“Each citizen has to be killed, we shall take no prisoners. Warsaw shall be erased from the face of the Earth and served as a deterrent for the whole Europe.”

These are the words of Adolf Hitler after he had been told about the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, which began on August 1, 1944. What happened next was best described by Europe’s executioner, Himmler, one of the most notorious war criminals, who summed up the Uprising as, “…the toughest battle we had to fight since the beginning of war.”

The first few days of the Uprising brought mass killings of the inhabitants of Wola, one of Warsaw’s districts. 20,000 people were shot in one day, which at that time was the bloodiest day of World War II. The climax of the battle was the few days between August 5-7, 1944, when between 38,000-65,000 Polish men, women and children were killed.

In total during the fighting, as a result of air raids, shelling, dire living conditions and at hands of the Germans, between 150,000 to 200,000 civilians living in Warsaw were killed.

Two months of heavy fighting brought Warsaw enormous material loss. 25% of the left side of the city was completely destroyed, while 100% of the Old Town was lost. After the capitulation on October 2, 1944 Reichsführer-SS ordered German troops to take all valuables from the city before annihilating it. His order clearly reads, “This city has to be erased from the face of the Earth and serve only as a handling point for Wehrmacht transport. Nothing shall be spread. All buildings shall be tiered down.”

Until today there have been discussions going on in Poland as to whether the Uprising made sense, but these discussions take place between historians and other experts who did not live during the war. Everyone who survived the German occupation says without a hesitation that Poles had enough of life in an occupied country, under the most severe control in Europe. For every German soldier killed, one hundred Poles were shot or hung; for helping or hiding Jews, an entire family faced the death penalty.

During five years of occupation in Warsaw, street executions and roundups were a part of everyday life. Poles were treated as an inferior nation. When, in 1944, the Eastern Front with the Red Army was approaching Warsaw from the East, it seemed like a good opportunity to rise against the German occupiers. It was also clear that Poland couldn’t count on the Allies to be freed. It was the Red Army or nobody. That, on the other hand, meant a big political change and the possibility of losing the integrity of the Polish land and, in consequence, its independence.

Poles wanted to free their capital themselves. The country had the biggest underground state in Europe with its own resistance. The basic form of fighting was sabotage, diversion, intelligence, propaganda and guerrilla warfare.