Intelligence intrigues of a conspiracy spy ring

Known members of the Musketeers. On the right, the founder of the organization, Stefan Witkowski (photo from Adrian Sandak’s archive). From the top left: the well-known pre-war actress Mieczysława Ćwiklińska and Teresa Łubieńska – in her flat was the first headquarters. Below: designer Antoni Kocjan, murdered at the Pawiak prison; engineer and inventor Kazimierz Leski, president of the Warsaw Insurgents’ Association in the 1990s. Photo NAC / IKC, Wikimedia Common – Public domain

The organization has many secrets, but the most important one is its founder who appeared like a meteor during the occupation of Poland and like a meteor he disappeared – says Adrian Sandak, author of the book “Muszkieterowie 1939–1942. Historia tajnej organizacji wywiadowczej” [The Musketeers, 1939-1942. The history of a secret intelligence organization].

TVP WEEKLY: Who was the mysterious and charismatic creator of the “Musketeers” organization, Stefan Witkowski?

ADRIAN SANDAK:
Indeed, he was a charismatic man, able to convince the people around him that he was right, and he always had a ready answer. But the answer to your question as well as to others linked with the Musketeers’ actions won’t either be straightforward or unambiguous. The leader and founder of an intelligence organization, bearing the name “Musketeers”, which sounded quite exotic in Polish reality appeared on the scene of occupied Poland at the begging of October 1939. He I supposed to have commanded a sabotage detachment, comprised of several dozen soldiers near Kock. According to Witkowski himself, and to colonel Adam Epler, commanding the 60th Infantry Division fighting under the orders of the general Franciszek Kleeberg within the Independent Operational Group “Polesie”, the detachment was supposed to fight the Germans and Soviets. Here comes out the first mystery.

Which is?

It’s related to the circumstances in which largely unknown civilian was to become leader of a sabotage unit, equipped, at that, with the secret weapon of Polish infantry – the famous antitank machine gun model 35, also known as the “Ur”. Witkowski wasn’t a regular soldier, it was impossible to find information that he was in the reserve or even what his rank was. But that’s not the end to mysteries and enigmas. In the common consciousness Witkowski is considered a talented inventor and an almighty agent.

This consideration doesn’t reflect facts?

It’s hard to find a spectacular invention by Witkowski, we shall rather find information about utopian ideas which all ended up failing. We are talking here about the famous “rays of death” which allegedly were prototype lasers, about a basketball-sized energy plant supposed to give light to an entire town or about an aquaplane, widely covered in the pre-war press, meant to sail from Europe to the US. Fragmentary information shows that the Musketeers’ future leader was in touch with the British intelligence. From post-war sources we know Witkowski was closely connected with Edward Rydz-Śmigły, who had him prepare a report on military strength and capacity of Romania and Hungary in 1939. We also know that the marshal was a generous sponsor for the “inventory activity” of the “Engineer” – that’s one of Witkowski’s occupation noms de guerre.

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