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This exhibit is one of many kinds displaying the Home Army bands. It was made for soldiers of the Home Army's Żelbet Group, which emerged out of a series of clandestine initiatives growing in the wake of the September defeat, especially in the Secret Military Organisation of the Kraków Garrison...

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This exhibit is one of many kinds displaying the Home Army bands. It was made for soldiers of the Home Army's Żelbet Group, which emerged out of a series of clandestine initiatives growing in the wake of the September defeat, especially in the Secret Military Organisation of the Kraków [Garrison Tajna Organizacja Wojskowa Garnizonu Krakowskiego], operating in the area of Bronowice, Azory, Mydlniki, Tonie and Zabierzów. A leading role in organising the underground structures in this area was taken up by second lieutenant Dominik Ździebło a.k.a. Kordian. Soon, the organisation merged with the Union of Armed Struggle [Związek Walki Zbrojnej]. The name, Żelbet (Polish: “reinforced concrete”), first appeared at the beginning of 1940. Żelbet structures gradually expanded to cover ever broader north-western areas of Kraków, partially entering Grzegórzki, Dąbie and some Kraków villages and right-embankment parts of Kraków, including Piaski Wielkie. Żelbet was significantly enfeebled by the arrests in the spring of 1941, disrupting its structures' operation for a long time. Reconstruction made it possible for the group to reinforce and expand. The group covered a significant share of the Home Army Kraków – City District and at the end of 1943 had three battalions and two skeleton battalions, a total of 3,000 soldiers. At that time, the fields of Żelbet's operations were limited to activities of sabotage and the elimination of informants. These operations were carried out by specially selected and trained Home Army soldiers. The principal field of Żelbet's activity was secret intelligence and counterintelligence, headed by Stanisław Kostka Czapkiewicz a.k.a. Sprężyna. The significance of the group in that period was heightened by the fact that Żelbet's operational area covered a German district, including the occupier's numerous administrative and police facilities as well as their armed forces. In the second half of 1944, the German population in that area was estimated at 32,000. A training campaign was constantly pursued; some of the trainees who were prepared for warfare included the youth who had no chance to complete their military training before the war. In 1944, soldiers of the Żelbet group shielded activities of the Wisła radio station, an institution belonging to the underground body representing the Government of Poland — the Kraków District Government Delegation for Poland, broadcasting from various locations around Piaski Wielkie, Swoszowice and Kosocice as well as activities of a secret printing facility of the Secret Military Publishing House in Swoszowice. During the Storm [Burza] Campaign in August 1944, Żelbet and another Kraków group, Baszta, established the Kraków West 1/17 Żelbet Tactical Association [Związek Taktyczny Kraków Zachód 1/17 Żelbet], thus reconstructing the 20th Infrantry Regiment of the 6th Home Army's Infantry Division. Besides the above-described activity, Żelbet set up guerrilla units in Kraków's environs as early as in May of 1944. Initially, these operated north of Kraków, in the Miechów District; and then from August — around Myślenice. It was also the place of operation where other guerrilla units concentrated, both those of the Home Army's and other secret organisations working with the Home Army. The organisations operated in that area until late 1944, participating in a number of skirmishes and battles. The Żelbet troops that remained in Kraków witnessed the city being taken over by the Red Army. The Żelbet troops secured public utility facilities and protected Wawel, where they hung a white and red flag. After the “liberation”, a number of Żelbet soldiers suffered repression inflicted by the communist authorities — they were forcibly brought to Soviet forced labour camps and tortured by the Security Service and the Soviets. Some of them participated in the anti-communist resistance movement following 1945.

It is worth noting that the WP initials are accompanied by a Żelbet stamp and the date of Żelbet's establishment. This particular band is one of a series of 35 bands that was made in Kraków and its environs — the exact date and time are, unfortunately, unknown.

Elaborated by the Museum of the Home Army dedicated Gen. Emil Fieldorf “Nil”, © all rights reserved

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Band of the Home Army “Żelbet” Group

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