Anti-communist resistance in Poland (1944–46)
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The anti-communist resistance in Poland (1944–1953), also referred to as the Polish anti-Communist insurrection, was an armed struggle by the Polish Underground against the Soviet takeover of Poland at the end of World War II in Europe. The guerrilla warfare conducted by the resistance movement formed during the war, included an array of military attacks launched against Communist prisons, state security offices, detention facilities for political prisoners, and prison camps set up across the country by the Soviet authorities.
In January 1945, the pro-Soviet government installed in Poland by the advancing Red Army declared the Polish anti-Nazi resistance movement, principally the Armia Krajowa (Home Army), to be illegal and asked its surviving members to come out into the open, guaranteeing them freedom and safety. Many underground fighters decided to lay down their arms, but after doing so, most of them were arrested and imprisoned; thousands were tortured, executed, or deported into the Soviet Gulag System.
As a result, Armia Krajowa (AK) members quickly stopped trusting the new government, and some of them regrouped in a clandestine manner in order to oppose the new Soviet occupiers. They formed various post-AK resistance organisations, such as Wolność i Niezawisłość ("Freedom and Sovereignty"), and liberated hundreds of political prisoners. They became known as the "Cursed soldiers" of the Polish underground, and most were eventually captured or killed by the security services and special assassination squads.
Soviet westward offensive across occupied Poland
On the night of 3-4 January 1944 the advancing Red Army crossed the former eastern border of the Second Polish Republic in the area of Volhynia (near the village of Rokitno). In several months, they pushed the Wehrmacht further west, reaching the line of the Vistula river on 24 July 1944. The Soviet advance stopped short of Warsaw, while the Armia Krajowa attempted to liberate the Polish capital from the Nazis ahead of the Red Army's offensive. The Warsaw Uprising by forces loyal to the Polish government-in-exile in London was crushed after 63 days.
On 22 July 1944, acting upon orders from Moscow, the Polish communists who arrived in the eastern town of Chełm created a pro-Soviet Committee, which became the Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland after re-locating to Lublin.
After moving to Warsaw in January 1945, and with full political control by Stalin and Soviet sponsorship, the communists abandoned the parliamentary system of prewar Poland and ignored the wishes of the Polish people, basing their new government's power solely on the Red Army's occupation of the country.
Meanwhile, acting together under the command of Soviet General Ivan Serov, the forces of the NKVD, SMERSH and the Polish communist secret service (UB), which was modeled on the Soviet secret police, began countrywide operations against the members of the Armia Krajowa and other Polish resistance units loyal to the government-in-exile. Approximately 25,000 underground soldiers, including 300 Home Army officers, were arrested, disarmed, and interned before October 1944. On 15 October 1944, Lavrentiy Beria signed Order No. 0012266/44, which established NKVD Division 64, whose only task was to fight against the Polish resistance. Tens of thousands of Polish partisans were deported to Siberia. Many members of the Polish underground were given the choice between a lengthy prison sentence, and service in the Soviet-run Polish Armed Forces in the East. Faced with an unacceptable choice, and knowing about the grave fate of their own leaders (see: Trial of the Sixteen), thousands of soldiers of the Home Army (which was officially disbanded on 19 January 1945) and other organizations decided to continue fighting for freedom after the end of World War II.
Polish anti-Communist Insurrection
The situation in Poland in the immediate aftermath of World War II has been described as an all-out civil war, or near civil war by many historians, as members of the independence movement carried out numerous attacks on both Soviet and Polish communist offices and institutions. In return, the Stalinist authorities carried out brutal pacifications of partisans and civilians, mass arrests (see: Augustów chase 1945), deportations, as well as executions (see: Mokotów Prison murder, Public execution in Dębica) and many secret assassinations.
The anti-communist movement responded with attacks on NKVD and UB camps, such as the Attack on the NKVD Camp in Rembertów. The underground units often engaged in regular battles with the Soviets and Polish communist forces (see: Battle of Kuryłówka). Resistance units loyal to the Polish government-in-exile did not hesitate to attack even large cities, to free their fellow soldiers kept in various prisons and detention camps across Poland.
List of attacks on Communist prisons, camps and state security offices
In 2007, the Institute of National Remembrance Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (IPN), published the Atlas of the Independence Underground in Poland 1944–1956, listing scores of armed attacks on communist prisons after World War II, in which hundreds of political prisoners were freed. The most daring assaults were conducted before October 1946.
For a chronological list of anti-Communist operations, please use table-sort buttons.
|City or town||Month||Year||Resistance operation with number of prisoners liberated|
|Biala Krakowska||May 12||1945||A failed attack on a local prison.|
|Biała Podlaska||November 28||1944||2 political prisoners freed during an attack.|
|Biała Podlaska||March 9||1945||103 political prisoners liberated after an attack.|
|Biała Podlaska||May 21||1945||5 political prisoners were freed after an attack.|
|Białystok||May 9||1945||100 (or so) members of Home Army, National Armed Forces and National Military Organization escaped after the local prison was taken over by them.|
|Biłgoraj||February 28||1945||40 political prisoners liberated after an DSZ unit captured the whole town.|
|Biłgoraj||May 27||1945||A failed attempt by DSZ unit at destroying an SB prison.|
|Bludek village in southern Lublin Voivodeship||1945?||An attack on a local camp for political prisoners, by DSZ unit from Tomaszów Lubelski; the camp was captured and burned down, and the NKVD commandant of the camp executed.|
|Brzesko||May||1945||A failed attack on a local prison.|
|Brzeziny||September 6||1945||A failed attack on a local prison.|
|Brzeziny||May 15||1946||A failed attack on a local prison.|
|Brzozów||December 13||1944||11 political prisoners freed after a local prison was captured by a Home Army unit.|
|Dąbrowa Tarnowska||May 8–9||1945||80 (or so) political prisoners were freed after an independence unit took control of the town and the prison.|
|Grajewo||May 8–9 (night of)||1945||100 (or so) political prisoners were liberated after several independence resistance units seized the whole town, killing 2 NKVD agents and 2 UB agents.|
|Grojec||November 21||1945||A failed attack on a prison, in which 2 UB agents were killed.|
|Hrubieszów||December 19||1944||12 Home Army soldiers kept in a local prison were freed by their own unit.|
|Hrubieszów||May 27–28||1945||Acting together, DSZ and Ukrainian UPA units captured the whole town, burning down local prison and killing 5 NKVD agents.|
|Janów Lubelski||April 27||1945||15 political prisoners liberated after an DSZ unit seized the town.|
|Jaworzno||October||1945||A failed attack on the Central Labour Camp Jaworzno.|
|Kępno||November 22–23||1945||A local prison was captured, 5 UB agents and a Red Army soldier killed.|
|Kielce||August 4–5||1945||354 political prisoners liberated; 3 UB agents and a soldier of the Red Army killed after the unit under Antoni Heda took control of the city.|
|Koźmin||September 1||1945||A local prison was destroyed.|
|Koźmin||October 10–11||1945||A failed attack on a local prison.|
|Kozienice||May 5–6||1945||8 political prisoners freed, and a Red Army soldier killed after an independence underground unit took control of the town.|
|Kraków||August 18||1946||64 political prisoners freed after a local prison was captured.|
|Krasnystaw||November 22||1944||5 Home Army soldiers kept in a local prison, liberated by their fellow companions.|
|Krotoszyn||August 24||1945||A failed attack on a local prison.|
|Limanowa||April 17||1945||13 political prisoners were freed after a local prison was captured.|
|Łomża||May 21||1945||A local prison was destroyed, 2 UB agents were killed.|
|Łowicz||March 8||1945||73 political prisoners were freed after a local prison was captured by the former Home Army unit.|
|Łuków||January 24||1946||27 political prisoners liberated after a Freedom and Independence unit captured the town and the prison; 3 UB agents killed.|
|Maków Mazowiecki||May 1||1945||42 political prisoners freed and 8 UB agents killed after an attack on a local prison.|
|Miechów||April 25–2||1945||A local prison was destroyed.|
|Mława||June 3||1945||An attack on a local prison in which unknown number of political prisoners was freed and 3 UB agents killed.|
|Nowy Sącz||April||1946||A failed attack on a local prison.|
|Nowy Targ||April 17–18||1945||A local prison destroyed by the unit under Józef Kuraś, 4 UB agents killed.|
|Ostrów Wielkopolski||September 2||1945||A failed attack on a local prison.|
|Pabianice||June 10||1945||10 political prisoners were freed after a local prison was captured.|
|Pińczów||June 3–4||1945||A failed attack on a local prison, 1 UB agent killed.|
|Piotrków Trybunalski||June 17||1945||An attack on a detention camp for the Home Army soldiers; the camp was captured and destroyed and 5 UB agents killed.|
|Przemyśl||May 14–15||1945||58 persons escaped after the arrested soldiers of the Home Army took control of the prison.|
|Przeworsk||May 15||1945||A failed attack on a local prison.|
|Puławy||April 24||1945||117 political prisoners were freed, and 7 UB agents killed.|
|Rabka||December 11||1945||A local prison was captured, 1 UB agent killed.|
|Radom||September 9||1945||300 (or so) political prisoners were liberated, 2 Red Army soldiers and one UB agent killed.|
|Radomsko||April 19–20||1946||5 political prisoners were freed after the town was captured and a local prison destroyed.|
|Radzyń||Dec. 31 – Jan. 1||1945–46||A failed attack on the prison, carried out by the Freedom and Independence unit.|
|Rembertów||May 20–21||1945||800–1400 men were liberated after an attack on NKVD prison camp (for more information, see: Attack on the NKVD Camp in Rembertów).|
|Rozwadów||February 3||1946||A failed attack on a local prison.|
|Rzeszów||October 7–8||1944||A failed attack on a prison located in Rzeszów Castle made by a Home Army unit under Colonel Łukasz Ciepliński. Home Army lost 2 men, Red Army also 2, Milicja Obywatelska – 2 as well.|
|Sandomierz||March 10||1945||100 (or so) political prisoners broke free from the local prison.|
|Sokołów Podlaski||October||1944||A failed Home Army attack on a local prison.|
|Szamotuły||June 7–8||1945||2 political prisoners were freed after a local prison was captured.|
|Szczyrk||July 19||1945||A failed attempt to capture a local prison.|
|Tarnobrzeg||November 2||1944||15 Home Army soldiers freed from local prison by a Home Army unit.|
|Tarnów||July 1||1945||35 political prisoners were liberated after a local prison was captured.|
|Węgrów||May 17–18||1945||2 political prisoners freed after an attack on a local prison.|
|Włodawa||October 22||1946||100 (or so) political prisoners were freed after a local prison was captured.|
|Włoszczowa||April 22||1945||A failed attack on a local prison.|
|Wyrzysk||May 24||1946||43 political prisoners were liberated, and 1 UB security agent killed after a local prison was captured.|
|Zakopane||February 1||1946||A failed attack on a local prison.|
|Zakopane||October 13||1946||A failed attack on a local prison.|
|Zamość||July 22||1944||18 Home Army soldiers kept in a local prison were freed by their fellow companions.|
|Zamość||October 7||1944||34 Home Army soldiers kept in a local prison were freed by their own unit.|
|Zamość||May 8||1946||301 political prisoners were freed after an attack carried out by the Freedom and Independence unit.|
|City or town||Month||Year||Resistance operation with number of prisoners liberated|
Polish National Day of Remembrance of the "Cursed Soldiers"
In 2001 the Polish Parliament (Sejm) passed a resolution recognizing the merits of underground organizations and groups fighting for Poland's sovereignty after World War II. The resolution acknowledged their unequal struggle against the Soviet takeover of Poland and paid tribute to the fallen and murdered soldiers and the imprisoned members of all organizations that were persecuted by the postwar communist authorities. This was the first official recognition of such magnitude intended to honor the fighters of the armed anti-communist underground. The bill was signed into law by President Bronisław Komorowski on 9 February 2011 and published in the Poland's Dziennik Ustaw Nr 32 / 160 on 15 February 2011. The National Day of Remembrance of the "Cursed Soldiers" is now commemorated every year in Poland on 1 March.
The original request to establish the Day of Remembrance was submitted in 2009 by Polish war veterans' organizations, including the World Union of Home Army Soldiers (Światowy Związek Żołnierzy Armii Krajowej) and the Association of Soldiers of the National Armed Forces (Związek Żołnierzy Narodowych Sił Zbrojnych). The initiative was backed by local authorities and parliamentary groupings including Poland's two main political parties, Civic Platform and Law and Justice. The legislative initiative for the enactment of the new national holiday was taken in 2010 by the late President Lech Kaczyński.
In popular culture
The novel Ashes and Diamonds by Jerzy Andrzejewski and Andrzej Wajda's film of the book, depict events in Poland in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, including an operation by anti-communist resistance fighters to assassinate a commissar.
Notes and references
- Tennent H. Bagley (2007). Spy wars: moles, mysteries, and deadly games. Yale University Press. p. 120. ISBN 0-300-12198-9. Retrieved May 24, 2011.
- World War II in Europe timeline, at worldwar-2.net (English)
- The great globe itself: a preface to world affairs By William Bullitt, Francis P. Sempa (English)
- The Economy and Economic History of Poland by Thayer Watkins, San José State University (English)
- Poland - The Historical Setting, Polish Academic Information Center, University at Buffalo (English)
- The establishment of communist regimes in Eastern Europe, 1944-1949 By Norman Naimark (English)
- Soviet NKVD, at www.warsawuprising.com (English)
- God's Playground: 1795 to the present By Norman Davies (English)
- Civil war in Poland. Europe since 1945: an encyclopedia, Volume 2, Bernard A. Cook (English)
- "Stalinism in Poland: 1945-1956" by Dr John Bates, 2000, at www.arts.gla.ac.uk (English)
- "Uchwała Senatu RzP dnia 4 lutego 2011 roku w sprawie ustawy o ustanowieniu Narodowego Dnia Pamięci "Żołnierzy Wyklętych"" (PDF). Senat RP. 4 February 2011. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
- "Prezydent podpisał ustawę o Dniu Pamięci "Żołnierzy Wyklętych"". Polska Agencja Prasowa. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
- Dziennik Gazeta Prawna. "Będziemy mieli nowe święto: Narodowy Dzień Pamięci "Żołnierzy Wyklętych"". PAP. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
- The Atlas of the Independence Underground in Poland 1944–1956, Instytut Pamieci Narodowej, Warszawa-Lublin, 2007. ISBN 978-83-60464-45-8
- WiN | Freedom and Independence - A Historical Brief by Dr. Janusz Marek Kurtyka, Ph.D., Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, IPN, Poland.
- (English) Doomed Soldiers 1944-1963: The Untold Story
- (Polish) ŻOŁNIERZE WYKLĘCI, Zapomniani Bohaterowie