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Post"Polish Excellence" at War (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 08/26/13 1:30 pm)
I believe I should apologize to Anthony J. Candil, Istvan Simon and David Pike, as it appears I am not clearly expressing my ideas.
On the 1943-'47 Second Polish Army Group in Italy there is a very good study by Giuseppe Campana (it can be found on the web by searching for "1943-47 Il secondo corpo d'armata polacco in Italia"). Frankly I believe the Poles were the best not only in the fighting but also in their relations with the Italian population. Saying that "no one was the best" (Anthony Candil), meaning that all were equal, is wonderfully politically correct but I suggest not going to Ciociaria to say that the "goumiers" troops of French General Juin were equal to the Polish troops of Anders.
By the way in the 8° British Army in Italy, there were some 40,000 cases of desertion, in the first 9 months of 1944 the desertions were 11,588, with 1700 sentences handed out from Courts Martial for various crimes. As far as I can determine, the Polish desertions and crimes commited were very few. The Poles experienced a large-scale desertion when training in the Middle East when 3000 Jewish Poles deserted, but that was only in order to found the Israeli state, which is another story.
The conflicting relations in Italy between the Poles (good old Poles!) and the Communists in the postwar period are very interesting. Even more interesting were the plans of Anders to defend Italy from a Communist invasion and then move onward to Poland.
Poland was the only nation for which the war lasted more than ten years, 1939-1951, including the period of NSZ (fascist) guerrillas, and less importantly the WIN (nationalists) against the Soviet troops. I have serious doubts that the Polish soldiers were "sincerely" praised and valued, many times for political reasons, for surely everybody was offering some praise (including Hitler and the German commander von dem Bach-Zelewski, who considered as regular prisoners of war the last defenders of Warsaw in 1944), but everybody, friend and foe, was badly screwing Poland and the Poles. Only Fascist Italy tried to help Poland in different ways, including allowing the passage through Italian soil of Polish soldiers from Hungary and Romania to France, which was not the best way to make the Germans happy.
This all can be found in the works of historians Marzio Gozzoli, Filippo Giannini and Nino Arena. About my "I just heard" at the moment I was writing my last post, the TV breaking news was giving the latest news about Syria. I had no particular desire to make a scoop.
Finally for sure I did not want to teach anybody how to use historical sources, and at the same time I do not accuse Wikipedia of purposely not being accurate (see Istvan Simon, 25 August). I only wanted to state that Wikipedia and its leaders are publishing only "politically correct" facts. For an anecdote, just to make Istvan happy, on Wikipedia there is the wonderful story of a partisan from Savona. According to Wikipedia this guy gallantly fell leading his men against the fascists, obtaining a gold medal for his deeds. In reality the fascists were in front of a wall waiting to be shot when one of them tried to escape. The leader of the partisans ran after him while his men were firing, and he was killed by friendly fire. (To be sure, lately the friendly fire version has been reported in the news.)
One of our group tried two or three times to publish in Wikipedia the story of Giuseppina Ghersi, a 13 year-old girl at school at the end of the war who wrote an essay in praise of Mussolini. Her teacher sent the text to Mussolini, and his secretary answered with praise from Mussolini for the girl. When the partisans took over Savona the girl was caught by them, was subjected to all sorts of violence and finally was killed. Her mutilated body was thrown in front of the cemetery; a friend of mine while searching for a 17 year-old who was also killed saw her. Officially the thirteen year-old girl was accused of being a spy (sic). For several years on the anniversary of the massacre we place posters around town and you can find this on YouTube, but according to Wikipedia Giuseppina's story cannot be published.
JE comments: There has always been a special relationship and admiration between Poles and Italians! But I'm confused by Eugenio Battaglia's claim that Hitler "praised" the Poles. I've never heard of such a thing. Compare and contrast the WWII fates of Germany's two neighboring capital cities, Warsaw and Paris.
I'd like to know more about the Jewish soldiers in the Polish army who defected (while in Palestine?) to build the Israeli state. Has a book been written to tell their story?