Poland’s Home Army

Warsaw, Poland in 1945

Poland has a history of fighting oppression, and World War II was hardly different.  Soon after it was invaded in 1939, resistance cells began to form and join into what became known as the Armia Krajowa, or Home Army.  It operated in both the Nazi and Soviet areas of the country, though for a number of reasons it was more successful in the places controlled by the Germans.  Though the culmination of its activities was the 1944 Warsaw Uprising (an event which will surely get its own entry sometime soon), it was highly active throughout the war, in organizing insurrections, protecting Jews and others seeking refuge, and many other activities.  It took orders from the Polish government in exile which was based in London.

I don’t really understand how there isn’t a major movie or miniseries devoted to a massive underground organization working against the Nazis.  Someone should do something about that, because the entire story borders on unbelievable.  The ultimate goal was to liberate a country considered strategic by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, with inferior technology and at extreme risk.  To kill a Nazi official meant the death of hundreds of innocents, to be caught meant torture, death and the likely destruction of an entire resistance cell.  By the end of the war, and after a five month battle, Warsaw had been 90% demolished.

The following anecdote occurred before the uprising and was found in Norman Davies’s book, Rising ’44:  The Battle for Warsaw, relating an account of courier Jan Nowak-Jezieorański, who noted “The Underground was only able to function through the existence of the unwritten and unspoken assumption of almost universal collusion.  ‘We’ simply did not cooperate with ‘them.”

He had just arrived in Warsaw from London (through Nazi-occupied Europe), and participated in a secret meeting in the center of town.  As he was leaving, he was stopped by a Gestapo agent, who asked him where he had been.  He looked around and saw dentist’s sign on the side of the doorway.  “I’ve been to the dentist.”  The agent immediately phoned the dentist from a nearby café to verify the story.  Had the dentist been caught lying to protect him, she and her family would have been killed, but there was no hesitation.  “Yes, he’s just left an appointment here a few minutes ago.”

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