J Ó Z E F L E W A N D O W S K I
HISTORY AND MYTH: PIŃSK, APRIL 1919
Published in POLIN 2, 1988
Dedicated to Henry Rollet
Scientists know that the laws which govern the macrocosm are encoded
in a single drop of water. Humanists are reluctant to employ such allembracing
concepts, but even their disciplines deal with a range of matters, great and
small, important and prosaic. Every great event leaves an imprint on the fate
of ordinary people and, vice versa, great 'historical' events are the result of
actions of people who are usually unaware that they are shaping history. For
this reason, researchers often take particular interest in what seems to be a
banal phenomenon and by studying it hope to penetrate the actual structure in
which the phenomenon was able to come into being and take form. I write this in
order to assure the reader that the subject of this article is in actual fact
closely bound to the most essential problems involved in the establishment of
Polish independence after the First World War, and also to the difficult and
sensitive issues of Polish historiography as a whole.
I will begin by referring to some correspondence of 1971 between
myself and Professor Marian Kukiel. My original letter to him was prompted by a
book he had recently published on General Sikorski. I had never written about the
book's hero but in working on contemporary history I had referred to other work
by Kukiel. I had never had any personal contact. with the author, but had felt
grateful towards him for some time. I considered that making my own material
available to him would be the best way of expressing my gratitude to a
venerable scholar who was, for my generation, practically a living legend from
the recent past. I had a particular detail in mind, concerning Sikorski's
appointment in August 1919 as 'commander of the Polesie division on the
Lithuanian-Byelorussian front' which, Kukiel suggested, was due to the
particular 'significance of the Polesie region in the war then in progress.
This statement seemed to me to be unjustified.
Of course, Polesie was of considerable strategic significance, as it
became clear during spring 1920, when its marshy terrain forced the division
into two groups of both the Soviet and Polish armies. Sikorski was certainly
aware of the area's importance. A friend of his, Stanisław M. Kossakowski, the
High Command' s deputy civilian Commissar of the Eastern territories, noted the
following conversation with Sikorski on 25 October 1919, 'I then looked at the
first plan of strategic, antisoviet man oeuvres [indicated on the map by Sikorski].
The Bolsheviks had taken Kiev, that unhappy city - passed from hand to
hand, but their 12th army is almost completely cut off, with no route by which
to retreat. It would be enough for Col. S. to take control of the road from Mozyrz
and the 12th Bolshevik army would be cut off. Denikin is pushing forward, his
divisions are already at Briansk (the Malcowskie factories), Orel and Tula.' 
Disregarding for the moment the debatable question of
whether a single division could have succeeded in carrying out such a plan, the
fact remains that on taking command in Polesie, Sikorski received no strategic
or even general battle orders. This was a critical moment in the Russian civil
war. At this point the 'Whites', led by General Denikin, had achieved one of
their greatest successes which prompted the flowering of an intransigent
nationalism and the refusal to recognize" the independence and borders of
the young states which had formed on the Empire's ruins. Poland and the other
emergent states were theoretically allies in the battle against communism, but
the unity of the empire was a greater priority for the leaders of the Russian
counter-revolution than the defeat of the enemy. Poland observed the successes
of the 'Whites' anxiously; their eventual victory would not bode well for her.
Sikorski's orders on taking command of the division hardly reflected
the importance of the moment. He was instructed to maintain the peace, to
straighten the line of demarcation and not to get involved in the war in
Russia. He had only small active experience of battle, or indeed of leading a
large unit. He was an engineer by profession, his military knowledge had been
acquired at an Austrian Officer Reserve Army. School and his position
throughout the war had been primarily political, if not actually behind the
lines - he had been head of the NKN (Main National Committee) army
department. He did play an active role during the war with the West- Ukrainian
Peoples' Republic, but his contribution was not widely praised. His predecessor
in Polesie, General Antoni Listowski, was a professional officer who had served
in the Tsarist army. He had had wide experience on the front and possessed the
temperament of an ardent fighter, particularly valuable when directing the kind
of manoeuvres necessary in a war conducted on the country's borders. If it was
a question of the operational problem of the 9th Division, then replacing Listowski
with Sikorski was a very rash move.
This was not, however, the case. Sikorski's appointment
was a carefully considered, even a necessary step. The new leader had qualities
his predecessor had lacked. Sikorski was an experienced organiser, a cultured
man, free of the barrack-room psychology which prevailed to a greater or
lesser degree in an army which had been through five years of war. He was - as Kukiel
put it in his letter - a European. He was also one of the few superior officers
on whom the Commander-in-Chief, Józef Piłsudski, could rely completely.
Many readers will be surprised by my last sentence.
Collective awareness continues to retain the stereotyped image of an army
unquestioningly devoted to Piłsudski and dominated by the legionaries,
particularly those from the 1st Brigade. This stereotype has its roots in
reality, but does not apply in the first years of independence. It is true the
army had certain centrally-positioned interest groups at the time of regaining
independence in the form of the PSZ and POW (Polish Military
Organization) which were linked with Piłsudski. However, all available
forces had been taken advantage of in the hectic organization necessary during
a very dangerous and precarious time. As a result, the officers of the
partitioning powers dominated the scene. Since Poles had not attained high rank
within the German army (an exception being Colonel, later General, Raszewski),
and only rarely in the Austrian, but had made careers on a large scale in the
Russian army, it was officers of this last who were available and more willing
to serve the Republic, especially as the Bolshevik revolution had robbed them
of their positions and often of all their possessions. Although they had often
been in the service of the Tsar out of practical necessity, it was,
nevertheless, a service voluntarily undertaken and impeccably carried out, as
the orders and ranks they received testify. Renegades were not accepted for
service in Poland, and there was no lack of these, beginning with the fictional
Major Plut and ending with real characters such as Warsaw's Governor-General Hutko
Romeyko or Captain Siekierzynski. Those who had attained the peak of their
careers in Russia, such as the Klebowskis - Napoleon Cezariewicz and Cezary Napoleonowicz
- did not return. Not all those who returned were as culturally russified as
General Dowbor-Muśnicki, whose period of service provoked Wailkowicz into
writing a vehement pamphlet. Some officers had managed to balance their Tsarist
service with their Polishness and a few had actively assisted the Polish
The sort of life led by the majority of officers from Russia was at
odds with the ethos of the young state as expressed by Piłsudski. It also
clashed with the convictions of the Legion's officers, young men with great
ambitions, fewer stars on their shoulders and of ten accused of being
revolutionary. Officers of the Russian army, with the exception of a few
individuals, supported Piłsudski's opposition - the Endecja. If we add
the Officer corps of General Haller's army, which also supported the
National Democrats, to their number, then it turns out that Piłsudski
'could not rely on many of the commanding officers. Dowbór-Muśnicki,
(Gen.) Haller and Michaelis are openly unsympathetic; Col. Haller is uncertain,
Gen. Listowski had been won over by the opposition and Szeptycki, whom they are
also diligently pursuing (. . .) has already betrayed his anti-belvederean
hand. We are left with Rydz-Śmigly, Zielinski, Sikorski - in short, too
few to balance out the opposition.'
Sikorski did not belong to the Piłsudski camp in
1919 - by which time it was already a dosed slan - but the situation in general
did not allow Piłsudski to spurn allies from outside his own ranks. This
division of strength in the army, which reflected 'civilian' political
divisions, had repercussions on Piłsudski's political strategy; isolation
forced him to compromise but also created an atmosphere of distrust, of
division into 'us' and 'them'. It obliged him also to overlook sometimes grave
shortcomings and faults if committed by 'one of us'.
To go back to my original point - if Piłsudski
could not count on many of the superior officers, if Sikorski was one of the
few exceptions on whom he could rely, and if the division Sikorski took over
had received no strategic directives, then we are faced with the question why Piłsudski
should have buried a valuable colleague and authoritative figure in the Polesie
backwoods when he was probably more necessary in Warsaw? There is also a
related question. Why did Sikorski, who was more politician than soldier and
an activist of considerable influence, decide to leave the capital in order to
lead a single unit in an area with a tiny Polish population and of no political
I will in due course set out my own theory. I explained
it to Kukiel in a concise form - I was writing to a person, who was not only an
outstanding historian, but a well-known political activist. What is more, Kukiel
was a General, an exceptional military organiser who was familiar with the
facts not only from the usual historical sources, but, more important, from his
own experience. In my letter, I tried to show Kukiel maximum respect, but I was
conscious of taking a radical step - I knew I was touching on a taboo subject.
I was ready for a vigorous contradiction. His reply took me by surprise. It was
brief and to the point. Kukiel wrote 'I am completely convinced by your
hypothesis.' What is more, he clarified my own arguments with further
interesting points where he could not give documentary evidence. Kukiel
suggested that the proposal to entrust the command of the 9th Division to Sikorski
came from Szymon Ashkenazy who'. . . was well in at the Belvedere, and well in
with Sikorski; who knows, perhaps he drew attention to him as a progressive
Here my correspondence with Kukiel ended. I ought to
have been content that the author of Sikorski's biography had conceded my argument.
But I was not. On the contrary, I was led to reflect on the difference between
the history made accessible to the public and that discussed within the confines
of small, confidential circles. In other words, on the taboos passed over in
silence in the name of higher aims.
It is time to explain why Sikorski took charge of the
9th Division. The reason lies on the 'organizational' level. During the first
months of independence, in a state of continuing war, the army's authority
extended beyond the barracks. It was particularly in evidence where the Polish
population was in a minority and unable to organise an authentic, civilian
administration quickly. Polesie was in a particularly poor situation. It was an
area which had been administered by the Russians. The towns were basically
Jewish, the manors and intelligentsia mainly Polish, and the peasants who
described themselves as 'local' spoke either a Russian or Ukrainian dialect.
The capital of Polesie, Pińsk, was also rather singular in character. It was
impossible to describe the towns of Eastern Poland according to European or
even native Polish standards, but even Pińsk was particularly backward. When Sikorski
took command 'the whole town looked like a neglected greenhouse garden. Such
even, narrow, straight little roads, small, identical houses of moulded wood (.
. .), a flat and monotonous landscape, triangular marketplace with a kosher
butcher's shop revealing arches within, a church steeple, the cupola of an
Orthodox Church - and that was all. The whole town.'
Surrounded by the still waters of the Pripet river, cut
off from the world by almost impenetrable marshes, the town had long vegetated.
Though something of a cultural desert, it nevertheless played a large part in Jewish
life; and emigration meant that the Jews of Polesie had many contacts abroad.
The Germans had occupied it during the last years of the war. After their
defeat army detachments began to move in from both sides, the Soviets from the
East, the Poles from the West. In January the Soviets took Pińsk, in March the
34th Polish infantry regiment took over. Their commander wrote in his memoirs
that 'the operation was not particularly complicated' and that 'the Bolsheviks
did not put up much of fight and managed to escape beyond the river, leaving
the armed Jewish population to cover their retreat, shooting at us from their
windows.' Soviet sources indicate that the capture of the town was easier still
- the regiment stationed in Pińsk simply went over to the Polish side. The town
was taken with no shooting, there was no retreat, the survivors simply fled,
and there were no armed Jews.
A dramatic event occured a month after Pińsk had been
taken, on 5 April 1919. News of it reached the world three days later when the
envoy and President of the Jewish Circle, Itzhak Grünbaum entered the tribune
of the Legislative Sejm in Warsaw. The most important fragment of his
speech went as follows:
The Govemment tells us that Poland's policies with
regard to the borderlands are intended to win the sympathy and confidence of
all people without exception from the Eastern territories. Unfortunately, I am
unable to confirm on behalf of the Jewish people that this is so. On the
contrary, all the news we receive seems to confirm that absolutely everything
possible is being don e to convince the Jewish people that they will never find
happiness as members of the Polish state. This very day we have submitted a
question to the Sejm concerning the shooting of forty innocent Jews in Pińsk…
Grünbaum's revelation came as no surprise as the
following section of the protocol reveals: ...
(Voices: Because they had machine guns) Yes, of
course, machine guns and Bolsheviks, we've heard that one already. We have a
list of those shot, they are all Zionists and not Bolsheviks, (Voices: you are
always innocent) no arms were found on these people (Voices: Step down and
The minutes quoted above contain two contradictory
statements; one is Grünbaum's, the other is that of those who interjected. Two
days later at the Sejm's next sitting the Jewish deputies revealed a
list drawn up by a member of the American Provisions Committee, B. Cukierman,
which confirmed Grünbaum's statement. In "this version, on the afternoon
of Saturday, 5 April, the local Jews of Pińsk gathered in order to discuss the
distribution of flour sent from America to make bread for Passover. The meeting
took place in the 'House of the People', a Zionist club. The meeting house was
surrounded by the army which went on to shoot those who had attended in the
town's main square. According to Cukierman, there were between fifty and one
hundred dead. Cukierman had visited Pińsk that same day, but had left a few
hours before the incident. He wrote the letter in the nearby town of Brzesc
where news of the events reached him.
The Minister of Military Affairs, Gen. Leśniewski, also
took part in the discussion that day. On the one hand he made it clear that he
could not possibly provide 'the House with a quick and exhaustive answer [to Grünbaum's
question] today', but he repeated the news he had received via official
channels. It amounted to the following. The Government had done everything to
help the people of Pińsk, "but a section of the Jewish community reacted
in a hostile fashion even to aid in the form of food and this upset the black
market. The area had not been completely cleared of Bolsheviks and soldiers had
been shot at from windows.
This organized response was aimed at provoking an armed
uprising in Pińsk, as the Jewish inhabitants of the town admitted to the delegate of the American Sanitary Commission' s E. Frączak
(. . .) On the morning of Saturday, 5 April a secret meeting of the Bolshevik
organization took place, despite notices put up on street corners 'forbidding
all gatherings' and announcing a state of martial law (. . .). A small red
ribbon under the lapel was the agreed sign for admission to the meeting (. .
.). The commandant in Pińsk, Major Łuczyński, was warned by a soldier of the
Polish army, a Jew, that the meeting would discuss in detail the subject of
arms and the murder of the Pińsk garrison on the night of 5 April; he sent out
a small detachment of soldiers (. . .) Around 80 people were arrested and taken
to the town command's headquarters (. . .) Of the 80 participants of the
Bolshevik meeting, 33 were shot on the spot.
One can assume that Gen. Leśniewski himself had
doubts with regard to this explanation. A mere handful of soldiers had managed
to arrest eighty conspirators preparing to murder the whole garrison directly
after the meeting planning that murder. So he added that he had sent a commission
to Pińsk and initiated a legal investigation. The minister's explanation was
not discussed since it was immediately followed by the decision to establish,
as well, a special parliamentary commission which would investigate in Pińsk
the causes and background of the execution.
Thirty deputies signed the motion calling for the
setting up of this commission. Some represented Jewish parties, but the
majority were well-known Polish figures: Barlicki, Czapliński, Żuławski, Daszyński,
Moraczewska, Blażej Stolarski, Niedziałkowski, Pużak, PPS and
'Liberation' Peasants Party activists. These signatures were significant for
many reasons. Both these parties had a long tradition of speaking out against
chauvinism and discrimination against minorities; this was central to their
programme. It is sufficient to mention that during the first elections to the Sejm, the
PPS put Feliks Perl forward as one of their most important candidates,
fully aware that this would provoke both the Endecja and the clergy and
would lose them the support of some floating voters. (Perl was one of the
signatories of the urgent motion.)
socialists had also anxiously observed the disquieting phenomena which
accompanied the formation of the army. On 4 April, the day before the Pińsk
tragedy, the unquestioned leader of the Polish socialists, Ignacy Daszyński,
warned the Sejm about the 'hooligan in uniform' and demanded an end to
the army's excesses. His speech met with 'energetic protests' from Gen. Leśniewski. The army's behaviour in the
eastern borderlands provided particular cause for anxiety. Robotnik had
already published a particularly strong article on the subject in March when
the army had only just entered the area.
Another fact which had particular implications was that the PPS and
'Liberation' were members of the so called 'Belvedere camp', and constituted
an important part of Józef Piłsudski's parliamentary support. Formally
speaking, Daszyński's statement, like the Robotnik article,
was aimed at the Commander-in-Chief, but in actual fact it emerged as an
act of support for him and this was how it was perceived by the public.
Despite the unusually mild form of the motion -
it contained no words of condemnation - its presentation to the Sejm evoked
the opposition of the Right, articulated by Korfanty and Witos. As a result, it
was passed in two stages and without a unanimous vote. But if one takes into
account that the parliamentary majority had previously decisively rejected the
urgency of any motions presented by the Left or by Jewish deputies, then it is
obvious that something had stirred its benches. Was it the desire to remove the
affair from the daily agenda by establishing a commission, or an
admission that what had happened in Pińsk overstepped acceptable boundaries? Or
perhaps it was the fear of Western reaction? All these factors probably
tame into play.
Creating the commission was an act of compromise - it did not condemn
what had happened, but somehow raised hopes that justice would be done.
Although it was the least radical form of action that the Jews and the
parliamentary Left could allow themselves to adopt, it was simultaneously the
most radical step that the Right, including the Piast Peasant Party and
the Christian Democrats could agree to. There have been suggestions - and Kukiel
supports them - that Szymon Askenazy made great efforts behind the scenes to
bring about this compromise. He endeavoured to convince the world that acts of
violence like that which had taken place in Pińsk and which had been repeated
in other towns (the worst cases being in Lwów
and Wilno) were, nevertheless, sporadic and insignificant compared to those
which were being perpetrated elsewhere. He wanted to persuade Jews in Poland to
pursue the path of co-existence. This was particularly difficult when the army
was involved, as Warsaw's authority over individuals and activists in the
provinces continued to be illusory and relied a great deal on individual army
commanders' sense of duty.
There were particularly disturbing signs in the area
where the 9th Division was stationed. A lieutenant, stationed there at the
time, future premier, Marian Zyndram-Kościałkowski, reported a
systematic decline in pro-Polish sympathies, brought about mainly by '... excesses
perpetrated by the Polish army, the police, administration and private individuals,
particularly the landowners.
Similar reports came in from other sources. 'There was a group of us
like-minded people,' wrote Wiktor Tomir Drymmer years later, then a young
second lieutenant and information officer at the Division's headquarters. 'Officer cadets Włodzimierz Czajkowski,
Henryk Kintopf and Jan Urbaniec were its leaders.' This group of friends began
to produce an illegal paper. They objected to the character of the 9th Division
and as a result 'our writing' was very aggressive, revolutionary. We sent the
paper through our own channels and by post to various deputies in The Sejm and
to the press, beginning with Robotnik (. . .). Our paper, like all
illegal literature, was read and commented on.'
There was certainly something to write about. In Polesie,
which had been occupied with the support of the local population, an opposition
movement quickly began to grow, soon acquiring the character of a peasants'
partisan force. The army treated this movement as if it was part of the
Bolsheviks; they knew no other way of dealing with it. Unlike the Jews, the
local peasants had no contacts beyond the borders of Polesie, no representation
abroad and no access to the media, so the documentary traces of these events
are practically non-existent. But their political significance was great.
There were two conflicting visions of the state in
Polish politics at this time, two visions of Poland's position squeezed between
two empires, the Russian and the German. The key to Poland's future position
and her security was to be found in concepts determining the Poles' attitude
towards those nations which had once formed part of the Polish Lithuanian
Commonwealth. Let us describe the concepts involved here. The first, the
federal idea, aimed at an understanding 'with the minorities and the
construction of a common organism, uniting Poland, Lithuania and Byelorussia.
Only a federation of this kind could guarantee Poland anyy security in the face
of Russian aggression, white or red. A necessary condition in realising this
concept was persuading the minorities to accept it. The second concept, that of
incorporation, aimed at a territorially smaller state, but one still containing
minorities and ruled in the Prussian fashion, or one similar to the Russian in
Poland with the goal of forcibly assimilating the non-Polish element. The
federal concept was supported by the whole Belvedere camp including Piłsudski,
but the army, fast developing into a national army, had little sympathy for it.
It spontaneously and consistently followed a policy upholding the
incorporation concept. The hostility expressed by the majority of superior
officers, which I referred to above with reference to Kossakowski, was
"largely, if not exclusively, hostility towards the Left, towards equality
of rights for all the nations involved and towards the federalist idea.
Federalism also demanded certain concessions in the area of landownership in
favour of the Lithuanian and Byelorussian peasants. The army, however, had
little understanding for peasant movements and sympathized more readily with
the landowners' demands for the maintenance of their lands.
It was not long before the 9th Division became a
political problem yet again. This time the issue was the People's Militia.This
was a force formed during the German occupation of the Congress Kingdom as the
fighting force of the PPS and included many young people from the POW
(Polish Military Organisation) in its ranks. After liberation it was
adopted by the state and became one of several political formations of the
time. Artur Leinwand in his account of this question, carefully gathered together
all manner of fragments and rumours testifying to communist influences in the
People's Militia, but with no convincing results. At the time a similar
position was taken by the right-wing press. In fact, communist influence was
minimal. This does not alter the fact that in striving to create a uniform
administration and to liquidate paramilitary party forces, the authorities
could not avoid liquidating the People's Militia.
In April 1919, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in
agreement with the High Command of the Polish Army, decided to send a division
of the Militia to serve on a permanent full-time basis in the Eastern
territories. This division would report directly to its own superiors. It would
serve as a garrison, so its role was largely that of a police force. The
arrival of this new division also provided an opportunity to restrict the wilful
actions of those who exercised authority over the population, cutting down on
looting and illegal requisitioning. It also meant restricting the authority of
As part of the re-ordering of the military structure in Polesie, a
battalion of the People's militia from Kielce was also to be stationed there.
The Commander of the 9th Division saw this as a measure taken to restrict his
authority, and determined to oppose it. When the first units of the battalion
arrived in Pińsk early in May, they were surrounded by the army and disarmed at
gun-point, arrested and robbed of their meagre possessions. They were also not
spared a lesson in patriotism, delivered by a professional Russian officer.
This was particularly resented since the units were composed of members of the PPS
and the Piłsudski POW.
The incident became a political issue. The PPS took
the side of the Militia, the Endecja and the parties allied with it
opened a protective umbrella over Gen. Listowski. The Belvedere remained
silent. The situation became even more acute a few days later when deputy Niedzialkowski
revealed in the Sejm that Gen. Listowski had formed a Unit of Russian
Officers', handing them a standard on 22 June.
This group was simultaneously part of the 9th Division and of the 'White'
Russian forces, who did not recognise Polish independence. This was not only an
act of insubordination on Listowski's part, but an encroachment into the
sphere of international politics.
In Warsaw, judging both, by ambiguous and unambiguous
allusions, there was some anxiety that Listowski might at some point place his
Russian loyalties above his more recent allegiances to Poland and that, in the
event of a decisive break-through by Denikin’s army, he might cross over and
join it. These fears proved to be exaggerated, but seemed justified in the
circumstances. In August the leader of the gendarmerie who had failed to
respond to these events, Capt. Wehr, a former Russian cavalry Officer, was
arrested and accused of committing a series of crimes deserving a death
According to Kossakowski, the arrest provoked a violent reaction. The staff at
the Division's headquarters resigned, together with the entire gendarmerie
serving in the Eastern territories. Gen. Listowski also handed in his
resignation. It was accepted. The nomination of the new commander, Col. Sikorski,
had probably been decided earlier.
Sikorski found the division in a
state of disintegration. The newly appointed commander's evaluation of the
situation has been preserved in a conversation with Kossakowski:
Col. Sikorski says that he also comes in to conflict with the civil
authorities, but these clashes are different in character to those experienced
by other leaders. He accuses the civil authorities of taking on too few duties.
He is at present improving the terrible relations which Gen. Listowski allowed
to develop. The stories one hears are enough to make one's hair stand on end.
If a lad was indeed shot because he supposedly smiled sarcastically during an
inspection in the presence of Listowski, if Wehr shot people in their dozens because they looked like
Bolsheviks in their poor clothes, if a dozen fugitives who had come from beyond
the front in answer to an appeal issued by Listowski and had then been murdered
so that peasants placed copies of the appeal under their heads in protest, if
these people were robbed, flogged with barbed wire, burnt with red hot irons
to elicit false confessions, then how can one express any surprise at the present
campaign the population conducts against individual army units…
Sikorski tumed thirty-six officers over to the courts. I searched unsuccessfully
for the results of the trials and for the names of the accused, finding only Wehr's.
Incidentally, thirty-six officers represented a considerable proportion of the
division' s officer corps. Kossakowski has the following to say about all this,
although it is unclear to what extent the sentiment is his own or Sikorski's:
'In Gen. Listowski's time the most despicable scum in our resurgent army ran
Apart from legal action, Sikorski noted that several
officers, despite the crimes and offences they had committed, would, if removed
from undesirable influences and placed in a disciplined atmosphere, serve well
and not come into conflict with the law.
His final conclusion reads as follows: 'A punitive expedition will bear no fruit
here; methods of approaching the people must be changed. The guilty must be
punished and the poorly dressed allowed to live - this should be our new
course of action.'
Both Kossakowski and his superior, the Civilian Commissar for the Eastern Territories,
Jerzy Osmołowski, shares this conclusion.
Major Łuczyński did not face trial, nor was
he made responsible for these events - we do not know why he was dealt with so
leniently. Perhaps his regimental-legionary record carried more weight in the
annals of history than the lives of thirty-three anonymous Jews. In other
words, membership of the group with whose help Marshal Piłsudski had built
Poland 'out of mud and reeds' was decisive. Łuczyński himself hints
- I do not know on what basis - that he was held in particular regard by Sikorski
and for this reason he fell into disfavour with Piłsudski's supporters. I
do not doubt that many of these supporters did not approve the act that assured
Łuczyński a place in history. But their disfavour was rather muted.
'The crime,' states Osmołowski, 'was hushed up and excused on the grounds
of the officer's nervous derangement... he continued to work and his career
Łuczyński , who displayed no particularly outstanding qualities,
quickly became a General and the Commander of the Army Corps N o 5 in Kraków. Listowski
also came to no harm. The storm which had broken around him quickly subsided
and he was appointed head of another tactical unit. He did not leave active
service until after the war had ended, at the beginning of 1921. We can thus
draw the tentative conclusion, that on the threshold of independence, the sway
of Themis, the goddess of righteousness, was not very wide, certainly not wide
enough for a law abiding country.
In any case, Sikorski quickly brought the division to
order. When in October of that year confidential negotiations began between the
Polish and Russian Red Cross and, under this pretext, political talks between
the Polish Captain Boemer and the Soviet Marchlewski, there was nothing to
prevent them from being held at the small, peripheral station of Mikaszewicze,
which was within the 9th Division's territory and under its protection. There
were no excesses committed during the talks, no partisan activities and no
information leaks. In the army, the character of the individual leader has an
enormous influence on his subordinates.
At this point we shall pass from the events of over sixty years ago
to another question, that of how these events are reflected in historical literature.
Many years ago, while researching Polish policies in the Eastern territories
in 1919, I tried to find material on the parliamentary commission I have
mentioned, but without success. The archives had been cleared out, and
what was left was falling to pieces. I have recently learnt that there was some
material among Grünbaum's papers which have been preserved in Israel. However,
I did find various incidental papers worth noting in Warsaw. Among the Polish
National Committee's papers in Paris there is a copy of Franciszek F. Fronczak's
statement made on the day of the incident. A Pole born in the States, he was a
lieutenant-colonel in the American army at the time and a medical counsel in
the Polish commission of the American Red Cross. He had connection s with the
National Democrats and by virtue of this was a member of the Polish National
Committee in Paris, established during the First World War by Roman Dmowski.
His role in the committee was a humble one and seems to have been nominal only.
Fronczak arrived in Pińsk on 5 April, that is the day of the
incidents, in order to visit hospitals and to inspect sanitary standards. His
statement is 8 pages long.
The introduction contains the most important facts: on the evening of Saturday,
5 April 1919, in the town of Pińsk in the Minsk province, on the orders of
Major Jerzy Łuczyński , the commander of the Pińsk district, thirty
three Bolsheviks or communists were shot for conspiring to obtain arms and to
murder the small garrison stationed at this last outpost on Poland's Eastern
The authorities were alerted to the existence of the conspiracy by
an anonymous soldier, a Jew, '... who was forced into joining this communist
organization' and who informed 'the district commander of the imminent threat
of a massacre and of the night on which it would take place.'
Steps were taken and the house where the 200
conspirators were meeting was surrounded. Two soldiers were wounded during the
operation, one of whom died. Fronczak does not name them. About 150 people
escaped, but the rest, escorted by ten soldiers, were marched to the centre of
the town. The author does not ask himself how such a slight force was able to
overpower so many conspirators without the use of arms and without opposition,
or why in a crowd of conspirators 200-strong there was not a single Russian,
Pole or Byelorussian to be found, even for the sake of appearance. Shortly
afterwards, Fronczak heard shots and found that thirty-three of the arrested
had been shot. He went out and found bodies lying in the town square. Some
people were still dying.
One of the dying had apparently said: 'Officer, how stupid we have
been, I am still alive - put a bullet through my head.' The request was
granted; he was shot in Fronczak's presence. It is strange that on hearing such
a declaration, Fronczak did not trouble to ascertain any personal details about
the man. Łuczyński had been humanitarian in sparing the women and
old people. (Were the old also supposed to be participating in the attack of
the garrison?) A search of the meeting place confirmed 'a store of ammunition
and arms', but Fronczak did not see these arms for himself, nor did he explain
why they were not used.
Let us go on to the other testimonies. Jerzy Osmołowski
was the Civil Commissar for the Eastern Territories. A landowner and native of Wilno,
educated and, in Kukiel's phrase, a European, he had connections with
democratic circles in the capital. His function was rather vague. He appears to
have worked mainly by influencing superior officers and through his good
relations with Piłsudski. He did not get on so well with the landowners,
who very soon lost confidence in him. Osmofowski's appraisal is short and to
the point. I have quoted it already above (p. 61)
Osmołowski's deputy was Count Stanisław Michał Kossakowski
who has also been quoted here several times. The possessor of a large fortune
in Lithuania, he was not a member of any particular political party, but
enjoyed some authority in right wing and conservative circles. He worked
amicably with Osmołowski without rivalry or animosity. He left a diary, an
irreplaceable source of information on the Second Republic. Unfortunately the
volume covering the first half of 1919 has not survived. We do not know,
therefore, what Kossakowski knew in April 1919 and how he assessed the
situation at the time. While feeling no great sympathy towards Jews and
revealing some indulgence towards the perpetrators of the murder, he had far
less understanding for Listowski who, in his opinion, was at the source of all
that was bad within the Division's territory.
The attentive reader will perhaps have noticed that the,
Major, later General, Łuczyński also published his memoirs. They
were written towards the end of his life, when the memory and capacity for
enquiry tend to falter. The author even managed to confuse his own date of
birth! A student who did not complete his education, a legionary, he advanced
quickly, though it is difficult to see why. The most interesting point is that the
act which assured him his place in history, the shooting of thirty-three Jews
in Pińsk, does not appear anywhere in his memoirs! Of course, one can interpret
silence in a variety of ways. The most likely explanation is that the author
wished to avoid a burdensome memory in his old age. A natural and understandable
reaction; memoirs are written primarily, if not exclusively, to shape the
memory of oneself that is left behind - there are no exceptions to this rule. Also
Łuczyński did not contribute to the stormy exchange that broke out
at the beginning of the seventies in London's emigré press on the theme of the Pińsk
incidents to which I shall return later.
I have already referred to the memoirs of Wiktor Tomir Drymmer.
Their author was a high-school student when the First World War broke out, an
activist involved in various splinter groups and PPS, later a legionary.
In 1919 he became a reconnaissance information officer at the headquarters of
the 9th Division. He lived in poverty for a few years after the war, but later
made a very successful career as the Director of the Personnel Office in the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the inner circles of government. Brusque and
peremptory, he is of ten held responsible, to an unfair degree, for the
policies of the thirties. In 1919, however, he was a member of the Left. The
diaries, written over many years, are the curious product of a man holding a
variety of contradictory views. On the one hand, he was critical of the state
of affairs with in the division and denounced it in Warsaw, providing Niedzialkowski
with material for very radical pronouncements. Towards the end of his life he
was to write bitterly: 'Such was Polish reality during the first months of independence;'
but these phrases can be understood only by the initiated, those already
familiar with the historical details. For example, one has to have background
knowledge to realise that Łuczyński has been conspicuously omitted
in the register of the Legion's comrades-in-arms within the division. Drymmer
was known to be candid, excessively so. But he was silent on the subject of Pińsk.
He gave way to the general taboo on this topic.
That which appears natural in a diary does not
necessarily sit comfortably in historical records. Let us examine, therefore,
how the incidents which resulted in Władyslaw Sikorski's nomination as
commander of the 9th Division are represented in historiography. Let us start
with Kukiel. I am sure he wrote as his memory dictated and that it dictated
nothing on the subject of the themes that I have taken up. It must be strongly
emphasized that he agreed with me in his letter, although he wrote and
published something quite different. I would prefer that this agreement be
stated publicly and not just in a private letter, but then I myself, armed with
Kukiel's letter, should have published my notes without delay . . .
What of other historians? Over the years I have grown
used when coming across problems new to me to referring in the first instance
to Władyslaw Pobóg-Malinowski. I did so now. I looked at the geographical
index, the index of names, but I found nothing. No shots in the Pińsk town
square, no corruption within the division, no note of any resonance in either
internal or international relations. Nor of the consequences in relations with
minorities. His silence creates a particular atmosphere, a certain view of the
past in which there exist wicked minorities and a state victimized by them. It
can be said in Pobóg's defence that he was no model of objectivity, that his
great work is written largely as a polemic in defence of his own position and
that as a result we have a selectivity of facts, a limited field of vision. He
was not an anti-semite; he simply had a narrow conception of the interests of
the nation and state, closing his eyes to matters he found distasteful.
How do these problems appear in the written history
which bears, to a greater or lesser degree, the official stamp of the Polish
People's Republic? Let us refer to an official work, Historia Polski (The
History of Poland) in several volumes issued by the Historical Institute of the
Polish Academy of Sciences. V olume 4 is given over to the Second Republic,
though the term volum is inappropriate as in the first, so-called 'model'
version, what is involved is six large format books made up of a few thousand
pages. In the introductory version, written in 1966, the events in Pińsk were
dealt with by Henryk Zielinski. His account was brief but sensibly written and
based on my research conducted earlier.
This version was later amended several times. Between 1966 and 1969 there was a
'change of paradigm' and the version which followed omitted the Pińsk
incidents. The 1984 version also fails to mention them and a whole series of
questions are dealt with in a single sentence which states that 'there were
several incidents at the time involving soldiers raiding Jewish shops and
beating up Jews, or at least remaining neutral in the face at such behaviour'. Quelle delicatesse des
An abundance of biographies of Władysław Sikorski have
appeared over the last few years. The author of one of these, Roman WaPiński,
is a qualified historian and the author of several monographical studies and
textbooks. His Władysław Sikorski appeared in 1978. The sections
dealing with the inter-war period are written with some knowledge of the
subject and there is much here that enriches our knowledge. But in writing about
the 9th Division the author hesitates and his pen begins to grind a little. He
knows his subject, he knows what was going on, and anyone who knows how to read
will see that he has consulted all the necessary documents, but the knowledge
therein is for the initiated. All the information is reduced to a single
sentence: 'Sikorski's first tasks involved dealing with looting, an activity
regarded as normal by some Polish officers in Polesie and which they saw merely
as claiming the spoils of war.'
Perhaps it is not a simple question of prudery? Of course, individual motives
may vary, but collective motives, which are what concern us here, have some
common denominator. Professor Norman Davies, in the conclusion to his history
of Poland, states that one of the important instruments which serves to keep
Poland in a state of dependence is the manipulation of the past, not only by
means of censorship, but by 'appealing to Polish vanity'. This, he argues, is
the modern equivalent of St Petersburg' s one-time policy of praising the
'Golden Freedom' of the szlachta. History is made sterile not only by
omitting the war of 1920 or Katyn, but by details which aim at a past image of
the Polish character which is convenient for Moscow.
It is uncertain which works the author of the next
biography, Olgierd Terlecki, has consulted. He rightfully draws attention to
the fact that when Sikorski took over the division it was more of a motley band
than a tactical unit. He also writes that Sikorski began by disbanding the
Byelorussian Officers' Legion'. . . which displayed a complete lack of
discipline'. There is not a word about the sins of the non-Russian cadre -
though the author must have known something about it. He prudently omits any notes
on his references, and for this reason we are unable to ascertain the extent of
his knowledge or his lack of it. The third biographer, Walentyna Korpalska,
deals with the facts quite bluntly. She had come across Kossakowski's diary
and makes selective use of it. The event in Pińsk she refers to as the
invention of an 'oppressed minority' (her words) or as 'the so-called Pińsk
I do not doubt that the authors were anxious to display Sikorski's merits. But
in this case, by avoiding unpleasant details they have belittled his qualities.
Sikorski's role had to be diminished in the interests of the nation. The result
- a double deception in the representation of Sikorski as well as of Polish
At this point it is necessary to consider a series of related
questions. We know that thirty-three Jews were shot in Pińsk. If one admits that
a crime was committed, is it a phenomenon so banal that every historian
researching the events of this year could without qualms of conscience avoid
it or gloss over it? Can one argue that incidents of this type are common to
the history of wars and armies all over the world and not specifically Polish?
Should one consider the victims of a certain young officer to be merely an
insignificant addition to the millions of human beings who have been victims of
world war, revolution, counter-revolution, nationalist movements, lawlessness,
anarchy, cruelty and the devaluation of human life? One may also ask: is this
not too great a fuss to make about a single incident? Whatever one might think,
Poland was a law-abiding country and murders such as the one in Pińsk, if not
unique, were certainly not a daily occurence. Why open old wounds? After all,
History - with a capital letter - has always been rather casual in her
treatment of the nation lying between the German and Russian states. Would it
be such a great misfortune if this nation were in turn rather casual with
history - that with a small letter. Perhaps one should stifle unpleasant truths
about facts which cannot be undone? These are not rhetorical questions, I put
them to myself because of the way the problem of the 9th Division has been
treated in Polish historiography.
Some years ago, a journalist claimed in Wiadomości that '. .
. in 1919 in Pińsk, at the army's rear, a communist uprising broke out and was
crushed with all the ruthlessness common in wartime. The uprising was organised
by local Jewish communists and they were severely repressed. Anti-Polish
propaganda in the West created a pogrom out of the incident. But had these been
Poles and not Jews would the army have asked them in for vodka instead of
When reason sleeps, phantoms begin to wake. No longer
simple red ribbons under hasidic lapels, but an uprising which had to be
crushed. When there is a lack of honest information, rumour steps in to take
its place and acquires an autonomous life, taking whatever form might be most
convenient. Łobodowski's article provoked an almost farcical discussion in
which intelligent people who before the war had been accused by the Nazi-influenced
press of currying Jewish favour (accusations then levelled at Łobodowski also)
now felt obliged to defend the actions of the Pińsk Commandant, though they
were perfectly aware he had committed criminal acts. Only Łuczyński said
The questions have been asked. It is time to attempt
answers. We must first deal with the argument that side by side with the
massacres which took place at that time the Pińsk incident is a mere 'drop in
the ocean'. Without even counting the Russian, Polish and Ukrainian victims,
but looking at the murder of Jews alone, Łuczyński 's victims can be
seen as an insignificant proportion. According to data from the 'Universal
Jewish Encyclopedia:', 31,000 Jews died during the pogroms and as a result of the
confusion of revolution; of these, 17,000 lie on the conscience of the Ukrainians,
5,000 on that of the White Russians, and 1,000 were victims of the Red
Brigades. This was a time, after all, of widespread violence and brutality, of
broad and fundamental demoralization.
The Polish point of view should be rather different. It
is irrelevant that we have also lost many throughout our history. Poland's
policy concerning its national minorities was bad and does not deserve to be
defended from either a moral or pragmatic point of view. The behaviour of the
officers in Pińsk conflicted clearly with all the state's articulated policies.
But it cannot be ignored or wished away. The Pińsk affair must be seen as a
symptom of what was happening in the state and society at the time. These
excesses had an obvious influence on the situation with in the country as a
whole. Federalism could only work if all the nationalities involved recognized
their common interest in linking their future with that of the Poles.
Spectacular acts of violence against the minorities made federalism impossible,
with implications which were felt long after. Feelings of patriotism came late
to Polesie but it was precisely here during the 2nd World War that Ukrainian
partisans operated and were the most persistent and irreconcilable in their
hatred of everything Polish. In remembering them, let us not forget Capt. Wehr.
Perhaps this hatred contained an element of reckoning for the events of not so
many years ago?
When I read works on the relations between the Polish
state and its national minorities which limit their research to the years
1921-1939 and studiously omit the time preceding the Riga Treaty, then it is
difficult not to conclude that one is dealing with something that verges on
historical deformation. A similar phenomenon can be observed in PobógMalinowski,
who omits to mention Lwów and Pińsk, and who writes about Łuczyński and
Listowski only in a military operational context, and who then concludes that
the Jews were negatively disposed towards the establishment of the Polish
There is also another issue to consider, the effect on
Poland's international position. The nationalities question, Poland's
potential weapon in the face of the Soviet threat, became her weak point;
anyone who felt like it could use the issue against her. At the very threshold
of independence foreign attitudes to Poland became more relevant. They had
undergone some changes. After the partitions, until the January Uprising,
Poland was the inspiration of all the nations and was universally felt to be an
Eastern bastion of Western culture, which was a part of the West, standing,
poised against Asia as embodied by Russia. There was some romantic and naive
exaggeration in all this but Poland had its own elite to represent her in Europe
and which was certainly European in every sense. There followed several decades
when Polish affairs lost their immediate significance and knowledge about the
Polish lands became quite rare in Western Europe. In this situation the news of
what had happened in Lwów, Pińsk, Wilno and elsewhere did incalculable harm to
the Polish cause. So too did the failure to recognize the need to deal fairly
and justly with the new state's national minorities, above all the Jews, with
their important informationai connections. The murder of Jankiel was in fact
the murder of Pan Tadeusz and the consequences were seen at the Paris Peace
Many Polish publicists have claimed that various states,
interest groups and secret societies acted in this period against Polish
interests. Yet one can safely say that it was undoubtedly the Poles who did
themselves the most harm, beginning with Łuczyński and ending with Dmowski.
Poland paid for Pińsk, Lwów, Wilno and Capt. Wehr and the 'antics' of Haller's
men with the mines and steelworks of Upper and Austrian Silesia, East Prussia
and the Minorities treaties. Arguments were already being formulated in 1919
which were to be used against Poland whenever it was necessary to find a stick
- for example, when the Allies agreed to betray her at the end of the Second World
The 'Pińsk affair' allows one to comment on more than
just past history. Through the prism of the affair and its discussion in Polish
historiography one learns much about the present state of historical awareness.
Many works have been written on the regaining of independence and the construction
of the new state after 1918. Almost all suffer the same deficiency - they do not reflect the
real, tragic problems of that time. Difficulties? The result of internal ambitions.
Poles? Only the exceptional ones. A strange situation arises. In 1914 the
riflemen and legionaries fought in isolation, and the words of the song 'First
Brigade' expressing this isolation were more than just literary affectation.
When the first cadre entered Kielce, the doors of Polish houses were literally
and metaphorically slammed in their faces. Confronted with a pastoral letter
from the local Bishop, the Legions' spokesman, Leon Wasilewski, had to prove
that the riflemen were not a venereally diseased band of individuals. Four
years later everyone was full of patriotic fervour, noble, reasonable and generous,
only the national minorities seemed to put a spoke in the wheel.
To omit the unpleasant and the uncomfortable is to
concoct history. It is worth considering what the consequences of such actions
are. To say we obtain a false picture is a truism, because this very picture is
the aim of falsification. Does one achieve anything positive? Lecturing on the
history of Poland abroad, I discern differences between the way Poles and
foreigners approach the past. Foreigners are not subject to either social censorship
or indoctrination. I will take the German scholar Frank Golczewski as an
example. He recently published an extensive treatise formally on Polish-Jewish
relations from 1881-1922.
Golczewski's analysis is not above criticism. There is little in his book
about the extent of the problem of the national minorities within the Polish
territories. One finds nothing about the disputes surrounding these problems
with Polish society and there is no awareness that one's relationship with the
Jews formed a very strict dividing line affecting all other opinions. The
author is also wrong to label as anti-semitic assimilatory and emancipatory
strains of thought. But that is only one side of the coin. Golczewski has also
gathered a wealth of material and provides an extensive account of events in Pińsk,
based on Grünbaum's papers taken to Palestine just before World War II.
Some Polish authors who maintain the taboo on unpleasant
subjects believe that they are acting in the national interest. They want to
construct a blameless historical past for their native land, free of any stain.
It is doubtful whether they will achieve their aim. If, instead of dealing with
unpleasant facts by placing them squarely in their historical context, we omit
to mention them at all, then we will encourage in others an image of ourselves
which will increasingly contrast with our own.
There is another danger. In conditions as in Poland
where the free expression of political opinions and the exercise of democratic
rights are limited, the discussion of the events of the past assumes greater
In these circumstances, history becomes entwined with tradition, knowledge with
myth. Historical study becomes burdened with a task which provides it with no
nourishment in the long run. History is always in danger of abandoning the
scientific ideal, it surrenders easily to distortion. Historians (and others
who write about the past) become the high priests of the nation's memory and
memory itself acquires the characteristics of a cult; it becomes something one
believes in. One cannot yearn for something that the memory finds
embarrassing. We preserve our sufferings at the hands of others in our memory,
the partitions, invasions, expulsions. There is no masochism in this, as
foreigners often seem to think. We reflect on our suffering because, like
great cultural flowerings, national uprisings, displays of athletic prowess and
the achievements of emigrés, it testifies to our inexhaustible capacity to
survive. If analogies with the fate of the Jews and Jewish historiography occur
at all in the study of Polish affairs, then it is here that they are
particularly striking, which should offer us no sense of relief.
There is, therefore, a place for painful episodes in
this sort of history, but not for unpleasant ones. Yet history understood in
this manner so on becomes sterile. The educative role of the historical
discipline cannot survive without the discussion of unpleasant facts. This was
demonstrated recently by Jan Józef Lipski in his work 'Two fatherlands - two
patriotisms', which provoked a violent response in Polish circles, in love
with their own past.
The philologist Professor Mestan has claimed that we do not know and probably
never will know the first, early slavonic word for 'bear'. This beast was so
feared that although his name was known, it was preferred not to 'call him out
of the forest' and a paraphrase was used - 'he who eats honey', hence the word medved and its derivatives. The process by which history is converted into
myth cannot by fully understood without recourse to theories of myth which
applied, it seems, not only to primitive man. .
Myth can exist just as effectively in a negative form,
as silence or taboo. The bear was taboo, Pińsk and a few other places are taboo.
A characteristic of myth-taboo thinking is the transfer of a particular
phenomenon to the level of the general. A concrete, dangerous forest creature becomes
a generalization. A murder, execution or pogrom in Pińsk was the act of a
concrete individual, whether a frightened, drunken man or a confused officer.
The events which followed later, the parliamentary discussion, the defence of
the accused, the shielding of the division, transferred the act to the leve1 of
the general. This transformation of an event into a timeless taboo or
superstition cannot be justified. If history belongs to the nation, then so
does the historical taboo. The act of an individual rooted in time becomes
timeless and common property. The rational step is to settle the account. For
why should the son's teeth be set on edge because the father ate sour grapes?
 M. Kukiel, Generał Władysław Sikorski, (London,
1970), p. 280.
 PAN Archive, 'Dyariusz S. M. Kossakowskiego',
vol. 4/2, pp. 175,255, henceforth appears as 'Diary'.
Cf. a brochure which in its time represented a programme for
the Piłsudski camp: T. Hołówko, Oficer polski, (n.d. probably from
'Diary', op.cit., pp. 160-79.
The Civilian Commissar for the Eastern Territories, Jerzy Osmołowski
informed Piłsudski, that one of the officers had attempted to claim and
send out a few dozen wagon s of war booty. Piłsudski's first reaction was
a sharp one: 'Give me his name, I’ll have the scoundrel shot!' but he changed
his tone on finding out who it was. 'No, I cannot give you that officer! We
need him . . .' There followed the tragic statement which provides a key to many
problems of the IInd Republic, 'I build Poland out of all the material
available to me... out of reeds and mud!' 'Pamiętniki Osmołowskiego'
BN Rps. akc. 6797 e, k. 80.
A. Stojowski, Kanonierka, (Warsaw, 1978), p. 37.
A.J. Narbut-Łuczynski, U Kresu wędrowki. Wspomnienia,
(London, 1966), p. 269.
Sprawozdania Stenograficzne Sejmu Ustawodawczego (Parliamentary record of legislative Sejm, henceforth
referred to as SSSU) 8 April 1919, p. XXXVIII/34. For same of the documentation
on Pińsk, see J. Tomaszewski, 'Pińsk, 5 April 1919', POLIN, vol. 1.
Ibid. Sitting of 10 April 1919, p. XXIX/62.
Ibid. 4 April 1919, also S April 1919.
Robotnik no. 144, 12 March
1919, Mieczysław Łodzia: 'On the behaviour of soldiers in the
borderlands'. Probably the pseudonym of Mieczysław Niedziałkowski, who
came from Wilno and who was actively concerned with the politics of the Eastern
Fr. Walerian Meysztowicz, writing in 'rather elevated tones
about his days as a youth in the army in the cavalry regiment led by the
legendary Major Dombrowski states, after years of denigrating Robotnik:
'We, who fought against Moscow were not at all an ideal detachment of knights.
Beside the blameless - and there were few of them - there was the common vulgar
herd, there were moral troughs', Gawędy o czasach i ludziach, 2nd
ed. (London, 1983) p. 173 passim.
The following is the only piece with any integrity to appear
for decades: J. Tomaszewski, 'Lwów, 22 November 1918'. Przegląd Historyczny
(1984), no. 2.
Almost a year later Kossakowski writes: 'As always in the
army, the superior officers and army dignitaries understand the situation but
even they cannot control their own apparatus,' Diary, vol. 5/1, pp.
 Report from Leon Wasilewski's papers, National Library Rps. akc
W. T. Drymmer, Zeszyty Historyczne, vol. 28 (1974), p.
A. Leinwand, Pogotowie Bojowe i Milicja Ludowa w Polsce 19171919,
Deputy M. Niedziałkowski's question to the Sejm and the
urgent resolution to dissolve the Russian troops in Gen. Lisowski's division (SSSU,
19th April, 1919). The urgency of the motion was overruled by the majority of
 Drymmer wrote years later: 'Completing the set was the Chief of the
field gendarmerie, also an old Russian cavalry officer, Lt Wehr. He was famous
for his hatred of Bolsheviks, for whom he had one word razstreliat
(shoot them). It is a good thing he wasn't at the front and had no opportunity
to satisfy his instincts' (Drymmer, op.cit., p. 181). Drymmer says nothing
about Wehr's arrest, although he was its instigator, see above.
I tried over many years to find out what happened to Wehr. The military
annuals list no officer of that name, which leads one to suppose that he had
been expelled from the officer corps. I found no personal details in the
military Central Archive but there could be a number of reasons for this. Some
incidental information about him: he ran his own farm near Łęczyca
and continued to do so after the occupation. After the Second World War he was
a starosta in Kalisz on behalf of the PPR and later the director of a
large institution there.
According to Kossakowski, it was proved that Wehr had shot
twenty-five people without trial. 'Diary', vol. 4/2, pp. 156-75.
'Diary' as above, pp. 140,221, entry for 9 October.
As above, pp. 149, 230.
Sikorski's subordinate at the time, Col. Grobicki, described
years later how Sikorski, letting him in late one night was visibly shaken for
some reason and kept a pistol under a blanket. Zeszyty Literackie 1963,
3; 1961, 9). And Grobicki in Sikorski's words: 'Captain Grobicki, a former
superior on Listowski's staff is now kept on a tight rein and is perfectly all
right. One can't give him free rein as a tyrant sleeps within him.' There
follows such an extreme description of Grobicki's boasting that I feel obliged
to cut my quotation short. I refer the interested reader to the 'Diary' op.
cit., pp. 140,221.
Listowski was made commander of a division stationed in Volhynia.
Problems continued to arise. On 19 December, Niedziałkowski once again
reported before the Sejm that abuses of power and armed uprisings seemed to
follow in Listowski's wake. They had embraced the districts of Brześć,
Kobryń and Prużany and Wołyń. It is possible that the PPS,
nicknaming Listowski 'the Endecja's most reliable general' were guilty
of tossing a metaphorical cuckoo's egg into the nest here, but if so, the Endecja
accepted it. (Robotnik 18.8.1919 j.Cz. Jeszcze jedna kompromitacja endectwa
- the Endecja discredited yet again.)
For Fronczak's report, see Tomaszewski, Pińsk 5 April
Drymmer, p. 187, The memoirs are to be found in Zeszyty Historyczne,
(1974), no. 28.
Historia Polski. vol. 4, (1918-1939).
part 1, (vol.) 1 Ed. Leon Grosfeld and Henryk
Zielinski. (Warsaw, 1966). Cf J. Lewandowski Federalizm,
Historia Polski. vol. 4 (1918-1939), part
1. Ed. Tadeus Jedruszczak. (Warsaw,1978), p. 97.
R. Wapiński, Władyslaw Sikorski, (Warsaw, 1978), p.
 O. Terlecki, Generał Sikorski, vol. 1, (Kraków, 1981). The
author writes very confusedly of these problems in an earlier version (Generał
ostatniej legendy, Chicago, 1941) where the initiator and inspirer of the
Officer' s legion was. . . Piłsudski!
W. Korpalska, Władysław Eugeniusz Sikorski.
Biografia polityczna (Wrocław, 1981), p.90.
Wiadomości, (1970), 1/ 11 Józef Łobodowski.
Cr. Tomaszewski's convergent opinion, opus. cit.
F. Golczewski, Polnisch- Judische Beziehungen 7887-7922 Eine
Studie zur Geschichte des Antisemitismus in Osteuropa, (Wiesbaden, 1981),
pp. 218-29. 360.
I wrote further on this in the following article 'Funkcje szczególne
historycyzmu w krajach systemu sowieckiego', Zeszyty Historyczne.
Kultura. (1981). no. 10