As a result of the German aggression against the USSR on June 22, 1941 and the Sikorski-Mayski Pact concluded between the Polish Government- in- Exile and the USSR on July 30, 1941, there was a provision for a so-for called “amnesty” for Polish citizens – victims of Soviet repression, and the creation of the Polish Armed Forces in the USSR. With the consent of the British authorities and Joseph Stalin, the candidate proposed by the Polish authorities – General Władysław Anders – was to head the Polish army.
On the basis of the military agreement of August 14, 1941, the establishment of Polish troops in the USSR began on that day – in the central region of Russia: Buzuluk, Tatishchevo, Tockoje (1,200 km southeast of Moscow, 200 km north of the borders of Kazakhstan). In his first order of August 22, General Anders summoned Polish citizens:
“…… I am calling on all Polish citizens capable of bearing arms to fulfill their duty to their homeland and to join the banners of the White Eagle.
Remember that the victory of Germany is not only the irretrievable loss of Poland, but also the total destruction of the Polish nation. “
Tens of thousands of Polish citizens of various nationalities who were in captivity in the USSR responded to this appeal. Some of them were successful, thanks to the so-called “amnesty” (many of them were in Soviet prisons and camps without the court verdict) in reaching, often after travelling for thousands of kilometers, the Polish Army.
From then on, an extraordinary epic of Poles wishing to fight against all odds on the side of the Allies for the freedom of Poland and the world began. Thus, in 1941, the history of the Army known by the commander’s name – Anders’ Army began.
Although in the period 1941-1947 it changed its official name three times:
1941-1942 – Polish Army in the USSR / Polish Armed Forces in the USSR
1942-1943 – Polish Army in the East (after evacuation from the USSR to the Middle East)
July 21, 1943 – July 10, 1947 – Polish 2nd Corps (Middle East, Italy, Great Britain)
Throughout its commander was General Władysław Anders, and many soldiers remained in its ranks from beginning to end.
In 1942, Polish troops evacuated from the USSR joined the Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade, which was already in the Middle East.
In the years 1944-1945, during the battles of the Polish 2nd Corps with the Germans in Italy, many Poles, previously forcibly conscripted into the German army, joined its units.
In 1945, after the end of the war, still hoping for the liberation of Poland from its second occupier – the USSR, a great number of former German prisoners of war, Poles freed from concentration and labor camps in Germany and Austria joined the Polish 2nd Corps.
Each of the over 110,000 soldiers of the 2nd Corps – commonly known as the Anders Army – contributed to the history of this unique Polish army.
Through this Virtual Museum of the 2nd Corps, we want to bring you closer to their fate. Especially the lesser known, post-war stories.
author: Aneta Hoffmann, Warsaw, Poland