|The Polish Underground Press
After the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939 they embarked on a campaign to eradicate Polish
culture, society, and the very existence of the Polish nation. They could never have succeeded, so strong was
the spirit of the Polish people to fight for their freedom and homeland.
Poles had salvaged, stolen, or bought on the black market, portable printing presses that were easily hidden
in cellars, and even in the woods, in order to escape detection by the Nazis, or unscrupulous Polish informers.
In many cases,it was a one-man operation where one person acted as reporter, editor, printer, and publisher.
Polish press agencies were established by the Government Delegate, as well as by military organizations and
political parties. They collected and disseminated reports from sources in the outside world on events on the
battlefields and in occupied countries. The best press services were the Military Press Agency, the Agency of
the Government Delegate, and Echo Press Agency. Each political party had at least one secret newspaper.
Distribution was widespread and its articles had considerable influence on the Polish citizens.
The underground knew that the enemy was aware of what they were printing. Great care was taken not to
divulge any secrets of the Polish Underground, but just report the news. On occasion, Poles went so far as
to send complimentary copies to the Gestapo with a little note saying "To help facilitate your research on
our plans for you!” The Information Bulletin, (Biuletyn Informacyjny) an official newspaper of the Underground
had a circulation of 300,000 copies. But considering the fact that each copy was read by several individuals,
circulation was indeed much higher.
The majority of these newspapers were set by hand, in linotype, mimeographed, or printed on small hand
presses. Among the Underground Press were also many highly skilled and experienced journalists and
printers. In order to maintain secrecy, the size of the newspapers had to be small and inconspicuous - they
usually measured from 5" to 6" in width, and 7" to 10" in length. The total number of pages ran from about
4 to 16 pages.
Some of the most known newspapers were the following but there were many others:
Rzeczpospolita Polska ( the newspaper of the Government Delegate)
They printed commands and advice to the population at large, in particular, resisting the German occupation.
Included were speeches of prominent members of the Polish government, and UN statesmen. Their editorials
represented the official viewpoint of the underground. It was widely circulated, and had the support of the public.
Wiadmosci Polskie (Polish News)
This paper was published by the Commander of the Home Army, whose articles dealt with social and military matters.
Zolnierz Polski (The Polish Soldier) It was dedicated to the analysis of the military defeat of battles, at home,
and abroad, and was widely distributed.
Insurrection This was a special paper meant only for the Home Army, discussing topics such as street fighting,
insurrection tactics, and diversions, among many other subjects.
WRN The main publication of the Socialist Party of Poland
Wiesi Miasto (Country and City).
This newspaper encouraged unity and cooperation among Polish factory workers and rural workers.
Their publication was directed towards readers representing the intelligentsia.
Through Fight to Victory, (Polish translation is unavailable) It was published by the Peasant Party
Orka was another publication of the Peasant Party but geared for the urban intelligentsia.
Glas Warszawy (The Voice of Warsaw) was published by the Christian Labor Party. But they had to change
the name of its paper continuously because of frequent German reprisals.
Walka (The Fight) and Narodi Wojsko (The Nation and the Army) were both published by the National
Some newspapers however were anti-Semitic, and attacked Jews for provoking the war. They accused the
Jews of collaborating with the Nazis. Newspapers such as The Warsschaer Zeitung, Szaniec, and
Placowka made efforts to convince the Poles to disown all minorities including the Jews.
There were many difficulties involved in running an underground newspaper. Firstly, acquiring paper was no
easy task, as it was indeed a scarce commodity, like virtually everything else. More often than not, ordinary
brown wrapping paper was used, but efforts were constantly made to acquire paper through German sources
through bibery, or theft, or from the black market. The transport of paper supplies was virtually child's play,
for example, peasant carts had supplies hidden underneath a huge mound of potatoes and cabbages.
Distribution posed another problem, but was not insurmountable. In order for the underground press to protect
its identity, distribution was based on the system of three-point selling. It was a method created by Stanislaw
Wojciechowski, who was the co-editor, and co-printer of a newspaper issued during the Tsarist regime,
together with his friend Jozef Pilsudski, who would later become the President of Poland in 1922. In this
system, every person involved in the distribution of a newspaper was acquainted with only two people - the
person who gave him the newspaper and the person he sold it to. Therefore, in case of arrest and
interrogation, the distributor would not be able to divulge information that would jeopardize the entire
network of the underground press.
Street vendors had to sell only German language newspapers, as Polish papers were outlawed by the Nazis. An
ingenious method was used to covertly distribute Polish newspapers in broad daylight. A subtle signal was
made to Polish passersby indicating that a copy of a Polish newspaper was hidden between the pages of each
German newspaper. Poles who would not otherwise by a German paper, did so on this occasion. Butchers and
countless other shopkeepers would wrap up their customers' purchases with Polish newspaper hidden inside
the wrapping. Waiters would slip small Polish newspapers under plates. And some Polish couriers would even
risk the delivery of Polish newspapers directly to mailboxes. It was extremely risky, for to have been caught would
have mean arrest, torture and death. The Germans were constantly on the man-hunt for the leaders and members
of the Polish Underground.
In order to bolster the Polish spirit, many of the newspapers contained some poetry, and classic or modern
Polish literature. The powerful imagery used by Polish authors had a great influence on sustaining and
strengthening Polish resolve and courage in the resistance against the Nazis.
Numerous pamphlets were also printed, the most famous one entitled, "Golgotha " which described eyewitness
accounts of German atrocities committed against the Jewish people at Auschwitz ( Oswiecim, in Polish) Books
were mainly reprints of earlier publications, of if they were recent, were dated to the prewar era, so as not to
provoke German reprisals. Everything that was prohibited by the Germans, the Polish classics, poetry,
educational textbooks, prayer brooks, and military instruction manuals were secretly printed and made available
This massive undertaking was not meant solely for the dissemination of information to the Polish people,
although it was a very important factor, but it represented a direct threat to the Germans that the Polish underground
resistance was active, effective, and would never yield. The movement caused great concern for the Germans
because they intensified their efforts to crack down on the leaders and members of the Polish Underground.
Many were publicly executed, or hanged from the gallows, lamp posts, or trees.
Radio was also a powerful instrument in the hands of the Polish Underground. The radio and the press both
provided the Polish people with a constant stream of information, and news. Many Poles would gather in small
groups in soundproof attics, or cellars, or even small huts in the forest, to listen to secret radio broadcasts. They
risked their lives to do so. The major sources of broadcasts were the London BBC, Boston WRUL, and
Columbia WCBX (New York). These "listeners" became the correspondents upon which the Polish newspapers
relied for more information.
SWIT was a radio station situated in London, but the nature of its news reports gave every impression that it was
located in Poland. The Polish Underground was able to feed information to London so that broadcasts were
made on events that had just occurred in Poland. Much of the news dealt with directives and warnings from the
Directorate of Civil Resistance in Poland. It was a magnificent strategy to harass and frustrate the Germans,
who could never find the location of this radio station.
Over 1,300 Polish newspapers and 250 books were printed and distributed in
Nazi-occupied Poland. It is a remarkable feat for the Polish Underground to have
succeeded in conducting such a vast covert operation under the constant scrutiny
of the Nazis. To have been discovered would have meant arrest, torture and
inevitable death. But the Poles inherited an iron will from their ancestors through
centuries of subjugation under foreign powers. During the Tsar's reign, the activity
of the Polish Underground flourished despite brutal reprisals from the Okhrana, the
Russian Secret Police. (later to be known as the NKVD, today's KGB)