Gwardia Ludowa (Polish pronunciation: [ˈɡvardja luˈdɔva]; People's Guard) or GL was an underground armed organization created by the communist Polish Workers Party in German occupied Poland, with sponsorship from the Soviet Union. Formed in early 1942, within a short time Gwardia Ludowa became the largest clandestine fighting force on Polish soil which refused to join the structures of the Polish Underground State loyal to the government-in-exile based in London. In 1944 GL was incorporated into the communist Armia Ludowa on Soviet orders.
Gwardia Ludowa was created on 6 January 1942 with military aid from the Red Army. The availability of firearms led to GL instant growth to 3,000 fighters. Gwardia Ludowa was connected to the NKVD intelligence services of the Soviet Union. It was tasked with fighting against Germany by means of partisan warfare, sabotage, and reprisal actions. The full size partisan detachments were formed in May 1942 although foray groups were organized earlier. They operated near Piotrków and Radom. By the end of the year the organisation was divided onto seven administrative districts including Warsaw, Lublin, Radom-Kielce, Kraków, Łódź, Silesia and Lwów.
First major operations of GL consisted of disassembling train tracks. Until December 1942 some 50 railway lines were damaged resulting in 30 German supply trains being disabled. Some 30 insurgents were caught and hanged, but the number of units grew to over 30 in the same time. The most prominent sabotage action took place on 16 November 1942 along the railway line Radom – Łuków – Terespol, where five trains and a bridge were destroyed with the use of Soviet explosives. Another five trains were derailed around Oświęcim on 25 February 1943. Throughout the year, trains were damaged around Warsaw in Olszynka Grochowska, Elsnerów, Legionowo, Żyrardów and Żywczyn. In total, Gwardia Ludowa caused damage to 169 trains in 1943, as well as 113 train stations, resulting in 55 temporary line shut-downs.
GL retaliation actions included throwing grenades into buildings frequented by the Germans. The Apollo movie theatre in Radom was attacked on 22 November 1942; the Deutsches Haus in April 1943. In Kraków and Kielce the Nur für Deutsche coffee houses were bombed in December 1942 and February 1943 respectively. The German administration building in Rzeszów was bombed also in February. Most of GL operations resulted in great number of Polish and Jewish hostages being shot by the Germans in reprisal.
Gwardia Ludowa (GL) was commanded by the head of the Polish Workers' Party (PPR). The first commander was Bolesław Mołojec. After his execution at the end of 1942 by his own communist peers from the Polish Workers' Party, he was succeeded by Franciszek Jóźwiak. However, because of the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland in 1939–41, the Polish underground resistance never fully developed in the territories around the prewar Lwów Voivodeship area. In 1943, the command of partisan movement in General Government was passed to the Soviet partisans by Moscow.
The Gwardia Ludowa military wing of PPR (with which Parczew partisans aligned themselves, for the weapons), engaged in robberies and terror expeditions aimed at local domination over the competing political structures. On one occasion, the unit of Gwardia Ludowa commanded by Grzegorz Korczyński from Kraśnik County near Lublin, committed mass atrocities in the village of Ludmiłówka on 6 December 1942 killing dozens of Jews in retaliation for the PPR action in Grabówka against their own men. These murders were hushed up in Stalinist Poland by the Ministry of Public Security engaged in brutal persecution of the AK soldiers.
GL was divided into partisan units and garrison units assembled for quick ambushes, after which the garrison members returned to their homes. By the end of 1942 GL had approximately 5,000 men, including, at least nominally, every member of the Polish Workers' Party. By late 1943 the number rose to about 10,000. Among them approximately 1,700 were partisans, and the rest were part-time combatants. For the most part, the GL carried out acts of sabotage, including the sabotage of German rail transport. However, the units of GL also fought on several occasions against the non-communist Polish forces of Armia Krajowa and Narodowe Sily Zbrojne.
The prominent commanders and GL chiefs of staff were Marian Spychalski, Franciszek Jóźwiak, Franciszek Zubrzycki, and Mieczysław Moczar who played a prominent role in the history of the Polish People's Republic after the war's end; known for his ultra-nationalist and xenophobic attitude.
Notes and references
- Institute of National Remembrance (March–April 2006). "Spod czerwonej gwiazdy" [Under the Red Star] (PDF). Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej. 3-4 (62-63). Retrieved 2 June 2015.
- Roy Francis Leslie; R. F. Leslie (1983). The History of Poland since 1863. Cambridge University Press. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-521-27501-9. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
- Waldemar Tuszyński, Ruch oporu w Polsce 1939-1943, KAW 1985, p. 51. ISBN 8303011154. OCLC 835891695.
- Marek Borucki, Od Mieszka I do Jana Pawła II, Tom 26, ISBN 978-83-60751-06-0. 2007 pp. 44-46.
- Tuszyński 1985, Ruch oporu w Polsce 1939-1943, p. 43.
- Tuszyński 1985, Ruch oporu w Polsce 1939-1943, p. 51.
- Tuszyński 1985, Ruch oporu w Polsce 1939-1943, p. 52.
- Tuszyński 1985, Ruch oporu w Polsce 1939-1943, p. 53.
- Tuszyński 1985, Ruch oporu w Polsce 1939-1943, p. 55.
- Tuszyński 1985, Ruch oporu w Polsce 1939-1943, p. 56.
- Piotr Gontarczyk (2003). Przypadek Stefana Kilianowicza, vel Grzegorza Korczyńskiego (PDF). Z genealogii elit PZPR (Glaukopis No. 1-2003). Retrieved 4 June 2015.
- Gwardia Ludowa, Armia Ludowa on the pages of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance. (Polish)