the communist resistance People's Army (Polish Armia Ludowa or AL), backed by the Soviet Union and controlled by the Polish Workers' Party (Polish Polska Partia Robotnicza or PPR). After the fall of France Poles who were not involved in the regular Polish Army in France and combatants who not escaped to Britain created Polish resistance who acted in France.

Membership

By 1944 the AK had some 380,000 men, although not all of them were armed: the AL was much smaller, numbering around 30,000 [2]. By the summer of 1944 Polish underground forces numbered more than 300,000 [3] with some estimates of over 400,000-500,000.

Actions, operations and inteligence 1940-1945

1940

Major Henryk Dobrzański aka "Hubal"

In March 1940, a partisan unit of the first guerrilla commanders in the Second World War in Europe under Major Henryk Dobrzański "Hubal" completely destroyed a battalion of German infantry in a skirmish near the village of Huciska. A few days later in an ambush near the village of Szałasy it inflicted heavy casualties upon another German unit. To counter this threat the German authorities formed a special 1,000 men strong anti-partisan unit of combined SS-Wehrmacht forces, including a Panzer group. Although the unit of Major Dobrzański never exceeded 300 men, the Germans fielded at least 8,000 men in the area to secure it.[1][2]

Auschwitz photos of Witold Pilecki

In 1940, Witold Pilecki, a member of the Polish resistance, presented to his superiors a plan to enter Germany's Auschwitz concentration camp, gather intelligence on the camp from the inside, and organize inmate resistance.[3] The Home Army approved this plan, provided him a false identity card, and on September 19, 1940, he deliberately went out during a street roundup in Warsaw - łapanka, and was caught by the Germans along with other civilians and sent to Auschwitz. In the camp he organized the underground organization -Związek Organizacji Wojskowej - ZOW.[4] From October 1940, ZOW sent its first report about the camp and the genocide in November 1940 to Home Army Headquarters in Warsaw through the resistance network organized in Auschwitz.[5]

During the night of January 21–22, 1940, in the Soviet-occupied Podolian town of Czortków The Czortków Uprising started. It was the first Polish uprising during World War II. Anti-Soviet Poles, most of them teenagers from local high schools, stormed the local Red Army barracks and a prison, in order to release Polish soldiers kept there.

1941

"Germany is kaput!" A defeatist poster distributed in the General Government by Operation N

From April 1941 the Bureau of Information and Propaganda of the Union for Armed Struggle started Operation N headed by Tadeusz Żenczykowski. It involved sabotage, subversion and black-propaganda activities.[6]

From March 1941, Witold Pilecki's reports were forwarded to the Polish government in exile and through it, to the British and other Allied governments. These reports informed the Allies about the Holocaust and were the principal source of intelligence on Auschwitz-Birkenau for the Western Allies.[7]

On March 7, 1941, two Polish agents of the Home Army killed Nazi collaborator actor Igo Sym in his apartment in Warsaw. In reprisal, 21 Polish hostages were executed. Several Polish actors were also arrested by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz, among them such notable figures as directors Stefan Jaracz and Leon Schiller.

1942

In September 1942 "The Council to Aid Jews Żegota" was founded by Zofia Kossak-Szczucka and Wanda Krahelska-Filipowicz ("Alinka") and made up of Polish Democrat as well as other Catholic activists. Poland was the only country in occupied Europe where there existed such a dedicated secret organization. Half of the Jews who survived the war (thus over 50,000) were aided in some shape or form by Żegota.[8] Most known activist of Żegota was Irena Sendler head of the children's division who saved 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto, providing them false documents, and sheltering them in individual and group children's homes outside the Ghetto.[9]

Jan Karski, 1944.

In 1942 Jan Karski reported to the Polish, British and U.S. governments on the situation in Poland, especially the Holocaust of the Jews. He met with Polish politicians in exile including the prime minister, as well as members of political parties such as the PPS, SN, SP, SL, Jewish Bund and Poalei Zion. He also spoke to Anthony Eden, the British foreign secretary, and included a detailed statement on what he had seen in Warsaw and Bełżec.[10]

The Zamość Uprising was an armed uprising of Armia Krajowa and Bataliony Chłopskie against the forced expulsion of Poles from the Zamość region under the Nazi Generalplan Ost. Germans attempting to remove the local Poles from the Greater Zamosc area (through forced removal, transfer to forced labor camps, or, in some cases, mass murder) to get it ready for German colonization. It lasted from 1942 until 1944 and despite heavy casualties suffered by the Underground, the Germans failed.[11]

On the night from 7 to 8 October 1942 Operation Wieniec started. It targeted rail infrastructure near Warsaw. Similar operations aimed at disrupting German transport and communication in occupied Poland occurred in the coming months and years. It targeted railroads, bridges and supply depots, primarily near transport hubs such as Warsaw and Lublin.

1943

On March 26, 1943 in Warsaw Operation Arsenal was launched by the Szare Szeregi (Gray Ranks) Polish Underground The successful operation led to the release of arrested troop leader Jan Bytnar "Rudy". In an attack on the prison van Bytnar and 24 other prisoners were freed.[12]

In 1943 in London Jan Karski met the then much known journalist Arthur Koestler. He then traveled to the United States and reported to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His report was a major factor in informing the West. In July 1943, again personally reported to Roosevelt about the situation in Poland. During their meeting Roosevelt suddenly interrupted his report and asked about the condition of horses in occupied Poland.[13] [14] [15] He also met with many other government and civic leaders in the United States, including Felix Frankfurter, Cordell Hull, William Joseph Donovan, Samuel Cardinal Stritch, and Stephen Wise. Karski also presented his report to media, bishops of various denominations, members of the Hollywood film industry and artists, but without success. Many of those he spoke to did not believe him, or supposed that his testimony was much exaggerated or was propaganda from the Polish government in exile.

In April 1943 the Germans began deporting the remaining Jews from the Warsaw ghetto provoking the Warsaw Ghetto Rising, April 19 to May 16. Some units of the AK tried to assist the Ghetto rising, but for the most part the resistance was unprepared and unable to defeat the Germans. One Polish AK unit, the National Security Corps (Państwowy Korpus Bezpieczeństwa), under the command of Henryk Iwański ("Bystry"), fought inside the ghetto along with ŻZW. Subsequently, both groups retreated together (including 34 Jewish fighters). Although Iwański's action is the most well-known rescue mission, it was only one of many actions undertaken by the Polish resistance to help the Jewish fighters.[16] In one attack, three cell units of AK under the command of Kapitan Józef Pszenny ("Chwacki") tried to breach the ghetto walls with explosives, but the Germans defeated this action.[17] AK and GL engaged the Germans between April 19 and April 23 at six different locations outside the ghetto walls, shooting at German sentries and positions and in one case attempting to blow up a gate.[17] After the failure of the uprising, the Jewish leaders knew they would be crushed, but they preferred to die fighting than wait to be deported to their deaths in the concentration camps.

In August 1943 the headquarters of the Armia Krajowa ordered Operation Belt who was one of the large-scale anti-Nazi operations of the AK during the war. By February 1944, 13 German outposts were destroyed with few losses on the Polish side.[18]

AK members recovering V-2 from the Bug River.

Operation Heads started - action of the serial assassinations Nazi personnel sentenced to death by the Special Courts for crimes against Polish citizens in occupied Poland.

On September 7, 1943, the Home Army killed Franz Bürkl during Operation Bürkl. Bürkl was a high-ranking Gestapo agent responsible for the murder and brutal interrogation of thousands of Polish Jews and resistance fighters and supporters. In reprisal, 20 inmates of Pawiak were murdered in a public execution by the Nazis.

From November 1943, Operation Most III started. The Armia Krajowa provided the Allies with crucial intelligence on the German V-2 rocket. In effect some 50 kg of the most important parts of the captured V-2, as well as the final report, analyses, sketches and photos, were transported to Brindisi by a Royal Air Force Douglas Dakota aircraft. In late July 1944, the V-2 parts were delivered to London.[19]

1944

Polish resistance soldiers from Batalion Zośka during 1944 Warsaw Uprising
"Gray Wolf" with Polish national flag - German armored fighting vehicle SdKfz 251 captured by the Warsaw insurgents- 8-th "Krybar" Regiment, on August 14, 1944 from 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking.

On 11 February 1944 the Resistance fighters of Polish Home Army's unit Agat executed Franz Kutschera, SS and Reich's Police Chief in Warsaw in action known as Operation Kutschera.[20][21] In a reprisal of this action 27 February 140 inmates of Pawiak - Poles and Jews were shot in a public execution by the Germans.

May 13–May 14, 1944 the Battle of Murowana Oszmianka the largest clash between the Polish ani-Nazi Home Army (Armia Krajowa, AK) and the Nazi Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force a Lithuanian volunteer security force subordinated to Nazi Germany. The battle took place in and near the village of Murowana Oszmianka in Generalbezirk Litauen Reichskommissariat Ostland. The outcome of the battle was that the 301st LVR battalion was routed and the entire force was disbanded by the Germans soon afterwards.[22]

On June 14, 1944 took place Battle of Porytowe Wzgórze between Polish and Russian partisans, numbering around 3000, and the Nazi German units consisted of between 25000 to 30000 soldiers, with artillery, tanks and armored cars and air support.

On 25-26 June 1944 the Battle of Osuchy - one of the largest battles between the Polish resistance and Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II, continuation of the Zamosc Uprising.[23]

During 1943 the Home Army built up its forces in preparation for a national uprising. The plan of national anti nazi uprising on areas of prewar Poland was code-named Operation Tempest. Preparation began in late 1943 but military actions start in 1944. Its most widely known elements were Operation Ostra Brama, Lwów Uprising and the Warsaw Uprising.

On July 7 started Operation Ostra Brama Approximately 12,500 Home Army soldiers attacked the German garrison and managed to seize most of the city center. Heavy street fighting in the outskirts lasted until July 14. In Vilnius' eastern suburbs, the Home Army units cooperated with reconnaissance groups of the Soviet 3rd Belorussian Front.[24] The Red Army entered the city on July 15, and the NKVD started to intern all Polish soldiers. On July 16, the HQ of the 3rd Belorussian Front invited Polish officers to a meeting and arrested them.[25][26][27]

On July 23 started The Lwów Uprising the armed struggle started by the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) against the Nazi occupiers in Lwów, during World War II. It started on , 1944 as a part of a plan of all-national uprising codenamed Operation Tempest. The fights lasted until July 27 and resulted in liberation of the city. However, shortly afterwards the Polish soldiers were arrested by the invading Soviets and either forced to join the Red Army or sent to the Gulags. The city itself was occupied by the Soviet Union.[28]

In August 1944, as the Soviet armed forces approached Warsaw, the government in exile called for an uprising in the city, so that they could return to a liberated Warsaw and try to prevent a communist take-over. The AK, led by Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski, launched the Warsaw Uprising. Soviet forces were less than 20 km away but on the orders of Soviet High Command they gave no assistance. Stalin described the rising as a "criminal adventure". The Poles appealed for the western Allies for help. The Royal Air Force, and the Polish Air Force based in Italy, dropped some arms but, as in 1944, it was almost impossible for the Allies to help the Poles without Soviet assistance.

The fighting in Warsaw was desperate. The AK had between 12,000 and 20,000 armed soldiers, most with only small arms, against a well-armed German Army of 20,000 SS and regular Army units. Bór-Komorowski's hope that the AK could take and hold Warsaw for the return of the London government was never likely to be achieved. After 63 days of savage fighting the city was reduced to rubble, and the reprisals were savage. The SS and auxiliary units recruited from Soviet Army deserters were particularly brutal.

After Bór-Komorowski's surrender the AK fighters were treated as prisoners-of-war by the Germans, much to the outrage of Stalin, but the civilian population were ruthlessly punished. Overall Polish casualties are estimated to be between 150,000–300,000 killed, 90,000 civilians were sent to labor camps in the Reich, while 60,000 were shipped to death and concentration camps such as Ravensbruck, Auschwitz, Mauthausen and others. The city was almost totally destroyed after German sappers systematically demolished the city. The Warsaw Uprising allowed the Germans to destroy the AK as a fighting force, but the main beneficiary was Stalin, who was able to impose a communist government on postwar Poland with little fear of armed resistance.

1945

In the latter years of the war, there were increasing conflicts between Polish and Soviet partisans, some groups continued to oppose the Soviets long after the war. The last of the cursed soldiers - members of the militant anti-communist resistance in Poland was Józef Franczak who was killed with pistol in his hand by ZOMO in 1963.

On May 5, 1945 in Bohemia Narodowe Siły Zbrojne brigade liberated prisoners from a Nazi concentration camp in Holiszowo, including 280 Jewish women prisoners.[29] The brigade suffered heavy casualties.

In May 21, 1945, a unit of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa, AK), led by Colonel Edward Wasilewski, attacked a NKVD camp located in Rembertów on the eastern outskirts of Warsaw. The Soviets kept there hundreds of Poles[30][31][32], members of the Home Army[33], whom they were systematically deporting to Siberia. However, this action of the pro-independence Polish resistance freed all Polish political prisoners from the camp. Between 1944-1946 cursed soldiers attack many communist prisons in Soviet occupied Poland - Raids on communist prisons in Poland (1944–1946).

On May 7, 1945 in the village of Kuryłówka, southeastern Poland The Battle of Kuryłówka started. It was the biggest battle in the history of the Cursed soldiers organization - National Military Alliance (NZW). In battle against Soviet Union's NKVD units anti communist partisans shot 70 NKVD agents. The battle ended in a victory for the underground Polish forces.[34]

Squads/troops

See also

Notes

  1. ^ *Marek Szymanski: Oddzial majora Hubala, Warszawa 1999, ISBN 83-912237-0-1
  2. ^ *Aleksandra Ziółkowska Boehm: A Polish Partisan's Story (to be published by Military History Press)
  3. ^ Jozef Garlinski, Fighting Auschwitz: the Resistance Movement in the Concentration Camp, Fawcett, 1975, ISBN 0-449-22599-2, reprinted by Time Life Education, 1993. ISBN 0-8094-8925-2
  4. ^ Hershel Edelheit, History of the Holocaust: A Handbook and Dictionary, Westview Press, 1994, ISBN 0813322405,Google Print, p.413
  5. ^ Adam Cyra, Ochotnik do Auschwitz - Witold Pilecki 1901-1948 [Volunteer for Auschwitz], Oświęcim 2000. ISBN 83-912000-3-5
  6. ^ Halina Auderska, Zygmunt Ziółek, Akcja N. Wspomnienia 1939-1945 (Action N. Memoirs 1939-1945), Wydawnictwo Czytelnik, Warszawa, 1972 (Polish)
  7. ^ Norman Davies, Europe: A History, Oxford University Press, 1996, ISBN
  8. ^ Tadeusz Piotrowski (1997). "Assistance to Jews". Poland's Holocaust. McFarland & Company. pp. 118. ISBN 0-7864-0371-3. http://books.google.com/books?id=hC0-dk7vpM8C&pg=PA118&vq=%22half+were+aided%22&dq=Number+of+Jews+helped+by+Zegota&source=gbs_search_s.  
  9. ^ Baczynska, Gabriela; JonBoyle (2008-05-12). "Sendler, savior of Warsaw Ghetto children, dies". Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/12/AR2008051200522.html. Retrieved 2008-05-12.  
  10. ^ E. Thomas Wood & Stanisław M. Jankowski (1994). Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust. John Wiley & Sons Inc. ISBN 0-471-01856-2
  11. ^ Joseph Poprzeczny, Odilo Globocnik, Hitler's Man in the East, McFarland, 2004, ISBN 0786416254
  12. ^ Meksyk II
  13. ^ http://fzp.net.pl/spot33.html
  14. ^ http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:BdqBqHR4r18J:www.uml.lodz.pl/_plik.php%3Fid%3D2064+podczas+rozmowy+z+karskim+roosevelt+przerwa%C5%82+mu+i+spyta%C5%82+o+konie&cd=2&hl=pl&ct=clnk
  15. ^ http://www.polishdailynews.com/ppa.php?mode=archiwum&id=6979
  16. ^ Stefan Korbonski, "The Polish Underground State: A Guide to the Underground, 1939-1945", pages 120-139, Excerpts
  17. ^ a b Stefan Korbonski The Polish Underground State: A Guide to the Underground, 1939-1945
  18. ^ Aleksander Kamiński „Kamienie na szaniec” ISBN 83-10-10505-3
  19. ^ Ordway, Frederick I., III. The Rocket Team. Apogee Books Space Series 36 (pp. 158, 173)
  20. ^ Piotr Stachniewicz, "AKCJA "KUTSCHERA", Książka i Wiedza, Warszawa 1982,
  21. ^ Joachim Lilla (Bearb.): Die Stellvertretenden Gauleiter und die Vertretung der Gauleiter der NSDAP im „Dritten Reich“, Koblenz 2003, S. 52-3 (Materialien aus dem Bundesarchiv, Heft 13)ISBN 3-86509-020-6
  22. ^ (English) Tadeusz Piotrowski (1997). Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide.... McFarland & Company. pp. 165–166. ISBN 0-7864-0371-3. http://books.google.com/books?id=A4FlatJCro4C&pg=PA166&vq=Murowana&dq=1939+Soviet+citizenship+Poland&source=gbs_search_s&sig=EJD5X62pH3DXOMvJrfvqj7lIeys. Retrieved 2008-03-15.   See also review
  23. ^ Martin Gilbert, Second World War A Complete History, Holt Paperbacks, 2004, ISBN 0805076239, Google Print, p.542
  24. ^ (English) G J Ashworth (1991). War and the City. London: Routledge. pp. 108. ISBN 0-415-05347-1. http://books.google.com/books?visbn=0415053471&id=8nA_txFp7GQC&pg=PA108&lpg=PA108&q=Wilno&vq=Wilno&dq=War+and+the+City&sig=FksPAUjJmgaHTdKHXF0RdIY3Mzs.  
  25. ^ (English) Anthony James Joes (2004). Resisting Rebellion: The History and Politics of Counterinsurgency. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 47. ISBN 0-8131-2339-9. http://books.google.com/books?visbn=0813123399&id=IoCsbXb03bUC&pg=PA47&lpg=PA47&dq=Wilno+uprising+1944&sig=DNr9UY9V82HVlcBxfCJJ_CKKfiE.  
  26. ^ (English) Michael Alfred Peszke (2004). The Polish Underground Army, the Western Allies, and the Failure of Strategic Unity in World War II. McFarland & Company. pp. 146. ISBN 0-7864-2009-X. http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN078642009X&id=zhb2doihL1wC&pg=PA146&lpg=PA146&q=Wilno+uprising+1944&vq=Wilno+uprising+1944&dq=Wilno+uprising+1944&sig=PyfbCJOmvAL0VzoQu0DofZY-Pao.  
  27. ^ (English) Jan M. Ciechanowski (2002). The Warsaw Rising of 1944. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 206–208. ISBN 0-521-89441-7. http://books.google.com/books?visbn=0521894417&id=2kvvMiclgVMC&pg=PA207&lpg=PA208&printsec=8&vq=Wilno&dq=Wilno+uprising+1944&sig=dssBKL8F-Lf2eujhSc78M91fDmU.  
  28. ^ Bolesław Tomaszewski ,Jerzy Węgierski "Zarys historii lwowskiego obszaru ZWZ-AK" Warsaw 1987 Pokolenie
  29. ^ Antonin Bohun Dabrowski in "Out of the Inferno: Poles Remember the Holocaust" edited by Richard Lukas, pg 22. [1]
  30. ^ Norman Davies, Rising '44, 2004, Viking Penguin, ISBN 0-670-03284-0, p. 495
  31. ^ Norman Davies, Rising '44, 2003, Macmillan, ISBN 0 333 90568 7, p. 495
  32. ^ Norman Davies, Rising '44, 2004, Pan, ISBN 0 330 48863 5, p. 497
  33. ^ Tadeusz Piotrowsk, Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918-1947, McFarland & Company, 1998, ISBN 0786403713, p.131 (Google Print)
  34. ^ Norman Davies, "No Simple Victory", Viking Penguin 2006
  35. ^ Bohdan Kwiatkowski, Sabotaż i dywersja, Bellona, London 1949, vol.1, p.21; as cited by Marek Ney-Krwawicz, The Polish Underground State and The Home Army (1939-45). Translated from Polish by Antoni Bohdanowicz. Article on the pages of the London Branch of the Polish Home Army Ex-Servicemen Association. Retrieved March 14, 2008.

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