*** Polish boy scouts

Polish Boy Scouts

Polish Boy Scouts
Figure 1.--Polish Scouts visited the United States in 1937 for the first U.S. National Jamboree. Notice their destinctive caps.

HBU has very limited information at this time on Polish Scouting. At the time Scouting originated in other countries in the ealy 20th century, there was no Polish nation. Poland had been partioned between Austria, Germany, and Russia. We know that Scouting was active in the new Polish Republic created after World War I. The movement was suppressed, but not destroyed by the NAZIs. The Communists did succeed in supressing Scouting, to an extent. It was a kind of fushion netween Scoting and the Pioneer Movement. The Scoutingh movement has revived in new democratic Poland. The Polish Scout association is the Zwiazek Harcerstwa Polskiego (ZHP), the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association.


HBC does not precisely when Scouting was established in Poland. We do not that it was popular with Polish boys when Poland was restablished after World War I. It was supressed by both NAZIs after Poland was occupied, but played a valiant role in the World War II resistance. After the War, the Communists supressed the movement. Scouting was revived in Poland with the fall of Communism.

Pre-World War I settlement (1900-18)

The Scouts appeared in Britain in 1906 and few years later on the continent. Poland at the time was partioned among Austria, Germany, and Russia. We are not sure what the regulations by these three governments concerning the organization of youth groups like theScouts. Scouts were organized in each country. Whether the Polish population could organize their own Scout or other organizations, HBC does not yet know. One source says that the Zwiazek Harcerstwa Polskiego (ZHP), the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association has existed since the earliest days of Lord Baden-Powell's movement. We are not sure, however, just what year it was established.

Inter-war Era (1918-39)

Modern Poland as an independent state was created in the after-math of World war I. It was the first time Poland had existed as an independent country for more than two centuries. Scouting emerged as the most popular youth organization. While we do not know when Polish Scouts were organized, we do know that Scouting was very popular during the inter-war era.

World War II (1939-45)

The Germans invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, which beause of defense treaties with Britain and France, launched World War II. The Polish Army was defeated in a 6-week blitzkrieg. When it was clear that Poland was defeated, the Red Army invaded from the east, partioning Poland. The German split western Poland into two areas and annexed both. The rest of the NAZI occupied area was created a Government General--a World War I term. This was basically central Poland. The Soviets occupied eastern Poland. Regulations varied greatly in these areas, but the goal of destroying Polish national ecsistence was the same. The Germans outlawed Scouting. They Germans did not organize any pro-NAZI youth groups for Polish boys as was the case with many occupied countries in Western Europe. The NAZIs considered the Poles and unter-mench, suitable only for death or slave labor to support the Reich as part of Generalplan Ost. The Scouts and Guides did not disappear. They organized underground. It became dangerous to wear Scout and Guide uniforms. They becasme part of the underground state. They rebranded as the Gray Ranks (Szare Szeregi). Led by Scoutmaster Florian Marciniak, the older youth became a paramilitary group, working independently but in cooperation with the resistance.The Soviets in their zone of eastern Poland began organizing Young Pioneer groups. We assume they immeditalely outlawed Scouting. This of course changed in June 1941 when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. The Germans proceed to put the same draconian occupation regulations into force in the rest of Poland. While Scouting was outlawed, the NAZIs were unable to destroy the movement. Scouts continued to operate underground. In fact, it played an important role in the Polish ressistance in opposing the brutal occupation of their country. NAZI actions during the occupation are There wre many examples of heroic acts against the NAZIs. Younger Scouts for example delivered the mail and messages during the Warsaw uprising in (August-October 1944). Tragically, most of the boys involved were killed. Olfer Scouts actually engaged in combat, like the Grey Wolves.

Communist era (1945-198?)

Poland was liberated by the Red Army in 1944-45. After a brif charade of democratic goverment, the Rusians in 1947-48 installed a Soviet-style Communist People's Republic. The map of Poland was redrawn. The Polish population in the east was moved west. The German populatin in the west was moved west. It was one of the greatet mass relocations of people in European history. The new post-War Poland contained very few national minorities such as Germans, Lithuanians and Ukranians. The Jews had been largely murdered by the NAZIs. In the brief period between liberation and the imposition of a Communist police state, Scouts briefly operated. HBC has few details, but the Scouts were outlawed by the Communists. Efforts were made to operate undergound, but adult leaders were arrested and given long prison terms,some even killed. Boys attmpting to join underground Scout troops would have difficulty getting into universities and be unble to pursue professional careers. the organization remained secret during Soviet control. A Pilish reader describes it as more of a fusionbetween Scouting and the Pionerer Movement, at least in the later era of Communist control. However, the youth movement lived on as the only Scouting organization in the occupied countries to continue its activities. The movement went underground during the war under the code name of Grey Ranks. The resistance was fortified with former Scouts who used the attitude, morals and skills from their Scouting days to keep hope for democracy alive. Members of the Grey Ranks acted as messengers for the resistance movement in Poland. Many Scouts lost their lives in this service, and they are honored in monuments throughout Poland. Given that the Communists controlled Poland for 40 years the movement was severely supressed. Polish Scouts were organized in America and other countries with immigrant Polish populations. The Communist Government organized a state-supported Young Pioneers movement. Virtually ever boy participated. A Polish reader proivides us details about his experiences.

Democratic era (198?- )

HBU is unsure just when Scouting was reorganized in Poland. It is likely that they begun to operate in the 1980s even before the fall of Communism. Once a democratic government was establihed, Scouting was able to operate freely and has proven popular once again. The Young Pioneer movement, however, colapsed with the end of Communism and the termination of state subsidies.

Figure 2.--Polish Scouts wore a khaki colored uniform. They are pictured here in a scene from a movie. We do not know the title of the movie. Perhaps a reader will know.


The Polish Scout association is the Zwiazek Harcerstwa Polskiego (ZHP), the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association. The ZHP is a unique Scouting group in that it has existed since the earliest days of Lord Baden-Powell's movement. However, locked inside an occupied nation, Scouting was outlawed by foreign rule for nearly 50 years. The ZHP in January 1996, was issued a new charter by the World Organization of the Scout Movement, a group it helped to found in the 1920s. The World Association of Girl Guides and the Girl Scouts also accepted the ZHP in July of last year. The co-ed ZHP is now the second-largest youth group in Poland and stands on a par with other nations' Scouting movements. The ZHP is 450,000 strong and held a national jamboree of its own in 1995, the 60th anniversary of its first jamboree. Scouting in Poland involves males and females. Cub Scouts and Brownies are from the ages seven to 11; Scouts and Guides range from 11 to 15. Older Scouts become Rovers or Rangers. Youths have five ranks ranging from Volunteer to Polish Republic Scout. Leaders also have ranks.


Perhaps the most destinctive part of the Polish Scout uniform is the caps the boys wear. It looks similar to the caps orn by Polish soldiers.


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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 12:18 AM 4/7/2020