"Anchor", the symbol of the Polish resistance made of letters "P" and "W", which stand for Polska walczy (Poland fights).



The first military campaign of the Second World War, lost in September 1939, and quick disintegration of the Polish state brought, apart from destruction and the loss of human lives, a complete surprise to the Polish society, which felt betrayed by the pre-war political régime (so-called sanacja). In that climate the Poles with understanding and hopes received news about creation of the Polish government in exile in France, led by a renown political opponent of the sanacja régime, General Władysław Sikorski, as well as the Polish Army in France under his command. Gradually, the hopes in quick victory of the Anglo-Franco-Polish forces over the Nazi Germany revived. During the first months of the occupation a popular saying "the higher is the sun - the closer is Sikorski", spread from mouth to mouth, expressed the moods and hopes of the Polish society.

The hitlerite occupation of Poland was the longest one in Europe, and was particularly oppressive. Nazi plans had sentenced the Poles to the role of the slaves of the German war machine (in 1941 the Poles constituted 50% of all workers sent to the Reich for forced labour), to massive expulsions, famine, terror and gradual biological extermination. It is not merely a coincidence that many a nazi concentration camps, with the terrible Auschwitz, and other places of mass extermination were installed in Poland. Hitlerite occupation took the lives of nearly 5,400,000 Polish citizens, in this about 2,700,000 Jews.

Yet, the invaders failed to subdue the conquered country. Terror and atrocities provoked desire for revenge, and despite of casualties, strengthened and consolidated resistance. Widespread resistance fostered underground activities, which, in turn, fostered growing spirit of resistance. That resistance manifested itself on daily basis and various forms; differences between the members of the organized underground and their spontaneous supporters and sympathizers were obliterated.

A specific feature of the Polish resistance movement at the initial stage of the occupation was its fragmentation into numerous small and ephemeric organizations. It resulted from many reasons: extreme social and political stratification in the pre-war period, distrust towards political and military structures, which lost the war in September 1939, administrative divisions of the occupied territories, which made creation of centralized underground organizations difficult, massive German terror, which fostered the drive to immediate revenge, as well as traditional Polish unwillingness to subordinate to common cause and discipline, and groups' and individuals' ambitions to profit politically and socially from the new circumstances.

During the initial period of the resistance, also the rigors of of the underground activity left a lot to wish for better. The efficiency of the German police and security apparatus was underestimated as well. All that caused frequent arrests, liquidation of resistance cells, and execution of their members. Only few of those organizations survived the initial period.

In Pomerania the most active organization was Gryf Kaszubski (Kashubian Griffon) created at the end of 1939 by teacher Józef Dambek and priest Józef Wrycza. By 1942 their underground network grew to become the nucleus of a bigger organization: the Secret Military Organization Gryf Pomorski (Pomeranian Griffon).

In Posnania several small underground organizations merged on 8 December 1939 to form the Military Organization of the Western Territories (Wojskowa Organizacja Ziem Zachodnich) led by Captain Leon Komorski; that organization ceased to exist in result of massive arrests carried out by the German secret police (Gestapo) in the spring of 1940. A longer lasting organization active in the western territories was a nationalist group called Ojczyzna (Fatherland).

Among the underground organizations active and liquidated before the end of 1939 worth mentioning are the Legion of Liberation (Legia Wyzwolenia) from Lodz, as well as Ku Wolności (To the Liberty) organized by Franciszek Galbierz and the Polish Armed Organization (Polska Organizacja Zbrojna) from Silesia.

A relatively influent was the White Eagle Organization (Organizacja Orła Białego - OOB) created in September 1939 by Major Kazimierz Kierzkowski from Cracow. OOB had its cells throughout the province of Cracow, as well as Kielce, Warsaw and Silesia.

Many underground groups, representing various streams of the political life of Poland, emerged in the capital city - Warsaw. Among them were: Polish People's Independence Action (Polska Ludowa Akcja Niepodległościowa - PLAN) rallying democratic youth led by Jerzy Drewnowski and Juliusz Dąbrowski; Union Freedom and People (Wolność i Lud), also known as the Union of Polish Syndicalists, with Stefan Szwedowski in van; Spartakus - an organization of socialist and communist youth led by Ładysław Buczyński; Military Organization Wolves (Wilki) commanded by Lieutenant Józef Brückner; Secret Military Organization (Tajna Organizacja Wojskowa - TOW) commanded by Major Jan Mazurkiewicz; Union of Independence Insurgents (Związek Powstańców Niepodległościowych), also known as the Union of Independent Poland (Związek Polski Niepodległej), which recruited its members among the veterans of wars and armed uprisings; Polish Union of Freedom (Polski Związek Wolności) organized by Antoni Szadkowski; Association for Revival of the Republic (Związek Odbudowy Rzeczypospolitej) led by Eugeniusz Czarnowski; Polish Armed Organization (Polska Organizacja Wojskowa) politically associated with the agrarian organization Racławice, whose members came from the pre-war agrarian organization Siew (Sowing); and Miecz i Pług (Sword and Plough), Szaniec (Bulwark) and their military branch - Związek Jaszczurczy (Lizard Union) - organized by radical nationalists.

On 9 November 1939 two ephemeric groups led by Jan Dangel and Major Jan Włodarkiewicz merged to create the Secret Polish Army (Tajna Armia Polska - TAP). TAP undertook vigorous efforts to create a network of its cells in the whole occupied country. In the end of 1940 TAP absorbed two other underground organizations with their own networks - Association of Armed Action (Związek Czynu Zbrojnego, Maj. Franciszek Znamirowski) and Pobudka (Reveille) led by radical nationalists Bolesław Piasecki and Witold Rościszewski. The new organization was called the Confederation of the Nation (Konfederacja Narodu), and it formed its military branch - the Armed Confederation (Konfederacja Zbrojna).

Another major underground organization of that period was the Command of the Defenders of Poland (Komenda Obrońców Polski - KOP); created in Lublin, it soon moved to Warsaw. Its commander was Major Bolesław Studziński. KOP was the first organization to distribute its clandestine publications, like magazine Polska Żyje (Poland Lives), which called for support to General Sikorski, and widespread resistance and struggle. It lost its influence after massive arrests of its membership at the end of 1940 and beginning of 1941.

Particularly important were activities of the political centre called the Central Committee of Independence Organizations (Centralny Komitet Organizacji Niepodległościowych - CKON). CKON was organized by Ryszard Świętochowski, a close friend of General Sikorski. CKON became the platform of co-operation for many figures of the Polish political life (mainly from the pre-war opposition, known as the Front Morges), and underground groups representing democratic circles and rejection of the sanacja régime. Through its network of agents and couriers, CKON maintained contacts with the government in exile and was bringing back substantial financial funds. It appears that CKON had ambitions to become the one, unified Polish resistance organization. However, in the first half of 1940 top leaders of the CKON - Świętochowski, Marian Borzęcki and Norbert Barlicki - were arrested, and activities of the CON stalled. Some of Świętochowski's close associates, like Tadeusz Szpotański or Prof. Kazimierz Drewnowski (the rector of the Warsaw University of Technology), tried to continue his works as the temporary Political Bureau, but that lasted only till the end of 1940, when the Polish government in exile in London brought into being new political structures. Meanwhile, since the autumn 1939 CKON maintained contacts with the Military Organization (Organizacja Wojskowa - OW), whose leaders - Witold Orzechowski (Longinus) and Edward Biernacki (Wilk) acted on behalf General Sikorski and his family. 

Simultaneously in many regions of the country were mushrooming underground anti-fascist communist groups. Very soon they began merging in bigger organizations. Among the first ones, based in Warsaw, assumed the name Revolutionary Worker-Peasant Councils Młot i Sierp (Hammer and Sickle). Its leaders were Julian Wieczorek, Marian Kubicki and Stanisław Zając. Their activities were very much vigorous and as early as in the spring 1940 there were about 150 organizations rallying tens of thousands of people. Most of those organizations were purely political ones, but efforts to turn them into military units began very soon. Searching for and concealing weapons, copying and distribution of the radio-news, help in transferring the volunteers to the Polish units formed in France, boycotting occupation régime, organization of clandestine education, and sabotage in the industry and on the railways - those were early forms of resistance, of both spontaneous and regular underground organizations.

Some organizations, most notably OOB and TOW, to a big degree absorbed former members of so-called Dywersja Pozafrontowa (Subversion Behind the Enemy Lines) - special combat and sabotage units, formed and trained by the II Division of the General Staff, and designated for subversive operations in the enemy rears during the war. The fulminant course of the combat operations in September 1939 left no time to activate those units. Nevertheless, Dywersja Pozafrontowa made a good professional basis for underground combat organizations. On the turn of 1939 and 1940 they carried out the first acts of sabotage and other combat actions on the railways, in the Central Industrial Region, as well as in the port installations of Danzig.

Another phenomenon of that initial period was the rise of partisan groups and detachments in many parts of the occupied country. They took their origins chiefly in the scattered military units of the Polish Army, which refused to lay down their arms after the lost campaign of 1939. They typically emerged in the forestrated areas of the St.Cross Mountains and the province of Lublin, where some of them - like for example groups of W/O Michał Kossak, 2nd Lt. Zygmunt Wrutnik (Ryś), or Capt. Henryk Czachorowski (Leszczyc) - survived till the winter. Among the groups that continued fighting through the winter were detachments operating in the Biebrza marshes, Low Beskid Mountains, and Tuchola Forest.

A special chapter in the history of the post-September partisan movement was written by the group operating in the province of Kielce under the command of Maj. Henryk Dobrzański (Hubal). It grew out of 11 officers and NCO's, survivors from the 102nd and 110th Lancer Regiments, who saw the end of the campaign in the village Zychy near Radoszyce. There, in Zychy, Hubal decided to continue guerrilla fighting until a general French offensive in the West, expected in early spring of 1940. He named his group the Detached Cavalry Unit of the Polish Forces, and used to sign his orders as the Commander of the Combat District Kielce. With 70 men Hubal crossed the Vistula, established his base in Studzianna, and started operating in the St.Cross Mountains. Beginning of February 1940, his group stationed in Galki, where it quickly absorbed more volunteers, and grew to the strength of 320 men and women. Now the Detached Cavalry Unit was able to acquire the structure of a regular military unit - a cavalry squadron, an infantry company, and a machine-gun squad. Yet, on 13 March from the Headquarters of the Association of Armed Struggle came orders to disband the group and transfer its members to the underground organizations. Despite of Hubal's bitter resistance, he was left with only 70 men. At the same time the Germans sent against Hubal substantial forces: three SS cavalry regiments and several infantry battalions, altogether about 8,000 troops. In the first clash at Hucisko, on 30 March, partisans repelled the enemy with heavy casualties, but after the fights at Szalasy on 1-2 April they were surrounded in the forests near Suchedniow and dispersed. Only a small cavalry group stayed with its commander. Simultaneously hitlerites conducted bestial pacifications in the neighbouring villages - Szalasy, Hucisko, Galki, Skloby and others. Eventually, the troops of the 372nd Infantry Division caught Hubal's group in the forests near Anielin and crushed it on 30 April. Major Hubal was killed in action. Survivors under the command of 2nd Lt. Marek Szymański (Sęp) tried to continue fighting, but eventually they too gave up in June 1940 after the capitulation of France. And that was the end of the post-September partisan movement.

All these examples of the first underground organizations and resistance activities show that the Polish people did not reconcile with the loss of independence, and was ready to continue the struggle with the invaders. Also, they had demonstrated the necessity of better organization and co-ordination of the resistance movement. Initiative in this respect belonged to the underground movement linked to the government in exile in London. Beginning of 1942 grew also the left-wing underground, dominated by the communists controlled from Moscow. Those two streams of the Polish underground had eventually shaped shaped the political goals of the struggle with the invaders, forms of armed resistance, as well as the questions of Poland's post-war socio-political constitution.