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Armia Ludowa

People's Army eagle insignia

Armia Ludowa (AL, pronounced ; English: the People's Army) was a communist partisan force set up by the communist Polish Workers' Party (PPR) during World War II. It was created by order of the Polish State National Council on 1 January 1944. Its aims were to fight against Nazi Germans in occupied Poland, support the Soviet military against the German forces and to aid in the creation of a pro-Soviet Union communist government in Poland.

Along with the Polish Underground State or its military arm, the Home Army. The People's Army was much smaller than the Home Army, but propaganda in communist Poland espoused the myth that the reverse was the case.


  • Background 1
  • History 2
    • Creation 2.1
    • Polish People's Army 2.2
  • Operations, propaganda and controversies 3
  • Leadership 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


In 1939, 17 days after the German invasion, the Soviet Union also invaded Poland. There was no formal declaration of war by either side. The Polish Government fled to London, and maintained contacts with its representatives in occupied Poland, the Polish Underground State. In 1943, the Soviet Union broke off the diplomatic relations with the London Polish government-in-exile.[1]

The communists in Poland had formed scattered partisan units in order to resist the German occupiers, and created their own underground organization, whose aims were to support the Armia Krajowa.[1]



On 1 January 1944 the Armia Krajowa (Home Army).[5][6][7][8]

At the same time, GL/AL was much better armed than Armia Krajowa (Home Army, AK); thanks to Soviet air drops, and it might have even had a surplus of weaponry.[9] It also had less strict discipline.[9]

Polish People's Army

Seven months after it came into existence, on 21 July 1944, the People's Army was integrated into the 1st Polish Army entered Poland late in 1944 and early 1945, most People's Army members joined the communist 1st Polish Army. After the war, many of its members joined the ranks of the Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of Poland, or the Milicja Obywatelska (police).[3][10][11]

Operations, propaganda and controversies

Armia Ludowa (People's Army) at a forest near Lublin

According to AL's claims, it carried out about 900 operations, killing 20,000 Germans, derailing 350 trains, and destroying 79 bridges.[4] However, GL/AL exploits were significantly exaggerated by the communist propaganda in the People's Republic of Poland.[11][12][13] Polish historian Piotr Gontarczyk estimates that only about 5–10% of officially recorded GL/AL action really took place, and that in the majority instances when GL/AL fought the German military it was when GL/AL was defending itself from German anti-partisan operations, with instances of GL/AL attacking Germans on its own initiative being very rare.[9] Rather than engaging military targets, GL/AL preferred softer targets, such as German administration offices.[9] That changed in 1944, when GL/AL grew stronger, and began engaging the German military more actively.[14] According to Polish-American historian Mieczysław B. Biskupski, AL was less concerned with fighting the Germans than with fighting the Home Army.[5] According to Gontarczyk and Janusz Marszal, however, this was relatively uncommon, at least with regards to direct actions; however GL/AL would often pass anonymous tips about AK to the Gestapo.[15]

The People's Army took part in the Warsaw Uprising. While official claims held that some 1,800 People's Army soldiers fought there, modern research suggests the actual number to have been about 500.[11]

As the GL/AL had a much poorer support network than the Home Army, which was supported by the Polish Underground State, and Soviet air drops did not supply the People's Army with foodstuffs, it often had to resort to forced requisitions, described by modern historians as "banditry".[16] It often targeted mansions and churches.[16] There were also incidents of GL/AL soldiers murdering Jews[14][16] or fighting among themselves.[17]

In one of its most secret and controversial actions, agents of the then-GL on 17 February 1944 seized an important document archive of the Underground State.[18] Documents of importance to the communist activists were taken, and the remainder was turned over to the Gestapo agent who had been duped into participating in the GL operation.[18] Seven members of the Underground State were taken prisoner by the Germans in a cleanup operation, and likely, executed soon afterward.[18]


The commander of the Armia Ludowa was General Michał Rola-Żymierski,[4] and the chief of staff was a member of the Central Committee of the Polish Workers' Party, Colonel Franciszek Jóźwiak.[19][20]

AL leadership was taking orders from the Soviet Union, and representing Soviet, not Polish, interests of the state. The Polish Soviet partisans rather than Polish resistance in World War II.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Gwardia Ludowa, Armia Ludowa (in Polish),  
  2. ^ a b Yohanan Cohen (1989). Small nations in times of crisis and confrontation. SUNY Press. p. 100.  
  3. ^ a b (Polish) Armia Ludowa in Encyklopedia PWN
  4. ^ a b c d Jerzy Jan Lerski (1996). Historical dictionary of Poland, 966–1945. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 8–9.  
  5. ^ a b Mieczysław B. Biskupski (2000). The history of Poland. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 110.  
  6. ^ Yitzhak Zuckerman; Barbara Harshav (7 May 1993). A surplus of memory: chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. University of California Press. p. 76.  
  7. ^ Michael C. Steinlauf (1997). Bondage to the dead: Poland and the memory of the Holocaust. Syracuse University Press. p. 34.  
  8. ^ Gregor Dallas (15 November 2006). 1945: The War That Never Ended. Yale University Press. p. 672.  
  9. ^ a b c d Gontarczyk, Krzystofiński, Marszalec, Polak (2006), p. 14
  10. ^ (Polish) Ministerstwo Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego in Encyklopedia PWN
  11. ^ a b c Gontarczyk, Krzystofiński, Marszalec, Polak (2006), pp. 23–24
  12. ^ Marek Jan Chodakiewicz; John Radzilowski; Dariusz Tolczyk (2006). Poland's transformation: a work in progress. Transaction Publishers. p. 236.  
  13. ^ Aleksander Gella (1989). Development of class structure in eastern Europe: Poland & her southern neighbors. SUNY Press. p. 188.  
  14. ^ a b Gontarczyk, Krzystofiński, Marszalec, Polak (2006), p. 17
  15. ^ Gontarczyk, Krzystofiński, Marszalec, Polak (2006), pp. 18–21
  16. ^ a b c Gontarczyk, Krzystofiński, Marszalec, Polak (2006), p. 15
  17. ^ Gontarczyk, Krzystofiński, Marszalec, Polak (2006), p. 16
  18. ^ a b c Gontarczyk, Krzystofiński, Marszalec, Polak (2006), p. 27-35
  19. ^ Michael Bernhard; Henryk Szlajfer (31 May 2004). From the Polish Underground. Penn State Press. p. 409.  
  20. ^ Krystyna Kersten (1991). The establishment of Communist rule in Poland, 1943–1948. University of California Press. p. 12.  
  • Gontarczyk, Piotr; Krzystofiński, Mariusz; Marszalec, Janusz; Polak, Barbara (March–April 2006). "O Podziemiu Komunistycznym Z Piotrem Gontarczykiem, Mariuszem Krzysztofińskim I Januszem Marszalcem Rozmawia Barbara Polak" (PDF). Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej (in Polish). 3–4 (62–63) (Spod czerwonej gwiazdy).  

Further reading

  • Steven J Zaloga (1982). "The Polish People's Army". Polish Army, 1939–1945. Oxford: Osprey Publishing.  

External links

  • (Polish) Gwardia Ludowa, Armia Ludowa on the pages of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance
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