Poland’s Underground State: 1939-90 | History Hit

Poland’s Underground State: 1939-90

Alex Browne

30 Aug 2018

The Polish Underground State was a secret network of underground military and civilian resistance organizations, united in their support for the exiled Polish government and their opposition to foreign tyranny.

Established during the final stages of the German invasion (September 1939) the Underground State waged a subversive campaign against Nazi and then Soviet rule. Yet the state was not purely military in its structure; it also provided various civilian structures such as education and civil courts.

The Underground State enjoyed broad popular support during World War Two and its agents provided the British Intelligence with over 50% of its intelligence from the continent. Perhaps most famously, the Polish resistance movement discovered the Blizna V-2 rocket testing site in 1944 and even helped retrieve remnants of an actual missile from one of the impact sites.

Margaret MacMillan talks to her nephew Dan about the road to 1914. They discuss the role that masculine insecurity played in the build up to the war and also examine the construct of and myths surrounding nationalistic feeling in the pre-war years.
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One of the State’s most famous acts during the Second World War was their major role in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. This planned revolt attempted to liberate Warsaw from Nazi occupation at the same time as the Soviets were advancing towards the city.

Although the uprising initially met with great success, their progress soon stalled. Following 63 days of fighting, the Germans suppressed the uprising while the Soviets stood idly by in the eastern suburbs of Warsaw.

Support for the Underground State splintered throughout the Soviet backed communist takeover. Abandoned by the Allies and deprived of key leaders – who either defected or were exterminated – many of the State’s key institutions dissolved themselves.

However the State as a whole survived two illegal occupations, from 1939 to 1990. Attempts to destroy the network only hardened the resolve and tacit support of millions of Poles to what they saw as the legitimate government under Polish law.

Alex Browne