Communist Agent Provocateur Operations
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.
According to a WiN report from June 1946, we learned that an NSZ (Pol. abbr. Narodowe Siły Zbrojne - National Armed Forces) unit destroyed a 40-man AP (Agent Provocateur) group in the Wadowice area.  The subject of liquidation of “anti-partisan” UB units (Pol. abbr. Urząd Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego, or UBP - Office of Public Security, Polish secret police) and the losses borne in clashes with democratic resistance units, is mentioned in other WiN (Pol. abbr. Wolność i Niezawisłość - Freedom and Independence) reports as well.
Earlier, in January 1946, a specially-assigned 100-man unit was designated from within the Kraków Voivodeship’s Internal Military Security force [Pol. Wojska Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego, abbr. WBW] to carry out operations as “partisan units”. The overall command of the operation was assigned to the WBW’s Chief of Reconnaissance-Investigations’ Section, Capt. Borysieńko. The unit was divided into three operations’ sections. The first unit in civilian clothes was to act under the cover of being an armed partisan group that arrived from the Śląsk [eng. Silesia] area. Commanded by Lt. Edward Szymkiewicz, it consisted of 2 officers and 25 enlisted men. Its assignment was to attain direct contact with the concentration of partisan units under the command of Józef Kuraś, nom de guerrre "Ogień" (eng. "Fire"). The second unit was to remain in a state of readiness, and to provide the necessary support to the first unit once “Ogień’s” partisans were engaged. Reinforced by the UB and the communist People’s Militiamen, the third unit was to act as a rearguard to the operation, and to reinforce the above two, if or when needed. Whilst the primary assignment of engaging Ogien’s partisans never materialized, the entire undertaking was assessed as being extremely successful. While posing as real partisans, Szymkiewicz’s men were able to gather much information about Kuraś’ support in the area, and produced lists with names of individuals sympathizing and collaborating with the resistance. 
The exact number of assaults and murders carried out by the UB against the PSL (Pol. abbr. Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe - Polish Peasants’ Party) activists is difficult to ascertain.  Particularly revealing is the content of the emergency meeting between [the Communist Polish Workers’ Party First Secretary, Bolesław] Bierut and PSL’s representative, Jan Witaszek. It concerned the arrests of Stanisław Mierzwa, Karol Buczek, and members of the Kraków Voivodeship’s PSL Committee. During the meeting, Witaszek said, “the recent past suggests an intensification [of the communist efforts] to pacify the villages. A prime example of this is Miechów County, where farms are being scorched to the ground, and PSL activists are dropping dead [left and right…] 35 people had paid with their lives for being our members [in the Miechów County alone].” 
WiN’s report from September 1946, corroborates this, stating that “an MO [Pol. abbr. Milicja Obywatelska - communist People’s Militia] unit under [the joint] command of Maj. Bielecki from the WUBP [Pol. Abbr. Wojewódzki Urząd Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego - Voivodeship Office for Public Security – Polish secret police], and the MO’s Maj. Gruda, whose purpose was to liquidate the undesired PSL members, is stationed at 25 [or 23] Batory Street [Pol. Ulica Batorego] in Kraków. Most of the time, this unit wore civilian clothes (the only discernable parts of what one would consider an uniform, are their hats, belts, and ammunition magazines). Presently, they venture into Tarnów and Miechów counties to carry out murders.” 
During the above-mentioned visit with Bierut, Witaszek also used an example of the murder of another PSL activist named Zygmunt Pieczar.  One frequently cited publication entitled “Oddali życie w walce o nową Polskę” [Pol. “They paid for the new Poland with their lives”], lists Pieczara as being a victim of “[murder perpetrated by] an unspecified armed underground unit."  This incident was cited in a WiN report from May 1946: “on April 4th an UB gang murdered Zygmunt Pieczara, a PSL activist - They broke his arms, his entire body was black-and-blue from beatings [that preceded his death]; he got four bullets in his head. The victim was visited by UB bandits 2-times [? – while the number is not clearly legible, it appears to be a number 2], who earlier read to the victim’s wife, the death sentence orders, stating that it will be withdrawn only if Pieczara withdrew from the PSL and political life [in general].” 
On the night of the 1st and 2nd of August 1946, two PSL members were murdered on the street in downtown Miechów. They were: Major Apoloniusz Józefowicz (member of PSL’s County Committee, former BCh [Pol. abbr. Bataliony Chłopskie - Peasants’ Battalions] commandant [during the German occupation], and deputy-head of the Powiatowy Związek Samopomocy Chłopskiej [abbr. ZSCh – County Self-Help Peasant Union]), as well as ZSCh’s Deputy-Chairman, an engineer named Stefan Miłkowski. According to information gathered by WiN’s intelligence unit, these murders were carried out by three UB functionaries, among whom, recognized and identified at the time was “a local UB man, Sec. Lt. Zdankiewicz” who “after carrying out the murder […] left for Kraków where he is [presently] working at the WUBP.”  According to the “Oddali życie w walce o nową Polskę” cited earlier, these two men were also victims of “[a murder] perpetrated by an unknown underground unit” (Józefowicz), or by “unknown perpetrators” (Miłkowski). 
An even more apparent example of such politically-motivated murders carried out by the communist Agent Provocateur UB units - pretending to be part of the democratic resistance - is that of murders perpetrated on the persons of Józef Górowski, and Dr. Szczepan Niedźwiedź - both PSL activists in the Nowy Sącz County. In his letter to the governor of Kraków Voivodeship, concerning the June 4, 1946 murder of the second one of these men, the Nowy Sącz City Council president, Józef Łabuz (a PPR man himself), wrote: “Around 3 o’clock in the morning of June 1st, unknown perpetrators arrived via truck, probably from the direction of Nowy Sącz, at the apartment of Dr. Stefan Niedźwiedź [should be Szczepan] residing at the rectory in Siedlce. After escorting Dr. Niedźwiedź out of his apartment, the perpetrators shot him with two bullets to the head. The P.U.B.P is conducting an investigation.“ What the real chain of events looked like can be ascertained from the text of the protest notice filed by PSL leadership with Osóbka-Morawski, and Bierut on August 12, 1946. 
[Translator’s Note: Also See: "860C.00/2-1946:Telegram / TOP SECRET / US URGENT / Warsaw, February 19, 1946-noon/ Received 2:36 p.m. / The [United States] Ambassador in Poland to the Secretary of State/ here.]
Around 24:00 hours, during the night of May 31, and June 1, 1946, a truck full of uniformed secret police men arrived in the vicinity of the village where Józef Górowski lived. A dozen or so of these men came to Górowski’s house and introduced themselves as partisans from the [Józef Kuraś, nom de guerre] “Ogień” unit. [emphasis added] They behaved politely, and were interested in the local situation, and in particular, inquired about individuals who belonged to the [communist] PPR. They demanded of Górowski’s wife to point out to them the [local] residences where they could safely take quarters. Afterwards, they asked Górowski to exit from his apartment, and to show them the way to the main street. This is where he was shot.
They were transported away from the crime-scene by a truck, by which they traveled towards Siedlce. They were observed there around 3 a.m. They stopped in front of the rectory where Dr. Szczepan Niedźwiedź’s apartment was. They dragged him out of the house, and shot him with two bullets to the head; this despite pleas to spare his life. They all got into the same truck and drove off to the town of Wojnarowo.
In both cases, there were bystanders who witnessed these events. Their accounts helped in ascertaining the identities of the perpetrators of these two murders, namely, the Lt. Wojciech Jaroszewicz, and Władysław Hladny, both UBP functionaries from Nowy Sącz.” [emphasis added]
|Above: PHOTO: Lt. Wojciech Jaroszewicz, Polish secret Police, the UB, assigned to the Nowy Sącz County PUBP office. One of the murderers of PSL activists: Dr. Szczepan Niedźwiedź, and Józef Górowski.
Above: Władysław Hladny, Polish secret police, the UB, assigned to the Nowy Sącz County PUBP office. One of the murderers of PSL activists: Dr. Szczepan Niedźwiedź, and Józef Górowski.
They arrived in the village of Wojnarowo around 5 a.m. in the morning. Here, however, they introduced themselves as UBP functionaries. [emphasis added] "They arrested the Steinhoff brothers: Stanisław, and Kazimierz - both of whom were severely beaten.” Thereafter, they demolished their apartment, and “proceeded to beat everyone they had encountered, not even sparing the old and frail mother of both of the arrested”. From there, they traveled to Korzenna; the location of a local governing municipality, and the MO [communist People’s Militia] station. As we have noted elsewhere, here as well, Lt. Jaroszewicz severely reprimanded the local militiamen for their idleness, while “the gangsters are murdering local civilians”. To solidify his cover further, here again, he returned with the militiamen to the place where Dr. Niedźwiedź was murdered, where “an ad-hock investigation took place, and a protocol of investigation was prepared.”
Despite their efforts to keep things hushed up, the UB murders of Niedźwiedź and Górowski received such notoriety, that they were brought forth for an open discussion at the meeting of the District Council in Nowy Sącz on July 12, 1946. The PSL’s representative, Józef Olszyński said: “The public doesn’t know where the gang activities end, and where the UB protection begins. The UB’s masquerades to look and act like gangs, and the gangs’ activities to be perceived as the UB, are the morbid symptoms [of the prevailing problems]. Deplorable events have taken place. Two people - members of the PSL - had died. [They were] a physician [named] Niedźwiedź, and ob. [Pol. abbr. obywatel - citizen] Górowski. Thus far, there are no explanations as to why they were shot dead, [and by whom].”  The PPR [communist party-affiliated] governor, Józef Łabuz was asked to partake in the discussion. Only one month earlier, in his April 4, 1946 report, Łabuz wrote about “unknown perpetrators” of these murders, at the same time expressing his accolades for the activities of Nowy Sącz’s organs of UB and MO, whose actions in May of that year - he wrote - “had measurably intensified”. Continuing, he goes onto say, that the County UBP continued to be “effective in its unrelenting persecution of the secret [anti-communist resistance] organizations."  This time he stated, that the “Urząd Bezpieczeństwa is not subordinated to the Council, and for this reason, in principle, will not be able to provide any explanations concerning the deaths of [either] Dr. Niedźwiedź, [or] Górowski.” But this time, he neither refuted the facts, nor did he question that it was in fact the UB who committed the crime. However, he made an attempt to “explain” it differently, by stating, “as far as I know about [what had happened to] Niedźwiedź, the deceased man was to assault a member of the security [police] and [afterwards] proceeded to escape.” In the end, he promised that he will “himself ask for certain explanations from the UB.”  Despite an obvious and unequivocal clarity of what had really taken place, and the subsequent notoriety this incident received, the name of Szczepan Niedźwiedź remains to this day amongst the victims of an “unknown underground gang” who perished during “the fight for the newly [resurrected by the communists] Poland.” 
While weaving through the subject of AP units, or the communist armed gangs pretending to be partisan units in general, we ought to be cognizant that oftentimes, a paradigm will emerge whereby we will be forced to breach beyond the clear-cut distinctions of the “underground” and the Agent Provocateur “anti-underground”. We should also at least signal the existence of some instances, whereby not all the members of AP units knew what the real character of these activities was, nor were they aware who issued the orders, and lastly, to what end. This particular phenomenon was touched upon in the WiN report mentioned earlier, from October 1946. It states that on September 17, 1946, an ex-AL [the communist Armia Ludowa – People’s Army] member, and then an UB functionary in Słomniki, named Józef Kocioł (according to WiN, his real name was actually Piotrowski), received orders to organize “as quickly as possible” a few units that should resemble in their appearance the forest units active in the area. He was informed that “there should be two types of such units: the smaller units, having in their ranks carefully screened and vetted recruits from the UB, WBW, and MO, who previously served in [the communist] partisan units; and larger [units] created “spontaneously”. In the case of the latter, only the top command supervising these activities should be privy [to their true nature], and even then, carry out only as ordered from the top. The entirety [of these units] should be made up of volunteers.”  In the second instance, it is clear, that the UB would at first plant the seeds by “releasing” units not entirely aware of their roles, and only thereafter, staff them with people who were led to believe that they were joining the real, democratic resistance units.
The above-mentioned order was approved by an individual, or a group of individuals, identifying himself, or themselves, only by an alias - “Roman”. The next order - that according to WiN was given to Kocioł the following day, on September 18, 1946 - bared the identical alias in place of the official signature as well. Based on its statutory powers, the order appointed Józef Goły as Kocioł’s adjutant. At the same time, he was being reminded that “the partisan units that were to be formed should take on full appearances of the AK [Pol. abbr. Armia Krajowa - Home Army]”.  Both orders were said to have been delivered by a courier who arrived from the Rzeszów area. If WiN’s report is precise enough, we can assume that both Kocioł and Goły were to ready these AP units, and to coordinate their activities - at least, here and there. It is unlikely that either man personally took part in these operations on a consistent basis, (at least not in the Miechów County area). It also appears that they were both known too well in the area to personally take part in these top-secret operations; at least, not without risking blowing the cover of these very operations. By the spring and summer of that year, the news of their activities gradually trickled to Kraków, where it became the subject of several interpellations brought forth by PSL councilors to the Voivodeship Council [in Kraków].
“Józef Kocioł - the PSL councilors stated - reigns with bona fide terror not only among the population of the municipality where he lives, but also within the entire county. By illegally usurping the prerogatives enjoyed only by the bodies of state authority, and the judiciary, he is engaged in lawless arrests, searches, and assaults on peaceful citizens.”  Armed with side arms and automatic weapons, and in the company of the above mentioned Józef Goły, and a certain Wojtka from Klimontowo, on March 25, 1946, Kocioł traveled throughout Szczytnik (in Miechów County) going from house to house, pounding on doors, bloodying [innocent] people up, and beating them until they lost consciousness. They also engaged in verbal assaults, calling them “motherfucking PSL thieves, and bandits”, and threatening to “shoot them like dogs” . Four days later, on March 29, 1946, Józef Goły returned to Szczytnik with a group PUBP functionaries from Miechów. The UB functionaries began “a pacification action”: at first, by firing their weapons in the air and creating panic, and then, by forcing the locals to run for their lives. Then, they selected certain people, (most of whom were PSL members), whom they proceded to subsequently beat until they lost consciousness. Afterwards, the victims were transported to the MO [communist People’s Militia] station. After the operation was over, the UB-men demanded of Szczytniki’s inhabitants to “pay for the ammunition [the UB] spent” and collected payments from the people they had selected.” 
It is unlikely that after such incidents either Kocioł, or Goły, could “play the partisans” in the area. On the other hand, we can suspect that given their indisputable ruthlessness and brutality, and their excellent knowledge of the area, they were predestined to become effective secret coordinators and principals in these operations. They could have, after all, participated in the operations carried out in the areas where their faces weren’t as well known among the locals. For obvious reasons, such assumptions are very difficult, if not impossible to support by sources other than those cited in the above mentioned WiN reports. There is, nonetheless, one brief and an all-telling passage supporting this assertion. It can be found in Norbert Michta’s memoirs. Michta, who in 1946 was the First Secretary of the Communist PPR County Committee in Miechów wrote, that Józef Kocioł from Klimontowo “created an [AP] unit to fight with the reactionary underground and wanted to finish them all off on his own.” 
As we have mentioned elsewhere, the true nature of a great majority of these AP groups was never revealed after their missions were completed, and neither were they revealed during the decades that followed - not surprisingly, remaining a closely guarded secret to this very day. Since many such activities were accompanied by the double-cover, it not only amplified their effectiveness, but also protected them from “enemy informers”. Because of the specific nature of intelligence gathered by WiN and its operatives, the collected materials ought to receive our particular attention. While the intelligence briefs sent to London were to contain only carefully verified and vetted information, at times, the WiN intelligence network was not immune from erroneous interpretations of the information it collected. An example of this could be the case of “Stalingrad’s” group  operating in Brzesk county, and cited in the WiN reports as an example of an AP operation carried out by the UB.
The investigation and trial materials reveal that the biography of the leader of this group, named Władysław Drąg, vel “Stalingrad”, was a complicated one at best.  Born in 1905 in Maszkienice, already in the 1920s, he was sentenced to a year-and-a-half prison sentence for breaking-in and entering.  During the German occupation, in the beginning of the 1940’s, he was involved with the resistance - to be ultimately promoted as the commandant of the local Bataliony Chłopskie [Peasants’ Battalions] unit in Brzesk County.  After the Soviet Red Army entered Polish territory, he found himself in the UB. Beginning in February 1945, he was chief of Section IV in the County Office for Public Security in Brzesk.
On May 8, 1945, “Stalingrad” was fired from the UB (most likely as a result of a personal feud he had with the head of Brzesk’s PUBP office, Edward Goleb). In February 1946, in connection with taking part in the shootout between the Communist People’s Army and the people in his native village, he was arrested and placed in custody at the investigations’ jail in Brzesk. In early March, Drąg escaped from jail along with other prisoners. Soon after, he took command of a small, armed group consisting mainly of former officers of the UB in Brzesk. 
This unit didn’t have contact with any other underground organizations, and operated virtually on its own. At the most, it sought to establish contacts with local peasant activists. However, as Drąg later argued - because of his activities in the Office of Security (where he gained notoriety as being very eager)  - the local units of the National Armed Forces (under command of "Salwa"?) issued two death sentences against him. In order to save his skin, "Stalingrad" began to spread rumors that his unit is part of WiN. 
As confirmed by WiN reports, its local cells were well aware of “Stalingrad’s” activities, and similarly, were well cognizant of the not-so-distant organizational affiliation of the men in his unit with the UB.  Therefore, knowing about his attempts at impersonating a WiN unit, it recognized this unit’s existence to be a tell-tale sign of an UB provocation. Hence, “Stalingrad’s” activities were interpreted as an attempt to "recreate" the Peasant Battalions’ forest unit in order to attract members of the PSL to it; that in turn, would have been used by the communists as a political and propaganda tool against this organization.
In this instance, the conclusions reached by WiN’s intelligence network were inaccurate. While many aspects of this particular case require further and more in-depth research, it seems indisputable that while leading his unit, Drąg didn’t maintain any operational contacts with the UB. As persuasive proof of this is the content of his letter to Bierut, written on July 11, 1950. While in jail, sentenced to death three days earlier, “Stalingrad” asked for the commutation of his death sentence. There is no doubt, or at least it is highly plausible, that while in such a predicament, he would have certainly used his UB contacts, if such existed, to save his own life. Meanwhile, there is not a word about this in his request for leniency asked from Poland’s Communist leader; and so, Bierut refused the right of grace. Władysław Drąg, vel “Stalingrad” was executed by the communist regime on August 3, 1950.
The “Stalingrad” case illustrates aptly the enormous difficulties facing historians in reconstructing the actual map of postwar activities of the armed underground resistance units in Poland.
47. SPP Londyn, Archiwum Del. WiN, Kol. 19, teczka 4, Sprawozdanie informacyjne WiN za kwiecień 1946 r., część B, p. 5.
48. CAW, Zesp. KBW, sygn. 150/75/90, k. 176, Meldunek zwiadowczy Sztabu 6 Specjalnego Pułku KBW; J. Depo, Walka organów Bezpieczeństwa..., op. cit., pp. 291-292.
49. More about this in: R. Buczek, Na przełomie dziejów..., op. cit., p. 177.
50. Ibid, p. 253.
51. SPP Londyn, Archiwum Del. WiN, Kol. 19, teczka 9, Sprawozdanie informacyjne WiN za wrzesień 1946 r., część B, p. 13.
52. R. Buczek, Na przełomie dziejów..., op. cit., s. 253. 53. Oddali życie..., op. cit., p. 114.
54. SPP Londyn, Archiwum Del. WiN, Kol. 19, teczka 5, Sprawozdanie informacyjne WiN za maj 1946 r., część B, p. 4.
55. SPP Londyn, Archiwum Del. WiN, Kol. 19, teczka 9, Sprawozdanie informacyjne WiN za wrzesień 1946 r., część B, p. 18.
56. Oddali życie..., op. cit., p. 128.
57. Ibid, p. 129.
58. AAN, sygn. 193/III - 25, k. 44, 44a, Letter from PSL's Sekretariat Naczelny to Prime Minister, Warszawa 12 sierpnia 1946 r.,
59. AP Kr., Zesp. WRN Kr, sygn. 79, (Mf 101881), k. 345, Protokół posiedzenia PRN Nowy Sącz w dniu 11 lipca 1946 r.
60. AP Kr., Zesp. UW II, sygn. 928, materiał nienumerowany, Sprawozdanie sytuacyjne starosty nowosądeckiego za maj 1946, N. Sącz, 4 czerwca 1946 r.
61. AP Kr., Zesp. WRN, sygn. 79, (Mf 101881), k. 349, Protokół posiedzenia PRN Nowy Sącz w dniu 11 lipca 1946 r.
62. Oddali życie..., op. cit., p. 171.
63. SPP Londyn, Archiwum Del. WiN, Kol. 19, teczka 10, Sprawozdanie informacyjne WiN za październik 1946 r., część B, p. 8.
65. AP Kr., Zesp. WRN, sygn. 144, (Mf J-106), k. 147, Interpelacja PSL w sprawie działalności Józefa Kocioła złożona w WRN Kraków dnia 23 sierpnia 1946 r.
66. Ibid. These incidents were immediately reported to the PUBP and Miechów's City Council, WRN andi WUBP in Kraków, as well as Prezydium KRN, but these notifications generated no results.
67. AP Kr., sygn. WRN 144, (Mf J-106), k. 179, PSL interpelation concerning the pacification of the Szczytniki community, Miechów County, filed with WRN Kraków on 24 August 1946.
68. N. Michta, Z lat walki z reakcją, op. cit., p. 245.
69. Drąg’s unit was active between 1946-1950.
70. AP Kr., sygn. WSR Kr. 469/50, Court records in the case against W. Drąg and P. Pęcak,
71. In 1929 r. Drąg was sentenced to 1 1/2 years in prison for opening a safe, APKr., sygn. WSR Kr. 469/50, Akta sprawy przeciwko W. Drągowi i P. Pęcakowi, protocol of interrogations of W. Drąg at WUBP in Kraków on February 19, 1950.
72. Fitowa A., Bataliony Chłopskie ..., op. cit., p. 507.
73. One of these men, Paweł Pęcak, was with the Brzesk UB until January 1946. He was relieved on his own request, AP Kr, sygn. WSR Kr. 469/50, Akta sprawy przeciwko W. Drągowi i P. Pęcakowi.
74. During the German occupation, Sec. Lt. Józef Wojdak, led a diversion underground unit in the Brzesk AK [Home Army] District, and was Platoon Leader in the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment of Home Army. In his memoirs, he writes that it was exactly Władysław Drąg who commanded the UB unit from Brzesk that arrested him, and other AK leaders from the area on March 6, 1945. J. Wojdak, Byłem jednym z wielu, (date and publication place unknown), p. 97-99.
75. It is for this very reason that during Drąg’s interrogations, the UB consistently maintained that “Stalingrad” commanded a WiN unit. Only after Drąg’s further explanations, the fragment pertaining to this fact was removed from his indictment. AP Kr., sygn. WSR Kr. 469/50, Akta sprawy przeciwko W. Drągowi i P. Pęcakowi.
76. The fact that WiN knew that members of the Drąg’s unit were UB functionaries in Brzesk, is corroborated by, among other things, the WiN report from October 1946 mentioning this fact. (SPP Londyn, Archiwum Del. WiN, Kol. 19, teczka 10, „Z Kraju – X 1946”, cz. B, p. 23). WiN collected many other details about Drąg’s contacts with local PSL activists, among them Jakub Chwała or Stanisław Dadej. The materials form the Regional Military Court in Kraków corroborate this. (AP Kr., sygn. WSR Kr. 469/50, Akta sprawy przeciwko W. Drągowi i P. Pęcakowi).