75th anniversary of controversial WWII resistance brigade commemorated

Veterans of the “Świętokrzyska” Brigade of the National Armed Forces (NSZ), together with officials, attended commemorations on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of its formation.

Holy mass for the both the living and the dead soldiers of the Brigade, held at the Field Cathedral of the Polish Armed Forces, opened the memorial.

“Holy mass was needed by the partisans, by the soldiers, it was needed by those who fought for the freedom of the fatherland,” said colonel father Zbigniew Kempa who was celebrating the Eucharist.

Flowers were laid at the Unknown Soldier’s Tomb after the traditional roll-call of soldiers who died during important battles of Polish history. The event was also attended by veterans of other units, activists of the anti-communist opposition, the head of the Institute of National Remembrance and deputy speaker of the Sejm, Małgorzata Gosiewska.

The Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, declined an invitation to attend the ceremony. In an open letter he wrote “There are so many other Polish heroes, we don’t need to choose the ones who actually killed other Poles, and in this case, many of them of the Jewish religion.”

National Armed Forces (NSZ) was a right-wing, nationalist oriented resistance organisation, active both during World War II and after, treating both Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union as enemies.

It cooperated with the Poland' main resistance military organisation, subordinated to the Polish Government in exile, the Home Army (AK), but it fought against the left-wing, Soviet-back partisan group, the People’s Guard (GL, later renamed People’s Army). After the NSZ decided to fuse with the AK, some of its units refused. Those operating around the areas of the present-day Świętokrzyskie province formed the Brigade on August 11, 1944.

The Brigade fought German forces stationed in the area, as well as the Polish communists and soviet secret police (NKVD) agents. In January 1945, in the face of the Soviet advance, the Brigade reached an agreement with the local German forces, which allowed it to retreat to the West, alongside the Wehrmacht. Because of this agreement, the Brigade was accused of collaboration.

By May 1945, the Brigade reached western Czech Republic, where it made contacted with the American Army. Recognised as an allied unit, it continued operations against the Germans, most significant of which was the liberation of the concentration camp in Holiszów, from which a few hundred prisoners including 200 Jewish women were rescued.