Operation Zamość Insurekcja

Zamość insurrection

This was the Polish resistance, primarily by the Armia Krajowa and Bataliony Chłopskie, to the forced expulsion of Poles from the Zamość region (1942/44).

In 1942 the Germans decided that the fertility of the land in the area of Zamość made it ideal for German colonisation within the General Gouvernement as one of the first elements of the 'Generalplan Ost' to clear key parts of German-occupied eastern Europe for German colonisation. The city itself was to be renamed Himmlerstadt (Himmler City), later changed to Pflugstadt (Plough City), which was to symbolise the German ‘ploughing’ of eastern Europe. The Germans planned to relocate at least 60,000 ethnic Germans to the area before the end of 1943. An initial test expulsion of the local Polish population was undertaken in November 1941, and the whole operation ended in anti-partisan pacification operations combined with expulsions in June/July 1943.

More than 110,000 Poles from some 300 villages were expelled to make room for German and, to a lesser extent, Ukrainian settlers. Some of the expelled villagers were resettled in the Warsaw and Lublin areas, but about 50,000 were sent as forced labour to Germany, and others were sent to concentration camps. Some villages were simply razed and their inhabitants executed. Additionally, almost 30,000 children were kidnapped by German authorities from their parents for potential Germanisation.

Local people resisted the action with considerable determination: many escaped into the forests of the region, organised self-defence forces and capabilities, helped people who had been expelled, and used bribery to recover kidnapped children from German hands. Units of the Polish resistance, as well as Soviet partisan elements and the pro-Soviet Gwardia Ludowa, helped to evacuate Polish civilians and attacked the German colonists and forces in the region.

In December 1942 one of the first large-scale partisan battles of the war took place in the region as several thousands of resistance fighters emerged from the forest to tackle the Germans up to February 1943. This forced the Germans to scale back their colonisation effort for a few months, but the Germans then counterattacked in June with the ‘Werwolf I’ and ‘Werwolf II’ major anti-partisan operations and terror tactics directed against the civilian population. After several major engagements between the resistance fighters and German units in places such as Wojda, Róża, Zaboreczno, Długi Kat, Lasowce and Hrubieszów, the Germans called a halt to their offensive efforts, and ultimately only a very small number German settlers were brought into the area. Until the middle of 1943, the Germans managed to settle 8,000 colonists, and another 2,000 arrived in 1944.

The increasing harassment of the settlement effort by the resistance fighters meant that the Germans began to lose control of the region as early as the spring of 1943. In the first half of 1944 Polish civilians and elements of the resistance movement were also attacked by units of the Ukrayins’ka Povstans’ka Armiya (Ukrainian Insurgent Army), under the leadership of Roman Shukhevych. Nonetheless by the summer of 1944 the Polish resistance fighters, based in the region’s large forests, had taken control of most of the countryside, limiting German control to the major towns. In the summer of 1944 Germans launched the major ‘Sturmwind I’ and ‘Sturmwind II’ operations against the Polish resistance forces, and this led to the Battle of Osuchy (25/26 June 1944), one of the largest battles between the Polish resistance and Nazi Germany: in this some 1,200 Poles were engaged by about 30,000 Germans troops, who inflicted some 400 casualties on the Poles. Soon after this, however, during July the remaining Polish units took part in the nationwide ‘Burza’ operation and liberated several towns and villages in the Zamość region as the Germans, under intense Soviet army pressure, were compelled to fall back from the region.