Warsaw Uprising of 1944

Warsaw Uprising of 1944

 

an antifascist armed uprising in Warsaw from Aug. 1 to Oct 2, 1944. It was organized and started by underground reactionary forces, including the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), subordinate to the Polish government-in-exile in London. These reactionary forces wanted to seize political power in the country. According to the military operation which they had planned under the code name of Storm, the Home Army, on the eve of the entry of Soviet troops into Warsaw, was to control the capital for four or five days. This was intended to allow the representatives of the government-in-exile to surface from underground, seize power, and oppose the democratic forces, which on July 21, 1944, had formed a people’s government, the Polish Committee of National Liberation, at Chełm.

The order to begin the uprising was given by the Home Army commander in chief, General T. Bór-Komorowski, on July 31. This decision was based on unsubstantiated rumors that Soviet tanks had appeared in Praga, the right-bank section of Warsaw. The Warsaw Uprising was started on August 1 without consideration or knowledge of the situation on the Soviet-German front. Neither the Soviet command nor the high commands of the Western powers had agreed to the operation. Against well-armed and numerically superior Hitlerites, the leadership of the Warsaw Uprising placed approximately 16,000 men (only 3,500 of whom were armed, and only with light arms).

The Polish left democratic forces attempted to reveal to the Polish people the political designs of the reactionaries and to avert the uprising. However, when the rising of the people of Warsaw, burning with desire to fight the Hitlerite occupiers, began to take on a mass character, the leadership of the Central Committee of the Polish Workers’ Party ordered all Party members and units of the People’s Army (Armia Ludowa) to emerge from underground and fight alongside the demonstrators so that the armed insurrection might be directed toward the struggle for a new, democratic Poland.

Thousands of members of the Polish Worker’s Party and soldiers of the People’s Army died on the barricades of Warsaw along with the insurgents; the entire Warsaw staff of the People’s Army perished amid the ruins of the Stare Miasto (Old City). The participants in the uprising showed exceptional heroism, but under the pressure of the superior Hitlerite forces they were forced out of the areas along the Vistula and driven toward the western part of the city.

Despite the difficult conditions at the front and the unexpectedness of the armed uprising in Warsaw, the Soviet command decided to attack the approaches to the city in order to aid the insurgents. On September 6 troops of the Second Byelorussian Front of the Soviet Army took Ostrołęka and its fortress by storm, closing the approaches to Warsaw from the northeast. On September 10 the attack along the central portion of the First Byelorussian Front began. Having obtained information about the positions in the city occupied by the insurgents, the Soviet command began on September 13 to deploy an operation to assist them from the air. On September 14 the forces of the First Byelorussian Front and units of the Polish Army acting with them gained control of Praga. On September 15 subunits of the Polish Army, acting with units of the Soviet Army, forced a crossing over the Vistula within the boundaries of Warsaw, and created several bridgeheads on the left bank. Fearing the union of Polish Army units and insurgent detachments, the Home Army command, which by this time had already begun holding negotiations with the Hitlerites about conditions for ending the military actions, evacuated the insurgent forces located east of the bridgeheads. As a result of heavy fighting the subunits of the Polish Army were forced by the German fascists from their left-bank bridgeheads. On October 2, Bór-Komorowski signed the conditions of capitulation dictated by the German fascists. During the course of the Warsaw Uprising, which lasted 63 days, approximately 200,000 people perished, and the city was almost entirely destroyed.

The Warsaw Uprising was a heroic and, at the same time, tragic page in the history of the struggle of the Polish people against German fascism to secure their freedom and independence. On the one hand, the Warsaw Uprising was a vivid demonstration of the heroism, patriotism, and tremendous will of the Polish people struggling for the freedom of their homeland. On the other hand, it was an obvious indication of the lack of a sense of responsibility to the people and of the narrow class outlook of the leaders of the Polish bourgeois camp, who, in the name of executing their adventuristic plans, took advantage of the heroism of the people, impelling them to needless bloody sacrifices.

REFERENCES

Kirchmayer, J. Powstanie warszawskie, 3rd ed. [Warsaw] 1960.
Bartelski, L. M. Powstanie warszawskie, [2nd ed.] Warsaw, 1967.
Zaluski, Z. Czterdziesty czwarty: Wydarzenia, obserwacje,refleksje. Warsaw, 1968.

P. K. KOSTIKOV

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