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AL Eagle insignia

Armia Ludowa (AL, pronounced [ˈarmja luˈdɔva]; English People's Army) was a communist partisan force set up by the Polish Workers' Party (PPR) during World War II. It was created by the order of the State National Council on January 1, 1944. Its aims were to support the military of the Soviet Union against German forces and aid the creation of a pro-Soviet communist government in Poland.

Along with the far-right portion of the National Armed Forces it was one of the Polish military resistance organization that refused to join the structures of the Polish Underground State, and its military arm, the Armia Krajowa. AL was much smaller than AK, but propaganda in the People's Republic of Poland has supported the myth that it was much more significant than AK.


In 1939, 17 days after the German invasion, the Soviet Union also invaded Poland. Although there was no formal declaration of war by either side, relations were very poor between the Soviet Union and the Polish government in exile in London, and its representatives in occupied Poland, the Polish Underground State. In 1943, Soviet Union broke off the diplomatic relations with the Polish government in exile.[1]

The Polish communists supported resistance against the German occupiers, and created their own underground organization, whose aims were to support the military of the Soviet Union against German forces and aid the creation of a pro-Soviet communist government in Poland. Thus the Gwardia Ludowa (Gl, People's Guard) was created in 1942. Along with the far-right portion of the National Armed Forces, this communist-led underground was one of the Polish military resistance organizations that refused to join the structures of the Polish Underground State, and its military arm, the Armia Krajowa.[1]


Armia Ludowa (Peoples Army) in a forest near Lublin


On January 1, 1944, the State National Council (Krajowa Rada Narodawa, KRN) replaced the Gwardia Ludowa with the AL.[1] The KRN intended to gain volunteers from other groups. Upon its establishment the organization comprised around 10,000 members. By the end of July 1944 (when much of Poland was occupied by the Red Army) there were circa 20,000–30,000 members, with 5,000 of them being Soviet nationals.[2][3] Low estimates quote about 14,000 as its peak strength,[4] whereas high estimates double the middle number, up to 50,000–60,000.[2] About 6,000 of them were active full-time partisans. There is a consensus among scholars that whatever its exact size, AL was much smaller ("a fraction of") than the primary Polish resistance organization, the Armia Krajowa (Home Army).[5][6][7][8]

At the same time, GL/AL was much better armed than Armia Krajowa (Home Army, AK); thanks to Soviet air drops it might have even had a surplus of weaponry.[9] It also had less strict discipline.[9]

Polish People's Army

Seven months after it came into existence, on July 21, 1944, AL was integrated into the Polish Military in the USSR and formed the new People's Army of Poland (LWP).[4] After the Red Army and the Soviet organized 1st Polish Army entered Poland in 1944 and early 1945, most of the AL members joined the latter. After the war many of its members joined the ranks of Ministry of Public Security in the People's Republic of Poland, as well as Milicja Obywatelska.[3][10][11]

Operations, propaganda and controversies

According to AL's claims, it carried out about 900 operations, killing 20,000 Germans, derailing 350 trains, and destroying 79 bridges.[4] However, GL/AL exploits were significantly exaggerated by the communist propaganda in the People's Republic of Poland.[11][12][13] Polish historian Piotr Gontarczyk estimates that only about 5–10% of officially recorded GL/AL action really took place, and that in the majority instances when GL/AL fought the German military it was when GL/AL was defending itself from German anti-partisan operations, with instances of GL/AL attacking Germans on its own initiative being very rare.[9] Rather than engaging military targets, GL/AL preferred softer targets, such as German administration offices.[9] That changed in 1944, when GL/AL grew stronger, and began engaging the German military more actively.[14] According to Polish-American historian Mieczysław B. Biskupski, AL was less concerned with fighting the Germans than with fighting the Home Army.[5] According to Gontarczyk and Janusz Marszal, however, this was relatively uncommon, at least with regards to direct actions; however GL/AL would often pass anonymous tips about AK to the Gestapo.[15]

AL took part in the Warsaw Uprising. Although official claims were that about 1,800 AL soldiers fought there, modern research suggests about 500.[11]

As GL/AL had a much poorer support network compared to the AK, supported by the Polish Underground State, and Soviet air drops were not supplying it with foodstuffs, it often had to resort to forced acquisitions, described by modern historians as "banditry".[16] It often targeted mansions and churches.[16] There were also incidents where GL/AL soldiers murdered Jews,[14][16] or fought one another.[17]

In one of its most secret and controversial actions, agents of then-GL, on 17 February 1944, seized an important document archive of the Underground State.[18] Documents of importance to the communist activists were taken, and the remainder was turned over to the Gestapo agent who had been duped into participating in the GL operation.[18] Seven members of the Underground State were taken prisoner by the Germans in a clean up operation, and likely, executed soon afterward.[18]


The commander of the Armia Ludowa was General Michał Rola-Żymierski,[4] and the chief of staff was a member of the Central Committee of the Polish Workers' Party, Colonel Franciszek Jóźwiak.[19][20]

AL leadership was taking orders from the Soviet Union, and representing Soviet, not Polish, interests of the state. The Polish Institute of National Remembrance, in its official description of GL/AL, goes so far as to declare this organization part of the Soviet partisans rather than Polish resistance in World War II.[1]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Gwardia Ludowa, Armia Ludowa" (in Polish). Instytut Pamięci Narodowej. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Yohanan Cohen (1989). Small nations in times of crisis and confrontation. SUNY Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-7914-0018-0. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 (Polish) Armia Ludowa in Encyklopedia PWN
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Jerzy Jan Lerski (1996). Historical dictionary of Poland, 966–1945. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 8–9. ISBN 978-0-313-26007-0. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Mieczysław B. Biskupski (2000). The history of Poland. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-313-30571-9. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  6. Yitzhak Zuckerman; Barbara Harshav (7 May 1993). A surplus of memory: chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. University of California Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-520-07841-3. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  7. Michael C. Steinlauf (1997). Bondage to the dead: Poland and the memory of the Holocaust. Syracuse University Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-8156-2729-6. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  8. Gregor Dallas (15 November 2006). 1945: The War That Never Ended. Yale University Press. p. 672. ISBN 978-0-300-11988-6. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Gontarczyk, Krzystofiński, Marszalec, Polak (2006), p. 14
  10. (Polish) Ministerstwo Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego in Encyklopedia PWN
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Gontarczyk, Krzystofiński, Marszalec, Polak (2006), pp. 23–24 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ipn6" defined multiple times with different content
  12. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz; John Radzilowski; Dariusz Tolczyk (2006). Poland's transformation: a work in progress. Transaction Publishers. p. 236. ISBN 978-1-4128-0592-6. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  13. Aleksander Gella (1989). Development of class structure in eastern Europe: Poland & her southern neighbors. SUNY Press. p. 188. ISBN 978-0-88706-833-1. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Gontarczyk, Krzystofiński, Marszalec, Polak (2006), p. 17
  15. Gontarczyk, Krzystofiński, Marszalec, Polak (2006), pp. 18–21
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Gontarczyk, Krzystofiński, Marszalec, Polak (2006), p. 15
  17. Gontarczyk, Krzystofiński, Marszalec, Polak (2006), p. 16
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Gontarczyk, Krzystofiński, Marszalec, Polak (2006), p. 27-35
  19. Michael Bernhard; Henryk Szlajfer (31 May 2004). From the Polish Underground. Penn State Press. p. 409. ISBN 978-0-271-02565-0. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  20. Krystyna Kersten (1991). The establishment of Communist rule in Poland, 1943–1948. University of California Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-520-06219-1. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 

Further reading

External links

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