Axis Forces in Poland, 1939-1945

During WWII, there were some 500 000* members (380 000 of them in the AK, albeit that number probably includes the BCh troops that were tactically subordinated to the AK in 1944) of the Polish Resistance Movement, of which about 130 000 served in partisan units (collectively in both units of part-time fighters along with those of real field partisans). The Polish Resistance Movement suffered about 80 000 killed (these include not only those killed in combat but also those who died in the German custody and/or as a result of the Germans' genocidal actions; thus, a large chunk of this number is not officially counted in Poland's military combat deaths), while it inflicted 150 000** fatalities on the various Axis troops. The information below shows what kind of an opponent the Polish resistance fighters had to deal with.

Perhaps no other country in the occupied Europe had as big of a saturation of Axis military and police forces than Poland did.

The Number of the Wehrmacht Troops in Occupied Poland***, 1939-1945

Month or Season, Year --- Nr. of Wehrmacht Troops in the Occupied Poland --- Nr. of Wehrmacht Troops in the GG

September, 1939 ------------------------- 1 850 000

November, 1939 --------------------------- 800 000 ------------------------- 540 000

April, 1940 --------------------------------- 680 000 ------------------------- 400 000

September, 1940 --------------------------- 800 000 ------------------------- 600 000

January, 1941 ---------------------------- 1 200 000 ------------------------- 900 000

June, 1941 ------------------------------- 2 700 000 ----------------------- 2 300 000

Spring, 1942 ------------------------------- 550 000 ------------------------- 400 000 (excluding the District of Galicia#)

Autumn, 1942 ------------------------------ 600 000 ------------------------- 450 000 (excluding the District of Galicia#)

Spring, 1943 ------------------------------- 650 000 ------------------------- 500 000 (excluding the District of Galicia#)

Autumn, 1943 ------------------------------ 750 000 ------------------------- 600 000 (excluding the District of Galicia#)

Spring, 1944 ------------------------------- 850 000 ------------------------- 650 000 (excluding the District of Galicia#)

Summer, 1944 --------------------------- 1 200 000 ----------------------- 1 000 000

Autumn, 1944 --------------------------- 1 300 000 ----------------------- 1 100 000

Winter, 1944-1945 ---------------------- 2 000 000

In addition to these Wehrmacht troops, the German police forces stationed in the occupied areas of Poland-proper fluctuated in the 30 000 - 150 000 range. These numbers should be further enlarged by members of the various part-time volunteer police formations, made up of Reich Germans, Volksdeutsches, and Ukrainian nationalists. Moreover, these forces were further still augmented by the armed German civilians who lived in the General Governorship (GG) who were sometimes even used in anti-partisan operations, and by the various Ukrainian nationalist gangs (OUN-UPA) who were not directly part of the German military and police structures, but, contrary to their post-war denials, actively collaborated with the Germans for the entire duration of the occupation. The OUN-UPA presence was confined only to the south-eastern peripheries of Poland-proper. Finally, the NSZ, originally a Polish extreme right-wing "resistance" organization, was increasingly infiltrated by the Gestapo, and starting in 1943 at least most of it was in the Germans' service; they numbered somewhere in the 15 000 - 20 000 range.


* - This is the total number of Poles in the Resistance Movement everywhere, both in Poland-proper and outside of it.

** - Bogdan Hillebrandt in his Partyzantka na Kielecczyznie lists many instances where the German losses, as reported by both Germans and Poles, differed considerably. Also, in some cases the Germans gave a very general account of some actions, without giving any specific numbers as to their losses, or even hid their losses altogether; in such instances only the Polish sources could be relied on for such information. Finally, many documents have been lost during the war, and also many actions during which the Germans suffered losses were never reported at all. The latter was especially true for minor actions which were quite numerous; for example many ambushes on columns and individual vehicles were never reported, unless some higher-ranking German was killed. At last one has to point out that the German reports were not all that truthful; "reducing" and even hiding their own losses (and at the same time exaggerating the losses of the resistance fighters, often very heavily) was nothing unheard of.

A good example of such a "fine" German reporting is mentioned by Piotr Pawlina in his book, when he describes an engagement against a Wehrmacht horse-drawn column of about 300-400 troops (Germans, Vlasovites, and Ukrainians) that took place early in the morning on 02 August of 1944, near the village of Slupia; the losses inflicted on the Axis just by his own unit (a few other BCh units also took part in the action and inflicted additional losses on the enemy) amounted to 74 killed and 47 captured (lots of equipment was also captured). Interestingly, a German military report about this very same engagement, which the author found after the war, stated that a group of 26 troops from the 8th Transportation Squadron of the 17th Panzer Division was attacked, and only a few of them were killed. Aside from the date and location of the engagement, no other information given in the German report was true. The author included a photograph of the 47 captured Axis in front of page 337 of his book (see below). Hillebrandt incorrectly states in Partyzantka na Kielecczyznie that the German Tagesmeldung WK GG from 3.VIII.1944 admitts to 18 troops of the 8th Fahrschwadron of the 17th Panzer Division being killed in this very action, since this document does it only in an indirect manner; only a "few" of the troops (including the squadron's commander) are explicitly mentioned as being killed. The timing listed on the German document also appears to be incorrect; the engagement began around 05:00 (and not 09:00), albeit it did last for close to five hours, so perhaps the document was referring to the end time. The partisans suffered only nine killed (including those who later died of their wounds) along with four wounded. About 130 BCh partisans participated in this engagement. Hillebrandt's comment that the arrival of a couple of Red Army armoured recon vehicles saved the day for the BCh partisans, is not really true either, as Pawlina explicitly states that the Soviets arrived already after the battle was over.

But Hillebrandt also does notice "under-reporting" in the German documents; coincidentally, a separate engagement that took place also on 02 August, 1944, involved the AL partisans chasing away a column of Kalmuck troops near Sniadka, during which 13 Kalmucks were killed. The German Tagesmeldung WK GG from 3.VIII.1944 only mentions about a clash of a Kalmuck unit with a "200-strong band" without mentioning their quislings' losses in men and equipment (for a more detailed description of this engagement see the page on 1st AL Brigade "Imienia Ziemi Kieleckiej").

The Axis losses inflicted by the Polish Resistance Movement are for everywhere, and not just the Poland-proper. It includes not only Germans, but also their quislings and allies.

*** - With regard to the data table, Occupied Poland is defined as Poland-proper, by which is meant all of present-day Poland, but excluding the old Polish Recovered Lands that were returned to Poland in 1945. The Occupied Poland includes both the GG and the areas "incorporated" to the Reich in 1939.

# - Contrary to what some claim, the region of Galicia is located entirely in north-western Ukraine and does not include any part of Poland-proper (or present-day Poland). It is called Halychyna in Ukrainian and it is named after the town of Halych. The confusion over the incorrect extension of this geographical name into Poland probably stems from that in 1772, during the first partition of the Belarussian-Lithuanian-Polish Commonwealth, the entire Halychyna along with a chunk of south-eastern Poland-proper, was grabbed by the Austrian Habsburgs and was designated by them as Galicia-Lodomeria. Before that no part of Poland-proper (present-day Poland) was known as Galicia. Besides, the GG's District of Galicia was located almost entirely in Ukraine.


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