- Między młotem a swastyką by Władysław Kołaciński – Published 1999 by Słowo Narodowe. Edition Language: Polish.
INSTRUCTIVE! Why Polish Guerrillas Were, in Rare Circumstances, Forced to Kill Innocent Relatives of Collaborators [Including Potentially Jewish Ones]. NSZ Combat Against the Nazi German Occupant and the Communist GL-AL Bands and Their “Revolutionary Banditry”
BETWEEN THE HAMMER AND THE SWASTIKA is the title of this aptly-named book which recognizes the sobering fact that Poland was sandwiched between two enemies: The Soviet Union and the Third Reich. My review is based on the original 1961 edition.
WAR IS BRUTAL. GUERRILLA WARFARE IS DOUBLY SO
WARNING: The life-and-death events graphically described by the participant author may be upsetting to the sensitive reader.
“Zbik’s” older brother Jozef was arrested by the Gestapo, and, after being tortured at a prison in Piotrkow, was dispatched to his eventual death at Auschwitz. (p. 18). At one time, “Zbik” himself fell into the hands of the Gestapo, and was tormented. He was hung from handcuffs, savagely beaten, and had his teeth kicked out. (pp. 65-on). He was freed in a daring escape.
Neither the Germans nor the Polish guerrillas gave any quarter. Germans generally killed captured (including wounded) Polish guerrillas, and the latter generally did the same to the former. (e. g, p. 154).
Kolacinski “Zbik” and his 32-man unit, in 1943, launched successful surprise attacks on German outposts at villages such as Dabrowki and Marianow. The NSZ unit had proved its combat worthiness and discipline. Much German arms and ammunition fell into the hands of the Polish guerrillas. (pp. 128-129). Other combat encounters between the NSZ, and the Germans, are also described in this work.
DEALING WITH COLLABORATORS: ABSOLUTE CANDOR ABOUT IGNOBLE POLISH CONDUCT
A major anti-Polish meme, going around today in academia and media, is that of Poles unwilling to confront Polish collaboration with the Nazis because this does not fit with the Poles’ presumed “heroic narrative” of fighting the Germans, and the presumed self-concept of “the Jesus Christ of Nations.” This book, written by a Polish guerrilla commander in the Polish nationalist NSZ, freely discusses several examples of Polish collaborators, thereby adding to the refutation of this rather silly Polonophobic myth.
Candor about collaboration does not mean that Poles were “bad”. Unlike the vast majority of Poland’s self-appointing moral critics, “Zbik” had firsthand understanding of the way that war demoralizes people, especially those that had been defeated and impoverished. The brutalities of such experiences break those of low character. (p. 165).
Let us, additionally, keep collaboration in perspective. “Zbik”, who had extensive experience monitoring Poland’s internal enemies, reckoned Polish collaborators rare. For instance, out of the 100,000 people of Czestochowa, he never heard of more than one Polish collaborator. (p. 166). Cases of Polish romances with the German enemy, as exemplified below, were very rare. (p. 19). In fact, Kolacinski “Zbik” knew of no other cases, of Polish girls flirting with German soldiers, from an entire wide geographic area—comprising the counties of Piotrkow, Wloszczow, Jedrzejow, and Miechow. (pp. 165-166). [Of course, romances between local women and invading enemy soldiers are as old as history itself. In addition, “Zbik” mentioned the French women who had consorted with Germans.]
CASE HISTORIES OF DEALING WITH POLES WHO COLLABORATED WITH THE NAZIS
Kolacinski “Zbik” was personally endangered by two women who had relations with the German enemy. To make things even more painful to “Zbik”, one of them was his distant relative. “Zbik” tried to set her straight by counseling her. He asked how she could possibly kiss the same snout of the German out of which comes the spittle directed at everything that is sacred to Poles. And how could she allow herself to be embraced by the same German hands that were effectively red with Polish blood? She broke down and cried, and seemed to repent, but then she backslid. (p. 19). [No wonder there is a longstanding rule against any kind of fraternizing with the enemy! And one is forbidden from either asking or accepting any favors from the enemy.]
As alluded to earlier, author Kolacinski „Zbik” was part of a guerrilla unit that liquidated informants.He personally shot a Polish woman who had earlier been condemned by an Underground court for betraying 16 Polish Underground members. (pp. 34-35).
The cloak-and-dagger operations involving the unmasking and liquidating of informants was a very difficult one. This was especially true in cases that were not clearcut. And what of the broader consequences of killing a suspected spy? This was illustrated by the case of Jasinski, a gamekeeper. (pp. 137-139). While he may not exactly have been a Nazi collaborator, his actions clearly served the enemy. Messengers reported to “Zbik” that Jasinski was going around blabbering all kinds of details about the NSZ unit. Should he be shot, thereby leaving his three children orphans, and possibly turning Jasinski’s remaining family into Nazi collaborators? “Zbik” proceeded with the execution of Jasinski and, sure enough, Jasinski’s widow threatened revenge. So “Zbik” plainly told her, pistol in hand, “Not another word from you, or you all will die.” (pp. 138-139).
Now to another case. The Nazi collaborating Pole Budzynowski lived under the care of the gendarmes [always German] and Gestapo at Przedborz. (pp. 162-167). This Polish turncoat was as clever as he was notorious. He was the terror of the counties of Koneck, Wloszczowa, and Piotrkow. Whenever he showed up near an encamped Polish guerilla group, soon the gendarmes would show up to arrest them.
“Zbik’s” unit apprehended Budzynowski, and interrogated him in a barn. After an initial wave of defiance and mendacity, Budzynowski confessed it all. He was being richly rewarded by the Gestapo for being a stool pigeon. He named many specific Underground members that he had denounced to the Germans, and “Zbik” was grieved to recount that many of these named colleagues were no longer alive. What’s more, Budzynowski ran an astounding spy ring.
“Zbik” later interrogated and executed Sobczyk, one of those Poles in the spy ring that Budzynowski had divulged. Budzynowski was also executed.
LIFE-THREATENING INCENTIVES FOR THE POLISH UNDERGROUND TO KILL NOT ONLY THE COLLABORATORS, BUT ALSO INNOCENT FAMILY MEMBERS OF THE GUILTY PARTY
The Sobczyk case presented an even greater dilemma than the Jasinski case. Sobczyk’s children, aged 14, 12, and 9, knew a lot. They saw who had arrested their parents. They knew where the NSZ encamped, where the NSZ wounded were housed, and which Poles had helped the NSZ partisans. (p. 164).
The children, whether acting out of grief or revenge, could tell the gendarmes what they knew. [Alternatively, the Germans could come and interview them.]
What to do in this choiceless choice situation? Is it ever all right to kill three innocent children to protect the lives of tens or hundreds of Poles? Or is it all right to keep hundreds of Polish lives in grave risk for the sake of three children? Innocence was relative. The children were innocent, but so were the children of those Poles that had lost their lives thanks to the betrayals, by the Sobczyk adults, all for the sake of German money.
The children were placed in the care of an Underground family, but they threatened to tell the gendarmes. One of the boys was caught twice trying to contact the gendarmes. Worse yet, the gendarmes could coincidentally pay a visit to the area, with deadly consequences. The family lived in constant fear of their adopted children, but survived the war.
Similar situations played out during the liquidation of other German confidants, but without the happy ending: The children of the guilty adults also had to be killed. (p. 165). It is not difficult to see how this could, in rare and exceptional cases, potentially have extended to Jewish-Soviet collaborators and their relatives, as considered in the next paragraphs. Of course, each potential case must be examined and proved.
THE SO-CALLED PRZEDBORZ POGROM: IMPLICATIONS FOR ALLEGATIONS OF POLISH GUERRILLAS KILLING INNOCENT JEWS
Accusations of the AK and especially NSZ killing fugitive and Holocaust-surviving Jews have long been a mainstay of Jewish and Communist propaganda. [Remember, propaganda does not have to be entirely untrue, just sufficiently twisted.] After this book was published, Kolacinski was accused of killing nine Jews (including an infant) at Przedborz in 1945, even though there were actually two different Jew-killing incidents at Przedborz that had mistakenly or purposely been conflated. Note that the official version does not mention the killing of Jewish children. [Historian Leszek Zebrowski, personal communication, January 2019]. Kolacinski “Zbik”, in fact, stressed the fact that there was no pogrom, and that he was killing Communist-serving Jews.
The accusations against “Zbik” follow a stereotyped pattern. The reader should remember that infant-killing is a common trope of Jewish-victim pogrom lore (e. g, Yaffa Eliach).]
However, let us examine this allegation, and similar ones leveled against the AK and NSZ, in the light of the Sobczyk case. Even in a worse-case situation of “Zbik” actually killing innocent Jews in addition to those suspected of being Communists, this would be understandable as part of the same reasoning process wherein “Zbik” had seriously contemplated killing Sobczyk’s three children along with the guilty parents. In such rare, extreme circumstances, the fate of Jewish children was no different from the fate of comparable Polish children.
In all of this, we must remember that this is no valid object of hindsight second-guessing. This was no parlor game. The Polish guerillas were involved in very difficult decisions in which making the wrong decision could mean death.
Let us put all this in the broader context of Polish-Jewish relations. Author Kolacinski “Zbik” mentions Jews many times (e. g., p. 33, 59, 80-83, 152-153, 188) without ever once exhibiting so much as a hint of hostility towards the Jewish people as a whole.
A YOUNG FEMALE SOLDIER IN THE NSZ
A 17-year old woman begged to be admitted to the NSZ because she wanted to fight. “Zbik” was hesitant, but accepted her. She soon overcame all doubts about her worthiness as a guerilla soldier. Grazyna never wavered in courage, physical strength, or endurance during the long marches. She advanced to the rank of Corporal and was awarded the KRZYZ WALECZNY. Grazyna survived the war, only to be imprisoned by the Soviet-imposed Communist authorities. (pp. 262-263).
DEALING WITH THE PERFIDY OF THE COMMUNIST GL-AL BANDS
While stationed near Malogoszcza, “Zbik’s” unit was greeted by what seemed to be fellow Polish guerillas. “Ah, you bourgeoisie!” one of them gave the game away. The GL-AL unit immediately began engaging in what later was called “revolutionary banditry”. The stole goods and livestock from the peasants, destroyed pictures and furniture, etc. (pp. 129-130). “Zbik” ordered the execution of just two of the flagrantly-guilty bandits. Later, in 1945, the Communists mendaciously played the role-reversal game. They made “Zbik” into the bad guy, painting him a murderer of innocent people! (p. 133). [In exactly the same fashion, and as discussed earlier, we hear the same accusations today, by the LEWACTWO and certain Jews, against the NSZ and the ZOLNIERZE WYKLECI].
The politruks in the Red Amy included some Polish Jews. They went around spreading hatred for Poland, calling it (what else?) fascist. (p. 260). This was only the beginning. No sooner had the Germans been driven out of Poland than the Soviets began mass arrests of Polish patriots. (pp. 278-279). Then came the Soviet-imposed Communist puppet government that was to rule Poland for decades.
- Source: GoodReads.com , January 19, 2019
Published with the author’s permission.
Title image: „Betwiin The Hammer And The Swastika” by Władyslaw Kołacińskil, part of the cover / selected by wg.pco