'Cursed soldiers' of the anti-communist underground. Left to right (June 1947):
|Allegiance||Poland (Polish Government-in-Exile)|
|Role||Armed forces of the Polish Underground State and the Polish Government-in-Exile|
|Size||Varied, c. 150,000-200,000 at peak. After amnesty of 1947, 200-400 people remained in active, armed conspiracy.|
The "cursed soldiers" : Żołnierze wyklęci) or "indomitable soldiers" (Polish : Żołnierze niezłomni) is a term applied to a variety of anti-Soviet and anti-communist Polish resistance movements formed in the later stages of World War II and its aftermath by members of the Polish Underground State. The clandestine organisations continued their armed struggle against the communist regime of Poland well into the 1950s. The guerrilla warfare included an array of military attacks launched against the communist regime's prisons and state security offices, detention facilities for political prisoners and concentration camps that were set up across the country. Most of the Polish anti-communist groups ceased to exist in the late 1950s, as they were hunted down by agents of the Ministry of Public Security and Soviet NKVD assassination squads. However, the last known "cursed soldier", Józef Franczak, was killed in an ambush as late as 1963, almost 20 years after the Soviet take-over of Poland.(also known as "doomed soldiers", "accursed soldiers" or "damned soldiers"; Polish
The best-known Polish anti-communist resistance organisations operating in Stalinist Poland included Freedom and Independence (Wolność i Niezawisłość, WIN), National Armed Forces (Narodowe Siły Zbrojne, NSZ), National Military Union (Narodowe Zjednoczenie Wojskowe, NZW), Konspiracyjne Wojsko Polskie (Underground Polish Army, KWP), Ruch Oporu Armii Krajowej (Home Army Resistance, ROAK), Armia Krajowa Obywatelska (Citizens' Home Army, AKO), NIE (NO, short for Niepodległość), Armed Forces Delegation for Poland (Delegatura Sił Zbrojnych na Kraj), and Wolność i Sprawiedliwość (Freedom and Justice, WiS).
Similar Central and Eastern European anti-communists fought on in other countries that were occupied by the Soviet Union.
The operations and history of "cursed soldiers" has been controversial, as they have been accused of antisemitism and war crimes. Barbara Engelking suggested that the groups used anti-semitic tropes such as Żydokomuna .They also committed cases of mass murder, such as the 1946 pacification of villages by PAS NZW.
In the summer of 1944, as Soviet forces fighting against Nazi Germany advanced into Poland, the USSR set up a provisional puppet regime of Poland called the Polish Committee of National Liberation. The new regime was aware that the Polish Resistance (whose chief component was the Armia Krajowa or Home Army) and Underground State loyal to the Polish government-in-exile would have to be destroyed before they could gain complete control over Poland.Władysław Gomułka, future General Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party, said that "Soldiers of the Armia Krajowa (AK) are a hostile element which must be removed without mercy". Another prominent communist, Roman Zambrowski, said that the AK had to be "exterminated".
The Armia Krajowa officially disbanded on 19 January 1945 to prevent a slide into armed conflict with the Red Army and the increasing threat of civil war over Poland's sovereignty. However, many resistance units decided to continue with their struggle for Polish independence, regarding Soviet forces as new occupiers. Soviet partisans in Poland had already been ordered by Moscow on 22 June 1943 to engage Polish Leśni partisans in combat.
According to Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's review of Bogdan Musial's Sowjetische Partisanen book, "Musial’s study suggests that the Soviets seldom attacked German military and police targets. They preferred to assault the poorly armed and trained Belarusan and Polish self-defense forces. The guerrillas torched and leveled Polish landed estates much more frequently than they blew up military transports and assaulted other hard targets."The main forces of the Red Army (Northern Group of Forces) and the NKVD began conducting operations against the Armia Krajowa (AK) during and directly after the launch of Operation Tempest, the aim of which was for the Polish resistance to seize control of cities and areas occupied by the Germans while the latter were preparing their defenses against the advancing Soviets. The Soviet leader Joseph Stalin planned to ensure that an independent Poland would never reemerge in the postwar period.
The first AK structure designed primarily to deal with the Soviet threat was NIE (short for niepodległość "independence", and also meaning "no"), formed in mid-1943. NIE's goal was to observe and conduct espionage while the Polish government-in-exile decided how to deal with the Soviets, rather than to engage in combat. At that time, the exiled government still believed that negotiations could result in a solution leading to Poland's post-war independence.
On 7 May 1945, NIE was disbanded and transformed into the Delegatura Sił Zbrojnych na Kraj ("Armed Forces Delegation for Homeland"). This organization lasted only until August 8, 1945, when the decision was made to disband it and to stop partisan resistance on Polish territory.
In March 1945 a staged trial of 16 leaders of the Polish Underground State, who had been captured and imprisoned by the Soviet Union, took place in Moscow (the Trial of the Sixteen).The Government Delegate, together with most members of the Council of National Unity and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armia Krajowa, were invited by Soviet general Ivan Serov, with the agreement of Joseph Stalin, to a conference on their eventual entry into the Soviet-backed Provisional Government. They were presented with a warrant of safety, but the NKVD arrested them in Pruszków on 27 and 28 March. Leopold Okulicki, Jan Stanisław Jankowski, and Kazimierz Pużak were arrested on 27 March, and 12 more the following day. Alexander Zwierzynski had already been detained earlier. They were all taken to the Lubyanka prison in Moscow for interrogation prior to the trial. After several months of brutal interrogation and torture, they were charged with false accusations of "collaboration with Nazi Germany" and of "planning a military alliance with Nazi Germany".
The Polish Committee of National Liberation declined jurisdiction over former AK soldiers. Consequently, for more than a year, Soviet agencies such as the NKVD dealt with the AK. By the end of the war, approximately 60,000 soldiers of the AK had been arrested, and 50,000 of them were deported to the Soviet Union's prisons and prison camps. Most of those soldiers had been captured by the Soviets during or in the aftermath of Operation Tempest, when many AK units tried to cooperate with the Red Army during their nationwide uprising against the Germans.
Other veterans were arrested when they approached the communist authorities after being promised amnesty. In 1947, the regime of the People's Republic of Poland proclaimed an amnesty for most of the wartime resistance fighters. The authorities expected around 12,000 people to give up their arms, but the total number of partisans to come out of the forests eventually reached 53,000. Many of them were arrested despite the promises of freedom. After repeated broken promises during the first few years of communist rule, former AK members refused to trust the government.
After the Delegatura Sił Zbrojnych na Kraj ("Armed Forces Delegation for Homeland") was disbanded, another post-AK resistance organisation was formed, called Wolność i Niezawisłość ("Freedom and Sovereignty"). Wolność i Niezawisłość (WiN) was most concerned with helping former AK soldiers make the transition from a life as partisans to that of civilians, rather than any type of combat. Continued secrecy and conspiracy were necessary in light of the increasing persecution of AK veterans by the communist regime. WiN was, however, much in need of funds to pay for false documents and to provide resources for the partisans, many of whom had lost their homes and entire life-savings in the war. Viewed as enemies of the state, starved of resources, and with a vocal faction advocating armed resistance against the Soviets and their Polish proxies, WiN was far from efficient. A significant victory for the NKVD and the newly created Polish secret police, Urząd Bezpieczeństwa (UB), came in the second half of 1945, when they convinced several leaders of WiN that they truly wanted to offer amnesty to AK members. Within a few months, intelligence gathered by the authorities led to thousands more arrests.The primary period of WiN activity lasted until 1947. The organisation finally disbanded in 1952.
The NKVD and UB used brute force and deception to eliminate the underground opposition. In the autumn of 1946, a group of 100–200 "cursed soldiers" of Narodowe Siły Zbrojne (National Armed Forces, NSZ) were lured into a trap and massacred. In 1947, Colonel Julia ("Bloody Luna") Brystiger of the Polish Ministry of Public Security proclaimed at a security briefing that: "[t]he terrorist and political underground" had ceased to be a threatening force for the UB, although the "class enemy" at universities, offices and factories still had to be "found out and neutralised."
The persecution of AK members was only one aspect of the reign of Stalinist terror in postwar Poland. In the period from 1944 to 1956, at least 300,000 Polish civilians were arrested.Some sources claim numbers up to two million arrested. Approximately 6,000 death sentences were issued, and the majority of them were carried out. It is probable that more than 20,000 people died in communist prisons including those executed "in the majesty of the law", such as Witold Pilecki, a hero of Auschwitz.
A further six million Polish citizens (i.e., one out of every three adult Poles) were classified as suspected members of a 'reactionary or criminal element' and subjected to investigation by state agencies. During the Polish October of 1956, a political amnesty freed 35,000 former AK soldiers from prisons. But, some partisans remained in service, unwilling or simply unable to rejoin the civilian community. The cursed soldier Stanisław Marchewka "Ryba" ("The Fish") was killed in 1957, and the last AK partisan, Józef Franczak "Lalek" ("Doller"), was killed in 1963 — almost two decades after the Second World War ended. In 1967, long after the abolition of Stalinist terror, Adam Boryczka, the last member of the elite British-trained Cichociemny ("The Silent and Hidden") intelligence and support group, was finally released from prison. Until the end of the People's Republic of Poland, former AK soldiers were under constant investigation by the secret police. It was only in 1989, after the fall of communism, that the convictions of AK soldiers were finally declared invalid and annulled by Polish law.
The biggest battle in the history of the National Military Union (Narodowe Zjednoczenie Wojskowe, NZW) took place on 6–7 May 1945, in the village of Kuryłówka in southeastern Poland. In the Battle of Kuryłówka, the partisans fought against the Soviet 2nd Border Regiment of the NKVD, gaining a victory for the underground forces commanded by Major Franciszek Przysiężniak ("Marek"). The anti-communist fighters killed up to 70 Soviet agents. The NKVD troops retreated in haste, only to return to the village later and burn it to the ground in retaliation, destroying over 730 buildings.
On 21 May 1945, a heavily armed AK unit led by Colonel Edward Wasilewski, attacked and destroyed the NKVD camp located in Rembertów on the eastern outskirts of Warsaw. The Soviets had incarcerated hundreds of Polish citizens there,including members of the Armia Krajowa.
One of the biggest anti-partisan operations by the communist authorities took place from 10–25 June 1945, in and around the Suwałki and Augustów regions of Poland. The "Augustów roundup" (Polish : Obława augustowska) was a joint operation of the Red Army, the Soviet NKVD, and SMERSH battalions, with assistance from Polish UB and LWP units, against Armia Krajowa resistance fighters. The operation extended into the territory of occupied Lithuania. More than 2,000 suspected anti-communist Polish fighters were captured and detained in Soviet internment camps. About 600 of the "Augustow Missing" are presumed to have died in Soviet custody, their bodies buried in unknown mass graves on the present territory of Russia. The Polish Institute of National Remembrance has declared the 1945 Augustów roundup to be "the largest crime committed by the Soviets on Polish lands after World War II."
Among the best-known Polish underground organizations,engaged in guerrilla warfare were:
The following list (in most part), was taken from the book Not Only Katyń (Nie tylko Katyń) by Ireneusz Sewastianowicz and Stanisław Kulikowski (Białostockie Wydawn. Prasowe, 1990); Part 10: "The Augustow Missing," compiled by the Citizen Committee for Search of Suwałki Region Inhabitants who Disappeared in July 1945 ( Obywatelski Komitet Poszukiwań Mieszkańców Suwalszczyzny Zaginionych w Lipcu 1945 r., in Polish ).
The "cursed soldiers" served as an inspiration for numerous films, documentaries, books, stage plays, and songs and, in Poland, they have become the ultimate symbol of patriotism and heroic fight for fatherland against all odds. Notable examples include:
The Home Army was the dominant Polish resistance movement in Poland, occupied by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, during World War II. The Home Army was formed in February 1942 from the Związek Walki Zbrojnej. Over the next two years, it absorbed most other Polish underground forces. Its allegiance was to the Polish government-in-exile, and it constituted the armed wing of what became known as the "Polish Underground State".
Armia Ludowa was a communist partisan force set up by the communist Polish Workers' Party (PPR) during World War II. It was created by order of the Polish State National Council on 1 January 1944. Its aims were to fight against Nazi Germany in occupied Poland, support the Soviet Red Army against the German forces and to aid in the creation of a pro-Soviet Union communist government in Poland.
Zygmunt Szendzielarz was the commander of the Polish 5th Wilno Brigade of the Home Army, nom de guerre "Łupaszka". He was executed in the notorious Mokotów Prison as one of anti-communist so-called Cursed soldiers following the Soviet takeover of Poland at the end of World War II.
Leśni ludzie is an informal name applied to some anti-German partisan groups that operated in occupied Poland during World War II, being a part of Polish resistance movement.
Janusz Bokszczanin was a colonel of the Polish Army and one of the first Polish commanders of the motorized troops in the reborn Second Polish Republic. During World War II he joined the ZWZ resistance organization and later the Home Army. Until 1943 he served as chief of department of rapid response within its headquarters. In 1944, prior to the anti-Fascist Operation Tempest, he became the chief of operations, and deputy chief of staff of the entire Home Army (AK).
The Polish 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 German and Soviet zones of occupation. The Polish resistance is most notable for disrupting German supply lines to the Eastern Front, providing military intelligence to the British, 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 State.
Freedom and Independence was a Polish underground anti-communist organisation founded on September 2, 1945 and active until 1952.
Aleksander Krzyżanowskinom de guerre "Wilk" was an artillery colonel of the Polish Army, officer of the Service for Poland's Victory, Union of Armed Struggle, commander of the Vilnius District of the Home Army, political prisoner of the Stalinist period. In 1994 he was posthumously promoted to the rank of brigade general.
The Augustów roundup was a military operation against the Polish World War II anti-communist partisans and sympathizers following the Soviet takeover of Poland. The operation was undertaken by Soviet forces with the assistance of Polish communist units, and conducted from July 10 to July 25, 1945 in Suwałki and Augustów region (Podlasie) of northern People's Republic of Poland.
NIE was a Polish anticommunist resistance organisation formed in 1943. Its main goal was the struggle against the Soviet Union after 1944. NIE was one of the best hidden structures of Armia Krajowa, active until 7 May 1945. Its commanders were Generals Leopold Okulicki and Emil August Fieldorf. One of the first members of the organisation was Witold Pilecki.
Anti-communist resistance in Poland can be divided into two types: the armed partisan struggle, mostly led by former Armia Krajowa and Narodowe Siły Zbrojne soldiers, which ended in the late 1950s, and the non-violent, civil resistance struggle that culminated in the creation and victory of the Solidarity trade union.
Józef Franczak was a soldier of the Polish Army, Armia Krajowa World War II resistance, and last of the cursed soldiers – members of the militant anti-communist resistance in Poland. He used codenames Lalek, Laluś, Laleczka, Guściowa, and fake name Józef Babiński. He was a resistance fighter for 24 out of 45 years of his life.
Major Adam Lazarowicz was a Polish military officer who played a prominent role in the Polish resistance movement in the German-occupied Poland in the Second World War.
The Battle of Kuryłówka, fought between the Polish anti-communist resistance organization, National Military Alliance (NZW) and the Soviet Union's NKVD units, took place on May 7, 1945, in the village of Kuryłówka, southeastern Poland. The battle ended in a victory for the underground Polish forces.
Narodowe Zjednoczenie Wojskowe was a Polish anti-Communist organization, founded in November 1944, after collapse of the Warsaw Uprising. It was among the largest and strongest resistance organizations established in the Soviet-controlled Poland in mid- and late 1940s. The NZW consisted mostly of members of destroyed Narodowe Sily Zbrojne and disbanded Armia Krajowa.
Armia Krajowa Obywatelska was a Polish military anticommunist organization, and a successor of the disbanded Polish anti-Nazi resistance Home Army. It was founded in February 1945 by Colonel Władysław Liniarski, who had previously been commandant of the Białystok District of the Home Army.
The anti-communist resistance in Poland, also referred to as the Polish anti-Communist insurrection fought between 1944 and 1946, 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 Stalinist authorities.
Marian Bernaciak was a lieutenant in the Polish Army, a member of ZWZ and the Home Army, a major and a legendary leader of an underground partisan unit of WiN in the Lublin region.
Franciszek Przysiężniak - was a lieutenant in the Polish Army, an officer of anti-communist resistance groups National Military Organization (NOW) and National Military Union (NZW).
Major Franciszek Jerzy Jaskulski, aka 'Zagończyk', was a soldier in the Polish Home Army and a commander in Freedom and Independence in the Radom region of Poland. In 2007 the Polish president Lech Kaczyński posthumously awarded Jaskulski the order of Polonia Restituta.
puppet government they had set up formally disbanded the AK.
w 50 lat po zamordowaniu członków IV Zarządu Głównego Zrzeszenia Wolność i Niezawisłość(in Polish)