The anti-communist resistance in post-war Poland was a direct structural and ideological continuation of the underground movement of the pre-war period. The largest organisation was Freedom and Independence (WiN), whose founders sought to build unarmed political resistance and whose leaders assumed that their organisation would support all democratic political parties in their efforts to build an independent, democratic Poland. The second underground power was the National Military Union (NZW), whose leaders believed that defeating Germany would not stabilise the international situation and that conflict between the Western world and the Soviets was inevitable. They saw this confrontation, however, as an opportunity for Poland to regain its independence. The leaders of the NZW, unlike those of the WiN, worked to expand their forest-based guerrilla units. They did not accept the new Polish Eastern border. The political concept of the NZW envisaged Poland as a parliamentary-corporate hybrid with a strong central executive authority. To the far-right of both organisations was the National Armed Forces – Polish Organisation (NSZ-OP), whose leaders intended to establish a one-party dictatorship inspired by the idea of a fascist state. In addition to the above there were also several regional or supra-regional organisations that did not subordinate to the WiN, NZW or NSZ-OP central commands.
Between 1945 and 1953 the membership of all these organisations and underground groups totalled 120,000-180,000. Half of these fighters had previously belonged to the Home Army and later operated within the framework of WiN and the DSZ. One quarter were connected with the national underground, mainly with the NZW. The others belonged to various local organisations.
In 1945 13,000-17,000 people were hiding in forests. In 1946 this number was 7,000-9,000 and there were still 1,200-1,800 partisans between 1947 and 1950. After 1950 the armed fight was still continued by a group of 250-400 people but, with a few exceptions, these were unable to form a partisan group after 1953. During the entire period considered in this paper over 20,000 partisans belonged to permanent forest units. The last Polish anti-communist partisan, Józef Franczak ‘Lalek’, was killed in October 1963 in a manhunt organised by the Polish Security Police.
The end of the Second World war did not mean the end of violence for many regions in Eastern Europe. The establishment of Communist-led governments often met not only civil but also armed resistance. These actions were taken by partisan groups and paramilitary forces which in some cases had been formed already during the war to support axis forces. In other cases – like Poland’s Armia Krajowa – they fought Nazi and Soviet occupiers with the same fervour. The aims of the ﬁghters were the end of Communist rule and – like in the Baltic region – independence from the Soviet Union. Diﬃculties in accessing sources and research taboos as well as a focus on other aspects of the Cold War are reasons why violent resistance in Europe after the Second World War is a topic yet rather underestimated and comparably little investigated by historiography. This book gives a comprehensive ﬁrst overview of the ultimately futile attempts to end the rule of Moscow and her proxies.