Operation 'War Game'


In the late 1920s, Józef Piłsudski, First Marshal of Poland, was conscious of the growing threat of the German aggression and the German-Soviet military cooperation that was ongoing since the 1922 Treaty of Rapallo. Thus, in the late 1920s, Section II of the General Staff of the Polish Army (Oddział II Sztabu Generalnego Wojska Polskiego also called Dwójka), an organizational unit responsible for intelligence operations, recruited Captain Jerzy Sosnowski, a cavalry rider and handsome man with excellent command of German, to go on a secret mission to Germany. Sosnowski's role was to penetrate the aristocratic circles of Berlin under codename Georg von Nałęcz Sosnowski, and learn as much as possible about secret German-Soviet cooperation. With the money provided by Dwójka, Captain Sosnowski, went to Berlin where he spent time at horse race events, seducing bored German aristocrats. Among them was Benita von Falkenhayn. Her husband had been crippled after falling off a horse and whilst he spent time recuperating she looked for adventure. Captain Sosnowski managed to seduce Benita von Falkenhayn and initiate her into his secret plan to create an intelligence network in Germany. Not only had Benita showed enthusiasm but she recruited her friends Irene von Jena and Renate von Natzmer, to join the network. Irene von Jena worked in German Reich's budget planning department and was passing the Pole vital documents confirming German spendings on re-armament. Renate von Natzmer worked for Reichswehr Ministry and she was providing Captain Sosnowski with invaluable information about the German military-industrial facilities in Soviet Russia. From the documents received from Renate, the Poles had learned for example about the 1924 negotiations between Junkers Company and Soviet Union for the creation of the aircraft factory in Fili that would train top managers of the Soviet aircraft industry. They also learnt about secret German fighter-pilot school in Lipetsk, which would train fighter pilots and a large number of ground personnel who, in turn, would be able to serve as instructors when the new German Luftwaffe is formed in 1935.258 Other documents exposed intimate intelligence cooperation between German and Soviet intelligence which focused primarily on Poland.

One of Renate's tasks was to burn all the secret state documents in a secluded place designed for that purpose. One day Renate brought Benita a file which she chose to save from the flames and which she secretly stole from the Reichswehr Ministry. The file was marked 'Organization – Kriegsspel' ('Operation – War Game') and contained invasion plans on Poland prepared by Joseph Goebbels and Werner von Blomberg. In one of Berlin hotel rooms, Benita von Falkenhayn and Captain Sosnowski studied the document which was about to change the course of history. Captain Sosnowski immediately sent a message to Dwojka passing some of the secret plans and demanding more money for his operational activity. By that time, the new chief of Dwójka, Colonel Stefan Mayer and later his successor, Colonel Tadeusz Pełczyński, grew jelous of Captain Sosnowski, especially of his lavish lifestyle that consumed 1/3 of the entire budget allocated to Polish espionage in Germany. Furthermore, because of the volume and accuracy of the reports that he sent, Dwójka began to suspect that he might be a double agent working for German Military Intelligence service, Abwehr. Consequently, information contained in Sosnowski's reports, including details of the 'Operation – War Game', were deliberatly downplayed by Poles in Warsaw. Soon thereafter, Captain Sosnowski's entire espionage network in Germany was broken. Whilst in Budapest, Captain Sosnowski fell in love with an exotic dancer and German Jew, Lea Niako, who denounced him to the German authorities. Subsequently, Benita, Irene and Renate were arrested and charged with treason. After brutal interrogation and trial, Captain Sosnowski and Irene von Jena were sentenced to life imprisonment. Benita von Falkenhayn and Renate von Natzmer received death sentences, which were carried out in 1935 by the infamous German executioner, Karl Gröpler.259

In view of the ongoing German rearmament, Marshal Piłsudski considered waging a preventive war against Germany. According to various accounts at some point in March 1933, and again a few months later, Marshal Piłsudski dispatched certain private persons to France, which was in a military alliance with Poland since 1921, to make the 'unofficial' suggestion that it was vital to stop Hitler before he reaches his full potential. The plans proposed by Piłsudski seemed to have been that the French occupy Rhineland and the Poles seized Gdańsk (Danzing) and East Prussia. The French did not, however, approve the idea. As much as French officers agreed with Marshal Piłsudski's view on Germany's threat to European peace, they were reluctant to agree to such bold adventure. Thus Poland had to resort to re-visiting its treaties and alliances. To secure its Eastern border, the Poles signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union in 1932 and when Germany abruptly withdrew from League of Nations and the Geneva Disarmament Conference in October 1933, they began to seek assurances directly from Hitler on his intentions towards Polish nation. On November 15, 1933 Polish ambassador in Berlin, Józef Lipski, was given his audience with new German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler. Hitler stated that in the relationship between the two countries “the very idea of a possibility of war should be excluded”.260 He also paid tribute to Marshal Piłsudski as “a great personality”. In consequence of this meeting, on November 27, 1933, Hans von Moltke presented Marshal Piłsudski a proposed draft of a document eventually to be known as the Declaration of Non-aggression and Understanding between Germany and Poland. The final German-Polish Pact of Non-Aggression was signed in Berlin by Polish ambassador in Berlin, Józef Lipski, and German Foreign Minister, Konstantin von Neurath, on January 26, 1934 and was formally ratified by the two nations' parliaments the following month. Four months later, Marshal Piłsudski, who for several years had been in declining health, died at Warsaw's Belweder Palace. Just before his death, he told his Foreign Minister Józef Beck that it must be Poland's policy to maintain neutral relations with Germany, keep up the Polish alliance with France and improve relations with the Britain.261 After Marshal Piłsudski's death, there was no person of equal moral authority and respect in the military circles who could guide the Polish nation. The power was divided between three men: Edward Rydz-Śmigły, veteran of the Polish-Soviet War who became Marshal of Poland; President Ignacy Mościcki who wielded civil powers; and Józef Beck who ran Polish Foreign policy. Marshal Rydz-Śmigły soon surrounded himself with comrades of late Marshal Piłsudski and professional officers and his regime turned increasingly authoritarian. Those politicians who opposed Rydz-Śmigły and “the rule of colonels”, like Władysław Sikorski or Ignacy Paderewski left the country and formed a political alliance, Front Morges, in Swiss villages of Morges, calling for more democratisation in politics and closer alliance with France.

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258 Marian Zacharski, Rotmistrz (Poznań: Zysk i S-ka Wydawnictwo, 2011), p. 218 »

259 Further reading: Marek Łuszczyna, Igly: Polskie agentki ktore zmienily historie (Warszawa: PWN, 2013), p. 33-57; and Marian Zacharski, Rotmistrz (Poznań: Zysk i S-ka Wydawnictwo, 2011); In 1936 Sosnkowski was exchanged for German spies and returned to Poland, where he was put under house arrest by his enemies in Dwojka. He was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment for treason and fraud but was released with the outbreak of war. His later fate is not well documented. According to Marian Zacharski he was captured by NKVD and revealed all the names of agents of Dwojka in retaliation for humiliation he received after his return to Poland. According to Marian Zacharski he died in soviet prison in 1942. »

260 Watt, Bitter glory, p. 324 »

261 Bohdan Urbanowski, Józef Pilsudski: Marzyciel i strateg (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo ALFA, 1997), pp. 539-540 »