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Polish conscripts to German army

jochemczyk 1 | 35    
27 Nov 2011  #1

My Father was conscripted to the German army from Silesia, he would never talk much about it. Does anyone have information on what happened to these young men throughout the war. He was 18 when he was taken away from his family and after the war was sent to England where he settled for the rest of his life.He wanted to return to Poland after the war but his Father wrote to him stating that those that did return were being murdered and so he never went back to Poland until 1962. I wish that I had asked more questions but My Father passed away in 92'.

nunczka 8 | 459    
27 Nov 2011  #2

During WW2 I had the opportunity to come in contact with some of those foreign conscripts., especially after the battle of the bulge and onto the advance into Germany..As a rule they surrendered rather than fight. They had no desire to die for Germany.. As far as I know as a front line soldier, they received fair treatment from the American Army.. I cant speak as to how they were treated after they were taken to the rear.
OP jochemczyk 1 | 35    
28 Nov 2011  #3

My father did tell me that he was in Russia and almost starved there. After the war he met my Mother in England and she said it was 2 years before he could eat normally and he was very thin in photos taken during that time. He also said that the germans came to get him with a threat that they would send the rest of the family to a concentration camp if he refused to fight for Germany. Many children that had blonde hair and blue eyes were stolen from his village and taken to Germany.He said that the Germans took everything even family photos.I know that he was also in Italy and eventually was in the Polish army but dont have information as to how all this came about. My Father was tough and hard working but suffered all his life with bouts of depression and insomnia. I would really like to know what happened to these young men after they were conscripted.
isthatu2 4 | 2,712    
28 Nov 2011  #4

If you are looking for more than just a vague answer to your question Im afraid we will need more details.
Do you know which branch of the german forces he served in? What Division/regiment?
Where abouts in Italy did he find himself captured by the British? When?

If you dont have the specifics some books can give you an idea,for instance Anthony Beevors " Stalingrad" will give a flavour of what it was like to serve in Russia with the German Army.
gumishu 10 | 4,190    
28 Nov 2011  #5

I know that he was also in Italy and eventually was in the Polish army but dont have information as to how all this came about.

After realising that a lot of Polish speaking Silesians who were earlier drafted into Wehrmacht (often as your dad being blackmailed to sign a Volksliste) were taken prisoner of war in Italy Polish army in Italy (forces under command of Władysław Anders) made an effort to offer these guys joining the Polish army and many eventually did (I can't remember but I guess it was more then 10 000 people) - and it is true that those who returned in early after the war to their homeland were imprisoned by the communists (even in the Auschwitz camp), often tortured and some even killed - some where also sent to Siberia
isthatu2 4 | 2,712    
28 Nov 2011  #6

I guess it was more then 10 000 people

Including those found in NW Europe these "turn coats" ( not that most had a choice) who never actually served AGAINST the germans but were put on Polish army pay roles in order to keep them from being DPs who would have been forced back to Poland ,made up the vast majority of the so called fourth largest allied army.
gumishu 10 | 4,190    
28 Nov 2011  #7

DP (displaced person) problem arose when the concentration and labour and POW camps in Germany (and not Italy) got liberated by Allies from what I can gather -

but maybe you are right about those Silesians though I seriously doubt it - I know from a particular book that some surely did fight after joining the Polish army in Italy - maybe you can find Bohdan Tymieniecki book or memoirs in English (the guy was a tank commander and he writes about Silesians who were transfered to his unit - one particular became his gunner as he had served as a gunner in the German Panzerwaffe before) - I don't know any English source on that (and actually no detailed historical Polish source) and I'm not in a shape to start a search now
OP jochemczyk 1 | 35    
28 Nov 2011  #8

Thankyou for your info. By the time he was demobilised to England he came there in a Polish uniform and there was a polish camp set up in "Leek'which is a small town in Staffordshire . This camp had previously been built for American GI's but had been condemed as unfit for the Americans to live in. The Poles lived in this camp until around 1970 when municipal housing replaced the army shacks. My Father would not live there after1947 which was when the Poles were allowed to leave the army. My Dad did all the worst hard labour jobs that most English would not do ,to try to better his life and I remember a lot of racial prejudice to our family from the English people. However The poles had no problem getting hired as they soon were known to be tough and hard working.There were a few Poles that were at the camp who came from the same village as my Dad which seems remarkable .The village is just outside 'Imelin '.
gumishu 10 | 4,190    
28 Nov 2011  #9

these "turn coats" ( not that most had a choice)

well they had a choice - they could have stayed in allied POW camps if they felt strong allegation to Germany or for whatever reason - Polish army only recruited those who wanted to join (we are still talking about Slavic Silesians)
OP jochemczyk 1 | 35    
28 Nov 2011  #10

My Dad was proud of his country and had a hatred for Germans and Russians , I doubt that he would have chosen to stay in a pow camp.In spite of being in England for the rest of his life he always talked of his home as being Poland and missed it until he died.He must have been in Italy because he talked about it with fondness but said that there were a lot of Italians that were starving and remembers children begging for food from the troops.
gumishu 10 | 4,190    
28 Nov 2011  #11

one point is worth mentioning jochemczyk - the Silesian conscripts in Wehrmacht were all spread out in German units (maybe a couple of guys per company/battalion) - there were hardly any (if any at all) Silesian units in Wehrmacht - the German military believed they would defect en messe if whole units were formed of them - and they were right

btw Silesian Wehrmacht POW's in Russian hands became the major part of the 'Polish People's Army' that was formed in Russia in 1943 - again most had no qualms to fight Germans for a change
OP jochemczyk 1 | 35    
28 Nov 2011  #12

He did say that he was in a Russian pow camp and thay had one piece of bread per day. Could he have been in Italy in 1945, Mum says that he was in Italy towards the end of the war. He was also in France and Holland according to Mum.My Mother joined the army at 18 and was in the ATS for the duration working on radar on the South coast of England.
gumishu 10 | 4,190    
28 Nov 2011  #13

it seems your father's path to Anders's army (Polish Army in Italy) was a complicated one - he must have been conscripted into Wehrmacht early (in 1941 most probably or even earlier) - then captured on the eastern front by the Russians in time to be allowed to join the Polish Anders troops in Russia (i can't remember that that well but it was formed sometime in 1942) - then he must have left the Soviet Union with Anders army in 1942 - the Polish troops were in such a bad shape that it took good couple of months before they became combat ready - they were transfered from the Middle East to Italy and fought in the ranks of the British VIII Army

I was convinced that your dad got captured by the Allied forces in Italy as were thousands of Silesian conscripts from Wehrmacht of whom many were offered to join the Polish army in Italy and many chose to.
isthatu2 4 | 2,712    
28 Nov 2011  #14

He did say that he was in a Russian pow camp and thay had one piece of bread per day.

Thats one more piece of bread a day than the germans gave to Russian POWs :(

My Dad did all the worst hard labour jobs that most English would not do

Funny that, around here Poles worked alongside locals in many trades,infact,on one side of Doncaster most of the GPs (Doctors) were ex Polish Airborne medics :)

built for American GI's but had been condemed as unfit for the Americans to live in. The Poles lived in this camp until around 1970 when municipal housing replaced the army shacks.

Erm,not to pick on you,but, please dont give the impression Poles were somehow forced to live in these camps. They could choose to stay there till 1970 but most,like your father,managed to move on quite freely.

It does bug me that so many people seem to focus on the negative when England had no obligation to allow any Pole to stay,anymore than persons of any other Allied nation.

DP (displaced person)

yeah,sorry, I forget sometimes which site Im replying on and forget not everyone has a working knowladge of 1940s acronyms ;)

I know from a particular book that some surely did fight after joining the Polish army in Italy

Yes, of course you are right,many did fight for the Allies as well as the Germans. One old boy I used to know here in England had started his war in the Polish Army then found himself in the German Army followed by the Russian Army than finally with Anders untill he transfered to the Airborne brigade ! :)

erm,actually,thinking about it, did I know your Dad? :) ( If he lived in Donny,and was called "Tom"....)
PS, France and Holland would hint at 2nd Armoured Division maybe?

Like I said before, any specifics, any unit names or numbers you can give will help,alternatly try the Sikorski institute in London,will take an age but they should be able to help you ,all the best with your search .
OP jochemczyk 1 | 35    
28 Nov 2011  #15

Great information on this site thankyou. hope to hear from some veterens poss. still alive from upper Silesia .
isthatu2 4 | 2,712    
28 Nov 2011  #16

I dont think any Polish WW2 veterens come on here TBH but you may well find a veterens assosiation or 3 in Canada,and there is one for sure across the border in Chicago , you can be sure that you will find people happy to talk with you.
OP jochemczyk 1 | 35    
29 Nov 2011  #17

Polish men in our town could not get a mortgage or a place to rent, this I know for a fact.My father and Mother both worked to save enough money to buy a building lot. That took nine years and during that time we had to live with my Grandmother. I remember that he dug the foundations by hand and would buy materials as he could afford them,usually one or 2 bags of cement at a time with his weekly pay which was 5 English pounds. We did not have a car and I remember walking with him the 4 miles to the lot,carrying a 50 pound bag of cement on his shoulder. It took a few years before the house was finished but he did it with no help.The Polish men that I knew were all between17-19 when Poland was invaded,most were not well educated,a lot were farm boys.There was only manual labouring jobs available to them which were not well paid.My Dad did marry a very hard working and determined woman who taught him to read and write English and they were a good team. This was one reason that he was able to do what he did to better himself. He got no hand outs from the English ever and would have gone home if he could.As to the Polish living in the camp,they were forced to stay there until 1947. The ones that stayed after that as I remember for the most part were damaged from the war mentally and physically and not able progress in life. I would say that in my town it took around 20 years for the the Poles to be fully accepted ,there was a lot of racial discrimination towards me as a child because my Father was Polish.
29 Nov 2011  #18

Polish men in our town could not get a mortgage or a place to rent, this I know for a fact.

Living in a small town in rural England is hard today never mind after the war in England. Housing was in server short supply and living in a camp was a requirement not a choice. It wasn't til the 1980's that all the bomb sites were built on. It took 28 years for my parents to buy a house after the war.

Poles were not really racially harassed in West Yorkshire, many older people (and their would praise the Poles for their fighting skills. I got mild teasing about my surname and that was it.

My dad was mentally affected. He spent a couple of years in Sibera, his father was a Major decorated with a VM in 1921 who died fighting (or captured & killed) in 1939. To have you family torn apart, your family obliterated and your homeland eradicated from history was obviously a traumatic event. After decades of depression he killed himself and my mother by self immolation.
skysoulmate 14 | 1,290    
29 Nov 2011  #19

That's horrible. I'd say all you can do is keep him (and her) in your thoughts and be the best man you can be in his honor.
peterweg 36 | 2,211    
29 Nov 2011  #20

After they (the polish POW's held by Stalin) were let out of the camps in Archangel and travelled to Odessa thence to Egypt, most of them caught diseases which has been shown to cause mental illness in later life. Couple with loosing everything and being made a stateless person, Poles ended up with a higher case of suicide.

I can understand he was mentally damaged, I can just about forgive him, but my brother simply hates him as pure evil.
OP jochemczyk 1 | 35    
29 Nov 2011  #21

So sorry to hear your story. We had a lot of Poles in our community, more than a few turned to alcohol to self medicate, there was no understanding of post traumatic stress in those days or if there was, Polish men would not have asked for help. The ones that I knew would only talk about the war between themselves and in there own language but I would always know what the discussion was about because of the emotion shown at the time.My Dad never got past the bad memories and they flared up again severely towards the end of his life. I know that he is at peace now back on the farm in his beloved poland.
KingAthelstan 9 | 142    
29 Nov 2011  #22

shouldn't have fought for the wrong side.
ReservoirDog - | 132    
29 Nov 2011  #23

and it was which side to your knowledge??
OP jochemczyk 1 | 35    
29 Nov 2011  #24

explain ' wrong side' please.
KingAthelstan 9 | 142    
29 Nov 2011  #25

surely you agree that the Germans were on the wrong side.
OP jochemczyk 1 | 35    
29 Nov 2011  #26

What would you have done in his shoes with the threat of death to his family, he had 2 little brothers at home. Would you have chosen to have them sent to a concentration camp? These young men were from small towns and villages,had never been far from home,not well educated for the most part, afraid . None of us who were not there can begin to know how it was for them and should not presume to judge. I lived among them and know the anguish and guilt that was felt .
Ironside 42 | 7,695    
29 Nov 2011  #27

urely you agree that the Germans were on the wrong side.

was it ? how come?
nwaszek - | 1    
24 Jan 2013  #29

I read your post with great interest, as the circumstances for your own Polish father were very similar to mine. Co-incidentally my father, Edward Waszek, was in North Staffordshire too, not far from Leek in Newcastle-under-Lyme, started a business here in the early 1950's, one of only a handful to do so, married a local girl, my mother, Jean Cartwright, and started a family, became a local legend in the business and Polish community, so not easy for a Polish ex-serviceman after WWII.

Your reference to the camp in Leek are maybe a little clouded by your fathers recollections. Please find attached the following reflections of the Leek 'camp' that the Americans 'abandoned' as unfit, so you say.

The area around the old 'Anzio' camp around Blackshaw Moor is beautiful, set in the North Staffordshire Moorlands, and to this day is still called 'Malo Polska' as many families settled there.

So, despite the negative follow up posts on your own post, much came from the 'Polish' influx into this area, even more now, even recently we now have our first Polish restaurant, which my daughter Lydia is pestering me to death to go to, as follows.

The Pole's came here with rifle's on their backs and fought for freedom. Thanks have been a long time coming for our parents dream. God bless Poland.

Nicholas Waszek
dh2z - | 5    
13 Mar 2013  #30

I have stumbled across this forum whilst researching my family tree.

My father was born in Wilno in the NE of Poland (now Vilnius). As I understood it he was captured by he Germans following invasion but made his way down to Italy where he fought with the Partisans before joining Anders Army under British Command, and was at Monte Casino.


Following a request to the APC Polish Enquiries Record Office at RAF Northolt I have just received his service records and, to say the least, I am gobsmacked as to what they reveal. The records show that.......

Prior to 1939 he lived in Landwarrow, Wilno.

He was deported as forced labour by the Germans in 1942 and was then conscripted into the German Army, where he served from March - September 1944' when he was taken prisoner of war by the Allied Forces at Florence, Italy.

In October he was transferred to the Polish Army and was enlisted in the Polish Forces under British Command.

He was posted to 21 Infantry Battalion, 2 Polish Corps, before ending up in 14 Wilenski Rifle Battalion, 5 Kresowa Infantry Div.

He then saw active service between March -May 1945 at River Senio and the Battle of Bologna/Lombardy Plain.

He was then transferred to the UK where he transferred to the Polish Resettlement Corps, being released at Doncaster.

He was released under an 'Aliens Order' to Askern Hostel Colliery, nr Doncaster.

Later he also lived at Northwick Park, Blockley, Gloustershire.

As you can imagine, I have a number of questions.

1. Where was he between 1939 and his conscription to he German army in 1942 - where can I fnd out?
2. His PoW record shows that he was in the German Army and shows he was a OT Speer with Arbeitskommando 6 Komp - I'm guessing that this unit was giving support to the German army and wasn't part of the extermination campaign, since the term Arbeitskommando was used for this also (God I hope not!). Any ideas what he could have actually done?

3. Looks like he was in the German Army during the Mnte Casino battle - if he wasn't in it on the allies side, could his unit have been there for the other side (horrible thought of Poles fighting Poles).

His name was Mieczslaw Hajdukiewicz - would really appreciate if anybody knows anything about his circumstances or, especially, if they actually knew him.


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