Today, we are commemorating the 130th birthday of General Władysław Anders, one of the most prominent figures of the Second World War.
General Anders was born into a Baltic German family in a small town near Warsaw, which was then a part of the Russian Empire. As Anders was considered a "Polish German," he was baptized as a member of the Protestant Evangelical-Augsburg Church in Poland. In that era, Poland exhibited ethnic diversity, and it was customary for Germans and other members of ethnic minorities to identify themselves as Poles. Being Polish did not necessarily denote ethnicity but nationality.
While he had already been appointed a general by Marshal Józef Piłsudski during the interwar period, General Anders gained widespread recognition during the Second World War. He engaged in fierce battles against Germany, beginning with the Invasion of Poland in 1939, and continued through the Italian Campaign, including the pivotal Battle of Monte Cassino. Intriguingly, he was interred there after the war in 1970. His daughter, Anna Maria Anders, currently serves as the Polish ambassador to Rome.
General Anders is best remembered for establishing the Polish army in the USSR, known as Anders' Army, composed of Polish POWs. This force orchestrated the evacuation of Polish civilians through the Persian Corridor into Iran, Iraq, and eventually Mandatory Palestine in 1942. These Polish civilians had previously been deported to the USSR from Soviet-occupied Poland.
Tragically, many of these individuals did not survive the evacuation, succumbing to hunger, cold, and harsh conditions.
Upon reaching British-administered Palestine, General Anders founded the Polish 2nd Corps, a crucial tactical and operational unit of the Polish Armed Forces in the West. This Corps garnered renown during the Battle of Monte Cassino, in which my grandfather, for instance, participated.
Anders persevered until the end to secure the release of soldiers and civilians who remained forcibly within Soviet territory.
A significant event took place with the unveiling of his bust at the National Army Museum in London.