Communist Agent Provocateur Operations In Poland (Pol. "oddziały pozorowane")
Communist Active Measures and Propaganda Operations in Shaping the Negative Image of Poland’s Post-World War II Armed Resistance.
Written by Dr. Maciej Korkuć, PhD, Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), Krakow, Poland.
Traditionally, an agent provocateur (agent pro·vo·ca·teur), (plural: agents provocateurs, French for "inciting agent(s)") is an agent employed by the police or other entity to act undercover to entice or provoke another person to commit an illegal act or falsely implicate them in partaking in the illegal act. More generally, the term may refer to an undercover person or group of persons that seek to discredit or harm another group (often, peaceful protest or demonstration) by provoking them to commit a wrong or rash action (thus, undermining the protest or demonstration as whole). Wiki
The Oxford Dictionary defines "Agent Provocateur" as: "a person who induces others to break the law so that they can be convicted."
While analyzing the methods employed by the Communist regime in combating the democratic resistance in Poland, and elsewhere, it is necessary to take a closer look at the establishment and operations of its Agent-Provocateur (AP) units - both partisan groups, and individuals posing to be part of the anti-communist resistance movement. The activities of the AP units are of paramount importance, as they can decisively shape the opinions of historians, their subsequent assessment of various facts, and their evaluation of individual anti-communist resistance units. Similarly affected will also be the opinions and personal experiences of the witnesses to those events. While we will not be able to get to the bottom of many of these events, it is necessary, however, to point out that such pseudo-partisan units existed. Therefore, while analyzing various events, it is prudent to ask ourselves: Was the actor in such and such event a real partisan unit or a Communist Agent Provocateur (AP) unit?
For political expediency reasons, the historiography of the communist era had almost entirely ignored the issues of activities carried out by such units. This subject was considered embarrassing and incompatible with the falsified and publically proclaimed representations of this period. Hence, the AP operations remained veiled in strict secrecy not only from the "enemy" itself, but also from their own rank-and-file. Such was the extent of these deep-cover operations, that there were instances of skirmishes between AP units and the units of the Communist Polish People’s Army (Pol. Ludowe Wojsko Polskie, LWP), or the Internal Security Corps (Pol. Korpus Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego, abbr. KBW). For these reasons, the discovery of real historical truth might not only cast a shadow on many of the events related to the "Consolidation of the People’s Power", but will also verify many "facts" documenting the carefully engineered negative image of the post-war democratic underground resistance.
It is no accident that the true nature of such operations was never revealed - not even after their completion. For these reasons, only a handful of publications mention these operations, and only in passing. An exception is L. Grot’s article revealing that such units were operational. While never revealing the true nature of these units, some publications from this period, however, offer us some additional leads; most notably those found in the sensationalized memoirs of Stanisław Wałach, a well-known Polish communist secret police operative. 
Despite the emergence of various publications related to the activities of the post-war armed underground that appeared in the 1990’s, it is difficult to identify specific publications that would, if even superficially, touch upon the activities of the AP units. An exception is an article by E. Misiło, entitled “Polish ‘UPA Gangs’”, published in the historical magazine "Karta", which was dedicated to this subject matter in its entirety. As the title of the article hints, it concerned the activities of AP units created by the Communist Ministry of Public Security (Pol. abbr. MBP - Ministerstwo Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego) that impersonated Ukrainian anti-communist partisan groups. A series of articles written by the commanding officer of one such unit was also published in the “Magazyn Tygodniowy”, and in an extra to “Polska Zbrojna.”  Another positive example is a book by Krystyna Kersten “Między wyzwoleniem a zniewoleniem. Polska 1944-1956” in which its author mentions UB groups acting as Polish partisan forest units.  While avoiding developing the subject matter in depth, the author clearly indicates its importance and significance to the narrative about the history of the first postwar years in Poland.
Aside from the scant examples cited above, there are virtually no studies on this subject matter.  However, it would be unreasonable to question the fact that such secret units were indeed established within the UB and KBW. Similarly, it is difficult to overestimate the effectiveness and efficacy of such measures in the fight against the "armed resistance" and the democratic opposition at large. This is all the more important as activities of this kind were often accompanied by killings, whose victims - within the communist historiography - can still pass for being the "real victims" of the underground units.
To a large degree, and not surprisingly, the top-secret nature of these operations pre-determined the scarcity of primary and secondary source materials discussing them. The most valuable of these are the few remaining documents and accounts originating directly from the command centers that organized and supervised these operations. In the wake of information from WiN (Pol. abbr. Zrzeszenie Wolnosc i Niezawislosc - Freedom & Independence), we can, however, assume that many orders to carry out AP operations were issued only by word of mouth; that in itself, certainly affects the amount of remaining source materials available as well. Despite these obvious difficulties, however, information of various importance related to this subject matter can be found at national archival institutions. It is also possible that additional material can be found in the archives of the former Ministry of the Interior. Often enough, this subject matter is also present in the monthly reports prepared for, and verified by WiN intelligence cells that were sent to London during 1946, and the first months of 1947. Being raw intelligence materials gathered under most difficult underground conditions and require careful verification, but should nonetheless, be considered an invaluable and priceless resource to historians.
Both sides in the conflict used various terminology to describe the AP units. In communist terminology, most often used are:
- “anti-partisan units” [Pol. "oddziały antypartyzanckie"]
- “partisan units in civilian clothes” [Pol. "oddziały partyzanckie ubrane po cywilnemu"]
- “tactical units in civilian clothes” [Pol. "grupy bojowe w ubraniach cywilnych"], or
- “non-uniformed operational groups” [Pol. "nie umundurowane grupy operacyjne"].
WiN terminology, on the other hand, describes them as:
- “UB gangs” [Pol. "bojówki UB"]
- "UB agent provocateur [AP] Units" [Pol. "oddziały prowokacyjne UB"]
- " secret diversionary UB and PPR units” [Pol." tajne oddziały dywersyjne UB i PPR"]
- “UB and PPR agent-provocateur gangs” [Pol. "bojówki prowokacyjne UB i PPR"], or simply,
- “UB and PPR forest gangs” [Pol. "leśne bandy UB i PPR"]
[TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: Two other terms used to describe these AP units were:
- "oddziały pozorowane", loosely translated as "sham units", "fake units", "make-believe units", etc., and
- "brygady realizacyjne", loosely translated as "implementation brigades".]
Unfortunately, the scarcity of source materials does not allow us, at least not with any degree of precision, to ascertain their specific numbers, their operational reach, or chronology of activities carried out. It should also be noted that for the same reasons, we are forced to speak broadly of all operations carried out by these “anti-partisan units”, UB groups, MO, KBW, or regular military units posing only temporarily as guerrillas for the purpose of carrying out a single operation. With reasonable certainty, it can be assumed, however, that this was the case with assassinations and politically inspired murders.
With the current state of historical knowledge, it is not possible to precisely determine the time at which the regime began to use these AP units. They were created on the basis of recommendations and orders from the highest military authorities and MBP, and were inspired by the wealth of experience drawn from NKVD playbooks. In the book, "Straceni w polskich więzieniach 1944-1956" we find a "Top Secret" order VIII/1233/172, issued by then the Minister of Public Security, Stanisław Radkiewicz, dated December 4, 1945. It reads:
“[…] the heads of the U[rząd]B[ezpieczeństwa Publicznego] offices are directed to prepare in great secrecy an operation having as its goal liquidation of members of democratic organizations; this operation is to be staged in such a fashion as to appear to have been carried out by the reactionary [NSZ, AK, AKO, WiN] gangs. It is advised that special-purpose [secret police AP, or "oddziały pozorowane""] units created during the summer of last year be used for this purpose. This action is to be accompanied by a [smear] press campaign directed against the reactionary gangs who will be blamed for these actions. (-) [Stanisław] Radkiewicz." 
Is it possible that these types of operations were already being carried out at the beginning of the Lublin Peoples’ Poland? While such instances were certainly plausible, the scarcity of remaining source materials makes it difficult to conclusively corroborate this theory. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, however, the communist AP groups impersonating genuine resistance units operated as early as during the summer of 1945. From the memoirs of Edward Gronczewski vel. "Przepiórka" (former member of the Communist AL / Armia Ludowa partisan units, and special operations officer to the Commander in Chief of the Communist People’s Militia, MO), we learn about a conference that convened at the General Staff of the 8th Infantry Regiment in the Kraśnik area in early July 1945. Among the tasks discussed was the establishment and deployment of two units described by Gronczewski as “small, but well armed pseudo-partisan units”. One of them, operated in Puławy County, and consisted of 15 people commanded by Bolesław Kowalski, vel. “Cień”. The second unit consisting of 40 people, led by Gronczewski, operated primarily in Kraśnik County. (According to L. Grot, Gronczewski’s 37-men group also played the same role during 1946-1947 in the Janów and Parczew forests). Gronczewski’s group operated under the cover of being a WiN unit that arrived from Chełm County.  [6a]
It was also noted that on November 9, 1945, a 32-man group commanded by the KBW Chief of Intelligence-Operations for Kraków Voivodeship, Lt. Edward Zymkiewicz, was dispatched to Nowy Targ County where “it operated as a partisan unit wearing civilian clothes”. 
The Polish émigré press in the West wrote about these AP units as well. In 1946, “Dziennik Polski” and “Dziennik Żołnierza” published an article entitled the “Terror in Poland” [pl. “Terror w Polsce”] concerning the “planned diversionary operations directed by Col. Litvinov who was dispatched from the USSR in order to establish a secret diversionary school for the field officers in Łodz”, and that “beginning in mid-1945, Col. Litvinov’s first diversionary units were dispatched for operations. These were initially active in the Białystok, Lublin, Rzeszów and Kraków Voivodeships. At present, they have expanded their activities throughout Poland”. 
Agent-provocateur units consisted primarily of former partisans - mostly members of the Communist AL [pol. Armia Ludowa -People’s Army]. The strictly secret nature of these units precluded recruitment from a pool of volunteers, and it is doubtful that - as Gronczewski wrote - volunteers to such units were simply asked to join-in during some sort of general meeting of the regiment’s partisans. It is assumed that carefully vetted and politically trusted candidates were at first assigned to take part in these types of operations, and only thereafter, as a secondary condition, were they then asked for their consent.
These units were equipped with "the special power of attorney from the General Staff," which, as evidenced in Gronczewski's memoirs, gave them complete freedom to carry on as they pleased - including assassinations and politically inspired murders. 
The results gained during these operations had to be considerable enough to inspire preparation of the January 5, 1946 Top-Secret Assessment, entitled “Tactical Aspects of Combatting Gangs”. Its author, the head of the Main Department for Political Training of the Polish People’s Army, Col. Janusz Zarzycki (real name Neugebauer) explicitly advocated “transforming party activists, workers, soldiers, and officers into partisans wearing civilian clothes and unleashing them in the forests to rain havoc in the ranks of the gangs.”  Several months later, on June 17, 1946, at the Belweder Palace, the subject of combatting the democratic underground returned once again. This time calling for the use of “so-called anti-partisan units consisting of experienced activists from the military, security services, and local apparatus, to operate in the particularly affected areas, where the [democratic] underground found support and help from their families. As a result, the memo called for a greater distribution of weapons to the ORMO [Pol. abbr. Ochotnicza Rezerwa Milicji Obywatelskiej - Volunteer Reserve Militia] units.” 
Operations of this kind had to be carefully planned. A hastily written and grammatically poor directive entitled “Instructions for reconnaissance officers in the field" approved by the KBW commander for the Lublin Voivodeship, Colonel Podgórny, pointed out that "due to the fact that most gangs wear Polish Army uniforms it is possible [for the agent-provocateur units] to disguise themselves as a sub-unit of such a gang (but, of necessity be already familiar with the names of commanding officers of the active gang’s sub-unit, their political persuasions and strength), thus provoking the members and supporters to ‘act-out’.
Revealing of the thugs’ affiliation are their weapons; these are mostly automatic German-made, air-dropped Czech-type, and at times, Russian [weapons]. For this reason, in order to disguise the true nature of the unit, the reconnaissance officer should procure several types of weapons used by the bandits that are fully-functional, and have sufficient amounts of ammunition; the military caps should have the mandatory Polish eagles with crowns; avoid puttees that the criminals do not wear, but instead wear long pants and boots. While speaking with the locals, be cautious and pretend to be nervous and scared, and in a casual manner ask about the UB and Militia [in the area], but don’t go overboard. Say only insignificant little facts about yourselves that will not expose your scouting group to the members of the gang, who could possibly be present at the time.” 
“In order to successfully carry out this type of mission - Gronczewski continued - it is necessary at all cost to bite-into the organizational structures of the specific [resistance] units in order to ascertain their organization and personnel. To this end, our group has to be properly equipped and behave in the filed to retain -at least during the initial stages -an appearance of being a forest unit group […] The primary task of the group will be carried out during the nighttime. It will include listening, surveillance and setting up traps against the underground units and single individuals moving throughout the area.”
Some of the AP units wore civilian clothes, carried various kinds of weapons, but always maintained significant firepower. Much flexibility related to the duration of various phases of the operation was exercised as well. “The length of time to be used in various locations will be determined by the situation in the particular area itself. The moment we are found-out, we are to immediately begin operations elsewhere.” 
What the creation of an AP unit looked like, and what steps to disguise such operations were taken, are to some extent revealed in the 1987 memoirs of the Communist Polish People’s Republic intelligence and counter-intelligence chief, Władysław Pożoga, who describes the creation of an AP group disguising itself as an UPA unit known as the “Czota Czumaka”. 
“Rzeszów’s WUBP decided - Pożoga said - to create the best UPA [agent-provocateur] Czota [14a] [En. platoon] possible. It was necessary to find the people who knew the customs, practices, habits and behavior of the Ukrainian nationalists, and then adequately prepare them psychologically, physically, and to equip them with weapons and uniforms used by the adversary. This was the least of our troubles. Our stores were full of trophies gathered from the destroyed UPA groups. There were several individuals suitable for such an operation at the Office [of Security]. Several others were brought-in from our neighbors [in the Ukraine]. The rest was ‘borrowed’ from the army.” 
The operation was veiled in strict secrecy. While Pożoga certainly omits many facts concerning activities of this 30-men strong “Czota Czumaka” AP unit, he admits, however, that in order not to compromise its cover, it didn’t withdraw from the exchange of fire with accidentally encountered Communist army units (calling them “our own”). He also euphemistically adds, that “here and there someone got banged up a little”. Whereas the hidden meaning of this laconic statement is likely to remain a mystery, we ought to turn our attention to the conclusion of this operation; culminating in the capture of the entire “Czota Czumaka” in a staged encounter with communist military forces. "After all, the [communist] military that took part in this operation - Pożoga says - “didn’t have a clue whom the captured men really were. In fact, they were convinced [some of them probably to this very day] that they were escorting real UPA fighters,” who were subsequently locked up in a barn hastily adapted for their detention. In the evening, cars drove up to the barn and the detainees were loaded up. The convoy carrying the AP unit arrived in a city [likely Rzeszów] in the middle of the night and entered the Office of Security facility via its rear gate, while all the lights were turned off. While the operation was over, both the soldiers and civilians who came in contact with the “Czota Czumaka” are likely to be convinced to this day that they had in fact encountered a “real UPA gang”." Indeed, the 'Czota' ceased to exist - as Pożoga says - but, “its members didn’t outlive their usefulness. They acquired even more experience that was useful in the next operation.” 
Gronczewski’s memoirs also shed light on the rules followed during the creation of such units. “The most complicated part of activities undertaken by such groups was to obtain provisions […] this particular problem was simply not to be solved. After all, you can’t carry canned food while in the field, because this will bring attention to you, and will raise suspicion when taking quarters in the settlements. One can’t carry too much food, as you have to recon with the fact that people in this group have to carry more ammunition, and at least two to four defensive grenades each […] in the end, we agreed that we’ll bring preserves to last for the duration of three days and will buy the bread locally.” 
To establish even more convincing cover, at times a decision was made to drag along real partisans who were captured earlier. The simple fact that the locals knew these captured men personally legitimized an AP unit even more. A particular attention was paid to small details that wouldn’t reveal the fact that these captured men were in fact under arrest. So, they were ordered to carry weapons, which were earlier disabled and were incapable of firing. 
The generally prevailing turmoil of Poland’s post-war period allowed to maintain this charade even further. The WiN report for February 1946 reads: "Within a month's time, there were several hundred killings carried out by the Red Army or by other unidentified individuals throughout the country. This may include the killings of another nature as well. Under the present circumstances, it is easy for the PPR and UB gangs [AP units] to conceal their activities. Only the incidents carefully scripted to blame the [democratic] resistance are being announced [to the public].”  The underground WiN publication “White Eagle” (pol. “„Orzeł Biały”) from March 1946, reported: “It should be emphasized that the conclusive identification of the NKGB [The People's Commissariat for State Security (Russian: Народный комиссариат государственной безопасности) - Soviet secret police] UB [AP] partisan units is quite difficult, because these employ exactly the same methods and tactics as our partisans during the German occupation.” 
It appears that during 1946, the AP operations became a particularly valuable weapon in the fight against Polish society. In connection with the ultimate fiasco of maneuvering the Polish Peasant Party (pol. Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe, abbr. PSL) into joining the unified electoral block with other “democratic” parties, the communist regime also noticeably exacerbated its efforts to fight against the legal political opposition at large. In addition to strictly administrative means that aimed at hindering the PSL’s activities - including the closing of its county offices, and ultimately cancelling its electoral lists under the pretext of anti-state activities - the Communists also escalated activities against individual members of the PSL. Mass arrests of PSL members accompanied by beatings, physical, and psychological torture, became a widespread phenomenon. A number of these beatings resulted in fatalities.  The “official” repressions that ensued were accompanied by far more numerous instances of assassinations carried out “on account” of the real underground resistance.
Continue to Part 2
1. L. Grot, “Działania zbrojne Ludowego Wojska Polskiego przeciwko zbrojnemu podziemiu w latach 1945 - 1947, [appeared in:] „Wojskowy Przegląd Historyczny” 1973, Nr. 3, p. 489 - 490; S. Wałach, “Był w Polsce czas”, pp. 186-190.
2. E. Misiło, “Polskie ‘bandy UPA’”, „Karta” 1991, Nr. 2; E. Gronczewski, “Działalność operacyjna Grupy Specjalnej”, 8 pp in 1945 r., in: „Polska Zbrojna” -„Magazyn Tygodniowy”, Nr. 22 - 25 (138-141), copy in the author’s collection. Portions of this study were earlier published in four parts entitled: „Diabelski plan” (nr 22/138), Part I; “Partyzancki oddział UB” (nr 23/139), Part II; “Prowokacja i bezprawie” (nr 24/140), Part III: “Wygłosiłem przemówienie i zastrzeliłem go” (Nr 25/141), Part IV.
3. K. Kersten, Między wyzwoleniem a zniewoleniem. Polska 1944 - 1956, Londyn 1993, pp. 31-33, 95.
4. A subsection of this is based on two earlier articles published by the author in 1996: M. Korkuć, Oddziały Prowokacyjne UB i KBW w Małopolsce, „Zeszyty Historyczne WiN-u” 1996, Nr. 8; M. Korkuć, Prowokacyjna działalność UB i KBW, w: Dzieje Podkarpacia, t. I, Krosno 1996.
5. Order issued by the Minister of Public Security Nr. S VIII/1223/172 from December 4, 1945, Straceni w polskich więzieniach 1944 - 1956, s. 16.
6. L. Grot, Działania zbrojne Ludowego Wojska Polskiego przeciwko zbrojnemu podziemiu w latach 1945 - 1947, Wojskowy Przegląd Historyczny, 1973, Nr. 3, pp. 489 - 490; E. Gronczewski, Działalność operacyjna Grupy Specjalnej..., op. cit., Pt. I, Nr. 22/138, Pt. III, Nr. 24/139.
6a. On May 21, 1950 along with Grzegorz Korczyński, Gronczewski was arrested for the 1942 murder of Jews who were members of his Communist AL (Armia Ludowa - People's Army) unit.
7. CAW, Zesp. KBW, sygn. 1580/75/90, k. 16, Meldunek zwiadowczy Nr. 0095 Sztabu WBW woj. krakowskiego z 9 listopada 1945; CAW, Zesp. KBW, sygn. 1580/75/90, k. 24, Meldunek zwiadowczy nr 0099 Sztabu WBW woj. krakowskiego z 13 listopada 1945 r.;
8. J. Skalniak, Terror w Polsce, „Dziennik Polski i Dziennik Żołnierza”, 1946, Nr. 240, cyt. za: K. Kersten, Między wyzwoleniem a zniewoleniem. Polska 1944 - 1956, Londyn 1993, p. 95.
9. E. Gronczewski, Działalność operacyjna Grupy Specjalnej..., op. cit., cz. I, Nr. 22/138, Pt. IV, Nr. 25/141.
10. Cytat za: E. Misiło, op. cit., p. 122.
11. L. Grot, op. cit., pp. 489 - 490.
12. Instructions for the filed intelligence officers (undated), CAW, Zesp. KBW, sygn. 1580/75/403, k. 150.
13. E. Gronczewski, Działalność operacyjna Grupy Specjalnej..., op. cit., Pt. I, Nr. 22/138;
14. While these events took place as early as 1947, it is certain that their success can be attributed to the earlier experience gained during similar operations in and around Rzeszow and other areas.
[14a] A "Czota"[platoon] consisted of three "roje". Two or three "Czoty"on the other hand, would constitute a "sotnia".
15. Siedem rozmów z generałem dywizji Władysławem Pożogą, I zastępcą ministra spraw wewnętrznych, szefem wywiadu i kontrwywiadu, opr.: H. Piecuch, Warszawa 1987, pp. 40 - 41.
16. Ibid, pp. 43 - 44.
17. E. Gronczewski, Działalność operacyjna Grupy Specjalnej..., op. cit., Pt. I, Nr. 22/138;
18. E. Gronczewski, Działalność operacyjna Grupy Specjalnej..., op. cit., Pt. II, Nr. 23/139,
19. SPP Londyn, Archiwum Delegatury WiN, Kol. 19, teczka 2 „Z Kraju -II 1946”, Sprawozdanie informacyjne WiN za luty 1946, część pt. „Stosunek Sowietów do Anglosasów”, p. 11.
20. K. Kersten, op. cit., p. 32.
21. R. Buczek, Na przełomie dziejów. Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe 1945-1947, Wrocław 1989, p. 176-177.