Polish Youth Groups

Figure 1.--The Polish Scouts were photographed at the World Jamboree in 1937 wearing their destinctive caps. One has to wonder what happened to them 2 years later when the Germans invaded Poland at the onset of World War II.

HBU has very limited information on Polish youth groups at his time. The Scouts are the most important group. We do not know of any other groups in the early 20th century. The modern Polish nation came into existence only after World War I in 1919. We know nothing about Polish youth groups either before or after 1919 other than the Scouts. The NAZIs when they occupied western Poland in 1939 disbanded the couts and did not organize a pro-NAZI youth group as they did in the countries they occupied in many other countries. The Soviets organized Pioneer groups in the area that they occupied in 1939. After the Soviets liberated Poland in 1944, the Pioneers were reestablished by the Communist Government and the Scouts outlawed. Scouting was not restablished until 19??.

Historical Background

A series of partitions by Austria, Prussia, and Russia dismembered the once formidable Polish nation in the 18th century. Even after long periods of foreign rule, the desire of the Polish people for their own country remained strong. Poland as a country was not reestablished until 1918 in the aftermath of World War I. The new Poland was created as a result of uprisings and the defeat of the German Army by the Allies in the west. The Versailles Peace Treaty ending the War awarded a corridor to the Baltic--the Polish Corridor that Hitler would later condemn. Military campaigns against the Red Army extended the eastern border. Poland in 1939 in the blitzkrieg opening Eorld War II defeated and dismembered by the NAZIs in one of the most brutal occupations in the history of modern Europe. Poland was reestablished after Soviet liberation in 1944. The boundaries were moved westward as the Soviets annexed much of pre-War eastern Poland. In an enspired peaceful revolution, the Polish people led by Solidarity ovethrew communist rule in 198?.


The complicated history of modern Poland includes period of foreign, rule, brutal occupatins as well as Soviet controlled totalitarain rule and today's independent democracy. These different eras and gverments affected the growth and development of youth movements over time.

Pre-World War I settlement (1900-18)

Boys' youth groups in other countries began to appear in the late 19th century. Two of the earliest were the Boys' Brigade in the United Kingdom and the Wandervogel in Grmany. 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. Scouts were organized in each country. Whether the Polish population could organize their own Scout or other organizations, HBC does not yet know.

Inter-war Era (1918-39)

While we do not know when Polish Scouts were organized, we do know that Scouting was very popular during the inter-war era. We see children wearing their uniforms to school. A good example is the Krylow primary school in 1936. This was a small village school and the number of children wearing Scout/Guide uniforms suggests that Scouting was not just a middle-class urban movemet. We do know about any other youth groups.

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 them and created a Government General for central Poland. Regulations varied greatly in these areas. Scouting was outlawed. They did not organize any pro-NAZI youth groups for Polish boys as was the case with many other counties. The NAZIs considered the Poles and unter-mench, suitable only for slave labor to support the Reich. The Soviets in their zone of eastern Poland began organizing Young Pioneer groups. I 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 ressistance. There were many examples of heroic ressistanc to the NAZIs. Scouts for example delivered the mail during the Warsaw uprising in 1944. Tragically, most of the boys involved were killed.

Communist era (1945-1989)

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. Boys attmpting to join underground Scout troops would have difficulty getting into universities and be unble to pursue professional careers. Given that the Communists controlled Poland for 40 years the movement was effectively supressed. Polish Scouts were, however, organized in America and other countries with immigrant Polish populations. The Communist Government organized a state-supported Young Pioneers movement. Virtually ever boy participated. We have vitunally no information on the Polish Pioneers at his tme.

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 onc again. The Young Pioneer mobvement, however, colapsed with the end of Communism and the termination of state subsidies.

Specific Groups

HBC has some information on Polish Scouting, but little information on other groups.

Polish Scouts

We are not yet sure just when Polish Scouts were first organized. We kno that Scouting was very popular after World War I in the inter-war era. Polish Scouting was supressed by the NAZIs and there particularly brutal occupation of the country. Scouts were active participation in the resistance. Scouting was strong in Poland until the group was declared illegal by German occupiers during World War II. Following the war, the organization remained secret during Soviet rule. 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.

Nationalist groups

There may have been nationalist youth groups in Poland before World War II, although we have no information on them at this time. We note boys wearing uniforms that were not Scouts. Many politcal groups in European countries sponored youth groups and we believe this occurred in Poland, but have no actual information at this time.Hopefully our Polish readers wll help supply some information here. After the German invasion in September 1939, these groups could have no longer functioned as the prime goal if German occupation was to destroy Polish national identity.

Young Pioneers

Before World War II a Jewish Zionist group called the Yiung Pioneers was active in Poland.

Young Pioneers

Poland's Communist Government promoted the Young Pioneer Movement after World War II. The Pioneers were organized through the schools. Virtually all Polish children in Communist Poland had to participate in the movement. Unfortunately we have no information at this time.

Other Polish groups

We do not know at this time of any other Polish uniformed youth group.


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Created: February 2, 2002
Last updated: 7:12 AM 2/29/2012