The Case of the Sixteen
BY ALBERT E KAHN and MICHAELM SAYERS
CHAPTER XXIV from The Great Conspiracy: the secret war against soviet Russia
None of the incidents or dialogue in The Great Conspiracy has been invented by the authors. The material has been drawn from various documentary sources which are indicated in the text or listed in the Bibliographical Notes.
IN the last months of the Second World War, the chief propagandist issue of anti-Soviet agitation in Great Britain and the United States centered on the question of Poland. As the Red Army drove westward, crossing the Polish frontiers and liberating ever greater sections of Poland from the Nazi invaders, British Tories and American isolationists charged that "Polish freedom" was now endangered by the Soviet Union. Week after week, the Hearst and Patterson-McCormick press in the United States called for anti-Soviet action to save Poland from "Bolshevism." In the United States Congress and the British Parliament, speakers rose repeatedly to denounce "Red Imperialistic aims in Poland" and to accuse the Soviet Government of betraying the principles of the United Nations. Much of this anti-Soviet propaganda was based on statements and material officially released by the Polish Government-in-Exile in London and by its representatives in Washington, D. C. The London Polish Government-in-Exile was composed of Polish militarists, spokesmen of Poland's feudal landlords, some Polish fascists and a few socialists and peasant leaders, who had found haven in England after Poland's collapse in 1939.(1)
At the time, there were actually two Polish governments. Besides the emigre regime in London, a Provisional Polish Government, the so-called Warsaw regime, existed within Poland itself. The Warsaw Government, based on an alliance of Polish anti-fascist parties, repudiated the 1935 Pilsudski fascist constitution which the London Poles upheld. The Warsaw Government stood for sweeping economic and political reforms inside Poland, the abolition of the feudal estates, and close friendly relations with the Soviet Union.
At the Yalta Conference, in February 1945, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin discussed the question of the future of Poland at length, and agreed that the Warsaw regime was to be "reorganized on a broader democratic basis with the inclusion of democratic leaders from Poland itself and from Poles abroad," and then recognized as the legitimate Provisional Government of the country.
The Yalta agreement met with strenuous opposition from the London Polish émigrés and their American and British allies. It was denounced as a "betrayal of Poland." Diplomatic intrigues were set afoot to prevent the fulfillment of the Yalta decision.
The anti-Soviet agitation and intrigues around the Polish issue reached their height when in May 1945 the Soviet Government announced that it had arrested sixteen Polish agents of the London Government-in-Exile on charges of anti-Soviet conspiracy. This action on the part of the Soviet Government, declared the Polish émigrés in London, was the most extreme example of Moscow's program to stifle "Polish democracy" and impose a "Red dictatorship" upon the Polish people...
The best-known name among the sixteen Poles arrested by the Soviet Government was that of General Leopold Bronislaw Okulicki, former Chief of Staff of the Polish army in exile. This army had played a key role in the anti-Soviet campaign of the Polish émigrés...
This Polish army was originally, organized on Soviet soil in 1941 by joint Polish-Soviet agreement, to fight side by side with the Red Army against the Germans. It was headed by General Wladislaw Anders, a former member of the "colonels' clique" which had dominated Poland under the Pilsudski dictatorship. To train and equip Anders's army for military action against Germany, the Soviet Government granted a loan without interest of 300,000,000 rubles, and gave the army facilities for recruiting and encampment. However, General Anders, Okulicki and other Polish militarists secretly opposed the alliance with the Red Army. They believed that Soviet Russia was doomed to speedy defeat by Nazi Germany and were acting accordingly.
A report by Lieutenant Colonel Berling, subsequently leader of the armed forces of the Warsaw regime, revealed that in 1941, shortly after the formation of the first Polish units on Soviet soil, General Anders held a conference with his officers at which he stated: -
When the Red Army collapses under German blows, which will be no later than within a few months, we will be able to break through to Iran via the Caspian Sea. Since we will be the only armed power in this territory, we will be in a position to do whatever we please.
When, contrary to General Anders's expectations, the Red Army failed to collapse before the Nazi blitzkrieg, the Polish commander informed his officers that they need not be concerned about meeting the terms of the Polish-Soviet military agreement to fight jointly against Germany. "There is no need to hurry," Anders told General Borucie-Spiechowiczow, commander of the Polish 5th Infantry Division.
Anders and his officers, according to Lieutenant Colonel Berling, "did everything possible to drag out the training and arming of the divisions" so that they would not have to go into action against Germany. The Polish Chief of Staff, General Okulicki, actively sabotaged the equipping of the Polish troops. In Berling's words: -
Okulicki sabotaged the organization of the base on the Caspian Sea for receiving English arms and provisions from Iran. Soviet authorities built a special railway branch and warehouses on the shores of the Caspian Sea, but General Anders' command prevented a single rifle, tank or sack of supplies from coming through.
Polish officers and men who were eager to accept the Soviet help and to take up arms against the German invaders of their homeland were terrorized by the reactionary clique headed by Generals Anders and Okulicki. Lists were compiled of "friends of the Soviet" who were "traitors to Poland." A special index known as File B contained the names and records of all those said to be "sympathetic to the Soviets." Fascist anti-Semitic propaganda was promoted by the Polish command. "There was," reported Berling, "open talk about the need `to square accounts with the Jews,' and there were frequent cases of Jews being beaten up." The Dwojka, espionage service of Anders's army, began secretly accumulating data about Soviet war plants, state farms, railroads, army depots and positions of the Red Army troops.
By the spring of 1942, Anders's army in Russia had still failed to fight a single engagement against the German enemy. Instead, Polish officers and men were being intensively indoctrinated with the anti-Soviet and anti-Semitic ideology of their generals. Finally the Polish command requested that its army be evacuated to Iran under British auspices. By August 1942, 75,491 Polish officers and men and 37,756 members of their families had left Soviet territory, without ever having struck one blow for their native land.
On March 13, 1944, the Australian correspondent James Aldridge cabled the New York Times an uncensored report on the fascist behavior of the émigré Polish army leaders in Iran. Aldridge stated that he had wanted to make public the facts about the Polish émigrés for over a year, but the Allied censorship would not permit him to do so. One Allied censor told Aldridge: "I know it's all true, but what can I do? We recognize the Polish Government, you know."
Here are a few of the facts reported by Aldridge: -
The Polish camp was divided into classes. At the camp conditions got progressively worse as one's situation was lower. The Jews were separated into a ghetto. The camp was run on totalitarian lines... A continuous campaign against Russia was conducted by the more reactionary groups... When more than 300 Jewish children had been fixed up to go to Palestine, the Polish elite, who were very anti-Semitic, put pressure on the Iraqui authorities not to allow the Jewish children to pass through...
I have heard many Americans say they would like to tell the real story about the Poles, but that it was useless because the Poles have such a powerful lobbying bloc in Washington...
From Iran, the Polish émigrés moved to Italy, where, under the direction of the British High Command, and supported by the Vatican, the Polish émigré army established its headquarters. The ambition of Generals Anders, Okulicki and their associates, which they made little attempt to conceal, was to convert this Polish émigré army into the nucleus of a new White Army for eventual action against Soviet Russia.
As the Red Army neared the Polish border in the spring of 1944, the London Polish émigrés intensified their anti-Soviet campaign. "An essential condition both for our victory and our very existence is at least the weakening, if not the defeat, of Russia," declared Penstwo Polski, one of the underground newspapers circulated in Poland by agents of the Government-in-Exile. Secret instructions from the London Poles to their underground agents stated: "At all costs an effort must be made to keep on the best terms with all German civil authorities."
The Polish Government-in-Exile was preparing for armed action against the Soviet Union. The agency which was to carry out this action was the Armia Krajowa, or AK, an underground military apparatus inside Poland organized and controlled by the London émigrés. The Armia Krajowa or AK was headed by General Bor-Komorowski.
Early in March 1944, General Okulicki was summoned to the headquarters of General Sosnkowski, military representative of the London Polish émigrés. Later, General Okulicki gave this description of this secret conference: -
... when I was received by General Sosnkowski, before flying to Poland, he said that in the near future we could expect a Red Army offensive which would result in routing the Germans in Poland. In that case, Sosnkowski said, the Red Army would occupy Poland and would not permit the existence of the Armia Krajowa on Polish territory as a military organization subordinated to the London Polish government.
Sosnkowski proposed that the Armia Krajowa should carry out a sham dissolution after the Red Army drove the Nazis from Poland, and that a secret "reserve headquarters" be established for operations in the rear of the Red Army: -
Sosnkowski stated that these reserve headquarters would have to direct the struggle of the Armia Krajowa against the Red Army.
Sosnkowski asked that these instructions be conveyed to the commander of the Armia Krajowa in Poland, General Bor-Komorowski...
Shortly after, General Okulicki was mysteriously flown into German-occupied Poland, where he promptly contacted General Bor-Komorowski, and delivered Sosnkowski's instructions. The commander of the Armia Krajowa told Okulicki that he would set up a special apparatus to carry out the following tasks: -
1. Preserve arms for underground activities and for the preparation of an uprising against the U.S.S.R.
2. Create armed combat detachments, of not more than sixty men each.
3. Form terrorist, "liquidation" groups for assassinating the enemies of the AK and representatives of the Soviet military command.
4. Train saboteurs for operations behind the Soviet lines.
5. Carry on military intelligence and espionage activities in the rear of the Red Army.
6. Preserve the radio stations already set up by the AK and maintain radio communications with the central command of the AK in London.
7. Conduct printed and oral propaganda against the Soviet Union.
In the fall of 1944, the Red Army reached the banks of the Vistula and halted before Warsaw to regroup its forces and bring up fresh supplies after its prolonged summer offensive. The strategy of the Soviet High Command was not to launch a frontal attack upon the Polish capital but to take it by sudden encirclement, thus preserving the city and its population. But, without the knowledge of the Soviet High Command and acting on orders from London, General Bor-Komorowski initiated a general uprising of the Polish patriots in Warsaw, declaring that the Red Army was about to move on the city. With the Red Army completely unprepared to cross the Vistula at this time, the Nazi High Command was able systematically to bomb and shell every section of the city held by the insurgent Polish patriots. Here is General Okulicki's own account of General Bor-Komorowski's role in the ultimate surrender of the Polish forces in Warsaw: -
At the close of September, 1944, the commander of the Armia Krajowa, General Bor-Komorowski, negotiated regarding surrender with the commander of the German troops in Warsaw - SS. Obergruppenfuehrer von Den-Bach. Bor-Komorowski appointed the deputy chief of the second (intelligence) department of headquarters, Colonel Bogusla wski, to conduct negotiations as representative of the chief of staff of the Armia Krajowa. Reporting to Bor-Komorowski in my presence on the terms of surrender advanced by the Germans, Boguslawski said that von Den-Bach thought it necessary for the Poles to cease armed struggle against the Germans because it was the Soviet Union that was the common enemy of Poland and Germany. On meeting Bor-Komorowski on the day of the surrender I told him that von Den-Bach was possibly right and Bor-Komorowski agreed with me on this.
Throughout the fall and winter months of 1944 and the spring of 1943, with the Red Army waging gigantic offensives aimed at the final smashing of the German military power on the Eastern Front, the Armia Krajowa under General Okulicki's leadership carried on a widespread campaign of terrorism, sabotage, espionage and armed raids in the rear of the Soviet armies.
"Measures of the Soviet military command in the zone of hostilities were sabotaged," later declared Stanislaw Jasiukowicz, Vice-Premier in Poland of the London Government-in-Exile and one of Okulicki's confederates. "Our press and radio stations engaged in slanderous propaganda. The Polish people were being incited against the Russians."
Detachments of Okulicki's AK dynamited trains carrying Red Army troops, destroyed Soviet supply depots, mined roads along which Russian troops were passing and disrupted Soviet transport and communication lines in every possible manner. An order issued on September 17, 1944, by one of Okulicki's aides, read as follows: -
The operations must be universal - blowing up military trains, trucks, railway tracks, burning of bridges, destruction of stores and village soviets. It must be carried out in secret.
A commander of an AK detachment named Lubikowski, who conducted a special secret school for spies and saboteurs, later reported regarding some of the assignments carried out by his agents: -
I received a written report on the execution of my order ... from Ragner who informed me that he carried out twelve acts of sabotage, derailed two trains, blew up two bridges and damaged a railway track in eight places.
Specially trained groups of AK terrorists waylaid and murdered Red Army soldiers and spokesmen for the Warsaw regime. According to incomplete data subsequently made public by the Soviet military authorities, AK terrorists killed 594 Red Army officers and men over a period of eight months and wounded an additional 294...
At the same time, acting under instructions received by radio from the Polish command in London, General Okulicki's agents carried on extensive intelligence operations behind Soviet lines. A directive of the London Polish Government, addressed to
General Okulicki and dated November 11, 1944, No. 7201-1-777, read as follows: -
Since the knowledge of the military intentions and possibilities... of the Soviets in the east is of basic importance for foreseeing and planning further developments in Poland, you must... fill the gap by transmitting intelligence reports in accordance with the instructions of the intelligence department of headquarters.
The directive went on to request detailed information regarding Soviet military units, supply trains, fortifications, airdromes, armaments and war industry.
Week after week coded intelligence reports were dispatched to the Poles in London from a network of illegal radio stations operating in the rear of the Red Army. A typical radiogram, No. 621-2, sent from Cracow to the chief command in London, and intercepted and deciphered by the Soviet Military Intelligence, read as follows: -
In the latter half of March an average of 20 trains with troops and munitions (artillery, American tanks, infantry, of whom one third were women) were passing daily in a western direction... An order on the urgent conscription of 1895-1925 age classes has been posted in Cracow. A ceremony of commissioning 800 officers brought from the east took place in Cracow with the participation of General Zymierski...
On March 22, 1945, General Okulicki summed up the ultimate hopes of his superiors in London in a secret directive addressed to Colonel "Slavbor," the commandant of the western district of the Armia Krajowa. Okulicki's extraordinary directive read: -
In the event of the victory of the U.S.S.R. over Germany, this will not only threaten Britain's interests in Europe but the whole of Europe will be frightened... Considering their own interests in Europe, the British will have to proceed to the mobilization of the forces of Europe against the U.S.S.R. It is clear that we shall take our place in the front ranks of this European anti-Soviet bloc; it is also impossible to visualize this bloc without the participation of Germany which will be controlled by the British.
These plans and hopes of the Polish émigrés were short-lived. Early in 1945, the Soviet Military Intelligence began rounding up the Polish conspirators behind the Soviet lines. By the summer of 1945, the ringleaders were in Soviet hands. Sixteen of them, including General Okulicki, faced trial before the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R.
The trial began on June 18 in the House of Trade Unions in Moscow. It lasted three days. The testimony clearly established that the Polish émigrés and their underground apparatus had been led by their hatred for Soviet Russia into giving substantial aid to the Nazi invaders of their own country.
During the trial, the following exchange took place between the Soviet Prosecutor, Major General Afanasiev, and the short, tight-lipped leader of the anti-Soviet Polish underground, General Okulicki: -
AFANASIEV: Did your action interfere with the Red Army's operations against the Germans... ?
OKULICKI: It interfered.
AFANASIEV: Whom did it help?
OKULICKI: Naturally, it helped the Germans.
Major General Afanasiev told the court that he would not demand the death sentence for any of the defendants because they were "mere puppets" of the Polish émigrés in London and because "we are now experiencing the joyful days of victory and they are no longer dangerous." The Soviet Prosecutor added: -
This trial sums up the activities of the Polish reactionaries who for years have fought the Soviet Union. Their policy led to the occupation of Poland by the Germans. The Red Army fought for freedom and independence against barbarism... The Soviet Union, with the help of the Allies, played the decisive role in Germany's defeat. But Okulicki and the others wanted to knife the Red Army in the back... They prefer a cordon sanitaire around Russia to friendship with her….
On June 21, the Soviet Military Collegium handed down its verdict. Three of the accused were acquitted. General Okulicki and eleven of his confederates were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms ranging from ten years to four months.(2)
Following the trial, the United States and Great Britain withdrew their recognition of the London Polish Government-in-Exile.(3) The Warsaw regime, reorganized in accordance with the terms of the Yalta agreement, was formally recognized as the Provisional Government of Poland.
1. The London Polish Government-in-Exile considered itself the legitimate heir to the Pilsudski regime whose traditional policy was based on opposition to Soviet Russia. As Raymond Leslie Buell wrote in his book Poland: The Key to Europe: "Pilsudski believed that Poland had to have a large territory. For historical reasons it was easier to get this base at the expense of Russia than of Germany." Prewar Polish diplomacy, under the direction of the former anti-Soviet Intelligence officer Colonel Josef Beck, was directed not against Nazi Germany but against Soviet Russia. The Polish Army, with the largest percentage of cavalry of any army in the world, was organized for operations on the Ukrainian plains. Polish industries were concentrated on the German border; Polish military fortifications on the Soviet frontier. Since its formation, the Poland dominated by the militarists and feudal landlords was a cornerstone of the anti-Soviet cordon sanitaire, and a rendezvous for international agents plotting the overthrow of the Soviet Government. Boris Savinkov established his headquarters in Poland after fleeing from Russia and, with the direct aid of Pilsudski, built a White Army in Poland of 30,000 men for use against Soviet Russia. In the late 1920's, the Torgprom conspirators came to an understanding with the Polish High Command that Poland was to be one of the chief bases in the new war of intervention they were plotting against Soviet Russia. The Polish Intelligence Service established intimate working relations with all anti-Soviet forces, including the Trotskyite-Bukharinist underground organization. In 1938, the Munich Pact brought the anti-Soviet character of the Polish rulers clearly into the open. When the Nazis served their ultimatum on Czechoslovakia and the Czechs were preparing to resist, the Polish Government mobilized its army and placed it directly in the way of any possible assistance to the Czechs from the Soviet Union. As a reward. Hitler permitted the Poles to seize the Teschen district from the Czechs at the time of the partition of Czechoslovakia. In 1939, on the eve of the Nazi attack on Poland, the Polish militarists still refused to revise their suicidal anti-Soviet policy; rejected a proposed military agreement with Soviet Russia; and would not permit the Red Army to cross Polish boundaries to meet the Nazi Wehrmacht. The consequences of this policy for Poland were disastrous, and almost immediately after the Nazi invasion the Polish Government fled abroad, taking with it the Polish gold reserves. First in France and subsequently in England, representatives of this Polish Government constituting themselves the Polish Government-in-Exile, continued the antiSoviet intrigues which had brought their nation to ruin. They were supported in these intrigues by powerful elements in international economic. political and religious circles which regarded victory for Soviet Russia in the war against Nazi Germany as a menace to their own interests.
2. The trial of the sixteenth individual named in the indictment, Anton Paidak, was postponed because of his illness. When these sixteen Poles had originally been arrested by the Soviet authorities, the American Secretary of State, Edward R. Stettinius, and the British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, had vigorously protested, declaring the arrested men were important Polish "democratic leaders." After the trial, Stettinius and Eden maintained a discreet silence.
3. The Soviet Government had severed diplomatic relations with the Polish Government-in-Exile two years previously, on April 25, 1943, because of the London regime's anti-Soviet conspiratorial activities.
Since its inception, the Polish Government-in-Exile had been chiefly sponsored and financed by the British Government. After the recognition of the Warsaw regime, it was understood that some of the Polish émigrés would be offered British citizenship, and perhaps given police jobs in the British colonies. On learning of the Allied decision to recognize the Warsaw regime, General Anders and his aides issued public statements declaring that the Polish émigré troops under their command would never accept the Allied decision, would remain loyal to the - `government" in London, and would return to their native land only "with arms in their hands." By the fall of 1945, however, large numbers of the Polish émigré troops were deserting the cause of their reactionary leaders, and, on the invitation of the Warsaw regime, were returning to Poland to participate in its reconstruction.
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