Jan Mazurkiewicz

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Jan Mazurkiewicz
nom de guerre Radosław
Jan mazurkiewicz.jpg
Mazurkiewicz in Parasol
Born (1896-08-27)27 August 1896
Lwów, Galicia
Died 4 May 1988(1988-05-04) (aged 91)
Warsaw, Poland
Years of service 1914-1922, 1927-1945
Rank Brigadier General
Battles/wars World War I
Polish-Bolshevik War
Polish Defensive War
Operation Tempest
Warsaw Uprising
World War II
Awards Order of Virtuti Militari
Cross of Independence with Swords
Cross of Valour
Warsaw Uprising Cross
Other work veterans' rights activist

Jan Mazurkiewicz (27 August 1896, Lwów – 4 May 1988, Warsaw), codename Radosław, was a Polish soldier, a veteran of World War I, and a colonel in the Polish anti-Nazi resistance Armia Krajowa (AK) during World War II. He was one of the main commanders of the Warsaw Uprising, where he led the Radosław Group (Polish: Zgrupowanie Radosław, part of Kedyw), which was one of the best armed and trained insurrectionist units in the Uprising.

After the war Mazurkiewicz was persecuted by the communist authorities of the People's Republic of Poland despite the fact that he tried to cooperate with the new regime. He was rehabilitated after the end of the Stalinist period and was active in the official veterans' organization Society of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy (ZBoWiD). He was eventually promoted to the rank of general of the Armed Forces of the People's Republic of Poland (LWP). He died shortly before the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

Early life and World War I[edit]

Mazurkiewicz was born in a craftsman's family in Lwów. His father died in a fire in 1905. He spent his childhood in Złoczów and attended a gymnasium in Lwów. He was a member of Strzelec and then of the Polish Legions in World War I.[1] He was a private in Józef Piłsudski's First Brigade and fought in the Battle of Łowczówek on 25 July 1914, where he was wounded and taken into Russian captivity. He soon escaped and rejoined his unit.[2] In 1918, he took part in the Battle of Kaniów as a unit commander, while serving under General Józef Haller.[2]

Second Polish Republic[edit]

During the interwar period of the Second Polish Republic, he was promoted to the rank of captain, but left active service between 1922 and 1927. Right before the outbreak of World War II (1938–1939), he served as an instructor at the Centrum Wyszkolenia Piechoty w Rembertowie (Center for Infantry Education in Rembertów), where he taught military tactics to future company commanders.[2]

World War II[edit]

In August 1939, Mazurkiewicz was assigned to the Diversionary Operations (Grupa Operacyjnej Dywersji) of the Polish General Staff, which was involved in counter-intelligence against Nazi Germany particularly in the Free City of Danzig. After the German invasion of Poland and the imminent collapse of Polish defenses in mid-September, following plans made before the outbreak of the war, he organized Tajna Organizacja Wojskowa (Secret Military Organization, TOW), an underground group dedicated to sabotaging and resisting the German occupation. He journeyed to Paris, where he met with General Władysław Sikorski, the Polish prime minister in exile, who officially sanctioned the formation of TOW. In Hungary, Mazurkiewicz subsequently organized a cell whose purpose was to serve as a transit point for soldiers and couriers traveling between occupied Poland and France. He returned to Poland in June 1940.[2]

In March 1943, TOW was officially merged with Kierownictwo Dywersji (Directorate for Diversion), or Kedyw, which was the group within the general anti-Nazi organization Armia Krajowa (The Home Army, AK), charged with carrying out sabotage, propaganda, intelligence gathering and direct action against the Germans. Mazurkiewicz was the second in command of Kedyw (its head was General Emil August Fieldorf) until August 1944 and the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising.[1][2]

Warsaw Uprising[edit]

Soldiers of the Parasol battalion after emerging from sewers at Warecka Street. Center: Maria Stypułkowska-Chojecka "Kama", right: Krzysztof Palester "Krzych".

Shortly before the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, Mazurkiewicz was made commander of the Radosław Group. This force was one of the largest, best trained and equipped Polish units in the uprising.[1][3] After the initiation of the uprising, the unit seized major portions of the Wola suburbs, and subsequently defended it against German attacks carried out by troops under the command of SS Gruppenführer Heinz Reinefarth and Standartenführer Oskar Dirlewanger. One of the battalions of the group, Battalion Zośka, liberated the Gęsiówka concentration camp located within Warsaw, and freed 384 prisoners (mainly Jews), most of whom then joined the unit.[4] The Radosław Group fought its way to Stare Miasto (Warsaw Old Town) borough, when further defense in Wola became impossible. In the areas of Wola that Reinefarth's and Dirlewanger's troops recaptured from the insurgents, at least 40,000 civilians and prisoners of war (POWs) were murdered in the Wola massacre.[note 1][5][6]

Despite being severely wounded in the head and leg during his escape from Wola,[note 2] after a short stay in a hospital, Mazurkiewicz was put back in charge of the Radosław Group. He led an unsuccessful attempt in early September to evacuate to Śródmieście (City center, Warsaw) after Stare Miasto was overrun by German troops. After this failed, his group managed to make its way to the Czerniaków suburb where it tried to contact the First Polish Army under Soviet command, stationed on the right bank of Vistula. Since no help was forthcoming from the Soviet-controlled Poles, Mazurkiewicz and his unit made their way through Warsaw's sewers to Mokotów, the last center of resistance in Warsaw, in late September. There, the remains of the decimated group, including the Parasol and Czata 49 battalions, fought until the surrender of the Polish forces on 2 October. Shortly before the order was signed, Mazurkiewicz was officially promoted to the rank of colonel, by General Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski, the commander of the uprising.[2]

Photo from the Warsaw Uprising. From left, Major Wacław Janaszek "Bolek" (Mazurkiewicz's chief of staff), General Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski, commander of the Armia Krajowa in Warsaw, Jan Mazurkiewicz "Radosław" and Captain Ryszard Krzywicki "Szymon" (Mazurkiewicz's Adjutant).

According to the capitulation agreement, the Polish Home Army soldiers were to be treated as regular POWs and the civilians of Warsaw evacuated. Mazurkiewicz disbanded his unit and together with his wife Anna, who was a member of the Radosław Group, escaped the city by posing as a civilian.[2]

In communist Poland[edit]

In 1945, he was arrested by Urząd Bezpieczeństwa, the Polish communist secret police. He decided to cooperate with communist authorities in order to protect former members of resistance and he called for ex-AK soldiers who had joined the anti-communist underground to lay down their arms in accordance with the amnesties of 1945 and 1947.[7]

In 1949, Mazurkiewicz wrote a letter to Stanisław Radkiewicz, head of the Ministry of Public Security, complaining of the continued persecution of former Home Army soldiers and he was arrested again. During a two-year pre-trial confinement, Mazurkiewicz was interrogated and tortured—he was beaten and his teeth and hair were forcibly pulled out.[8] He was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment in a show trial, in which the prosecutor submitted a false confession allegedly made by Mazurkiewicz and no defense witnesses were allowed to appear. He remained imprisoned until the amnesty of 1956.[8] Eventually rehabilitated, he was active in organizations which sought to protect former veterans of anti-Nazi resistance and served as vice-president of the Society of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy, the Polish veterans association. In 1980, during a brief liberalization associated with the first Solidarity period he was promoted to the rank of General.[8]

He died in May 1988, about a year and a half before the first postwar non-communist government was elected in Poland, and was buried at Powązki Military Cemetery.[9]

Honors and awards[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Oskar Dirlewanger was killed after the war in unknown circumstances likely by prison guards (see: Interview with historian Janusz Roszkowski in Focus.pl below). Reinefarth was never charged with a war crime. After the war he served as a mayor, and a member of the Landtag in Schleswig-Holstein, and was awarded a general's pension by the West German government. He died in 1979.
  2. ^ The wounded Mazurkiewicz, unable to walk, was carried from Wola to Stare Miasto by some of the prisoners that had been liberated from the Gęsiówka camp.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Lerski, Jerzy Jan; Wróbel, Piotr and Kozicki, Richard J. (1996). Historical dictionary of Poland, 966–1945. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 345. ISBN 978-0-313-26007-0. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego (Museum of the Warsaw Uprising) (2010). "Jan Mazurkiewicz". Biogramy powstańcze (Insurrectionist biographies). Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  3. ^ Forczyk, Robert (2009). Warsaw 1944: Poland's Bid for Freedom. Osprey Publishing. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-84603-352-0. 
  4. ^ Małgorzata Karolina Piekarska. "64 rocznica wyzwolenia Gęsiówki". SwiatPL. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  5. ^ Snyder, Timothy (2010). Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. Basic Books. p. 304. ISBN 978-0-465-00239-9. 
  6. ^ Editorial board (2008). "Dopaść rzeźnika Warszawy (Get the butcher of Warsaw)". Interview with historian Janusz Roszkowski (in Polish). Focus.pl Gruner & Jahr, Polska. pp. 1 and 2. Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  7. ^ Paczkowski, Andrzej; Cave, Jane (2003). The spring will be ours: Poland and the Poles from occupation to freedom. Penn State Press. p. 173. ISBN 978-0-271-02308-3. 
  8. ^ a b c Spałek, Robert. "List Jana Mazurkiewicza "Radosława" do ministra Stanisława Radkiewicza z 20 stycznia 1949 r.". Publikacje internetowe OBEP. Instytut Pamięci Narodowej. Retrieved 12 August 2011. 
  9. ^ "Spis pochowanych na Powązkach Wojskowych (d. Cmentarzu Komunalnym Powązki) w Warszawie". Cmentarium. Retrieved 16 August 2011.