The Polish Church has joined in the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Swietokrzyska or Holy Cross Mountains Brigade, a group of ultra-nationalist underground fighters who allegedly collaborated with the Nazis in World War II.
Driving the news
As Crux and AP report, a Mass in the presence of important Polish political figures was held Sunday in Warsaw for the Holy Cross Mountains soldiers, who were honoured for their sacrifices for Poland.
The Holy Cross Mountains fighters refused to collaborate with the Polish Home Army (AK) and Poland’s government-in-exile in London during World War II.
Historians have accused the brigade, composed of between 850 to 1,400 men, of collaborating with the Nazis against the Soviets as these last advanced into Poland at the end of the conflict.
“Mass was needed by the partisans, the soldiers who fought for the freedom of their homeland: Precisely to strengthen their decision to give everything, even their lives, for the freedom of their homeland,” said Zbigniew Kepa, a military chaplain, at the Mass for soldiers of the brigade.
The big picture
Sunday’s Mass is another step in the Polish Government’s rehabilitation of the the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki honored brigade solidiers at a cemetery in Munich in February 2018, and Polish President Andrzej Duda was present at Sunday’s celebrations.
Observers say that by honouring the brigade, a unit honoured by the far-right, the governing Law and Justice party is attempting to win over conservative voters ahead of elections in October.
The Polish Church is giving theological cover to the country’s government, particularly with its fierce opposition to LGBT+ rights.
But the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade commemorations have drawn sharp criticisms from ordinary Poles, the children of Polish resistance fighters and Jewish groups.
At Sunday’s Mass, protesters held signs saying “No! to collaboration” and “Collaborating with the enemy is treason”.
Children of soldiers of Poland’s underground Home Army also protested the Holy Cross Mountains Bridge celebrations.
“Our fathers fought against the Nazis because they understood their duty toward their homeland”, family members reminded President Duda in a letter. “Any cooperation with the occupiers was unimaginable to them”.
Polish chief rabbi Michael Schudrich had been invited to the celebration of the Brigade, but declined to attend and said the invitation was a “personal insult”.
“The organization of these ceremonies insults the memory of all Polish citizens killed in the fight against Germany”, Schudrich denounced.
“These anti-communists” of the brigade, “they killed Germans, Russians and they killed Jews” who were Polish citizens, Schudrich told AFP.
“There are so many other Polish heroes, we don’t need to choose the ones who actually killed other Poles, and in this case, many of them of the Jewish religion”, the rabbi added, condemning the “dangerous” historical revisionism behind the event.