Rotamaster Witold Pilecki
The country was in chaos. In January 1945 the Provisional Government moved to Warsaw. In the whole surrounding area of the capital, an organized operation of the security apparatus and the militia was taking place, in order to support the Soviet NKVD forces, which were becoming evermore present in Poland. The dissolution of the Home Army with the executive order from January 19, 1945 had meant that formally, all underground activity was ceded to the backbone structures of “NIE”. Meanwhile, the crippled telecommunication links, the overall informational blockade, and subsequently – the disconnection from the local authorities, led to the situation where out of sheer necessity – new political and military resistance groups begun to spring up. The people – threatened by the possibilities of imprisonment or the forced deportation to Siberia – have fled from their homes and into the woods, unwillingly contributing to the creation of new units of independence partisan movement. Originating as a result of a simple self-defense instinct, the partisans have eventually gotten involved in lunges at the MO and UBP posts (Milicja Obywatelska – Citizen’s Militia, Urząd Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego – Public Security Office), taking their revenge for the repressions.
Upon his return to the Fatherland, Witold Pilecki was just as convinced as the entire Polish society, that the “Polish” communists, were in fact the agents of an enemy empire. It is from this perception, and his unquestionable faithfulness to the military pledge that have bound Pilecki to serve to the rightful government of the Republic of Poland and its military command. In fulfilling his loyalty, Pilecki attempted to expand the contacts of “NIE”, which was struggling to become fully operational. Another blow to the organization, was the revealing of its mechanisms, during the Moscow trial of the 16 leaders of the Underground, in April 1945. This led General Anders to eventually disband “NIE”, on April 15, 1945.
Anders’ decision did not solve the most concerning problems, such as: the fate of thousands soldiers of the Home Army, resistance to the communist propaganda (aimed at destroying the legacy of the underground movement), the suppression of national determination and the patriotic attitude in the situation of country’s after war reconstruction. While attempting to counter these issues, Colonel Jan Rzepecki with his colleagues from the Armed Forces called to life the “Resistance movement without war and diversion – Freedom and Independence” („Ruch oporu bez wojny i dywersji – Wolność i Niezawisłość” – in short “WiN”), on September 2, 1945. It was a socio-political organization, which called for resistance but without the use of force. After Rzepecki’s arrest, WiN continued its activity under the command of Colonels Józef Rybicki and Franciszek Niepokólczycki.
The dissolution of „NIE” forced Witold Pilecki to start all over: finding a new localization and slow but systematic rebuilding of the intelligence network. He has picked his associates from the former soldiers of PSA and the Auschwitz underground. It is with their help that he was able to obtain secret and classified information about the economic well-being of the nation, the operational activities of the NKVD and communists, the growing wave of terror, manipulations in politics and the situation of partisan forces in hiding (in the woods around the whole country; Pilecki kept in touch with most of them). The entire documentation was photographed and passed on to the couriers, who then deposited it in the II Corpus.
At the same time – “Roman Jezierski” focused on gathering and compiling memoirs about the conspiracy movement he’d set up at KL Auschwitz. He was not only compelled to do so out of his personal motives, but more so – due to the falsifying of camp realities, which were becoming evermore common. Pilecki was in touch with his wife twice a month, when she arrived to Warsaw in order to purchase books for her store in Ostrowia Mazowiecka. She stayed overnight in a flat, that he rented for her. For his sustenance, Pilecki earned money leading a perfume shop and designing bottle labels. He’s also been employed as a warehouse keeper at a Swobodziński construction firm on Kaliska street.
The communist authorities continued operating against the Polish underground. In just a few months of 1946 – overall 120 members of various secretive organizations were executed. The most damage inflicted to the army men, happened as a result of an amnesty proclaimed on July 2, 1946, which was falsely propagated as an act of “good will” from the Provisional Government of National Unity (“Tymczasowy Rząd Jedności Narodowej”).
In July of 1946, Witold Pilecki received orders from General Anders through a Polish emissary from Italy, which obliged him to leave the country for the West, as his cover had been blown and a search already commenced. These news had been also soon confirmed in August by Bolesław Niewiarowski. Despite that, Pilecki was hesitant about his departure at least because of two reasons. First of all, he didn’t want to abandon his family, and his wife resisted the departure; and then there was the problem of finding a suitable replacement for Pilecki’s military/conspiracy duties. In the beginning of 1947, the chief of staff of the II Corpus – General Kazimierz Wiśniowski recalled the previous orders and approved Witold’s stay in the country.
Meanwhile the “people’s government” aiming at definitive victory on the Polish soil, used treason and provocation, as its main attributes in contributing to successes of the security forces of the “Lublin’s Poland” (Polska Lubelska). In the second half of 1946, the majority of partisan forces were crushed (even the units of Kuraś and Bernaciak), and in November – Colonel Niepokólczycki was arrested as well. It is important to mention that military men of the underground were not the only ones being arrested, as it was also members of political parties – especially the Polish Peasant’s Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe), who were targeted by the new communist government. Staged trials were a mean of intimidating of the society, which witnessed the icons of the underground being sentenced to death. In January of 1948, the leaders of National Military Union (Narodowe Zjednoczenie Wojskowe) were executed, and in March the members of the National Armed Forces. Soon, Colonel Niepokólczycki and his junior officers shared this fate.
It was also in case of Witold and his closest that similar, well tested methods were used. An agent was placed at WiN – Leszek Kuchciński (a former soldier of the PSA), who infiltrated it for a substantial amount of time. It is with his help that the Ministry of Public Security wanted to learn about the strength and resources, which were in possession of “Pilecki’s group”, in order to effectively compromise the underground with “rogue activity”. The Ministry desired to instigate Pilecki into liquidating some of its officers - J. Różański, J. Brystygierowa, R. Romkowski, J. Czaplicki, and G. Korczyński through a so-called “Brzeszczot Report”. It was supposed to lead to the destruction the whole organization from the inside, in both the political and moral sense. Surprisingly the provocation had failed, and “Roman Jezierski” sent the report to the West and awaited the instructions from the II Corpus.