August 1, 2022

Some History About The Warsaw Uprising

An excerpt from, "Remembering the Warsaw Uprising" by Maciej Siekierski, Hoover Institution, October 30, 2004: 

Inside occupied Poland, anti-Nazi resistance was consolidated around the Home Army (Armia Krajowa, in Polish), an underground military organization loyal to the Free Polish government in London, which at its peak in mid-1944 included more than 300,000 soldiers. The Home Army was involved in sabotage, self-defense, and retaliation activities against the Germans. It also provided a great service to the Allies in the area of intelligence, obtaining information on German forces in the east and on the development of Germany’s secret V-1 and V-2 rockets. But the primary purpose of the Home Army was to prepare for the anticipated German military collapse and the liberation of the country. That moment seemed to be at hand in the summer of 1944.

The war in Europe was going well for the Allies in late July 1944. After a successful invasion of Normandy, American and British forces were moving through northern France toward Paris. In Italy, they were already well past Rome. On the Eastern Front, the Germans had suffered a series of devastating losses and seemed to be withdrawing hastily to the west. Soviet tanks had reached the eastern suburbs of Warsaw. It appeared that Warsaw would be the first Allied capital to be liberated from the Nazis. Broadcasts from Moscow called on the Polish people to rise up against the Germans. The Battle for Warsaw was about to begin.

The Home Army offensive began in the afternoon of August 1, 1944. The uprising was expected to last about a week and was seen largely as a “mopping-up” operation. This turned out to be a miscalculation. The Germans decided to make a stand and defend “fortress” Warsaw as the Soviets halted their offensive. The uprising lasted not one but nine weeks, turning into the longest and bloodiest urban insurgency of the Second World War. Despite an initial success in liberating most of the city from the Germans, the tide soon turned against the Home Army. The strength of the two sides was disproportionately in favor of the Germans. The Home Army had at its disposal about 40,000 fighters—including 4,000 women—but no more than 10 percent of them were armed, mostly with light weapons. The Germans had roughly the same number of soldiers, but they were heavily armed, with tanks, artillery, and planes.

An excerpt from, "How the Warsaw Uprising Challenged and Changed Poland" by Piotr Wilczek, The National Interest, July 31, 2017:

The Polish strategy had been to quickly take command of the Polish capital in between the German retreat and ahead of the Russian advance. This action would allow the Polish forces to be masters of their own home and, as it was believed, would hinder the Soviet threat to Polish sovereignty.

However, with the Soviet offensive halted, and Stalin not allowing American and British planes permission to land on Soviet-held Polish territory to refuel, thus inhibiting sufficient Western aid from reaching the Warsaw fighters, the Germans were free to methodically and brutally crush the Warsaw Uprising.

For days the Germans went block by block in Warsaw’s Wola neighborhood, exterminating every man, woman and child they encountered. Forty thousand to fifty thousand people were killed in one week during the Wola massacre. Next Poland’s Old Town was surrounded and pummeled by bombardment until barely a building was left standing. Such actions continued for sixty-three days, as the city became a sea of ruins, and a quarter of a million Polish fighters and civilians were left dead.

An excerpt from, "The Allied Responses to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944" The National WWII Museum, January 18, 2022:

Historians who study the origins of the Cold War have increasingly looked at the two-month long uprising as a significant event that caused relations between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies to unravel. According to the historian Alexandra Richie, for instance, the Warsaw Uprising “laid bare the differences between Poland’s desire for a Western style democracy and freedom, and Stalin’s brutal ambitions to Sovietize postwar Central and Eastern Europe.”

One of the important factors that influenced Stalin’s strategy toward Poland was his incessant desire to establish a series of Communist-backed governments in Eastern Europe. “Refusing help brought international criticism,” Halik Kochanski argues, but assisting in airdrops and providing air support would have necessitated “a reversal in the position taken towards the participants in Operation Tempest and force him to recognize the existence and authority of the AK and Underground Government.”

Although the Warsaw Uprising itself did not cause the Cold War, it was a significant step in that direction since it signified the first conflict in a series of disagreements between Stalin and his allies that would come to shape the postwar.

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 Brandkommandos (arson squads) used flamethrowers and Sprengkommandos (demolition squads) 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.
Video Title: ‘The single most crucial fact about the war’ | The Nazi-Soviet alliance. Source: Polish History. Date Published: June 26, 2020. Description:
‘What would have happened if Poland, rather than the Soviet Union, had accepted Joachim von Ribbentrop’s proposals in 1939? Would the Soviet Union have withstood an invasion of Germany allied with Poland and, perhaps, Romania & Hungary as well? That Germany & Poland did not make an alliance, & that Germany & the Soviet Union did, is perhaps the single most crucial fact about the war.’ ~ Timothy Snyder.