National Armed Forces (pol. Narodowe Sily Zbrojne) Historical Brief - Part 3
Who Occupied Poland? The Occupiers Changed...
Pt. 1 | Pt. 2 | Pt. 3 | Pt. 4 | Pt.5
There are certain periods in history and dates in the lives of individuals, of societies, and nations which we bestow with such descriptions as “crucial”, “particularly important”, “decisive”, “tragic”, “victorious”, etc.
For the Polish nation, that is for its citizens as a whole, and for the individual men and women, the period between 1944 and 1945 were such years. It was a period of time that will have profound ramifications. On the territory inhabited by Polish citizens the occupiers were changing. The Nazi forces were retreating and the territory of Poland was being taken over by the Soviet army. This change was taking place amidst a very complicated political and military situation characterized by understatements and hazy international and internal relationships and alliances. The relationship between the lawful Polish Government-in-Exile (incidentally not recognized by the Soviets) and our [Western] Allies became particularly complicated. Succumbing to the Stalin’s political and territorial demands by the United States and Great Britain, in Yalta and in Teheran, are its perfect examples.
This already difficult situation was further complicated by the emergence and installation of new and subjugated to the Soviets, political and administrative structures on the "liberated" territory of Poland. These structures - whose personnel consisted to a large degree of Poles, mostly Communists who betrayed their country, under protection of the Soviet NKVD divisions began to build and to solidify this occupation - will became an administrative and political construct known as the PRL [pol. abr. Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa - Polish People's Republic].
Equally complicated were internal relationships between various factions and individuals who were part of the Polish Government in Exile in London, or within the governing circles of the Polish Underground State - and not the least, in the immediate circles of the Commander in Chief of the underground forces in Poland.
|Photo Above: Siting on the portico of the Soviet Embassy in Teheran left to right are: Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchil. Teheran Conference took place from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1, 1943. Source: The United States Signal Corps. 
This already complex situation was further complicated and amplified by wide-spread infiltration of Polish governing circles in the West, and in Poland itself, by the intelligence and agent-of-influence operations conducted by the communist intelligence services.
It is not my intent to provide here even a simplified analysis of the socio-political situation in Poland during 1944-1945. My goal here is only to emphasize certain facts, and by doing so to expose you to them in order to allow you, if only partially, to understand the behavior of groups and of individuals during 1944-1945.
While the period between 1918-1920 was also complicated, this period did not create confusion of such magnitute as one that emerged between 1944-1945. One should note, of course, that the individuals taking part in organizing the rebirth of the Polish nation at that time, were certainly of different caliber. Despite the fact that the core of the emerging [Polish] army fought on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary against the later victorious allies, the political, propaganda, and later the military endeavors of which the National Alliance (pol. Oboz Narodowy) lead by Roman Dmowski, Ignacy Paderewski, and Jozef Haller were part, managed to maneuver Poland through then uncertain political landscape in such fashion that it found its place among the victors during the peace conference.
[The refusal to pledge an oath to Wilhelm II by the I and II Brigades of the Polish Legions on July 9, 1917 known as] the “Oath Crisis” (pol. kryzys przysiegowy) allowed the Polish forces fighting alongside Germans to retain their honor and to acquire wide public support within Poland. These very units, fighting side-by-side with the “Blue Army” , the Polish corps in the East, and units defending Polish interests in the Slask, Poznan, and Lwow area will soon thereafter became core of the newly forming Polish Army necessary for the resurrected Poland to defend itself against the Bolshevik invasion. And unfortunately, this invasion found its tragic epilogue in 1944-1945. Unfortunately, during these important and tragic years there was a void and absence of politicians and military leaders capable of realistic assessments, and able and willing to precisely formulate both long and short-term policy goals abroad and inside of Poland alike.
Throughout half a century, the communist propaganda heralded (and the Neo-Communists still do) that the overtaking of the Polish territory by Soviet army was an act of liberation, and that this newly-installed and vigilantly protected by the NKVD divisions creature, was a sovereign Poland. Such assertions are of course both cynical and inaccurate, and have dangerous ramifications even today.
The content of my memoirs present in this part of this narrative relates to the very period in which the occupiers were changing and many of us very still very much part of the armed underground. Naturally at this particular point in time, these or the other skirmishes or battles against the occupiers had no significant effect on the fate of our nation; they had, however, an effect on the fate of specific people or specific local populations. Unfortunately, the information about this period and reasons for conduct of such activities undertaken by various underground Democratic organizations, and/or resulting counter-activities of the occupiers and their implications is very superficial. Most often repeated and mimicking communist conjectures are various theses about "liberation", "victory", and about the "battle against various backwards capitalist[-supported] organizations fighting against the progressive democratic nation" [that is being reborn].
While thinking about the outline of this article, I reached conclusion that both the introduction and the historical background to the last operation against Germans in which I took part, and its epilogue, could be described by excerpts from the compilation written by Kazimierz Gluzinski, entitled "In the Aftermath of NSZ" [pol. "Poklos Procesu NSZ"] published in Munich in March 1948, and selected excerpts from the compilation written by an emigre historian Stanislaw Bobr-Tylinogo, entitled "1945" [pol. "Rok 1945"]. The "1945" was re-published in the "Szaniec Hrobrego" publication in 2003. This former NSZ soldier and author, who unfortunately passed away, doesn't have to be introduced to the readers of "Szczerbiec", but I encourage you to study it carefuly.
by K. Gluzinski
The political leadership of NSZ directed its units to consider every foreign military entity present on the Polish territory against the desires and interests of the Polish nation to be its enemy.
According to this directive, units of the NSZ engaged both German units and the Soviet underground cells [rus. Yacheyka] (the NSZ units were prohibited from engaging regular Red Army units fighting Germans). This was undoubtedly in accordance with the Polish Reasons of State because both Germans and Soviet Russia had to be treated as enemies of Poland. The portion of the Polish public opinion did not always understand this position. It was generally understood that it was in the interest of Poland to fight alongside some other entity, and that fighting the enemy on two fronts was simply misunderstood. For these reasons whenever NSZ units militarily engaged the Germans one could say that they “collaborated” with Russians, while by destroying the communist cells one could say that they were “collaborating” with Germans. Naturally, at times the Germans thought that the NSZ units directed the edge of their activities against the reds and not against them, because aside from the NSZ no one fought against the communists in Poland.
Naturally, the conduct of war on two fronts was not easy. How much easier, after all, was the approach of the BIP [pol. abr. Biuro Informacji i Propagandy – The Information and Propaganda Bureau] and ZWZ [pol. abr. Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej – Association of Armed Struggle] – but assessed at a later time was it really more beneficial for Poland…? The long-range political foresight of the leadership of the NSZ assessed the Soviet Russia to be the enemy of Poland. How many losses and events would have been spared the Polish nation if in this respect the entire [Democratic] underground opposition was united – as was the NSZ – where all underground entities would had systematically readied the Polish society for the moment of the approaching Soviet occupation, or if the appeal of the underground publication “Szaniec” in 1942 promoting the concept of “Peace with Russia – fight with Comintern” was correctly understood and implemented? [emphasis added]
The NSZ was a large organization having in its ranks over 100,000 active members. In contrast with organizations lead by the BIP, the National Armed Forces didn’t have in its ranks individuals who participated in its activities pro forma, or on part-time basis. Because it was an “illegal” organization the participation in it gave its members no benefits […] The intelligence [service] of the NSZ consisted of hundreds of members, and the partisan units consisted of thousands of individuals taking active part in the activities of the Special Directive [pol. Akcja Specialna – AS - tactical units], while hundreds of others worked in the administration, training, propaganda …
What the “collaboration” of NSZ with Germans looked like is known by thousands of members of National Armed Forces – it is known by thousands of soldiers in the units in forests, or by those who fought Germans whenever and wherever they were, at every opportune time … and when they were fighting back … It is known by the soldiers of the Holy Cross Brigade (pol. Brygada Swietorzyska) who only in the last 6 months killed over 500 Germans and an equally large number of members of the Boshevik-communist gangs. It is known by those leading the [NSZ underground] cells responsible for aiding imprisoned [members of the NSZ]. It is known by all those whom fate led into the concentration camps and found there their imprisoned friends from the NSZ. And then what the “collaboration” of NSZ with the Germans looked like can be attested by the long list of fallen [soldiers] from the “Szaniec” group, including the NSZ. From among the political command [of the National Armed Forces] alone, 60% of its members died in direct combat [with Germans], in German jails, and in concentration camps.[emphasis added]
How then could possibly such accusations emerge despite of these obvious facts – the facts that are after all so widely known in Poland, and known for the large part to the masses of Poles living abroad? How can they [these accusations] be so relentlessly repeated, as if certain entities existed which above all desired that the spirit that gave birth to the NSZ had no baring on the Polish political thought, which through its activities and deeds during the war, and being widely supported by polish populous, the NSZ was destined to have.
The source of this libelous campaign against organizations from within which the NSZ emerged can above all be found in the Comintern’s [“Communist International” or “Third International” or if you wish, the Politburo’s [Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union] propaganda. Already in 1941 the Soviets were well aware of political persuasion of those who will later create the NSZ, of their perception of Soviet Russia and of Communism, and what their present policies are. It understood that these circles were the only Polish faction that was not blinded by the shortsighted excitement of fighting Germans alone, but capable of looking beyond the present realities and seeing another horrible danger threatening the Polish nation [from the east]. As if this was not enough [for the Soviets], it was capable of reaching logical conclusions. Despite the fact that it was devoid of any economic capabilities, it was capable of implementing its principles with an unwavering perseverance.
Thus, when after the German defeat at Stalingrad the NSZ began to openly prepare itself for the Soviet occupation by liquidating future Soviet and communist “volksdeutsch” agents, the Soviets began to feel threatened. They understood that if these activities became widespread, no communist organizations (such as PPR,AL,PAL) on the Polish territory can be maintained. Thus, the [Soviet] counter activities began.
In addition to the immediate [armed engagements] during which many valuable NSZ lives were lost, the main instrument of Moscow’s activities was its propaganda operations. Many from among us still vividly remember the never-ending radio broadcasts from Moscow regarding the "gangsters" from the NSZ and the NSZ's cooperation with Gestapo. Without any doubt however, this entire, well-executed, and perfidious propaganda would have been long forgotten, had it not been for the fact that suddenly, it was joined by some Polish elements.
Here we get to the crux of the matter. I am very sorry and pained by the fact that there existed in Poland and continue to exist abroad Polish circles those who with full knowledge, jumped on the bandwagon of the Soviet anti-NSZ propaganda and disseminated it, and continue to propagate it even now. These circles above all attempt to arouse suspicion that without obvious collaboration with Germans it wouldn’t be possible, for example, for the Holy Cross Brigade to enter the heart of Czechoslovakia in full armament. These very circles, raising such a hurtful accusation, are at the same time unwilling to objectively assess what really happened. For it is unlikely that at that particular junction there was a single German who still believed in escaping the inevitability of defeat. Even Goebbels was not likely to have believed in what he was saying or writing. Thus, the German perception of the [Holy Cross] Brigade was [at that time] one formed in the context of the rapidly approaching Soviet offensive from the east. The seriousness of the moment [as perceived by them] necessitated that they forget how many Germans died at the hand of the Brigade in Poland. It was sufficient enough for them to concede to the fact, that they were dealing with clearly anti-communist unit - and of that they had absolutely no doubts. These particular circumstances will be decisive in creating future semblance or opinion about [the Brigade’s alleged] collaboration.
The Germans undoubtedly counted on the fact that the type of foreign anti-communist element represented by the Brigade can become useful to them. Realizing the prevailing climate [within German military units] and knowing their intentions of creating some sort of foreign legion, the command of the Brigade took advantage of this opportunity, never loosing sight of continuing the fight them to the last man. Above all, it had under no circumstances any desire to collaborate with German military units, nor had it done so!
Despite unending pressures and attempts to eliminate it by force, this policy remained in place, and not even a single shot was fired into the advancing Soviet military units. At the time the American front lines were approaching closer, the Brigade began its three-day offensive [against German military units] which was culminated with linking it with units of the General Patton’s III Army. [Translator's note: While conducting military operations against German forces in Bohemia at this time, the brigade liberated female prisoners from Holiszowo concentration camp. Among those freed were 280 Jewish prisoners. The Brigade suffered heavy loses during these operations].
There are also [other] circles, which I will not mention here, whose deeds I leave to the Polish public opinion to be judged, for they were guided by one reason only, that is, the expediency of this slander for their own political aims, which they conducted against the NSZ - the only independent Polish political faction - with absolute ruthlessness. Truly, such behavior does not bring one honor, and after all is also foolish, because as the Polish proverb says: "The lie has short legs, and the truth sooner or later swims to the surface." It is silly for other reasons as well, as in the Polish consciousness its authors are forever linked to the communist propaganda.
When the conjectures change at some point [as they often do] and one desires to “lead” the ranks of Poles against the Soviet Russia, one will also have some difficulty in explaining how he also managed to always be the enemy of the Soviet Russia [at the same time].
Such deeds are also insignificant, because while the NSZ does not exist anymore as an organization either in Poland or abroad, it does however, have many supporters within all political factions, including those living on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Left: Stanislaw Kasznica, the last commander of the National Armed Forces (NSZ). Executed on May 12, 1948 by Polish Secret Police. Photo taken by Polish Secret Police, Urzad Bezpieczenstwa.
The shadow of the gallows loomed over Stanislaw Kasznica and Lech Neyman sentenced to death. The rope on which their bodies will hover, already tightened around necks of many fighters for the Poland’s freedom. At the time their executions are carried out, their souls will be accompanied by the spirits of Traugutt, Jezioranski, and many others whom Poland honors.
Despite all attempts of the enemy [to erase them from the collective conscience of the society], their memory famed by the sacrifice, dedicated and selfless work for their Country, their heroic fight for Poland, and their sacrifice for the cause will remain the most cherished gift to their nation. More pure than the tears of those nearest to them, it will remain. It will be whiter than the snow …
by Kazimierz Gluzinski
[…] Only Vatican didn’t hide its opinions from the Anglo-Saxon diplomats: the Yalta agreements destroyed the entire moral fabric upon which the war was fought. What then was the aim of this war if only the power was to dictate its conclusion? The Atlantic Charter was openly torn to shreds. The Apostolic City was concerned about the fate of dozens of millions of Catholics falling under the hostile reign of the atheistic Bolshevism. During the subsequent dozen of months, its official publication, the “Osservatore Romano” avoided any criticism of Stalin in order not to enrage him – for they still remembered Katyn. At the end of February, the entire Polish territory found itself under Soviet occupation.
The units of the NSZ which were not able to reach concentration points, continued to fight for the sovereignty of their nation, but this time, against the occupier from the east. The disrupted conspiratorial net of NSZ was restored within a year. The weapons and ammunition were easier to come by, particularly from the Polish-speaking units of the Red Army, who would trade them for alcohol. At the end of the year, over 30,000 partisans were fighting in over 100 units, and these numbers equaled those of the January Uprising of 1863.
For the first time since 1863 the priests would also become commanding officers of underground units. While fighting the enemy, the partisans would often find graves of their predecessors fallen during the January Uprising: still visible places of encampments, mounds, crosses, graves. During their marches, at camp fires, the partisans from the villages near forests often spoke about them, and about their legacy carried from generation to generation. The Polish forests helped their fight by providing place for encampments difficult to reach by the Soviets campsites, they provided a place to hide weapons and equipment, to prepare ambushes, and in the case of danger, gave them place to rest before the next operation.
This Polish fight angered Churchill, who in his letter to Roosevelt on March 13 complained that the NSZ being under command of the “Polish Government in London” frustrates Soviet administration of the Polish territory.
But the songs of the fighting partisan units sounded optimistic:
Stalin the butcher made a mistake
And so did his Soviet vermin
For Siberia, for Katyn, for torment, for blood
He’ll be paid by the “Cichy’s” units
The conclusion of war enabled the Soviets to crack down on Polish underground units in more relaxed atmosphere. Many of the partisan units disbanded voluntarily during the Winter of 1945/1946, but the Spring brought with it heavy losses [for the NSZ]. Despite this, the fight continued, just as it did during 1864-1865.
One of the more moving moments in this fight was overtaking of the resort in Wisla culminated in an impressive military parade of the National Armed Forces units commemorating Polish National Holiday of May 3 [translator's note: May 3rd commemorates signing of Europe's first modern Constitution of May 3, 1791] on the main street of Wisla. The enthusiasm of the surprised civilian population who thought that an insurrection that will bring them freedom just began, was extraordinary. The soldiers of the VII District of the NSZ marched proudly while the flowers were thrown at their feet.
Over 90 units having 4,000 souls still fought during 1946-1947. The largest and most bloody battles took place in the Podkarpacie region, where the local highlanders [pol. Gorale] resisted the longest. During these desperate engagements they embraced the prayer spoken by the soldiers of the Holy Cross Brigade:
[Our Lady of Czestochowa] Crowned Princes of Poland with face cut by swords
We raise our heads tired under the weight of our pain towards you
There is no sobbing despair within us
We pray silently, mortally
For the gift of faith
For years we’ve marched at night, soldiers of tragic fate
There are crosses, [our] crosses behind us – mournful reminders of once a soldier
Take away from us this last painful and bloodied chalice
The sorrow of dying alone
The poison of the betrayal
The loses experience by the National Armed Forces were so great that they made it impossible for them to continue: the units were loosing 90% of their manpower, and 97% of the officers were dead. In 1948, the political command issued orders to suspend military operations. But not all would listen to it right away.
In a similar fashion, as they had done during World War I, the Germans unwisely prolonged the war in order to avoid loosing more men, to prevent devastation of their country, and above all, to prevent the Bolshevik administration in the east. Only on May 7 did they sign the Reims Accord to end fighting, but at this point the Soviets already crossed the Laba river.
As a member of the European community of nations, Poland ended the war not only by loosing its sovereignty, but also found itself severely hemorrhaged by its human loses and its crippled economic potential. Over 6 million of its citizens, that is, 80% of those living in the cities died at the hands of Germans. It was caused by systematic extermination of the intelligentsia and killing of practically all Polish citizens of Jewish faith living in the urban areas. Anther legacy of war was a permanent physical disability suffered by nearly 600 thousand individuals, and morbidity of instances of tuberculosis in particular, resulted in the increased mortality rate during several post-war years. From within Polish cities alone, Warsaw suffered the heaviest losses: 400 thousand of its citizens died within the boarders of the city alone, while 450 thousand others perished in German and Soviet concentration camps. The number of Polish citizens murdered by the Latvians, Russians, and Ukrainians is not precisely known, but is estimated to be between 2,5 million and 3 million souls. For one thousand of its citizens Poland lost 200 persons, Russia lost 124, Yugoslavia lost 108, the Germany lost 84, and France lost 13 citizens per one thousand.
The city of Warsaw was destroyed in 80%, the downtown Poznan was destroyed in 70%. The cities [assigned to Poland as a part of the Yalta Agreement] were not in any better shape either: the city of Wroclaw was destroyed in 65%, Gdansk in 55%, and Szczecin in 45%. Every 4th building in every Polish village was in ruins, over half of the land lie follow, and the transportation infrastructure, either via land or water, was nonexistent. Even after the cessation of hostilities with Germany, the Soviets were still setting ablaze large and small cities and dwellings that were to become Polish [in the western Poland].
Irreversible losses suffered by the Polish units fighting along their Allies in the West amounted to the loss of 11,371 killed in the ranks of the II Polish Corps during the Italian Campaign alone, while the the Polish-speaking units of the Soviet Army had 25,550 dead.
The retraction of recognition of Poland as a sovereign nation by the West took place in two phases: the French government retracted its recognition of Polish Government-in-Exile on 29 June - de Gaulle after all, never hid his position of supporting Soviets in their conflict with Poland. It was followed by the retractions of the United States and Great Britain on July 5th. On that day the Polish Armed Forces in the West had in their ranks 228,000 men in 3 infantry divisions, 2 armored divisions, 2 armored brigades, one parachute brigade, and an artillery unit. The Polish Navy in the West had a battle cruiser, 6 destroyers, 3 submarines, 5 escort destroyers. The Polish Air Force in the West consisted on that day of 9 fighter squadrons, one fighter-reconnaissance squadron, 3 heavy bomber squadrons and one light bomber squadron. In all, over 300 thousand Poles served in the Polish Armed Forces in the West. Not one of them was allowed to participate in the Victory Parade in London or in Rome. On the same day an appeal was sent to the General Anders to maintain proper military discipline within the ranks of the Polish Army – they didn’t want anymore trouble to be caused by Poles. [emphasis added]
In the face of the fact that Poland had lost the war and it had lost its sovereignty, on 26 June, the Polish Government-in-Exile issued an appeal to their countrymen. Without any diplomatic niceties it stated that “victorious were not the tenets of equity and commitments arising from international agreements, but the facts that were made and imposed”. It also summarized Polish contributions to the war effort, by reminding about its thousand-year-old relationship with the civilized world, and its place in the Western cultural tradition. I also reminded about Polish pilots “who contributed to the victory during the Battle of Britain”. It prophetically foresaw that the “universal values of morality stomped upon at this time, will ultimately be resurrected and victorious”. It concluded by expressing hope that “[their] path is difficult, but at the end of this journey will be the Poland of [their] most ardent wishes: Free and Sovereign Poland with freedom and justice; Poland loving God and its people”.
This difficult path began at once. During its military operations in the Italian Campaign, the II Polish Corp acquired documents from the German Bureau of Soviet Studies archive, which shed much light on their understanding of their eastern neighbor. This angered the English who coerced Poles to discontinue their research into the Moscow’s political activities. In Germany, in all 3 Occupation Zones – English, American, and French – the Allied governments were closing Polish press publications because their content contained “malignant attacks on the policies and personnel of the Allied Armed Forces and by doing so desired to undermine unity of the Allies”. Only the “Last News” [pol. "Ostatnie Wiadomosci"] published by the Holy Cross Brigade was not subject to any censorship. There were however, no restrictions of any type imposed upon Soviets who flooded Germany with their publications.
Because the Polish soldier fought until the end at the side of its Anglo-Saxon Allies, Poles were spared the fate that befell Russians who found themselves at the end of war on the territory occupied by the Western military forces. Nearly 3 million Soviet citizens were forcibly handed over to the Red Army. The great majority of them served in the German army and wore German uniforms, but they were not recognized as prisoners of war, but as Soviet deserters. It was a matter of the members of the Russian Liberation Army [rus. Russkaya Osvoboditel’naya Armiya – abr. POA] created and lead by Gen. Andrey Wlasov, the Kossacks' formations, auxiliary units supporting German units. These deportations also included Russians who escaped the Bolshevik terror after 1917 and who already acquired citizenship in one of the Allied western nations. In 1968, the British Government ordered destruction of all documents related to this action. 
Written by: Stanislaw Bobr-Tylingo
Thus, such an unfavorable political and military status quo resulted from the existing official relationship between the ”Fighting Poland” (pol. “Polska Walczaca”) and Allied nations, the command of the Home Army (pol. Armia Krajowa) made decision to initiate “Operation Tempest” (pol. “Burza”) of which most tragic chapter was the Battle for Warsaw in August 1944. This operation will became known later as the Warsaw Uprising. The rank-and-file soldier of the underground army accepted this decision. For many years he was preparing for this moment. At last, he was able to meet the hated Germans openly holding weapon in his hand. The majority of these soldiers were unaware however, and didn’t realize that such undertaking was in fact aiding another equally hostile occupier, the Soviet Russia. He didn’t understand it at the time, that it will in fact magnify horrendous human and economic loses already suffered by the Polish nation. Such undertaking was clearly in contrary with the Polish raison d'être. In this respect, the NSZ took clear and honest position of not aiding in installation of new occupying force, most importantly, not at the cost of blood of Polish soldier. Despite this position, throughout Poland the NSZ units took part in the final phase of war by engaging retreating units of German army. An example of their patriotism, their unwavering solidarity and steady respect of the principles of the Unification Talks [pol. Rozmowy Scaleniowe] was the fact that great number of NSZ soldiers took part in the Battle for Warsaw in August and September 1944 – they did that despite unclear and difficult to understand position undertaken by the command of the Home army, particularly during the initial phase of the Battle.
Pt. 1 | Pt. 2 | Pt. 3 | Pt. 4 | Pt.5
 Source: The United States Signal Corps - (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3a33351 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a33351 This photo is believed to be in the public domain, and is published here under the Greater Public Good Doctrine.
 Stanislaw Bobr-Tylingo, “1945”, “Szaniec Chrobrego”, nr. 64 (231), May-June 2003, pp. 19-20