Thursday, 18 February 2016

Flames of War: Polish State Police (Policja Panstwowa) Pt1

The end of World War I allowed Poland, after a period of 123 years of foreign rule, to regain her independence. The born again country had to be essentially built from the ground up and was all the more problematic because the building of the Second Polish Republic meant re-appropriating territories that had been under the rule of three different political and economic systems. Even the mentality of the Poles was to some extent influenced by the partitioning powers. A wholly new political and economic unity needed to be forged!

Among the many institutions that had to be created in reborn Poland was the police forces. On July 24th 1919 the Diet called the State Police into being. Because of the colour of the uniforms that were eventually assigned to this new institution they became colloquially known as The Blue Police (policja granatowa).

Because of the fact that the blue police targeted domestic and foreign communists as dangerous enemies of the established order and vigorously persecuted them, they could expect no sympathy from the Communists when in turn they triumphed after World War II. In the official media and historigraphy of the Polish Peoples Republic, the former State Police were accused of collaboration with the Nazis between 1939-1945. The Germans actually used some 10,000 blue policemen to serve as auxiliaries in their General Government. It was, however never explained, that many amongst them actively participated in the Polish Underground whilst numerous others kept leaking useful information to the nation under foreign rule.

Following Pilsudski's Coup D'etat in 1926, a crisis of confidence was caused within the country aimed at the governments body politic. This crisis bled down to the State Police as well.The crisis affected the whole of Poland's administration of justice. The State Police was subsequently pressured to recruit only those persons who could be deemed politically reliable. As a result of this the Police force became ineffective, political and more opportunistic. On the orders of Pilsudski officers who served in the military were recruited into the State Police Force. During the 1930's it became customary for military officers of lower ranks to be made redundant and be picked up by the commissariat for the State Police. In practise this meant that the police had a military connotation and further, that Pilsudski ensured that he maintained control over the Police cadre and the scope of their activities.

Essentially the State Police became an efficient and state sponsored paramilitary organisation that were tasked with keeping internal control and facilitating the clear and clean operations that supported the front line troops.

Their numbers were not exactly imposing however, in the whole of the 2nd Republic there were just over 30,000 of them equating to around 1 per 1000+ citizens which was one of the lowest numbers in Europe (the UK having 1 to 374). With this numerical disparity and against persistent internal and external threats and pressures it can be said that the Police State Police are somewhat unsung heroes of the September Campaign with their bodies being found in all areas of Poland where fighting took place.

Taken from The Police Family 1939's website: a section that describes the exploits of the State Police during the September Campaign. Following the campaign thousands of them that were taken prisoner by the Soviets were killed in Gulags.

"From March 1939 Poland was facing a growing threat from the German Reich. Mobilization was partly proclaimed in order to strengthen the western border and the State Police were brought to an intensive state of alertness together with the Polish Army. 

The focus of undertakings was shifted from regular procedures to the fight against the diversionary and enemy spy actions, especially on the territory inhabited by the German and Ukrainian minorities - there "the fifth column" kept raiding more and more violently.

The State Police together with the frontiers staff, border guard, military espionage and counterintelligence staff were making coordinated efforts in order to restrain enemy actions on Polish territory. However, for some time those undertakings were inhibited by the authorities dispositions, precluding more resolute actions. The situation changed only in August 1939, when the outbreak of war was inexorably approaching. The Ministry of Home Affairs, faced with the dramatic spread of events, issued the long-awaited directions which would compel unhesitating suppression of diversions and attempts to disorganize the State.

More than ten thousand reservists were called up and additional reinforcements were sent to the most imminently threatened regions: 300 policemen were directed from Warszawa to the Silesia province, several companies and reservist troops from the Chief Headquarters forces were also sent to Lwów, Stanisławów and Tarnopol provinces.

As part of the preventive actions planned on a wide scale a great number of people engaged particularly in anti-Polish activities were apprehended. What was more a lot of magazines of arms and explosives were liquidated. Unfortunately, the State authorities took a decision to definitely suppress "the fifth column" too late, which, in principle, continued acts of sabotage and diversion retaining their military potential till the beginning of the war.

In the last week of August 1939, the Nazi armoured divisions and Luftwaffe squadrons
were ready to invade Poland. 

But it was the Non-Aggression Pact between the German Reich and the Soviet Union ratified in Moscow with the secret protocol of friendly agreement contracting the partition of Poland that settled the fate of our country.

The execution of those pacts was fulfilled on 1st September with the invasion of the German Reich towards the Polish western and northern frontiers and then on 17th September with the entry of the Red Army into Poland. The Polish alliances with France and Great Britain were defeated. 

Poland, isolated by their allies, was caught unprepared for defense. The police forces found themselves in an extremely difficult situation. 

The reservist companies from Jaworzno and Herby lost many men and their officers: Sub-commissaries Wyspiański and Wąsala were killed while fighting in the Silesia region. The Army and police forces suppressed the revolt at Bydgoszcz on 3rd September, when the German "fifth Column" attacked the retreating Polish troops.

The policemen were fiercely persecuted by the German invaders - in the autumn of 1939 many lost their lives in executions all over the country. However, in all, a total of 700 men from the police forces in Pomorze (Pomerania) were not evacuated and according to the mobilization plan were subordinated to the commanding staff of Land Coast Defense Forces. 
Among them were:
- the District Police Headquarter at Gdynia with Superintendent Józef Ostrowski,
- four police stations at Gdynia: the first one with officer Piotr Okoński, the second one
with Sub-commissary Aleksander Wotarowicz, the third one with officer Józef
Wojcieszak, the fourth one with Sub-commissary Juliusz Szottke
- the police guard company at Gdynia with Lieutenant Józef Seredicki
the police station at Wejcherowo with officer Leon Graczyk
the police guard platoon at Puck with Second Lieutenant Aleksander Słowikowski
the police station at Kartuzy with officer Pudziński.

The police forces, which had the rights to fight against diversion, sabotage and espionage, cooperated with the Polish Army and the battalions of the National Defense all over the country. They were in the forefront of the fighting in the region of Wejcherowo, Kępa Oksywska and Rumia-Zagórze before being taken prisoner on 19th September. 

In surrounded Warszawa the police forces battled on together with the army and citizens, protecting among other things bridges over the Wisła River. During the defense of the city their officer Zagórski and many policemen were killed. 

In the south of Poland the police company from Kraków were fighting to defend the bridges in the region of Stalowa Wola.

The police battalion continued to resist at Białystok, two other companies battled on at Bielsko Podlaskie and at Puszcza Białowieska; policemen from the Lublin province were fighting in the “ Szack” group and Captain Suchecki headed a reservist troop of policemen. 

The courage and sacrifice of the policemen cost blood - the casualties of the State Police in September were assessed at about three thousand people killed, including subsequent deaths from wounds. But another time for bravery by thousands of Polish policemen was to come soon. 

Inadequacies in the determination of orders concerning effective commanding of the police forces approved by the State authorities, and putting off for no clear reason the decision regarding the militarization of the police, resulted in tragic consequences. The police were ordered to evacuate to the east in the first week of September, and the Chief Headquarters staff, a large group of the capital police and reservist forces with the Commander in Chief, General Józef Kordian - Zamorski left Warszawa. The Voivodes from Pomorze, Poznań, Łódź, Śląsk, Kraków, Warszawa, Kielce, and Lublin followed the decisions of the central authorities.
The decree for militarization of the police was issued by the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Home Affairs and the Chief Civil Police Officer on 10th September at Brześć. According to the order there was a plan to form a cordon of police along the River Bug to control the situation with the retreating defeated and dispersed army forces. Unfortunately, the current of events destroyed that plan and the eastern war machine moved westwards crushing the troops lost in a raging turmoil of slaughter and pillage of previously unknown dimensions.

The region of eastern Małopolska became the place of the largest concentration of the police forces. The city of Tarnopol functioned as the destination for the militarized police, the Silesian corps were located in the region of Brzeżany-Kozów, and the schooling center was located at Mosty Wielkie.

The impending German Army move towards Kresy Wschodnie resulted in activating Ukrainian nationalists who grew stronger in several districts in the Stanisławów province. There were reports about raids on smaller army forces, police stations, administration offices and groups of citizens. The area between Mikołajew and Miłkowiec was temporary controlled by Ukrainian nationalists. The police and reservist forces led by Lieutenant-Colonel Wysłoucha supported by the army managed to avert the danger, that made it possible for the Polish troops to cross over into Romania and Węgry territory. The Chief Police Headquarters had crossed into Romanian internment earlier after the short stay at Zdolbunow.

The city of Grodno became the symbol of the sacrifice and resistance to the Soviet aggression on Kresy Wschodnie where between 20th and 22nd September the army forces together with the border guard, police forces, scouts and volunteers resisted bravely the sixth cavalry Cossacks corps and the fifteenth armoured corps of the Red Army charging at them. Unfortunately, the brave police forces coming mainly from Wielkopolska and Pomorze were bleeding to death during the defense.

Against all odds, during the September campaign many police groups were fighting together with the battalions of the border guard "Dawigródek", "Bystrzyce", "Brzeźne", "Polesie" and groups led by General Wilhelm Orlik-Rückerman. On 24th September the police company headed by Captain Franciszek Otłokowski battled on with the Red Army at Kamień Koszycki. After the capitulation, the Polish policemen were shot, in contravention of the international conventions about the treatment of prisoners of war. 

The Polish policemen were abandoned by the Commanders-in-Chief, attacked by the Red Army, and confused by the orders given by the Commander-in-Chief, and they had been forbidden to fight with the Soviet forces. Though isolated, they tried to defy their impending death. For the following fifty years Poland kept refusing to accept their bravery and praiseworthy actions.

The situation on the front line was getting worse and worse and the numerous Polish forces, trying to avoid Soviet captivity, were heading towards the south and the north. Some groups led by General Zamorski and Inspector Grabowski (the Commanding Officer from the Kraków province) reached Romania, while others, led by Inspector Konopka (the Commanding Officer from the Stanisławów province), Inspector Piątkiewicz, and Major Zdanowicz trickled into Węgry.

More than two thousand policemen with Sub inspector Ziołowski (the Commanding Officer from the Wołyń province) and Sub inspector Jacyna (the Commanding Officer from the Wilno province) found their place of refuge in Litwa and Łotwa.

The others were captured by the Soviet Army."

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