Home Army

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The Home Army
Armia Krajowa
Flaga PPP.svg
Polish red-and-white flag with superposed Kotwica ("Anchor") emblem of the Polish Underground State and Home Army
Active14 February 1942 – 19 January 1945
AllegianceFlag of Poland (1928-1980).svg Polish government-in-exile
RoleArmed forces of the Polish Underground State and the Polish government-in-exile
Size400,000 (1944)
Engagements World War II
Tadeusz Komorowski
Stefan Rowecki
Leopold Okulicki
Emil August Fieldorf
Antoni Chruściel

The Home Army (Polish : Armia Krajowa, AK; Polish pronunciation:  [ˈarmʲa kraˈjɔva] ) 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 (Armed Resistance). Some authors stress the continuity using acronym ZWZ/AK (or ZWZ-AK). [1] 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".

Polish language West Slavic language spoken in Poland

Polish is a West Slavic language of the Lechitic group. It is spoken primarily in Poland and serves as the native language of the Poles. In addition to being an official language of Poland, it is also used by Polish minorities in other countries. There are over 50 million Polish-language speakers around the world and it is one of the official languages of the European Union.

Polish resistance movement in World War II Combatant organizations opposed to Nazi Germany

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.

History of Poland (1939–1945)

The history of Poland from 1939 to 1945 encompasses primarily the period from the Invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to the end of World War II. Following the German-Soviet non-aggression pact, Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany on 1 September 1939 and by the Soviet Union on 17 September. The campaigns ended in early October with Germany and the Soviet Union dividing and annexing the whole of Poland. After the Axis attack on the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, all of Poland was occupied by Germany. Under the two occupations, Polish citizens suffered enormous human and material losses. According to the Institute of National Remembrance estimates, about 5.6 million Polish citizens died as a result of the German occupation and about 150,000 died as a result of the Soviet occupation. The Jews were singled out by the Germans for a quick and total annihilation and about 90% of Polish Jews were murdered as part of the Holocaust. Jews, Poles, Romani people and prisoners of many other ethnicities were killed en masse at Nazi extermination camps, such as Auschwitz, Treblinka and Sobibór. Ethnic Poles were subjected to both Nazi German and Soviet persecution. The Germans killed an estimated two million ethnic Poles. They had future plans to turn the remaining majority of Poles into slave labor and annihilate those perceived as “undesirable” as part of the wider Generalplan Ost. Ethnic cleansing and massacres of Poles and to a lesser extent Ukrainians were perpetrated in western Ukraine from 1943. The Poles were murdered by Ukrainian nationalists.


Estimates of the Home Army's 1944 strength range between 200,000 and 600,000, the most commonly cited number being 400,000. This last number would make the Home Army not only the largest Polish underground resistance movement but one of the three largest in Europe during World War II. [a] The Home Army was disbanded on 19 January 1945, after the Soviet Red Army had largely cleared Polish territory of German forces.

A resistance movement is an organized effort by some portion of the civil population of a country to withstand the legally established government or an occupying power and to disrupt civil order and stability. It may seek to achieve its objectives through either the use of nonviolent resistance, or the use of force, whether armed or unarmed. In many cases, as for example in Norway in the Second World War, a resistance movement may employ both violent and non-violent methods, usually operating under different organizations and acting in different phases or geographical areas within a country.

Red Army 1917–1946 ground and air warfare branch of the Soviet Unions military

The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, frequently shortened to Red Army was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991. The former official name Red Army continued to be used as a nickname by both sides throughout the Cold War.

The Home Army sabotaged German operations such as transports headed for the Eastern Front in the Soviet Union. It also fought several full-scale battles against the Germans, particularly in 1943 and in Operation Tempest in 1944. The Home Army tied down substantial German forces and destroyed much-needed German supplies.

Sabotage deliberate action aimed at weakening another entity

Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening a polity, effort, or organization through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. One who engages in sabotage is a saboteur. Saboteurs typically try to conceal their identities because of the consequences of their actions.

Eastern Front (World War II) theatre of World War II - war between Germany and USSR 1941-1945

The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.), Poland and other Allies, which encompassed Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Northeast Europe (Baltics), and Southeast Europe (Balkans) from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945. It has been known as the Great Patriotic War in the former Soviet Union and modern Russia, while in Germany it was called the Eastern Front, or the German-Soviet War by outside parties.

Battle part of a war which is well defined in duration, area and force commitment

A battle is a combat in warfare between two or more armed forces. A war usually consists of multiple battles. Battles generally are well defined in duration, area, and force commitment. A battle with only limited engagement between the forces and without decisive results is sometimes called a skirmish.

The most widely known Home Army operation was the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. The partisans also defended Polish civilians against atrocities perpetrated by other military formations.

Warsaw Uprising major World War II operation by the Polish resistance Home Army

The Warsaw Uprising was a major World War II operation, in the summer of 1944, by the Polish underground resistance, led by the Home Army, to liberate Warsaw from German occupation. The uprising was timed to coincide with the retreat of the German forces from Poland ahead of the Soviet advance. While approaching the eastern suburbs of the city, the Red Army temporarily halted combat operations, enabling the Germans to regroup and defeat the Polish resistance and to raze the city in reprisal. The Uprising was fought for 63 days with little outside support. It was the single largest military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II.

Ethnic violence refers to violence expressly motivated by ethnic hatred and ethnic conflict. It is commonly related to political violence, and often the terms are interchangeable, or one is used as a pretext for the other when politically expedient. Forms of ethnic violence which can be argued to have the character of terrorism may be known as ethnic terrorism or ethnically-motivated terrorism. "Racist terrorism" is a form of ethnic violence dominated by overt racism and xenophobic reactionism.

Because the Home Army was loyal to the Polish Government-in-Exile, the Soviet Union saw it as an obstacle to Communism in Poland. Consequently, over the course of the war, conflict grew between the Home Army and Soviet forces. During the Soviet occupation of Poland thousands of former Home Army operatives were deported to Gulags and Soviet prisons, while others - including senior commanders like Leopold Okulicki and Emil August Fieldorf - were executed.

Communism in Poland

Communism in Poland can trace its origins to the late 19th century: the Marxist First Proletariat party was founded in 1882. Rosa Luxemburg (1871–1919) of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania party and the publicist Stanisław Brzozowski (1878–1911) were important early Polish Marxists.

Gulag government agency in charge of the Soviet forced labor camp system

The Gulag was the government agency in charge of the Soviet forced-labour camp-system that was set up under Vladimir Lenin and reached its peak during Joseph Stalin's rule from the 1930s to the early 1950s. English-language speakers also use the word gulag to refer to any forced-labor camp in the Soviet Union, including camps which existed in post-Stalin times. The camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners. Large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as by NKVD troikas or by other instruments of extrajudicial punishment. The Gulag is recognized by many as a major instrument of political repression in the Soviet Union.

Leopold Okulicki Polish general

General Leopold Okulicki was a General of the Polish Army and the last commander of the anti-German underground Home Army during World War II. He was arrested after the war by the Soviet NKVD and murdered while imprisoned at Butyrka prison in Moscow.

History and operations

World War II

Armband worn by Home Army soldiers Band of Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa).PNG
Armband worn by Home Army soldiers

The Home Army originated in the Service for Poland's Victory (Służba Zwycięstwu Polski), which General Michał Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski set up on 27 September 1939, just as the coordinated German and Soviet invasions of Poland neared completion. [2] Seven weeks later, on 17 November 1939, on the orders of General Władysław Sikorski, the Service for Poland's Victory was superseded by the Armed Resistance (Związek Walki Zbrojnej), which in turn, a little over two years later, on 14 February 1942, became the "Home Army". [2] [3] All the while, however, many other resistance organizations remained active in Poland. [4] Most of them eventually merged with the Armed Resistance or with its successor, the Home Army, between 1939 and 1944, substantially augmenting the Home Army's numbers. [3] [4] [5]

Service for Polands Victory

Służba Zwycięstwu Polski was the first Polish resistance movement in World War II. It was created by the order of general Juliusz Rómmel on 27 September 1939, when the siege of Warsaw, capital of Poland, where Rómmel commanded Polish defence, was nearing its end.

Michał Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski Polish general and resistance fighter

General Michał Tadeusz Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski, Coat of arms of Trąby pseudonym Doktor, Stolarski, Torwid was a Polish general, founder of the resistance movement "Polish Victory Service".

Władysław Sikorski Polish military and political leader

Władysław Eugeniusz Sikorski was a Polish military and political leader.

Young Radoslaw Group soldiers, 2 September 1944, a month into the Warsaw Uprising. They had just marched several hours through Warsaw sewers. Polish Boy Scouts fighting in the Warsaw Uprising.jpg
Young Radosław Group soldiers, 2 September 1944, a month into the Warsaw Uprising. They had just marched several hours through Warsaw sewers.

The Polish government-in-exile envisioned the Home Army as an apolitical, nationwide resistance organization. [6] The supreme command defined the Home Army's chief tasks as partisan warfare against the German occupiers, re-creation of armed forces underground and, near the end of the German occupation, a general armed rising to be prosecuted until victory. [2] [3] [6] Home Army plans envisioned, at war's end, the seizure of power in Poland by the Government Delegation for Poland (the Delegatura) and by the Government in Exile itself, which expected to return to Poland.

In addition to the Polish government in London, a political organization operated in Poland itself - a deliberative body of the resistance and of the Polish Underground State. The Political Consultative Committee (Polityczny Komitet Porozumiewawczy) formed in 1940 pursuant to an agreement between several major political parties: the Socialist Party, People's Party, National Party and Labor Party. In 1943 it was renamed to Home Political Representation (Krajowa Reprezentacja Polityczna) and in 1944 to Council of National Unity (Rada Jedności Narodowej). [7] :235-236

The Home Army, though in theory subordinate to the civil authorities and to the Government in Exile, often acted somewhat independently, with neither the Home Army's commanders in Poland nor the "London government" fully aware of the others' situation. [7] :235-236

After Germany started its invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, the Soviet Union joined the Allies and signed an Anglo-Soviet Agreement on 12 July 1941. This put the Polish Government in a difficult position, since it had previously pursued a policy of "two enemies". Though a Polish-Soviet agreement was signed in August 1941, cooperation continued to be difficult and deteriorated further after 1943 when Nazi Germany publicized the Katyn massacre of 1940. [8]

Until the major rising in 1944, the Home Army concentrated on self-defense (the freeing of prisoners and hostages, defense against German pacification operations) and on attacks against German forces. Home Army units carried out thousands of armed raids and intelligence operations, sabotaged hundreds of railway shipments, and participated in many partisan clashes and battles with German police and Wehrmacht units. The Home Army also assassinated prominent Nazi collaborators and Gestapo officials in retaliation against Nazi terror inflicted on Poland's civilian population; prominent individuals assassinated by the Home Army included Igo Sym (1941) and Franz Kutschera (1944). [2] [6]


Der Klabautermann (an Operation N magazine), 3 January 1943 issue, satirizing Third Reich Nazi terror and genocide. At right, emerging from the III ("Three", of "Third Reich"): Hitler and Himmler. The Third Reich - polish resistance poster, German-occupied Poland, 1943.jpg
Der Klabautermann (an Operation N magazine), 3 January 1943 issue, satirizing Third Reich Nazi terror and genocide. At right, emerging from the III ("Three", of "Third Reich"): Hitler and Himmler.

The Home Army supplied valuable intelligence to the Allies; 43% of all reports received by the British secret services from continental Europe in between 1939 and 1945 came from Polish sources. [9] Until 1942 most British intelligence on Germany came from Home Army reports. Until the end of the war, the Home Army remained Britain's main source of news from Central and Eastern Europe. [10]

Home Army intelligence provided the Allies with information on German concentration camps [11] and on the V-1 flying bomb and V-2 rocket. [2] [5] In one Project Big Ben mission (Operation Wildhorn III; [12] Polish cryptonym: Most III, "Bridge III"), a stripped-for-lightness RAF twin-engine Dakota flew from Brindisi in Italy to an abandoned German airfield in Poland to pick up intelligence prepared by Polish aircraft-designer Antoni Kocjan, including 100 lb (45 kg) of V-2 rocket wreckage from a Peenemünde launch, a Special Report 1/R, no. 242, photographs, eight key V-2 parts, and drawings of the wreckage. [13]

Sabotage was coordinated by the Union of Retaliation and later by Wachlarz and Kedyw units. [3]

The Home Army also conducted psychological warfare. Its "Operation N" created the illusion of a German movement of opposition to Hitler within Germany itself. [2] Later Operation Antyk opposed Communist propaganda. [14]

Information and propaganda

The Home Army published a weekly Biuletyn Informacyjny (Information Bulletin), with a top circulation (in November 1943) of 50,000. [15] [16]

Major operations

Home Army 26th Infantry Regiment marching from Kielce-Radom area in an attempt to join the Warsaw Uprising 26PPAK relief Warsaw Uprising.jpg
Home Army 26th Infantry Regiment marching from Kielce-Radom area in an attempt to join the Warsaw Uprising

Major Home Army military and sabotage operations included:

"To arms!" Home Army poster during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising Warsaw Uprising poster 345.jpg
"To arms!" Home Army poster during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising

The largest and best-known of the Operation Tempest battles, the Warsaw Uprising, constituted an attempt, beginning on 1 August 1944, to liberate Poland's capital. Polish forces took control of substantial parts of the city and resisted the German-led forces until 2 October (a total of 63 days). With the Poles receiving no aid from the approaching Red Army, the Germans eventually defeated the insurrectionists and burned the city, finally quelling the Uprising on 2 October 1944. [2] Other major Home Army city risings included Operation Ostra Brama, in Wilno, and the Lwów Uprising. The Home Army also prepared for a rising in Kraków, but due to various circumstances it was canceled. While the Home Army managed to liberate a number of places from German control—for example in the Lublin area, where regional structures were able to set up a functioning government—ultimately, due to Soviet hostility, the Home Army failed to secure sufficient territory to enable the Government in Exile to return to Poland. [2] [3] [17]

Estimates of Axis fatalities due to operations by the Polish underground, of which the Home Army formed the bulk, range up to 150,000 [18] [19] (however, estimates of guerrilla-inflicted casualties often have a wide margin of error [20] ). The Home Army primarily focused on sabotage of German rail- and road-transports to the Eastern Front in the Soviet Union. [5] [21] It is estimated[ by whom? ] that an eighth of all German transports to the Eastern Front were destroyed or substantially delayed due to Home Army operations. [21] The Poles' battles with the Germans, particularly in 1943 and 1944, tied down several German divisions (upper estimates suggest a total of some 930,000 German soldiers). [5] [22]

Confirmed sabotage and covert operations of the Armed Resistance (ZWZ) and Home Army (AK)
from 1 January 1941 to 30 June 1944, listed by type [23]
Sabotage / covert-operation typeTotal numbers
Damaged locomotives6,930
Damaged railway wagons19,058
Delayed repairs to locomotives803
Derailed transports732
Transports set on fire443
Blown-up railway bridges38
Disruptions to electricity supply in the Warsaw grid638
Damaged or destroyed army vehicles4,326
Damaged aeroplanes28
Destroyed fuel-tanks1,167
Destroyed fuel (in tonnes)4,674
Blocked oil wells5
Destroyed wood wool wagons150
Burned down military stores130
Disruptions in factory production7
Built-in flaws in aircraft engines parts4,710
Built-in flaws in cannon muzzles203
Built-in flaws in artillery projectiles92,000
Built-in flaws in air-traffic radio stations107
Built-in flaws in condensers70,000
Built-in flaws in electro-industrial lathes1,700
Damage to important factory machinery2,872
Acts of sabotage25,145
Assassinations of Nazi Germans5,733

Assassinations of Nazi leaders

German poster listing 100 Polish hostages executed in reprisal for assassinations of German police and SS by a Polish "terrorist organization in the service of the English", Warsaw, 2 October 1943 Bekanntmachung Warschau 1943.jpg
German poster listing 100 Polish hostages executed in reprisal for assassinations of German police and SS by a Polish "terrorist organization in the service of the English", Warsaw, 2 October 1943

The Polish resistance executed dozens of attacks on German commanders in Poland, the largest being a series of assassinations codenamed Operation Heads . Dozens more assassination attempts were carried out, the best-known being: [24]


June 1945 Moscow show trial of 16 Polish civil and Home Army leaders. They were convicted of "planning military action against the U.S.S.R." In March 1945 they had been invited to help organize a Polish Government of National Unity and were arrested by the Soviet NKVD. Despite the court's lenience, 6 years later only two of the men were alive. Moscow Trial 1945.jpg
June 1945 Moscow show trial of 16 Polish civil and Home Army leaders. They were convicted of "planning military action against the U.S.S.R." In March 1945 they had been invited to help organize a Polish Government of National Unity and were arrested by the Soviet NKVD. Despite the court's lenience, 6 years later only two of the men were alive.

The Home Army was officially disbanded on 19 January 1945 to avoid civil war and armed conflict with the Soviets. [23] However, many former Home Army units decided to continue operations. The Soviet Union, and the Polish Communist Government that it controlled, viewed the underground, still loyal to the Polish government-in-exile, as a force to be extirpated before they could gain complete control of Poland. Future Secretary General of the Polish United Workers' Party, Władysław Gomułka, is quoted as saying: "Soldiers of the AK are a hostile element which must be removed without mercy." Another prominent Polish communist, Roman Zambrowski, said that the Home Army had to be "exterminated." [29]

The first Home Army structure designed primarily to deal with the Soviet threat had been NIE , formed in mid-1943. Its aim was not to engage Soviet forces in combat, but to observe them and to gather intelligence while the Polish Government-in-Exile decided how to deal with the Soviets; at that time, the exiled government still believed in the possibility of constructive negotiations with the Soviets. On 7 May 1945 NIE ("NO") was disbanded [29] and transformed into an Armed Forces Delegation for Poland (Delegatura Sił Zbrojnych na Kraj); but this organization lasted only until 8 August 1945, when it was decided to disband it and to stop partisan resistance. [29]

The first Polish communist government, the Polish Committee of National Liberation, formed in July 1944, declined to accept jurisdiction over Home Army soldiers, therefore for over a year Soviet agencies such as the NKVD took responsibility for disarming the Home Army. [29] By war's end, some 60,000 Home Army soldiers had been arrested, 50,000 of whom were deported to Soviet Gulags and prisons; most of these soldiers had been taken captive by the Soviets during, or in the aftermath of, Operation Tempest, when many Home Army units tried to work together with the Soviets in a nationwide uprising against the Germans. [29] Other Home Army veterans were arrested when they approached Polish communist government officials after having been promised amnesty. After a number of such broken promises during the first few years of communist control, Home Army soldiers stopped trusting the government. [29]

The third post-Home Army organization was Wolność i Niezawisłość (WiN: Freedom and Independence). Its primary goal was not combat, either. Rather, it was designed to help Home Army soldiers transition from partisan to civilian life; while secrecy was necessary in the light of increasing persecution of Home Army veterans by the communist government. [30] WiN was, however, in great need of funds, necessary to pay for false documents and to provide resources for the partisans, many of whom had lost their homes and life's 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. [29] A major victory for the Soviet NKVD and the newly created Polish secret police, Urząd Bezpieczeństwa (UB), came in the second half of 1945, when they managed to convince several Home Army and WiN leaders that they truly wanted to offer amnesty to Home Army members. Over a few months they gained information about great numbers of Home Army and WiN people and resources. By the time the (imprisoned) Home Army and WiN leaders realized their mistake, the organizations had been crippled, with thousands of their members arrested. [29] WiN was finally disbanded in 1952. By 1947 a colonel of the communist forces declared that "The terrorist and political underground has ceased to be a threatening force, though there are still men of the forests" to be dealt with. [29]

Home Army Cross, awarded to Home Army veterans by the Polish Government-in-Exile Krzyz AK 64081946chl.jpg
Home Army Cross, awarded to Home Army veterans by the Polish Government-in-Exile

The persecution of the Home Army was only part of the Stalinist repressions in Poland. In the period 1944–56, some 2 million people were arrested, [29] over 20,000, including the hero of Auschwitz, Witold Pilecki, were executed or murdered in communist prisons, [29] and 6 million Polish citizens (every third adult Pole) were classified as "reactionary" or "criminal elements" and subjected to spying by state agencies. [29]

Most Home Army soldiers were captured by the NKVD or by Poland's UB political police. They were interrogated and imprisoned on various charges such as "fascism". [31] [32] Many were sent to Gulags, executed or "disappeared." [31] Thus, between 1944 and 1956 all the members of Batalion Zośka , which had fought in the Warsaw Uprising, were locked up in communist prisons. [33] In 1956 an amnesty released 35,000 former Home Army soldiers from prisons: some had spent over 10 years imprisoned for the crime of fighting for their country.

Even then, however, some partisans remained in the countryside, unwilling or unable to rejoin the community; they became known as the cursed soldiers . Stanisław Marchewka "Ryba" was killed in 1957, and the last AK partisan, Józef Franczak "Lalek," was killed in 1963 [29]  – almost 2 decades after World War II had ended. It was only four years later, in 1967, that Adam Boryczka, a soldier of AK and a member of the elite, Britain-trained Cichociemny ("Silent Unseen") intelligence and support group, was released from prison. Until the end of the People's Republic of Poland, Home Army soldiers remained under investigation by the secret police, and it was only in 1989, after the fall of communism, that the sentences of Home Army soldiers were finally declared null and void by Polish courts. [29]

Many monuments to the Home Army have since been erected in Poland, including the Polish Underground State and Home Army Monument near the Sejm building in Warsaw, unveiled in 1999. [34] [35] The Home Army is also commemorated in the Home Army Museum in Kraków [36] and in the Warsaw Uprising Museum in Warsaw. [37]


Soldiers of 1st Company of Sambor Command of Drohobycz Home Army (Obwod Sambor AK) inspectorate, armed with German-, Soviet-, and British-made arms and wearing captured German field uniforms. Soldier at lower left appears to be holding a Soviet-made PPSh-41, or some derivative thereof. 1Comp obwSambor inspecDrohobycz Burza3.jpg
Soldiers of 1st Company of Sambor Command of Drohobycz Home Army (Obwód Sambor AK) inspectorate, armed with German-, Soviet-, and British-made arms and wearing captured German field uniforms. Soldier at lower left appears to be holding a Soviet-made PPSh-41, or some derivative thereof.

In February 1942, when the Home Army was formed from the Armed Resistance, it numbered some 100,000 members. [6] Less than a year later, at the start of 1943, it had reached a strength of some 200,000. [6] In the summer of 1944, when Operation Tempest began, the Home Army reached its highest membership. [6] Estimates of membership in the first half and summer of 1944 range from 200,000, [7] :234 through 300,000, [38] 380,000 [6] and 400,000 to [5] 450,000–500,000. [39] Most estimates average at about 400,000. The strength estimates vary due to the constantly ongoing integration of other resistance organizations into the Home Army; and due to the fact that, while the number of members was high and that of sympathizers was much higher still, the number of armed members participating in operations was smaller due to insufficient number of weapons. [6] [20] [7] :234

Home Army numbers in 1944 include a cadre of over 10,000–11,000 officers, 7,500 officers-in-training (singular: podchorąży ) and 88,000 non-commissioned officers (NCOs). [6] The officer cadre was formed from prewar officers and NCOs, graduates of underground courses, and elite operatives usually parachuted in from the West (the Silent Unseen). [6] The basic organizational unit was the platoon, numbering 35–50 people, with a skeleton unmobilized version of 16–25; in February 1944 the Home Army had 6,287 regular and 2,613 skeleton platoons operational. [6] Such numbers made the Home Army not only the largest Polish resistance movement, but one of the two largest in World War II Europe [a] . Casualties during the war are estimated at about 34,000 [38] -100,000, [6] plus some 20,000 [38] -50,000 [6] after the war (casualties and imprisonment).

Home Army veterans' parade, Sanok, Poland, 11 November 2008 Home Army Members 11 Nov. 2008 Sanok.JPG
Home Army veterans' parade, Sanok, Poland, 11 November 2008

Within the framework of the entire enemy intelligence operations directed against Germany, the intelligence service of the Polish resistance movement assumed major significance. The scope and importance of the operations of the Polish resistance movement, which was ramified down to the smallest splinter group and brilliantly organized, have been in [various sources] disclosed in connection with carrying out of major police security operations. Heinrich Himmler, 31 December 1942 [40]

The Home Army was intended as a mass organization, founded by a core of prewar officers. [6] Home Army soldiers fell into three groups. The first two consisted of "full-time members": undercover operatives, living mostly in urban settings under false identities (most senior Home Army officers belonged to this group); and uniformed (to a certain extent) partisans, living in forested regions (see "forest people"), who openly fought the Germans (the forest people are estimated at some 40 groups, numbering 1,200–4,000 persons in early 1943, but their numbers grew substantially during Operation Tempest). [7] :234-235 The third, largest group were "part-time members": sympathizers who led "double lives" under their real names in their real homes, received no payment for their services, stayed in touch with their undercover unit commanders but were seldom mustered for operations, as the Home Army planned to use them only during a planned nationwide rising. [7] :234-235

The Home Army was intended to be representative of the Polish nation, its members being recruited from all parties and social classes (the only notable exception being communists sent by the Soviets, and the Soviet-created People's Army). [7] :235-236 The Home Army's growth was largely based on integrating, into its ranks, scores of smaller resistance organizations. Most other Polish underground armed organizations were incorporated into the Home Army (though they retained varying degrees of autonomy). [3] [5] The largest organization merged into the Home Army was the leftist Bataliony Chłopskie (Peasants' Battalions), about 1943-44. [41] Parts of the Narodowe Siły Zbrojne (National Armed Forces) also came to be subordinated to the Home Army. [42] As a result, individual Home Army units varied substantially in their political outlooks (notably in their attitudes toward ethnic minorities and toward the Soviets). [7] :235-236 The largest group that completely refused to join the Home Army was the pro-Soviet, communist People's Army, which at its height in 1944 numbered 30,000 people. [43]

Soldiers of Kedyw Kolegium A on Stawki Street in Warsaw's Wola district, Warsaw Uprising, 1944 Warsaw Uprising by Deczkowki - Kolegium A -15861.jpg
Soldiers of Kedyw Kolegium A on Stawki Street in Warsaw's Wola district, Warsaw Uprising, 1944
Regional organization, 1944 Armia krajowa 1 en.png
Regional organization, 1944

Women in the Home Army

Many female officers worked in the Home Army's Bureau of Information and Propaganda.

Dysk ("Discus") was a female sabotage unit which killed female Gestapo informants. [44] Magdalena Grodzka-Gużkowska (born Rusinek) was a killer and Żegota activist.

Elżbieta Zawacka was the only female Cichociemna . [45]

Irena Konopacka-Semadeni was a dentist, and commander of a hospital during the Warsaw Uprising. She received Cichociemni in Warsaw.

Grażyna Lipińska organised an intelligence network in German-occupied Belarus in 1942-44. [46]

Karolina Lanckorońska was a lieutenant. She was arrested, interrogated, tortured, tried, and sentenced to death, but survived. Hans Krueger confessed to her that he had murdered 23 Lwów University professors.

Female couriers transported guns and explosives, illegal printings, and messages. The service was very dangerous; hardly any of the female couriers survived longer than three months. [47]

Many female nurses died in the Warsaw Uprising. [48]


Home Army Headquarters was divided into five sections, two bureaus and several other specialized units: [2] [6]

The Home Army's commander was subordinate in the military chain of command to the Polish Commander-in-Chief (General Inspector of the Armed Forces) of the Polish Government in Exile [6] and answered in the civilian chain of command to the Government Delegation for Poland.

The Home Army's first commander, until his arrest by the Germans in 1943, was Stefan Rowecki ( nom de guerre "Grot", "Spearhead").

Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski (Tadeusz Komorowski, nom de guerre "Bór", "Forest") commanded from July 1943 until his surrender to the Germans, upon the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising, in October 1944.

Leopold Okulicki, nom de guerre "Niedzwiadek" ("Bear"), led the Home Army in its final days. [2]


The Home Army was divided geographically into regional branches or areas (obszar). [2] Below the branches or areas were subregions or subareas (podokręg) or independent areas (okręgi samodzielne). Smaller organizational units were 89 inspectorates (inspektorat) and 280 (as of early 1944) districts (obwód). [6] Overall, the Home Army regional structure largely resembled Poland's interwar administration division, with an okręg being similar to a voivodeship (see Administrative division of Second Polish Republic). [6]

There were three to five areas: Warsaw (Obszar Warszawski, with some sources differentiating between left- and right-bank areas – Obszar Warszawski prawo- i lewobrzeżny), Western (Obszar Zachodni, in the Pomerania and Poznań regions), Southeastern (Obszar Południowo-Wschodni, in the Lwów area); sources vary on whether there was a Northeastern Area (centered in BiałystokObszar Białystocki) or whether Białystok was classified as an independent area (Okręg samodzielny Białystok).

In 1943 the Home Army began recreating the organization of the prewar Polish Army, its various units now being designated as platoons, battalions, regiments, brigades, divisions, and operational groups. [6]

Weapons and equipment

Kubus, armored car used by the resistance during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising MWP Kubus 3.JPG
Kubuś , armored car used by the resistance during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising

As a clandestine army operating in an enemy-occupied country, and separated by over a thousand kilometers from any friendly territory, the Home Army faced unique challenges in acquiring arms and equipment. [49] It was able to overcome these difficulties to some extent and to field tens of thousands of armed soldiers. Nevertheless, the difficult conditions meant that only infantry forces armed with light weapons could be fielded. Any use of artillery, armor or aircraft was impossible (except for a few instances during the Warsaw Uprising, such as the Kubuś armored car). [49] Even these light-infantry units were as a rule armed with a mixture of weapons of various types, usually in quantities sufficient to arm only a fraction of a unit's soldiers. [20] [7] :234 [49]

Home Army arms and equipment came mostly from four sources: arms that had been buried by the Polish armies on battlefields after the 1939 invasion of Poland; arms purchased or captured from the Germans and their allies; arms clandestinely manufactured by the Home Army itself; and arms received from Allied air drops. [49]

Captured German Panther tank, operated by Batalion Zoska armored platoon commanded by Waclaw Micuta Warsaw Uprising by Deczkowki - Wacek Platoon - 15911.jpg
Captured German Panther tank, operated by Batalion Zośka armored platoon commanded by Wacław Micuta

From arms caches hidden in 1939, the Home Army obtained: 614 heavy machine guns, 1,193 light machine guns, 33,052 rifles, 6,732 pistols, 28 antitank light field guns, 25 antitank rifles, and 43,154 hand grenades. [50] However, due to their inadequate preservation, which had had to be improvised in the chaos of the September Campaign, most of the guns were in poor condition. Of those that had been buried in the ground and had been dug up in 1944 during preparations for Operation Tempest, only 30% were usable. [51]

Sometimes arms were purchased on the black market from German soldiers or their allies, or stolen from German supply depots or transports. [49] Purchases were made by individual units and sometimes by individual soldiers. As Germany's prospects for victory diminished and the morale in German units dropped, the number of soldiers willing to sell their weapons correspondingly increased and thus made this source more important. [51] All such purchases were highly risky, as the Gestapo was well aware of this black market in arms and tried to check it by setting up sting operations. For the most part this trade was limited to personal weapons, but occasionally light and heavy machine guns could also be purchased. It was much easier to trade with Italian and Hungarian units stationed in Poland, which more willingly sold their arms to the Polish underground as long as they could conceal this trade from the Germans. [51]

Efforts to capture weapons from the Germans also proved highly successful. Raids were conducted on trains carrying equipment to the front, as well as on guardhouses and gendarmerie posts. Sometimes weapons were taken from individual German soldiers accosted in the street. During the Warsaw Uprising, the Home Army even managed to capture several German armored vehicles. [51]

Polish weapons, including (top) Blyskawica ("Lightning") submachine gun, one of very few weapons designed and mass-produced covertly in occupied Europe Blyskawica and other insurgent weapons.jpg
Polish weapons, including (top) Błyskawica ("Lightning") submachine gun, one of very few weapons designed and mass-produced covertly in occupied Europe
Home Army-made Sidolowka (left) and Filipinka (right) grenades, Museum of the Warsaw Rising Filipinka sidolowka.jpg
Home Army-made Sidolówka (left) and Filipinka (right) grenades, Museum of the Warsaw Rising

Arms were clandestinely manufactured by the Home Army in its own secret workshops, and also by Home Army members working in German armaments factories. [49] [51] In this way the Home Army was able to procure submachine guns (copies of British Stens, indigenous Błyskawicas and KIS ), pistols ( Vis ), flamethrowers, explosive devices, road mines, and Filipinka and Sidolówka hand grenades. [49] Hundreds of people were involved in the manufacturing effort. The Home Army did not produce its own ammunition, but relied on supplies stolen by Polish workers from German-run factories. [49]

The final source of supply was Allied air drops. This was the only way to obtain more exotic, highly useful equipment such as plastic explosives and antitank weapons such as the British PIAT. During the war, 485 air-drop missions from the West (about half of them flown by Polish airmen) delivered some 600 tons of supplies for the Polish resistance. [52] Besides equipment, the planes also parachuted in highly qualified instructors (Silent Unseen), 316 of whom [38] were inserted into Poland during the war. [50]

But the air drops were too little, too late. Air deliveries from the west were limited by Stalin's refusal to let the planes land on Soviet territory; by the low priority placed by the British on flights to Poland; and by extremely heavy losses sustained by Polish Special Duties Flight personnel. Especially after Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941 and the Soviets joined the Western Allies in the war against Germany, Britain and the United States attached more importance to not antagonizing Stalin than they did to the aspirations of the Poles to regain their national sovereignty. [53]

In the end, despite all the efforts, most Home Army forces had inadequate weaponry. In 1944, when the Home Army was at its peak strength (200,000–600,000, according to various estimates), the Home Army had enough weaponry for only some 32,000 soldiers." [7] :234 On 1 August 1944, when the Warsaw Uprising began, only a sixth of Home Army fighters in Warsaw were armed. [7] :234

Relations with other groups

Relations with Jews

Home Army members' attitudes toward Jews varied widely from unit to unit, and the topic remains controversial. [54] [55] [56]

Daily operations

Gesiowka-liberation memorial plaque in Polish, Hebrew, and English Gesiowka commemorative plaque at 34 Anielewicza Street.JPG
Gęsiówka-liberation memorial plaque in Polish, Hebrew, and English

Many members of the Home Army were Jews, especially in leadership positions [57] (for example Marceli Handelsman, [58] Jerzy Makowiecki  [ pl ] [58] and Ludwik Widerszal  [ pl ] [58] ) but also in the field (like Julian Aleksandrowicz, [59] Stanisław "Shlomo" Aronson, [60] Alicja Gołod-Gołębiowska  [ pl ], [61] and Leon Kopelman, [62] ). Several detachment of Jewish partisans were formed under Home Army; one during the Warsaw Uprising. [63] [64] and another one in Hanaczów  [ pl ]. [65] [66] :317 Home Army provided training and supplies to Warsaw Ghetto's Jewish Combat Organization. [65] It is estimated that thousands of Jews served in the Home Army. [67] :275 The Home Army answered to the National Council of the Polish Government in Exile, where some Jews served in leadership positions (e.g. Ignacy Schwarzbart and Szmul Zygielbojm) [68] (though there were no Jewish representatives in the Government Delegation for Poland). [69] :110–114 Nevertheless, some historians have asserted that the Home Army was reluctant to accept Jews into its ranks due to antisemitism. [70]

In February 1942, the Home Army Operational Command's Office of Information and Propaganda set up a Section for Jewish Affairs, directed by Henryk Woliński. [71] This section collected data about the situation of the Jewish population, drafted reports, and sent information to London. It also centralized contacts between Polish and Jewish military organizations. The Home Army also supported the Relief Council for Jews in Poland ( Żegota ) as well as the formation of Jewish resistance organizations. [72] [73] [74]

The Holocaust

In 1942 the Home Army sent Jan Karski to personally deliver the first eyewitness account of the Holocaust to the Western powers, after having personally visited the Warsaw Ghetto and a Nazi concentration camp. [69] :110–114 [75]

Witold Pilecki, a member of the Home Army, was the only person to volunteer to be imprisoned at Auschwitz. The information that he gathered proved crucial in convincing the Western Allies about the fate of the Jewish population. [11]

Starting in May 1943 the Home Army started carrying out death sentences for szmalcowniks in Warsaw. [76] According to Władysław Bartoszewski, despite the fact that the Home Army carried out more death sentences on blackmailers than any other resistance organization in occupied Europe, these death sentences did not have a significant effect on the scale of blackmail and denunciation because of the difficulty of tracking down extortionists. [77]

Home Army reports from March 1943 described crimes against humanity[ clarification needed ] committed by the Germans against the Jewish populace. General Rowecki estimated that 640,000 people had perished in Auschwitz between 1940 and March 1943, including 66,000 ethnic Poles and 540,000 Jews from various countries(this figure was revised later to 500,000) [66] :188.

Antony Polonsky observed that "the attitude of the military underground to the genocide is both more complex and more controversial [than its approach towards szmalcowniks]. Throughout the period when it was being carried out, the Home Army was preoccupied with preparing for ... [the moment when] Nazi rule in Poland collapsed. It was determined to avoid premature military action and to conserve its strength (and weapons) for the crucial confrontation that, it was assumed, would determine the fate of Poland... [However] to the Home Army, the Jews were not a part of 'our nation' and ... action to defend them was not to be taken if it endangered [the Home Army's] other objectives." He continues to observe that "it is probably unrealistic to have expected the Home Army - which was neither as well armed nor as well organized as its propaganda claimed - to have been able to do much to aid the Jews. The fact remains that its leadership did not want to do so." [57] :68 General Rowecki's attitudes shifted in the following months as the brutal reality of the Holocaust became more apparent, and the Polish public support for the Jewish resistance increased. Rowecki was willing to provide Jewish fighters with aid and resources when it contributed to "the greater war effort", but had (apparently) concluded that providing large quantities of supplies to the Jewish resistance would be futile. This reasoning was the norm among the Allies, who believed that the Holocaust could only be halted by a significant military action. [69] :110-122

The Warsaw ghetto uprising

The Home Army provided the Warsaw Ghetto with firearms, ammunition and explosives. [72] [54] but only after it was convinced of the Jewish Combat Organization's eagerness to fight, [57] :67 and after intervention by Władysław Sikorski on the organization's behalf. [78] Zimmerman describes the supplies as "limited but real". [69] :121-122 Jewish fighters of the Jewish Military Union received from the Home Army, among other things: 2 heavy machine guns, 4 light machine guns, 21 submachine guns, 30 rifles, 50 pistols, and over 400 grenades. [79] Jewich Combat Organization received from AK: 10 pistols, 3 light machine gun, 10 rifles, 50 pistols - all with ammunition, 600 grenades, 150 kilograms of explosives as well as potassium and nitrate for their production. For comparison, AK before the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising had in the District of Warsaw some 25 heavy machine guns, 62 lights machine guns, 1,182 rifles, 1,099 pistols, 51 submachine guns, 2 cannons 75, 3 anti-tank cannons, 3 anti-tank guns and 11,007 hand grenades. [80] According to that the limited assistance given by AK's to the Jewish resistance organization stemmed from its inability to arm its own troops, from the view that any wide-scale uprising in 1943 would be futile, and from the pro-Soviet attitude of the ŻOB. [81] During the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Home Army units twice tried to blow up the Ghetto wall, carried out diversionary actions outside the Ghetto walls, and attacked German sentries sporadically near the Ghetto walls. The Security Cadre (Kadra Bezpieczeństwa, or K.B.), an organization subordinate to the Home Army, commanded by Henryk Iwański, took part in the fighting inside the Ghetto together with Jewish fighters of the Jewish Military Union (Żydowski Związek Walki, or Ż.Z.W.) [54] and the Jewish Combat Organization (Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa, or Ż.O.B.). [82] According to Marian Fuks, the Ghetto uprising would not have been possible without the support of the Polish Home Army. [83]

Page 5 of Stroop Report describing German fight inside ghetto against "Juden mit polnischen Banditen" - "Jews with Polish bandits". Strp012 Jurgen Stroop report p5.jpg
Page 5 of Stroop Report describing German fight inside ghetto against "Juden mit polnischen Banditen" - "Jews with Polish bandits".

Jürgen Stroop, in charge of the German efforts to liquidate the Warsaw Ghetto, wrote in his report:

When we invaded the Ghetto for the first time, the Jews and the Polish bandits succeeded in repelling the participating units, including tanks and armored cars, by a well-prepared concentration of fire. [...] The main Jewish battle group, mixed with Polish bandits, had already retired during the first and second day to the so-called Muranowski Square. There it was reinforced by a considerable number of Polish bandits. Its plan was to hold the Ghetto by every means in order to prevent us from invading it. [...] Time and again Polish bandits found refuge in the Ghetto and remained there undisturbed, since we had no forces at our disposal to comb out this maze. [...] One such battle group succeeded in mounting a truck by ascending from a sewer in the so-called Prosta [Street], and in escaping with it (about 30 to 35 bandits). ... The bandits and Jews – there were Polish bandits among these gangs armed with carbines, small arms, and in one case a light machine gun – mounted the truck and drove away in an unknown direction.

A year later, during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, the Zośka Battalion liberated hundreds of Jewish inmates from the Gęsiówka section of the Warsaw Concentration Camp. [72] [67] :275

Attitude towards fugitives

1943 Information Bulletin article on Kedyw execution of szmalcownik Jan Grabiec, who had blackmailed residents of villages that hid Jews Biuletyn Informacyjny 2 wrzesnia 1943.JPG
1943 Information Bulletin article on Kedyw execution of szmalcownik Jan Grabiec, who had blackmailed residents of villages that hid Jews

According to Antony Polonsky the AK saw Jewish fugitives as security risks. [57] :66 At the same time, AK's "paper mills" supplied forged identification documents to many Jewish fugitives, enabling them to pass as Poles. [67] :275 Home Army published leaflet in 1943 stating that Every Pole is obligated to help those in hiding. Those who refuse them aid will be punished on the basis of...treason to the Polish Nation [66] :194

Just like there were instances of AK acting as protectors of Jews and even entire Jewish communities, [66] :346 a few AK units actively hunted down Jews. [86] :238 [87] In particular, two district commanders in the east of Poland - Władysław Liniarski of Białystok and Janusz Szlaski of Nowogródek - openly and routinely persecuted Jewish partisans and fugitives. [66] :267-298 The extent of such behaviors in the Home Army overall has been disputed; [88] :88-90 [89] some historians claim that the bulk of the Home Army's antisemitic behavior can be ascribed to a small minority of members, [88] :88-90 often affiliated with the far-right National Democracy (N.D., or "endecja") party, whose National Armed Forces organization was mostly integrated into the Home Army in 1944. [90] :17 [90] :45 It has been suggested that some of these incidents are better understood in the context of the Polish-Soviet conflict, as some of the Soviet-affiliated partisan units that AK units attacked or was attacked by had a sizable Jewish presence. [65] In general, AK units in the east were more likely to be hostile towards Jewish partisans, who in turn were more closely associated with the Soviet underground, while AK units in the west were more helpful towards the Jews. [66] Further, AK had a more favorable attitude towards Jewish civilians, and was more hesitant or hostile towards independent Jewish partisans, whom it suspected of pro-Soviet sympathies. [66] :299General Rowecki described Jewish relation to communism as varied from region to region, with assaults by Soviets units including Jews in their ranks and killing of Poles strengthening antisemism in Eastern Poland [66] :189.

The Home Army leadership punished perpetrators of antisemitic violence in its ranks, in some cases sentencing them to death. [88] :88-90

Most of underground press was symphathic towards Jews, [66] :188 and the Home Army's Bureau of Information and Propaganda was led by operatives who were pro-Jewish and represented the liberal wing of Home Army. [66] :188 However, the bureau's Anti-Communist sub-division [66] :188 ("Antyk"; see also Operation Antyk), created as a response to Communist propaganda, [91] was led by operatives who held strong anti-communist and anti-Jewish views, including the zydokomuna stereotype. [66] :188 The perceived association between Jews and communists was actively reinforced by Antyk, whose initial reports "tended to conflate communists with Jews, dangerously disseminating the notion that Jewish loyalties were to Soviet Russia and communism rather than to Poland," and which repeated the notion that anti-Semitism was a "useful tool in the struggle against Soviet Russia." [66] :208 [66] :357 However, the belief that communism "depended in large part on a Jewish element" was not limited to Antyk. [66] :358


Members of the Home Army that were named Righteous Among the Nations include Jan Karski, Aleksander Kamiński, Stefan Korboński, Henryk Woliński, Jan Żabiński, Władysław Bartoszewski, Mieczysław Fogg, Henryk Iwański, Witold Bieńkowski and Jan Dobraczyński. [92] [93]

Relations with Lithuanians

Aleksander Krzyzanowski, Wilno-region Home Army commander Aleksander Krzyzanowski.jpg
Aleksander Krzyżanowski, Wilno-region Home Army commander

Though the Lithuanian and Polish resistance movements had common enemies—Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union—they began working together only in 1944–45, after the Soviet reoccupation, when both fought the Soviet occupiers. [94] The main obstacle to forming an alliance earlier was a long-standing territorial dispute over Vilnius (see "Żeligowski's Mutiny"). [95]

Some Lithuanians, encouraged by vague German promises of Lithuanian autonomy, [88] :163 cooperated with Nazi operations against Poles during the German occupation. In autumn 1943 the Home Army opened retaliatory operations against the Nazis' Lithuanian supporters, mainly the Lithuanian Schutzmannschaft battalions, the Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force, and the Lithuanian Secret Police, [96] and killed hundreds of mostly Lithuanian policemen and other collaborators during the first half of 1944. In response, the Lithuanian police, who had already murdered hundreds of Polish civilians since 1941 (see "Ponary massacre"), [88] :168-169 intensified their operations against the Poles.

In April 1944 the Home Army in the Vilnius Region attempted to open negotiations with Povilas Plechavičius, commander of the Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force, proposing a nonaggression pact and cooperation against Nazi Germany. [97] The Lithuanian side refused and demanded that the Poles either leave the Vilnius region (disputed between Poles and Lithuanians) or subordinate themselves to the Lithuanians' struggle against the Soviets. [97] In the May 1944 Battle of Murowana Oszmianka, the Home Army dealt a substantial blow to the Lithuanian Nazi auxiliaries of the Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force. [88] :165-166 [98] This resulted in a low-level civil war between anti-Nazi Poles and pro-Nazi Lithuanians, encouraged by the German authorities, [96] culminating in June 1944 massacres of Polish and Lithuanian civilians, respectively, in the villages of Glitiškės (Glinciszki) and Dubingiai (Dubinki). [88] :168-169

Postwar assessments of the Home Army's activities in Lithuania have been controversial. In 1993, the Home Army's activities there were investigated by a special Lithuanian government commission. Only in recent years have Polish and Lithuanian historians been able to approach consensus, though still differing in their interpretations of many events. [99] [100]

Relations with the Soviets

Soviet and Home Army soldiers patrol together, Wilno, July 1944 19440712 soviet and ak soldiers vilnius.jpg
Soviet and Home Army soldiers patrol together, Wilno, July 1944

Home Army relations with the Soviet Red Army became increasingly poor over the course of the war. Not only had the Soviet Union invaded Poland on 17 September 1939, following the German invasion beginning 1 September 1939, but even after the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 the latter saw Polish partisans loyal to the Polish Government in Exile more as a potential obstacle to Soviet plans to take control of postwar Poland, than as a potential ally. [101] On orders from the Soviet Stavka (high command), issued on 22 June 1943, [88] :98-99 Soviet partisans engaged Polish partisans in combat, and it has been claimed that they attacked the Poles more often than they did the Germans. [101]

In late 1943 the actions of Soviet partisans, who had been ordered to destroy Home Army forces, [88] :98-99 even resulted in limited uneasy cooperation between some Home Army units and German forces. [88] :88-90 While the Home Army still treated the Germans as the enemy and conducted operations against them, [88] :88-90 when the Germans offered arms and supplies to the Home Army, to be used against the Soviet partisans, some Polish units in the Nowogródek and Wilno areas accepted them. However, such arrangements were purely tactical and indicated no ideological collaboration such as was shown by France's Vichy regime or Norway's Quisling regime. [88] :88-90 The Poles' main motive was to acquire intelligence on the Germans and to obtain much-needed equipment. [55] There were no known joint Polish-German operations, and the Germans were unsuccessful in recruiting the Poles to fight exclusively against the Soviet partisans. [88] :88-90 Furthermore, most such cooperation by local Home Army commanders with the Germans was condemned by Home Army headquarters. [88] :88-90 Tadeusz Piotrowski quotes Joseph Rothschild as saying that "The Polish Home Army was by and large untainted by collaboration", and as adding that "the honor of the AK as a whole is beyond reproach." [88] :88-90

With the Eastern Front entering Polish territories in 1944, the Home Army established an uneasy truce with the Soviets. Even so, the main Red Army and NKVD forces conducted operations against Home Army partisans, including during or directly after Poland's Operation Tempest, which the Poles had envisioned to be a joint Polish-Soviet operation against the retreating Germans which would also establish Polish claims to those territories. [5] [29] The Home Army helped Soviet units with scouting assistance, uprisings, and assistance in liberating some cities (e.g., Operation Ostra Brama in Vilnius, and the Lwów Uprising), only to find that immediately afterwards Home Army troops were arrested, imprisoned –even executed. [21] Unknown to the Poles, their Operation Tempest had been fatally flawed from the start due to Joseph Stalin's intention of ensuring that an independent Poland would never re-emerge after the war. [102]

Long after the war, Soviet forces continued engaging elements of the Home Army. Many Home Army soldiers continued their war in an anti-Soviet Polish underground known as the "cursed soldiers". [29]

Relations with Ukrainians

Volhynia self-defense centers organized with Home Army help, 1943 Wolyn zbrodnie en.png
Volhynia self-defense centers organized with Home Army help, 1943

The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), a Ukrainian nationalist force and the military arm of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), [103] which some historians consider fascist, [104] decided in 1943 - while fighting the Germans, Soviets and Poles, who they saw as occupiers of the future ethnically-pure Ukrainian state [105] - to direct most of its attacks against Poles and Jews. [105] One of UPA's leaders, Stepan Bandera, and his followers, concluded that the war would end in the exhaustion of both Germany and the Soviet Union, leaving only the Poles - who laid claim to East Galicia (viewed by the Ukrainians as Western Ukraine, and by the Poles as Eastern Poland) - as a significant force, and therefore had to be weakened before Poland rose again. [106] Poland's plans to restore its prewar borders were opposed by the Ukrainians, and some Ukrainian groups' collaboration with Nazi Germany had discredited their partisans as potential Polish allies. [106]

The OUN decided to attack Polish civilians, who constituted about a third of the population of the disputed territories. [106] The OUN equated Ukrainian independence with ethnic homogeneity; the Polish presence had to be removed completely. [106] By February 1943 the OUN began a deliberate campaign of murdering Polish civilians. [106] OUN forces targeted Polish villages, prompting the formation of Polish self-defense units (e.g., the Przebraże Defence) and fights between the Home Army and the OUN. [106] The Germans encouraged both sides against each other; Erich Koch said: "We have to do everything possible so that a Pole, when meeting a Ukrainian, will be ready to kill him, and conversely, a Ukrainian will be ready to kill the Pole." A German commissioner from Sarny, when local Poles complained about massacres, answered: "You want Sikorski, the Ukrainians want Bandera. Fight each other." [107] In massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, beginning in the spring of 1943 100,000 Poles were killed. [108] [109] [110]

The Polish Government-in-Exile, in London, was taken by surprise; it had not expected Ukrainian anti-Polish actions of such magnitude. [106] There is no evidence that the Polish Government-in-Exile contemplated a general policy of revenge against the Ukrainians, but local Poles, including Home Army commanders, engaged in retaliatory actions. [106] Polish partisans attacked the OUN, assassinated Ukrainian commanders, and carried out operations against Ukrainian villages. [106] The Home Army command tried to limit operations against Ukrainian civilians to a minimum. [111] According to Grzegorz Motyka, the Polish operations resulted in 10,000 to 15,000 Ukrainian deaths in 1943-47, [112] including 8,000-10,000 on territory of post-war Poland. [113] [114] By winter 1943 and spring 1944 the Home Army was preparing for Operation Tempest, one of whose goals was strengthening the Polish position in Volhynia. In January 1944 the 27th Home Army Infantry Division was formed, numbering 7,000 men, purposed to defend Polish civilians and engage the OUN and German forces. [106]

By mid-1944, the region was occupied by the Soviet Red Army. Polish partisans disbanded or went underground, as did most Ukrainian partisans. Both the Poles and the Ukrainians would increasingly concentrate on the Soviets as their primary enemy – and both would ultimately fail. [106]


After the first murders, the Polish underground began organizing self-defense. [115] The commander of the Home Army Wołyń District, Col. Kazimierz Bąbiński, "Luboń", forbade reprisals against Ukrainians. [116] On 10 July 1943, Zygmunt Rumel was sent to talk with local Ukrainians, with the goal of ending the massacres. The mission was unsuccessful; the Banderites killed the Polish delegation. [117] On 15 July 1943 the Home Army planned to carry out an operation to liquidate the OUN-B members and thus thwart anti-Polish actions. However, it was incorrectly assumed that the action was planned for 20 July. [118] On 20 July the Home Army command decided to establish partisan units in Volhynia. Nine troops were created, numbering about a thousand soldiers. [119] The Home Army also liquidated individual Ukrainians who were suspected of sympathizing with the Ukrainian nationalists. [120]

An official oath of soldiers of 27th Home Army Infantry Division, winter 1944 Partisans Oath 27 Dywizja AK 1944.jpg
An official oath of soldiers of 27th Home Army Infantry Division, winter 1944

In January 1944 the 27th Home Army Infantry Division was formed in Volhynia. Between January and March 1944, the division fought 16 major battles with the UPA, expanding its operational base and securing Polish forces against the main attack. [121] The district commander forbade the killing of Ukrainian women and children and announced that he would punish such conduct. [122] [123] The Ukrainian population was driven out of the overrun villages to avoid diversion. [124]

There were cases of Home Army troops and local self-defense carrying out war crimes on the Ukrainian population. The number of Ukrainians killed in retaliation is estimated at 2,000-3,000. [125] [126] [127] [128] Such actions were criticized by the Home Army commander. [129]

Eastern Galicia

In May 1943 an order was issued stating the principles of creating self-defense. [130] In 1943, Ukrainians suspected of sympathizing with the Ukrainian nationalists were liquidated. [131] In February 1944, the Home Army Area Command ordered that, in the event of rising murders, pacification operations were to be employed against Ukrainian settlements. [132] [133] Retaliatory operations aimed at intimidating the Ukrainian population contributed to increased support for the UPA. [134] Also in eastern Galicia there were cases of crimes against Ukrainians. Leaflets were often disseminated, demanding that the Ukrainians leave these lands. [135] Ukrainian victims of retaliation in eastern Galicia numbered between 1,000 and 2,000. [126]

The real battle between the Home Army and the UPA took place in Hanaczów, where local self-defense managed to fend off two attacks. [136]

Lubelszczyzna and Rzeszowszczyzna

In September, leaflets calling on Poles to leave these lands appeared in the Lublin region. At the beginning of 1944, the Banderites formed two SB militias, which in January attacked Poles. [137] To counteract the escalating terror of the OUN and the UPA, the AK and BCh troops carried out an offensive on March 10, 1944, during which about 1,500 Ukrainians were killed. [138] The aim of AK and BCh was to intimidate and discourage the Banderites to take larger anti-Polish actions in this area. [139] The Lublin district AK command distanced itself from the operation (despite its previous agreement to it). Probably an investigation had been initiated. Captain Marian Gołębiewski, one of the operation's organizers, later complained: "I was threatened with trial over the so-called genocide." [140]

In March 1944, several UPA kurin s entered the Lublin area and continued murdering Poles. The UPA units came into conflict with Polish partisans, leading to the development of a several-dozen-kilometer-long front. Several thousand partisans were involved in the fighting on the two sides.

From February to April 1945, mainly in Rzeszowszczyzna (the Rzeszów area), Polish units (including affiliates of the Home Army) carried out retaliatory attacks in which about 3,000 Ukrainians were killed. [141]

See also


a ^ A number of sources note that the Home Army was the largest resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Europe. Norman Davies writes that the "Armia Krajowa (Home Army), the AK,... could fairly claim to be the largest of European resistance [organizations]." [142] Gregor Dallas writes that the "Home Army (Armia Krajowa or AK) in late 1943 numbered around 400,000, making it the largest resistance organization in Europe." [143] Mark Wyman writes that the "Armia Krajowa was considered the largest underground resistance unit in wartime Europe." [144] The numbers of Soviet partisans were very similar to those of the Polish resistance. [145]

Related Research Articles

Polish contribution to World War II

The European theatre of World War II opened with the German invasion of Poland on Friday September 1, 1939, which was then followed by the Soviet invasion of Poland on September 17, 1939. In the face of overwhelming forces of opponents and the betrayal of its allies, the Polish Army was defeated after more than a month of fierce fighting. Poland never officially capitulated. After Poland had been overrun, a government-in-exile, armed forces, and an intelligence service were established outside of Poland. These organizations contributed to the Allied effort throughout the war. The Polish Army was recreated in the West, as well as in the East.

Massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia

The massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, was a genocide carried out in Nazi German-occupied Poland by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army with the active and frequent support of the local Ukrainian population against the Polish minority in the area of Volhynia, Eastern Galicia, parts of Polesia and Lublin region, beginning in 1943 and lasting up to 1945. The peak of the massacres took place in July and August 1943. Most of the victims were women and children. UPA's methods were particularly brutal, with many of the victims being tortured and mutilated, and resulted in 40,000–60,000 Polish deaths in Volhynia and 30,000–40,000 in Eastern Galicia, with the other regions for the total about 100,000.

27th Home Army Infantry Division (Poland)

27 Volhynian Infantry Division was a World War II Polish Armia Krajowa unit fighting in the Volhynia region in 1944. It was created on January 15, 1944, from smaller partisan self-defence units during the Volhynia massacre and was patterned after the prewar Polish 27th Infantry Division.

Gwardia Ludowa

Gwardia Ludowa or GL was a communist 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 the January 1 of 1944 GL was incorporated into the communist Armia Ludowa.

A partisan is a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity. The term can apply to the field element of resistance movements, examples of which are the civilians who collaborated with or opposed Nazi German, Fascist Italian, Chetniks Serbian and Ustaše Croatian rule in several countries during World War II.

Soviet partisans in Poland

Poland was invaded and annexed by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in the aftermath of the invasion of Poland in 1939. In the pre-war Polish territories annexed by the Soviets the first Soviet partisan groups were formed in 1941, soon after Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Those groups fought against the Germans, but conflicts with Polish partisans were also common.

Jewish partisans Anti-Nazi and anti-German fighting groups of Jews in World War II

Jewish partisans were fighters in irregular military groups participating in the Jewish resistance movement against Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II.

Cursed soldiers Term applied to a variety of anti-Soviet or anti-communist Polish resistance movements

The "cursed soldiers" or "indomitable soldiers" Polish: Żołnierze niezłomni) is a term applied to a variety of Polish anti-Soviet or anti-communist Polish resistance movements formed in the later stages of World War II and its aftermath by some members of the Polish Underground State. The clandestine organisations continued their armed struggle against the communist government 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 1940s or 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.

Parczew partisans part of Jewish resistance movement against Nazi Germany

The Parczew partisans were fighters in irregular military groups participating in the Jewish resistance movement against Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II. The name of the partisan force, coined by the Holocaust historians, is borrowed from the Parczew forest located a short distance away from Lublin, halfway to the town of Sobibór, the location of the Sobibór extermination camp during the Holocaust in occupied Poland. The Jews who managed to escape from the camp hid in there along with the considerable number of Jewish families of the Lublin Ghetto.

Przebraże Defence

The Przebraże Defence was the World War II defence of Przebraże, a Polish settlement, located in Lutsk county of the Wołyń Voivodeship, near the village of Troscianiec. In the interwar period, the settlement belonged to the Second Polish Republic from 1919 until the Nazi-Soviet invasion of 1939. Przebraże does not exist anymore.

This article presents the historiography of the Wolyn tragedy as presented by historians in Poland and Ukraine after World War II. The Massacres of Poles in Volhynia were part of the ethnic cleansing operation in the Polish province of Eastern Galicia and Volhynia that took place beginning in March 1943 and lasted until the end of 1944. According to political scientist Nathaniel Copsey, research into this event was quite partisan till 2009 and dominated by Polish researchers, some of whom lived there at the time or are descended from those who did. The most thorough is the work of Ewa and Władysław Siemaszko, the result of years of research conducted with the goal of demonstrating that the Poles were victims of genocide. Nonetheless, the 45 years of state censorship resulted in an excessive supply of works described as "heavy in narrative", "light in analysis" and "inherently - though perhaps unconsciously - biased against Ukrainians."

Grzegorz Motyka is a Polish historian and author specializing in the history of the Polish-Ukrainian relations. Since 1992 he served at the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences and at the Institute of National Remembrance.

Adolf Pilch Polish commander

Adolf Pilch was a Polish resistance fighter. He became part of the Polish special forces (cichociemni) trained in the United Kingdom, and was parachuted into occupied Poland on 17 February 1943. There, as a member of the Armia Krajowa Polish resistance, he organized a cavalry partisan unit in the Nowogródek area, and broke through to the Kampinos forest near Warsaw, taking control of this area. At its height of operations his unit consisted of up to 1000 men. Between 3 June 1943 and 17 January 1945 his partisans fought in 235 battles.

Operation Antyk

Operation Antyk also known as Department R was a complex of counter-propaganda activities of Polish resistance movement organisation Home Army, directed against pro-Soviet and pro-communist circles in Polish society, mostly members of the Polish Workers' Party. The operation was initiated by Office Antyk of the Home Army’s Bureau of Information and Propaganda. Begun in November 1943, it was directed by Tadeusz Żenczykowski.

Pidkamin massacre

The Pidkamin massacre or the Podkamień massacre of 12 March 1944 was the massacre of Polish civilians committed by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) under the command of Maksym Skorupsky (Maks), in cooperation with a unit of the 14th SS-Volunteer Division "Galician". The victims were ethnic Polish residents of the Eastern Galician village of Podkamień in the occupied Second Polish Republic's Tarnopol Voivodeship. During the war the area was administratively part of the Nazi German Reichskommissariat Ukraine. Estimates of victims include 150, more than 250 and up to 1000.

Palikrowy massacre

The Palikrowy massacre was a war crime committed by 4th police SS-regiment made up of Ukrainian soldiers of the SS-Galizien who were removed from the SS-Galizien at the time of the massacre and placed under German police command, Ukrainian SVK forces and Ukrainian Insurgent Army on Poles in the village of Palikrowy, which took place on 12 March 1944. A total of 385 Poles were killed.

Parośla I massacre

The Parośla I massacre was committed during World War II by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) under the command of Hryhorij Perehijniak "Dowbeszka-Korobka" on 9 February 1943 against the ethnic Polish residents of the village of Parośla in the Nazi-controlled Reichskommissariat Ukraine. It is considered a prelude to the ethnic cleansing of Poles in the Volhynia region by the UPA, and is recognized as the first mass murder committed by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in the area. Estimates of the number of victims range from 149 to 173.

Throughout World War II, Poland was a member of the Allied coalition that fought Nazi Germany. During the German occupation of Poland, some Polish citizens of diverse ethnicities collaborated with the Germans. Estimates of the number of collaborators vary. During and after the war, the Polish State and the Resistance movement punished collaborators, with thousands sentenced to death.


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Further reading