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Home Army
Armia Krajowa
Kotwica symbol.svg
Kotwica was World War II emblem of the Polish Underground State and Armia Krajowa.
Active 14 February 1942 – 19 January 1945
Country  Poland
Allegiance Polish government-in-exile
Role Armed forces of Polish Underground State/Polish government-in-exile
Size 400,000 (1944)
Engagements World War II
Warsaw Uprising
Tadeusz Komorowski
Stefan Rowecki
Leopold Okulicki
Emil August Fieldorf
Antoni Chruściel

The Armia Krajowa (Polish pronunciation: [ˈarmja kraˈjɔva], abbreviated AK), or Home Army, was the dominant Polish resistance movement in World War II German-occupied Poland. It was formed in February 1942 from the Związek Walki Zbrojnej (Union for Armed Struggle). Over the next two years, it absorbed most other Polish underground forces. It was loyal to the Polish government in exile and constituted the armed wing of what became known as the "Polish Underground State." Estimates of its membership in 1944 range from 200,000 to 600,000, with the most common number being 400,000; that figure would make it not only the largest Polish underground resistance movement but one of the three largest in Europe during World War II.[a] It was disbanded on January 20, 1945, when Polish territory had been mostly cleared of German forces by the advancing Soviet Red Army.

The AK's primary resistance operations were the sabotage of German activities, including transports headed for the Eastern Front in the Soviet Union. The AK also fought several full-scale battles against the Germans, particularly in 1943 and 1944 during Operation Tempest. They tied down significant German forces, diverting much-needed supplies, while trying to support the Soviet military.

The most widely known AK operation was the failed Warsaw Uprising. The AK also defended Polish civilians against atrocities committed by German and non-German (collaborationist) military organizations. Due to its ties with the Polish government in exile, the Armia Krajowa was viewed by the Soviet Union as a major obstacle to its takeover of the country. There was increasing conflict between AK and Soviet forces both during and after the war.

History and operations

World War II

The AK's origins were in the Służba Zwycięstwu Polski (Service for the Victory of Poland), which had been set up, just as the joint German & Soviet invasions of Poland were nearing completion, on September 27, 1939, by General Michał Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski.[1] Seven weeks later, November 17, 1939, on the orders of General Władysław Sikorski, this organization was succeeded by Związek Walki Zbrojnej (Union for Armed Struggle), which over two years later, on February 14, 1942, became the AK.[1][2] While these two organizations were the founders of the AK, intended as the main Polish resistance movement, there were numerous other resistance organizations in Poland.[3] A majority of these groups would eventually merge with the ZWZ-AK during the years of 1939-1944, significantly contributing to AK's growth.[2][3][4]

Home Army Band

Armia Krajowa members during the Warsaw Uprising

According to the Polish government in exile, AK was to be a non-political, nationwide resistance organization.[5] The supreme command defined the main tasks of the AK as partisan warfare against the German occupiers, recreation of armed forces underground and, near the end of the German occupation, general armed revolt until victory.[1][2][5] At the war's end, AK plans envisaged the seizure of power in Poland by the Delegatura (Government Delegate's Office at Home) establishment, the representatives of the London-based government in exile; and by the government-in-exile itself, which would return to Poland. In addition to the London government there was also a political organization in Poland itself, a deliberative body of the resistance and the Polish Underground State. The Political Consultative Committee (Polityczny Komitet Porozumiewawczy) was formed in 1940 after an agreement by representatives of several major political parties (Socialist Party, People's Party, National Party and Labor Party); renamed to Home Political Representation (Krajowa Reprezentacja Polityczna) in 1943 and to Council of National Unity (Rada Jedności Politycznej) in 1944.[6] The AK, although in theory subordinated to the civil authorities and the government in exile, often acted somewhat independently with both the AK commanders in Poland and London government not fully aware of the situation of the other.[6]

Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Soviet Union joined the Allies; the Anglo-Soviet Agreement was signed on July 12, 1941. This shift put the Polish government in a difficult position, since it had previously pursued a policy of "two enemies." Although a Polish-Soviet agreement was signed in August, co-operation continued to be difficult, and deteriorated further after the Katyn massacre was publicized in 1943.[7]

Until the major revolt began in 1944, the AK concentrated on self-defence (freeing prisoners and hostages, defence against pacification measures) and striking at the German forces. Throughout the period of its existence AK units carried out thousands of armed raids and intelligence operations, sabotaging hundreds of railway shipments and participating in many partisan clashes and battles with German police and Wehrmacht units. The AK also conducted retaliatory operations to assassinate prominent Nazi collaborators and Gestapo officials in response to Nazi terror tactics imposed on the civilian population of Poland (notable individuals assassinated by AK include Igo Sym and Franz Kutschera).[1][5]

File:Deutschland kaput - polish resistance poster.jpg

"Germany is kaput" (German language: Deutschland kaput): defeatist poster disseminated in the General Government by Operation N after the battle of Stalingrad, 1943.

File:26PPAK relief Warsaw Uprising.jpg

Polish Home Army's 26th Infantry Regiment en route from the Kielce-Radom area to Warsaw in an attempt to join the Warsaw Uprising


Armia Krajowa supplied valuable intelligence information to the Allies; 43% of all reports received by British secret services from continental Europe in 1939-45 had come from Polish sources.[8] Until 1942, most of British intelligence from Germany came from AK reports; until the end of the war AK would remain the main British source for news from Central and Eastern Europe.[9] Among other topics, Armia Krajowa intelligence provided the Allies with information on German concentration camps,[10] as well as intelligence concerning the V-1 flying bomb and the V-2 rocket[1][4] One Project Big Ben mission used a stripped-for-lightness RAF twin-engine Dakota (Operation Wildhorn III[11]) (Most III) from Brindisi, Italy, to fly to an abandoned German airfield in Poland to retrieve information prepared by engineer and aircraft designer Antoni Kocjan, as well as 100 lb (45 kg) of cargo regarding V-2 rocket wreckage from a Peenemünde launch, including Special Report 1/R, no. 242, photographs, a select set of eight parts, and drawings of the wreckage.[12] Sabotage was coordinated by the Union of Retaliation and later Wachlarz and Kedyw units.[2] The AK also carried out psychological warfare, with the "Operation N" created the illusion of a German opposition movement to Hitler within Germany itself.[1]

Major operations

Major military and sabotage operations included: the Zamość Uprising of 1942-1943, with AK sabotaging German plans for expulsion of Poles under the Generalplan Ost;[2] the protection of the Polish population from the massacres of Poles in Volhynia in 1943-1944;[2] Operation Wieniec sabotaging German rail transport in 1942;[2] Operation Taśma in 1943, a series of attacks against German border outposts on the frontier between the General Government and the territories annexed by Germany; Operation Jula – another rail sabotage in 1944;[2] and most notably Operation Tempest in 1944, a series of nationwide uprisings whose chief goal was to seize control of cities and areas where German forces were preparing their defenses against the Soviet Red Army, so that Polish underground civil authorities could take power before the arrival of Soviet forces.[13] The largest and best known of the Operation Tempest battles was the Warsaw Uprising – the attempt to liberate Warsaw, the capital of Poland. It started on August 1, 1944; the Polish troops took control of significant portion of the city and resisted the German-led forces until October 2 (63 days in total). With no aid from the approaching Red Army, the Germans eventually defeated the rebels and burned the city, finally quelling the Uprising on October 2, 1944.[1] Other major city uprisings of AK included the Operation Ostra Brama in Wilno and the Lwów Uprising. In addition, AK prepared an uprising in Kraków, but it was canceled due to several circumstances. While the AK managed to liberate a number of places from German control, for example in the Lublin region where the regional structures were able to set up a functioning government, in the end due to hostility and lack of support from the Soviet Union, it failed to secure sufficient territory for the government in exile to return.[1][2][13]

Soviet and Polish Armia Krajowa soldiers patrolling in Vilnius, July 1944

Axis fatalities due to the actions of the Polish underground, of which AK formed the bulk, are estimated at up to 150,000[14] (one should however note that estimates of guerrilla warfare inflicted casualties often have a wide margin of error[15]). The AK primary focus was on sabotage of German rail and road transports to the Eastern Front in the Soviet Union.[4][16] It is estimated that one eighth of all German transports to Eastern Front were destroyed or significantly delayed due to AK's activities.[16] The battles with the Germans, particularly in 1943 and 1944, tied down several German divisions (upper estimates suggest about 930,000 German soldiers in total).[4][17]

File:The Third Reich - polish resistance poster, German-occupied Poland, 1943.jpg

Der Klabautermann, an Operation N magazine, 3 January 1943 issue: satire on the Third Reich, featuring Nazi terror and genocide. Right, Hitler and Himmler.


Kotwica, one of the symbols of the Armia Krajowa inscribed on Poland's flag

The AK officially disbanded on January 19, 1945 to avoid armed conflict with the Soviets and civil war.[18] However, many units decided to continue their struggle under new circumstances. The Soviet Union and the Polish Communist Government it controlled viewed the underground, still loyal to the Polish government in exile, as a force that had to be removed before they could gain complete control over Poland. Future General Secretary of Polish United Workers' Party, Władysław Gomułka, is quoted as saying: "Soldiers of AK are a hostile element which must be removed without mercy." Another prominent Polish communist, Roman Zambrowski, said that AK had to be "exterminated."[19]

The first AK structure designed primarily to deal with the Soviet threat was NIE, formed in mid-1943. NIE's goals was not to engage the Soviet forces in combat, but rather to observe and conduct espionage while the Polish government in exile decided how to deal with the Soviets; at that time the exiled government still believed that the solution could be found through negotiations. On May 7, 1945 NIE ("NO") was disbanded[19] and transformed into Delegatura Sił Zbrojnych na Kraj ("Homeland Armed Forces Delegation"), this organization however lasted only until August 8, 1945, when the decision was made to disband the organization[19] and stop partisan resistance on Polish territories.

Armia Krajowa Cross was awarded to veterans of AK by the Polish government in exile.

The first Polish communist government, the Polish Committee of National Liberation, formed in July 1944, declined jurisdiction over AK soldiers, therefore for more than a year it was the Soviet Union agencies such as NKVD that took responsibility for disarming the AK.[19] By the end of the war approximately 60,000 AK soldiers were arrested, 50,000 of them were deported to the Soviet Union's Gulags and prisons; most of those soldiers were captured by Soviets during or in the aftermath of Operation Tempest, when many AK units tried to cooperate with the Soviets in a nationwide uprising against the Germans.[19] Other veterans were arrested when they decided to approach the Polish communist government officials after being promised amnesty. After several such broken promises during the first few years of communist control, AK soldiers stopped trusting the government.[19]

Monument to Armia Krajowa, Rzeszów, Poland

The third post-AK organization was Wolność i Niezawisłość ("Freedom and Sovereignty"). Again its primary goal was not combat. Rather, it was designed to help the AK soldiers in transition from the life of partisans into that of civilians; while secrecy and conspiracy were necessary in the light of increasing persecution of AK veterans by the communist government.[20] WiN was however in significant need of funds, necessary to pay for false documents and to provide resources for the partisans, many of whom had lost their homes and entire 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.[19] A significant victory for the NKVD and the newly created Polish secret police, Urząd Bezpieczeństwa, came in the second half of 1945, when they managed to convince several leaders of AK and WiN that they truly wanted to offer amnesty to AK members. In a few months they managed to gain information about vast numbers of AK/WiN resources and people. By the time the (imprisoned) AK and WiN leaders realised their mistake, the organizations had been crippled with thousands of their members having been arrested.[19] WiN was finally disbanded in 1952. By 1947 a colonel of the communist forces declared that "Terrorist and political underground has ceased to be a threatening force, although there are still men of the forests" that need to be dealt with.[19]

The show trial of 16 leaders of Polish wartime underground movement (including Home Army and civil authorities) convicted of "drawing up plans for military action against the U.S.S.R.", Moscow, June 1945. The leaders were invited to help organize the new Polish Government of National Unity in March 1945 and immediately captured by NKVD. Despite the court's conspicuous leniency, only two were still alive six years later.

The persecution of AK was only part of the repressions under Stalinism in Poland. In the period of 1944-1956, approximately 2 million people were arrested,[19] over 20,000, including the hero of Auschwitz, Witold Pilecki, were executed or murdered in communist prisons,[19] and 6 million Polish citizens (i.e. every third adult Pole) were classified as a reactionary or criminal element and subject to invigilation by state agencies.[19] Most soldiers of the Home Army were captured by the NKVD or UB political police. They were interrogated and imprisoned on various charges like fascism.[21][22] Many of them were sent to Gulags, executed or "disappeared."[21] For example between 1944 and 1956 all members of Batalion Zośka unit who took part in Warsaw Uprising was closed in communist jail.[23] In 1956 an amnesty released 35,000 former AK soldiers from prisons: for the crime of fighting for their homeland they had spent sometimes over 10 years in prisons. Even at this time however, some partisans remained in the countryside, unwilling or simply 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[19] – almost 2 decades after World War II 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 ("The Silent and Hidden") intelligence and support group, was released from prison. Until the end of the People's Republic of Poland AK soldiers remained under investigation by the secret police, and it was only in 1989, after the fall of communism, that the sentences of AK soldiers were finally declared invalid and annulled by the Polish courts.[19] Many monuments to Armia Krajowa have been erected in modern Poland, and there are many museum exhibitions such as the Armia Krajowa Museum in Kraków and the Warsaw Uprising Museum in Warsaw. The Polish Home Army Museum is located in Orchard Lake, Michigan, United States.


File:1Comp obwSambor inspecDrohobycz Burza3.jpg

Soldiers of the 1st company of Sambor command of Drohobycz Armia Krajowa (Obwód Sambor AK) inspectorate armed with German, Soviet, and British made arms and dressed in captured German field uniforms. The soldier on the lower left appears to be holding a Soviet-made PPSh-41, or some derivative thereof

"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[24]

In February 1942, when AK was formed from ZWZ, it numbered about 100,000 members.[5] In the beginning of 1943, it had reached a strength of about 200,000.[5] In the summer of 1944 when Operation Tempest begun AK reached its highest membership numbers.[5] Estimates of AK membership in the first half of 1944 and summer that year range from 200,000,[25] 300,000,[26] 380,000,[5] 400,000,[4] 450,000-500,000[27] to even "over 600,000."[28] Most estimates put the highest numbers in summer 1944 between 300,000 and 500,000, with the average of 400,000. The strength estimates vary, due to constantly ongoing integration of other resistance organizations into AK; as well as because while the number of members was high and sympathizers even much higher, the number of armed members participating in actions would be smaller(due to insufficient number of weapons).[5][15][25] AK's numbers in 1944 include a cadre of more than 10,000-11,000 officers, 7,500 officers-in-training (podchorąży) and 88,000 NCOs.[5] The officer cadre was formed from pre-war officers and NCOs, graduates of underground courses and elite operatives usually parachuted from the West (cichociemni).[5] A basic organization unit was a platoon, which numbered 35-50 people, with a skeleton, unmobilized version of 16-25; in February 1944 AK had 6287 regular and 2613 skeleton platoons operational.[5] Such numbers made Armia Krajowa not only the largest of the Polish resistance movements, but among the two largest in World War II-time Europe [a]. Casualties during the war are estimated at about 34,000[26]-100,000,[5] plus about 20,000[26]-50,000[5] after the war (casualties and imprisonment).

AK was intended as a mass membership organization, organized around a core of pre-war officers.[5] AK soldiers could be divided into three groups. The first two consisted of "full-time members": the undercover operatives, living mostly in urban setting under false identities (most senior AK officers belonged to this group) and uniformed (to a certain extent) partisans, living in the forested regions (see leśni), and fighting Germans openly (the numbers of that group can be estimated at about 40 groups numbering in total 1,200-4,000 in early 1943 but the numbers would grow significantly during Operation Tempest).[29] The largest group consisted of "part-time members," sympathizers leading 'double life', under their real names in their real homes, receiving no payment for their services, staying in touch with their undercover unit commander, but usually not called for any actions, as AK was planning to use them only during the planned nationwide uprising.[29]

Armia Krajowa veterans' parade, Sanok, Poland, 11 November 2008

AK was intended as a representative of the Polish nation, as its members were recruited from all social parties and classes (the communists sent by Soviets and Soviet created Armia Ludowa (People's Army) being the only notable exception).[6] Growth of the AK was significantly based on integration of scores of smaller resistance organizations into its ranks.[5] Most of the other Polish underground armies became incorporated into the AK (retaining a varying amount of autonomy)[2][4] including:

  • The Konfederacja Narodu (Confederation of the Nation). Created in 1940 by far-right Obóz Narodowo-Radykalny (National Radical Camp) and opposed to more center SZP-ZWZ, it would partially merge with ZWZ around 1941 and finally join AK around fall 1943.
  • The Bataliony Chłopskie (Peasants' Battalions). Created by the leftist People's Party around 1940-1941, it would partially merge with AK around 1942-1943, although in 1944 parts would split and join the AL.
  • The Gwardia Ludowa WRN (People's Guard of WRN) of Polish Socialist Party (PPS) (joined ZWZ around 1940) and Socjalistyczna Organizacja Bojowa (Socialist Fighting Organisation) created in 1943 and subordinated to AK,
  • The Narodowa Organizacja Wojskowa (National Military Organisation), (joined AK around the fall 1942/summer 1943) established by the National Party.
  • The Obóz Polski Walczącej (Camp of Fighting Poland), established by the Obóz Zjednoczenia Narodowego (Camp of National Unity) around 1942, subordinated to AK in 1943.
  • From March to summer 1944, parts of the Narodowe Siły Zbrojne (National Armed Forces) were also subordinated to AK.

The largest group that refused to join AK was the pro-Soviet and communist Armia Ludowa (AL), which at its height in 1944 numbered 30,000 people.[30] As a result, individual AK units varied significantly in their political outlooks (notably in their attitude towards ethnic minorities or the Soviets).[6]



Soldiers from Kolegium "A" of Kedyw on Stawki Street in Wola district - Warsaw Uprising 1944

AK's Headquarters was divided into five sections, two bureaus and several other specialized units:[1][5]

  • Section I: Organizations - organization, planning, personnel, justice, religion
  • Section II: Information and Espionage - espionage and counterespionage
  • Section III: Operations and Training - coordination, planning, preparing for the nationwide uprising
  • Section IV: Logistics - information management (ex. maps), supplies
  • Section V: Communications - communication (including with the Western Allies), air drops
  • Bureau of Information and Propaganda, sometimes known as Section VI - propaganda
  • Bureau of Finances and Control, sometimes known as Section VII - finances, budget
  • Kedyw (acronym for Kierownictwo Dywersji, Polish for Directorate of Diversion), a highly independent special operations section, responsible for much of the ongoing resistance operations
  • Directorate of Underground Resistance
  • others

The Commanders of AK were subordinated to the Polish commander-in-chief (General Inspector of the Armed Forces) of the Government in Exile in the military chain of command[5] and responsible to the Government Delegate's at Home in the civilian chain of command. Stefan Rowecki (pseudonym Grot, or "Arrowhead"), served as the AK's first commander until his arrest in 1943; Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski commanded from July 1943 until his capture in October 1944 and Leopold Okulicki, pseudonym Niedzwiadek ("Bear Cub") led the organisation in its final days.[1]


Regional organization of Armia Krajowa in 1944

Geographically, AK was divided into regional branches or areas (obszar).[1] Below the branches (or areas) were the subregions (or subareas) (podokręg) or independent areas (okręgi samodzielne). Smaller organizational units involved ; inspectorates (inspektorat), of which there were eighty-nine (89) and districts (obwód), of which there were two hundred eighty (280, as of early 1944).[5] Overall, AK regional structure resembled to a significant extent Polish interwar administration division, with okręg being similar to Polish voivodeship (see also Administrative division of Second Polish Republic).[5]

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), South-Eastern (Obszar Południowo-Wschodni in the Lwów area); sources vary on whether there was a North-Eastern Area (centered in Białystok - Obszar Białystocki) or whether Białystok was classified as an independent area (Okręg samodzielny Białystok).

From 1943 AK started to recreate the organization of the pre-war Polish Army, with its various units being designated as platoons, battalions, regiments, brigades and divisions and operational groups.[5]

Weapons and equipment

AK manufactured grenades: Sidolówka (left) and Filipinka (right) on exhibition in the Museum of the Warsaw Rising

Kubuś - insurgent armored car in Warsaw Uprising

As a clandestine army operating in a country occupied by the enemy, separated by over a thousand kilometers from any friendly territory, the AK faced unique challenges in acquiring arms and equipment.[31] AK was able to overcome these difficulties to some extent and put tens of thousands of armed soldiers into the field. 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, like the Kubuś armored car).[31] 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.[15][25][31]

In contrast, their opponents - the German armed forces and their allies – were almost universally supplied with plentiful arms and ammunition, and could count on a full array of support forces. Unit for unit, its German opponents enjoyed a crushing material superiority over the AK. This severely restricted the kind of operations that it could successfully undertake.

The arms and equipment for Armia Krajowa mostly came from four sources: arms buried by the Polish armies on the battlefields after the Invasion of Poland in 1939, arms purchased or captured from the Germans and their allies, arms clandestinely manufactured by Armia Krajowa itself, and arms received from Allied air drops.[31]

Captured German Panther tank - armored platoon of batalion Zośka under command of Wacław Micuta

From the arms caches hidden in 1939, the AK 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.[32] However, because of inadequate preservation, which had to be improvised in the chaos of the September campaign, most of these guns were in poor condition. Of those that were hidden in the ground and dug up in 1944 during preparation for Operation Tempest, only 30% were usable.[33]

Sometimes arms were purchased on the black market from German soldiers or their allies or stolen from German supply depots or transports.[31] 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.[33] 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.[33]

The efforts to capture weapons from Germans also proved highly successful. Raids were conducted on trains carrying equipment to the front, as well as guardhouses and gendarmerie posts. Sometimes weapons were taken from individual German soldiers accosted in the street. During the Warsaw Uprising, the AK even managed to capture several German armored vehicles.[33]

Polish insurgent weapons, including the Błyskawica submachine gun - one of very few weapons designed and mass-produced covertly in occupied Europe.

Arms were clandestinely manufactured by the AK in its own secret workshops, and also by its members working in German armament factories.[31][33] In this way the AK was able to procure submachine guns (copies of British Sten, indigenous Błyskawica and KIS), pistols (Vis), flamethrowers, explosive devices, road mines and hand grenades (Filipinka and Sidolówka).[31] Hundreds of people were involved in this manufacturing effort. AK did not produce its own ammunition, but relied on supplies stolen by Polish workers from German-run factories.[31]

The final source of supply were Allied air drops. This was the only way to obtain more exotic but highly useful equipment such as plastic explosives or antitank weapons (PIAT). During the war 485 air drop missions from the West (about half of which was flown by Polish airmen) delivered about 600 tons of supplies for Polish resistance.[34] Besides equipment, the planes also parachuted highly qualified instructors (the Cichociemni), of whom 316[26] were inserted into Poland during the war.[32] Due to the large distance from bases in Britain and the Mediterranean, and lukewarm political support, the airdrops were only a fraction of those carried out in support of French, Yugoslavian, Greek or other resistance movements.

In the end despite their efforts most of AK forces had inadequate weaponry. In 1944, when AK numbers where at their peak strength (200,000-600,000 according to various estimates), AK had enough weaponry only for about 32,000 soldiers.[25] On 1 August 1944 when Warsaw Uprising started, only one sixth of AK fighters in Warsaw were armed.[25]

Relations with other groups

Relations with Jews

the Sheltering of Escaping Jews.
   There is a need for a reminder, that in accordance with paragraph 3 of the decree of October 15, 1941, on the Limitation of Residence in General Government (page 595 of the GG Register) Jews leaving the Jewish Quarter without permission will incur the death penalty.
   According to this decree, those knowingly helping these Jews by providing shelter, supplying food, or selling them foodstuffs are also subject to the death penalty.

   This is a categorical warning to the non-Jewish population against:
         1) Providing shelter to Jews,
         2) Supplying them with Food,
         3) Selling them Foodstuffs.
Częstochowa 9/24/42     
Der Stadthauptmann
Dr. Franke

It is not very well known among the Polish or the Jewish communities abroad, that the Jewish resistance fighters were members of the Armia Krajowa in considerable numbers. The information provided by the Jewish veteran of the Polish Home Army First Armoured Division, Willie Glaser of Montreal, includes a mention of some 1,000 Jews participating in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, of whom 115 died including 66 Jewish members of AK.[35]

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.

Jürgen Stroop - "Stroop Report" 1943[36][37]

The cover page of The Stroop Report with International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg markings.

Gęsiówka liberation memorial plate in Polish, Hebrew and English

In February 1942, the Operational Command of the AK Information and Propaganda Office set up the Section for Jewish Affairs, directed by Henryk Woliński.[38] 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 AK also supported the Relief Council for Jews in Poland (codenamed Żegota) as well as the formation of Jewish resistance under Nazi rule organizations in Poland.[39][40] One member of the AK, Witold Pilecki, was the only person to volunteer for imprisonment in Auschwitz. The information he gathered proved crucial in convincing Western Allies about the fate of the Jewish population.[10] In 1942, AK sent Jan Karski on a secret mission to personally carry the first eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust to the mostly disbelieving Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Before leaving, Karski was visited by two leaders of the Jewish underground who had managed to briefly leave the Warsaw Ghetto.

According to Professor Antony Polonsky, the commander of the AK General Stefan Grot-Roweski made clear in an order of 10 November 1942, that they did not regard the Jews 'as part of our nation', and that action was not to be taken to defend them if it endangered other AK objectives.[41] However others record that the AK provided the Warsaw Ghetto with some firearms, ammunition and explosives.[39][42] Jewish fighters from Jewish Military Union received only from PKB: 2 heavy machine guns, 4 light machine guns, 21 submachine guns, 30 rifles, 50 pistols, and over 400 grenades.[43] During the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, AK units tried twice to blow up the ghetto wall, carried out holding actions outside the ghetto walls, and together with GL forces sporadically attacked German sentry units near the ghetto walls. Security Cadre (Kadra Bezpieczeństwa or KB), one of the organizations subordinate to the AK, under the command of Henryk Iwański took a direct part in fights inside the ghetto together with Jewish fighters from ŻZW[42] and ŻOB.[44] During the Warsaw Uprising a year later, Batalion Zośka, one of the most notable units of the Uprising, liberated hundreds of Jews from the Gęsiówka part of the Warsaw Concentration Camp.[39]

While AK was largely untainted with collaboration with Nazis during the Holocaust,[45] some historians have asserted that because of antisemitism AK was reluctant to accept Jews into its ranks.[46] This may have been due to the leftist leanings of the ŻOB.[42] However many Jews, among many others Marek Edelman,[47] Dawid Moryc Apfelbaum, Henryk Chmielewski,[48] Alicja Gołod-Gołębiowska [48] and Leon Kopelman (members of the famous Zośka Battalion), Stanisław "Shlomo" Aronson in rank of Lieutenant was also a member of the elite Kedyw unit, "Kolegium A", Ludwik Widerszal, Adolf Berman or Calel Perechodnik, were part of the AK, while others, such as Szmul Zygielbojm, held top leadership positions in the National Council of the Polish government in exile to which the AK answered. Over the years, hundreds of Jews (such as Julian Aleksandrowicz) had joined the AK (particularly its Socialist Fighting Organization subsidiary.[49]

Polish resistance in German-occupied Poland founded also in September 1942 "The Council to Aid Jews Żegota"Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag According to some sources the bulk of antisemitic behavior can be ascribed to only a small minority of AK members,[45] often affiliated with the far-right endecja spectrum of the Polish political scene, whose National Armed Forces organization was only partially incorporated into AK.[50] To the extent that wartime circumstances permitted the leadership of the AK tried to punish instances of violence, on several occasions issuing and carrying out death sentences against perpetrators.[45] Nonetheless some Jewish sources have characterized Armia Krajowa as anti-Semitic.[51][52][53][54][55] The issue remains a controversial one and is subject to a difficult debate.[42][56][57]

Relations with Lithuanians

Aleksander Krzyżanowski, Armia Krajowa commandant of the Wilno region

Although Lithuanian and Polish resistance movements had in principle the same enemies – Nazi Germany and Soviet Union – they started cooperating only in 1944-1945, after the Soviet re-occupation, when they both fought against the Soviet occupiers.[58] The main obstacle in forming an earlier alliance was a territorial dispute centering on Vilnius (see Żeligowski's Mutiny for background).[59]

Some Lithuanians, encouraged by Germany's vague promises of autonomy,[60] cooperated with the Nazis in their actions against Poles during the German occupation. In autumn of 1943, Armia Krajowa started retaliation operations against the Lithuanian Nazi supporters, primarily the Lituanian Schutzmannschaft battalions, Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force and Lithuanian Secret Police,[61] and killed hundreds of mostly Lithuanian policemen and other collaborators during the first half of 1944. In response, Lithuanian police, who had already murdered hundreds of Polish civilians since 1941 (see Ponary massacre),[62] intensified their operations against the Poles. In April 1944, Armia Krajowa in the Vilnius Region attempted to open negotiations with Povilas Plechavičius (commander of Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force), proposing a non-aggression pact and cooperation against the Nazi Germany.[63] The Lithuanian side refused and demanded that the Poles either abandon the Vilnius Region (disputed between Poles and Lithuanians) or subordinate themselves to the Lithuanians in their struggle against the Soviets.[63] In May 1944 in the battle of Murowana Oszmianka AK dealt a significant blow to the Lithuanian Nazi auxiliaries of the Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force.[64][65] What resulted was a low-level civil war between anti-Nazi Poles and pro-Nazi Lithuanians, encouraged by the German authorities,[61] which culminated in the massacres of Polish and Lithuanian civilians in June 1944 in the Glitiškės (Glinciszki) and Dubingiai (Dubinki) villages.[62]

The postwar assessment of AK's activities in Lithuania has been a matter of controversy. Its activities in Lithuania were investigated by a special Lithuanian government commission in 1993. Only in recent years have Polish and Lithuanian historians been able to reach some compromises, even if they still differ in the interpretation of many events.[66][67]

Relations with the Soviets

File:Zapluty karzel.jpg

Postwar communist propaganda poster. "The giant [Armia Ludowa] and the reactionary dwarf [Armia Krajowa]"

Armia Krajowa relations with the Red Army became increasingly poor over the course of the war. Not only did the Soviet Union invade Poland following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, but even after the Germans invaded Soviet Union the Soviet Union saw Polish partisans loyal to the government in exile as more of an enemy to their plans to take control of post-war Poland, than as a potential ally.[68] On orders from Stavka sent on June 22, 1943,[69] Soviet partisans engaged Polish partisans in combat, and it has been claimed that they attacked the Poles more often than they did the Germans.[68]

In late 1943, the actions of Soviet partisans, who were ordered to liquidate the AK forces,[69] even resulted in a limited amount of uneasy cooperation between some units of AK and German forces.[45] While AK still treated Germans as the enemy and conducted various operations against them,[45] when Germans offered AK arms and provisions to be used against the Soviet partisans, some Polish units in the Nowogródek and Wilno decided to accept them. However, any such arrangements were purely tactical and did not evidence the type of ideological collaboration as shown by the Vichy regime in France or the Quisling regime in Norway.[45] The Poles main motivation was to acquire intelligence on Germans and to acquire much needed equipment.[56] There are no known joint Polish-German actions, and the Germans were unsuccessful in their attempt to turn the Poles toward fighting exclusively against Soviet partisans.[45] Further, most of such collaboration of local commanders with the Germans was condemned by AK headquarters.[45] Tadeusz Piotrowski quotes Joseph Rothschild saying "The Polish Home Army was by and large untainted by collaboration" and adds that "the honor of AK as a whole is beyond reproach."[45]

With the Eastern Front entering Polish territories in 1944, AK established an uneasy truce with the Soviets. Even then, the main forces of the Red Army and the NKVD conducted operations against the AK partisans, including during or directly after the Polish Operation Tempest, which was designed by the Poles to be a joint Polish-Soviet action against the retreating Germans and to establish Polish claims to those territories.[4][19] AK helped Soviet units with scouting or organizing uprisings and helping to liberate various cities (ex. Operation Ostra Brama, Lwów Uprising), only to find that immediately afterwards AK troops were arrested, imprisoned – or even executed.[16] Unknown to the Poles, Joseph Stalin's aim to ensure that an independent Poland would never reemerge in the postwar period made the Operation Tempest idea fatally flawed from the beginning.[70]

Soviet forces continued to engage the elements of AK long after the war. Many AK soldiers continued fight after World War II in anti-Soviet Polish underground, known as the cursed soldiers.

Relations with Ukrainians

Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), a Ukrainian nationalist force and the military arm of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), fighting against the Germans, the Soviets and the Poles – all three seen as occupiers of Ukraine – decided in 1943 to direct most of their attacks against the Poles. Bandera and his followers came to the conclusion that the war would end with the exhaustion of both Germany and the Soviet Union, and thus the Poles, which also laid claims to the territories of East Galicia (seen by Ukrainians as Western Ukraine, and Poles as Eastern Poland), had to be weakened before the Polish state could rise again.[71] The collaboration of some Ukrainian groups with Nazi Germany (although declining in 1943) had discredited Ukrainian partisans as potential Polish allies; Polish pretensions to restore the borders of pre-war Poland were opposed by the Ukrainians.[71]

The OUN decided to attack Polish civilians who constituted about a third of the population of the disputed territories.[71] The OUN equated Ukrainian independence with ethnic homogeneity; the Polish presence had to be removed completely.[71] By February 1943 OUN started a deliberate campaign of murdering Polish civilians.[71] OUN troops targeted Polish villages, leading to the formation of Polish self-defence units (ex. Przebraże Defence) and fights between Armia Krajowa and OUN.[71] The Germans encouraged both sides against each other. Erich Koch once said: "We have to do everything possible so that a Pole, while meeting a Ukrainian, would be willing to kill him and conversely, a Ukrainian would be willing to kill a Pole"; a German commissioner from Sarny, when local Poles complained about massacres, answered: "You want Sikorski, the Ukrainians want Bandera. Fight each other."[72] In massacres of Poles in Volhynia in spring and summer 1943 at least 40,000 Poles were killed; the death toll would rise in the following year although by that time Polish resistance would stiffen.[71]

The Polish government in exile in London were taken by surprise; it had not expected a Ukrainian anti-Polish action of such magnitude.[71] There is no evidence that the Polish government in exile contemplated a general policy of revenge against the Ukrainians but local Poles, including commanders of AK units, would engage in various retaliations.[71] Polish partisans attacked OUN, assassinated prominent Ukrainians and carried out operations against Ukrainian villages.[71] According to Ukrainian estimates, the AK may have killed in retaliation as many as 20,000 Ukrainians in Volhynia.[73] By winter 1943 and spring 1944 AK was preparing for Operation Tempest; one of the goals of the operation was to reinforce Polish position in Volhynia. Most notably, in January 1944 the 27th Infantry Division of Armia Krajowa, numbering 7,000, was formed, and tasked with defense of Polish civilians, engaging OUN and the German troops.[71] By mid-1944 the region was occupied by the Soviet Red Army; Polish partisans were disbanded or went underground, as did most of the Ukrainians; both would however increasingly concentrate on Soviets as their primary enemy – and both would ultimately be unsuccessful.[71]


a ^ Several sources note that Armia Krajowa was the largest resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Europe. For example, Norman Davies wrote "Armia Krajowa (Home Army), the AK, which could fairly claim to be the largest of European resistance";[74] Gregor Dallas wrote "Home Army (Armia Krajowa or AK) in late 1943 numbered around 400,000, making it the largest resistance organization in Europe";[75] Mark Wyman wrote "Armia Krajowa was considered the largest underground resistance unit in wartime Europe."[76] The numbers of Soviet partisans were very similar to that of the Polish resistance.[77]

See also


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  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 (Polish) Armia Krajowa. Encyklopedia PWN. Retrieved 14 March 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Tomasz Strzembosz, Początki ruchy oporu w Polsce. Kilka uwag. In Krzysztof Komorowski (ed.), Rozwój organizacyjny Armii Krajowej, Bellona, 1996, ISBN 83-11-08544-7
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  77. See for example: Leonid D. Grenkevich in The Soviet Partisan Movement, 1941-44: A Critical Historiographical Analysis, p.229 or Walter Laqueur in The Guerilla Reader: A Historical Anthology, (New York, Charles Scribiner, 1990, p.233
Cite error: <ref> tag with name "Eliach" defined in <references> is not used in prior text.
Further reading
  • Norman Davies, Rising '44, Macmillan, 2003.
  • Richard Lukasz, Forgotten Holocaust, The Poles under German Occupation 1939-1944 New York, 1997.
  • Marek Ney-Krwawicz, The Polish Home Army, 1939-1945, London, 2001.
  • Roger Moorhouse, Killing Hitler, Jonathan Cape, 2006. ISBN 0-224-07121-1
  • Michael Alfred Peszke, Polish Underground Army, the Western Allies, and the Failure of Strategic Unity in World War II, McFarland & Company, 2004, ISBN 0-7864-2009-X Google Print
  • Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski.Secret Army. Macmillan Company, New York 1951. ISBN 0-89839-082-6.
  • Jonathan Walker, Poland Alone: Britain, SOE and the Collapse of the Polish Resistance, 1944, The History Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1-86227-474-7

External links

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