The Blue Police, more correctly translated as The Navy-Blue Police (Polish: Granatowa policja) was the popular name of the Polish police during the Second World War in the German occupied area of the Second Polish Republic named as the General Government. The official title of the organization was the Polnische Polizei im Generalgouvernement (Polish Police of the General Government, or in Polish: Policja Polska Generalnego Gubernatorstwa).
It was formed by Nazi Germany officially on October 30, 1939 by reinstating Polish state police (Policja Państwowa) existing before the invasion of Poland, with German instead of Polish leadership. It was an auxiliary organization purposed to keep law and order in the General Government territory. Similar police organizations existed in all German occupied countries based on professional local police force. Initially used to deal with purely criminal activities, property crimes and common banditry in occupied Poland, which greatly increased after the invasion; the Blue Police was later used also to prevent smuggling, which was an essential element of underground economy under Nazism.
The organization was officially dissolved and declared disbanded by the Polish Committee of National Liberation on August 27, 1944. After a review process, a number of its former members joined the new national policing structure, the Milicja Obywatelska (Citizens' Militia). Others were persecuted after 1949 under Stalinism.
In October 1939, General Governor Hans Frank ordered the mobilization of the pre-war Polish police into the service of the Germans. The policemen were to report for duty or face the death penalty. Formally, the Polnische Polizei (PP) was subordinate to regular German Ordnungspolizei (Orpo). The same prewar facilities were used all across occupied Poland with exactly the same organizational structure; under Major Hans Köchlner (he was trained in Poland in 1937). They wore the same uniforms, but without national insignia. In spring 1940, the Ukrainian Police was split off from the Polish Police. The department existed already before 1939. The German chief of Ordnungspolizei (KdO, as well as its entire leadership) assumed dual role, in charge of both. After the attack on the USSR known as Operation Barbarossa, all newly acquired territories in Distrikt Galizien were put under the Ukrainian control with headquarters in Chełm Lubelski. Notably, the District of Galicia created on August 1, 1941 (Document No. 1997-PS of July 17, 1941 by Adolf Hitler) – although considered by some to be part of the occupied Ukraine – was a separate administrative unit from the actual Reichskommissariat Ukraine created on September 1 of the same year. They were not connected with each other politically.
According to historian Andrzej Paczkowski (Spring Will Be Ours), the police force consisted of approximately 11,000–12,000 officers, but the actual number of its cadre was much lower initially. Emmanuel Ringelblum put the number as high as 14,300 by the end of 1942 including Warsaw, Lublin, Kielce and Eastern Galicia. The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust reports its manpower as 8,700 in February 1940 and states that it reached its peak in 1943 with 16,000 members. The statistics are explained by historian Marek Getter. The initial expansion of the force was the result of expulsion to Generalgouvernement of all Polish professional policemen, from the territories annexed by the Third Reich (Reichsgau Wartheland, Westpreußen, etc.). Another reason was a salary (250–350 zł) impossible to obtain elsewhere, augmented by bonuses (up to 500 zł each). Also, the Germans had intentionally eroded moral standards of the force by giving policemen the right to keep for themselves 10% of all confiscated goods. The Blue Police consisted primarily of Poles and Polish speaking Ukrainians from the eastern parts of the General Government. However, from August 1, 1941 (date of incorporation) the district of Eastern Galicia – as mentioned by Ringelblum – was no longer controlled by the ethnically Polish division of PP. Instead, the Ukrainian division was put in charge across some 600 precincts, expanded from 242 officers initially, to 2,000 by 1942, and to 4,000 officers by 1943.
The Blue Police had little autonomy, and all of its high-ranking officers came from the ranks of the German police (Kriminalpolizei). It served in the capacity of an auxiliary force, along with the police forces guarding seats of administration (Schutzpolizei), Railway Police (Bahnschutz), Forest Police (Forstschutz) and Border Police (Grenzschutz). The Blue Police was subordinate to German Ordnungspolizei with Polish prewar regulations. New volunteers (Anwärter) were trained at a police school in Nowy Sącz, with 3,000 graduates (receiving salary of 180 zł each), under the Schutzpolizei Major Vincenz Edler von Strohe (real name Wincenty Słoma, a Reichdeutscher formerly in the Austrian police).[p.7] There were additional though separate courses for Polish and Ukrainian enlisted ranks.
From the German perspective, the primary role of the Blue Police was to maintain law and order on the territories of occupied Poland, as to free the German Ordnungspolizei for other duties. As Heinrich Himmler stated in his order from 5 May 1940: "providing general police service in the General Government is the role of the Polish police. German police will intervene only if it is required by the German interests and will monitor the Polish police."
As the force was primarily a continuation of the prewar Polish police force, it also relied largely on prewar Polish criminal laws, a situation that was accepted as a provisional necessity by the Germans. While the Polish Underground State had its own police force and judiciary (see National Security Corps and Directorate of Civil Resistance), it was unable to provide basic police services for the entire population of the former Second Polish Republic in the conditions of German occupation.
The role of the Blue Police in its collaboration and resistance towards the Germans is difficult to assess as a whole, and is often a matter of dispute. Historian Andrzej Krzysztof Kunert estimates that 10 to 20% of the policemen were murdered by the Germans for taking part in resistance – on top of those mass-murdered by the Soviets in Mednoye – explained Irena Wollen in her documentary film "Granatowi" for Telewizja Polska (1999).
Scholars disagree about the degree of involvement of the Blue Police in the rounding up of Jews. Although policing inside the Warsaw Ghetto was a responsibility of the Jewish Ghetto Police, a Polish-Jewish historian Emmanuel Ringelblum, chronicler of the Warsaw Ghetto, mentioned Polish policemen carrying out extortions and beatings. The police did also take part in street roundups, but not in the killings of Jews. On June 3, 1942 during a prison execution of 110 Jews in Warsaw, members of the Blue Police stood and wept, while the Germans themselves executed the victims, after the Poles refused to obey the orders of their overseers to carry out the shooting. According to Raul Hilberg, "Of all the native police forces in occupied Eastern Europe, those of Poland were least involved in anti-Jewish actions.... They [the Polish Blue Police] could not join the Germans in major operations against Jews or Polish resistors, lest they be considered traitors by virtually every Polish onlooker." Holocaust historian Gunnar S. Paulsson agrees that the role of the Blue Police was minimal: "Keep this in mind – wrote Paulsson – the Jews in Poland were isolated in ghettos. They were rounded up by German police with the aid of Ukrainian and Baltic collaborators, and the enforced co-operation of the Jewish ghetto police, but very little participation by Polish police (mainly in the smaller centres). They were taken to killing centres staffed again by Germans, Ukrainians and Balts."
A significant part of the police personnel belonged to the Polish underground resistance organization Polish Home Army, mostly in the counter-intelligence of the Home Army and the National Security Corps. Some estimates are as high of 50%. In spite of scathing criticism by Ringelblum, the Blue Police are known to have refused German orders, wrote Piotrowski, often "shouting on the streets and breaking doors to give enough time for some people to escape or hide". The officers disobeying German orders did so at the risk of death. Some of them, who acted against the enactments, were ultimately awarded the Righteous Among the Nations: i.e. Wacław Nowiński, Bronislaw Marchlewicz (2004), Wladysław Ciesla (1988), Franciszek Banas (1980), Piotr Czechonski (1999), Jan Fakler (1974), Jan Kubicki (1976), Stanislaw Slizewski (2008) i Wladyslaw Szalek (1979) (see and compare: Bartoszewski and Lewin, "Righteous Among Nations" and list of awarded by Yad Vashem). Additionally, forcible draft among members of the Polish police was conducted to create the Polnisches Schutzmannschaftsbataillon 202 sent to the East, with 360 men most of whom deserted to the 27th Home Army Infantry Division in defence of ethnic Polish population against the UPA massacres. Similarly, the police were withdrawn from the perimeter of the Ghetto on the eve of its final destruction.
Warsaw was the biggest city in the Generalgouvernement, so the position of commander of Warsaw police was the most important post available for an ethnic Pole anywhere. The first commander was Marian Kozielewski (brother of Jan Karski), imprisoned by Germans and send to Auschwitz concentration camp. The next commander Aleksander Reszczyński was murdered in 1943 by the Communist Gwardia Ludowa. Nevertheless, the 1977 research in the archives of Polish government-in-exile revealed that Reszczyński was a member of underground Polish Home Army who used to deliver invaluable intelligence. After the collapse of the Warsaw Pact many PP officers were rehabilitated, and simplified former communist stereotypes revised.