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Polish Underground Soldiers 1944-1963 - The Untold Story

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Author: Dr. Kazimierz Krajewski, PhD

Operations for freeing political prisoners from prisons, concentration camps and UBP [Pol. Urząd Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego, [Eng. Office of Public Security] and NKVD [The Peoples’ Commissariat for Internal Affairs, [Russian: Народный комиссариат внутренних дел, Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del, abbreviated: NKVD ( НКВД)] establishments. 1944 - 1948 (Preliminary assessment)

Part 1

The purpose of this report is to make an attempt at evaluating the operations undertaken by the Polish Underground during the Soviet occupation, involving releasing political prisoners, namely from prisons, concentration camps and UBP [secret police] establishments. In order to provide the reader with better initial insight into these matters, we will give examples of operations for releasing prisoners from the MO (Pol. Milicja Obywatelska, Eng. Communist People’s Militia) prisons, convoys and hospitals. The provided examples are surely non-exhaustive, but they will help the reader visualize the scale and type of these special-purpose military operations, which were the most spectacular operations carried out by the Polish Underground.

After the occupation of Poland and the introduction of the collaborationist Communist regime by the Soviet Army, the way in which the Polish Underground operated and functioned changed. The factors that determined its activities were also different than those prevalent during the German occupation. The entire history of the post-Home Army Underground - beginning with the Armed Forces Delegation for Poland (Pol. Delegatura Sił Zbrojnych) and ending with the Freedom and Independence (Pol. Zrzeszenie “Wolność i Niezawisłość”) - is the history of the occupiers’ mass scale attempts at demobilizing the Polish Underground, limiting its military activities and finally deeply transforming its presence from military into more “civilian” forms: civic, supplementary and complementary, to the currently existing legal political opposition. Obviously, disbanding the military organization that had been operating for five years and consisting of over 450,000 members was not an easy task, all the more so because it had to be carried out in conditions of prevalent terror inflicted by both occupation Soviet Army forces and the collaborationist “Polish” Communist government. The aforesaid “liquidatory” tendency, aiming at first at reforming the military organization, and then - due to the fact that it would be impossible to fully disband it - at transforming it into a more “civilian” form, will be prevailing until the end of the existence of the post-Home Army command.

In the gradually “narrowing” area of actions carried out by the post-war Underground directed against the Soviet occupation forces and the military and police forces of the “native” Communist regime, we will try to define the typology of military operations that were undertaken. We can distinguish three basic forms of operations:

(1) Operations against uniformed formations acting on behalf of the Communist government. This category includes, among others, open battles against operational groups of the military and police Communist forces (also against the Internal NKVD Troops), prison operations and in general operations aimed at releasing political prisoners, operations against Communist military stations or even against Communist garrisons.

(2) Combating the agencies acting on behalf of the “Polish” department of security and the Soviet special forces, NKVD, [NKGB] and the Soviet counter-intelligence agencies, such as “Smersh” (Russian: СМЕРШ, acronym of СМЕРть Шпионам, SMERt' SHpionam; "Death to spies").

(3) Operations aimed at obtaining financial means, essential for the functioning of the Polish Underground.

Over the years, the intensity of occurrence of the aforesaid forms of the underground military activities had been changing. Operations against the Communist agencies took place in all phases of the existence of the Polish Underground - even in the 1950s. However, the first category of operations against the uniformed Communist regime forces was particularly characteristic of the period up to the time of the Amnesty of 1947. After that, it became less frequent. The operations that dominated were aimed at obtaining supplies and at combating the aforesaid Communist agencies.

It is worth pointing out that the majority of the aforesaid types of operations (the first two points) can essentially be classified as self-defense actions, even open battles and skirmishes, which were usually clashes initiated by the Communist forces. Also operations against the Communist military outposts can be classified as self-defense actions, as mainly the facilities that posed the greatest threat to the Polish Underground and to Polish society were attacked.

In the first phase of the existence of the post-Home Army Underground - in the first three quarters of 1945 - the leaders of all groups subordinated to the Delegation of the Polish Forces at Home, despite the organization’s negative view regarding extending military operations and partisan actions, which was largely similar to the views expressed by Colonel Jan Rzepecki on that matter [1], recommended and, in practice, themselves carried out self-defense operations. Local organizations, such as The Citizens’ Home Army (Pol. Armia Krajowa Obywateli or Armia Krajowa Obywatelska), Resistance of the Home Army (Pol. Ruch Oporu Armii Krajowej), Polish Underground Army (Pol. Konspiracyjne Wojsko Polskie) not only permitted self-defense operations, but even ordered their subordinate groups to initiate those types of operations. One of the first orders given by the AK - AKO (Home Army – The Citizens’ Home Army) headquarters for the Białystok District ordered the leaders of each district to organize effective units that would be powerful enough to resist the occupation Communist forces: Short guidelines issued by the organization: […] To arrange and maintain strong, determined and reliable partisan groups, which would act as self-defense groups. [2] Individual, decentralized district structures of the Resistance of the Home Army appointed their own militant and diversionary units. Carrying out self-defense operations was one of their main objectives. In the Polish Underground Army, under the order given by Captain Stanisław Sojczyński, nom de guerre “Warszyc”, on 16 August 1945, a special unit under the name Self-defense and Public Security Unit, SOS (Pol. Samoobrona i Ochrona Społeczeństwa, SOS) was appointed whose main objective was to carry out self-defense operations.

National camp formations were not subject to “fight or not to fight?” dilemmas, which were so typical of the post-Home Army Underground organizations. Their leaders consequently believed that the foreign invasion still continues and it is necessary to resist it, also by means of military methods. However, a relatively early destruction of the National Military Alliance (Pol. Narodowe Zjednoczenie Wojskowe, NZW) headquarters by the UBP forces in the winter of 1946 led the military efforts of this second largest post-war Underground resistance organization to become fragmented and of a rather local nature.

Orders given by the leaders of Freedom and Independence (WiN) even more often than in the times of the Delegation of the Polish Forces at Home (DSZ), narrowed down the concept of what an acceptable self-defense operation is, practically limiting it just to recognition and some kind of prevention [3]. However, individual groups of WiN, in particular those belonging to Obszar Centralnego Zrzeszenia WiN did not give up on carrying out military operations and kept their own partisan and dispositional units whose main duty was to carry out self-defense operations. Even within the “South” Area (Pol. Obszar “Południowy”), namely within the WiN Kraków District, it was permitted to organize efficient and dispositional self-defense units, whose main duty were, among other things, "prospective attacks on prisons in order to release political prisoners." [4]

A common feature of all larger resistance organizations, both post-Home Army organizations and those originating from the national camp, stressing the recommended tendency to limit military operations, was that they all advised to carry out self-defense operations aimed at releasing political prisoners. The operations were so efficient and troubling to the Communist government that on 29 May 1946, Public Security Minister General S. Radkiewicz issued special order no. 54, which stressed the need to strengthen the security of prisons and convoys transporting prisoners to protect them against attacks. In his order he stated, among other things, that "the leaders of the WUBP (Eng. Voivodeship Office of State Security, Pol. Wojewódzki Urząd Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego), while increasing their efforts to actively combat banditry, neglect the prison system and means that are supposed to be used to guard what was acquired in the fight against the banditry [sic]. One prison or transport conquered by the bandits destroys the results of prolonged efforts, fights and sacrifices of lives of hundreds UBP members. The Department for Prisons and Camps (Pol. Departament Więzieńi Obozów) insufficiently scrutinizes prisons, checks security and alert systems and ensures that the existing operational directives issued in case of attacks or riots are followed and adequately executed […]. Therefore, I order the leaders of the WUBP, until 15 June 1946, to ensure the following:

a. To review prison defense plans

b. To check weapons and ammunition supplies

c. To issue necessary directives regarding the update of defense plans and refilling of weapons’ supplies

d. To appoint, by name and by a post title, those officers and their deputies who would be based in the Voivodeship Offices for State Security [Pol. Wojewódzkie Urzędy Bezpieczeństwa] and in the County Offices for State Security [Pol. Powiatowe Urzędy Bezpieczeństwa Narodowego], and who would be responsible for ensuring the safety of prisons;

e. To appoint officers who would be based in the Department for Prisons and Camps and who would act as deputy commanders of prison convoys (according to the Command no. 60, dated the 27th of September 1945 and according to the Circular Letter of the Department for Prisons and Camps [Pol. Okólnik Departamentu Więzieńi Obozów] no. 91 dated from 11 October 1945)." [5]

The heads of the WUBP Personnel Departments were ordered to check the quality of the prison staff (officers who were not suitable for work were to be gradually dismissed from service), to strengthen the cadres by assigning disciplined, trustworthy and politically reliable soldiers [sic] who were to be selected from the existing members of the UBP, and to recruit new officers. The KBW (Eng. The Internal Security Corps, Pol. Korpus Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego) Command Headquarters was ordered to assign constant protection to 34 prisons and camps specified in a separate order.

Successful actions of releasing prisoners were classified as the most severe operations carried out against the Communist regime. These operations, in which participants sacrificed their own lives in trying to release their comrades in arm and compatriots, are considered to be the most creditable operations of the Polish Underground.

Continue to Part 2


1. The manifesto to the partisan soldiers mentioned, among other things, “the degeneration of the partisan life” (it is strange that Rzepecki noticed this phenomenon only during the Communist occupation, as if it did not exist during the German occupation). The leader of Delegation of the Polish Forces at Home ordered also to confront the lawless operations carried out by the partisan groups, which he described as “significant social response” groups (the outrageous fact is that he used this term to refer to those who were the strongest opponents of the Communist regime – the National Armed Forces and the National Military Alliance soldiers). Managing the structures that reflected all that was best in Polish society, Rzepecki was not fully able to rise above his own beliefs and his social and political phobias, which did not meet the aspirations shared by the majority of the nation.

2. The order issued by the AK - AKO headquarters of the Białystok District no. 10 dated from 15 February 1945, ASW in Warsaw, WSR files in Warsaw, Sr 61/46, volume III.

3. Wskazówki postępowania wobec funkcjonariuszy UB (Eng. Guidelines of how to deal with UB officers) issued by I ZG WiN [in:] “Zrzeszenie Wolność i Niezawisłość w dokumentach”, volume 1, Wrocław 1997, pages 138-139.

4. The document written by Józef Zabrzeski “Przygodzki”, the leader of the intelligence of the WiN Kraków District, dated June 1946 and relating to the concept of joining the “Jędrusie” and “Lisy” groups in order to create a self-defence unit [in:] S. Wały, Świadectwo tamtym dniom… (Eng. Testimony of those days…) volume 1, Kraków 1974, pages 464-465.

5. Order no. 54, issued by the Public Security Minister General S. Radkiewicz stressing the need to strengthen the security of prisons and convoys transporting prisoners to protect them against attacks, CAW documentation1582/75/89, k. 40-41, currently at the IPN BU.

6. Ibid




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