Voices of Polonia: by Ted Rajchal

Polish Underground Resistance

Polish Underground Resistance Movement During World War II

Background

The Polish underground resistance movement in World War II, with the Polish Home Army at its forefront, was the largest underground resistance movement in all of occupied Europe, covering both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia zones of occupation.  The Polish resistance underground movement is most notable for disrupting German supply lines to the Eastern front, damaging or destroying 1/8 of all rail transports, providing 43% of all reports from occupied Europe, providing intelligence agencies reports to all British intelligence groups, and for saving more Jewish lives in the Holocaust than any other western allied organization or government.  It was a part of the Polish underground resistance movement.

The Largest of All Polish Resistance Organizations

The largest of all Polish underground resistance organizations was the Armia Krajowa (Home Army, AK), loyal to the Polish government in exile in London.  The AK was formed in 1942 from the Union of Armed Struggle, itself created in 1939, and would eventually incorporate most other Polish armed underground resistance movement groups (except for the communists and some far-right groups).  It was the military arm of the Polish underground resistance movement and loyal to the Polish government in exile.  “Within the framework of the entire enemy intelligence operations directed against Nazi German, the intelligence service of the Polish resistance movement assumed major significance.  The scope and importance of the operations of the Polish Underground Resistance movement, which was put together down to the smallest detail group and brilliantly organized.

The Size of the Underground Resistance Groups

In February, 1942, when (Home Army, AK) was formed, it numbered about 100,000 members. In the beginning of 1943, it had reached a strength of about 200,000.  In the summer of  1944 when Operation Tempest began,   AK (Home Army)  reached its highest membership numbers, though the estimates vary from 300,000  to 500.000,  the strength of the second largest underground resistance movement organizations.  Peasant’s battalions, can be estimated for summer, 1944 (at which time they were mostly merged with AK (Home Army), at about 650,000.  The Polish underground resistance movement have often been described as the largest or one of the largest underground resistance movement organizations in World War II Europe. 

Underground Resistance Actions 

  In March, 1940 a partisan unit of the first guerrilla commanders in  the Second World War in Europe  under Major Henry K. Dobrzanski completely destroyed a battalion of German infantry in a skirmish near the village of Huctska.  A few days later in an ambush near the village of Szatasy, it inflicted heavy casualties upon another German unit.  To counter this threat the German authorities formed a special  1,000  men strong group.  Counter insurgency unit of combined SS—Wehrmacht forces, including a panzer group.  Although the unlit of Major Dobranski never exceeded 300 men, the Germans fielded at least 8,000 men in the area to secure it.   

  In 1940 Witold Pilecki, an intelligence officer for the Polish resistance presented to his superiors a plan to enter Germany’s Auschwitz concentration camp, gather intelligence on the camp from inside and organize inmate resistance.  The Home Army approved this plan, provided him a false identity card, and on the 19th of September, 1940, he deliberately went out during a street roundup in Warsaw and was caught by the Germans along with other civilians and sent to Auschwitz.  In the camp he organized the underground resistance movement. In October, 1940  he sent his first report about the camp and the genocide though November, 1940 to Home Army Headquarters in Warsaw through the resistance network organized in Auschwitz.  During the night of 21, 22 of January, 1940, in the Soviet-occupied Pololian Town of Czortkow, the Czortkow uprising started; it was the first Polish uprising during World War II.  Anti- Soviet Poles, most of them teenagers  high schools, stormed the local Red Army barracks and a prison, in order to release Polish soldiers kept there.  

  At the end of 1940 Aleksander Kaminski created a Polish Youth resistance organization, known as “Wawer”.  It was part of the underground Polish scouting association.  This organization carried out many minor sabotage operations in occupied Poland.  Its first action was drawing graffiti in Warsaw around Christmas Eve of 1940 commemorating the Wawer massacre.  Members of the AK (Home Army) Wawer “small sabotage” at first painted  “pomsciny Wawer” (we’ll avenge Wawer) on Warsaw walls.  At first they painted the whole text, then to save time, they shortened it to two letters, P and W.  

   Later they invented “ anchor” which became the symbol of all Polish resistance in occupied Poland. From April, 1941 the Bureau of Information and Propaganda of the Union for Armed Struggle started operation “N” headed by Tadeusz Zenczykowski.  It involved sabotage, subversion, and black-propaganda activities.  

From March, 1941, Witold Pilecki’s reports were forwarded to the Polish government in exile in London to the Britiish and other allied governments.  These reports informed the Allies about the Holocaust and were the principal source of intelligence on Auschwitz-Birkenau for the western Allies. 

   In July, 1941 Mieczyslaw Slowikowski,  using the code name “Rygor”—Polish for “Rigor”, set up “Agency Africa”, one of World War II’s most successful intelligence organizations.  His Polish allies in these endeavors included Lt. Col. Gwido Langer and Major Maksymilian Ciezki.  The information gathered by the agency was used by the Americans and British in planning the amphibious November, 1942 Operation Torch, landing in North Africa.  These were the first large-scale allied landing of the war and their success in turn paved the way for the Allies’ Italian campaign. 

   In September, 1942  “The Zegota Council for the aid of the Jews” was founded by Zofia Kossak-Szczucka and Wanda Krahelska-Filipowicz (“Alinka”) and made up of Polish Democrats as well as other Catholic activists.  Poland was the only country in Occupied Europe where there exited such a dedicated secret organization.  Half of the Jews who survived the war ( over 50,000) were aided in some shape or form by Zegota. 

  The best-known activist of Zegota was Irena Sendler, head of the children’s division,  who saved 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto, providing them with false documents, and sheltering them in individual and group children’s homes outside the ghetto.  

  The Zamose  uprising was an armed uprising of Armia Kratowa (Home Army) and Bataliony Chlopskie against the forced expulsion of Poles from the Zamosc.  The Germans attempted to remove the local Poles from the Greater Zamosc area (through forced removal, transfer to forced labor camps, or, in some cases, mass murder) to get it ready for German colonization.  It lasted from 1942 until 1944 and despite heavy casualties suffered by the underground, the Germans failed.  On the night from the seventh through the eighth of October, 1942, Operation Wieniec started.  It targeted rail infrastructure near Warsaw.  Similar operations aimed at disrupting and harrying German transport and communication supply depots, primarily near transport hubs such as Warsaw and Lublin.  In early 1943 two Polish janitors of Peenemunde’s Camp Trassen Heide provided maps, sketches, and reports to Armia Krajowa intelligence (Home Army), and in June, 1943 British intelligence had received two such reports which identified the “rocket assembly hall”, experimental launching tower.  When reconnaissance and intelligence information regarding the V-2 rocket became convincing, the war cabinet defense committee operations direct the campaign’s first planned raid (the operation Hydra Bombing of Peenemunde in August 1943) and Operation Crossbow.  From November, 1943, Operation Most III started.  The Armia Krajowa (Home Army) provided the Allies with crucial intelligence on the German V-2 rocket.  In effect, some 50kg of the most important parts of the captured V-2, as well as the final report. Analysis, sketches and photos, were reported to Brindisi by Royal Air Force Douglas Dakota aircraft.  In late July, 1944, the V-2 parts were delivered to London.  In 1943 in London, Jan Kakrski met the  much known journalist Arthur Kosestler.  He then traveled to the United States and reported to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  His report was a major factor  in informing the West.  In July, 1943, he  again personally reported to Roosevelt about the situation in Poland.  Various acts of sabotage performed during World War II against Nazi Germany was 25,145 sabotage resistance actions, a number of sources that  note that the Home Army, representing the bulk of Polish resistance underground movement conducted against Nazi Germany.

Lockwood Law

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