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Armia Krajowa

From Academic Kids

For other meanings of Home Army see: Home Army (disambiguation)

Template:Polish Secret State

The Armia Krajowa or AK (Home Army) functioned as the dominant resistance movement in German-occupied Poland, which was active in all areas of the country from September 1939 until its disbanding in January 1945. The Armia Krajowa, one of the largest underground resistance movement during World War II, formed the armed wing of what subsequently became known as the "underground state" (państwo podziemne).

Contents

Origins

The AK originated from the Sluzba Zwyciestwu Polski (Polish Victory Service), set up on 27 September 1939 by General Michał Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski. On 17 November 1939 General Wladyslaw Sikorski replaced this organization with the Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej (Union for Armed Struggle), which after joining with the Polski Zwiazek Powstanczy (Polish Union of Rersistance) became the AK on 14 February 1942.

Stefan Rowecki (known as Grot, or "arrowhead"), served as the AK's first commander until his arrest in 1943; Tadeusz Br-Komorowski commanded from July 1943 until his capture in September 1944. Leopold Okulicki, known as Niedzwiadek ("bear cub") led the organisation in its final days. The AK officially disbanded on 19 January 1945 to avoid armed conflict with the Soviets and a civil war. However, many units decided to continue their struggle under new circumstances.

Structure

The executive branch of the AK was the operational command, composed of many units. Estimates of the AK membership in the first half of 1944 range from 250,000 to 350,000, with more than 10,000 officers. Most of the other Polish underground armies became incorporated into the AK, including:

  • The Konfederacja Narodu (Confederation of the People) (1943).
  • The Bataliony Chlopskie (Peasants' Battalions).
  • A large military organization of the Stronnictwo Ludowe (People's Party).
  • The Socjalistyczna Organizacja Bojowa (Socialist Fighting Organization), established by the Polska Partia Socjalistyczna (Polish Socialist Party).
  • The Narodowa Organizacja Wojskowa (National Army), established by the Stronnictwo Narodowe (National Party).
  • From March 1944, part of the extreme right-wing organization, the Narodowe Sily Zbrojne (National Armed Forces).

The AK divided itself organizationally in Poland into sixteen regional branches, subdivided in turn into eighty-nine inspectorates, which further comprised 278 districts. The supreme command defined the main tasks of the AK as preparation for action and, after the termination of the German occupation, general armed revolt until victory. At that stage plans envisaged the seizure of power in Poland by the delegatura establishment, the representatives of the London-based Polish government in exile; and by the government-in-exile itself, which would return to Poland.

Weapons and equipment

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. In a tremendous achievement, the 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 aviation was obviously out of the question (except for a few instances during the Warsaw Uprising). 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 the unit's soldiers. In contrast their opponents, the German armed forces and their allies, were almost universally supplied with plenty of 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 and 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 September Campaign 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.

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.Template:Ref However, because of inadequate conservation 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.

Arms purchases from German soldiers were conducted on a "grass roots" level. 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. 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 willingly sold their arms to the Polish underground as long as they could conceal this trade from the Germans.

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 a few German armored vehicles.

Arms were clandestinely manufactured by the AK in its own secret workshops, and also by its members working in German armament factories. In this way the AK was able to procure submachine guns (copies of British Sten and indigenous Blyskawica), pistols (Vis), flamethrowers, bombs, road mines and hand grenades. Hundreds of people were involved in this manufacturing effort.

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 Allied planes made air drops destined for the AK, delivering 600.9 tons of supplies. During these operations, 70 planes and 62 crews (of which 28 were Polish) were lost. Besides equipment, the planes also parachuted highly qualified instructors (the Cichociemni), of whom 346 were inserted into Poland during the war.Template:Ref 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 or Yugoslavian resistance movements.



Operations

Missing image
Flaga_PPP.png
Kotwica, one of the symbols of the Armia Krajowa

While the AK did not engender a general revolt, its forces did carry out intensive economic and armed sabotage. In 1944 it acted on a broad scale, notably in initiating the Warsaw Uprising, which broke out on 1 August 1944. It had the aim of liberating Warsaw before the arrival of the Soviet Red Army. While the insurgents released a few hundred prisoners from the Gesia St. concentration camp and carried out fierce street-fighting, the Germans eventually defeated the rebels and burned the city, finally quelling the Rising only on 2 October 1944.

AK units carried out thousands of armed raids and daring intelligence operations, bombed hundreds of railway shipments, and participated in many partisan clashes and battles with the German police and Wehrmacht units.

There are some accusations of negative actions committed by the AK towards ethnic minorities, particularly the Lithuanians (see bellow).

In total the AK killed an estimated 150,000 Germans.

Major military and sabotage operations included:

Important Armia Krajowa sub-units included:

Relations with Jews

In February 1942, the Operational Command of the AK Information and Propaganda Office set up the Section for Jewish Affairs, directed by Henryk Wolinski. 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 organised financial aid for Jews (see Zegota). The AK accepted only a few Jews (about one thousand) into its own ranks: it generally turned down Jewish applicants.

The AK provided the Warsaw Ghetto with about sixty revolvers, several hundred hand grenades, and ammunition and explosives. 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. One AK unit, the Security Corps (korpus bezpieczeństwa or KB) took a direct part in fights inside the ghetto together with Jewish fighters from ŻZW.

Three out of seven members of the Collective Command of the AK (KG AK), had Jewish origins.

Relations with Lithuanians

There was a large Lithuanian minority in Wilno Voivodship (see Vilnius region for details). In some nearby places they constitued a majority. Relations between Lithuanians and Poles were strained during almost all of the interwar period due to conflicts over the Vilnius region and Suvalkai region. During the war these conflicts resurfaced as Armia Krajowa's ideal of a Polish state included the Vilnius region.

The AK committed at least one massacre of Lithuanian civilians, including women and children, at Dubingiai (Polish historians usually claim 20-27 as number killed, Juozas Lebionka claims 100, some other Lithuanian historians claim 200). The scale of other possible killings is also subject to disagreement. One estimate by a Lithuanian investigator Rimas Bruas is that of about 500 Lithuanian civilans killed over all. Estimates of Juozas Lebionka suggest 1000. Some Polish historians claim that the massacre at Dubingiai was unique which seems to be supported by AK documents found in Bernardinai monastery, which describe AK actions between 1943 and 1944. However, other researchers have reached very different opinions based on the same documents. It seems probable that the killings were not planned, and were rather more related to a general dislike of Lithuanians by some people in the AK ranks. This was supposedly further provoked by actions of some Lithuanian military units which were fighting against AK and who are also accused of killing civilians. Therefore some of the AK actions might have been direct retalliations to actions of Lithuanian groups, or to actions of Lithuanian Nazi collaborators. The same may have applied vice-versa - some of actions of the Lithuanian groups were done as a retalliation for AK actions. Because of these reasons, the AK, despite of it's record in saving Poles of Vilnius, are considered to be a controversial organisation in today's Lithuania in a manner somewhat similar to the view of the Soviet partisans.

See also:

External link

  • Home Army (http://AK.of.pl) (Polish) the Home Army
  • Polish resistance (http://www.polishresistance-ak.org/) - Edited by the London Branch of the Polish Home Army Ex-Servicemen Association

References

cs:Zemsk armda de:Polnische Heimatarmee pl:Armia Krajowa (wojsko) bg:Армия Крайова

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