Liberation of Poland by Soviet army questionable: Davies

In an interview with Wirtualna Polska, an online news service, Norman Davies, a renowned British historian, refuted the claims of the leader of Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), Włodzimierz Czarzasty, who stated that the Soviet army liberated Poland in 1945.

Left leader: Soviets ‘liberated’ Poland

Włodzimierz Czarzasty, the deputy speaker of the Lower House of Parliament and leader of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), the post-communist...

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Earlier, during a television interview, Mr. Czarzasty said that at the end of WWII “The reclaimed territory [of Poland] was liberated by two armies: the Polish Army, which included general Wojciech Jaruzelski [who later imposed martial law in Poland in December 1981 to protect Soviet interests in Poland], and another army composed of Russian or Soviet soldiers, including Ukraininans and others”.

The Controversy

The remarks caused outrage among other politicians and Twitter users.

In a conversation with Wirtualna Polska, Professor Davies said he did not agree with Mr. Czarzasty.

“Obviously the Soviet propaganda claimed that this was the case. However, a drop of common sense is required here. Soldiers of the Soviet Army were not free themselves; they didn’t know what it meant to be free, they were not able to pass on freedom to anyone. All of them, ranging from marshalls to the lowest ranks, were slaves of the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) [the interior ministry of the Soviet Union], which had its own huge army similar to the party formation of SS, which held Wehrmacht [the unified armed forces of Germany from 1935-1945] in check. None of the Red Army’s officers could give the simplest order without written approval from an NKVD officer. Hence, the Red Army soldiers fought for victory, which for their political leaders meant suppressing all conquered countries under the Bolshevik dictatorship,” explained Professor Davies.

First we’ll march through Poland then we’ll take Berlin

In the interview, the historian emphasised that the Red Army entered the territory of Poland to continue fighting the forces of the Third Reich. He continued to say: “It is true that during these terrible battles, close to 700,000 Soviet soldiers and probably half of that number of Germans lost their lives. However, these huge losses had nothing to do with liberating Poland. See how this ‘liberation’ looked in practice. One day in January 1945, the 1st Ukrainian Front [a force in the Soviet army] liberated the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the prisoners who had survived were freed. The scene was shown on film to the whole world. At the same time, in secrecy and without cameras, the former Nazi concentration camp Majdanek located in Lublin, where the Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN) [imposed by the Commnist Russia] was used by NKVD to imprison thousands of Poles who were soldiers of the Home Army,” continues Norman Davies.

A Soviet, not Russian Army

Professor Davis also emphasised that the Red Army was not “a Russian army”.

“Its officers were mostly Russian, but privates were recruited from all republics of the Soviet Union. In 1945, a huge wave of young recruits from Azerbaijan, Kazachstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan tramped through Poland. My Polish father-in-law, who was watching the Red Army marching through Poland, told me that ‘the whole of Asia was marching’. In the last period of WWII, when the Germans were lacking in new recruits, all Soviet republics of the far east were sending an endless number of young boys to the front line for certain death. And Stalin won,” concluded Norman Davies.

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