Podlasie in World War II

These are the true accounts as to the happenings in all the Polish Provinces during the initial stages of the Soviet occupation, which began on 17th September 1939. There is no intention to individually single out anyone nor any race, just to make the facts known as they happened.


Beginning of the Great Fear

The entry of Germans into Podlasie was viewed with great fear among the local populace, who received German armies with undisguised hostility. They gave support to the Polish units being pushed eastward, and many un mobilized reservists and the youth of the pre-conscript age went in large numbers eastward to find a military body prepared to accept them and give them arms. That's why a number of men from that region which included the un mobilized reservists, took part in the battle of Grodno and the region of Sopockinie, this time it was against the Red Army.

The population of Podlasie was also starting to give support, especially after the battle of Andrzejow, to the locally organized partisan groups which had begun to be active until the mid-October 1939, in the vicinity of the Red Forest and the Biebrza Swamps, which protected them from destruction. The anti-German attitude of the inhabitants of Podlasie was monolithic and unwavering.

The period after the entry of the Red Army into the eastern territories of the Polish Republic can be divided into three periods.



It was most often the weakest ones who paid with their lives on the way to and whilst in exile, in the freezing cold of Siberia or in the steppes of Kazakhstan.



 Who started the Red Terror..........? The NKVD, the Red Army or was it the militia..........?

 The first kind was the various "red guards" and "red militias", composed of the locals armed with clubs, cut-down rifles, axes and revolvers, although sporadically they even had automatic weapons, who gave support to the Red Army in its "liberation march" and who performed the acts of "class anger" in the name of social groups oppressed by the "lordly Poland". As a rule, these groups surfaced immediately after 17 September 1939 and operated, usually in a very bloody fashion, not only behind the lines of the Polish Army, but also after the entry of the Red Army, which gave the local "revolutionary elements" a few "free" days to settle personal accounts and exercise class revenge.

 Later on those "militias" would be replaced by the Workers' Guard, organized on the occupied territories under the order of the Byelorussian Front Commander of 16 September 1939, as well as by the Citizens' Militia, formed on the basis of a similar order of 21 September 1939. Next, after the incorporation of "Western Byelorussia" into the Byelorussian Socialist Soviet Republic, these two were replaced by the closely connected to the NKVD Workers' and Peasants' Militia, at first composed solely of newcomers, later on absorbing the locals.

 The Polish population, apart from a small group of city communists and an even smaller one of village communists, received the Soviet aggression and the system brought by it in the same way as they had received the German invasion. This is confirmed by literally thousands of various testimonies. The participation of Polish peasants in the so-called village councils does not mean anything, because these were purely "decorative" bodies. The real power rested with the executive committees, and especially with their supervisory party and police apparatus.

The Jewish population, mainly Jewish youths and the city poor, participated en masse in giving welcome to the invading army and in introducing the new order, also by violent means. This is confirmed as well by thousands of Polish, Jewish and Soviet testimonies; there are official reports of the Commander of the Association for Armed Struggle, later the Home Army, Gen. S. Grot-Rowecki, and there are numerous accounts written during and after the war.

The Soviet Army was welcomed with enthusiasm not only in the territories occupied formerly by the Wehrmacht, but also in the Eastern Borderlands, where the Germans never arrived. What's more, those "guards" and "militias", growing like mushrooms right after the Soviet aggression, consisted in the main part of Jews. And not only that. Jews undertook acts of rebellion against the Polish state by taking over towns, organizing there revolutionary committees, arresting and executing the representatives of the Polish state authority, and attacking smaller or, sometimes, quite large (like in Grodno) units of the Polish Army.



Polish Jews wearing red armbands and armed with rifles, took part in the mass arrests and joyfully lent their habd in the deportations. This was a tragic sight, but equally galling for the Polish society was the huge presence of Jews in all the offices and institutions, especially since these had been dominated before the war by the Poles.

In September 1940, in Minsk, the chief of the NKVD City Department stated: 'We have been following this practice:  Since the Jews have given us their support, one could see them, and only them, everywhere. It became fashionable that every director of an institution or a company boasted about the fact that he didn't employ a single Pole. Many of us were simply afraid of Poles.'

At the same time the minutes of communist party meetings in the Bialystok "oblast'" record numerous "complaints" about hearing only Russian and Yiddish in the Soviet institutions about the Pole's feelings of being discriminated against. This was true and in accordance with the current party line because at that time the Soviet authorities had introduced a 'new policy' in regard to the Poles.

During the period of September to December 1939, there took place numerous arrests of those representatives of the Polish population who had held before the war higher positions in the administrative and political hierarchy of the Polish state, or who had been involved into social activities. Local Jews, members of the provisional administration or militia had been at that time actively helping the Soviets in hunting down and arresting such persons."



June 20. The most terrible day for the Poles under the Soviet occupation. Mass deportations to Russia. From the early morning wagons carrying Polish families drove across the town toward the railroad station. Deported were the wealthier Polish families, families of nationalists, Polish patriots, the intelligentsia, families of prisoners in Soviet gaols; it was even difficult to understand exactly what categories had been deported. Wailing, moaning and terrible despair ruled in Polish souls. On the other hand, the Jews and the Soviets are jubilant. It is impossible to describe what the Poles are going through. A completely hopeless situation. And the Jews and Soviets loudly rejoice and threaten that soon they will deport all the Poles. This may as well turn out to be true because for the whole day of 20 June and the next day, June 21, they dragged people to the train station without interruption...

June 22. Very early in the morning there was heard the rumbling of plane engines, and from time to time the explosions of bombs over the town... A few German bombs fell on more important Soviet posts. A terrible panic overtook the Soviets. They started running away in complete chaos. The Poles were very happy. Every bomb explosion filled our souls with indescribable joy. After several hours there was not a single Soviet in town, the Jews hid in cellars and basements. Just before noon the prisoners broke out of their cells. People were embracing each other in the streets and cried for joy. The Soviets were retreating without weapons, they did not return a single shot.

In the evening of that day no Soviets remained in Lomza. The situation was yet far from clear had the Soviets run away, the Germans still didn't arrive. On the next day, June 23, the town was still unoccupied. The civilian population started breaking into, and pillaging, all the Soviet magazines, warehouses and shops. In the evening of 23 June a few Germans entered.


And another terrible chapter begins