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Polish conscripts to German army

13 Mar 2013 #31
Any ideas what he could have actually done?

I've never heard the word Arbeitskommando used in any connection for German troops who took part in the Holocaust. It was used to describe the victims who formed the different types of 'work squads'. If your father was OT, he could have been doing anything from digging ditches to constructing bunkers. But OT members were not members of the Germany army.

could his unit have been there for the other side (horrible thought of Poles fighting Poles).

It's entirely possible he was on the other side. It wouldn't have been particularly unusual: Poles fought on both sides in North Africa and in the Western theatre (captured 'German' soldiers who spoke Polish or whose paybooks showed them to have been born in Poland were sometimes given the choice on being captured whether they'd like the rifle and paybook of a dead Polish soldier); there's a story about a Polish soldier at Monte Casino even meeting his brother there (who was fighting on the other side), but that might well be lacking some truth.

There's a German govt organisation called Deutsche Dienststelle which has records about persons who served in the German armed forces, you might want to get in touch with them.
FCPUK - | 2
14 Mar 2013 #32
I also have read this thread with interest. I attach a link to some photos of Anzio camp.

Incidentally I am currently writing a book about the history of the Polish 2nd Corps (Anders Army) and will be creating a new website and starting a forum on the subject.
emil 2 | 8
2 Jun 2013 #33
How do you know they had a choice. Were you there?
8 Jul 2013 #34
My father is Polish, born in Warsaw to Gerrman parents, when the war broke out and Germany invaded Poland my dad was drafted straight into the German army, he had no choice it was either join the German army or be shot. He fought for them for about 12 months and was then captured by the British, while he was a prisoner of war a Polish General visited the prison camp and enlisted all the Polish prisoners into the Free Polish Army. My father then fought for the Allies and fought at Monte Casino in Italy.

My father didn't talk about the war or what he did but I have his medal, it is the Polish Cross of Valour but no paperwork with it. I had some photos of him in German uniform but he had scratched out the insignias on the uniform and I have some photos of him in his Polish uniform taken in Italy.

I am trying to research his military record and find out more about him, my question is where can I get this information from. Any information or help will be greatly appreciated.
8 Jul 2013 #35
As stated above Deutsche Dienststelle will be your source for German records.

For his time in the Western Command Polish army, these people will have his records:
APC MS Support - Disclosures 5
Building 59
RAF Northolt
West End Road
Tel: 0208 8338603
Fax: 0208 8338866

You can find the records access application form (and a bit more information) here:
dh2z - | 5
8 Jul 2013 #36
I noticed a message on this site that appears to have been removed (I guess by the moderator). It was a response from an individual giving his views as to why Poles helped the German war effort but 'switched sides' to the Allies when the writing was on the wall.

Since my father was one of these, but I do not know the reasons, and I have seen a number of posts from others in a similar position, I cannot agree with the views of the person who posted his derogatory view. However, since it is his view, I think that the post should be reinstated by the moderator to give users of the forum a rounded understanding of the issues / views.

I would like to believe that my father worked for the German Army under duress; similarly I am sure that for others, it was by clear choice. However, what happened did happen, and I would like to know about both sides of the argument.
31 Aug 2013 #37
My father, Florian John Ziminski arrived in the UK in 1942 in a fishing boat or trawler of some type having escaped from N France where he was used as forced labour to build concrete defences. Does anyone out there know about this story? Apparently quite a few escaped this way. He was 16 when he arrived.
pierogi2000 4 | 229
31 Aug 2013 #38
Dh2z, if they did in fact switch to the winning side then that would make them just like most of Europe at the time. Not as honorable but more understanding than Poles who fought Hitler only to be manipulated by the Allies multiple times. "Stupid polak"
dh2z - | 5
1 Sep 2013 #39
I contacted the records section at RAF Northolt - they were absolutely fabulous, providing me with full copies of my Dads service documents - it was only when I received this that I found out he had been captured by the Allies in Florence, some 12 months after the Battle for Monte Casino.

They also informed me that, for his time with the British Army, as part of Anders, he was entitled to 3 medals that he had never collected - they have now presented these to me, which includes the Italy Star, the War Medal and the 1939-45 Star.

I have also received a letter from the German equivalent, who say that it might be up to 10 months before they can give me any information, so I am still waiting.

I have now got the final letter from Deuch Dienstelle - no record of my fathers service with the German Army whatsoever - the only record they have is of his being a PoW of the British Army - so my options to find how he came to be in German uniform in italy are drying up - any suggestions anyone?
vodopad - | 5
6 Nov 2013 #40
There were in fact 89,300 members of the Polish Armed Forces who had previously served in the German Armed Forces. Once accepted by the Poles, no further stigma was attached to this previous service - many fought bravely and were decorated for their actions. Volksliste Poles were also employed by the communist Polish authorities - several served in the Polish Embassy in London. By the account of the Polish Military Attache of the time they remained proud of their service under Rommel in Africa.

I would direct you to:
"To Return To Poland Or Not To Return" - The Dilemma Facing The Polish Armed Forces At The End Of The Second World War PHD Thesis by Dr Mark Ostrowski at:

It will answer many of your questions. There was a great deal of anti-Polish feeling in the UK from 1945 onwards, largely instigated by the Trades Unions, but also from a socialized general public who had yet to be made aware of the horrors of Stalinism. Kind "Uncle Joe" was not a view most of the Poles held. Having said that, Britain did have a moral obligation to house the Poles. To quote Churchill:

"In any event, His Majesty's Government will never forget the debt they owe to the Polish troops who have served them so valiantly, and to all those who have fought under our command. I earnestly hope it may be possible to offer the citizenship and freedom of the British Empire, if they so desire.... But so far as we are concerned we should think it an honour to have such faithful and valiant warriors dwelling among us as if they were men of our own blood."

More so, the Poles were deemed non-repatriable by the Terms of the Yalta Agreement. Since they could not be forced back to Poland, they would have to be tolerated.
dh2z - | 5
7 Nov 2013 #41
Thank you so much for this post - the article explains so many reasons why my father thought the way he did - as a young lad growing up in Coventry I couldn't possibly understand. I do know that he felt that he couldn't go back to Poland (having been in the German Army I now understand why); he felt betrayed by Anders and hated the mention of Skiorski; most of all, he felt betrayed by the British Government who had promised him automatic British Citizenship (Churchill), but this did not happen - indeed, he died in 1991 still travelling on a Polish passport.

Your article explains many things and has increased my appetite to learn more.
Mazur - | 2
20 Nov 2013 #42
Just been reading this thread and will chase up some of the links. Thanks for all the info.
We discovered - a couple of years AFTER my dad passed away - that he and one of his brothers had been "drafted" into the German army. My aunt in Warsaw mentioned it when we were visiting and had no idea we didn't know. I was gob-smacked. My dad was only 14 when the war started, lived not from from Gdansk. Got taken to work for German farmers to begin with. After that the trail is lost. All I know is my dad went awol on the western front and joined the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade and dropped at Market Garden. He served under a false name - I was told so as to protect his family in Poland (he was one of 8) if he got caught. My uncle was on the eastern front, went awol a first time, got caught and avoided being court-marshalled and shot by pretending to be looney, and went awol (successfully) when up in Norway.

Neither of them ever spoke about it. My uncle "self-medicated" with booze and eventually died an alcoholic. Post-traumatic stress syndrome no doubt.
Marek11111 9 | 816
20 Nov 2013 #43
1. Where was he between 1939 and his conscription to he German army in 1942 - where can I fnd out?

he was probable working for German war machine or helping some farmer in Germany I would ask how did he ended up in German uniform.

could his unit have been there for the other side (horrible thought of Poles fighting Poles).

Poles fighting Poles happen frequently during Napoleonic wars Poles fought for France and some Poles ware conscripted into a Russian army for mandatory 25 years service. same think happen during ww1 Poles fought in Prussian army, Polish army, Russian army and Austrian army and again in less of a scale during ww2.

if I ware you I would look for biography books about people like your father to understand circumstances.
27 Nov 2013 #44
My father too was from Silesia and conscripted into the German army. He was only 18 years old. He managed to escape and made his way to the UK via Gibraltar. He joined the Polish Free Army here after being debriefed and was stationed in Scotland. After the war he decided to stay in the UK. He was afraid to return home too. He married my mother and English woman and lived here until he died in 2009 at the age of 89. He never did go back to Poland. I think it was very sad that he never had a chance to say goodbye properly to his mother and father. His brother also was conscripted into the German army and similarly made his way to the Polish Free Army in the UK. He was already married and did return to Poland after the war. Younger twin brothers aged 16 were later conscripted into the German Army later on in the war. They were particularly unlucky and were sent to the Russian Front where they were killed.
28 Nov 2013 #45
Hi Helen,

Sorry to hear that sad history. If you ever want more info or if you're ever coming to Poland, please do message me, I'd be more than happy to help.
28 Feb 2014 #46
I have just finished reading this site with great interest.

My father, Antoni Biesiekirski, was taken from Podweriki (nr Pabrade), Wilno, Lithuania in 1943 at the age of 18 along with his brother-in -law and my father's friend.

My father would very rarely speak about the war but I have managed to glean information from what he told my mother and me. I was also very fortunate to meet my Uncle Kaszik in Lithuania 1993; 3 months before he died at the age of 83 and he confirmed my father's story and gave me further information as did his wife my Auntie Weronika.

My father would very rarely speak about the war but I have managed to glean information from what he told my mother and me. I was also very fortunate to meet my Uncle Kaszik in Lithuania 1993; 3 months before he died at the age of 83 and he confirmed my father's story and gave me further information as did his wife my Auntie Weronika.

They were taken to Germany to a farm - forced labour. The family were good to them as evidence my Auntie showed me a photo of Dad which he sent in 1944; He looked very well.

Then, according to my father and Uncle they went out in new suits and were arrested. I thought it was because they were not allowed to wear anything other than their working clothes but think it was because they did not wear the "P" badge.

Whilst in prison a man spoke to them in English giving them his name and said he was to be shot as a spy. They did not speak English but understood. My father often regrets not telling anyone in authority about this but, at the time, they were so afraid.

They were given the option of joining the German army and although the German medic at the prison tried to convince them that they would be more likely to survive, they all declined.

They were sent to Kolmar where my father said they lived in a tunnel working on rockets ( several of which were sabboutaged). They were in the camp for 6 months and liberated by in French army sometime between December 1944 and February 1945.

They spent 6 weeks in hospital. My Uncle and the friend had family in Lithuania so chose to return having heard rumours that they may end up in Siberia! Uncle Kaszik spoke russian and had a fake passport but spent 2 years dodging arrest.

He begged my father to join the Polish 2nd Corp. As they fighting was mainly over my father was in the Military Police serving in Porto St George, Italy. He guarded POWs here. I have several photgraphs.

He then came in England in 1947 and was In a camp in Askern, Doncaster being trained to be a miner along with several of his friends. (Piotr Czopczyk, Jozef Paczkowski, Jozef Skinder and a man called Krohl). My father then went to the old Beven Boy camp in Castleford. He met my Mum (English) and they married in 1948. He lived in Castleford until his death in 1979.

He was a loving father but also suffered from depression. This, of course, was never diagnosed.

Having read the information on this site I have found similarities.

Any further information would be gratefully received.

Best wishes,

Katharine H Biesiekirski.
John Trelow - | 6
13 Mar 2014 #47
Hello all,

In almost all cases severe force and terror, or simply being poor, led to conscription into the hated German army. An impossible choice, it meant treason to Poland.

It happened to millions in mainly eastern occupied territories, many died, the survivors never spoke out of shame or being afraid to be stigmatized. One of them was

my father who loved his Poland but was too afraid to return after the war, since Poland was under Russian rule. The rumor had gone up the Russians mistrusted all who

had been connected to Germany. As a DP in England he ended up in The Netherlands and had a simple life passing away at age 74 . Only then I found out he and his

brothers had fought in the Wehrmacht. Talking with eyewitnesses revealed the circumstances. Refusal simply meant the family of 11 children would be annihilated by forced labor, adoption to Germany, concentration camp, and / or execution as a deserter to the German Reich. We can't possibly imagine these facts let alone stigmatize what happened.

They trusted in God when they went, and so should we.

In my research I found a good documentary on this topic. Polish relatives, eyewitnesses, talk about family members who were conscripted and taken for forced labor in Germany.

Have a look at:

I myself hope to get this silenced history to the big screen. I completed a screenplay about wartime in Poland and Europe seen through the eyes of my father in the army of his enemy.

A thorny story of conflict with the Polish soul. The terrible role of sheer chance. The simple desire to survive. You can support my efforts by spreading the word and follow me on Twitter @fjwohlert. A website is coming soon.

TheOther 6 | 3,821
13 Mar 2014 #48
John, your family name sounds very German. Are you sure your father's ancestors weren't German/Prussian, and your dad was drafted into the Wehrmacht because he was considered a so-called 'Volksdeutscher'? Just wondering.

To check name distribution in Poland:
13 Mar 2014 #49
Are you sure your father's ancestors weren't German/Prussian, and your dad was drafted into the Wehrmacht because he was considered to be a so-called 'Volksdeutscher'?

I'd be surprised if that was not the case. Very simply put, non-Germans were not eligible to be conscripted, but Volksdeutsche were.
Of course with that said, if we were given the choice between joining the German army or being sent for forced labour, how many of us can put our hands on our hearts and say that we'd 100% choose the labour camp?
day zha voo
13 Mar 2014 #50
Harry,I think you may be forgetting that whole districts full of "ethnic Poles" were declared "Aryan" for the convenience of the local gaulieter ,basically,to get the numbers up.
John Trelow - | 6
13 Mar 2014 #51
Trelow is my writers alias. But to satisfy you. My grandfather was indeed of German ancestors, he fought for the Kaiser in WWI. When with the Versailles Treaty the Polish State was created in 1918 he married his Polish wife and became Polish citizen. More or less forced maybe, because the new Polish State had a policy of Polonization. Germans were "urged" to leave or become Pole. Anyway, my father was born in 1923 and raised with the Polish soul. Maybe my grandfather just thought the Germans would never come back. But they did just that 19 years later. After the Germans occupied Poland they introduced Germanization and collected all with German ancestry, later in the war even Poles without. Signing Volksdeutsche was mandatory. those who refused were considered "traitors to the German Reich." with all consequences. Getting expelled with the Poles was not an option as in those times of tension the Poles mistrusted everyone with German ancestry. A Gordian Knot don't you think. hope this answers your question.

John Trelow - | 6
13 Mar 2014 #52
I would recommend to see the documentary

  • In war the strangest things happen.
13 Mar 2014 #53
In war the strangest things happen.

I remember reading about a Polish soldier fighting in Monte Casino meeting his brother (who was fighting on the other side). The Polish military attache to London in 1946, Colonel Kuropieska, was surprised to find that all of his staff at the embassy were ex-Afrika Korps, had been captured in 1942 and then joined the Polish Army (according to him they were all very proud of having served in the Afrika Korps).
TheOther 6 | 3,821
13 Mar 2014 #55
Trelow is my writers alias. But to satisfy you.

I wasn't trying to lecture you, Fred. I was merely pointing out a possible scenario that might contradict your assumptions.

Good luck with your project.
13 Mar 2014 #56
True, I know the story.

Have you got any details about it? I can't find anything on google (I seem to remember something about perhaps the one on the German side being wounded and then left behind by the Germans when they withdrew before being found by his brother).
John Trelow - | 6
13 Mar 2014 #57
I never felt that as a lecture. Any story can be contradicted by other stories. But that's another story.
TheOther 6 | 3,821
13 Mar 2014 #58
Any story can be contradicted by other stories. But that's another story.

I'm sure you will tell us your version of the story one day... :)

my father was born in 1923 and raised with the Polish soul.

Your grandmother must have been a very strong individual if she was able to overcome the prevailant divide between Poles and Germans along ethnic and religious lines.


John Trelow - | 6
14 Mar 2014 #59
No sorry I have no details. In Axis History forum someone named Somosierra mentioned it without a source.

You say my grandmother must have been a strong woman. Yes she was in many ways. But I want to say this goes for many families and both genders of her generation in those troubled years. The ethnic divide surfaced not only with WWII. After WWI the Germans were not wanted in the new Polish State and Polonization was executed. Germans lost their jobs, German schools closed, many emigrated, and the others adapted. But I think the people in the interwar years had other basic worries. The war and great epidemic flu had cost many lives, the harvests, a daily meal, building the Polish state, were more important than neighboring ethnics. From 1930 to 1936 the Great Polish Depression brought lots of misery and poverty. A potato is a potato one can eat, regardless where it comes from. When Hitler began to focus on Poland for "Anschluss Danzig" and "Lebensraum" both the German and Polish propaganda machines unleashed the old hatred. We have seen this so many times in history and still today. Before any war starts, tensions and hate for "the enemy" are fed by each side. Nobody goes to war without an enemy.
23 Mar 2014 #60
this is an amazing coincidence,Ihave just found this site.My Dads story is almost the same as yours,coming from a village called Rusinowice near Katowice,he and his brothers worked in germany prewar 1936/37 as agricultureal work was in demand in germany.He was very young,only 14 yrs old at the outbreak of war.He and his brothers were taken to work in forced labour camps,and then forced into the german army..we don't know when he and his brothers 'ran away',but they did ,and found their way to Italy,via russia etc.he joined the polish army in Italy and fought at monte casino.after the war he ended up in Askern nr Doncaster,working in the pit. met and married a local girl,(my mother)..It is to be sure they would have known each other in Askern as the poles were very close,probably worked family moved to Derbyshire in 1954.Sadly he never spoke of his time in the war.He was able to visit his familys farm in Poland,in 1966/69,and kept intouch with them untill his death in 1976. One brother was killed by the soviets,one ended up in Canada,and the others returned to poland.

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