; Punitz (Poniec),
October 14, 1895— December 22, 1975, London) was a Polish military intelligence officer who specialized in clandestine warfare. Between the World Wars, he helped establish Poland's interbellumborders.
Edmund Charaszkiewicz was born in 1895 in Punitz (Poniec), in the
Province of Posen, an area of the German Empirethat had been annexed from Poland by Prussiain the Third Partition of Poland (1795). In November 1913, Charaszkiewicz, aged 18, joined a Polish patriotic paramilitary organization, the Riflemen's Association.
A few days after the outbreak of
World War Iin August 1914, he enlisted in Józef Piłsudski's Polish Legions. In late 1917 he was inducted into the Polish Auxiliary Corps (the former Second Brigade of the Polish Legions), in which he served till February 1918. He was then released to serve in the German Army. To avoid such service, and because he was liable to arrest and internment as a former Polish Legionnaire, he went into hiding in Kraków, then Warsaw.
Just after World War I, in November 1918, Charaszkiewicz joined the
Polish Armyas a sublieutenant. During the Polish-Soviet War(1919–1921) he was captured by the Lithuanians during the Polish defense of Vilnius. He escaped and returned to the Białystok Rifle Regiment(which in later years would supply the Polish General Staff's Section IIwith many intelligence and special-forces officers). In February 1921, for conspicuous valor behind Soviet lines, he was recommended for Poland's highest military decoration, the " Virtuti Militari".
Meanwhile, in December 1920, Charaszkiewicz was assigned to the Polish
General Staff's Section II, or Intelligence — specifically, to its Upper Silesia PlebisciteDepartment. During the Third Silesian Uprisinghe served ( May 2— August 15, 1921) as deputy commander of destruction detachments known as the Wawelberg Group. For his courage and steadfastness in action against the Germans, as he blew up mined structures in the face of withering enemy fire and thereby halted the German advance, he was in February 1922 again recommended for the " Virtuti Militari". On June 27, 1922, Lt. Charaszkiewicz was decorated with the "Virtuti Militari", 5th class. [Wesolowski, p. 231.]
Charaszkiewicz would later (February 1940, in
Paris) describe the Polish military-intelligence operation in the Third Silesian Uprising as a model operation of its kind: its objectives were clearly defined; the requisite personnel were skilfully recruited and trained; the necessary explosives, weapons, ammunition, equipment and supplies were smuggled into the operational areas and cached well in advance; and the plans were efficiently and resourcefully executed. He would later favorably contrast the Third Silesian Uprising with the indecisive preparations for, and execution of, Poland's takeover of Zaolzie17 years later, in 1938.
By 1931, until World War II, Charaszkiewicz served, last in the rank of major, as chief of "Office 2" of the General Staff's Section II. Office 2 was charged with the planning, preparation and execution of clandestine-warfare operations.
In the face of growing threats from
Germanyand the Soviet Union, Polish organizing of a clandestine network had begun immediately after the post-World War I wars for Poland's borders. Especially after Adolf Hitler's accession to power in 1933, Polish clandestine organizations were vigorously built up. They were meant, in future military actions, to paralyze enemy road and rail transport and destroy enemy military depots. Clandestine centers were created in Poland as well as in neighboring countries, chiefly Germany and the Soviet Union.
Office 2 was also responsible for "Promethean operations", conceived by Józef Piłsudski. The idea was to combat Soviet
imperialismby supporting irredentist movements among the non-Russian peoples of the Soviet Union. Thus the Prometheists' ultimate goal was nothing less than the dismembermentof the Soviet Union.
As Piłsudski and his adherents (the "
Piłsudskiites") exerted a preponderant influence on Poland's government through nearly the entire interwar period, the Promethean agenda became integral to the operations of many Polish public institutions concerned with eastern European affairs.
After Piłsudski's May 1926 "coup d'état", Section II intensified its engagement with
Prometheism. The movement's leaders included prominent Sanation figures such as Colonel Walery Sławekand the publicist and Sejmdeputy, Tadeusz Hołówko. Great importance was attached to Prometheism by Section II's successive chiefs: Colonel Tadeusz Schaetzel, Colonel Tadeusz Pełczyński, and Lieutenant Colonel Jerzy Englicht. The movement's intelligence operations were directed by Edmund Charaszkiewicz. Contacts were maintained with Ukrainians and Cossacks, and with representatives of several peoples of the Caucasus: Azeris, Armenians and Georgians.
In its prosecution of the Promethean agenda, Office 2 worked with official institutions such as the Institute for Study of Nationality Affairs and the Polish-Ukrainian Society. The latter Society included such experts on East European affairs as
Leon Wasilewski, Stanisław Łoś and Stanisław Stempowski, and its founder and prime mover was Włodzimierz Bączkowski. From 1934 Charaszkiewicz was a member of the Commission for Scientific Study of [Poland's] Eastern Lands and the Committee on [Poland's] Eastern Lands and Nationalities at the Council of Ministers.He had already become a spokesman for the oppressed peoples east of Poland who wished to deepen their national self-awareness and groom leaders for their liberation.
Since 1927, Wasilewski, Sławek, Schaetzel and Hołówko had been laying foundations for Promethean movements in Paris, Warsaw and
Istanbul. They had been studying questions involving national self-determinationand federative polities with help from academic experts at institutions such as the Eastern Institutein Warsaw and an analogous one in Vilnius, as well as at an Institute for Study of Nationalities and at several publications.
Charaszkiewicz's deputies at Office 2 were two officers from the
Third Silesian Uprising: Major Feliks Ankerstein(1929-1939), who had commanded a group during that Uprising; and Major Włodzimierz Dąbrowski, who had commanded a group in the Destruction Department ("Referat Destrukcji").
A principal task of Office 2 was organizing and conducting clandestine operations outside Poland, chiefly in bordering countries, and preparing resistance cells in areas of Poland that, in the event of war, might be occupied by enemy forces. Office "B" (responsible for the East), headed in 1937-1939 by Major Dąbrowski, prepared clandestine actions against the Soviet Union, conducting "Promethean operations" among non-Russian peoples (e.g.
Caucasus, Tatar, Ukrainian and Cossack emigrés) and creating covert organizations at Poland's borders with Soviet Belarusand Ukraine. Office "A" (the West) was tasked with preparing and running clandestine operations against "Western" countries of interest.
Agents of Office 2 operated in Germany, Danzig, Czechoslovakia and Lithuania. They also penetrated anti-Hitler German emigré communities in Czechoslovakia and especially in France. In 1935 Charaszkiewicz and Ankerstein organized in the
Free City of Danziga covert "Group Zygmunt", which in September 1939, on the outbreak of World War II, would conspicuously defend the Polish Post Office in Danzig. "Group Zygmunt's" networks were to cover Poland's western border, Pomerania and the Free City of Danzig, and were to concentrate on sabotage and clandestine operations in the event of these areas' temporary occupation by the enemy.
The signing of the Polish-German Non-aggression Pact of
January 26, 1934, had produced a reorientation in Polish foreign policy. Czechoslovakia's Zaolziearea (which was in dispute between Poland and Czechoslovakia) had lain outside Office 2's sphere of interest, but from spring 1934 covert propagandaand clandestine operations began to be developed there.
Charaszkiewicz suggested to an old Polish Legions comrade,
Wiktor Tomir Drymmer— since 1933, director of the Polish Foreign Ministry's Consular Department — the creation of an organization covering all countries that harbored substantial Polish communities. They agreed that this would be necessary due to the inevitability of war with Nazi Germany. They were also agreed that the organization was to be strictly covert, both in Poland and abroad; was to be of a nationalist character; and was to be eliterather than large-scale in nature. The organization's regulations were drawn up by Captain Feliks Ankerstein.
Eventually it was decided that the organization should be run by a "Committee of Seven" ("K-7") comprising half
Foreign Ministrypersonnel — Drymmer, his political deputy Dr. Władysław Józef Zaleski, Tadeusz Kowalski, and the latter's deputy Tadeusz Kawalec— and half Office 2 personnel: Charaszkiewicz, Ankerstein and the latter's deputy, Captain Wojciech Lipiński. Later, Lieutenant Colonel Ludwik Zych, chief of staff of Poland's Border Guard, would be coopted.
K-7 set about recruiting young Poles residing in
Czechoslovakia, Germany, Lithuania, Latviaand Romania's Bukovina. They were trained in small groups in Poland, to be deployed in wartime. Beginning in May 1938, K-7 conducted courses in Warsaw, Gdyniaand several other Polish localities.
In Zaolzie, ca. 1935, the first Polish clandestine operations had taken place; later, during Poland's 1938 annexation of that territory, K-7 members participated. The proceedings were directed from Warsaw by Drymmer and Charaszkiewicz, and on the ground by Ankerstein and later Zych.
After the Zaolzie takeover, preparations began on
October 7, 1938, for a covert operation, codenamed "Łom" ("Crowbar"), in easternmost Czechoslovakia's Carpathian Rus, coordinated with Hungarian operations conducted from the south. The Polish commander on the ground was again Major Ankerstein, while at Warsaw Charaszkiewicz was again in overall command. The operation took place in October and November 1938 and helped bring about the First Vienna Award. In mid-March 1939, the operation's objective was fully accomplished: the restoration of Carpathian Rus to its pre-World War I master, Hungary, and thereby also the recreation of the historic common Polish-Hungarian border.
Six months later, during the September 1939 invasion of Poland, the common Polish-Hungarian border would become of pivotal importance when Hungarian
Regent Miklós Horthy's government, as a matter of "Hungarian honor", declined Hitler's request for permission to send German forces across Carpathian Rus into southeastern Poland to speed Poland's conquest. Horthy's refusal allowed the Polish government and tens of thousands of Polish military to escape into neighboring Hungary and Romania; and from there, to Franceand French-mandated Syria, to carry on the war as the third-strongest Allied belligerent after Britain and France.
Office 2's next task was organizing "behind-the-lines diversion networks" that were to undertake intelligence, sabotage and diversion upon the outbreak of war, especially in areas occupied by the Germans. Charaszkiewicz was a conceptual founder of these "networks." Particularly intensive work on them began early in May 1939. These structures were given diverse names such as "Secret Military Organization" and "Mobile Combat Units." In many cases — in
Silesia, in southwestern Poland, and in western Poland — after Poland had been overrun by Germany in September 1939, these networks became the foundations for the first local underground resistanceorganizations.
A network of clandestine groups was created, tasked with paralyzing lines of communication and destroying enemy supply depots and command networks. Their membership was drawn from varied backgrounds, including the
Riflemen's Association, Reserve Noncommissioned Officers' Association, Reserve Officers' Association, referrals by County Offices of Physical Education and Military Training, the Polish Scouting Association, the Polish Socialist Party, and a host of other organizations.
Spring 1938 saw expanded training of clandestine networks. In summer 1939, weapons and explosives began to be distributed to clandestine centers and patrols. Deliveries were also made to networks created within the
Third Reich. Despite the secrecy of the preparations, German intelligence obtained information on the Polish networks, and German security agencies received orders for suppressing the Polish networks. When overt war did come in September 1939, the mass terror applied to the Polish population by the Germans, in many instances — although by no means universally — paralyzed the Polish networks.
During the Polish retreat before advancing German forces, Drymmer and other clandestine-operations leaders left behind K-7 members and freshly sworn-in individuals. Likewise in September 1939, at a Polish consulate in Romania's
Bukovina, K-7 trained a group of young men in clandestine tactics. Major Charaszkiewicz himself commissioned at least one underground organization, about September 12. Next, along with other members of K-7, Charaszkiewicz crossed Poland's border into Romania. There he organized a group of officers who were to return to occupied Poland to set up another underground organization.
In Romania, Charaszkiewicz established ties with a Sanation group, the "Schaetzel-Drymmer group", that was ill-disposed to Marshal Rydz-Śmigły and supportive of Foreign Minister
Józef Beck. Charaszkiewicz also played a substantial role in creating an Office "R" of Polish intelligence headquartered in Bucharest, with satellite outposts scattered about Romania. This was important not only to the conduct of intelligence work but also to liaison with occupied Poland.
In Bucharest, in October 1939, Charaszkiewicz received from his British colleague, Lt. Col.
Colin Gubbins— soon to become the prime mover of the Special Operations Executive(S.O.E.) — a very warm letter informing him that Gubbins had been personally searching for him, and offering every possible assistance, including financial (Charaszkiewicz declined the money). Through Gubbins' good offices, Charaszkiewicz obtained from the British military attaché a British visa.
France and Britain
October 31, 1939, Charaszkiewicz arrived in France.
During the ensuing "
phony war", the new Polish premier and commander-in-chief in exile, General Władysław Sikorski, investigated the causes of Poland's defeat in September 1939. Officers with pertinent knowledge were instructed to submit reports. Likely it was in response to this that Charaszkiewicz drew up the series of intriguing reports in late 1939 and early 1940 that comprise the bulk of his "Collection of Documents" that was published 60 years later, in 2000.
Sikorski, whose military and political career had been stymied while the
Piłsudskiites held sway in Poland after the May 1926 coup d'état, now sidelined many officers deemed to have been close to the Piłsudskiites. Perhaps that was why an officer as experienced in clandestine warfare as Charaszkiewicz, then only 44 years old, apparently was never again entrusted with such operations. A man so meticulous in planning covert operations might, for example, have pointed out the woefully inadequate Polish Home Armypreparations for the Warsaw Uprisingof August-October 1944.
After France's capitulation (
June 22, 1940), Charaszkiewicz evacuated to Britain. He organized and eventually commanded armored trains "C" and later "D" (1940–1943) of the 1st Armored Train Command. In August 1943 he was transferred to the Polish Infantry Training Center, then to the Administrative Department of the Polish Ministry of National Defense. Next, till the conclusion of military operations and till February 1946, he was deputy chief, then chief, of the Information Department of the Inspectorate of Polish Military Headquarters. In May 1945 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. From February to April 1946 he directed the General Department in the Inspectorate for Civilian Affairs, and in September 1946 he joined the Polish Resettlement Corps. He was demobilized in September 1948, and settled in London.
Charaszkiewicz took an active part in Polish
emigrélife: in the Piłsudskiite " League for Polish Independence", and in the Józef Piłsudski Institute(of which he was for many years president). He founded and for some years edited the Institute's periodical, "Niepodległość" (Independence). He was also prominent in the Silesian Insurgents' Association. He continued to be a foremost exponent of Prometheism.
Over his career as an intelligence officer, Charaszkiewicz helped pioneer modern techniques of clandestine warfare. Shortly before World War II, he shared information on these with Britain's
Colin Gubbins. In reports of his meetings with the future leader of the Special Operations Executive, Charaszkiewicz noted how far Poland's techniques outstripped Britain's.
Charaszkiewicz received many Polish decorations, including the Cross of "
Virtuti Militari", 5th class (1922), the Order of " Polonia Restituta", the Cross of Independencewith Swords (1931), the Cross of Valor(1922, three times), the Silver Cross of Meritand the Silesian Sash of Valor and Merit, as well as numerous foreign decorations.
Charaszkiewicz died in London on
December 22, 1975.
History of Polish intelligence services
*Edmund Charaszkiewicz, "Zbiór dokumentów ppłk. Edmunda Charaszkiewicza" (Collection of Documents by Lt. Col. Edmund Charaszkiewicz), "opracowanie, wstęp i przypisy" (edited, with introduction and notes by) Andrzej Grzywacz, Marcin Kwiecień, Grzegorz Mazur, Kraków, Księgarnia Akademicka, 2000, ISBN 83-7188-449-4.
*Edmund Charaszkiewicz, "Przebudowa wschodu Europy" (The Restructuring of Eastern Europe), "Niepodległość" (Independence), London, 1955, pp. 125–67.
*Adam Szymanowicz, "Działalność Ekspozytury nr 2 Oddziału II Sztabu Głównego Wojska Polskiego wobec ludności mazurskiej w latach trzydziestych XX wieku" ("The Activities of Office 2 of Section II of the Polish General Staff in Regard to the Mazurians in the 1930s"), "Zapiski historyczne", "tom" (vol.) LXXI, "zeszyt" (no.) 4, 2006, pp. 55–72.
Wiktor Tomir Drymmer, "W służbie Polsce" (In Service to Poland), Warsaw, 1998.
*Sergiusz Mikulicz, "Prometeizm w polityce II Rzeczypospolitej" (Prometheism in the Policies of the Second [Polish] Republic), Warsaw, Książka i Wiedza, 1971.
Józef Kasparek, "Przepust karpacki: tajna akcja polskiego wywiadu" (The Carpathian Back Door: a Secret Polish Intelligence Operation), Warsaw, Sigma NOT, 1992, ISBN 83-85001-96-4.
*Kazimierz Badziak, Giennadij Matwiejew, Paweł Samuś, "Powstanie" na Zaolziu w 1938 r.: Polska akcja specjalna w świetle dokumentów Oddziału II Sztabu Głównego WP" (The "Uprising" in Zaolzie in 1938: a Polish Special Operation in Light of Documents of Section II of the Polish General Staff), Warsaw, Adiutor, 1997, ISBN 83-86100-21-4.
*Paweł Samuś, Kazimierz Badziak, Giennadij Matwiejew, "Akcja "Łom": polskie działania dywersyjne na Rusi Zakarpackiej w świetle dokumentów Oddziału II Sztabu Głównego WP" (Operation Crowbar: Polish Diversionary Operations in Transcarpathian Rus in Light of Documents of Section II of the Polish General Staff), Warsaw, Adiutor, 1998.
*Zdzislaw P. Wesolowski, "The Order of the Virtuti Militari and Its Cavaliers, 1792–1992", Miami, Hallmark Press, 1992, ISBN 0-934-527-00-9.
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