77th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising

 The Warsaw Uprising broke out 77 years ago. Let's pay tribute to its participants by celebrating the whole month of August as a Home Army Month.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

74th anniversary of Warsaw Uprising, one of the most heroic acts of bravery of WWII

NYT / part of a full page ad by Wiesław Włodarski of Foodcare.pl

The Warsaw Uprising of August 1, 1944 is one of the most important events in modern Polish history.

The Warsaw Uprising was a heroic and tragic 63-day struggle to liberate World War II Warsaw from Nazi/German occupation. Undertaken by the Home Army (Armia Krajowa, AK), the Polish resistance, it was a part of a nationwide uprising, Operation Tempest, and lasted until October 2.

The Warsaw Uprising was probably the largest single operation organized and executed by a partisan organization in WWII. It lasted two months, and when it was over, 200,000 people were dead, and the entire city was in ruins. In trying to achieve its goals, the uprising was a terrible failure. In showing the courage and the dedication of the Polish nation, it was a remarkable success. Largely sidelined in history books and often confused with Ghetto Uprising of 1943, the 1944 Warsaw Rising was a pivotal moment both in the outcome of the Second World War and in the origins of the cold war.

The uprising failed due to global politics played among Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was intended to last for only a few days until the Soviet Army would reach the city. The Soviet advance stopped short, however, on the other bank of the Vistula River. Stalin condemned the Rising as a criminal adventure (even though Russian radio broadcasts called for uprising) and refused to cooperate.

Initially German garrison of about 20,000 ill-equipped soldiers was outnumbered by AK fighters. However, out of more than 30,000 men & women, less than 3,000 were properly armed. Many only had pistols or antique hunting rifles, and a lot were armed with knives or swords! In the first day of fighting, over 2,000 Poles were lost while only 500 Germans were killed. When Hitler heard of the Uprising he ordered Himmler (head of the SS) to wipe Warsaw of the face of the earth. Thousands of heavily-armed German reinforcements were rushed into Warsaw. By mid-September German troops were reinforced up to 50,000 men under SS general Erich von dem Bach. German tanks & Stukas (divebombers) leveled entire blocks of the city at a time.

In 63 days of savage fighting and brutal reprisals the most memorable was Wola massacre, which took place in the first days of uprising. On August 5th German forces, notably subunits of the Sicherheitspolizei security police and notorious force of amnestied criminals SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger, rounded up and indiscriminately executed many of the people in the Wola district, including the elderly, women and children, as well as the insurgents taken prisoner. Mass executions in the district also included the mass murders of patients and personnel of the local hospitals, some of them burned alive. By August 8, some 40,000 civilians had been killed, though some estimates cite numbers as high as 100,000.

Polish losses amounted to 18,000 soldiers killed and 25,000 wounded. German casualties totalled over 17,000 soldiers killed and over 9,000 wounded. From Warsaw’s civilian population approximately 550,000 were sent to a concentration camp at Pruszkow and another 150,000 used as slave labour while over 200,000 died.

Following the surrender of Polish forces on October 2, German troops systematically burned the city block by block. 93% of the city became uninhabitable and featureless of landmarks. By January 1945, when the Soviets finally entered the city, Warsaw had practically ceased to exist.

Anne Applebaum in her "In Warsaw, a 'Good War' Wasn't" wrote:
Survivors in Poland have been telling their stories for quite some time. But it is true that the story is little known in this country, and there are reasons for that: It wasn't a story our political leaders wanted to dwell on at the time, and it hasn't been one anyone in this country wanted to talk much about since. Among other things, if we really absorbed its lessons, it would be difficult for Americans to feel quite so sentimental about World War II, and quite so nostalgic about the unshakable moral purpose for which it was supposedly fought.
For the story of the Warsaw uprising really is the story of the destruction of Poland's "greatest generation."

. . .
The scale of the catastrophe, the psychological, physical and economic damage, is almost unimaginable. Original underground army footage, obtained by CNN reporter David Ensor, shows vast stretches of central Warsaw reduced to rubble, people living in ruins, teenagers building barricades out of the remains of homes. As Norman Davies, the historian of the rising, points out, more civilians died every day for those 63 days than died on Sept. 11.

Walter Jajko in his lecture "The historical significance of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising" said:
... the Poles had a realistic understanding of what they were doing. The Rising was not a grand beau geste, although it was in keeping historically and psychologically with the unique character of Poland’s centuries-long fight for survival. The Poles had to stake their right to independence so strongly that the West could not ignore it. It was for this reason and to combat the Germans’ organized genocide that the Poles had formed a completely elaborated Underground State.
But the Poles had misplaced their hopes and expectations and misjudged the depth of the indifference, ignorance, and fecklessness of the West and, therefore, the worth of its promises. The Poles should have remembered Chamberlain’s characterization after Munich of their southern neighbors as a faraway people of whom little was known, and, I might add, for whom little was cared. With such statesmanship, the Warsaw Rising, even added to the bloodshed of the Polish Second Corps at Monte Cassino and the Polish Airborne Division at Arnhem and the singular shootdown score of the Polish squadrons in the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain, was insufficient. Stalin deliberately waited until the Polish Home Army was exhausted in the sixty-three days of battle against the Germans in its valorous attempt to liberate its capital by itself before he ordered the Red Army to cross the Vistula and enter Warsaw three months later.
The defeat of the Warsaw Rising essentially finished the Underground State. Stalin knew that the Underground State was an existing alternative government, organized throughout all of Polish society, that would prevent his Sovietization of Poland. Stalin knew too that the Home Army was the force that would insist on Polish independence even unto war against the Soviet Union. Stalin’s facilitation of the German suppression of the Warsaw Rising prevented the armed opposition to the Sovietization of Poland.

Related: Will Poles shame the New York Times into memorizing Warsaw Uprising?

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