February 19, 2011

SPY WEEK Famous Polish Spies - Lukasz Cieplinski

Lukasz Cieplinski

Lukasz Cieplinski (October 26, 1913– March 1, 1951) was a Polish soldier who fought in the Polish anti-Nazi and anti-communist resistance movements. He used code names Pług, Ostrowski, Ludwik, Grzmot, and Bogdan. Ciepliński was executed by Polish secret police, Urząd Bezpieczeństwa  at Mokotów Prison in Warsaw with a shot to the back of the head. Lukasz Cieplinski's name was expunged by the Communist government from all books for almost fifty years.

Ciepliński was born in the village of Kwilcz, Kreis Birnbaum (Polish: Powiat międzychodzki), in the German Empire's Province of Posen. Though Poland was partitioned his family was very patriotic. His parents Franciszek Ciepliński and Maria née Kaczmarek  taught him Polish history and traditions as a child. His great-grandfather fought in the Greater Poland Uprising (1848), his older brothers fought in the Greater Poland Uprising (1918-1919). His parents owned a bakery store, and Cieplinski was one of their eight children.   As a boy Ciepliński was schooled at Kwilcz but completed his primary education in Międzychód in 1929.  As soon a he graduated from high school, Ciepliński enlisted with the Third Cadet Corps in Rawicz and in 1934 enrolled in the Military College in Ostrow Mazowiecka. In 1936 her joined the 62nd Infantry Regiment in Bydgoszcz and a year later he became leader of an antitank unit.

When World War II broke out, Ciepliński was only  twenty-six years old. He fought in the Battle of the Bzura and in the Kampinos forest,, trying to break through Wehrmacht lines to reach besieged Warsaw. He was decorated by General Tadeusz Kutrzeba, who personally awarded him with the Cross of the Virtuti Militari, Poland's highest military decoration for valor.  On September 17, 1939 the Soviets invaded eastern Poland. Meanwhile, Cieplinski fought against and destroyed six German tanks near Witkowice.

Resistance Movement

In mid-September 1939, Ciepliński reached Warsaw and took part in the defense of the city. After Warsaw capitulated, he continued the struggle. He travelled to Rzeszow, crossed the Carpathian Mountains to Budapest and enlisted in the Polish army. After some military training he returned to occupied Poland, but was captured in Baligrod by Ukrainians  who handed him over to the Germans.
He was imprisoned in Sanok and escaped in April 1940 disguised as a Lemko peasant.  Eventually he reached nearby Rzeszow.

Ciepliński participated in covert activities of the Polish resistance movement. He was promoted to the rank of commandant of the Rzeszów District of the Związek Walki Zbrojnej, later called the Home Army.

He took part in many operations against German outposts around Rzeszow, Debica, and Kolbuszowa and demonstrated exceptional skills as an activist, organizing successful intelligence networks.  His team alone liquidated about 300 Gestapo agents and collaborators and by spring 1944 captured V-1 and V-2 rocket parts.

Cieplinski's operatives found the location of Aniage Sud, the secret headquarters of Adolf Hitler (found in a rail tunnel near the town of Strzyzow.

By spring 1944, Ciepliński was promoted to the rank of major and carried out the “Kosba Action”, targeting Nazis in the area of Rzeszów.  This was followed by Operation Tempest in which his unit reorganized as the 39th Infantry Regiment, and participated in the operations that liberated Rzeszów from the Nazis on August 2, 1944.

However, In the summer of 1944, Rzeszów and its surrounding area was captured by the Soviet Red Army who ordered all Home Army members to surrender their weapons and to join the Ludowe Wojsko Polskie. Cieplinski was strongly opposed ot this, and resisted the Soviet coercion.  To join the Red Army would lead to a tragic fate that had already taken the lives of thousands of Home Army soldiers - imprisonment and eventual execution at the hands of the NKVD and SMERSH units.

Anti-Communist Movement

On the night of October 7-8 1944, Ciepliński's unit attempted to free 400 Home Army soldiers imprisoned by the NKVD at the former Nazi Gestapo regional headquarters at Rzeszow Castle. It was unsuccessful. In early 1945, he relocated to Kraków and participated in the anti-communist NIE resistance movement. Several months later he joined Wolność i Niezawisłość (WiN), and took command of the Kraków District of WiN and subsequently assumed command of the Southern Poland District of WiN.

In early 1947, Cieplinski, and his wife Jadwiga, fled to Zabrze, fearing Communist reprisals where they opened a textile store. Under his skillful leadership the missions of the WiN were very successful conducting largely propaganda and intelligence operations. Even though the situation in Poland was quickly deteriorating, Cieplinski never lost hope. "Against all hope, I shall keep hope" ("Contra spem spero").

Ciepliński tried numerous times to contact Western Allies to inform them of the situation in Poland. He was successful on one occasion, when along with the officials of the Belgian embassy, he was able to smuggle documents informing the West about the desperate situation in Poland. During this entire period, the Soviet NKVD and Urząd Bezpieczeństwa  (UB) were on his trail and finally, on November 28, 1947 they arrested him in Katowice. 


The next day, Ciepliński was transported to the infamous Mokotów Prison in Warsaw where he was kept in solitary confinement for months with the light on 24 hours a day  He was brutally tortured by NKVD agents. Since his legs and hands were broken, other prisoners had to carry him in blankets for meals. Cieplinski lost the hearing in one ear as a result of brutal tortures and endless interrogations, The tortures lasted for three years.

in a letter smuggled from prison, Ciepliński wrote to his wife, “I was lying in a puddle of my own blood, I had no idea what I was asked about and what I was saying”. He also wrote to his beloved son Andrzej: "You see, son, together with mom we always prayed so you would grow up praising Christ, serving our Country, and making us happy. I wanted to help you with my experience, but unfortunately these are perhaps my last words to you. These days I will be murdered by the Communists for fighting for ideals I am conveying to you in my testimony. Mom will tell you about my life, and I will be dying believing that you will not let me down". In another letter dated January 28, 1951, also smuggled out of prison, Ciepliński wrote to his wife: "My Dearest Wiesia, I am still alive, although these are likely to be my last days. I am held [in the cell] with a Gestapo officer. They [the Nazis] receive letters [from their families], and I don’t. And I would like so much to receive even few words written by your hand […] I thank God that I can die for His holy faith, for my Country, and that he gave me such a good wife, and such happy family life".

In October 1950, the trial took place before the Military Court in Warsaw presided over by Chief Military Judge Colonel Aleksander Warecki (real name Warenhaupt), Major Zbigniew Furtak, Major Zbigniew Trylinski and Lt. Col. Jerzy Tramer, who served as the Public Prosecutor.

On October 14, Ciepliński was sentenced to five consecutive death sentences, plus 30 years. His family appealed to Boleslaw Bierut, the communist president of Poland for commutation of the death sentence, but Bierut refused, proclaiming that Cieplinski and his men "in their hatred of Poland and Soviet Union, did not hesitate to commit any crime".

The execution took place at 6 a.m. on March 1, 1951 in the basement of the Urząd Bezpieczeństwa prison in Warsaw. Cieplinski was shot in the back of the head the Katyn style. His body was never returned to his family and his burial place remains unknown to this day.

Six members of WiN were also shot on the same day - in five to ten minute intervals.

They were: Adam Lazarowicz, Mieczysław Kawalec, Józef Rzepka, Franciszek Błażej, Józef Batory, and Karol Chmiel.

The execution of Cieplinski and his WiN compatriots was carried out by UB executioner Piotr Smietanski, nicknamed by the prisoners "The Butcher of the Mokotow Prison".

Ciepliński’s name had been stricken from public records for almost fifty years while his widow, Wieslawa Cieplinska and their little son Andrzej,(who was only 3 years old when his father was murdered) lived in poverty, were ostracized and constantly watched by the Polish secret police.

On May 3, 2007, on a decree of President Lech Kaczynski honoured Cieplinski posthumously with the Cross of Virtuti Militari, 5th Class, Poland's highest decoration for valor.

Commemorative plaques dedicated to his memory can be found in Rzeszów and Kwilcz.

The 28th Elementary in Rzeszów has been named after him, and a street in the same city. 

The authorities of the city of Rzeszow plan to unveil his monument in 2011. 

Cross of Virtuti Militari

None of the Ciepliński's tormentors
were ever brought to justice.


Editors Note:  FYI:  The image of the medal posted here may or may not be the exact version which was awarded to the recipient.  There are several classes for each medal depending on various factors such as type of military (or civilian) service, rank of officer (or soldier), class of award, year in which it was awarded, etc   The lack of sufficient information on the web (or omission) has compounded the difficulty in selecting the correct class of medal. I apologize for any inaccuracy.

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