Astonishing story of unsung WWII hero premieres in captivating new documentary
A film telling the incredible story of Poland’s only undefeated World War Two general is to receive its online premiere this evening.
The first online screening of the film ‘Invincible. The story of General Stanisław Maczek’ on the YouTube channel of its producer the Museum of Polish History tonight marks the 128th anniversary of the Polish general’s birth earlier this week.
The documentary is the latest chapter in a surge of interest in the Polish general who led the Polish 1st Armoured Division, which played a key role in liberation of France, Belgium and Holland.
Under General Maczek’s unconventional and intelligent command, his soldiers spearheaded the Allied drive through Western Europe.
In the Battle of Falaise, Maczek's division had the crucial role of closing the pocket to block the escape route of the German divisions, which led to the entrapment and destruction of 14 German Wehrmacht and SS divisions in the huge Chambois pocket.
During their progress through Europe, his soldiers liberated Ypres, Oostnieuwkerke, Roeselare, Tielt, Ruislede, Ghent and Breda, fulfilling Maczek’s prophetic axiom, “The Polish soldier fights for the freedom of all nations and countries yet dies only for Poland.”
When the division crossed into Germany, it accepted the surrender of the German naval base of Wilhelmshaven, taking captive the entire garrison, together with some 200 vessels of Hitler's Kriegsmarine.
Despite these achievements as well and never losing a battle, public awareness of Stanisław Maczek occupies an interstitial space, somewhat overshadowed by other Polish heroes.
The film’s director Rafał Geremek said: “General Stanislaw Maczek is not very well-known among Poles. If you ask someone on the street to name a commander of Polish troops fighting in Western Europe, everyone will name General Anders, and only some will say General Maczek.
“First, the legend of Władysław Anders overshadowed other Polish commanders of Polish Armed Forces in the West.
“Poles living under communism after the war were waiting for General Anders on a white horse, not for General Maczek in a tank.
“Secondly, in Poland after the war it wasn’t permitted to celebrate the wartime merits of those who served ‘in foreign armies’ as the communists called their recent allies after the war.”
He added that General Maczek himself led an ordinary life after the war, avoiding publicity.
“He did not accept any roles offered to him by politicians of the government in exile in London,” the director said.
Yet, appreciation for the commander is growing. In a recent survey on dzieje.pl, Maczek was recognised as the best Polish WWII strategist, gaining 45% of the votes.
Geremek said: “His thinking was unorthodox. He often thought differently than others. He was a man who had been innovative since his student days. When he was at university, he caused a kind of scandal because he turned upside down the thesis of renowned professors.
“In the Polish-Ukrainian war, he shone with his cunning tactics – on the one hand, pretending to attack the enemy, on the other, circling around it.
“In later battles in France, Belgium and Holland, the victories of the 1st Armoured Division were possible thanks to his extraordinary strategic skills.”
His victories were not bought at the cost of the unnecessary loss of life of his soldiers and his instruction to his men was ‘fight hard, but fight fair’.
“He was a man who was far in advance of the thinking of other commanders of his time. When other commanders threw soldiers directly under enemy fire, Maczek used more ‘intelligent’ methods,’ the director said.
“One researcher told me that Maczek as a commander was like a CEO – he acted as the CEO of a corporation, who delegated power to lower-level managers.
“And those lower-level officers often knew better how to do the job without unnecessary losses. He was great at choosing people and he trusted them,” he added.
Maczek was also a commander who avoided damage and protected civilians.
“His soldiers conquered towns house by house, instead of firing on them blindly. That is why the people of Belgium and Holland worshiped him so much.”
The documentary uses dramatized scenes to tell the story of Maczek's life, taking a path through Ukraine, Poland, France, the Netherlands and finally Scotland, where he worked as a bartender in a hotel in Edinburgh after the war.
The film will premiere online this evening, Friday, at 18.00 and will available throughout April at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjhBOIXgI-o