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Polish Intelligence in the 20th Century


After the First World War had ended, German nationalists on one hand and communist Russia on the other dominated Poland. The Treaty of Versailles did not guarantee much security for the Poles. After going through a rough revolt, Russia went ahead with its imperialism against Poland by taking over its Asian inhabitants. The encrypting equipment Enigma that Poland took up brought rivalry with other nations. In 1932, Poland developed a new cryptology branch in the University of Poznan. Within three years, some young mathematicians’ Polish men had been able to crack the Enigma codes. Even after their attack in 1939, Poland still went on to encrypt the secret German messages in France. Their excellent work made the war to be lessened by more than six months though French, British or Americans never recognized their efforts. This research paper looks at the state of the Polish intelligence right from the end of the First World War to the end of the 20th century.

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After the First World War had ended, Germany nationalists on one hand and communist Russia on the other dominated Poland. The Treaty of Versailles did not guarantee much security for the Poles. After going through a rough revolt, Russia went ahead with its imperialism against Poland by taking over its Asian inhabitants. The encrypting equipment Enigma that Poland took up brought rivalry with other nations. In 1932, Poland developed a new cryptology branch in the University of Poznan. Within three years, some young mathematicians’ Polish men had been able to crack the Enigma codes. Even after their attack in 1939, Poland still went on to encrypt the secret German messages in France. Their excellent work made the war to be lessened by more than six months though French, British or Americans never recognized their efforts. (Chodakiewicz)

The Establishment of the Polish Intelligence

The establishment of polish intelligence took place in the early years of the 19th century. In 1918, Poland was able to be an independent state inside the structures of the Versailles Agreement. This occurred within the General Staff of the newly formed Polish army leading to the establishment of an organization that was commonly known as the Second Bureau. The Second Bureau, which was under General Staff, was given the name Ekspozitura. This organization was concerned with intelligence information collection mainly related to the military. They also collected political and technological information from outside. With time, they went further to translate and encrypted secret codes from other countries. The second Bureau officially began its operations in 1920. This was during a time when the war with Soviet Union was taking place. The Polish army with the backing of its intelligence system finally won the war. A large system from inside and outside spies grew very fast. This was because of Poland’s bad economic condition mainly due to a prolonged period of occupation by outsiders. This poor condition had made many Poland citizens leave the country. When Poland gained its independence, most emigrants chose to work for Polish intelligence agencies. (Bogumila, p.73)

The Poland citizens who were staying in the then Russian Empire and who had decided to come back home due to the war in Russia offered relevant information on the Russian Civil War. After the war between Poland and Soviet Union that had taken place in the beginning of 1919, Poland strengthened its intelligence in the East to ensure that they were safe from greater enemies. A special unit Intelligence Bureau was created inside the Polish Intelligence, which managed all the activities in the time of the war. The Intelligence intensified investigations and close watch of the nations surrounding Bolshevik Russia such as Siberia, Turkey, Persia, China and Japan. They went further to intensify watch in European Russia. Others who joined the Intelligence were Russian liberals and prisoners of war who came to Poland in large numbers mainly in 1920 following the Battle of Warsaw. (Dovile)

In 1920, once the Polish-Soviet war and the Accord of Riga had ended, the Polish Intelligence reorganized itself to deal with fresh challenges. Even though Poland had taken back most of her territory, her international condition was unpleasant. By 1921, they went ahead to arrange their defense systems further. Even up to the end of 1930s, the Soviet Union was believed to be the likely attacker and rival of Poland. The Intelligence established a large network of representatives with Poland’s Eastern neighbors as well as with bordering countries. These included Moscow, Kiev, Leningrad and Tbilisi. The Boarder Defense Corps who had been set up in 1924 explored along the country’s border. At times, soldiers went through the border pretending to be smugglers or thugs. They collected information on the nature of the Soviet army and the views of the public. However, the Soviet soldiers did similar activities in Poland territory. (Garton)

In 1925, things calmed down and spying became minimal though it was still going on. The Polish Intelligence managed to make quite precise abilities of Poland’s rivals who were Germany and Soviet Union. However, this information did not help much since on September 1939 Germany and Soviet Union forces invaded them. The defeat of Poland occurred in one month in such a manner that the Polish Intelligence did not make any fundamental contribution. Once they were defeated, Poland’s intelligence system had no choice but to leave their command center to their associates French and British territories. Up to 1939, Polish intelligence had the principle of not joining forces with any other country. An exemption to this rule was France their closest partner even though they did not tell each other their secret messages. The real partnership that lasted was between France’s Gustave Bertrand and Poland’s Cipher Bureau, which was led by Gwido Langer. (Jerzy)

Polish contribution was mainly in the World War II. During this period, Polish intelligence could interpret encoded messages by breaching the German Enigma machine codes. They put up radio listening stations immediately after 1930 and in the year 1934 they had started listening to crucial enemy close operations. The first interception of the Enigma codes took place in 1932 by the mathematician Marian Rejewski who was an employee of Polish General Staff known as the Cipher Bureau. The French man Bertrand assisted him positively. Rejewski worked closely with other mathematicians like Henry Zygalski together with Jerzy Rozycki. After about six years since their first decryption of Enigma codes, Poland revealed to French and British agents on their discoveries. This information was conveyed at a trilateral convection that took place at Cipher Bureau amenities in Kabaty Woods, in Warsaw, a few weeks after the beginning of World War II. The information provided by Poland played a great role to the British thus allowing them to decrypt Enigmas on Bletchley Park, London. It is important to note that, if Poland had not offered the vital information the decryption of Enigma by the British might not have happened at that early stage, if by any chance they would have made any progress at all. (Jürgen)

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Once Soviet Union invaded Eastern Poland towards the end of 1939, the main Polish personnel of Cipher Bureau ran away from Poland to France. They carried on with the breaking of the Enigma codes at PC Bruno during the period of the Phony War of 1939 to 1940. After the destruction of northern France by the Germans, the union of Poland, France and Spain that was assisted by Gustave Bertrand went on in Cadix, up to the time it was taken over by Germany Army in 1942. Since the attack of Poland in 1939, almost every member of the General Staff left for French and Britain. They reopened their agencies all over Europe and then decided to work together with French and British intelligence agents. Following the destruction of France, many of the intelligence went to Britain. During that period, Britain was in a bad situation and required intelligence from the taken Europe since German had interfered with its systems and placed German soldiers in areas with a small number of British agents. (Krystyna)

With the help of Churchill and Sikorski at the end of 1940, the collaboration between the British and the Polish intelligence intensified to another level. Polish intelligence now worked with Britain on condition that they utilized their symbols, which they had created while in France, and free of British supervision. The Poles from all British allies are the only ones who had such a special favor although they did not get support from part of British government. (Michael) They however, received assistance from British Special Operations Executive thus maintaining their symbols until the end of the conflict. Since the year 1941, Polish intelligence in France provided Britain with information on U-boat engagements from French Atlantic harbors. The Polish intelligence rose rapidly and before and during the time of Operation Overlord they relayed crucial information on the Germany army in France. Those representatives based in Poland in 1941, gave information about German intentions and readiness to attack Soviet Union. (Lukowski)

In the same period, the Polish agents recorded German killings carried out at Auschwitz and in another case in Poland, murders of Jewish and non-Jewish people. The Polish intelligence provided British with vital information about Germany’s secret arms mission such as V-1 and V-2 rockets. This worked to the advantage of the British and they bombed the major improved establishment at Peenemunde in the year 1943. Poland’s intelligence gave information to the western partners about the progress of the German war activities. Of the information possessed by the British intelligence, more than half had its source from Polish intelligence. In 1946, part of the intelligence network was broken and its work was occupied by Britain. It is also clear that a small number of Polish representatives went on to work for Britain at the time of the Cold war. They continued to give their intelligence assistance that they had been giving since the earlier years in the World War. (Michael)

The Polish Air force contributed a lot in the Battle of Britain. More than 17,000 soldiers were working in the levels of Polish Air Force in British territory. They brought down 745 enemy planes with still 175 unverified. They also damaged 259, which were on land. The Polish intelligence also brought down 190 flying bombs, which had been meant for London. On top, they slumped more than 13,000 tons of bombs, tampered with three ships as well as eight submarines and damaged many U-boats. The Polish agents were rewarded with 342 British bravely awards and were commended for their great determination. (Mieczysław)

The intelligence of socialist Poland from 1944 to 1989 faced several challenges. The re-establishment of Polish self-governance following the end of the war came together with the rebuilding of its national intelligence agencies. This took place with the help of the Soviet Union. Many of pre-war and those who were the war experts faced a lot of oppression through the new Polish government making others to stay in the West. In 1944 a year before the war ended, the Polish Committee of National Liberation was established in Moscow. In this committee, a unique Department of Public Security carried out its activities. In the year 1945, after Poland was declared a free nation from the Germans, this department formed the foundations of the establishment of the Ministry of Public Security. The Administrative Department of Security was a branch of the organization in the latest ministry which was concerned with intelligence and countering spying operations in the region. (Piotrowski)

The new ministry also worked together with the Polish army and the Military intelligence to ensure that security was enforced in the border. Since the establishment of Administrative Department of Security up to the time the Communist era ended in 1989, the national intelligence network became the leader of the Polish intelligence instead of the military the way it had happened before the war. In its initial operations, representatives of the Soviet Secret activities from People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs took charge of training the personnel. In 1954, the Committee of Public Security was established and placed under Administrative Department of Security. However, after two years when Poland was faced with decline in its security services in its intelligence networks, the structure was centralized. The Ministry of the Interior became leader of all the other bodies of intelligence. The government further changed the name of Administrative Department of Security and up to the fall of the Communist regime, it was known as Security Service. (Richard)

Security Services operations were information collection and tackling the advances of the spies. In the secret services, the Security Services in a short period gained a status of being highly professional. Up to the time of its elimination, the Security Services Ministry was well known for being among the excellent intelligence agencies in East Europe. Its operations incorporated a very large area extending from West Europe to America, Asia and the whole region of the Middle East. Some of the most expertise successes of the Security Services included the establishment of its intelligence system within the NATO command center in Paris in mid 1950s. The ministry also managed to retrieve information on American weapons technologies between 1979 and 1983. These weapons were discovered on several American forces radar networks as well as on anti-aircraft security networks in 1979 to 1981. The information about the radar networks were disclosed by William H. Bell who headed the Radar Systems Group at Hughes Aircraft in El Segundo, California. (Sheymov, p. 420)

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Polish intelligence worked together with Bell using their agent Marian Zacharski while he operated undercover as the head of the Polish American Machinery Corporation (POLAMCO). The other major accomplishment for Security Service was the liquidation of the Polish location of Ukrainian nationalist region (OUN/UPA) in the late 1940s and early 1950s. (Timothy) The intelligence is also said to have failed in stopping extensive CIA operations in favor of Polish anti-Communist opposition. Some members of the Security service left the intelligent and went to the West. Michael Goleniewski went to America in 1958 while Wladyslaw Mroz left the group and went to France. They both made serious damage to the intelligence when they gave a number of their top secrets by giving out the names of the agents in USA, Western Europe and Israel. (Tessa et al)

The relationship between the socialist Poland’s Security service and its superior partner KGB was not going well at all. Disagreements between the two bodies started even before the fall of the Communist government in Poland in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. The problems became more apparent with the disagreements in the way the relationship between Poland and the Soviet Union was designed. KGB’s official representative in Warsaw, Commander Pavlov blamed his Polish partners of being concerned with their self-interest at the expense of the collapse of the Socialist alliance as a whole. In this way, he did not treat the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Poland, Wladislaw Pozoga with any respect. Pozoga had been the head of the intelligence information collection and spy detection from 1980 in the Security Service. Pavlov said that Pozoga was a nationalist and that he was trying to embezzle the KGB’s technology for equipments that were utilized in field operations. (Timothy, p.192)

The poles in turn blamed the soviet partners of their reluctance to offer sufficient help to the service. They argued that collaboration with KGM was minimal to help resolve small technical issues, and on the other hand, Moscow ordered that crucial intelligence information be moved to the West. The disagreements between KGB and Security Services escalated in the early 1980s. The Poles put back the keys in encrypting equipments of Soviet make thus stopping KGB from listening to any Polish messages and information. On the other hand, KGB apprehended a vehicle that was the property of Polish embassy, which had been parked at a secret security firm in Moscow. Polish agents were in that vehicle trying to get signals connected to a communication line of the firm. The government from both states had to step in to stop the scandal. The Soviet embassy in Warsaw had to put back the encrypting machines since they feared that Polish partners wired it. All these events took place in a short period up to the time when the relations between the two Secret services ended. (Topolski)

The initial military services in Poland immediately the World War II came to an end were established in 1943, which was a component of Polish Military in the USSR. The one that was concerned with anti spy activities was referred to as Directorate of Information by the Commander of Polish army (ZI NDWP). In 1944, the Commander of Polish Army, General Michal Rola-Zymierski changed the ZI NDWP to the Main Directorate of Information (GZI WP). In 1950, the GZI WP was made the Main Directorate of Information of the Ministry of Defense (GZI MON). Then in 1955, GZI MON was a component of the Committee for Public Security and it was named the Main Directorate of Information of the Committee for Public Security (GZI KdsBP). In the mid 19th century, GZI KdsBP was shelved from the Committee of Public Security reverting it to its earlier position in the department of defense. (Zamoyski) GZI under Wladyslaw Gomulka was accused of oppression and execution of people aimlessly. In 1957, the Main Directorate of Information of the Ministry of Defense was disregarded and substituted by Ministry Internal Service (WSW). The WSW went on to carry out its activities as the major military police and anti spy network up to the collapse of communism in Poland. (Vadim)


Poland intelligence networks dates backs to the 1900s and even then, they had strong values. Their intelligence agents were very professional and knowledgeable and they contributed so much in the World War II. The Polish intelligence was able to break the Enigma secret message, which was able to shorten the war. They did not give up even after their defeat in 1939. Instead, they continued to form an army even while exiled in France. The Polish intelligence later went on to help the British in their war and helped them gain control of large territories. They managed to pool together a large army for their country and trained them with professional skills. Their socialist government joined the people together and helped them achieve their economic freedom over the years.

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Dovile, Budryte. Taming nationalism?: political community building in the post-Soviet Baltic States, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2005.147.

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