On 1 September 1939, the Germans attacked Poland and penetrated her territory from the West, North and South.
For several month prior to the assault, Hitler attempted to intimidate Poland, expecting she would capitulate as
did Austria and Czechoslovakia. The Third Reich was to be disappointed. The Poles, though completely overpowered,
resolutely resisted. On 17 September 1939, the Soviet Union stabbed the fighting nation in the back by occupying
Poland's eastern provinces. In the end, the might of enemy armor and air power of both aggressors prevailed.
With attacks coming from all sides, the polish army was reduced to independent fighting units and eventually ceased organized resistance on 5 October 1939. The Poles were beaten, but not conquered. The fight against the enemy was to continue uninterrupted for the next five years. The key element in this struggle was the Polish Secret Underground State. It was organized late in 1939 and early in 1940 and reported to the Polish Government-in exile located first in France, then in England.
The fighting arm of the Secret (Underground) State was the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa - AK). Scarcely any Pole failed to rally behind this national organization and its army.
This subject is inconceivable broad, embracing, as it does, five years of the Polish nation's heroic struggle for freedom and independence. The Polish Secret State could be compared to an iceberg, whose visible portion is so much smaller than the portion that is submerged and against which ships collide and sink. Likewise, the armed actions of both the Soviet Russian as well as German occupying forces were fragmented by their collision with the determined stance of the entire Polish society.
The continuity of the fighting and the legal foundation of the Secret (Underground) State may be seen in a document addressed to Brigadier Tokarzewski by Polish Lieutenant General Julius Rommel on 27 September 1939, the day before the capitulation of Warsaw, Poland's capital:
"I hereby assign to Brigadier General Michael Tadeusz Tokarzewski-Karaszewicz, the powers granted me by the Commander-in-Chief in agreement with the Government, of commander over the entire extent of the country in the war against the invaders, with the task of continuing the fight to maintain independence and the integrity of our borders. J.Rommel, Lieutenant General".
The first organizational entity under General Tokarzewski's command assumed the name "Service Toward Victory of Poland", (Sluzba Zwyciestwu Polski - SZP) and based its functioning upon cooperation with the principal political parties of prewar Poland, namely the Polish Socialist Party, the People's Party, the National Party and later the Labor Party. By mid October 1939, General Tokarzewski was able to report to the Polish Government-in-Exile, then forming in France under the command of General Wladyslaw Sikorski, that a Secret (underground) organization had been created.
In early December 1939, the "Service Toward Victory of Poland" was renamed "Union for Armed Struggle" (Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej - ZWZ); however, General Tokarzewski was transferred to Lwow to assume command over territory under Soviet occupation. He was arrested by Soviet guards while crossing the border and never reached his destination.
His successor in the German-occupied territories became General Stefan Rowecki, later commander of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa - AK), by order of the Polish Commander-in-Chief in London. By this time all Poland was under German occupation, Germany having invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941.
At the same time as the central civilian as well as military organs of the Polish Secret (Underground) State were arising, local military and civilian authorities were also being organized, especially at the voivodship (equivalent to a province) and county levels. The cooperation between civilian politics and the military was strongly emphasized and enforced, to enable the Underground to secure the greatest possible support of the entire society, and to facilitate the reconstruction of the governmental authorities, as they existed before the war.
The Polish political parties, which undertook the responsibility for the existence and performance of the Underground State, formed a Political Agreement Committee, which, after several changes, on 9 January 1944 finally became known as the Council Of National Unity (Rada Jednosci Narodowej - RJN). The parliament of the Secret (Underground) State was composed of seventeen persons. The cooperation of the political parties served to give political direction to the Underground and to establish the principles upon which Polish statehood was to be rebuilt once freedom was regained. The Council of National Unity enacted on 15 March 1944 a significant Declaration entitled "For What the Polish Nation Fights". The Declaration reflected the organizational, political, social and economic concerns prevailing in the Polish society under the occupation. A few of its ideas were used by the postwar leaders of the People's Republic of Poland, albeit in a superficial form that deprived them of their true significance.
The fundamental goal of the program spelled out in the Declaration was the recovery of freedom and independence by the Polish nation. Poland's postwar eastern borders were to be those established by the Treaty of Riga on 18 March 1921. In the west, East Prussia as well as a wide strip of German territory west of the prewar boundary were to be joined to Poland. Poland's political organization was to be based on a parliamentary democracy and a strong central government. Poland was to strive toward the rapid development industry and toward reform of the ownership of farmland, in order to draw upon the peasantry as a limitless source of national energy for the future. By supporting private initiative, the state intended to facilitate the establishment of a small to medium size scale of industry, the skilled trades and commerce. Social policy was to have the full cooperation of the working man. Work was to be the life task of the individual, the fulfillment of his obligation to society.
A special task of the state was to protect children, youth, and the family; including wide-ranging assistance to youth seeking an education, especially to those of working-class and peasant origins, to help assure them an equal start in life. Education was to br free at all levels to those of limited means, including university study.
The core ideas of the Declaration of 1944, much like those of the historic Constitution of 3 May 1791, became the basis for the political thinking of the captive polish nation. This "political testament", as well as the entire activity of the Polish Secret (Underground) State, contributed in large measure to the changes now occurring in Poland. The postwar generation reached out to the previous generation's calls for freedom, democracy and opportunity. This model has survived years of oppression and repression.
With the government in exile in France, then England, the functions of government within occupied Poland were performed by the Home Government (Delagatura Rzadu) under the leadership of the Government Representatives whose ranks were, respectively, those of Vice-Premier and Ministers. During the most critical period of the war, the function of Vice-Premier was performed by Jan Stanislaw Jankowski from 1 March 1943 until 28 March 1945, when he was arrested near Warsaw by the Soviet NKVD along with Kazimierz Puzak, chairman of the Council of National Unity, General Leopold Okulicki, last Commander-Chief of the Home Army, Adam Bien, Stanislaw Jasiukiewicz and Antoni Pajdak, Ministers, together with nine representatives of political parties and a translator.
The Home Government was composed of numerous departments charged with important tasks:
The Department of Internal Affairs organized the future national police and directed the work of district delegations.
The Department of Information and the Press fought against the propaganda of the occupying forces, which sought to undermine the people's faith in Poland's ultimate victory and recovery of independence.
The Department of Education and Culture directed the clandestine education necessitated by the German having closed the schools. According to Himmler, it was sufficient that the Poles could count to five hundred, write their names, and understand that the obedience to the Germans was God's command. Yet, by 1942, one and one-half million children were being taught in secret. In some counties of the Warsaw school district, nearly three times as many young people were receiving instruction than before the war. In 1944, over 10,000 students enrolled in clandestine universities. Teachers, students, and their parents faced the threat of prison and concentration camp should instructional activities be discovered. Despite the openness characteristic of young age, children learned to remain silent when questioned by police or Gestapo agents.
The Department of Labor and Social Welfare sought to protect the political prisoners and their families, as well as to aid persons considered particularly valuable to society, such as scholars, professors, writers and artists. This Department had the largest budget of the entire mission; in 1942 approximately 5 million zlotys.
The Department of Industry and Commerce, Agriculture, Justice, Liquidation of the Results of the War, Public Works, treasury, Post and Telegraph and Transportation studied the policies of the occupying force in the area of their respective responsibilities, took note of losses, and readied personnel for the eventuality of recovered independence.
The Department of National Defense spent a great deal of time in bringing the party-affiliated military units under the unified command first of the ZWZ, then of the AK (Home Army). This effort was directed particularly at the National Military Organization of the National Party; at the Peasants Battalions of the People Party; and at the Socialist Military Organization of the Polish Socialist Party.
Naturally, during the war the most prominent role was assumed by the military organization known from February 1942 onwards as the Home Army (AK). There were also other military units, such as the National Armed Forces (NSZ) that recognized the Polish government in exile, but did not come under the Home Army command. These organizations and their activities need to be the subject of a special, separate work.
After the arrest by Gestapo of General Grot-Rowecki in Warsaw on 30 June 1943, General Bor-Komorowski became Commander-in-Chief of the Home Army. The chief of staff of the High Command was colonel Janusz Albrecgt. After his arrest and suicide, the post was assumed by General Tadeusz Pelczynski. The High Command consisted of 31 staff units, of which the most important were the organizational section, the operations section with its separate department of information and intelligence, communications section, the Command of Diversion (KEDYW), the Section of Military Bureau (Portfolio), and the Bureau of Information and Propaganda. The country was divided for the purpose of military administrations into three regions, Warsaw, Lwow and West. The regions were subdivided into districts corresponding to voivodships, districts into subdistricts corresponding to counties, subdistricts into outposts, which corresponded to townships. The individual district and subdistrict commanders had their own staffs. The smallest unit was the platoon, which consisted of three sections, each of which comprised three squads of five soldiers each. Companies were composed of platoons and battalions of companies.
At its peak, the Home Army had about 400,000 soldiers, including 11,000 commissioned officers, 6,000 officers in training, and 88,000 non-commissioned officers. Home Army losses at the hands of the Germans, excluding the Warsaw Uprising, amounted to 62,000. During the Warsaw Uprising, 10,200 Home Army soldiers and 250,000 civilians were killed.
Home Army communications, to which women made an outstanding contribution, maintained contact with the Government and Commander-in-Chief in London, both by radio and by means of couriers and emissaries. On three occasions Allied aircraft were able to land at secret airstrips within Poland. Thanks to the last such flight, Home Army Captain Jerzy Chmielewski carried out of occupied Poland both plans and parts for the German V-1 missile.***
|*** Information about V-1 rockets was sent to the Allies over a long period of time, starting
with information about Peenemunde. In 1944, the Polish Home Army, Base No. 1, undertook the task of uncovering
the secret V-2 rocket. Parts of it, mainly radio controls and samples of 80% hydrogen peroxide, were conveyed to
the U.K. via what was known as "the third bridge", but this was the V-2, not the V-1.
K.G.B.L-1, this should read K.G.L. Base #1
P.S. Although I served in KGLB-1, I knew nothing about this because it was secret information. Only a few people were involved in this, mainly specialists from the Warsaw Polytechnic University.
Polish Home Army private Czeslaw Kentzer "Rakowiecki"
In the area of training, 5-month officer training programs and 4-month non-commissioned officer training programs
were organized, in addition to courses in armed sabotage, auto mechanics, artillery, etc.
Underground intelligence functioned even in Germany, and in the Soviet Union as far as Leningrad, Moscow and the Caucasus, thanks to service rendered by railroad workers driving trains deep into both countries. Counterintelligence, a separate department, sought to protect the Underground from enemy penetration.
Arms and supplies came to the Underground from four sources: 1.arms buried or otherwise concealed after the September 1939 campaign; 2.arms purchased or captured from the Germans; 3.homemade armaments; 4.arms from parachute drops. There were 485 such drops in all, which included 316 paratroopers (one of them a woman) and 28 political couriers. An especially memorable drop during the Warsaw Uprising, was a flight on 18 September 1944 by over one hundred American bombers with supplies for the combatants.
The Home Army was financed by the Polish Government in London, initially by clandestine land routes, later by means of parachute drops. The money was used for personnel expenses and various purchases; armaments, printing equipment and supplies, medical instruments, etc.
The Bureau of Information and Propaganda worked within the Home Army ranks to maintain the spirit of battle and resistance and also concerned itself with diversionary propaganda aimed at the enemy. Its chief instrument was the Home Army press, whose total circulation amounted to over 200,000 copies. There were over 50 significant periodicals. The Bureau also published several books, among them Kamienie na Szaniec (Stones for the Rampart) by Aleksander Kaminski, which referred to underground scouting and the scouts' contribution to the struggle. It must be noted that there were 30 scouting publications, 20 literary and cultural publications, and even 14 of a satirical character. In addition trere were publications in German, an important part of the diversionary action, in Hebrew and Yiddish for the Warsaw Ghetto and in French and English, for prisoners of war being held in camps on Polish soil.
Regarding civilian defense, standards of conduct and behavior were published by the Civilian Defense headed by Stefan Korbonski, in form of the "Code of the Rights and Obligations of Poles." Violation of the standards of conduct and behavior were punished by underground courts and by judiciary commissions organized in all parts of the country. Treason, espionage, provocation, denunciations, and inhuman persecution of the Polish population were punishable by death. Death sentences could not be carried out, however, until they were approved by a delegate of the government or by an appropriate military commander. Although the Germans had many means to break the resolve of the Polish population, a high standard of resistance was maintained and no more than two hundred death sentences were ever handed down. Lesser offenses were punished by reprimand, censure, or even flogging. Women who had taken part in amusements with the Germans, or entered into intimate relations with them, were shorn of their hair.
Sabotage and diversionary actions were coordinated by the committee for Underground Struggle (Kierownictwo Walki Podziemnej). Sabotage consisted in secretly damaging or destroying whatever served the enemy in their conduct of the war: factories, machines, means of transportation, and so forth. Diversion consisted in overt attacks upon enemy material and personnel. The Command of Diversion (KEDYW) was headed by Colonel Emil Fieldorf ("NIL"). Its principal executive organ was known as the Gray Ranks (Szare Szeregi) a clandestine name for the Polish Scouting Association. For example, one of the units of KEDYW was the BRODA Brigade, which consisted of 20 officers, 43 officers in training, 64 non-commissioned officers, 344 privates, 79 women, and 113 auxiliaries.
Another unit worth mentioning was one of three platoons of armed sabotage which served the Home Army headquarters in Warsaw. The platoon ODB3 led by Lt.K.Pogorzelski "Rygiel", consisted of three officers, about twenty cadet-officers, ten N.C.O., all together some 50 men including a women's signal and support unit. The platoon was well armed and was provided with explosives. It captured several German vehicles which were of great help to various sabotage activities.
While KEDYW fought mostly in larger cities there was in the countryside a large organization of guerrilla units based on the regional structure of the Home Army. These ranged from platoons to brigades in the Wilno region to divisions, like the 27th Volhynian Division. These units inflicted heavy losses on the Germans and tied up several German divisions which otherwise could have been used against the Allies in the front lines.
The following figures show some of the results achieved by the Home Army in armed fight against the German forces:
6,930 railroad engines, and 19,058 railroad cars damaged; 732 rail transports derailed; 38 bridges destroyed; 5,000 aviation engines and 92,000 artillery shells defectively manufactured in factories using Polish slave labor; 6,000 German troops and officials assassinated, including over 2,000 Gestapo agents; several hundred political prisoners rescued.
Especially noteworthy was the assassination on 1 February 1944, of S.S. General Kutschera, police chief of the Warsaw district. Many others also met a similar fate as punishment for acts of particular cruelty. A shipment of one hundred million zloty (made by occupation authority) was also captured by AK. Similar acts of sabotage and diversion were carried out in various districts, including Gdansk (Danzig) and Berlin.
Initially, the aims of the partisan-guerrilla warfare were to intensify sabotage and diversionary activity and to train the Home Army troops for battle. Later, it became necessary to protect the Polish population from the Germans, from minorities serving with the Germans, and from communist inspired groups. The villages were particularly vulnerable. Many were set on fire by the Germans. Diversionary propaganda, referred to as Action "N", had it task to persuade the German soldiers that Germany would be defeated and suffer every form of humiliation and destruction.
The principal aim of the Polish Secret (Underground) State and its military arm, the Home Army, was to bring about the uprising of the entire nation and subsequently the recovery of freedom and independence. The cue for such a universal insurrection was to be Germany's imminent defeat, along with the approach of the Allied armies. Unfortunately, the ally of our allies was the Soviet Union whose army approached the borders of Poland in pursuit of the beaten Germans and who already in April 1943 had broken diplomatic relations with the Polish Government in London over the matter of the Katyn massacre. The Red Army had formed its own "Polish" units, commanded by General Berling, and Radio Moscow was broadcasting aspersions on the Polish Government and on the Home Army.
In spite of such a political and military situation, the civil and military authorities of Underground Poland decided to continue the armed struggle against the Germans as well as did the Polish Armed Forces abroad. The famous battle of Monte Cassino, which was captured by a Polish division on 18 May 1944, took place even after Churchill's announcement in Parliament on 22 February 1944 that the British Government had already recognized the Soviets' territorial demands. In view of that, the Underground's previous plans were changed, and instead of a universal uprising, there were to be a series of regional risings known as "Storms" ("Burze") as the Soviets proceeded across the Polish territory.
These military actions called "Storms" lasted from January 1944, when the Soviet forces crossed the Polish border in the vicinity of the city of Sarny, through October of the same year. The entire action consisted of four stages:
The first was the "Storm" in Volhynia from January to June 1944; the second, the "Storm" in the lands around Wilno and Nowogrodek, July 1944. The third, in the areas of Lublin, Podlasie, Lwow, Rzeszow, Kielce, Krakow etc. and the forth, the Warsaw Uprising, August and September 1944. The individual "Storms" or insurrections, especially the Warsaw Uprising, were military campaigns of such scope and magnitude that they need not be treated separately. Though militarily they succeeded in part only, and though they resulted in losses of life and property, they continue to bear fruit politically and morally, and will serve as an inspiration for future generations. The fight against the Germans persisted even after the defeat of the Warsaw Uprising. The Radom district, for example, still had in arms thousands of Home Army troops, but these actions dwindled gradually throughout 1944. Everywhere with the encroaching Soviet Army, The NKVD and local secret police made their appearance. The arrest and deportations, to Russia of Home Army soldiers began. Because of this hopeless situation, General Leopold Okulicki, Bor-Komorowski's successor, ordered the dissolution of the Home Army on 19 January 1945.
The Polish nation continued to fight, now against the Red regime, until 1953, though under different organizational entities: NIE, which stands for "Niepodleglosc" (Independence); DSZ - "Delegatura Sil Zbrojnych" (Delegation of Armed Forces) and the best known of these WIN - "Wolnosc i Niezawislosc" (Freedom and Independence). They should, like other topics mentioned above, be the subject of special articles.
In closing, we can say with pride and without reservation that the Polish Nation, inspired by previous generations, and thanks to the achievements of 20 years (1918-1939) of independence, proved equal to the demands of the years of the war. Let us hope that the deeds of the Polish Secret State, an entity unprecedented in the history of Poland, and of the women, men and children of whom it consisted will be a similar inspiration to future generations. As the events of 1981 and 1989, and what has transpired since indicate, it has been an inspiration "Solidarity's" goals bear close resemblance to the objectives of the Home Army during the war years. Thus, the deeds of the past illuminate those of the present.
(Based on the publication prepared by The Polish Home Army (AK) Veterans Assn.-The U.S. Headquarters)