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Holy Cross Mountains Brigade
Brygada Swietokrzyska (odznaka powojenna).svg
Active Aug 1944 - Jun 1946
Country Poland
Allegiance Narodowe Siły Zbrojne
Type Polish underground
Engagements Liberation of Holiszow 1945
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Colonel Szacki

Soldiers of Holy Cross Mountains Brigade in parade 1945

The Holy Cross Mountains Brigade (Polish language: Brygada Świętokrzyska ) was a tactical unit of the Polish underground NSZ organization during World War II, which did not obey orders to merge with the Home Army in 1944 and as a result was part of the NSZ-ZJ faction. During its wartime existence, the brigade fought practically every other armed faction in Poland, including both the German and Soviet armies as well as other Communist underground units.

History[edit | edit source]

The brigade was created in August 1944 in the Kielce region out of the 204th infantry battalion and Special Action Groups of the NSZ-ZJ. It varied in number from 822 soldiers in December 1944 to 1418 soldiers in May 1945. The purpose of the brigade was the realization of the political and military program of NSZ. The commander of the brigade was Colonel Szacki ("Bohun-Dabrowski"). The unit fought against the Germans (among others at Brzescie, Zagnansk, Cacow and Marcinkowice), the Soviet NKVD forces, the Polish communist partisans of the Armia Ludowa (at Fanislawice and Borow) and once against the peasant partisans of the BCh when they cooperated with Communist partisans.

The brigade used a four-month truce with German forces as well as questionable contacts with German Gestapo officials to march behind German lines several hundred kilometers to the southwest in an ultimately successful bid to make contact with U.S. forces. In January 1945 it began a retreat through Silesia into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia with the tacit approval of German forces who did not wish to have a second front open at their backs while they were trying to fight against the advancing Red Army. Between January 15, 1945 and May of the same year the brigade suspended all military operations against the German army. The brigade's movement to Czechoslovakia during this time was aided by the confusion reigning in the German Army's rear areas that had been created by the January offensive of the Red Army. In April 1945, now in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the brigade found itself in an area surrounded by substantial German forces and its German contacts began insisting on closer collaboration. As a result the commanders of the brigade agreed to a limited plan whereby small units of the force were to cross or be parachuted by the Germans back into Poland in order to carry out intelligence work and possibly sabotage at the rear of the advancing Red Army. According to former soldiers, they were all instructed by the brigade's command to ignore their German assigned tasks once in Poland and instead try to make contact with NSZ headquarters. Out of the units sent, two turned around and made their way back to the main force, while several ran into Soviet and Polish communist forces and were liquidated. During the same period, the second in command, Władysław Marcinkowski pseudonym "Jaxa", took part in a German sponsored conference involving various collaborationist and fascist organizations during which, according to Marcinkowski, the Germans made an offer of forming a Vlasov style formation out of the brigade. Marcinkowski refused the offer and tried to stall by claiming not to have the authority to agree to it.

Marcinkowski, along with Hubert Jura, pseudonym "Tom", who was the main liaison officer between the Germans and the brigade, were members of the extreme-right faction Szaniec within the NSZ-ZJ (which was itself a far right faction of pre-1944 NSZ). Jura's role in the actions undertaken by the unit during this time have not been fully explained. Jura was in fact a Gestapo or SD agent, he used internal politics of the NSZ-ZJ to settle personal scores (under the guise of "fighting communism within NSZ-ZJ"). There were outstanding death sentences on him issued by both the Home Army and the portion of pre-1944 NSZ which merged with it, for collaboration, although the leader of the brigade at the time, Szacki, may not have been aware of his identity.

File:Holy Cross Brigade (Brygada Świętokrzyska) cap badge.jpg

Holy Cross Mountains Brigade cap badge. This cap badge belonged to a soldier in 1st Battalion (commanded by Cpt. Waclaw Janikowski ps. "Wilk" [Wolf] ) a unit of 204 pp Kielce Region (commanded by mjr Eugeniusz Kerner ps. "Kazimierz").

After the end of World War II the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade became the 25 Polish Auxiliary Guard Company of the United States Army in occupied Germany. This is a cap badge of the 25 Polish Auxiliary Guard Company.

Most of the controversy concerning the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade, and whether or not it actively collaborated with the Nazis, concern this period. However, during the same time, Col. Szacki made contacts with the anti-German Czech underground and became involved in clandestine plans for an uprising in Plzeň. Even though the planned uprising in Plzeň never materialized (due to other reasons), with the onset of May, the brigade renewed the fight against the Germans and on May 5 liberated the concentration camp at Holýšov,[1] which led the United States to recognize it as an Allied military unit.[2] On the following day, the brigade fought alongside troops of the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division in the assault that liberated Pilzeň from Wehrmacht occupation forces and restored it to Czechoslovakia.

Following the end of the war in Europe, the presence of the brigade in Czechoslovakia became a contentious political issue for the U.S. forces. The British War Office declined to accept the brigade as a reinforcement unit for Polish forces under their command and communist officials in Poland, the Soviet Union, and Czechoslovakia raised accusations that the brigade had collaborated with the Nazis and should be turned over to communist authorities for trial. On August 6, 1945, the brigade was disarmed and moved to a displaced persons camp in Coburg. Ironically, this allowed Colonel Szacki to recruit from the Poles in the DP camp, and by November 1945, the brigade numbered some 4,000 personnel.

Subsequently, men of the brigade were used in the formation of 25 Polish guard companies in the American occupied zone of Germany. The U.S. CIC kept tabs on the brigade's leadership during this time as the U.S. Army did not want any incidents with the Soviet forces. The brigade headquarters was demobilized on June 17, 1946 and, under the pressure of diplomacy from the communists, most of the Polish guard companies were disbanded in 1947. The formal alliances among members of the brigade are believed to have gradually dissolved by 1950, and later some of the senior officers of the brigade resettled in the United States.[3]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. The Bohemian village of Holýšov (Polish language: Holiszow) (German language: Holleischen) was a sub-camp of Flossenbürg concentration camp.
  2. The brigade made contact with the U.S. Third Army on May 6, 1945.
  3. David R. Morgan. Todd Morgan: The Anabasis of the Holy Cross Brigade Reflected in the Documents of the United States Government. Glaukopis 5-6 (2006): 242-275; published in Polish in Przegląd Historyczno-Wojskowy Kwartalnik Nr.2 (2006): 113-134. [1]

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