VALENCIA.- The Universidad de Valencia presents an exhibit of photographs from the Spanish Civil War titled "Brigades, General Walter's Photographic Archive" running through May 18. The exhibit gathers 63 never before seen images, selected from the 333 that make up Karol Swierczewski's, general Walter, archive. This images were taken between the end of 1936 and middle of 1938, a period in which Walter participated in the Spanish Civil War as a commander of the 35th Division.
This archive forms part of General Walter's estate which his daughters donated in 1999 to the Association of Friends of the International Brigades. The exhibit is dedicated to the memory of the brigades. "Along with the photographs, documents, republican flags, magazines, diaries, drawings, personal objects and uniforms that belonged to the international brigade combatants", reported Spanish newspaper El Pais.
Karol Świerczewski (callsign Walter) was born on February 22, 1897 in Warsaw, he died on March 28, 1947 at Jabłonki, near Baligród. He was a military officer in Bolshevist Russia, and later a general in the service of the Soviet Union, Republican Spain and the Polish post-War government.
Karol Świerczewski grew up in a poor working class family. In his youth he worked at a factory in Warsaw until 1915 when, during the First World War, he was evacuated to Moscow. In 1918 he joined the Bolshevik Party, fought in the Russian Civil War as a soldier of the Red Army, and was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. During the Polish-Soviet War he applied for transfer to the western front in order to fight against Poland where he was wounded.
From 1921 Świerczewski taught in the Polish School of Red Communars. In 1928 he graduated from Frunze Military Academy in Moscow and worked in the Red Army General Staff.
In 1936, under the name General Walter, he went to Spain; General Walter won the reputation of being a very competent military commander as he led the XIV International Brigade, and later the 35th International Division, during the Spanish Civil War.
Following the outbreak of the Second World War Świerczewski was first a general of the Soviet army, but in 1943 became one of the generals charged with the creation of the Soviet-controlled Polish Armed Forces in the East, the 1st Polish Army. In 1944 he became one of the leaders of the Polish Workers' Party and the government of People's Republic of Poland. In the winter of 1944 and the spring of 1945 he led the Polish Second Army during the fighting for western Poland and the Battle of Berlin.
In February 1946 Świerczewski became the Deputy Defence Minister of Poland. He was involved in the persecution of the independence movement in Poland, and signed many death sentences, while establishing a communist regime in Poland.
His controversial death in an ambush organized by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army near Baligród was used as the direct pretext for the pre-planned forcible transfer of the Ukrainian population (Operation Wisła) from their historic territories in the eastern part of the post-war Poland to the "Recovered Territories" (the areas Poland gained from Germany after the war).
After 1989, as Poland regained independence from Soviet rule with the end of the Warsaw pact and the coming to power of Solidarity, many his monuments were removed and streets renamed because of his role in implementing the communist regime in Poland.
On May 21, 2003, the Polish organization of former veterans and independence fighters applied to the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) to investigate crimes against the Polish nation committed by Karol Świerczewski. In a letter, they recall that he was "one of the people who consciously worked towards (the) enslavement of Polish nation, through enforced communist regime that was (a) vassal towards Moscow". Among crimes that are not subject to expiry and should be investigated by the IPN are 29 death sentences on Polish soldiers and officers, which were signed by Świerczewski during his command of the Soviet-controlled 2nd Polish Army.