Władysław Albert Anders (11 August 1892 – 12 May 1970) was a General in the Polish Army and later in life a politician and prominent member of the Polish government-in-exile in London.
Before World War II
Anders was born on 11 August 1892 to his father Albert Anders and mother Elizabeth (maiden name Tauchert) in the village of Krośniewice–Błonie, sixty miles west of Warsaw, in what was then a part of the Russian Empire. At the time of his birth Poland did not exist as an independent state, as a result of the Partitions of Poland at the end of the eighteenth century.
Both his parents were of Baltic-German origin and he was baptised as a member of the Protestant Evangelical-Augsburg Church in Poland. Anders had three brothers – Karol, Tadeusz and Jerzy, all of whom also went on to pursue careers in the military. Anders attended a technical high school in Warsaw and later studied at Riga Technical University, where he became a member of the Polish student fraternity Arkonia. After graduation Anders was accepted into the Russian Military School for reserve officers. As a young officer, he served in the 1st Krechowiecki Lancers Regiment of the Imperial Russian Army during World War I.
When Poland regained independence in November 1918 he joined the newly created Polish Army. During the Polish–Soviet War he commanded the 15th Poznań Uhlans Regiment and was awarded the Silver Cross of the Virtuti Militari. After the war Anders continued his military education in France at the Ecole Superieur de Guerre and upon graduation he returned to Poland, where he served on the general staff of the Polish Army under General Tadeusz Jordan-Rozwadowski.
Anders opposed Józef Piłsudski’s coup d’etat in Poland in 1926 but unlike Jordan-Rozwadowski, he avoided persecution by the Sanation regime that assumed power after the coup. Piłsudski made him the commander of a cavalry brigade in 1931 and he was promoted to the rank of general three years later.
World War II
Anders commanded the Nowogródzka Cavalry Brigade during the German Army’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 and was immediately called into action, taking part in the Battle of Mława. After the collapse of the Polish Northern Front the brigade withdrew towards Warsaw, and also fought heavy battles against the Germans around Minsk Mazowiecki and in the second phase of the Battle of Tomaszów Lubelski. After learning about the Soviet invasion of Poland, Anders retreated south in the direction of Lviv (then Lwów), hoping to reach the Hungarian or Romanian border, but was intercepted by Soviet forces and captured on 29 September, after being wounded twice.
He was initially jailed in Lwów and subsequently transferred to the Lubyanka prison in Moscow on 29 February 1940. During his imprisonment Anders was interrogated, tortured and unsuccessfully urged to join the Russian Army.
The Polish 2nd Corps became a major tactical and operational unit of the Polish Armed Forces in the West. Anders commanded the Corps throughout the Italian Campaign, capturing Monte Cassino on 18 May 1944, later fighting on the Gothic Line and in the final spring offensive.
After World War II
After the war the Soviet-installed communist government of Poland deprived him of Polish citizenship and of his military rank. Anders had, however, always been unwilling to return to a Soviet-dominated Poland where he probably would have been jailed and possibly executed, and remained in Britain. He was prominent in the Polish Government in Exile in London and became inspector-general of the Polish forces-in-exile, as well as working on behalf of various charities and welfare organisations.
His book about his experiences during the Second World War, An Army in Exile, was first published by MacMillan & Co, London, in 1949.
He died in London on 12 May 1970, where his body lay in state at the church of Andrzej Bobola, and many of his former soldiers and their families came to pay their last respects. He was buried, in accordance with his wishes, amongst his fallen soldiers from the 2nd Polish Corps at the Polish War Cemetery at Monte Cassino in Italy.
After the collapse of communist rule in Poland in 1989, his citizenship and military rank were posthumously reinstated.
Many personal effects which once belonged to Anders are on display in the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum in London.
Anders was married twice. He had two children with his first wife Irena Maria Jordan-Krąkowska (born 1894, died 1981) – a daughter, Anna (born 1919, died 2006) and a son, George (born 1927, died 1983).
In 1948 he married the actress and singer Irena Jarosiewicz, better known under her stage name Renata Bogdańska, with whom he had a daughter, Anna Maria (born in 1950).