December 13, 2011

Secret Polish Forces of WW2: The "Silent & Dark Ones: PART II: MISSIONS Operation Arsenal

Operation Arsenal (Polish: Akcja pod Arsenalem) code-named "Meksyk II" took place in Warsaw on March 26, 1943 in one of the first major operations undertaken by the Polish Underground Szare Szeregi (Gray Ranks). Their mission was to free their troop leader, Jan Bytnar "Rudy" (Redhead) and his father who had been arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo. 

Jan Bytnar "Rudy"
A team of 28 scouts were led by the Warsaw Standard Commander, Stanislaw Broniewski "Orsza" in a daring attack against the Warsaw Arsenal.  It was a crucial moment. The inmates had just been loaded onto a prison van which was ready to transport them from Pawiak prison to the Gestapo headquarters at Szucha Avenue.  The  "Attack" Group was under the command of Tadeusz Zawadzki "Zoska" and the "Cover" Group under the command of Władysław Cieplak "Giewont". The mission ended successfully resulting in the release of Jan Bytnar, his father and 24 other prisoners including another Storm Group leader,  Henryk Ostrowski "Henryk",  and 6 women. Sadly, Henryk's wife died in prison.   


Stanislaw Broniewski "Orsza"
Commander of Operation Arsenal

Tadeusz Zawadzki "Zoska"
 Commander of Attack Group

Władysław Cieplak "Giewont"
Commander of Cover Group


Jan Rodowicz "Anoda"
Commander of Section: "Bottles"

Attack Group Members
Tadeusz Hojko "Bolec"
Henryk Kupis "Heniek"
Stanisław Pomykalski "Stasiek"

Sławomir Maciej Bittner
Commander of Section: STEN I

Sten I Members

Eugeniusz Koecher "Kolczan"
Wiesław Krajewski "Sem"

Jerzy Gawin "Słoń"
Commander of Section: Sten II

Sten II Members
Tadeusz Krzyżewicz "Buzdygan"(died, due to wounds)
"Cielak" Tadeusz Szajnoch

Maciej Aleksy Dawidowski "Alek"
Commander of Section: Grenades
Grenades Members
Hubert Lenk "Hubert"
Jerzy Zapadko "Mirski"


Konrad Okolski "Kuba"
Commander of Section: Signalisation
Signalisation Members
Witold Bartnicki "Kadłubek"
Andrzej Wolski "Jur"

Jozef Saski "Katoda"
Commander of Section: Stare Miasto 
Stare Miasto Members
Stanisław Jastrzębski "Kopeć"
Żelisław Olech "Rawicz"

Tytus Trzciński "Tytus"
Commander of Section: Ghetto
(regretfully, no photo could be found)
"Ghetto Section" Members
Feliks Pendelski "Felek"
Józef Pleszczyński "Ziutek"
Jerzy Tabor "Pająk"

Jerzy Zborowski "Jeremi"
Section: Car

Jerzy Pepłowski "Jurek TK"
Section: Car
(regretfully, no photo could be found)

Jan Bytnar was very active in the Warsaw underground resistance. He was a Scoutmaster and was soon promoted to Lieutenant of the Home Army. Before the war he had organized a group of scouts at the school he previously attended, Universal School at 9 Zagorna Street. He then continued his studies at the Gymnasium, Stefan Batory, where he graduated with Honours in 1939.  When war broke out, he escaped Warsaw with the Polish Scouting Association, and went underground. They returned to Warsaw and began what became very high-profile acts of small sabotage - painting symbols and slogans on public buildings and monuments, smashing windows of establishments frequented by Germans. Eventually they progressed to sabotage and armed actions.

Rudy made himself quite well-known among the Nazi German authorities. Nevertheless he continued to carry out many dangerous stunts in defiance of the Nazi occupation, acts that would have been punishable by death had he been caught.  He inscribed offensive slogans as well as drawings on the walls of the many streets; comments like "Only pigs are sitting in the cinema". In another one of his famous inscriptions - his answer to a German poster in front of the main recruiting office on Arbeitstamst Street,  which when translated read as "Go with us to Germany!" whereas he inscribed his reply, "Go Yourselves!"  The most famous of his works was the painted Kotwica (anchor) on the pedestal of the monument, Airman Union of Lublin (na placu Unii Lubelskiej). The symbol remained untouched to the end of the war. It was removed by the Russians after the war.

Kotwica-Airman Union of Lublin
The Polish Anchor, or Kotwica was created in 1942 by the AK Wawer "small sabotage" unit. The PW originally
meant "Pomscimy Wawer" We Will Avenge Wawer.  It was a response to Nazi Germans for the large scale massacre of Polish civilians. The slogan was later shortened to PW and later translated to Polska Walcząca.

On June 27, 1942, in celebration of the city's patron saint, of Polish President Wladyslaw Raczkiewicz and CC Wladyslaw Sikorski, soldiers of the Armia Krajowa (Home Army) stamped 500 copies of a German propaganda newspaper, Nowy Kurier Warszawski (The New Warsaw Courier) with the Kotwica. The following year it increased to 7,000 copies!  Polish General Stefan Rowecki issued an order to the Polish Underground that all sabotage, partisan and terror activities be marked with the sign of the Kotwica. It became a prominent symbol of the Warsaw Uprising.

The Kotwica was of enormous symbolic importance to the Polish Underground, as it not only manifested their resistance to Nazi German occupation but served as a continuous instrument of psychological warfare - to let the enemy know that Poland was not broken but very much alive, and that Poles were ready to Fight!  

Jan Bytnar "Rudy" was interrogated by the Gestapo who subjected him to severe beatings and torture in an effort to obtain the names of his friends and colleagues in the Polish underground. Despite his frail appearance he refused to cooperate. He died four days later from this wounds, on March 30, 1943.  He was posthumously awarded the Cross of Valour. He was 21.

The Nazi Germans responsible for the brutal death of Jan Bytnar were soonafter assassinated.  SS Rottenfuhrer Ewald Lange and SS Obersturmfufrer Herbert Schultz were gunned down by Group Szturmowe of Szare Szeregi. Schultz was killed on May 6, 1943 by Slawomir Maciej Bittner "Maciek", and Eugeniusz Kecher "Kolczan".  Lange was shot dead on May 22, 1943 by Jerzy Zapadko "Dzik"


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