Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
While numerous foreigners (as well as tourists) have heard of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that took place in 1943, only some of them have heard of (or distinguish as separate event) Warsaw Uprising that broke out on the 1st of August 1944. The uprising, that was a part of nationwide rebellion, began when the Soviet Army approached the city and was intended to last only for couple of days. The event was to help to drive the Nazis from the city as well as to stress Polish sovereignty and to prevent the division of Central Europe into regions of influence by the Allied countries. The Soviets, however, stopped short and did not enter the borders of Warsaw until mid September. Polish resistance lasted for 63 days during which the historic city center was destroyed and over 200 thousand Poles (between 120 and 200 thousand of civilians and about 15 thousand of Polish insurgents) were killed.
The call to start the Warsaw Uprising was broadcasted for the first time on Moscow radio on the 29th of July 2009 by Association of Polish Patriots. The call was repeated 4 times the day after on Moscow radio station named Kosciuszko. But the decision was taken already in mid July when the Soviet offensive crossed Polish border. On the day when Warsaw Uprising broke out, SS chef – Heinrich Himmler – gave orders (based on Hitler’s decision) to destroy the city and kill its inhabitants (including civilians). Killing of rebellions and rapes were present throughout the whole Uprising, while murdering of civilians was limited after the order has been quashed.
The Home Army forces, that took part in Warsaw Uprising, ranged between 20 and 49 thousand soldiers. There were also other formations (as well as National Armed Forces and People’s Army) that contributed a few dozen of soldiers. There were also numerous volunteers – such as civilians and Jews freed from the concentration camp – that joined during the fighting.
Among the commanders of Warsaw Uprising one should mention Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski (that commanded the Polish Home Army), Tadeusz Pelczynki (Vice-Commander), Antoni Chrusciel and many others.
Although the Poles withstood 63 days of Nazi attacks, the Uprising reached its apogee on the 4th of August when the soldiers of Home Army managed to establish front lines in westernmost boroughs of Wola and Ochota (parts of Warsaw). It was on only a day after when the German regiments started to carry out Heinrich Himmler’s orders. Special SS, police and Wermacht groups went from house to house and shot its inhabitants regardless their age and gender. It is estimated that even up to 100 thousand of civilians were killed during that time in Wola and Ochota alone.
Even today the meaning of the Warsaw Uprising is controversial. Although it proved braveness and commitment of the Poles, it brought enormous loss to the nation. Majority of the people killed in the Uprising were youth and Warsaw intelligentsia. One needs to also remember that 85% of the capital of Poland was destroyed during the WW II.
The Poles, with almost no help from the outside, signed capitulation on the 3rd of October 1944. The Polish Home Army was disarmed and its soldiers were sent to POW camps in various parts of Germany while all the civilians were expelled from Warsaw (many were sent to transit camp in Pruszkow or to labor camps in Germany). Although today those who fought during Warsaw Uprising are talked about as heroes, after the WW II most of the soldiers of Home Army were persecuted by the Soviets, as the fact of the Uprising was inconvenient to Stalin.