On 1 August we mark (along with John’s birthday) the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising.
The Uprising was a major operation by the Polish Home Army (resistance) aimed at liberating Warsaw from Nazi Germany. It was timed to coincide with German withdrawals to the west and the advance of Soviet forces from the east.
At the time there were threats of the Germans rounding up able-bodied Poles and calls from Moscow radio for an uprising to begin.
“Fight The Germans! No doubt Warsaw already hears the guns of the battle which is soon to bring her liberation…. The Polish Army now entering Polish territory, trained in the Soviet Union, is now joined to the People’s Army to form the Corps of the Polish Armed Forces, the armed arm of our nation in its struggle for independence. Its ranks will be joined tomorrow by the sons of Warsaw. They will all together, with the Allied Army pursue the enemy westwards, wipe out the Hitlerite vermin from Polish land and strike a mortal blow at the beast of Prussian Imperialism.” – Moscow Radio Station Kosciuszko, 29 July 1944 broadcast
Initially, the Poles established control over most of central Warsaw, but the Soviets ignored Polish attempts to establish radio contact and did not advance beyond the city limits. Intense street fighting between the Germans and Poles continued.
By 14 September, Polish forces under Soviet command occupied the west bank of the Vistula, opposite the insurgent’s positions, but only 1.200 men crossed to the west bank and there were no reinforcements from the rest of the Red Army.
Soviet air bases were within five minutes’ flying time, but no air support was given.
Arthur Koestler, CBE, a Hungarian-British author and journalist called the Soviet inaction “one of the major infamies of this war which will rank for the future historian on the same ethical level with Lidice”. *
Churchill pleaded with Stalin and Roosevelt to help Britain’s Polish allies, with little effect. Churchill sent over 200 low-level supply drops into Warsaw, via the RAF, South Africa Air Force and Polish Air Force, all operating at that time under British High Command.
“There was no difficulty in finding Warsaw. It was visible from 100 kilometers away. The city was in flames but with so many huge fires burning, it was almost impossible to pick up the target marker flares.” – William Fairly, a South African pilot, from an interview in 1982
It was only later that the USAAF, after gaining Soviet air clearance, sent one high-level airdrop.
It cannot be denied that Stalin’s actions were aimed at allowing the Polish insurgents to be wiped out – saving his people the trouble of, and blame for, removing the very patriots who would have been a thorn in his side, post-War.
The Uprising lasted 63 days.
In that time 25% of Warsaw was destroyed
After the Uprising the Germans destroyed another 35% of the city, block by block
About 16,000 members of the Home Army were killed and about 6,000- badly wounded
Between 150,000 and 200,000 civilians were killed, mostly by mass execution
Jews harboured by were exposed by German house-to-house searches and mass evictions
About 8,000 Germans died, with about 9,000 wounded.
“I want to protest against the mean and cowardly attitude adopted by the British press towards the recent rising in Warsaw. […] One was left with the general impression that the Poles deserved to have their bottoms smacked for doing what all the Allied wirelesses had been urging them to do for years past, […]. First of all, a message to English left-wing journalists and intellectuals generally: ‘Do remember that dishonesty and cowardice always have to be paid for. Don’t imagine that for years on end you can make yourself the boot-licking propagandist of the Soviet régime, or any other régime, and then suddenly return to mental decency. Once a whore, always a whore.’” – George Orwell, 1 September 1944
*Lidice was a village just north west of Prague.
In 1942, in reprisal for the assassination of Heydrich, Hitler and Himmler ordered its complete destruction.
All men over the age of 16 were arrested and executed. 11 men not in the village on that day were also arrested and executed.
The women and children of Lidice were sent to concentration and extermination camps.