The Warsaw Uprising (Polish: Powstanie Warszawskie; German: Warschauer Aufstand) was a major World War II operation, in the summer of 1944, by the Polish underground resistance, led by the Home Army (Polish: Armia Krajowa), to liberate Warsaw from German occupation. The uprising was timed to coincide with the retreat of the German forces from Poland ahead of the Soviet advance. While approaching the eastern suburbs of the city, the Red Army temporarily halted combat operations, enabling the Germans to regroup and defeat the Polish resistance and to destroy the city in retaliation. The Uprising was fought for 63 days with little outside support. It was the single largest military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II.
The Uprising began on 1 August 1944 as part of a nationwide Operation Tempest, launched at the time of the Soviet Lublin–Brest Offensive. The main Polish objectives were to drive the Germans out of Warsaw while helping the Allies defeat Germany. An additional, political goal of the Polish Underground State was to liberate Poland's capital and assert Polish sovereignty before the Soviet-backed Polish Committee of National Liberation could assume control. Other immediate causes included a threat of mass German round-ups of able-bodied Poles for "evacuation"; calls by Radio Moscow's Polish Service for uprising; and an emotional Polish desire for justice and revenge against the enemy after five years of German occupation.
Initially, the Poles established control over most of central Warsaw, but the Soviets ignored Polish attempts to make radio contact with them and did not advance beyond the city limits. Intense street fighting between the Germans and Poles continued. By 14 September, the eastern bank of the Vistula River opposite the Polish resistance positions was taken over by the Polish troops fighting under the Soviet command; 1,200 men made it across the river, but they were not reinforced by the Red Army. This, and the lack of air support from the Soviet air base five-minutes flying time away, led to allegations that Joseph Stalin tactically halted his forces to let the operation fail and allow the Polish resistance to be crushed. Arthur Koestler called the Soviet attitude "one of the major infamies of this war which will rank for the future historian on the same ethical level with Lidice."
Winston Churchill pleaded with Stalin and Franklin D. Roosevelt to help Britain's Polish allies, to no avail. Then, without Soviet air clearance, Churchill sent over 200 low-level supply drops by the Royal Air Force, the South African Air Force, and the Polish Air Force under British High Command, in an operation known as the Warsaw Airlift. Later, after gaining Soviet air clearance, the U.S. Army Air Force sent one high-level mass airdrop as part of Operation Frantic.
Although the exact number of casualties is unknown, it is estimated that about 16,000 members of the Polish resistance were killed and about 6,000 badly wounded. In addition, between 150,000 and 200,000 Polish civilians died, mostly from mass executions. Jews being harboured by Poles were exposed by German house-to-house clearances and mass evictions of entire neighbourhoods. German casualties totalled over 2,000 to 17,000 soldiers killed and missing. During the urban combat, approximately 25% of Warsaw's buildings were destroyed. Following the surrender of Polish forces, German troops systematically levelled another 35% of the city block by block. Together with earlier damage suffered in the 1939 invasion of Poland and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, over 85% of the city was destroyed by January 1945 when the course of the events in the Eastern Front forced the Germans to abandon the city.
In 1944, Poland had been occupied by Nazi Germany for almost five years. The Polish Home Army planned some form of rebellion against German forces. Germany was fighting a coalition of Allied powers, led by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States. The initial plan of the Home Army was to link up with the invading forces of the Western Allies as they liberated Europe from the Nazis. However, when the Soviet Army began its offensive in 1943, it became clear that Poland would be liberated by it instead of the Western Allies.
In this country, we have one point from which every evil emanates. That point is Warsaw. If we didn't have Warsaw in the General Government, we wouldn't have four-fifths of the difficulties with which we must contend. — German Governor-General Hans Frank, Kraków, 14 December 1943 
The Soviets and the Poles had a common enemy—Germany—but were working towards different post-war goals: the Home Army desired a pro-Western, capitalist Poland, but the Soviet leader Stalin intended to establish a pro-Soviet, socialist Poland. It became obvious that the advancing Soviet Red Army might not come to Poland as an ally but rather only as "the ally of an ally".
The Soviets and the Poles distrusted each other and Soviet partisans in Poland often clashed with a Polish resistance increasingly united under the Home Army's front. Stalin broke off Polish-Soviet relations on 25 April 1943 after the Germans revealed the Katyn massacre of Polish army officers, and Stalin refused to admit to ordering the killings and denounced the claims as German propaganda. Afterwards, Stalin created the Rudenko Commission, whose goal was to blame the Germans for the war crime at all costs. The Western alliance accepted Stalin's words as truth in order to keep the Anti-Nazi alliance intact. On 26 October, the Polish government-in-exile issued instructions to the effect that, if diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union were not resumed before the Soviet entry into Poland, Home Army forces were to remain underground pending further decisions.
However, the Home Army commander, Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski, took a different approach, and on 20 November, he outlined his own plan, which became known as Operation Tempest. On the approach of the Eastern Front, local units of the Home Army were to harass the German Wehrmacht in the rear and co-operate with incoming Soviet units as much as possible. Although doubts existed about the military necessity of a major uprising, planning continued. General Bór-Komorowski and his civilian advisor were authorised by the government in exile to proclaim a general uprising whenever they saw fit.
The situation came to a head on 13 July 1944 as the Soviet offensive crossed the old Polish border. At this point the Poles had to make a decision: either initiate the uprising in the current difficult political situation and risk a lack of Soviet support, or fail to rebel and face Soviet propaganda describing the Home Army as impotent or worse, Nazi collaborators. They feared that if Poland was liberated by the Red Army, then the Allies would ignore the London-based Polish government in the aftermath of the war. The urgency for a final decision on strategy increased as it became clear that, after successful Polish-Soviet co-operation in the liberation of Polish territory (for example, in Operation Ostra Brama), Soviet security forces behind the frontline shot or arrested Polish officers and forcibly conscripted lower ranks into the Soviet-controlled forces. On 21 July, the High Command of the Home Army decided that the time to launch Operation Tempest in Warsaw was imminent. The plan was intended both as a political manifestation of Polish sovereignty and as a direct operation against the German occupiers. On 25 July, the Polish government-in-exile (without the knowledge and against the wishes of Polish Commander-in-Chief General Kazimierz Sosnkowski) approved the plan for an uprising in Warsaw with the timing to be decided locally.
In the early summer of 1944, German plans required Warsaw to serve as the defensive centre of the area and to be held at all costs. The Germans had fortifications constructed and built up their forces in the area. This process slowed after the failed 20 July plot to assassinate the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, and around that time, the Germans in Warsaw were weak and visibly demoralized. However, by the end of July, German forces in the area were reinforced. On 27 July, the Governor of the Warsaw District, Ludwig Fischer, called for 100,000 Polish men and women to report for work as part of a plan which envisaged the Poles constructing fortifications around the city. The inhabitants of Warsaw ignored his demand, and the Home Army command became worried about possible reprisals or mass round-ups, which would disable their ability to mobilize. The Soviet forces were approaching Warsaw, and Soviet-controlled radio stations called for the Polish people to rise in arms.
On 25 July, the Union of Polish Patriots, in a broadcast from Moscow, stated: "The Polish Army of Polish Patriots ... calls on the thousands of brothers thirsting to fight, to smash the foe before he can recover from his defeat ... Every Polish homestead must become a stronghold in the struggle against the invaders ... Not a moment is to be lost." On 29 July, the first Soviet armoured units reached the outskirts of Warsaw, where they were counter-attacked by two German Panzer Corps: the 39th and 4th SS. On 29 July 1944 Radio Station Kosciuszko located in Moscow emitted a few times its "Appeal to Warsaw" and called to "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." Bór-Komorowski and several officers held a meeting on that day. Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, who had arrived from London, expressed the view that help from the Allies would be limited, but his views received no attention. Believing that the time for action had arrived, on 31 July, the Polish commanders General Bór-Komorowski and Colonel Antoni Chruściel ordered full mobilization of the forces for 17:00 the following day.
Within the framework of the entire enemy intelligence operations directed against Germany, the intelligence service of the Polish resistance movement assumed major significance. The scope and importance of the operations of the Polish resistance movement, which was ramified down to the smallest splinter group and brilliantly organized, have been in (various sources) disclosed in connection with carrying out of major police security operations.
The Home Army forces of the Warsaw District numbered between 20,000, and 49,000 soldiers. Other underground formations also contributed; estimates range from 2,000 in total, to about 3,500 men including those from the National Armed Forces and the communist People's Army. Most of them had trained for several years in partisan and urban guerrilla warfare, but lacked experience in prolonged daylight fighting. The forces lacked equipment, because the Home Army had shuttled weapons to the east of the country before the decision to include Warsaw in Operation Tempest. Other partisan groups subordinated themselves to Home Army command, and many volunteers joined during the fighting, including Jews freed from the Gęsiówka concentration camp in the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto. Morale among Jewish fighters was hurt by displays of antisemitism, with several former Jewish prisoners in combat units killed by antisemitic Poles.
Colonel Antoni Chruściel (codename "Monter") who commanded the Polish underground forces in Warsaw, divided his units into eight areas: the Sub-district I of Śródmieście (Area I) which included Warszawa-Śródmieście and the Old Town; the Sub-district II of Żoliborz (Area II) comprising Żoliborz, Marymont, and Bielany; the Sub-district III of Wola (Area III) in Wola; the Sub-district IV of Ochota (Area IV) in Ochota; the Sub-district V of Mokotów (Area V) in Mokotów; the Sub-district VI of Praga (Area VI) in Praga; the Sub-district VII of Warsaw suburbs (Area VII) for the Warsaw West County; and the Autonomous Region VIII of Okęcie (Area VIII) in Okęcie; while the units of the Directorate of Sabotage and Diversion (Kedyw) remained attached to the Uprising Headquarters. On 20 September, the sub-districts were reorganized to align with the three areas of the city held by the Polish units. The entire force, renamed the Warsaw Home Army Corps (Polish: Warszawski Korpus Armii Krajowej) and commanded by General Antoni Chruściel – who was promoted from Colonel on 14 September – formed three infantry divisions (Śródmieście, Żoliborz and Mokotów).
The exact number of the foreign fighters (obcokrajowcy in Polish), who fought in Warsaw for Poland's independence, is difficult to determine, taking into consideration the chaotic character of the Uprising causing their irregular registration. It is estimated that they numbered several hundred and represented at least 15 countries – Slovakia, Hungary, Great Britain, Australia, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, the United States of America, the Soviet Union, South Africa, Romania and even Germany and Nigeria. These people – emigrants who had settled in Warsaw before the war, escapees from numerous POW, concentration and labor camps, and deserters from the German auxiliary forces – were absorbed in different fighting and supportive formations of the Polish underground. They wore the underground's red-white armband (the colors of the Polish national flag) and adopted the Polish traditional independence fighters’ slogan ‘Za naszą i waszą wolność’. Some of the ‘obcokrajowcy’ showed outstanding bravery in fighting the enemy and were awarded the highest decorations of the AK and the Polish government in exile.
During the fighting, the Poles obtained additional supplies through airdrops and by capture from the enemy, including several armoured vehicles, notably two Panther tanks and two Sd.Kfz. 251 APC vehicles. Also, resistance workshops produced weapons throughout the fighting, including submachine guns, K pattern flamethrowers, grenades, mortars, and even an armoured car (Kubuś). As of 1 August, Polish military supplies consisted of 1,000 guns, 1,750 pistols, 300 submachine guns, 60 assault rifles, 7 heavy machine guns, 20 anti-tank guns, and 25,000 hand grenades.
In late July 1944 the German units stationed in and around Warsaw were divided into three categories. The first and the most numerous was the garrison of Warsaw. As of 31 July, it numbered some 11,000 troops under General Rainer Stahel.
These well-equipped German forces prepared for the defence of the city's key positions for many months. Several hundred concrete bunkers and barbed wire lines protected the buildings and areas occupied by the Germans. Apart from the garrison itself, numerous army units were stationed on both banks of the Vistula and in the city. The second category was formed by police and SS under Col. Paul Otto Geibel, numbering initially 5,710 men, including Schutzpolizei and Waffen-SS. The third category was formed by various auxiliary units, including detachments of the Bahnschutz (rail guard), Werkschutz (factory guard) and the Polish Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans in Poland) and Soviet former POW of the Sonderdienst and Sonderabteilungen paramilitary units.
During the uprising the German side received reinforcements on a daily basis. Stahel was replaced as overall commander by SS-General Erich von dem Bach in early August. As of 20 August 1944, the German units directly involved with fighting in Warsaw comprised 17,000 men arranged in two battle groups: Battle Group Rohr (commanded by Major General Rohr), which included 1,700 soldiers of the anti-communist S.S. Sturmbrigade R.O.N.A. Russkaya Osvoboditelnaya Narodnaya Armiya (Russian National Liberation Army, also known as Kaminski Brigade) under German command made up of Russian, Belorussian and Ukrainian collaborators, and Battle Group Reinefarth commanded by SS-Gruppenführer Heinz Reinefarth, which consisted of Attack Group Dirlewanger (commanded by Oskar Dirlewanger), which included Aserbaidschanische Legion (part of the Ostlegionen), Attack Group Reck (commanded by Major Reck), Attack Group Schmidt (commanded by Colonel Schmidt) and various support and backup units. The Nazi forces included about 5,000 regular troops; 4,000 Luftwaffe personnel (1,000 at Okęcie airport, 700 at Bielany, 1,000 in Boernerowo, 300 at Służewiec and 1,000 in anti-air artillery posts throughout the city); as well as about 2,000 men of the Sentry Regiment Warsaw (Wachtregiment Warschau), including four infantry battalions (Patz, Baltz, No. 996 and No. 997), and an SS reconnaissance squadron with ca. 350 men.
After days of hesitation, at 17:00 on 31 July, the Polish headquarters scheduled "W-hour" (from the Polish wybuch, "explosion"), the moment of the start of the uprising for 17:00 on the following day. The decision was a strategic miscalculation because the under-equipped resistance forces were prepared and trained for a series of coordinated surprise dawn attacks. In addition, although many units were already mobilized and waiting at assembly points throughout the city, the mobilization of thousands of young men and women was hard to conceal. Fighting started in advance of "W-hour", notably in Żoliborz, and around Napoleon Square and Dąbrowski Square. The Germans had anticipated the possibility of an uprising, though they had not realized its size or strength. At 16:30 Governor Fischer put the garrison on full alert.
That evening the resistance captured a major German arsenal, the main post office and power station and the Prudential building. However, Castle Square, the police district, and the airport remained in German hands. The first days were crucial in establishing the battlefield for the rest of the fight. The resistance fighters were most successful in the City Centre, Old Town, and Wola districts. However, several major German strongholds remained, and in some areas of Wola the Poles sustained heavy losses that forced an early retreat. In other areas such as Mokotów, the attackers almost completely failed to secure any objectives and controlled only the residential areas. In Praga, on the east bank of the Vistula, the Poles were sent back into hiding by a high concentration of German forces. Most crucially, the fighters in different areas failed to link up with each other and with areas outside Warsaw, leaving each sector isolated from the others. After the first hours of fighting, many units adopted a more defensive strategy, while civilians began erecting barricades. Despite all the problems, by 4 August the majority of the city was in Polish hands, although some key strategic points remained untaken.
My Führer, the timing is unfortunate, but from a historical perspective what the Poles are doing is a blessing. After five, six weeks we shall leave. But by then Warsaw, the capital, the head, the intelligence of this former 16–17 million Polish people will be extinguished, this Volk that has blocked our way to the east for seven hundred years and has stood in our way ever since the First Battle of Tannenberg [in 1410]. After this the Polish problem will no longer be a great historical problem for the children who come after us, nor indeed will it be for us.
The uprising was intended to last a few days until Soviet forces arrived; however, this never happened, and the Polish forces had to fight with little outside assistance. The results of the first two days of fighting in different parts of the city were as follows:
An additional area within the Polish command structure was formed by the units of the Directorate of Sabotage and Diversion or Kedyw, an elite formation that was to guard the headquarters and was to be used as an "armed ambulance", thrown into the battle in the most endangered areas. These units secured parts of Śródmieście and Wola; along with the units of Area I, they were the most successful during the first few hours.
Among the most notable primary targets that were not taken during the opening stages of the uprising were the airfields of Okęcie and Mokotów Field, as well as the PAST skyscraper overlooking the city centre and the Gdańsk railway station guarding the passage between the centre and the northern borough of Żoliborz.
The Uprising reached its apogee on 4 August when the Home Army soldiers managed to establish front lines in the westernmost boroughs of Wola and Ochota. However, it was also the moment at which the German army stopped its retreat westwards and began receiving reinforcements. On the same day SS General Erich von dem Bach was appointed commander of all the forces employed against the Uprising. German counter-attacks aimed to link up with the remaining German pockets and then cut off the Uprising from the Vistula river. Among the reinforcing units were forces under the command of Heinz Reinefarth.
On 5 August Reinefarth's three attack groups started their advance westward along Wolska and Górczewska streets toward the main East-West communication line of Jerusalem Avenue. Their advance was halted, but the regiments began carrying out Heinrich Himmler's orders: behind the lines, special SS, police and Wehrmacht groups went from house to house, shooting the inhabitants regardless of age or gender and burning their bodies. Estimates of civilians killed in Wola and Ochota range from 20,000 to 50,000, 40,000 by 8 August in Wola alone, or as high as 100,000. The main perpetrators were Oskar Dirlewanger and Bronislav Kaminski, whose forces committed the cruelest atrocities.
The policy was designed to crush the Poles' will to fight and put the uprising to an end without having to commit to heavy city fighting. With time, the Germans realized that atrocities only stiffened resistance and that some political solution should be found, as the thousands of men at the disposal of the German commander were unable to effectively counter the resistance in an urban guerrilla setting. They aimed to gain a significant victory to show the Home Army the futility of further fighting and induce them to surrender. This did not succeed. Until mid-September, the Germans shot all captured resistance fighters on the spot, but from the end of September, some of the captured Polish soldiers were treated as POWs.
This is the fiercest of our battles since the start of the war. It compares to the street battles of Stalingrad.
Despite the loss of Wola, the Polish resistance strengthened. Zośka and Wacek battalions managed to capture the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto and liberate the Gęsiówka concentration camp, freeing about 350 Jews. The area became one of the main communication links between the resistance fighting in Wola and those defending the Old Town. On 7 August German forces were strengthened by the arrival of tanks using civilians as human shields. After two days of heavy fighting they managed to bisect Wola and reach Bankowy Square. However, by then the net of barricades, street fortifications, and tank obstacles were already well-prepared; both sides reached a stalemate, with heavy house-to-house fighting.
Between 9 and 18 August pitched battles raged around the Old Town and nearby Bankowy Square, with successful attacks by the Germans and counter-attacks from the Poles. German tactics hinged on bombardment through the use of heavy artillery and tactical bombers, against which the Poles were unable to effectively defend, as they lacked anti-aircraft artillery weapons. Even clearly marked hospitals were dive-bombed by Stukas.
Although the Battle of Stalingrad had already shown the danger a city can pose to armies which fight within it and the importance of local support, the Warsaw Uprising was probably the first demonstration that in an urban terrain, a vastly under-equipped force supported by the civilian population can hold its own against better-equipped professional soldiers—though at the cost of considerable sacrifice on the part of the city's residents.
The Poles held the Old Town until a decision to withdraw was made at the end of August. On successive nights until 2 September, the defenders of the Old Town withdrew through the sewers, which were a major means of communication between different parts of the Uprising. Thousands of people were evacuated in this way. Those that remained were either shot or transported to concentration camps like Mauthausen and Sachsenhausen once the Germans regained control.
Soviet attacks on the 4th SS Panzer Corps east of Warsaw were renewed on 26 August, and the Germans were forced to retreat into Praga. The Soviet army under the command of Konstantin Rokossovsky captured Praga and arrived on the east bank of the Vistula in mid-September. By 13 September, the Germans had destroyed the remaining bridges over the Vistula, signalling that they were abandoning all their positions east of the river. In the Praga area, Polish units under the command of General Zygmunt Berling (thus sometimes known as berlingowcy – "the Berling men") fought on the Soviet side. Three patrols of his First Polish Army (1 Armia Wojska Polskiego) landed in the Czerniaków and Powiśle areas and made contact with Home Army forces on the night of 14/15 September. The artillery cover and air support provided by the Soviets was unable to effectively counter enemy machine-gun fire as the Poles crossed the river, and the landing troops sustained heavy losses. Only small elements of the main units made it ashore (I and III battalions of 9th infantry regiment, 3rd Infantry Division).
The limited landings by the 1st Polish Army represented the only external ground force which arrived to physically support the uprising; and even they were curtailed by the Soviet High Command due to the losses they took.
The Germans intensified their attacks on the Home Army positions near the river to prevent any further landings, but were not able to make any significant advances for several days while Polish forces held those vital positions in preparation for a new expected wave of Soviet landings. Polish units from the eastern shore attempted several more landings, and from 15 to 23 September sustained heavy losses (including the destruction of all their landing boats and most of their other river crossing equipment). Red Army support was inadequate. After the failure of repeated attempts by the 1st Polish Army to link up with the resistance, the Soviets limited their assistance to sporadic artillery and air support. Conditions that prevented the Germans from dislodging the resistance also acted to prevent the Poles from dislodging the Germans. Plans for a river crossing were suspended "for at least 4 months", since operations against the 9th Army's five panzer divisions were problematic at that point, and the commander of the 1st Polish Army, General Berling was relieved of his duties by his Soviet superiors.
On the night of 19 September, after no further attempts from the other side of the river were made and the promised evacuation of wounded did not take place, Home Army soldiers and landed elements of the 1st Polish Army were forced to begin a retreat from their positions on the bank of the river. Out of approximately 900 men who made it ashore only a handful made it back to the eastern shore of the Vistula. Berling's Polish Army losses in the attempt to aid the Uprising were 5,660 killed, missing or wounded. From this point on, the Warsaw Uprising can be seen as a one-sided war of attrition or, alternatively, as a fight for acceptable terms of surrender. The Poles were besieged in three areas of the city: Śródmieście, Żoliborz and Mokotów.
In 1939 Warsaw had roughly 1,350,000 inhabitants. Over a million were still living in the city at the start of the Uprising. In Polish-controlled territory, during the first weeks of the Uprising, people tried to recreate the normal day-to-day life of their free country. Cultural life was vibrant, both among the soldiers and civilian population, with theatres, post offices, newspapers and similar activities. Boys and girls of the Polish Scouts acted as couriers for an underground postal service, risking their lives daily to transmit any information that might help their people. Near the end of the Uprising, lack of food, medicine, overcrowding and indiscriminate German air and artillery assault on the city made the civilian situation more and more desperate. Booby traps, such as thermite-laced candy pieces, may have also been used in German-controlled districts of Warsaw; targeting Polish youth.
As the Uprising was supposed to be relieved by the Soviets in a matter of days, the Polish underground did not predict food shortages would be a problem. However, as the fighting dragged on, the inhabitants of the city faced hunger and starvation. A major break-through took place on 6 August, when Polish units recaptured the Haberbusch i Schiele brewery complex at Ceglana Street. From that time on the citizens of Warsaw lived mostly on barley from the brewery's warehouses. Every day up to several thousand people organized into cargo teams reported to the brewery for bags of barley and then distributed them in the city centre. The barley was then ground in coffee grinders and boiled with water to form a so-called spit-soup (Polish: pluj-zupa). The "Sowiński" Battalion managed to hold the brewery until the end of the fighting.
Another serious problem for civilians and soldiers alike was a shortage of water. By mid-August most of the water conduits were either out of order or filled with corpses. In addition, the main water pumping station remained in German hands. To prevent the spread of epidemics and provide the people with water, the authorities ordered all janitors to supervise the construction of water wells in the backyards of every house. On 21 September the Germans blew up the remaining pumping stations at Koszykowa Street and after that the public wells were the only source of potable water in the besieged city. By the end of September, the city centre had more than 90 functioning wells.
Before the Uprising the Bureau of Information and Propaganda of the Home Army had set up a group of war correspondents. Headed by Antoni Bohdziewicz, the group made three newsreels and over 30,000 meters of film tape documenting the struggles. The first newsreel was shown to the public on 13 August in the Palladium cinema at Złota Street. In addition to films, dozens of newspapers appeared from the very first days of the uprising. Several previously underground newspapers started to be distributed openly. The two main daily newspapers were the government-run Rzeczpospolita Polska and military Biuletyn Informacyjny. There were also several dozen newspapers, magazines, bulletins and weeklies published routinely by various organizations and military units.
The Błyskawica long-range radio transmitter, assembled on 7 August in the city centre, was run by the military, but was also used by the recreated Polish Radio from 9 August. It was on the air three or four times a day, broadcasting news programmes and appeals for help in Polish, English, German and French, as well as reports from the government, patriotic poems and music. It was the only such radio station in German-held Europe. Among the speakers appearing on the resistance radio were Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, Zbigniew Świętochowski, Stefan Sojecki, Jeremi Przybora, and John Ward, a war correspondent for The Times of London.
According to many historians, a major cause of the eventual failure of the uprising was the almost complete lack of outside support and the late arrival of that which did arrive. The Polish government-in-exile carried out frantic diplomatic efforts to gain support from the Western Allies prior to the start of battle but the allies would not act without Soviet approval. The Polish government in London asked the British several times to send an allied mission to Poland. However, the British mission did not arrive until December 1944. Shortly after their arrival, they met up with Soviet authorities, who arrested and imprisoned them. In the words of the mission's deputy commander, it was "a complete failure". Nevertheless, from August 1943 to July 1944, over 200 British Royal Air Force (RAF) flights dropped an estimated 146 Polish personnel trained in Great Britain, over 4000 containers of supplies, and $16 million in banknotes and gold to the Home Army.
The only support operation which ran continuously for the duration of the Uprising were night supply drops by long-range planes of the RAF, other British Commonwealth air forces, and units of the Polish Air Force, which had to use distant airfields in Italy, reducing the amount of supplies they could carry. The RAF made 223 sorties and lost 34 aircraft. The effect of these airdrops was mostly psychological—they delivered too few supplies for the needs of the resistance, and many airdrops landed outside Polish-controlled territory.
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
From 4 August the Western Allies began supporting the Uprising with airdrops of munitions and other supplies. Initially the flights were carried out mostly by the 1568th Polish Special Duties Flight of the Polish Air Force (later renamed No. 301 Polish Bomber Squadron) stationed in Bari and Brindisi in Italy, flying B-24 Liberator, Handley Page Halifax and Douglas C-47 Dakota planes. Later on, at the insistence of the Polish government-in-exile, they were joined by the Liberators of 2 Wing –No.31 and No. 34 Squadrons of the South African Air Force based at Foggia in Southern Italy, and Halifaxes, flown by No. 148 and No. 178 RAF Squadrons. The drops by British, Polish and South African forces continued until 21 September. The total weight of allied drops varies according to source (104 tons, 230 tons or 239 tons), over 200 flights were made.
The Soviet Union did not allow the Western Allies to use its airports for the airdrops for several weeks, so the planes had to use bases in the United Kingdom and Italy which reduced their carrying weight and number of sorties. The Allies' specific request for the use of landing strips made on 20 August was denied by Stalin on 22 August. Stalin referred to the Polish resistance as "a handful of criminals" and stated that the Uprising was inspired by "enemies of the Soviet Union". Thus, by denying landing rights to Allied aircraft on Soviet-controlled territory the Soviets vastly limited effectiveness of Allied assistance to the Uprising, and even fired at Allied airplanes which carried supplies from Italy and strayed into Soviet-controlled airspace.
American support was also limited. After Stalin's objections to supporting the uprising, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill telegraphed U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt on 25 August and proposed sending planes in defiance of Stalin, to "see what happens". Unwilling to upset Stalin before the Yalta Conference, Roosevelt replied on 26 August: "I do not consider it advantageous to the long-range general war prospect for me to join you".
Finally on 18 September the Soviets allowed a USAAF flight of 107 B-17 Flying Fortresses of the Eighth Air Force's 3rd Division to re-fuel and reload at Soviet airfields used in Operation Frantic, but it was too little too late. The planes dropped 100 tons of supplies but only 20 were recovered by the resistance due to the wide area over which they were spread. The vast majority of supplies fell into German-held areas. The USAAF lost two B-17s with a further seven damaged. The aircraft landed at the Operation Frantic airbases in the Soviet Union, where they were rearmed and refueled, and the next day 100 B-17s and 61 P-51s left the USSR to bomb the marshalling yard at Szolnok in Hungary on their way back to bases in Italy. Soviet intelligence reports show that Soviet commanders on the ground near Warsaw estimated that 96% of the supplies dropped by the Americans fell into German hands. From the Soviet perspective, the Americans were supplying the Nazis instead of aiding the Polish resistance. The Soviets refused permission for any further American flights until 30 September, by which time the weather was too poor to fly, and the Uprising was nearly over.
Between 13 and 30 September Soviet aircraft commenced their own re-supply missions, dropping arms, medicines and food supplies. Initially these supplies were dropped in canisters without parachutes which led to damage and loss of the contents. Also, a large number of canisters fell into German hands. The Soviet Air Forces flew 2535 re-supply sorties with small bi-plane Polikarpov Po-2's, delivering a total of 156 50-mm mortars, 505 anti-tank rifles, 1478 sub-machine guns, 520 rifles, 669 carbines, 41 780 hand grenades, 37 216 mortar shells, over 3 mln. cartridges, 131.2 tons of food and 515 kg of medicine.
Although German air defence over the Warsaw area itself was almost non-existent, about 12% of the 296 planes taking part in the operations were lost because they had to fly 1,600 kilometres (990 miles) out and the same distance back over heavily defended enemy territory (112 out of 637 Polish and 133 out of 735 British and South African airmen were shot down). Most of the drops were made during the night, at no more than 30–90 m (100–300 ft) altitude, and poor accuracy left many parachuted packages stranded behind German-controlled territory (only about 50 tons of supplies, less than 50% delivered, was recovered by the resistance).
The level of losses during the operation was very high, especially for the conditions of mid-1944. In the first flight on 4-5 August, 5 out of 7 aircraft were lost. . In subsequent flights, the level of losses decreased, but remained very high. For example, on August 13-14, 3 planes out of 28 were shot down, and 4 planes were forced to make forced landings in territories occupied by the USSR due to damage. 
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
The role of the Red Army during the Warsaw Uprising remains controversial and is still disputed by historians. The Uprising started when the Red Army appeared on the city's doorstep, and the Poles in Warsaw were counting on Soviet front capturing or forwarding beyond the city in a matter of days. This basic scenario of an uprising against the Germans, launched a few days before the arrival of Allied forces, played out successfully in a number of European capitals, such as Paris and Prague. However, despite easy capture of area south-east of Warsaw barely 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from the city centre and holding these positions for about 40 days, the Soviets did not extend any effective aid to the resistance within Warsaw. At that time city outskirts were defended by the under-manned and under-equipped German 73rd Infantry Division which was destroyed many times on the Eastern Front and was yet-again being reconstituted. The weak German defence forces did not experience any significant Soviet pressure during that period, which effectively allowed them to strengthen German forces fighting against uprising in the city itself.
The Red Army was fighting intense battles further to the south of Warsaw, to seize and maintain bridgeheads over the Vistula river, and to the north of the city, to gain bridgeheads over the river Narew. The best German armoured divisions were fighting on those sectors. Despite the fact, both of these objectives had been mostly secured by September. Yet the Soviet 47th Army did not move into Praga (Warsaw's suburbs) on the right bank of the Vistula, until 11 September (when the Uprising was basically over). In three days the Soviets quickly gained control of the suburb, a few hundred meters from the main battle on the other side of the river, as the resistance by the German 73rd Division collapsed quickly. Had the Soviets done this in early August, the crossing of the river would have been easier, as the Poles then held considerable stretches of the riverfront. However, by mid-September a series of German attacks had reduced the Poles to holding one narrow stretch of the riverbank, in the district of Czerniaków. The Poles were counting on the Soviet forces to cross to the left bank where the main battle of the uprising was occurring. Though Berling's communist 1st Polish Army did cross the river, their support from the Soviets was inadequate and the main Soviet force did not follow them.
One of the reasons given for the collapse of the Uprising was the reluctance of the Soviet Red Army to help the Polish resistance. On 1 August, the day of Uprising, the Soviet advance was halted by a direct order from the Kremlin. Soon afterwards the Soviet tank units stopped receiving any oil from their depots. Soviets knew of the planned outbreak from their agents in Warsaw and, more importantly, directly from the Polish Prime Minister Stanisław Mikołajczyk, who informed them of the Polish Home Army uprising plans:
One way or the other, the presence of Soviet tanks in nearby Wołomin 15 kilometers to the east of Warsaw had sealed the decision of the Home Army leaders to launch the Uprising. However, as a result of the initial battle of Radzymin in the final days of July, these advance units of the Soviet 2nd Tank Army were pushed out of Wołomin and back about 10 kilometres (6.2 miles). On 9 August, Stalin informed Premier Mikołajczyk that the Soviets had originally planned to be in Warsaw by 6 August, but a counter-attack by four Panzer divisions had thwarted their attempts to reach the city. By 10 August, the Germans had enveloped and inflicted heavy casualties on the Soviet 2nd Tank Army at Wołomin.
On 1 August 1944, the underground Polish Home Army, being in contact with and loyal to the Polish government-in-exile in London, began offensive operations in Warsaw, in an attempt to free the city from the occupying German forces before the Red Army could secure the capital. Zygmunt Berling became the deputy commander of the Polish Army in the USSR on 22 July 1944. With his own army stopped on the Vistula River and facing Warsaw itself, and without first consulting his Soviet superiors, Berling may have independently issued orders to engage the German enemy and to come to the aid of the Polish resistance. But it was a small landing without any tactical support from Berling or other Soviet units that could not make a difference in the situation of Warsaw. Yet this behaviour may have caused Berlings' dismissal from his post soon after.
When Stalin and Churchill met face-to-face in October 1944, Stalin told Churchill that the lack of Soviet support was a direct result of a major reverse in the Vistula sector in August, which had to be kept secret for strategic reasons. All contemporary German sources assumed that the Soviets were trying to link up with the resistance, and they believed it was their defence that prevented the Soviet advance rather than a reluctance to advance on the part of the Soviets. Nevertheless, as part of their strategy the Germans published propaganda accusing both the British and Soviets of abandoning the Poles.
The Soviet units which reached the outskirts of Warsaw in the final days of July 1944 had advanced from the 1st Belorussian Front in Western Ukraine as part of the Lublin–Brest Offensive, between the Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive on its left and Operation Bagration on its right. These two flanking operations were colossal defeats for the German army and completely destroyed a large number of German formations. As a consequence, the Germans at this time were desperately trying to put together a new force to hold the line of the Vistula, the last major river barrier between the Red Army and Germany proper, rushing in units in various stages of readiness from all over Europe. These included many infantry units of poor quality, and 4–5 high quality Panzer Divisions in the 39th Panzer Corps and 4th SS Panzer Corps pulled from their refits.
Other explanations for Soviet conduct are possible. The Red Army geared for a major thrust into the Balkans through Romania in mid-August and a large proportion of Soviet resources was sent in that direction, while the offensive in Poland was put on hold. Stalin had made a strategic decision to concentrate on occupying Eastern Europe, rather than on making a thrust toward Germany. The capture of Warsaw was not essential for the Soviets, as they had already seized a series of convenient bridgeheads to the south of Warsaw, and were concentrating on defending them against vigorous German counterattacks. Finally, the Soviet High Command may not have developed a coherent or appropriate strategy with regard to Warsaw because they were badly misinformed. Propaganda from the Polish Committee of National Liberation minimized the strength of the Home Army and portrayed them as Nazi sympathizers. Information submitted to Stalin by intelligence operatives or gathered from the frontline was often inaccurate or omitted key details. Possibly because the operatives were unable, due to the harsh political climate, to express opinions or report facts honestly, they "deliberately resorted to writing nonsense".
According to David Glantz (military historian and a retired US Army colonel, as well as a member of the Russian Federation's Academy of Natural Sciences), the Red Army was simply unable to extend effective support to the uprising, which began too early, regardless of Stalin's political intentions. German military capabilities in August—early September were sufficient to halt any Soviet assistance to the Poles in Warsaw, were it intended. In addition, Glantz argued that Warsaw would be a costly city to clear of Germans and an unsuitable location as a start point for subsequent Red Army offensives.
Declassified documents from Soviet archives reveal that Stalin gave instructions to cut off the Warsaw resistance from any outside help. The urgent orders issued to the Red Army troops in Poland on 23 August 1944 stipulated that the Home Army units in Soviet-controlled areas should be prevented from reaching Warsaw and helping the Uprising, their members apprehended and disarmed. Only from mid-September, under pressure from the Western Allies, the Soviets began to provide some limited assistance to the resistance.
Several units of the Royal Hungarian Army were stationed around Warsaw before and during the uprising. Hungarians and Poles have maintained very friendly relations for centuries and neither individual soldiers nor their commanders wished to break this tradition. Hungarian military bands often played Polish patriotic songs and anthems which were banned under the death penalty by the Germans, or rendered aid in their field hospitals to wounded Polish partisans. Although their troops were formally subordinated to the German 9th army, they refused to participate in the quelling of the uprising. Instead they supported the Polish side as much as it was possible without actually switching sides and getting into an open conflict with the Germans.
Since August 1943 the elite Hungarian 1st Cavalry Division were stationed on the outskirts of the Polish capital, in the forests of Kampinos. The unit was withdrawn from the front for recuperation and refitting. When the uprising began, the Hungarian soldiers passed equipment, food, supplies, even weapons and ammunition to Polish fighters who they were supposed to disarm and capture. They also informed them about German plans and troop movements. Very often the two sides agreed to feign a "partisan attack" on supply vehicles, and after a mock firefight the Hungarians "fled" and let the Poles "pillage" their supplies, which often included large shipments of firearms. At other times they let Polish units through their lines but blocked the way from Germans who were chasing them. At other times individual Polish soldiers found asylum at Hungarian units who "captured" and refused to extradite them to the Germans. There were several incidents when Hungarian soldiers threatened Germans with weapons to protect these refugees. When the Germans ordered the 5th Hungarian infantry division to withdraw from Warsaw's vicinity, they left behind equipment and ammunition for the partisans. They also frequently provided them with Hungarian uniforms. Ironically the Poles and the Hungarians mostly communicated in German language which they both knew.
During one event, when the German radio reconnaissance successfully located a strategically important Polish radio station, the Hungarian radio operators thwarted the German raid to capture the station by jamming German radio frequencies.
The 23rd Reserve Division, commanded by Major General Gusztáv Deseő passed on information to the Polish partisans about which bridges can be destroyed in the area without making the Germans suspicious of the Hungarians. In the area between the towns of Tomaszów Mazowiecki and Radom, near Diabla Góra (Devil's Hill) the same unit got into a firefight with an approximately 200-strong German military police detachment and freed several hundred Polish and Jewish prisoners from a train headed to the concentration camp at Pruszków.
This cooperation wasn't unofficial or occasional. General Antal Vattay, commander of the Hungarian troops was in secret talks of the leadership of the Polish resistance and held several meetings at various locations. These negotiations were conducted with the knowledge and permission of the Hungarian government and personally Admiral Miklós Horthy, Regent of Hungary. As it was feared that the Germans may try to arrest Vattay, he was recalled to Budapest and replaced with General Béla Lengyel, who used to be the military attaché to the Hungarian embassy in Warsaw before the war. If possible, he was even more sympathetic to the Polish case than his predecessor and personally knew some of the leaders of the Polish resistance, including General Bór-Komorowski. Ultimately the Hungarians offered to switch sides and openly engage German troops in combat if the Polish leaders could provide guarantees that the Soviets later won't treat them as enemy combatants. As the Poles were not in the position to make such assurances, this never happened.
There also are several recorded cases of Hungarian soldiers defecting to the Polish side and fighting with them. Some of them died in the firefights, and some were executed by the Germans. The 1st Cavalry Division also participated in the rescue of Polish civilians from German atrocities. At least 1600 Warsaw families got away from SS troops on Hungarian military vehicles. Many of them were smuggled to Hungary. Ksenia Martyszówna, a famous Polish interwar actress, known as Xenia Grey, was one of them.
The 9th Army has crushed the final resistance in the southern Vistula circle. The resistance fought to the very last bullet.— German report, 23 September (T 4924/44)
By the first week of September both German and Polish commanders realized that the Soviet army was unlikely to act to break the stalemate. The Germans reasoned that a prolonged Uprising would damage their ability to hold Warsaw as the frontline; the Poles were concerned that continued resistance would result in further massive casualties. On 7 September, General Rohr proposed negotiations, which Bór-Komorowski agreed to pursue the following day. Over 8, 9 and 10 September about 20,000 civilians were evacuated by agreement of both sides, and Rohr recognized the right of Home Army soldiers to be treated as military combatants. The Poles suspended talks on the 11th, as they received news that the Soviets were advancing slowly through Praga. A few days later, the arrival of the 1st Polish army breathed new life into the resistance and the talks collapsed.
However, by the morning of 27 September, the Germans had retaken Mokotów. Talks restarted on 28 September. In the evening of 30 September, Żoliborz fell to the Germans. The Poles were being pushed back into fewer and fewer streets, and their situation was ever more desperate. On the 30th, Hitler decorated von dem Bach, Dirlewanger and Reinefarth, while in London General Sosnkowski was dismissed as Polish commander-in-chief. Bór-Komorowski was promoted in his place, even though he was trapped in Warsaw. Bór-Komorowski and Prime Minister Mikołajczyk again appealed directly to Rokossovsky and Stalin for a Soviet intervention. None came. According to Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov, who was by this time at the Vistula front, both he and Rokossovsky advised Stalin against an offensive because of heavy Soviet losses.
The capitulation order of the remaining Polish forces was finally signed on 2 October. All fighting ceased that evening. According to the agreement, the Wehrmacht promised to treat Home Army soldiers in accordance with the Geneva Convention, and to treat the civilian population humanely.
The next day the Germans began to disarm the Home Army soldiers. They later sent 15,000 of them to POW camps in various parts of Germany. Between 5,000 and 6,000 resistance fighters decided to blend into the civilian population hoping to continue the fight later. The entire civilian population of Warsaw was expelled from the city and sent to a transit camp Durchgangslager 121 in Pruszków. Out of 350,000–550,000 civilians who passed through the camp, 90,000 were sent to labour camps in the Third Reich, 60,000 were shipped to death and concentration camps (including Ravensbrück, Auschwitz, and Mauthausen, among others), while the rest were transported to various locations in the General Government and released.
The Eastern Front remained static in the Vistula sector, with the Soviets making no attempt to push forward, until the Vistula–Oder Offensive began on 12 January 1945. Almost entirely destroyed, Warsaw was liberated from the Germans on 17 January 1945 by the Red Army and the First Polish Army.
The city must completely disappear from the surface of the earth and serve only as a transport station for the Wehrmacht. No stone can remain standing. Every building must be razed to its foundation.
The destruction of the Polish capital was planned before the start of World War II. On 20 June 1939, while Adolf Hitler was visiting an architectural bureau in Würzburg am Main, his attention was captured by a project of a future German town – "Neue deutsche Stadt Warschau". According to the Pabst Plan Warsaw was to be turned into a provincial German city. It was soon included as a part of the great Germanization plan of the East; the genocidal Generalplan Ost. The failure of the Warsaw Uprising provided an opportunity for Hitler to begin the transformation.
After the remaining population had been expelled, the Germans continued the destruction of the city. Special groups of German engineers were dispatched to burn and demolish the remaining buildings. According to German plans, after the war Warsaw was to be turned into nothing more than a military transit station, or even an artificial lake – the latter of which the Nazi leadership had already intended to implement for the Soviet/Russian capital of Moscow in 1941. The demolition squads used flamethrowers and explosives to methodically destroy house after house. They paid special attention to historical monuments, Polish national archives and places of interest.
By January 1945, 85% of the buildings were destroyed: 25% as a result of the Uprising, 35% as a result of systematic German actions after the uprising, and the rest as a result of the earlier Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the September 1939 campaign. Material losses are estimated at 10,455 buildings, 923 historical buildings (94%), 25 churches, 14 libraries including the National Library, 81 primary schools, 64 high schools, University of Warsaw and Warsaw University of Technology, and most of the historical monuments. Almost a million inhabitants lost all of their possessions. The exact amount of losses of private and public property as well as pieces of art, monuments of science and culture is unknown but considered enormous. Studies done in the late 1940s estimated total damage at about US$30 billion. In 2004, President of Warsaw Lech Kaczyński, later President of Poland, established a historical commission to estimate material losses that were inflicted upon the city by German authorities. The commission estimated the losses as at least US$31.5 billion at 2004 values. Those estimates were later raised to US$45 billion 2004 US dollars and in 2005, to $54.6 billion.
The exact number of casualties on both sides is unknown. Estimates of Polish casualties fall into roughly similar ranges.
|all declared dead||15,000|
|German||unknown||2,000 to 17,000||9,000||0 to 7,000||2,000 to 5,000|
Estimates of German casualties differ widely. Though the figure of 9,000 German WIA is generally accepted and generates no controversy, there is little agreement as to German irrecoverable losses (KIA+MIA). Until the 1990s the Eastern and the Western historiography stuck to two widely different estimates, the former claiming 17,000 and the latter 2,000. The 17,000 figure was first coined by a 1947 issue of a Warsaw historical journal Dzieje Najnowsze, allegedly based on estimates made by Bach Zelewski when interrogated by his Polish captors (and divided into 10,000 KIA and 7,000 MIA). This figure was initially repeated in West Germany. However, in 1962 a scholarly monograph by Hanns Krannhals coined the 2,000 estimate. It was based on the 1,570 German KIA figure officially reported by Bach in October 1944, rounded up with estimates related to first few days when Bach was not in charge and to losses suffered by 19. PzDiv (not subordinate to Bach), briefly engaged against the Poles in Northern Warsaw during last days of the fightings.
Until the late 20th century the 17,000 figure was consistently and unequivocally quoted in the Polish, though also in the East German and Soviet historiography, be it encyclopedias, scientific monographs or more popular works. It was at times paired or otherwise related to the figure of 16,000 German Warsaw KIA+MIA listed by the so-called Gehlen report of April 1945. The 2,000 figure was accepted in West Germany and generally spilled over to Western historiography; exceptions were studies written in English by the Poles and some other works.
Recently the Polish historiography has been increasingly turning towards the 2,000 figure. Komorowski, who in 1995 opted for 16,000, changed his mind and 10 years later cautiously subscribed to the 2,000 figure; also scholars like Sawicki and Rozwadowski tentatively followed suit. The discrepancy is tackled head-on in a popular work of Bączyk, who concludes that 3,000 is the maximum conceivable (though not the most probable) figure. In his 2016 analysis Sowa dismissed the 17,000 figure as “entirely improbable” and suggested that its longevity and popularity resulted from manipulation on part of apologists of the Rising. In popular discourse in Poland the 17,000 figure still remains in wide circulation. Popular media seem bewildered; the most popular Polish internet portal Onet in its news section favors the 2,000 figure and in its educational section opts for 17,000.
Beyond Poland and Germany both figures remain in circulation, though the ones of 16-17,000 seem to be on the rise. In the Russian historiography it is given clear preference, be it in encyclopedias and dictionaries or general works; the same opinion might be found in Belorussia. The 17,000 estimate made it also to the English literature, quoted with no reservations in popular compendia, warfare manuals and a handful of other works. The figure is advanced also by established institutions like BBC. Other works in English offer a number of approaches; some quote both sides with no own preference, some provide ambiguous descriptions, some set 17,000 irrecoverable losses as an upper limit, some provide odd numbers perhaps resulting from incompetent quotations and some remain silent on the issue altogether, which is the case of the only major English monograph.
Among amateur historians the issue keeps generating some interest; discussions on various internet platforms tend to favor the 2,000 figure, be it on English-language fora, Polish ones or those in German. The 17,000 figure is doubted or dismissed on basis of comparative data or various extrapolations; figures provided by Gehlen in 1945 are deemed to refer to the overall German losses in and around Warsaw, also against the Soviets. A key argument supporting the 17,000 figure – apart from quotations from Bach and Gehlen - are total (KIA+MIA+WIA) losses sustained by Kampfgruppe Dirlewanger, one of a few operational units forming German troops fighting the Poles. They are currently calculated at some 3,500; if extrapolated, they might support the overall 25,000 German casualty estimate.
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.'
Most soldiers of the Home Army (including those who took part in the Warsaw Uprising) were persecuted after the war; captured by the NKVD or UB political police. They were interrogated and imprisoned on various charges, such as that of fascism. Many of them were sent to Gulags, executed or disappeared. Between 1944 and 1956, all of the former members of Battalion Zośka were incarcerated in Soviet prisons. In March 1945, a staged trial of 16 leaders of the Polish Underground State held by the Soviet Union took place in Moscow – (the Trial of the Sixteen). The Government Delegate, together with most members of the Council of National Unity and the C-i-C of the Armia Krajowa, were invited by Soviet general Ivan Serov with agreement of Joseph Stalin to a conference on their eventual entry to the Soviet-backed Provisional Government.
They were presented with a warrant of safety, yet they were arrested in Pruszków by the NKVD on 27 and 28 March. Leopold Okulicki, Jan Stanisław Jankowski and Kazimierz Pużak were arrested on the 27th with 12 more the next day. A. Zwierzynski had been arrested earlier. They were brought to Moscow for interrogation in the Lubyanka. After several months of brutal interrogation and torture, they were presented with the forged accusations of collaboration with Nazis and planning a military alliance with Germany. Many resistance fighters, captured by the Germans and sent to POW camps in Germany, were later liberated by British, American and Polish forces and remained in the West. Among those were the leaders of the uprising Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski and Antoni Chruściel.
The Soviet government labelled all S.S. Sturmbrigade R.O.N.A. Russkaya Osvoboditelnaya Narodnaya Armiya soldiers as traitors, and those who were repatriated were tried and sentenced to detention in Soviet prisons or executed. In the 1950s and 1960s in the USSR, dozens of other former R.O.N.A. members were found, some of them also sentenced to death.
The facts of the Warsaw Uprising were inconvenient to Stalin, and were twisted by propaganda of the People's Republic of Poland, which stressed the failings of the Home Army and the Polish government-in-exile, and forbade all criticism of the Red Army or the political goals of Soviet strategy. In the immediate post-war period, the very name of the Home Army was censored, and most films and novels covering the 1944 Uprising were either banned or modified so that the name of the Home Army did not appear. From the 1950s on, Polish propaganda depicted the soldiers of the Uprising as brave, but the officers as treacherous, reactionary and characterized by disregard of the losses. The first publications on the topic taken seriously in the West were not issued until the late 1980s. In Warsaw no monument to the Home Army was built until 1989. Instead, efforts of the Soviet-backed People's Army were glorified and exaggerated.
By contrast, in the West the story of the Polish fight for Warsaw was told as a tale of valiant heroes fighting against a cruel and ruthless enemy. It was suggested that Stalin benefited from Soviet non-involvement, as opposition to eventual Soviet control of Poland was effectively eliminated when the Nazis destroyed the partisans. The belief that the Uprising failed because of deliberate procrastination by the Soviet Union contributed to anti-Soviet sentiment in Poland. Memories of the Uprising helped to inspire the Polish labour movement Solidarity, which led a peaceful opposition movement against the Communist government during the 1980s.
Until the 1990s, historical analysis of the events remained superficial because of official censorship and lack of academic interest. Research into the Warsaw Uprising was boosted by the revolutions of 1989, due to the abolition of censorship and increased access to state archives. As of 2004[update], however, access to some material in British, Polish and ex-Soviet archives was still restricted. Further complicating the matter is the British claim that the records of the Polish government-in-exile were destroyed, and material not transferred to British authorities after the war was burnt by the Poles in London in July 1945.
In Poland, 1 August is now a celebrated anniversary. On 1 August 1994, Poland held a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Uprising to which both the German and Russian presidents were invited. Though the German President Roman Herzog attended, the Russian President Boris Yeltsin declined the invitation; other notable guests included the U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Herzog, on behalf of Germany, was the first German statesman to apologize for German atrocities committed against the Polish nation during the Uprising. During the 60th anniversary of the Uprising in 2004, official delegations included: German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, UK deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and US Secretary of State Colin Powell; Pope John Paul II sent a letter to the mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczyński on this occasion. Russia once again did not send a representative. A day before, 31 July 2004, the Warsaw Uprising Museum opened in Warsaw.
Azeri SS volunteer formation during the Warsaw Uprising.
Numerous works have been influenced by and devoted to the Uprising. In literature, they include: Kolumbowie. Rocznik 20 novel by Polish writer Roman Bratny.
In television, they include documentary film The ramparts of Warsaw 1943-44, produced for the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising with support from the European Commission. The Warsaw Uprising is often confused with the revolt in the Warsaw Ghetto which took place a year earlier in the Spring of 1943. Three young Europeans, Alexandra (France), Maria (Poland) and Roman (Germany) meet in Warsaw to enquire into these events; here they meet witnesses who took part in the Warsaw Uprising or lived in the ghetto. Beneath their white hair we can recognise the men and women who formed the living ramparts of freedom in the face of Nazism. Meanwhile, the Polish World War II TV drama series Time Of Honor (Czas honoru; Series 7), which aired in 2014, was entirely devoted to the Warsaw Uprising..
In cinema, they include:
Stalin was very suspicious of the underground, but it was utterly cruel that he wouldn't even try to get supplies in. He refused to let our aeroplanes fly and try to drop supplies for several weeks. And that was a shock to all of us. I think it played a role in all our minds as to the heartlessness of the Russians. Averell Harriman U.S. Ambassador to Russia 1943-46
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