Polish Armed Forces in the East Recruitment Centers

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Volyn
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Polish Armed Forces in the East Recruitment Centers

Post by Volyn » 23 Sep 2019 17:11

A couple of questions for those who know:

1. Where were the 1st Tadeusz Kościuszko Infantry Division or the First Army recruitment centers located in the USSR?

2. When Anders' Army left in 1942 did they continue to maintain recruitment initiatives for Poles in the USSR?

3. What was the general process for a Polish soldier to join either of these Armies? From an account I read, a soldier's background story would be authenticated (how they arrived in the USSR, what formations they served with previously, etc) and eventually provide a certificate declaring them officially as Polish citizens.

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Re: Polish Armed Forces in the East Recruitment Centers

Post by Steve » 24 Sep 2019 01:30

Hi, the following is taken from “Poland And The Poles In The Second World War” by Halik Kochanski.

On May 8 1943 the Soviets announced in “Wolna Polska” the intention to form a Polish division named Tadeusz Kosciuszko. The division was to be formed at Seltsy 110 miles from Moscow.

The evacuation of the last Polish contingent from the USSR was completed on August 31 1942. General Rudnicki claimed in his memoirs that he was “the last embarked Polish soldier in Krasnovodsk to take leave of this inhuman country”.

I recall General Anders in his memoirs describing a selection process much the same as you mention but with great emphasis on whether the man was Polish, Jewish, Ukrainian or Byelorussian. When I was much younger than today I talked to a man who had come out of the USSR. Unfortunately I did not take a lot of interest and I doubt that there are many left now. He told me that in the camp where he was they heard that the Soviets were coming to decide who would be leaving with Anders. It was known that they were selecting men who were in a bad way. Luckily for him he was friendly with the camp doctor who admitted him to hospital and faked an illness. After the Soviets had been round the prisoners were ordered to parade and the names or numbers of those chosen were called out. He had probably made himself temporarily ill and was weak so when chosen the relief was so great his legs gave way.

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Re: Polish Armed Forces in the East Recruitment Centers

Post by Volyn » 24 Sep 2019 03:06

Steve wrote:
24 Sep 2019 01:30
Hi, the following is taken from “Poland And The Poles In The Second World War” by Halik Kochanski.

On May 8 1943 the Soviets announced in “Wolna Polska” the intention to form a Polish division named Tadeusz Kosciuszko. The division was to be formed at Seltsy 110 miles from Moscow.
Great this is what I was looking for, thank you!
Steve wrote:
24 Sep 2019 01:30
The evacuation of the last Polish contingent from the USSR was completed on August 31 1942. General Rudnicki claimed in his memoirs that he was “the last embarked Polish soldier in Krasnovodsk to take leave of this inhuman country”.
This is interesting because I have read that there was some sort of recruitment center or staging camp affiliated with this Army operating near Frunze, Kyrgyzstan in late-1943. I have been unable to verify what this place was or if it even existed, the soldier wrote that he traveled from Tashkent to Frunze specifically to join Anders, so it cannot be Berling's Army. Was there a Polish "colony" of deportees in this area at the time?

He provided several details about the debriefing process and his trip to get there. He had to answer questions such as "who were his Polish regiment commanding officers" during his service in the September Campaign. After he answered the questions to their satisfaction he was given a certificate declaring his Polish citizenship, but due to a prior wound he was classified as physically unfit for service and he was not inducted into their army. However, he was allowed to remain with them for awhile and he assisted in carpentry work in the area.
Steve wrote:
24 Sep 2019 01:30
I recall General Anders in his memoirs describing a selection process much the same as you mention but with great emphasis on whether the man was Polish, Jewish, Ukrainian or Byelorussian.
From what I have read, Jews were not very welcome by the Poles in Anders' Army and many deserted to join the British Army.

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Re: Polish Armed Forces in the East Recruitment Centers

Post by wm » 24 Sep 2019 15:39

Well, if they weren't welcome why they were in the Army.

The story is the Palestinian Jews waged a months-long propaganda campaign against the Army trying to convince Jewish soldiers to desert and it gave results. They needed those people (they were after all well-trained soldiers) to fight the British.

I suppose the main culprit was the Lehi group that at that time waged terror war on the British (this culminated in the assassination of the British minister of state in the Middle East - Lord Moyne in 1944.)

But although many Jews deserted some Palestinian Jews actually joined the Army at the same time.

Because there were so many Polish Jews among the Jewish fighters that there was an informal agreement that protected the Anders' Army from attacks, in some cases, their trucks were distinctively marked to distinguish them from British trucks.

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Re: Polish Armed Forces in the East Recruitment Centers

Post by wm » 24 Sep 2019 15:44

Volyn wrote:
23 Sep 2019 17:11
3. What was the general process for a Polish soldier to join either of these Armies? From an account I read, a soldier's background story would be authenticated (how they arrived in the USSR, what formations they served with previously, etc) and eventually provide a certificate declaring them officially as Polish citizens.
According to the agreement forced on the Poles by the Soviets, only Poles or Polish citizens from the German occupation zone were allowed to join the Army.
From the Soviet occupation zone (i.e. the annexed territories) only Poles were allowed, Ukrainians/Belorussians/Jews weren't. They were considered Soviet citizens and drafted in the Red Army.

bdw 10th Infantry Division was formed in Луговая near Frunze.

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Re: Polish Armed Forces in the East Recruitment Centers

Post by Volyn » 24 Sep 2019 19:51

wm wrote:
24 Sep 2019 15:39
Well, if they weren't welcome why they were in the Army.

The story is the Palestinian Jews waged a months-long propaganda campaign against the Army trying to convince Jewish soldiers to desert and it gave results. They needed those people (they were after all well-trained soldiers) to fight the British.

I suppose the main culprit was the Lehi group that at that time waged terror war on the British (this culminated in the assassination of the British minister of state in the Middle East - Lord Moyne in 1944.)

But although many Jews deserted some Palestinian Jews actually joined the Army at the same time.

Because there were so many Polish Jews among the Jewish fighters that there was an informal agreement that protected the Anders' Army from attacks, in some cases, their trucks were distinctively marked to distinguish them from British trucks.
Interesting thank you for this explanation, it makes more sense in context.
wm wrote:
24 Sep 2019 15:44
According to the agreement forced on the Poles by the Soviets, only Poles or Polish citizens from the German occupation zone were allowed to join the Army.
From the Soviet occupation zone (i.e. the annexed territories) only Poles were allowed, Ukrainians/Belorussians/Jews weren't. They were considered Soviet citizens and drafted in the Red Army.
Great details, thanks!
wm wrote:
24 Sep 2019 15:44
bdw 10th Infantry Division was formed in Луговая near Frunze.
Was this a Soviet or Polish unit?

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Re: Polish Armed Forces in the East Recruitment Centers

Post by wm » 24 Sep 2019 20:39

This one.
a briefly-formed formation which was part of the Anders Army in the Soviet Union, but was disbanded before the Anders Army was evacuated through Iran to the West.

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Re: Polish Armed Forces in the East Recruitment Centers

Post by Steve » 24 Sep 2019 21:04

Hi, the following is mainly from Kochanski’s book but also from Anders. Frunze was called Bishkek prior to 1926 and after 1991.

On April 8 1943 Berling approached the Soviets with proposals to establish a Polish army in the USSR. Diplomatic relations between the Poles and USSR were broken off on April 26 because of Katyn. I doubt that in late 1943 a camp at Frunze was anything to do with Anders army.

Kochanski tells us that the headquarters of Ander’s army in early 1942 was at Yangiyul southwest of Tashkent. The 5th division was at Dzhalyal Abad near the Chinese border, the 6th division was at Shachrizyabs (Shahrisabz) near Samarkand, the 7th division was at Kermine central Uzbekistan, the 8th was at Czok-Pak in Kirghizstan, the 9th was at Ferghana Uzbekistan, the 10th was at Lugovoy south Kazakhstan, the artillery was at Karasu in Tadzhikistan, the engineers were in Vrevskoye in East Uzbekistan, the armoured forces were in Otar west Kirghizstan and the army depot was in Guzar south Uzbekistan. Some of these camps were just tents pitched on a plain.

The NKVD only wanted ethnic Poles to leave and they even asked men to drop their trousers to check. Anders says that because some Jews welcomed the Red Army in 1939 this had created a bad feeling among the Poles towards them. He insisted that all citizens should have a place in the new army without distinctions of faith. However, Kochanski tells us that Sikorsky and Anders did not want to see a high proportion of Jews in the army when so many ethnic Poles were desperate to enlist. Ethnic minorities including Jews were to be restricted to 5% of NCOs and 10% of enlisted men.

The British were against a large number of Jews being included in Anders army. The Foreign Office said “It is particularly desirable that such (Polish) units should contain as low a proportion of Polish nationals of Jewish race, and in no circumstances should Polish Jews be formed into separate military units within the Polish forces in the Middle East”. The British sent the Poles a memorandum on March 30 1942 asking them to limit Jewish recruitment because of British interests in Palestine.

Jewish soldiers who left with Anders numbered 4,226. It would seem that most Jews preferred joining Polish units staying in the Soviet Union. This could have been because they were worried about anti Semitism in Anders army. It certainly existed as I remember reading an account by a Polish family who left the USSR with the army. They had a Jewish sounding name and on one occasion a Polish officer tried to throw them off an evacuation train because of their name. On arrival in Palestine 3,000 Jews deserted. Anders said that he had no intention of keeping them in the army by force if that was what they wanted. It seems the British had been right about what could happen.

After all that typing it’s time for a cup of strong British tea. Why is Polish tea so awfull?

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Re: Polish Armed Forces in the East Recruitment Centers

Post by Volyn » 24 Sep 2019 21:19

Steve wrote:
24 Sep 2019 21:04
On April 8 1943 Berling approached the Soviets with proposals to establish a Polish army in the USSR. Diplomatic relations between the Poles and USSR were broken off on April 26 because of Katyn. I doubt that in late 1943 a camp at Frunze was anything to do with Anders army.

Kochanski tells us that the headquarters of Ander’s army in early 1942 was at Yangiyul southwest of Tashkent. The 5th division was at Dzhalyal Abad near the Chinese border, the 6th division was at Shachrizyabs (Shahrisabz) near Samarkand, the 7th division was at Kermine central Uzbekistan, the 8th was at Czok-Pak in Kirghizstan, the 9th was at Ferghana Uzbekistan, the 10th was at Lugovoy south Kazakhstan, the artillery was at Karasu in Tadzhikistan, the engineers were in Vrevskoye in East Uzbekistan, the armoured forces were in Otar west Kirghizstan and the army depot was in Guzar south Uzbekistan. Some of these camps were just tents pitched on a plain.
Great information and details, based on what we have is it possible to hazard a guess at who these Polish people/soldiers might have been near Frunze in the autumn of 1943?

Did the Soviets allow Jews, etc. to join Berling's Army?

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Re: Polish Armed Forces in the East Recruitment Centers

Post by wm » 24 Sep 2019 21:37

Sikorsky forbade the use of quotas, he wanted as many minorities in the Army as possible because it strengthened the Polish claim to Eastern Territories.

The quotas were introduced unofficially by some commanders who believed the Poles should have been given preferential treatment, that the Jews were bad soldiers (some reports from the invasion of Poland 1939 actually said they were a destructive, questionable element in the Army), that they would just ride the road to freedom and would desert later. And that actually happened, some deserted shortly after crossing the border.

10 percent was more than the percentage of the Jewish population in the "allowed" territories, so actually it was a quite fair quota.

Some Jews were thrown off the train, it seems they bribed the Soviet officer responsible for the departure so he let them in without any documents, although it was known the train would be thoroughly searched at the border.

"because of their name" is nonsense everybody had to have their, thoroughly screened by the Soviets papers in perfect order to be able to board the train.

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Re: Polish Armed Forces in the East Recruitment Centers

Post by wm » 25 Sep 2019 10:03

Volyn wrote:
24 Sep 2019 21:19
Did the Soviets allow Jews, etc. to join Berling's Army?
Yes and no. It was a huge mess.
Initially, officially anybody who claimed he was a Pole ( or maybe rather a Polish citizen ) should have been allowed but in practice Jews weren't ( although it was possible to circumvent the restrictions and many did ) - the reason was the Army which was partially Soviet anyway (initially there were 74.3 percent Soviet officers in the Army) had to maintain its Polish character.
Later it became much easier and everybody was admitted.
In the end, 20.6 percent of soldiers were Jewish and in the officer corps about 34 percent - as high as 60 percent in some units.

The result was in Poland the Army was perceived as Russian-Jewish not Polish, and the idea that Judeo-Communism was conquering Poland became quite popular.

Klemens Nussbaum ( a high ranking Jewish officer in Berling's Army and later in the communist Polish Army who fled to the West in the sixties ) in his book writes that in the Soviet Union there were about 730,000 Polish citizens and up to 50 percent of them were Jews.
So the quotas were really needed for obvious reasons.
All the numbers are from his book.

The end result was in the communist Poland Jews were massively overrepresented in the Army, security forces, the party and government - especially in their higher echelons.

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Re: Polish Armed Forces in the East Recruitment Centers

Post by Volyn » 25 Sep 2019 13:33

wm wrote:
25 Sep 2019 10:03
Volyn wrote:
24 Sep 2019 21:19
Did the Soviets allow Jews, etc. to join Berling's Army?
Initially, officially anybody who claimed he was a Pole ( or maybe rather a Polish citizen ) should have been allowed but in practice Jews weren't ( although it was possible to circumvent the restrictions and many did ) - the reason was the Army which was partially Soviet anyway (initially there were 74.3 percent Soviet officers in the Army) had to maintain its Polish character.
Later it became much easier and everybody was admitted.
In the end, 20.6 percent of soldiers were Jewish and in the officer corps about 34 percent - as high as 60 percent in some units.

The end result was in the communist Poland Jews were massively overrepresented in the Army, security forces, the party and government - especially in their higher echelons.
Fascinating, I cannot find these details elsewhere, this brings up another question -
Do you know how many or what percentages of Polish Jews found their way to Soviet military units? I have read about several of them who fought with Soviets late in the war, and I could not understand why they were not with the Polish armies instead. It seems that it may have been a timing issue, the window of opportunity may not have been available.

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Re: Polish Armed Forces in the East Recruitment Centers

Post by Steve » 25 Sep 2019 15:10

Hello, just to clear up a point, the Kochanski’s figures for recruitment to Anders army of 5% for NCOs and 10% for rank and file were for all minorities including Jews. Anders does not mention this in his memoir but it would be surprising if he did. Korchanski says that 838 Jews fought with the 2nd Corps in Italy, 28 officers and men were killed and 52 wounded.

The incident on the train that I mentioned comes from a book “The Ice Road” by Stefan Waydenfield page 381. When he was a teenager his family were deported from eastern Poland and he gives a fascinating account of life in the workers paradise under Stalin. His father was a doctor and his mother a nurse, this enabled them to move out of the camps and work in the Soviet Union. Their story is unlikely to be typical of the mass of Polish deportees.

The family had obtained Polish foreign passports from the Polish Embassy in the Soviet Union which made their travel to the Polish army headquarters in Yangi- Yul easier. One grandfather had been Jewish a couple of generations back but a letter had been altered to make the name sound Polish. The incident over their name occured on the train leaving Yangi-Yul. A Polish officer above the one who tried to throw them off the train explained the situation to them “We had a briefing session with NKVD officers. They warned us that there would be spot checks on the way and threatened that should even one Soviet citizen be discovered on the Polish trains the evacuation of families would be stopped. They consider our Jews, Ukrainians, and Belorussians as Soviet citizens”.

The father had joined the Polish army and priority was being given to families of soldiers. Large numbers of people unable to get onto the evacuation trains at Yangi-Yul were left behind. The people who had failed to leave with Anders army perhaps remained in the Asiatic area of the Soviet Union in camps. The man mentioned by Volyn maybe heard of them and thought that the Anders army was still recruiting and tried to make his way there.

Another anecdote from the man I talked to in my youth. When the Poles were in Palestine he and some others were driving along in a lorry when they came across two Arabs. One was a man who was riding a donkey the other was a woman who was following with a large heavy sack on her back. They stopped, took the man off his donkey and made him carry the sack then put the woman on the donkey. Even two decades after the incident he still thought it very funny.

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Re: Polish Armed Forces in the East Recruitment Centers

Post by wm » 25 Sep 2019 17:39

Volyn wrote:
25 Sep 2019 13:33
Fascinating, I cannot find these details elsewhere, this brings up another question -
Do you know how many or what percentages of Polish Jews found their way to Soviet military units? I have read about several of them who fought with Soviets late in the war, and I could not understand why they were not with the Polish armies instead. It seems that it may have been a timing issue, the window of opportunity may not have been available.
All people living in the annexed territories were stripped from their Polish citizenship and given the Soviet one. And for this reason they were drafted into the Red Army. Obviously Soviet citizens had to serve in the Soviet Army.
The Poles (by that time Polish Soviets) were considered unreliable so they weren't - they were sent to work.

As the Polish armies actually needed Poles to be "Polish" Poles were allowed to join them but no Jews.
But if a Jew was able to reach the Berling's Army on his own initiative he was admitted - because they always lacked soldiers and especially officers.

Additionally, it seems there was some confusion as to what to do with Jews, Soviet propaganda claimed everybody could join, sometimes draft offices sent them to "the Poles", sometimes not, sometimes they were stopped in transit.

Generally, Jews tried to join by any means necessary. Nobody wanted to be a Soviet citizen forever. Especially that the expectation was (and they all were actively deceived to that effect) that post-war Poland would be no different from the pre-war. And of course very different from the Soviet Union.

The book is: A story of an illusion: the Jews in the Polish People's Army in the USSR by Klemens Nussbaum. But I'm afraid it's only a translation of its Polish/Hebrew title.
Some of his articles seems to be available on the Internet; Jews in the Kościuszko Division and First Polish Army, Jews in the Polish army in the USSR 1943–44.

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Re: Polish Armed Forces in the East Recruitment Centers

Post by Art » 25 Sep 2019 19:53

wm wrote:
24 Sep 2019 15:44
According to the agreement forced on the Poles by the Soviets, only Poles or Polish citizens from the German occupation zone were allowed to join the Army.
Agreement of 14 August 1941 didn't say that and talked about "Polish citizens" instead.
GKO decree of 25 December 1941 specified that "recruitment of citizens of Polish nationality that lived in Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia prior to 1939. Citizens of other nationalities shouldn't be called to the Polish Army"

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