WARSAW, Poland (AP) - Polish officials joined war veterans on Sunday to pay tribute to a World War II-era underground force that collaborated with Nazi German forces toward the end of the war in their battle against the Communists, who were imposing control on the nation.
A Mass in Warsaw opened ceremonies honoring the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade of the National Armed Forces on the 75th anniversary of its formation. The partisans were honored for their sacrifices to the fatherland.
President Andrzej Duda’s official patronage and the presence of ruling party officials underlined the right-wing government’s rehabilitation of a partisan unit that fought both Germans and Soviets and which is celebrated by the far right.
It is seen as a part of a broader attempt by the ruling Law and Justice party to appeal to right-wing voters ahead of the nation’s parliamentary vote in October.
Poland had a large underground Home Army under the command of a government-in-exile that never collaborated with the Germans, and remembrance ceremonies traditionally focus on those soldiers.
Although historians say the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade collaborated with the Nazis, a representative of the veterans, Jan Józef Kasprzyk, sought to deny such a link.
Kasprzyk described the claims of collaboration as a product of postwar communist propaganda meant to smear the unit’s legacy.