October 14, 1895 – December 22, 1975, London
Edmund Charaszkiewicz was a Polish military officer whose career spanned both World Wars and whose specialty was in clandestine warfare. During the interbellum period, he was an important part of negotiations in which Poland’s borders were established again after 123 years of partition between its neighbouring enemies Russia and Germany. For twelve years before World War II, he coordinated the Promethean Movement, a plan envisaged by Marshal Jozef Pilsudski to safeguard the Second Republic of Poland. Its objective was to liberate non-Russian peoples within Tsarist Russia, and by succession, the Soviet Union by supporting nationalist independent movements within their territories.
At the age of 18, he joined the Riflemen’s Association and attended one term at a non-commissioned officer’s school, using his second name, Kalikst, as his pseudonym. When World War I broke out, Charaszkiewicz enlisted in the Polish Legions and served in several units as well as having endured several illnesses. In November 1917 he was inducted into the Polish Auxiliary Corps as a senior sergeant major until February 1918 after which he was released from his unit to serve in the German Army. In an effort to avoid such service he went into hiding in Krakow and some months later worked at the Ministry of Military Affairs of the Polish Armed Forces in Warsaw.
No sooner had World War I ended that Charaszkiewiz fought again in the Polish Soviet War of 1919-21, at Nowoswieciany, Podbrodzie, Bezdanv, Ejszvszki, and Vilnius. He had joined the Polish Army and held rank of sublieutenant. He was taken prisoner during the defense of Vilnius and was interned by the Lithuanians in July 1920 but escaped a month later. He returned to the Bialystok Rifle Regiment and took command of the 11th Company from September 21 to October 6, 1920 after which he served as junior officer in the 9th Company. On February 27, 1921 he was nominated for Poland’s highest military decoration – the Virtuti Miltari, for conspicuous valor behind Soviet lines.
By December 1920, Charaszkiewicz was assigned to Intelligence, specifically the Wawelberg Group (also known as the Konrad Wawelberg Destruction Group), a Special Forces Unit established by the Polish General Staff’s Section II. He became deputy commander of the demolition squads whose objective it was to blow up 7 rail bridges which linked Upper Silesia to the rest of Germany. It set off the Third Silesian Uprising (from May 2 to August 15, 1921) in which Poles, and Polish Silesians took up arms and fought against German rule. Charaszkiewicz was again decorated with highest honors on June 27, 1922, the Virtuti Militari, 5th class – for courage and steadfastness. He was also decorated with the Silver Cross of Merit,and cited for actions taken in the Polish Soviet War, and Third Silesian Uprising, and for protecting Polish citizens in the Polish-Lithuanian neutral zone. Official evaluations commended him for his strength of character, initiative, energy, enthusiasm, and devotion to duty, most particularly in covert operations undertaken in Lithuania. (Poland had a running dispute over Vilnius.) After the Third Silesian Uprising (May 2 – July 5, 1921), in 1922 Charaszkiewicz was assigned to the General Staff's Section II.
In the early months during World War II, Charaszkiewicz described the operation of Polish military-intelligence during the Third Silesian Uprising and hailed it as a model for any successful operation; by its planning, execution, superior personnel and training, as well as ample cache of weapons, explosives, ammunition, equipment and supplies – expeditiously smuggled into target zones and cached in advance. This was in sharp contrast to the operation that took place in 1938 in which Poland took over Zaolzie, disputed territories between interwar Poland and Czechoslovakia,an operation which he described as insufficiently executed and ill-prepared.
Charaszkiewicz's was highly qualified for intelligence work, and his skills included knowledge of German, French and English. On July 1, 1919 he was promoted to lieutenant, on July 1, 1925, to captain and in 1935 to major. Up until World War II, he also served as chief of “Office 2” (Ekspozytura) of the General Staff’s Section II. Office 2 was given the responsibility to plan, prepare and execute clandestine warfare operations.
Immediately after the end of World War I, Poland began organizing a clandestine network in anticipation of looming threats from Germany and the Soviet Union. Charaszkiewicz was already part of the secret operation since April 15, 1922.
Polish clandestine operations developed at a vigorous pace, especially after Adolf Hitler's accession to power in 1933. Poland’s objective was to prepare for future military action which was intended to destroy and paralyze enemy military transport and depots not only within Poland but chiefly in Germany and the Soviet Union. The recruitment of Polish personnel was undertaken with the greatest of care so as not to alert suspicions of neighboring countries. It wasn’t until mid-1939, that training of Polish forces began to occur en masse.
From 1935, Office 2 employed 11 officers, seven of whom were delegated to Office "A" (which dealt with the West—Germany, East Prussia, Danzig, Czechoslovakia) and was headed by Feliks Ankerstein with a team of 22 civilian contract workers. Most of the officers had served in Office 2 for at least six years.
Their primary objective was to organize and execute clandestine operations outside Poland, throughout neighboring countries, and in particular, the preparation of resistance cells in Poland in the event of war and occupation by enemy forces.
Office "B" was headed by Major Dabrowski from 1937-1939, and dealt with clandestine operations against the Soviet Union, in particular the Promethean Operation (which focused on non-Russian peoples such as Caucasus, Tatars, Ukrainian and Cossack émigrés) and established covert organizations along Poland’s borders with Soviet Belarus and Ukraine.
Office "A" (the West) was tasked with preparing and running clandestine operations against "Western" countries of interest while agents of Office 2 operated in Germany, Danzig, Czechoslovakia and Lithuania. They also penetrated anti-Hitler German émigré communities in Czechoslovakia and especially those in France.
In 1935 Charaszkiewicz and Ankerstein organized a covert group called, “Group Zygmunt” operating in the Free City of Danzig. It was auspicious timing since this group would soon come to the defence of the Polish Post Office in Danzig at the outbreak of World War II. In addition to Danzig, Group Zygmunt was also positioned throughout Poland’s western border and Pomerania. Their objective, in the event of attack, was sabotage and clandestine operations against the enemy.
Charaszkiewicz knew that war with Germany was inevitable. The Polish-German Non-aggression Pact of January 26, 1934, signaled an urgent need for the reorientation of Polish foreign policy. It was not until spring 1934 that Poland began to set up covert propaganda and clandestine operations in the Zaolzie area of Czechoslovakia where previously there were none. (Originally, it had not been part of the sphere of interest of Office 2.)
As early as 1933, Charaszkiewicz began making recommendations to Wiktor Tomir Drymmer, a colleague from the old Polish Legions, of the necessity of creating covert organizations to cover all countries that harboured significant Polish communities. They agreed that the organization would have to be covert, nationalist and elite, in character. Ankerstein drew up the organizations’ regulations.
K-7 recruited young Poles who were residing in Czechoslovakia, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia and Romania's Bukovina and trained them in small groups in Poland, to be deployed in wartime. In May 1938 K-7 began to conduct courses in Warsaw, Gdynia and several other Polish cities.
The first clandestine operations by K-7 members took place in Zaolzie in 1935 and again in 1938 with Poland’s annexation of that territory. The operations were directed from Warsaw by Drymmer and Charaszkiewicz, and in the field by Ankerstein and Zych. Immediately afterwards preparations were underway for a covert operation codenamed Lom (Crowbar) to take place in Czechoslovakia’s eastern Carpathian Rus in conjunction with Hungarian operations from the south. The operation took place during the months of October and November 1938 and helped bring about the First Vienna Award on November 2, 1938 (it permitted Hungary to regain territory lost to her after World War I.) With this plan fully accomplished, the historic Polish-Hungarian border was recreated.
This common border would have significant importance only six months later, in September of 1939 when Hungarian Regent Miklos Horthy’s government denied German forces access to cross the Carpathian Rus into southeastern Poland, as a matter of “Hungarian honor”. His refusal gave the Polish government and tens of thousands of Polish military the chance to escape into Hungary and Romania and from there, to France, and Syria.
The next task of Office 2 was to organize "behind-the-lines covert-operation networks" (siatki dywersji pozafrontowej) which would include intelligence, sabotage and covert operations in the event of an outbreak of war.
Charaszkiewicz was the "architect" and director of these networks which were in the midst of intensive preparation by May 1939. The organizations were given names such as "Secret Military Organization" (Tajna Organizacja Wojskowa, or TOW) and "Mobile Combat Units" (Lotne Oddziały Bojowe). After Poland was invaded by Germany in September 1939, many of these networks were transformed into the first underground resistance movements, which later became part of the Union for Armed Struggle (Związek Walki Zbrojnej, or ZWZ). Similarly, another unit that rose from “behind the lines covert operation network” was the White Eagle Organization in Krakow on September 22, 1939 (Organizacja Orła Białego, or OOB). In 1940, it became part of ZWZ. The OOB was an important organization that made a significant impact in southern Poland, as well as in Silesia, Warsaw and Lublin. OOB was formed by the order of Ankerstein, (Charaszkiewicz’ deputy). Before he departed for Hungary, he also gave a three-day covert-operations training for members of the organization.
Before the outbreak of war, a vast network of clandestine groups had already been formed with the mission of paralyzing the lines of communication and destroying enemy command and supply stations. The underground members were drawn from numerous sources such as Riflemen’s Association (Związek Strzelecki), Reserve Noncommissioned Officer’s Association, (Związek Podoficerów Rezerwy), Reserve Officer’s Association, (Związek Oficerów Rezerwy), as well as referrals by County Offices of Physical Education and Military Training (Powiatowe Urzędy Wychowania Fizycznego i Przysposobienia Wojskowego, or PUWFiPW), the Polish Scouting Association (Związek Harcerzy Polskich, or ZHP), the Polish Socialist Party (PPS), and a host of other organizations.
Preparations were coordinated by the Department for Planning Wartime Intelligence and Covert Operations (Wydział Planowania Wywiadu I Dywersji Wojennej) - created in late 1937. Among its objectives were the organization of procedures for the mobilization of foreign intelligence network and assuring its functioning under wartime conditions, as well as securing covert support for the army at the front.
By spring 1938 the training of clandestine networks had increased sharply. Office 2 was giving courses - under the guise of civil-defense training - that covered cryptology, intelligence micro-photography, toxicology, railway sabotage, hand-to-hand combat, new weapons, explosives, and suppression of fires. The scope of covert operations was increased as a result of the growing preponderance of the enemy war machine.
By summer 1939, Polish weapons and explosives were being distributed to clandestine centers and patrols in Poland as well as to contacts within the Third Reich. Despite Polish efforts to maintain secrecy of their operations, German intelligence was able to obtain information about their activities. When war broke out in September 1939, the German forces overran the Polish population thereby paralyzing their clandestine networks.
Major Charaszkiewicz became head of Department F (Wydział) at the Staff of the Commander-in-Chief and despite the outbreak of war continued to carry out his function until September 20, 1939.He commissioned the creation of at least one underground organization during that time after which he and other K-7 members escaped Poland into Romania. There he organized a group of officers who would return to Poland to continue the work of clandestine covert warfare.
Charaszkiewicz established connections with a Sanation group, the "Schaetzel-Drymmer group," that was supportive of Foreign Minister Józef Beck. Charaszkiewicz also participated in the creation of Office “R” (Ekspozytura) - Polish intelligence headquarters in Bucharest, with branches scattered throughout Romania. The foundation of these networks were not only vital to the conduct of Polish intelligence but to establish a liaison with occupied Poland.
October 1939. Charaszkiewicz received a letter from his British colleague, Lt. Col. Colin Gubbins (who would soon become the prime instigator for the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) in which he informed Charasziewicz that he had been personally searching for him, and wished to offer every possible assistance, including financial resources. (Charaszkiewicz declined the money). A British visa was provided for him through the British military attaché. He never used the visa.
On October 31, 1939, he arrived at the Bessiere barracks in France upon which he was without assignment for a number of months. Following a brief stay at Vichy, he joined the Officer’s Legion at Niort (April – May 1940) After France's capitulation in June 1940, Charaszkiewicz was able to evacuate to Great Britain. He organized armoured trains C and D , serving as deputy commander, then later as commander.
On August 3, 1943, he was transferred to the Polish Infantry Training Center (Centrum Wyszkolenia Piechoty), then to the Administrative Department (Oddział) of the Polish Ministry of National Defense. Until 1946 he was deputy chief, then chief, of the Information Department of the Inspectorate of Polish Military Headquarters; directed the General Department (Wydział) in the Inspectorate for Civilian Affairs.
During his career as an intelligence and covert-operations officer, Charaszkiewicz helped pioneer modern techniques of asymmetric warfare.Before the onset of WWII in a report about his meetings with British officials, he noted how far advanced Poland`s techniques surpassed that of Britain.
Charaszkiewicz had received many Polish decorations, including the Cross of Virtuti Militari (5th class, 1922), the Order of Polonia Restituta (3rd, 4th and 5th classes), the Cross of Independence with Swords
|Order of Polonia Restitua|
|Cross of Independence with Swords|
Editors Note: FYI: The images of medals posted here may or may not be the exact version which was awarded to the recipient. There are several classes for each medal depending on various factors such as type of military (or civilian) service, rank of officer (or soldier), class of award, year in which it was awarded, etc The lack of sufficient information on the web (or omission) has compounded the difficulty in selecting the correct class of medal. I apologize for any inaccuracies.