August, 1st is written in the history of Poland with bloodstained letters. Polish Home Army (Polish: Armia Krajowa) decided to liberate Warsaw from the Nazi German rule and protect the country from the threatening Soviet control. Or at least to try and die trying.
The Warsaw Uprising was a major World War II operation, timed with the Soviet Union’s Red Army approaching the eastern suburbs of Warsaw and the Nazi German forces retreating because of that. Polish Underground State decided to finally emerge and take faith in their own hands – win or die fighting for freedom.
Bad vs EvilThere are two sides to the story: the uprising was aimed militarily at the Nazi Germany but politically at the USSR (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) and Polish communists. It had been made clear that Poland wasn’t going to be freed from the Nazi occupation by the western allied forces but by the Soviet Red Army instead. Everyone had already known that introducing Stalin’s policy was not at all acceptable. Stalin had also refused to continue diplomatic relationships with Polish government-on-exile. Everything was indicating Stalin’s will to create another Soviet Socialist Republic there, meaning no independence for Poles.
The heads of the Home Army had planned to liberate the capital even before the Red Army arrived, hoping to strengthen the international position of the Polish government-in-exile that way and to stop Stalin from sovietising Poland. A movement embracing the country as a whole (operation “Burza”) was also taken into consideration but as soon as the Red Army had crossed the borders, Polish government had to reconsider its plans and start the uprising in Warsaw alone.
In the meantime, the Red Army was successfully forcing the Nazi German army out of Poland, but on the same time stopping Polish offensive marching to Warsaw from other parts of the country. The Soviet dictator refused to help Polish soldiers fight the Nazi Germans and ordered to put Polish commanding officers to Gulag camps if they refused to cooperate. This is why the Home Army wanted to liberate Polish capital as early as possible and welcome the Soviet Army as a host. Poland received some support from the USA and Great Britain but it was too little to change anything. The probable reason for that was the tight censorship, because of which the allies did not know what was really happening in Poland at that time.
Polish Generals Komorowski, Pełczyński and Okulicki met already on July, 21st and the initial decision to fight had already been taken on that day. They knew they were outnumbered significantly by the Nazi forces and that their military equipment was not enough, but they were hoping to get help from the surrounding areas and the western allies, since they had asked for that earlier.
The commanding general Antoni Monter Chruściel ordered the fights to start on August, 1st at 5 o’clock in the afternoon (known now as “Godzina W”). The ammunition was enough only for two or three days, which means only one out of 25 insurgents was armed, the rest of them were carrying axes, hammers, crowbars and whatever else was available and could do harm. Couple hundreds of foreigners decided to support Poles – people from Hungary, Slovakia, Georgia, France, Belgium, Holland, Greece, Britain, Italy, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Romania, Australia, Nigeria and even Russia joined the heroic fights for Poland’s freedom. Jews held in labour camp at Gęsia Street (called Gęsiówka) and then rescued by the Home Army built a special organisation and helped as well. Unfortunately, after 63 days of multiple attempts with surprise attacks, violent fights and spilling blood, Polish poorly armed freedom fighters capitulated on October, 3rd 1944.
During these two months, the loss in Polish troops amounted to approximately 16,000 dead and missing, 20,000 wounded and further 15,000 captured. Apart from that, Nazi troops killed up to 200,000 civilians in air raids, bombing, shooting and several public executions and massacres. Another hundreds of thousands were forced to leave Warsaw and/or put in concentration camps. Thousands of buildings were damaged or demolished completely, including hundreds of priceless monuments and objects of great cultural and spiritual value.
The Warsaw Uprising is considered one of the most important events in modern history of Poland. Taking into consideration the unimaginable human and material loss, many questions arise inevitably: was it really necessary? shouldn’t the Home Army wait for more support? shouldn’t they stop after the reinforcements were blocked by the Red Army soldiers? One thing is sure, they believed in better future and they had courage to fight for their dream in the name of each and every Polish citizen of that time.
For further information in English visit WarsawUprising.com. There are also many pieces of Polish (and foreign) literature devoted to these heroic fights, describing both the military and civil side of these tragic events.