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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Armia Krajowa (AK) and the Jewish partisans

Over the years, there has been heated debate among Polish and Jewish academics over the treatment of Polish Jews by the Armia Krajowa (AK) during the war and the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation recently found itself in the midst of this controversy.
Armia Krajowa FlagThe Armia Krajowa, “Home Army”, was the largest underground resistance group in Poland, with an estimated 250,000-400,000 members. The group conducted sabotage and intelligence operations against the Germans. One of its main purposes was to fill the power vacuum in Poland that would inevitably follow Germany’s defeat with a nationalist Polish group. Originally, the AK planned to attack the Germans only upon their impending retreat.
It should be understood that Jewish resistance and Polish non-Jewish resistance were working under two different and conflicting time pressures. Ghettoized Jews had only until deportation to rise in arms, whether or not they had a chance for victory; otherwise it would be too late and they would be killed. The AK could wait until there was a chance for victory, until the Soviet army was within range. While individual Poles were being persecuted and the Polish nation decimated, there was no plan to murder all the Poles and they could choose when and where to battle the Germans.
Leading up to World War II, Poland experienced an increase in antisemitic sentiment following the 1935 death of its politically moderate Chief of State Jozef Pilsudski, and the subsequent rise of the nationalistic Endejca party which enacted a wide array of antisemitic laws aimed at disenfranchising the Jews and confiscating their property. Cultural differences also played a role in inciting antisemitism. In rural areas, Jews primarily spoke Yiddish and many Poles regarded this as their refusal to assimilate, a sign of disloyalty to Poland. The influx of Jewish refugees fleeing the Ukraine further accelerated antisemitism among Poles who feared that they brought Bolshevist and Communist elements with them.
Antisemitism predictably arose among nationalist groups including the AK. Virulent antisemitism was especially prevalent among the partisan contingent of the group (2,500 – 3,000 armed fighters), many of whom came from the Narodowe Siły Zbrojne (NSZ), a Polish, anti-Soviet and anti-Nazi paramilitary organization, where there was already a strong undercurrent of antisemitism. There were also many members of the AK who, unaffected by this prejudice, took action to help the Jews. The famous Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal credits the AK with sheltering his wife during the war and there are other documented instances of friendly AK commanders helping Jewish partisan units in their area – even warning them of pending danger1.
AK soldiers
Soldiers of the Armia Krajowa, 27th Division
JPEF acknowledges the honorable actions of individuals in the AK, but must also describe the antisemitic violence perpetrated by others within the organization. Over the years, it has conducted numerous interviews with Jewish partisans from Poland who routinely spoke of antisemitic actions directed at them and other Jews by the AK. Abe Asner reported that the AK often posed a greater threat to the Jewish partisans than the Nazis, as their familiarity with the forests and with local residents put them in a better position to locate Jews. Rose Holm stated that she escaped post-war Poland with her husband because of the AK’s continued reprisals against the surviving Jewish population. The survivor testimonies of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw also contain a number of references to the danger the AK posed to Jews in hiding, and of a prevailing air of antisemitism in the group. These testimonies were collected in the years 1945-1946, and are not affected by revisionists. View JPEF’s short film Antisemitism in the Partisans, narrated by Larry King, for more details.
The AK holds a near-sacred position in the hearts and minds of many Poles, representing their national counterpart to the Allied struggle – much like La Résistance does for the French. Questioning its treatment of Jews undoubtedly assails its credibility as a national icon, resulting in the failure to acknowledge this chapter of the AK’s history and the outright refusal to admit that many of its factions were not only antisemitic but engaged in the persecution and killing of Jews. When even the popular internet encyclopedia Wikipedia ignores this fact, and labels it “disputed”, it is incumbent upon the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation to ensure historical accuracy on its website.
JPEF’s glossary definition of the AK was developed through both extensive historical research and interviews with surviving Jewish partisans who interacted with the AK. While we understand that JPEF’s description of the AK may upset both surviving members and their families, we present the truth as best as we are able to discern from both written documentation and partisan testimony. JPEF acknowledges that there were many members of the AK who helped rescue Jews and collaborated with Jewish partisans to fight against the Germans and holds these honorable men and women in high esteem. We also hold the cause of the AK, the battle against German occupation, in equally high esteem.
Click here to see the definition of the Armia Krajowa on our glossary page.

1. War Of The Doomed, Ch.6, p.132


Leonard H. Cizewski said...

In your research have you found that any documentation that the official command structure of the
Armia Krajowa or the Polish government in exile ever ordered, authorized, or sanctioned antisemtic violence by members of the Armia Krajowa?

To the best of my knowledge, neither the Polish government-in-exile nor the Armia Krajowa ever ordered or authorized anti-Semitic violence.

The Polish government-in-exile recognized how serious if not widespread was antisemitic violence and reporting of Polish Jews to the Nazis.

The Polish government-in-exile authorized the military courts of the Armia Krajowa to try both civilians and members of Armia Krajowa before military tribunals for such crimes and authorized punishments including execution. Several thousand Poles were convicted and executed by Armia Krajowa military courts including some for crimes against Polish Jews.

Placing Slavic Polish anti-Semitism in this context is critical.

Anonymous said...

The earlier, deleted comment, was a probe. Thank you for swift, revealing reaction.

Veritas vincit.

Flapane said...

Right now I'm reading more and more about AK, after having seen on Italian TV the german movie Generation War (Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter).
At first I was shocked to see how they treated Jews, and it seems that it drew much attention on Polish newspapers.

ruggy said...

My Polish grandfather worked as an interpreter on the Polish railways during World War 2. His job was to translate commands from German for the Polish and Jewish slave labourers.
He also helped "the right sort" escape and join the partisans. The "right sort" never included Jews.
That sounds harsh but put yourself in the position of a Polish partisan. Your greatest threat is betrayal.You cannot be too careful in selecting new recruits.
Yiddish is a Germanic language and Yiddish speakers spoke Polish with an accent. Are you going to risk a recruit who sounded German?

Mieczysław de Woldan said...

The original article that starts this discussion together with this site's "definition" of the Armia Krajowa that appears in its "Glossary" reflect the bigotry that flows from ignoring the full range of factual evidence, while instead preferring to apply simplistic "knee jerk" stereotypes.

This is an Educational Foundation. So how about educating yourselves first before presuming to educate others. Read:

The Polish Underground and the Jews, 1939-1945 (Cambridge University Press, June 2015), by Dr. Joshua D. Zimmerman, who is professor in Holocaust Studies and associate professor of history at Yeshiva University.

A review of his book appears at:

Barbie Chiu said...

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Anonymous said...


Reuben Ainsztein's
"Jewish resistance in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe: With a historical survey of the Jew as fighter and soldier in the Diaspora"

A second edition appeared in German with partially revised content

Jüdischer Widerstand im deutschbesetzten Osteuropa während des Zweiten Weltkrieges

Anonymous said...

Well, too much generous crediting the AK with NSZ's glorious deeds...

Pan Zgryzotka

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