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Narodowe Siły Zbrojne (English National Armed Forces, NSZ) was a Polish, anti-Soviet and anti-Nazi paramilitary organization which was part of the Polish resistance movement in World War II, fighting the Nazi and Soviet occupation of Poland. It was the third largest Polish resistance movement of the war, after the Home Army and Bataliony Chłopskie. The number of its soldiers ranged, according to different sources, from 70,000 to 75,000. National Armed Forces fought both German and Soviet forces, regarding them as occupiers and enemies of independent Poland. It also was engaged in fighting Soviet-allied Communist partisan forces, such as Armia Ludowa and Gwardia Ludowa.
The NSZ was created on September 20, 1942, as a result of the merger of the Military Organization Lizard Union (Organizacja Wojskowa Związek Jaszczurczy) and part of the National Military Organization (Narodowa Organizacja Wojskowa). At its maximum strength in 1943-1944 it reached approximately between 70,000 and 75,000 members, making it the third largest organization of the Polish resistance (after the Armia Krajowa and the Bataliony Chlopskie). NSZ units participated in the Warsaw Uprising.
In March 1944, the NSZ split with the more moderate faction coming under the command of the Armia Krajowa. The other part of the organization became known as the NSZ-ZJ (after "Związek Jaszczurczy" or the "Salamander Union"). This branch of the NSZ conducted operations against members of the Polish communist secret police, the Soviet NKVD, SMERSH, and their own former leaders that claimed dozens of victims.
National Armed Forces and Jews
While an article in the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust asserts that hundreds of Polish Jews who had sought asylum amongst the Polish population after having escaped from the ghettos were murdered by the NSZ, many NSZ soldiers and their families are credited with saving lives of countless Jews including personalities such as Maria Bernstein, Leon Goldman, Jonte Goldman, Dr. Turski, and others. The NSZ had many Jews in its ranks including Calel Perechodnik, Wiktor Natanson, Captain Roman Born-Bornstein (chief physician of the Chrobry II unit), Jerzy Zmidygier-Konopka, Feliks Pisarewski-Parry, Eljahu (Aleksander) Szandcer (nom de guerre "Dzik"), Dr. Kaminski, a physician who served in the NSZ unit led by Capt. Wladyslaw Kolacinski (nom de guerre "Zbik"), and numerous others. Similarly, a number of prominent members of the National Armed Forces made personal efforts to aid and hide Jews.
In January 1945, the NSZ Holy Cross Mountains Brigade (Brygada Świętokrzyska) retreated before the advancing Red Army, and after negotiating temporary ceasefire with the Germans, moved into the Nazi-controlled (Czech) Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. However, it resumed operations against the Nazis again on May 5, 1945 in Bohemia, where the NSZ brigade liberated prisoners from a concentration camp in Holiszowo, including 280 Jewish women prisoners slated for certain death, as the Nazis intended to burn them alive. The brigade suffered heavy casualties.
In 1947, Maria Bernstein, a Jew who survived Nazi occupation wrote on behalf of an NSZ soldier condemned to death by a communist court, Jerzy Zakulski. Her notorized letter reads: "Jerzy Zakulski, formerly residing with his now deceased father Ludwik [Zakulski], at 7 Saint Kinga Street [pol. Ulica Swietej Kingi 7] in Krakow Podgorze, provided me with shelter in his apartment when I escaped with my 3-year old child during a night from the Ghetto [...] After some time they managed to secure a safe place for us at the Zofia Strycharska’s [his wife's family] place, where along with my child I survived in [the city of] Myslenice until the end of the war. I am furnishing this statement under oath, because I am grateful to them for saving my life while endangering their own. (-) Maria Bleszynska (formerly Bernstein) [...] (-) Emil Stapor, Notary." As one of countless NSZ soldiers killed by the communist regime, Zakulski was executed on July 31, 1947.
The NSZ occupied the right of center of the political spectrum. Its program included the fight for Polish independence against the Nazi Germany as well as against the Stalinist Soviet Union, with its focus on keeping the Second Polish Republics pre-war eastern territories and borders while regaining additional former German territories to the west which they deemed "ancient Slavic lands". The General Directive Nr. 3 of the National Armed Forces General Command, L. 18/44 from January 15, 1944, reads: "In the face of crossing of Polish borders by Soviet forces, the Polish Government in London and its Polish citizens living on the territory of Poland express their unwavering desire for the return of the sovereignty to the entire area of Poland within the Polish borders established prior to 1939 through the mutually-binding Treaty of Riga and reaffirmed by the general principles of the Atlantic Charter, as well as by the declarations of the Allied governments which did not concede to any territorial changes that took place in Poland after August 1939."
During the war, the NSZ fought the Polish communists including their Soviet NKVD-controlled paramilitary organizations such as the Gwardia Ludowa (GL) and the Armia Ludowa (AL). After the war former NSZ members were persecuted by the newly installed communist government of the People's Republic of Poland. Reportedly, communist partisans engaged in planting false evidence like documents and forged receipts at the sites of their own robberies in order to blame the NSZ. It was a method of political warfare practiced against NSZ also by Polish secret police (UB) and Milicja Obywatelska (MO) right after the war as revealed by People's Republic of Poland court documents.
Such methodically devised propaganda and tactical operations carried out against Democratic Underground, and the NSZ in particular, were spelled out in the Top Secret Directive VIII/1233/172 issued by the Ministry of Public Security of Poland on December 4, 1945. This Top Secret Directive signed by its head Stanisław Radkiewicz was issued to all Voivodeship and field UB offices. It reads: “[…] the heads of the U[rzad]B[ezpieczenstwa] offices are directed to prepare in great secrecy an action having as its goal liquidation of members of democratic organizations; this action is to be staged in such fashion as to appear to have been carried out by the reactionary gangs. It is advised that special-purpose [secret police tactical] units [known as Oddziały Pozorowane] created during the Summer of last year be used for this purpose. This action is to be accompanied by a [smear] press campaign directed against the reactionary gangs who will be blamed for these actions. (-) [Stanisław] Radkiewicz”.
Due to policy of non-cooperation with the Soviets, and unlike Home Army (AK), which was completely transparent to communist security services, NSZ remained an independent and secret military and political power also after Poland was taken over by the Soviet Red Army and the communist Polish forces under Soviet control. The NSZ described and evaluated the communist activities in the following way:
"One can die by the method proven in Katyn, that is by a single shot in the back of the head, or in the Soviet Forced Labour Camps, or in German Nazi concentration camps (...) there is no real difference in the way one dies (...) therefore it is our duty to stamp out the Soviet agents in Poland. This is simply demanded by the Polish reasons of state."
- Battle at Borowo
- Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camp in Holiszow
- Operation against Nazi transport trains from Majdanek Concentration Camp
Post-war persecution and later rehabilitation
The members of NSZ, as other cursed soldiers, and their families, were persecuted during the Stalinist period after the war. In Autumn 1946, a group of 100-200 soldiers of NSZ unit under command of Henryk Flame, nom de guerre "Bartek," were lured into a trap and then massacred by Polish army and police units loyal to the communist government in Warsaw. However, in 1992, after Poland regained independence from the Soviet occupation, the National Armed Force underground soldiers were rehabilitated and given the official status of war veterans, receiving pensions and decorations.
- Richard C. Lukas. The Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under German Occupation, 1939-1944. University Press of Kentucky, 1986. Page 81.
- Hanna Konopka; Adrian Konopka (1 January 1999). Leksykon historii Polski po II wojnie światowej 1944-1997 (in Polish). Graf-Punkt. p. 130. ISBN 978-83-87988-08-1.
- David Cesarani, Sarah Kavanaugh. Holocaust: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies. Routledge, 2004, page 119.
- Israel Gutman, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Page 1032
- Chodkiewicz, Marek Jan, "Between Nazis and Soviets", pp.178-179
- Antonin Bohun Dabrowski in "Out of the Inferno: Poles Remember the Holocaust" edited by Richard Lukas, pg 22. 
- Piotrowski, Tadeusz, "Poland's Holocaust" , pg 95
- Gontarczyk, Piotr, PPR - Droga do władzy 1941-1944" pg. 347
- Rzeczpospolita, 02.10.04 Nr 232, Wielkie polowanie: Prześladowania akowców w Polsce Ludowej (Great hunt: the persecutions of AK soldiers in the People's Republic of Poland), last accessed on 7 June 2006
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Narodowe Siły Zbrojne.|
- Official website of the Association of the National Armed Forces Soldiers
- Narodowe Siły Zbrojne at the Wayback Machine (archived November 27, 2003)
- (English) The Doomed soldiers - Polish Underground Soldiers 1944-1963 - The Untold Story
- (Polish) Antykomunistyczne Podziemie Zbrojne po 1944 roku
- National Armed Forces Historical Brief