White Eagle Resistance Group in Poland during World War Two.

After Germany occupied Poland on 1 September 1939 underground movements began their protracted war of resistance against the occupying forces and their administration.  Resistance was often symbolised by culturally coded signs and symbols in the form of graffiti, shrines and other public displays like Kotwica (anchor) which carried ethnic and religious meaning while other symbols like the image of a turtle had the practical purpose of organising work go slows and resistance also promoted Polish culture and nationalism against the occupying forces of the Third Reich.

Resistance was also symbolised by the creation of small shrines where Nazi executions and other atrocities had taken place.

The White Eagle Resistance movement, a symbol of the Polish nation, had a large following and one of their early acts of aggressive resistance was the attack on a German police station in German occupied Bochnia, a town on the river Raba in southern Poland. Two of the members who took part in the attack, Jaroslav Zrzyszowski and Fryderyk Piatkowski were arrested by German forces and publicly hanged from lampposts.

Otto Wachter SS

Four days later a German reprisal for the attack, said to have been managed by Major Albrecht and supervised by Governor Otto Wachter, resulted in 50 men thought to have no connections with the resistance being picked at random and forced to walk along Casimir Street to Uzbornia Hill whilst Jews were forced to dig a ditch to be used as a mass grave.  

After reaching the site of the execution the men were shot by a twelve-man German firing squad after which each man was shot again through the head by a German officer to ensure they were dead.  Kazyzhowski and Piatkowski were then cut down from the lampposts where their bodies had been on public display as a deterrent for four days and thrown into the mass grave before Jews were forced to bury the dead.

After the war Otto Wachter escaped from the allies with the assistance of pro-Nazi, Bishop Alois Hudal and died in 1949 from a kidney related illness.

Alan Malcher

Author: Alan Malcher

Military historian and defence commentator

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