Akcja pod Arsenalelm (Operation Arsenal) (1978)
Director: Jan Lomnicki.
Starring: Cezary Morawski (Jan Bytnar, 'Rudy'), Miroslaw Konarowski (Tadeusz Zawadzki, 'Zoska'), Ryszard Gajewski (Aleksy Dawidowski, 'Alek'), Magdalena Wollejko (Baska), Jan Englert (Stanislaw Broniewski 'Stefan Orsza'), Lidia Korsakówna (Mrs. Bytnar), Zbigniew Zapasiewicz (Mr. Bytnar), Tadeusz Lomnicki (Doctor), Karl Sturm (SS-Oberscharführer Herbert Schultz), Werner Toelke (SS-Rottenführer Ewald Lange), Zbigniew Sawan (Mr. Zawadzki), Jan Czechowicz (Tadeusz Chojko, 'Bolec'), Piotr Dejmek (Zygmunt Kaczynski, 'Wesoly').
rescue of 31 prisoner being transported to the Pawiak prison by the underground Polish Home Army in occupied Warsaw
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
There is a lot of secretive movements of men around the German Cultural Center. One man is up on the roof top. He hauls down the Nazi flag and puts up a Polish white and red flag. The man shimmies down the side of the building and is picked up by two comrades.
The Germans have a small movie screen on the side of one of their trucks. Today there is being shown a propaganda newsreel, the "Weekly Chronicle of the General-Government". It says that the German soldiers stopped the Soviet offensive into Poland. Leon Degrelle, the commander of the Walloon Brigade along with SS General Steiner, joined together at the first front line.
The trio that was responsible for the Polish flag being flown in public now disables the screen by breaking it with a rock. The trio gets away again.
A German soldier catches up with a "Jewish pig" and starts beating him. One of the trio, Alek, intervenes on behalf of the Jewish man and he gets away. The soldier pulls out his Lugar pistol but the intervener slugs and knocks down the soldier. The soldier tries to fire his pistol, but the next man of the trio kicks the Lugar out of the soldier’s hand. Then the last man topples over some fruit crates on top of the soldier.
Rudy is the leader of the trio and he scolds Alek for coming to the Jewish fellow’s defense. He says that puts the whole unit in danger.
Alek with his new jacket on stops the pretty Baska. She notices his new jacket and says it looks great on him. She is a bit peeved at him because he doesn’t come to see her very often. He says one day he will explain everything to her. He gives her a ride in his Polish rickshaw of sorts.
The Germans have put a plaque over the plaque of Polish hero Nicholas Copernicus. The trio strikes again by taking the German plaque down so everyone can see the original Polish plaque.
In a classroom a group of resistance fighters talk about where to place a bomb that will destroy a crucial part of the railway track. They also have a talk about the STEN submachine gun, which is designed for the fight at close distances. Then they demonstrate the working of an offensive "Philippine" type grenade, which explodes on contact.
Rudy Heniek comes into an apartment and finds his friend Czesiek there. They are glad to see each other. Heniek asks if Danusia left him here all alone? No, she just went to get some food of supper. Heniek shows Czesiek the plans for blowing up a railway track and the locomotive.
Rudy’s sister Duska returns home and calls Rudy, Rudy. He tells here again that she is to call him Janek and not Rudy. Mother comes out to tell brother and sister to quit fighting. After dinner Czesiek goes out on resistance business. Rudy tells him to be careful, but Czesiek is not worried at all about being caught.
Out on the streets Czesiek is quickly grabbed by the Germans and arrested after they find a pistol on him.
The trio meets again and listen to a prohibited radio. The news is that American bombers are bombing Italy. And south of Lake Ladoga, the Soviet Army attacked the enemy forces. The last German offensive is a desperate attempt to regain the territories the Germans lost at Stalingrad.
At night in adjoining beds Zoska tells Rudy that he wants his death to mean something. He wants to go down fighting and not be caught and hanged. Rudy tells Zoska not to be so vain. Why should his death be remembered when millions are dying in all kinds of terrible and demeaning ways?
Heniek and his wife are woken by a knock at the door. They think it is probably Czesiek, but no. Surprise! It’s the Gestapo. And the leader of the group knows right where to go to find the map of the planned railway attack. Czesiek must have talked.
In the morning Rudy gets a telephone call. From the call, he learns that Heniek has been arrested.
A meeting is held of the local resistance group. Their arms storage must be emptied right away.
Heniek is being manhandled by his interrogators. They get a name from some source and the main interrogator asks Heniek who is this Rudy whose name is in the little black book? Heniek won’t talk, but the interrogator says they can have this Rudy’s address in the book deciphered pretty quickly.
The resistance weapons are moved to different places.
Alek is together with Baska. She complains that she is sick of Alek always hiding something or disappearing. She tells him that she has a suspicion as to what he is doing and she wants to do it with him. She also says that she’s afraid for him.
Rudy’s father knows what he’s up to and he tells him that above all he wants Rudy to survive. Rudy replies that he has to stand up against the oppressors. A little later the Gestapo comes for Rudy (aka Janek). Rudy’s father is also placed under arrest.
News spreads quickly of the two arrests. The word goes out to meet at Slon’s. There is some talk about grabbing Rudy from the Gestapo. Word comes that Rudy will be taken to Szucha Avenue.
The resistance wants to know how did the Gestapo pull off so many important arrests? They don’t know the whole story, but they figure they must stop the momentum by freeing Rudy and those with him.
Rudy has already been subjected to bloody beatings and now the interrogations pick up again. The interrogators asks him if he is the commander of Grey Ranks and the leader of sabotage activity?
The resistance locals are together planning the attack to free Rudy. The leader will be Zoska. He tells the group that the prisoners will be transported to Pawiak Prison some after 4 p.m. when the torturing is stopped. The raid will take place at 4:30 and should be over by 5 p.m. To be successful they must stop the German truck.
Anoda will lead the group armed with Molotov Cocktails and pistols. The cocktails will be thrown at the cab of the truck.
Maciek will command the section and will have one Sten gun for three people.
Slon will lead his section with one Sten gun. If the truck at this time has not been stopped Slon is to attack the truck from the front.
Alek will command the group with the grenades.
And now Orsza gets up to explain the other part of the operation. The signal section will consist of Kuba and Kadlubek. The signal will be the taking off of the cap of the lookout. Then another man will take off his cap too after he confirms that the vehicle is the correct truck.
The resistance takes up its positions. A man from inside Gestapo headquarters sees Rudy being carried out on a stretcher to the German truck. He quickly leaves headquarters and puts in a call that Rudy is in the truck (but said in secret code, of course). The news is relayed to the two leaders.
The raid does not receive official permission to take place. Orsza says cancel the operation, but Zoska wants to go ahead with the raid. Zoska gives in and agrees to do it tomorrow.
Rudy is taken to the doctors and patched up a bit.
Alek meets with Baska. He tells her that he loves her, deeply and truly. They kiss.
To get more pistols, part of the resistance kills a German officer on the street and they take his weapon.
The prisoners are being transported, including a still unconscious Rudy, from the prison to Gestapo Headquarters. The message is sent that Rudy is at Szucha Avenue.
The resistance takes up its positions again. Only Orsza has not arrived.
Rudy will be transported back to the prison along with the others. Permission arrives to go ahead with the operation.
Here comes the truck. The cap removal signal is given. That is followed by the second cap removal signal.
Orsza blows the whistle starting the action. They shoot a policeman down. They start firing the sten guns. They throw the Molotov Cocktails into the cab. Two Germans on fire jump from the cab and are shot down.
A soldier in the back starts firing his submachine gun at the resistance men. Still on the ground a policeman shoots one of the resistance men. The Poles are bad shots because of little or no target practice. The German from the back of the truck is able to get away without being shot.
Now the men release the captives from the back of the truck, totaling 31 people. They also grab Rudy off the truck. They put him in the back of the one car they have with another wounded man.
The men start running down the street and one fellow gets wounded. The wounded man throws a grenade into a group of oncoming German soldiers and knocks them out of action. The men commandeer a car and head out of town. The rest of them scatter.
Alek is one of the wounded. He is now is a hospital bed. Baska comes to see him.
The resistance people talk to Heniek. They ask him about information he might have given to the Gestapo. They want to know if Heniek squealed on Rudy. Of course, Heniek is not going to say he squealed on his friends. He does say, however, that the Gestapo knows a lot about the resistance. The torturer Schultz told him that they were going to finish off the resistance in two weeks time.
Heniek asks about his wife and learns that she was sent to Auschwitz. For his own safety, the men tell Heniek that he must go to Lublin and disappear.
Basha learns that Alec has died.
They bring Rudy to the ad-hoc hospital. There the doctor says that the men have brought him a dead body.
News bulletin No. 19. On May 6, 1943 at 7:25 in Warsaw, in Mokotowska Street, Schultz (the torturer) was shot and killed.
News bulletin No. 22. On May 22, Lange was executed for barbaric measures he used.
Good movie showing the actions of one part of the Polish Resistance to Nazi occupation. "The Polish resistance movement in World War II, with the Home Army at its forefront, was the largest underground resistance in all of Nazi-occupied Europe, covering both German and Soviet zones of occupation. The Polish defense against the Nazi occupation was an important part of the European anti-fascist resistance movement. It is most notable for disrupting German supply lines to the Eastern Front, providing military intelligence to the British, and for saving more Jewish lives in the Holocaust than any other Allied organization or government. It was a part of the Polish Underground State. . . . The largest of all Polish resistance organizations was the Armia Krajowa (Home Army, AK), loyal to the Polish government in exile in London." (source: Wikipedia)
The film is an action film mostly with the emphasis on the planning of a big Resistance move against the German occupation.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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