The Polish Army in the USSR 1941–1942

The Polish Army in the USSR 1941–1942 (AP in the USSR), in fact Polish Armed Forces in the USSR, a operational compound and organisational training centre of the Polish Armed Forces in the West, subject to the Polish government-in-exile, and in terms of operation to the command of the Red Army; commander General W. Anders; composition: 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th infantry Divisions and other specialised auxiliary units. It was recruited from among several hundred thousands of soldiers of the Polish Army and civilians of the Second Republic of Poland interned in 1939 in the USSR, imprisoned and deported between 1939 and 1941, whom the Soviet government granted the so-called amnesty on 12 August 1941. The original area of forming the army was the frontier of Russia and Kazakhstan (including Buzuluk, Tatischevo, Totskoye). The army constituted, apart from stationing in Great Britain and in the Middle East, the core of the Polish Armed Forces.

It was supposed to be used to fight on the Eastern front. The massive inflow of volunteers (and their families), released from the camps, prisons and places of exile, caused the twofold exceeding of job positions in the army (26,000). The situation was aggravated by the fact that those enlisting in the army were often seriously ill and exhausted from malnutrition and slavery. Impediments caused by the Soviet authorities and the requests reported in October 1941 to send the first unit (the 5th infantry division) to the front caused a crisis in relations between General Anders and Moscow. The conflict was temporarily resolved by General Sikorski’s visit to the USSR (November–December 1941). In the signed declaration on friendship and mutual assistance it was agreed to increase the state of the forming army to the 6th division (96,000 soldiers), to move it to the Central Asian republics and to evacuate 25,000 soldiers from the USSR (except aviators and mariners).

In February 1942, the Soviet authorities reiterated their request to resend the 5th division to the front, and in view of the refusal of General Anders (corresponding to the position of General Sikorski), to give up a single division for this purpose. Food limit was reduced to 26,000 portions. After negotiations the number of job positions in the army was reduced to 44,000, and the non-regular surplus was evacuated in the spring of 1942 to the Middle East and Great Britain (40,000 soldiers, women, adolescents and civilians). Malnutrition and poor climate and sanitary living conditions of the army in the new area of stationing and the escalation of difficulties made ​​by the Soviet authorities in the further development of the army led General Anders – representing a view that the defeat of the USSR in the war with Germany was inevitable — to evacuate the rest of the branches to Iran. This was inconsistent with the then intention of General Sikorski who acknowledged that because of the important political and strategic objectives the Polish army had to remain in the USSR. The fate of the army was forejudged by the position of Great Britain which, feeling shortages of armed forces in the strategically important area – the Middle East, entered into an agreement of evacuation with the Soviet authorities. Finally, in August 1942, another 70,000 Polish military servicemen and civilians left the USSR. A small group of officers, including Lieutenant Colonel Z. Berling, did not carry out the order to leave. The Polish Army which was withdrawn from the USSR was incorporated into the Polish Army in the East. The creation and evacuation of the Polish Army in the USSR allowed around 114,000 people, who were persecuted by the Soviet authorities, to escape and enlarge Polish emigration communities.

Bibliography

  • Polskie Siły Zbrojne w drugiej wojnie światowej, vol. 2 Kampanie na obczyźnie, part 2, London 1975;
  • Żaroń P. Armia Polska w ZSRR i przyczyny jej ewakuacji, Warsaw 1991;
  • Żaroń P. Armia Andersa, Toruń 1996.

The content of this entry has been prepared on the basis of the source materials of the Polish Scientific Publishers PWN.

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