Bill RushinPO Top Contributor
Joined: 14 Dec 2009
Location: Virginia Beach, Va.
Posted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:24 am
Major Jozef Kuras and the “Lightning” Partisans Unit.
“First we fought for the Polish Eagle – and now we fight for his crown. Our motto: God, Honor, Country.”
(An excerpt from the leaflet distributed by Maj. Jozef Kuras “Ogien” soldiers during April and May 1945, in the cities of Szaflary and Nowy Targ. (“Lightning” in Polish is “Blyskawica”)
During the period of Nazi and, thereafter, Soviet occupation, the Podhale region (similarly to that of the Lublin area), became a battlefield, where both the Polish underground, and the occupying forces utilized considerable manpower during large scale operations. At the outset of the Soviet occupation, one of the largest concentrations of partisan units in Poland, was operating in the Podhale region, and was commanded by Major Jozef Kuras, nom de guerre “Ogien” (English “Fire”). In the Nowy Targ county alone, his units disarmed all communist People’s Militia (Polish. abbr. MO – Milicja Obywatelska) stations, in addition to those in Zakopane and Szczawnica - and some of those were disarmed more than once. The fear of “Fire’s” partisans, paralyzed activities the communist Polish People Party committees (Pol. Polska Partia Robotnicza – PPR).
Kuras imposed taxes on communists, placed patriotic Poles in local government positions, liquidated snitches, and torturers from the UB (pol. Urzad Bezpieczenstwa – Polish Secret Police), NKWD (rus. Narodnyi Komitet Vnutriennykh Del" - Committee for State Security), and other most dedicated lackeys of the new communist regime. The propaganda machine of the Polish People’s Republic (Pol. Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa – PRL), left no stone unturned to portray Kuras’s soldiers as a common gang of thieves, and their commanding officer, as a dark character, with hands bloodied by deaths of innocent people, among them Jews. Not surprisingly, these slanderous accusations became grounds of declaring Major Jozef Kuras “Ogien”, and his soldiers anti-Semites.
At the end of the war, and with the rise of the Communists, the Holocaust or Shoah, as it is sometimes called - proved a gift from the Nazis to the Communists, and especially the Soviets. Intimations by Polish Communists that Polish patriots were implicated in these atrocities were sallied to chill the voices of those who might speak in the defense of them, lest one find oneself speak up for an SS collaborator (German- Schutzstaffel, a Protective Squadron) .Likewise, the Soviets could - through pervasive innuendo, libels and slanders - venture that their hegemony over the eastern bloc was a bulwark against renewed depredations against the Jews by indigenous populations predisposed towards anti-Semitism.
Many historians are of opinion, that falsification of “Ogien’s” biography was one of the most skillfully conducted propaganda operations conducted by the communists. Despite that however, the memory, and the legend of Major Jozef Kuras “Fire” and his soldiers, is alive today not only in the Podhale area, but also in the entire Poland.
Major Jozef Kuras
Jozef Kuras was born on 23 October, 1915, in Waksmund, near Nowy Targ. He was the youngest son of Jozef and Antonina (nee Ligeza). He had brothers Wladyslaw, Wojciech, Jan, and Michal, and also younger sister Maria. During 1921-1926, Jozef Kuras attended schools in Waksmund, and during 1928-1933 attended the Nowy Targ Gymnasium. In 1936, he was conscripted into military and served with the 2nd Podhale Rifle Regiment (Pol. 2 Pulk Strzelcow Podchalanskich – abbr. 2PSP) stationed in Sanok, and thereafter was sent to the junior officer school of the Boarder Security Korps (Pol. Korpus Ochorny Pogranicza – abbr. KOP) in Glebokie, where he was promoted to the rank of a Corporal. After completing the Junior Officer’s School, Kuras was ordered to serve in Slobodka, near Wilno. Honorably discharged from the military, he resumed work on his family farm, and became involved in local politics.
In this fashion, he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps, who already in 1923 was organizing local branch of the Polish People’s Party (Pol. Acronym PSL) “Piast”. In the mid-thirties, active under the auspices of the People’s Party (Pol. Acronym SL), the branch lead by his father numbered nearly 50 members, which placed it third in the county right after the cities of Nowy Targ and Maruszyn.
During late spring, 1939, Juzef Kuras was called for several weeks, to participate in military training with the 1st Podhale Rifle Regiment (pol. 1 Pulk Strzelcow Podchalanskich – abbr. 1PSP) in Nowy Sacz, and was mobilized on 24 August, 1939.
At the time the II World War erupted, Jozef Kuras fought in the ranks of the 8th Company under command of Cpt. Lucjan Swierczewski. The entire regiment, including Kuras’s company engaged the advancing German forces, in Limanowa, Nowy Sacz, Bobowa, Szymbar, Jaslo, Krosn, Dynow, Bircze, Mosciska, and the Janow Forest. On September 18, 1939, two days after the Soviet forces crossed the Polish boarders (as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact), and began simultaneous attack on Poland, the staff of the 1st Podhale Rifle Regiment decided to capitulate. Jozef Kuras and several other officers didn’t choose lay their arms however, and decided to make an attempt to reach France, and continue fighting. After an unsuccessful attempt to cross the border, on 14 October, 1939 Jozef Kuras returned to Waksmund. As the German occupation arrived to the Podhale region, the Nazis began their policy of germanification of its population.
In case of the inhabitants of the Podhale region, commonly known as “Gorale” (Highlanders), the Nazi propaganda bolstered, that they are an ethnically-different, non-Polish population, that shares ancestral roots with the Scandinavian Goths, and thus, are part of the “Greater Germanic Race”. As a part of the Nazi plan called the "Goralenvolk", not only the "highlander language was taught in schools, but the inhabitants of the Podhale region, who identified with their "highlander" background, were offered better living conditions, and were encouraged to migrate and work in the Third Reich. The difficult task of combating policies of the "Goralenvolk" was undertaken by the ZWZ (Pol. Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej - the Association of Armed Struggle), the Home Army (pol. Armia Krajowa), County representative of the Government Delegate's Office at Home (pol. Powiatowa Delegatura Rzadu), and SL Roch (pol. Stronnictwo Ludowe - People's Party). While united in the principle, all of these organizations operated independently, and such divergence couldn't possibly produce the desired outcome. Only in May, 1941, on the initiative of Augustyn Suski, graduate of the Jagielonian University, and well regarded mentor of the rural youth, and lecturer at the so called rural universities. The consolidation of these efforts culminated in the establishment of the "Tatra [Mountains] Confederacy" (Pol. "Konfederacja Tatrzanska"), whose primary goal was armed resistance of Nazi occupiers, and restoration of sovereign, and democratic Poland. The membership in this newly formed consortium, consisted of individuals, who prior to the eruption of the WW II, were involved populist rural politics in the Podhale region; among them Jozef Kuras, nom de guerre "Orzel" (Pol. "Eagle"), who became the head of the Tatra Confederacy branch in Waksmund. Because of his involvement, already in June, 1941, the Tatra Confederacy organization in his area, demonstrated considerable success in combating policies of the "Goralenvolk", resisting Nazi attempts to export strategically important resources, such as lumber, and opposing repatriation of local populations to the Third Reich.
It is among these individuals, that an idea of creating armed, diversionary group operating against the Nazis took shape. Because of the fear of arrest, right from the moment the unit was created, Kuras visited his home only serendipitously, and during nights organized armed operations against Nazi administrative, and economic institutions, including those in Lupaszna, Zaflary, and Odrowaz. His group took part in destroying population lists, inventories of goods to be exported to Nazi Germany, lists of contingents, and also collected money and provisions. As a result of the Gestapo internal surveillance activities, aided by their agent, Stanislaw Wegner-Romanowski, the Tatra Confederacy was destroyed in 1942. From among the units of the Tatra Confederacy, only the unit operating under Jozef Kuras remained intact. At this time however, their members limited contact with local population to a bare minimum.
In 1943, Kuras is dealt a horrific personal blow. On June 29, 1943, the Nazis encircled Kuras’s family house, and murdered his 73 year-old father, his wife Elzbieta, and their 2 ½ years old son, Zbigniew. Through information received from the informers, the Nazis retaliated for the execution of two “Gray Police” men, who were also Gestapo agents. After murdering his family, they burned the house. Thereafter several hundred SS-men, policemen, and Gestapo personnel encircled the entire village of Waksmund.
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Bill RushinPO Top Contributor
Joined: 14 Dec 2009
Location: Virginia Beach, Va.
Posted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 3:36 am
POLEGLYM W WALCE O WOLNOSC OFIAROM TERRORU HITLEROWSKIEGO W LATACH 1939-45
Killed In The Fight For Freedom For Victims Of Nazi Terror In The Years 1939 to 1945
(Memorial For Victims of Nazi Terror who were killed in the fight for freedom 1939-1945)
April 24 2012
Waksmund Memorial List
(LName FName DOB DOD POD)
BARANIAK, Jakub 14/12/1897 - 26/04/1945 Waksmund
BEM, Wladyslaw 24/09/1921 - 28/12/1943 Kamienica
CYRWUS, Elzbieta 27/10/1897 - 28/09/1943 Waksmund
CYRWUS, Francizek 23/10/1893 - 21/02/1944 Waksmund
CYRWUS, Jozef 13/10/1920 - 21/02/1944 Szczawnica
CYRWUS, Francizek 12/07/1913 - 23/04/1944 Plaszów
CYRWUS, Wojciech 18/12/1882 - 16/11/1943 Plaszów
DLUBACZ, Franciszek 22/09/1922-04/07/1943 Waksmund
GARBACZ, Jan 10/03/1899-04/07/1943 Waksmund
GARBACZ, Michal 22/03/1901-11/02/1944 Waksmund
KOPEC, Stanislaw 29/09/1923-21/01/1944 Gorce
KURAS, Elzbieta 04/11/1917-29/06/1943 Waksmund
KURAS, Zbigniew 17/12/1940-29/06/1943 Waksmund
KURAS, Jozef 27/01/1870-29/06/1943 Waksmund
KURAS, Michal 23/01/1909-06/12/1943 Plaszów
LIGEZA, Jakub 25/06/1896-08/11/1943 Plaszów
LIGEZA, Katarzyna 15/02/1897-07/01/1944 Plaszów
LIGEZA, Józef 23/02/1904-27/03/1945 Waksmund
MROSZCZAK, Stanislaw 18/03/1923-15/03/1945 Bergen-Belsen
NIEMIEC, Jakub 25/06/1905-07/09/1942 Gross-Rosen
NIEMIEC, Józef 30/04/1921-04/07/1943 Waksmund
REJCZAK, Jozef 08/01/1916-05/07/1943 Katowice
REJCZAK, Józef 04/02/1898-23/09/1943 Waksmund
ROGAL, Katrazyna 16/07/1893-08/12/1943 Slaszow
ROGAL, Józef ??/09/1925 21/02/1944 Szczawnica
ROGAL, Jan ??/?5/1919-21/02/1944 Szczawnica
SIUTY, Franciszek ??/?9/1898-23/09/1944 Tylmanowa
SRAL, Franciszek ??/02/1903-28/12/1943 ??????
SRAL, Jan ??/??/1905-14/07/1913 Waksmund
SRAL, Jozef ??/??/19??-??/??/1943 Waksmund
SRAL, Rozalia 25/09/1904-03/11/1943 Plaszów
SRAL, Wladislaw 11/11/1911-03/10/1942 Krakow
TRABKA, Stanislaw 03/11/1916-28/09/1943 Ostrosko
WAKSMUNDZKI, Franciszek 12/04/1897-28/09/1943 Waksmund
WAKSMUNDZKA, Katarzyna 16/06/1912-28/09/1943 Waksmund
WAKSMUNDZKI, Jozef 21/12/1921-28/09/1943 Waksmund
WAKSMUNDZKI, Wladislaw 12/06/1924-16/06/1943 Kamenica
WAKSMUNDZKA, Rozalia 13/01/1882-27/11/1943 Plaszów
WAKSMUNDZKA, Helena, 12/12/1922-29/11/1943 Plaszów
WAKSMUNDZKI, Jan 21/05/1906-17/07/1943 Waksmund
WAKSMUNDZKI, Jan 03/08/1897-11/02/1944 Waksmund
WAKSMUNDZKI, Jozef 05/06/1900-15/04/1945 ??????
WAKSMUNDZKI, Wladislaw 07/08/1904-04/07/1943 Waksmund
WAKSMUNDZKI, Wojciech 13/11/1914-23/09/1939 Stary Byste
WAKSMUNDZKI, Stanislaw 13/03/1906-12/12/1944 Waksmund
Last edited by Bill Rushin on Thu Sep 24, 2015 11:04 pm; edited 1 time in total