Polish Army co-founder commemorated

General Bolesław Jerzy Roja, one of the four signatories of the order to form an independent Polish Army of the Second Polish Republic, has had his monument erected in the former Nazi-German KL Sachsenhausen on the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation.

Erected at the request of veterans from the “Czwartak” National Remembrance Association in Kielce, the monument is placed next to the pedestal dedicated to General Stefan Rowecki alias “Grot”, near the camp command building. Both officers were associated with the city of Kielce, which has been cooperating with memorial institutions in Berlin for years.

The creation of the monument is the result of yearslong cooperation between Kielce City Hall, memorial institutions in Berlin and the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), which co-financed the commemoration.

“Due to the global pandemic of the coronavirus, official ceremonies at the newly established monument to General Roja were moved to next year's international celebration of the liberation of the camp. More details about the project will be provided during the press conference planned at the end of May 2020,” the IPN wrote.

Bolesław Roja, born 1876, died 1940, was one of the most important commanders in the history of Polish arms. Previously a member of the Austro-Hungarian army and collaborator of its secret agency, Roja created and commanded the famous 4th Infantry Regiment of Polish Legions, formed in the spring of 1915.

During WWI he fought alongside Józef Piłsudski. The two gentlemen, however, found each other at odds over the tactical matters. To specify, Piłsudski regarded Lt. Col. Roja’s stance during the Battle of Jastków against the Russian Empire as hot-headed. Roja, in turn, accused Piłsudski of sluggishness which exposed his flanks to enemy fire.

The difference of opinions did not prevent Piłsudski from advancing Roja to the rank of General in 1918 and awarding him in 1920 the War Order of Virtuti Militari with Silver Cross, which is Poland's highest military decoration for heroism and courage in the face of the enemy at war.

Later during the Polish-Bolshevik War, Roja was deposed and moved to the reserve. This was caused by suspicions of him planning a coup against Piłsudski and, together with the then Prime Minister Wincenty Witos, a proclamation of independent Pomerania. Witos, however, when approached by Roja, denounced him and thus the idea did not come to fruition.

A sentry platoon of nearly 68 soldiers of the 4th Infantry Regiment that Roja established was sent to Westerplatte in March 1939 to stand against the Nazi-German invaders. During World War II, Roja took part in the underground activities of the Polish Red Cross. In March 1940 he was arrested by the Germans, who transferred him from the Pawiak Prison in Warsaw to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he was soon murdered. After the war, he was buried at the renowned Powązki Military Cemetery in Warsaw.

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