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The Blue Police in the General Government

Marcin Przegiętka

 

During the Second World War, the numerous German police forces operating in the General Government were assisted by two law enforcement units made up solely of non-German functionaries: the Polish Police (which from the dark blue color of its uniforms was commonly known as the “Blue Police”) and the Ukrainian Police. The Ukrainian Police did not have jurisdiction throughout the entire territory of the General Government; indeed, this was initially limited to the eastern administrative areas of the Kraków and Lublin districts, while from 1941 it was expanded to include the district of Galicia.

 

Organization of the Unit

While only a German police force was allowed to exist in the Polish lands incorporated into the Reich (officers of the prewar Polish State Police fell victim to repressions or were deported), in the General Government the invader decided to establish a Polish police formation which, however, was to be completely subordinate to the German authorities. The first regulations concerning continuation of service by the State Police were included in the agreement on the capitulation of Warsaw, which was undersigned on 28 September 1939. Pursuant to this document, only the Polish Army was to lay down its arms and leave the city; the police were to continue to maintain law and order[1].

A month later, on 30 October 1939, the German occupation authorities issued an appeal to functionaries of the State Police, obligating them under pain of severe penalties to report to German police stations or local district authorities. This marked the commencement of work on creating a new police service based on personnel drawn from the prewar State Police. Functionaries of the State Police from lands incorporated into the Reich who had previously been deported by the invader to the General Government were also enlisted in the Blue Police. During the first few months of the occupation, some 9,000 functionaries took up service in the force. The Polish Police reached its greatest numerical strength in the years 1943–1944, with more than 12,000 constables and officers in its ranks.

The formation did not have a vertical structure (neither the prewar National Headquarters of the State Police, nor its provincial headquarters were recreated): local stations of the Blue Police were directly subordinate to the German police, specifically to the local commands of the Feldgendarmerie[2], and to the office of the Feldgendarmerie commandant at district level. And although Polish liaison officers would be delegated to the latter, their role was limited to passing on orders and instructions given by the invader to local commands. In consequence, the Polish Police enjoyed no independence of action whatsoever – it was totally subordinate to the German occupation authorities. Its competence with respect to Germans (both members of the military and civilians) was limited, for it could take action against them only in the event of manslaughter or murder, however provided that there were no German police on the scene. The occupation authorities decreed that symbols of the Polish state were to be removed from the prewar uniforms regularly worn by blue policemen. The first to go were the eagles adorning their caps; by the beginning of 1940 these had been replaced with the coats of arms of individual localities. The emblem of the II Republic of Poland, embossed on the uniform buttons, survived for considerably longer, until around 1943.

 

The Functioning of the Police Force

The tasks of the Blue Police were similar to those of the German Order Police (Ordnungspolizei). They included enforcing orders given by the invaders, for example concerning the inspection of documents, the detainment of persons present in public areas after curfew, the collection of obligatory quotas from farmers, and the persecution of illegal cattle slaughter and illegal trading in food and rationed goods[3]. Frequently, these activities were performed by the Blue Police under the direct supervision or on the instruction of the Ordnungspolizei. The Blue Police were also used to organize round-ups, during which Poles were detained and deported to forced labor in the Reich[4], to guard the gates and walls of ghettos[5], and also to search for Jewish escapees. In a small number of instances, the policemen assisted or participated in executions[6], and also provided security for troops conducting ghetto liquidations[7]. At the same time, by investigating and prosecuting common crimes, they helped mitigate at least some of the dangerous phenomena that accompanied the occupation – the most severe of these was brigandage, which tended to intensify as the war progressed.

The fact that the invader decided to maintain a Polish police force appeared to prove (at least in the initial phase of the occupation) that his intentions were benign. However, it would seem that Poles, drawing on experience gained during the First World War, intended to use the Blue Police – a force established to work for the invader – as a front for creating an underground movement. And so it transpired, for many functionaries of the Polish Police cooperated with the Polish Underground State. The fact that this formation provided direct access to the occupation authorities – a unique asset – made it possible to acquire information, for example, about persons who were threatened with reprisals by the German police, or on actions and operations planned by the Nazis (e.g. round-ups). It is well known that such intelligence was used to warn people who were wanted by the invader against imminent arrest[8]. For example, while conducting searches in the flats of persons suspected of clandestine activities, the Blue Police would help potential victims by “overlooking” incriminating evidence[9]. Blue policemen also took an active part in providing assistance to Jews who had gone into hiding; indeed, there are instances of functionaries being named Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem.

From the point of view of the German authorities, the Blue Police was necessary in order to maintain public order, however the invader was aware that the entire formation only maintained an appearance of loyalty, and therefore considered it as no more than borderline trustworthy. This assessment found reflection in the sheer number of investigations and proceedings that were reserved for the exclusive competence of the German Security Police (including the Secret State Police, the Gestapo). The occupation authorities were under no illusion as to what the force would have done in the event of an uprising in the General Government, and in consequence gave the Blue Police tasks that did not require the observance of secrecy.

In the event that collaboration with the resistance was proven, a Polish policeman could expect severe punishment (e.g. deportation to a concentration camp), while numerous functionaries were murdered by the invader in other circumstances – e.g. during the Warsaw Uprising[10]. Repressive measures would also be applied if a policeman allowed himself to be disarmed by partisans.

Polish society took a decidedly negative view of the activities of the Blue Police. The fact that it enforced orders given by the invader and took part in operations jointly with the German police was considered by many as unequivocal proof of collaboration. In actual fact, however, a lot would depend on the approach of individual functionaries. For while some would follow orders strictly and collaborate with the invader whenever necessary, their ranks also included persons who were involved with the resistance and – to a lesser or greater degree – willing to provide assistance to fellow Poles. The Polish Police of the General Government continues to be viewed as a controversial formation by historians.

 

Polnische Kripo

Apart from the uniformed Polish police, there was also a Polish Criminal Police (Polnische Kripo), the members of which were recruited from amongst the investigative branch of the prewar State Police. It was organized in Criminal Police Administrations[11] that were subordinate not to the German Feldgendarmerie, but to the Security Police, which comprised the Gestapo and the Kripo (the German Criminal Police). The criminal police did not wear uniforms. A more detailed analysis of the various aspects concerning the activities of this formation is made very difficult by the fact that only a small portion of the relevant documentation has survived.

 

Bibliography

Borodziej Włodzimierz, Terror i polityka. Policja niemiecka a polski ruch oporu w GG 1939–1944, Warsaw 1985.

Getter Marek, Policja granatowa w Warszawie 1939–1944, in: Warszawa lat wojny i okupacji 1939–1944, book 2, ed. Krzysztof Dunin-Wąsowicz, Janina Kaźmierska, Halina Winnicka, Warsaw 1972.

Hempel Adam, Pogrobowcy klęski. Rzecz o policji „granatowej” w Generalnym Gubernatorstwie 1939–1945, Warsaw 1990.

Madajczyk Czesław, Polityka III Rzeszy w okupowanej Polsce, vol. 1, Warsaw 1970.

 

Marcin Przegiętka – a historian, currently working at the Institute of National Remembrance. Much of his research has concerned Polish-German relations in the interwar period (he has also published a monograph devoted to the topic, entitled Komunikacja i polityka. Transport kolejowy i drogowy w stosunkach polsko-niemieckich 1918–1939, Warsaw 2015). Presently, his focus has shifted to the German apparatus of repression in Poland during the Second World War. Mr Przegiętka is the head of the editorial body of the series Polska pod okupacją 1939–1945.

 

[1] Cf. the account of Stanisław Wasilewski.

[2] Cf. the account of Tadeusz Góralczyk.

[3] Cf. the account of Stanisław Wasilewski.

[4] Cf. the accounts of Seweryn Jaworski, Wacław Juszczakiewicz and Mieczysław Kalata.

[5] Cf. the account of Feliks Krawiecki.

[6] Cf. the accounts of Antoni Gawarkiewicz, Stanisław Gromelski and Władysław Zaran.

[7] Cf. the account of Ita Radoszyńska.

[8] Cf. the account of Stanisław Piegat.

[9] Cf. the account of Henryk Piekutowski.

[10] Cf. the accounts of Stanisław Pętlak and Wacław Piórkowski.

[11] Cf. the account of Stanisław Wasilewski.