How Anders Army co-helped create Israel

2017-05-13 01:30 update: 2018-09-30, 15:12
Polish gov't in-exile PM General Sikorski (L) with Gen Anders (R) /Middle East/spring of 1943 PAP/CAF
Polish gov't in-exile PM General Sikorski (L) with Gen Anders (R) /Middle East/spring of 1943 PAP/CAF
Few people know and even fewer seem to remember that Poland's WWII forces fighting alongside the Allies, known as the Anders Army, contributed to the formation of Israel by, among others, letting its Jewish-descended soldiers desert to the then-emerging country.

Named after its commander General Wladyslaw Anders (whose 47th death anniversary is celebrated today - PAP) the Anders Army was formed in 1941 in the Soviet Union. In March 1942 the force made its way through Iran to Palestine under a British-Soviet-Polish understanding. In Palestine the force passed under British command and provided the bulk of the Polish II Corps (a member of the Polish Armed Forces in the West), which fought in the Italian Campaign.

In Palestine the force's commanders were ordered by Andres to turn a blind eye to thousands of desertions by the army's Jewish conscripts, who left the force armed, to join Jewish military organisations fighting for the independence of Israel. Among the soldiers granted an official release from the formation was Menachem Begin (Poland-born Mieczyslaw Biegun) - the founder of Israel's Likud party and the 6th Israeli prime minister.

In line with the Polish government in-exile, the Anders Army also helped civilians of Jewish descent, including soldier families, groups of Jewish children and war orphans, to escape Soviet repressions and travel safely to Palestine against a British ban.

Polish authorities circumvented the interdict by loading fellow citizens of Jewish descent on ships and navigating them around the Arabian Peninsula. Jewish children, on the other hand, are said to have been clad in Catholic school uniforms and transported to Palestine through Iraqi deserts by trucks.

In 1944 the Anders Army's II Corps played a crucial role in defeating the Germans in what came to be known as "the biggest inland battle in Europe" - the famous battle of Monte Cassino. This exceptionally hard-fought victory, which cost much Polish blood, allowed the Allied forces to capture Rome and later, the whole of southern Europe. Another Italian-theatre decisive battle fought by Anders Army's II Corps, actually becoming its only independent operation, was the Battle of Ancona, in which Polish troops took over a strategic Adriatic port. The operation contributed to breaking of the Gothic Line and subsequent surrender of the Axis forces in Italy. (PAP)