History of Polish Intelligence Services - 1921–39


See also: Prometheism

After the Polish–Soviet War and the Treaty of Riga, Polish Intelligence had to restructure to cope with new challenges. Though Poland had won most of her border conflicts (most notably the war with Russia and the Greater Poland Uprising of 1918-19 against Germany), her international situation was unenviable. By mid-1921, Section II had been restructured into three main departments, each overseeing a number of offices:

  • Organization Department:
  1. Organization;
  2. Training;
  3. Personnel;
  4. Finances;
  5. Polish ciphers and codes, communication, and foreign press.
  • Information Department:
  1. East;
  2. West;
  3. North;
  4. South;
  5. Statistics office;
  6. Nationalities and minorities;
  • Intelligence Department:
  1. Intelligence technology;
  2. Central agents' bureau;
  3. Counterintelligence;
  4. Foreign cryptography (Biuro Szyfrów);
  5. Radio intelligence and wire-tapping.

Until the late 1930s the Soviet Union was seen as the most likely aggressor and Poland's main adversary. Section II developed an extensive network of agents within Poland's eastern neighbor and other adjoining countries. In the early 1920s Polish intelligence began developing a network for "offensive intelligence." The Eastern Office (Referat "Wschód") had several dozen bureaus, mostly attached to Polish consulates in Moscow, Kiev, Leningrad, Kharkov and Tbilisi.

Short-range reconnaissance was carried out by the Border Defense Corps, created in 1924. On a number of occasions, soldiers crossed the border disguised as smugglers, partisans or bandits. They gathered information on the disposition of Soviet troops and the morale of the Soviet populace. At the same time, Soviet forces carried out analogous missions on Polish soil. The situation finally stabilized in 1925; however, such missions continued to occur occasionally.

Polish Intelligence produced fairly accurate pictures of the capabilities of Poland's main potential adversaries—Germany and the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, this information was of little avail when war came in September 1939. Good intelligence could not offset the overwhelming superiority of the German and Soviet armed forces. The conquest of Poland took four weeks—too short a time for intelligence services to make a significant contribution. With Poland conquered, her intelligence services had to evacuate their headquarters to allied French and British territories.

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