Today marks the 69th Anniversary of the start to the Warsaw Uprising. On August 1, 1944 elements of the Polish Underground (mainly Armia Krajowa [National Army] supported by several other organizations) begun seizing the capital city in order to have it liberated ahead of the Soviet’s arrival. It seemed necessary to secure the reinstitution of the pre-war government without interference from the Kremlin.

Overview:

Boyscouts fighting during Warsaw Uprising
Boyscouts fighting during Warsaw Uprising

At 17:00 (“W” hour) on August 1 some 50 thousand soldiers from various divisions of the Polish Underground attacked key locations along the city defended by some 16 thousand German soldiers. The Germans quickly gave in and majority of Warsaw’s west bank was soon liberated. During the next weeks Germans counter-attacked with Panzer Divisions and Infantry. Bit by bit they managed to retake some parts of the city. In the beginning of September elements of the Soviet 1st Belorussian Front entered the city and by September 14 liberated the entire east bank of the Wisła river. This is where the Soviet attack stopped. Despite a series of trials to break through to the surrounded members of the resistance, by elements of the 1st Polish Army (under Soviet command), all have failed due to the lack of support from the main Soviet forces. Stalin cunningly used the Germans to eliminate the possible opposition to introducing communism in post-war Poland. Allied air-power tried to support the surrounded Polish forces with equipment drops, but these often landed in German held territory. Warsaw suffered dearly for this uprising, by Hitler’s personal order no stone should have been left unturned, and the German Army delivered. On the night of October 2 the surrender of the remaining Polish forces was signed. Some 15 thousand Polish soldiers were taken to POW camps and further 3 thousand managed to flee the city under cover of the civilian columns of refugees forced by the Germans to abandon the ravaged city.

Warsaw Uprising
KEDYW Soldiers – Early Polish Sabotage Special Forces

Aftermath:

The Polish Underground lost some 16 thousand killed, 20 thousand wounded and some 15 thousand send of to POW camps. Different estimates say that between 150-250 thousand civilians got killed during the fighting. Another 500-550 thousand civilians were forced to leave the city of which some 150 thousand were sent off to Concentration camps and Forced Labour camps. During the fighting 25% of all buildings in Warsaw got destroyed, and as part of the German planned eradication of the city after the uprising further 30% of the city got levelled to the ground. Together with the damage sustained at the beginning of the war some 84% of all buildings on the Warsaw’s west bank got destroyed.

The Uprising in current culture:

The Warsaw Uprising 1944

Read Next: The Warsaw Uprising 1944

Warsaw Uprising
Warsaw Uprising – Bombardment

The Warsaw Uprising has been revered as a heroic stand against both the German oppression and a supposed enslavement by the upcoming Soviet forces. Every year at 17:00 on August 1, sirens mark the beginning of the uprising and a minute of silence is celebrated countrywide. Official celebrations in Warsaw are attended by officials and survivors of the uprising at the “Gloria Victis” memorial. In recent years the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising has been erected.

Controversy:

Many years on, voices have surfaced questioning the necessity of conducting the actions in 1944. Some elaborate that the uprising was doomed to fail even before it started and was only an unnecessary waste of human life, not an opinion shared by the surviving members of the Polish Underground. In the recent years official celebrations have been interrupted by right-wing radical groups calling the combatants “Communist Puppets” etc. This naturally caused a lot of grief among the soldiers trying to commemorate their fallen friends many of whom at the time were teenagers. Despite elements of the Armia Ludowa (Peoples Army), Polish Socialist Underground, did take part in the fighting they never made up more then 2-3% of the entire Polish force and thus any such allegations by the right-wing radicals are baseless.

Least we forget that when the big boys begin to play war it can only take 6 years to come from this:

Warsaw 1938

To this:

Warsaw after the uprising, based on photos made by a reconnaissance B-24 Liberator

Stay safe and stand fast,

Sergei