Poles conscripted into the Wehrmacht
- Published: 09 February 2012 09 February 2012
- Last Updated: 31 October 2012 31 October 2012
In total up to 500,000 Poles served in the Wehrmacht during WW2. Most of them were from the areas of Poland incorporated by the III Reich in October of 1939 (so called Neue Ostgebiete - Provinz Oberschlesien, Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreussen, Reichsgau Wartheland, Bezirk Bialystok), the remaining ones were from the areas of Poland captured in 1941 (Reichskomissariat Ostland, Reichskomissariat Ukraine), from the Generalgouvernement (GG) and from all other areas. Poles from the incorporated areas - especially those who signed the Volksliste (and most of them on these areas did it, from practical reasons - to survive) were obliged to fulfil military duty in the German army in the same way as German citizens.
That's why Poles from the incorporated areas were being conscripted to the German army (contrary to those from GG, who were not being conscripted and those of them who served in the German army were either those who signed the Volksliste - and signing the Volksliste in GG was not as helpful to survive the occupation as in incorporated areas so very few did it - or those who volunteered).
Out of them around 350 - 400 thousands were from Silesia (like Ludwik Machalica, Robert Uszok, Alojzy Lysko, Robert Czarnynoga, Franciszek Siedlaczek and others). Further 80,000 were from the areas of Pomerelia (Pommern) incorporated by Germany in 1939, so from the pre-war Województwo Pomorskie. In that second group (those from Pomerelia) was for example the grandfather of present Polish prime minister (Donald Tusk) - Józef Tusk, who served in 328. Grenadier-Ersatz-und Ausbilldungsbatallion and fought on the Eastern Front and later on the Western Front (in October of 1944 he deserted or was captured by English forces and by the end of November 1944 he joined the Polish Forces in the West). The remaining 20+ thousands were from other incorporated regions, GG and other areas.
Polish soldiers of Wehrmacht captured by Allied forces as well as Polish deserters from Wehrmacht were the most important source of reinforcements for Polish forces fighting alongside the Allies in Western Europe. For example Polish 2nd Corps under command of gen. Wladyslaw Anders alone (the same which successfully fought for Monte Cassino in 1944) absorbed 16,500 Polish "Wehrmachters" in 1944 and further 18,000 in period January - May 1945.
Over 2,000 Poles - former soldiers of Afrika Korps - reinforced the 1st Polish Armoured Division of gen. Maczek and later fought in France, Belgium and Holland.
In total over 85,000 Polish Wehrmacht POWs reinforced Polish forces in the West. Most of them were Silesians. On the other hand, only 70,000 Polish POWs from Wehrmacht reinforced the Polish People's Army fighting alongside the Red Army, despite the fact that probably much more Polish "Wehrmachters" were captured on the Eastern Front. It is not known exactly what happened to the remaining ones. Probably their situation in Russian captivity was very hard.
Additionally, it is worth noticing, that over 240,000 Poles from Kresy (areas of Poland incorporated by the Soviet Union in October of 1939) were serving in ranks of the Red Army when the Great Patriotic War started, on 22 June 1941.
The exact number of Poles who died while serving in Wehrmacht is still unknown, but is estimated (basing on partial data, fragmentary sources) as much more than 100,000. Many thousands Poles also died serving in the Red Army.