National Armed Forces

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Narodowe Siły Zbrojne (English National Armed Forces, NSZ) was a Polish anti-Nazi and later primarily anti-Soviet military organization which was part of the Polish resistance movement in World War II. The NSZ was a right-wing, antisemitic organization[1][2] and it has been accused of killing Jews during and after the war.[3] The NSZ fought the Nazi Germany and Soviet forces, regarding them as occupiers and enemies of independent Poland. It was also engaged in fighting Soviet-allied Polish communist partisan forces, such as Gwardia Ludowa and Armia Ludowa. The NSZ was the third largest Polish resistance movement of World War II, after the Home Army and Bataliony Chłopskie. The number of its soldiers ranged from 70,000 to 75,000.

History[edit]

Territorial structure and organization of the NSZ

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 1943-44 the NSZ reached between 70,000 and 75,000 members, making it the third largest organization of the Polish resistance (after the Home Army (AK) and the Bataliony Chlopskie).[4] NSZ units participated in the Warsaw Uprising.

In March 1944 the NSZ split, with the more moderate faction coming under the command of the AK. The other part of the organization became known as the NSZ-ZJ (the Lizard Union). This branch of the NSZ conducted operations against Polish communist activists, partisans and secret police, the Soviet partisans, NKVD and SMERSH, and their own (NSZ) former leaders. The actions claimed hundreds of victims, including many Jews.[5]

Political stance[edit]

The NSZ occupied the far right of the political spectrum. Its program included the fight for Polish independence against Nazi Germany as well as against the Soviet Union, with its focus on keeping the Second Polish Republic's prewar 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."

NSZ cross

During the war, the NSZ fought the Polish communists including their military organizations such as the Gwardia Ludowa (GL) and the Armia Ludowa (AL).[6] After the war former NSZ members were persecuted by the newly installed communist government of the Polish People's Republic. 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.[7] It was a method of political warfare practiced against the NSZ also by the Ministry of Public Security of Poland and Milicja Obywatelska (MO) right after the war, as revealed by communist Poland's court documents.[7]

Such methodically devised propaganda and tactical operations carried out against the armed underground, including the NSZ, were spelled out in the Top Secret Directive VIII/1233/172 issued by the Ministry of Public Security (UB) on December 4, 1945. This Top Secret Directive signed by the ministry's head Stanisław Radkiewicz was issued to all the voivodeship and field UB offices. It reads: “(…) the heads of the UB 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 reactionary gangs. It is advised that special-purpose (secret police tactical) units created during the summer of last year be used for this purpose. This action is to be accompanied by a press campaign directed against the reactionary gangs who will be blamed for these actions. (-) Radkiewicz”.

Communist propaganda poster saying "Eradicate the bandits from the NSZ"

Due to the policy of non-cooperation with the Soviets, and unlike the Home Army (AK), which was completely transparent to communist security services, the NSZ remained an independent and secret military and political organization also after Poland was taken over by the Soviets and the Polish communists. 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 national interest. [8]

Notable military operations by NSZ include the liberation of the Nazi subcamp of the Flossenbürg concentration camp located in Holýšov by the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade, and the assaults on German transport trains departing from Majdanek concentration camp.

National Armed Forces and Jews[edit]

All underground formations in occupied Poland conducted forcible requisitions of food and supplies from the farmers, and robbed rural estates if needed. Partisans themselves attributed the banditry usually to political opponents. For the AK and the NSZ, the actions of GL, AL and BCh constituted communist crimes; and vice versa. Members of Bataliony Chłopskie saw nationalists and gangsters.[9] In most instances, as noted by Dariusz Libionka of the IPN, the underground special forces were unaware of the ongoing Holocaust in occupied Poland; and the Jews who escaped destruction were treated by them like anyone else. An order issued by the AK in Pińczów in June 1944 prohibited attacking Jews hiding in the forest under the condition that they do not engage in banditry. The law has become blurred.[9] Polish-American historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz noted that the Jews accused of robberies were executed by all sides of the internal partisan conflict.[10] Polish historian Alina Cała from the Jewish Historical Institute in an interview for Trybuna.eu claimed that a part of the NSZ doctrine was the elimination of what they considered the Jewish-communist bands, and that they systematically pursued that goal.[3][11] From November 1944 to mid-1947, during the period of armed anti-communist insurgency against the Soviet takover, between 500 and 1,500 Jews were murdered in Poland, many of them from communist security forces and Stalinist political apparatus.[12] According to Marek Edelman the lawlessness had little to do with antisemitism.[13]

Some people also argue that initially, the bulk of the NSZ attacks were directed primarily against the Soviet partisans and the GL-AL, in whose ranks a number of Jews served, and that after the Soviet liberation of Poland, these attacks became more focused on individual Jews who were placed in highly visible positions of authority in the PRL and in the organs of oppression. — Tadeusz Piotrowski, Richard C. Lukas, Poland's Holocaust [14]

An article in the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust asserts that hundreds of Polish Jews who had sought shelter among ethnic Poles after having escaped from the ghettos were murdered by the NSZ.[15] According to other sources, many NSZ soldiers and their families are credited with saving the lives of Jews, including personalities such as Maria Bernstein, Leon Goldman, Jonte Goldman and Dr. Turski. The NSZ had 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. Władysław Kolaciński (nom de guerre "Zbik"), Major Stanisław Ostwind-Zuzga, and others.[16]

In January 1945, the NSZ Holy Cross Mountains Brigade (Brygada Świętokrzyska) retreated before the advancing Red Army and, after negotiating a ceasefire with the Germans, moved into the Nazi-controlled Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. It resumed operations against the Nazis on May 5, 1945 in Bohemia, where the brigade liberated prisoners from a concentration camp in Holýšov, including 280 Jewish women prisoners slated for death.[17]

In 1947, Maria Bernstein, a Jew who survived Nazi occupation wrote on behalf of Jerzy Zakulski, an NSZ soldier condemned to death by a communist court. She testified that Zakulski saved the lives of her and her child by providing them with shelter after they had escaped from the ghetto. Zakulski was executed on July 31, 1947, nevertheless.

Post-war persecution and later rehabilitation[edit]

Members of the NSZ, as other so-called cursed soldiers and their families, were persecuted during the Stalinist period after the war. In Autumn 1946, a group of 100-200 soldiers of a NSZ unit under the command of Henryk Flame, nom de guerre "Bartek," were lured into a trap and massacred by communist military and police forces.[18] In 1992, the National Armed Forces underground soldiers were rehabilitated by the Polish state and given the official status of war veterans, receiving pensions and decorations.

NSZ commanders:

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Richard C. Lukas. The Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under German Occupation, 1939-1944. University Press of Kentucky, 1986. Page 81.
  2. ^ Halik Kochanski, The Eagle Unbowed, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts 2012, ISBN 978-0-674-06814-8, p. 319
  3. ^ a b Bartosz Machalica (28 February 2016). "Alina Cała stwiedza: NSZ zabiły więcej Żydów niż Niemców". Interview for Trybuna.eu. Trybuna Online. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ David Cesarani, Sarah Kavanaugh. Holocaust: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies. Routledge, 2004, page 119.
  6. ^ Piotrowski, Tadeusz, "Poland's Holocaust" , pg 95
  7. ^ a b Gontarczyk, Piotr, PPR - Droga do władzy 1941-1944" pg. 347
  8. ^ Original in Polish: "Można umrzeć metodą pokazaną w Katyniu, to jest strzałem w tył głowy lub w sowieckim obozie pracy przymusowej, lub w niemieckim obozie koncentracyjnym (...) nie ma realnej różnicy w sposobie jak sie umiera (...) Dlatego naszym obowiązkiem jest, by wyeliminować sowieckich agentów w Polsce. To jest po prostu wymagane przez polską racją stanu". Source of original: The Magdeburg Sting.
  9. ^ a b Marta Duch-Dyngosz (2012). "Rekonstrukcja zapomnianych zbrodni" [Reconstruction of the forgotten crimes]. Interview with Dariusz Libionka and Alina Skibińska of IPN (Miesięcznik Znak). Nr 683. 
  10. ^ Marek Jan Chodakiewicz (20 September 1997). "Hitler nie pobłogosławił" [Not with Hitler's blessing]. Rocznica powstania Narodowych Sił Zbrojnych (Rzeczpospolita). Nr 220. 
  11. ^ Piotr Zychowicz (May 2009). "Cała: »Polacy jako naród nie zdali egzaminu«". Rzeczpospolita (2009-05-25). ISSN 0208-9130 – via Internet Archive. 
  12. ^ Halik Kochanski, The Eagle Unbowed, p. 550.
  13. ^ The Jerusalem Post, January 23, 2008 editorial via Internet Archive.
  14. ^ Tadeusz Piotrowski, Poland's Holocaust. ISBN 0786429135.
  15. ^ Israel Gutman, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Page 1032
  16. ^ Chodkiewicz, Marek Jan, "Between Nazis and Soviets", pp.178-179
  17. ^ Antonin Bohun Dabrowski in "Out of the Inferno: Poles Remember the Holocaust" edited by Richard Lukas, pg 22. [1]
  18. ^ 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

Further reading[edit]

  • Siemaszko, Zbigniew S. (1985). Narodowe Siły Zbrojne (2nd ed.). Warszawa: Głos. OCLC 69304656. 

External links[edit]