“The task that has befallen us will bring worldwide glory to the Polish soldier” – wrote General Władysław Anders in his order dated 11 May 1944, the day before the attack. “You are not fighting for Monte Cassino, but for Poland’s freedom,” he added.
General Władysław Anders – a faithful knight of the Republic of Poland, died in London 51 years ago, on 12 May 1970, exactly 26 years after his soldiers had entered the battle of Monte Cassino. He was an outstanding military commander, representing the values of the elite of the Second Polish Republic, remaining faithful to the motto of the Polish Army: God, Honor and the Homeland.
General Anders’ life perfectly illustrates both the glory and tragedy of Poland and Poles in the 20th century. His death closed an important chapter in the history of post-war independence emigration, which he symbolized.
Władysław Anders is remembered as the exceptional commander of the 2 Polish Corps. It was formed in the USSR, mostly out of Polish POWs released after the Sikorski-Mayski agreement. Due to his efforts, soldiers and civilians from the GULAG camps left the USSR for Palestine.
One of the bloodiest battlefields of WW2, the battle of Monte Cassino, was 2 Polish Corps’ baptism of fire: the Poles proved their strength and courage, capturing the Monte Cassino Abbey. Later, they fought in the Battle of Ancona, Battle of Bologna, and breached the German Gothic Line.
“We will not return before Poland is free”.
After the war, he stayed in exile “to fight for Poland and to return to Poland.” He opposed the communist rule in the country, and its sovietization. On 26 September 1946, a resolution of the Council of Ministers of the Warsaw government deprived him of his Polish citizenship, for “activities threatening the most vital interests of the Polish State, its security and the entirety of its borders”.
Gen. Anders took an active part in the cultural, social and political life of Polish expats. He became a political leader, not a politician, and thanks to his contacts with Allied commanders and Western politicians, one of the key figures of the emigrant circles.
In the years 1946-1954, he was the Commander-in-Chief and Inspector General of the Armed Forces. From 1950, he chaired the Main Committee of the National Treasury. After a political split in 1954, he became a member of the Council of Three, on which he sat until his death. In 1953, he took over the chairmanship of the Polish Educational Society, and in the years 1953-1964 he chaired the Polish Cultural Foundation.
He remained the undisputed authority for his subordinates, a symbol of patriotism and an uncompromising attitude towards communism. He died on 12 May 1970, and nine days later was laid to rest with his men of the 2nd Corps in the Monte Cassino cemetery, as was his last will, mourned by relatives and faithful soldiers of the Polish Armed Forces.
Source: Institute of the National Remembrance