Monday, December 17, 2007
The Warsaw Uprising of 1944 — a heroic
The Warsaw Uprising of 1944 — a heroic and tragic 63-day struggle to liberate World War 2 Warsaw from Nazi/German occupation. Undertaken by the Home Army (Armia Krajowa, AK), the Polish resistance group, at the time Allied troops were breaking through the Normandy defenses and the Red Army was standing at the line of the Vistula River.
Warsaw could have been one of the first European capitals liberated; however, various military and political miscalculations, as well as global politics — played among Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) — turned the dice against it.
This site is dedicated to all those who fought for their freedom in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 as well as all those who, as civilians, perished in the effort.
At the end of July of 1944, Poland is in its fifth year of German occupation. On the eastern front, German armies are in full retreat suffering from the Red Army's spring offensive which is approaching Warsaw's eastern suburbs. The liberation of Poland's capital seems to be within reach. [ map ]
General 'Bor' Komorowski, commander of the Polish Underground Home Army (Armia Krajowa, AK), sets the beginning of the uprising in Warsaw against the German occupying forces at 'W-hour'; 5:00 p.m. on August 1, 1944. The uprising is expected to last about a week and have the character of mopping up and disarming operation. The insurgents, however, are unaware that the Germans have decided to defend 'fortress' Warsaw and to counter-attack Red Army forces to the east of the city. [ declarations ].
Warsaw's insurgents an estimated 40,000 soldiers, including 4,000 women, have only enough weapons for 2,500 fighters. They are facing a 15,000-strong German garrison which will grow to a force of 30,000, armed with tanks, planes, and artillery.
Day-to-day events [ day-to-day ]. Eyewitness' reports [ radio dispatches ].
| AUG. 1-2 | AUG. 3-4 | AUG. 5-7 | AUG. 8-16 | AUG. 17-23 | AUG. 24-Sep. 2 | SEP. 3-10 |
| SEP. 11-23 | SEP. 24-30 | OCT. 1-5 | EPILOGUE |
AUGUST 1–2, 1944
Before 'W-Hour' (W for wybuch, outbreak in Polish), thousands of mobilized Home Army soldiers are moving into their planned concentration points. In several City Centre, Wola and Zoliborz locations, the fighting begins ahead of schedule.
Insurgents attack 180 German military installations and the town's key strategic positions. After bloody battles, their attacks upon the bridges, airports, train stations and main military and police installations are repelled.
However, significant areas of the city's left bank districts are captured including: the Prudential high-rise building, the main post office, and the state mint. Gas, electric, and water works are in Polish hands. The Warsaw Power Plant in the Riverside district will be restored to operation providing electrical power for hospitals, printing presses, weapon production facilities, and other services until September, 1944. Communication through the crucial west-east front supplying arteries is severed.
In Wola, insurgents capture a large Waffen-SS food and military uniforms warehouse. Many Polish units chose to wear these uniforms embellished with white and red armbands to represent the national colors. The first day of fighting killed 2,000 insurgents and 500 Germans. At nightfall, a network of street barricades is constructed, blocking the most of the city's arteries.
The first issue of Information Bulletin (Biuletyn Informacyjny) newspaper is published. Overall, over 130 different newspapers and periodicals are published in Warsaw during the Uprising. [ newspapers ]
The Soviet eastern front offensive stops within twelve miles of Praga, the suburb on Warsaw's right bank; it will not resume until September 11, 1944. The Soviet air force abandons the skies over Warsaw to the Luftwaffe.
Heinrich Himmler, head of SS and Gestapo, dispatches relief troops to Warsaw headed by SS Lt. Gen. Heinrich Reinefarth and consisting of SS and police units from Poznan, Dirlewanger penal brigade, Kaminski RONA brigade, Azerbaijan infantry battalion, and others. Units of Hermann Göering division are also arriving. [ rona ]
SS General Erich von dem Bach assumes command of all German forces suppressing the Uprising.
Himmler's gives the order to kill all of the city's inhabitants, not take prisoners, and level Warsaw as an example for the rest of Europe.
The first German aerial bombardment by Ju-87 Stuka which will bomb the city daily. The insurgents have no anti-aircraft weapons to defend the city from the attack.
The uprising in Praga fails because of the overwhelming size of the German forces and the end of the Soviet offensive. The remaining insurgents units return underground or crossing into insurgent-controlled areas inside the city.
In the liberated districts, civil administrative structures operating within the framework of the Polish Underground State start functioning. [ administration ]
A major German offensive with fresh relief troops sent to open east-west thoroughfares begins with attacks on the Wola and Ohota districts.
German troops conduct mass executions of approximately 65,000 civilians in the captured districts. Poles, without regard for age or gender, are rounded up house by house and shot. More than 1, 360 patients and staff of Wola and St. Lazarus hospitals are murdered. The Special Group 'verbrennung-kommando' is collecting and burning the bodies. [ map ]
In Mokotow, female civilians are used as shields in front of tanks that are attacking insurgents' positions. This practice will continue throughout the Uprising. [ atrocities ]
The insurgent battalion Zoska, aided by two captured Panther tanks, liberates 350 Polish and European Jewish prisoners from the Goose Farm concentration camp. Many of the freed Jews join the insurgents. [ saving jews ]
Making a round-trip from Brindisi, Italy the first Allied nighttime airdrop of supplies by Halifax and Consolidated B24 Liberator planes reaches Warsaw. [ airlift ]
The siege of Brühl Palace, a government complex near Saxon Garden is lifted by German forces breaking through Wola district. The German Governor of Warsaw region Ludwig Fischer, and Warsaw garrison commander general Reiner Stahel leave the building escorted by tanks. With the fall of Wola, the Old Town quarter is cut off from the City Centre and surrounded.
In Warsaw's Pruszkow suburb, a Durchgangslager 121 selection camp is established. Before the end of 1944, 600,000 deported inhabitants of Warsaw will pass through.
In the liberated areas, Scout Postal Service starts distributing mail, newspapers, and messages even to the areas under German control. [ mail ]
Home Army clandestine radio station 'Lightning' (Blyskawica) starts broadcasting at the frequency of 32.8 and 52.1 meters, followed on August 9 by a civilian Polish Radio at the frequency of 43.4 meters. Both stations will remain on the air until the end of the Uprising.
[ radio ]
The first communications links through sewers are opened between isolated districts of Mokotow and City Centre. They will serve as vital transportation and evacuation lines for the duration of the Uprising.
A German leaflet titled 'Ultimatum' and signed by a Supreme Commander is dropped from planes. It urges the Warsaw inhabitants to leave the city, promising accommodations, jobs, and medical care, while threatening 'consequences' to those who disobey the call. [ leaflets ]
The main German offensive against the Old Town starts with 8,000 soldiers; it will continue unabated until the quarter falls on September 2. The offensive's objective is to isolate insurgent defenses, push them away from a strategic area overlooking one of the city's bridges, and liquidate them.
The first of four Home Army newsreels produced during the Uprising is shown to insurgents and civilians in the Palladium theatre.
In City Centre, insurgents repel a major tank attack. Nine tanks and other armed vehicles are destroyed. Heavy fighting occurs around Gdansk train station in an attempt to link up insurgent forces in Zoliborz and Old Town. The attacks are repelled with the use of an armored train.
Germans shut down the water supply after taking over the city's water filtering station. Water rationing and well digging begins. By the end of September, the City Centre district has more than 90 functioning wells.
A German B-IV vehicle mine abandoned near an Old Town barricade is brought inside the Polish defensive positions. Its sudden and massive explosion kills over 300 insurgents and civilians.
German forces introduce new types of weapons into Warsaw: Karl Morser heavy mortar, Wufrrehmen incendiary rockets, and Goliath, a remote-controlled vehicle mine. These weapons will play a crucial role in the German offensive: isolated areas are bombarded non-stop by planes, heavy artillery and rockets, then Goliaths and tanks are sent in, followed by the infantry. [ weapons ]
Von dem Bach issues a proposal to surrender, which is ignored. Additional German forces attack Old Town. Artillery and armored train are shelling the district. During heavy aerial bombing some buildings are completely destroyed; the Polish Bank is struck by 10 bombs.
Insurgents capture isolated German strongholds in the City Centre district. The strategic high-rise telephone exchange building 'PASTA', a significant number of weapons, and 115 German soldiers are captured.
A 750-strong insurgent group breaks into the city's northern Zoliborz district. Another group enters the city from the south. The cargo train station, the Church of Holly Cross, the Police Headquarters, and another telephone exchange building are taken. However, an attack upon the Warsaw University campus, launched with the help of two armored vehicles (one of them insurgent-made 'Kubus') fails. [ kubus ]
Two Home Army attempts to break the siege of Old Town by attacking the Gdansk train station defended by an armored train, fail.
A Ju-87 Stuka plane is shot down by a insurgent heavy machine gun crew which violates the official ban not shoot at planes in order to conserve ammunition.
AUG. 24–SEP. 2
The battle for Old Town, which begin on August 14, continues until September 2. With heavy fighting and air bombardment, as often as every 30 minutes, the perimeter of Polish Old Town defenses is reduced to 10 square miles. The State Mint falls into German hands. The fighting becomes ruthless. Some buildings are repeatedly capture, lost , and recaptured; tanks fire at point-blank range.
Insurgents' attempt to break through the Old Town siege into the City Centre overnight fails. Only one group, disguised in Wehrmacht uniforms, marches in three soldier column through the German positions in Saxon Garden into City Centre.
With the Old Town military situation becoming critical, between September 1 and September 2, insurgents escape through sewers into City Centre and Zoliborz. [ sewers ]
Left behind are 7,000 gravely wounded soldiers and 30,000 civilians. Advancing Germans forces execute most of the wounded, old and disabled. Some wounded insurgents are burnt alive in field hospitals.
Polish casualties in Old Town are 30,000 civilian dead and 7,500 dead and wounded insurgents (77 percent), German casualties were 3,900 dead and wounded (54 percent).
After much delay, the governments of Great Britain and the United States grant Allied combatant rights to the Home Army. It was hoped to end the summary executions of Polish POWs by German troops [ combatant ]. The Soviet Union refuses to issue a similar statement.
After the fall of the Old Town, the brunt of the German attack centers on the Riverside district; its objective is to push the insurgents away from the Vistula River. Heavy artillery barrage and air bombardment concentrate on the Warsaw Power Plant—the insurgents' central stronghold. Its destruction cuts off the electricity for the City Centre. After four days of bloody fighting, the Riverside district falls; insurgents and civilians withdraw to City Centre.
Airplanes drop leaflets signed by General von dem Bach urging civilians to leave the city on September 9 and September 10. The Polish Red Cross opens negotiations with Germans regarding the evacuation of elderly, wounded and underage civilians. Several thousand civilians leave the city during a two-hour cease fire.
A German offensive concentrates on the northern section of the City Centre, which is shelled by a 600mm mortar every eight minutes, inflicting in heavy casualties. Bombing destroys the City Centre printing plant, interrupting the publishing of Information Bulletin and other newspapers. Civilians flee into City Centre south.
Between September 11 and September 14 Red Army resumes its offensive towards Warsaw. German and Soviet airplanes engage in dog fights over the city. Soviet artillery shells German positions in Praga, Saxon Garden and Okenche Airport.
With the fall of Praga to the Red Army on September 16, German forces evacuate to Warsaw proper and dynamite remaining Vistula bridges. The Red Army is relieved by Soviet-sponsored General Berling's Polish First Army.
Retreating from Praga, German front line troops augment Gen. von dem Bach's forces. To prevent the establishment of bridgeheads, the main German effort concentrates on shattering the resistance in Czerniakow and Zoliborz districts along the the river.
From September 14 to September 16, bloody fighting erupted in Zoliborz with General Hans Lallner 19th Panzer Division. Berling's troops cross the river between September 16-17 in an abortive attempt to link up with Zoliborz insurgents. Civilians are executed in Marymont, a quarter of the Zoliborz district. [ atrocities ]
09/15-09/23. For three consecutive nights, 1,600 soldiers from Berling's army cross the Vistula and join insurgents in the Czerniakow district. The attempted landing between September 17-18 in the Riverside district fails with most of the 1,050 soldiers killed or captured. Heavy fighting in Czerniakow continues until September 23. Some defenders evacuate across the river, others reach the City Centre. Germans execute all captured insurgents and take Berling's soldiers as POWs.
09/18. First and last massive American day-time, high altitude airdrop; insurgents recover 16 tons, or 20 percent of the cargo; the rest falls into German hands. [ airlift ]
Heavy bombardment of the City Centre by Karl Morser mortar on September 16 brings massive casualties, including 100 German POWs.
09/24–09/30. Mokotow offensive. Germans attack the suburb of Mokotow, which falls on September 27. Advancing Germans execute wounded soldiers and hospital personnel. The perimeter of the Polish defenses is reduced to several blocks. On September 26, 9,000 civilians leave Mokotow during two-hour cease fire.
Some Mokotow defenders evacuate through sewers to City Centre. About 150 of them exit into German-held territory and are executed.
09/27. Mokotow capitulates after General von dem Bach promises to observe the Geneva Conventions. For the first time during the Uprising, captured Home Army members are treated as POWs.
09/29. Massive attack against Zoliborz with a panzer division and overwhelming number of infantry. Despite insurgents' desperate and bloody fighting, their resistance is broken.
Zoliborz capitulates on September 30. Several dozens communist unit soldiers attempt to cross the Vistula River; only a few succeed. A small groups of Jewish fighters hide in the cellars. A fortnight later, they are whisked out of the city by Home Army paramedics.
On September 28 General von dem Bach offers capitulation and the negotiations begin.
On October 1, during a six-hour cease-fire, 8,000 civilians evacuate the City Centre.
General von dem Bach and emissaries of General 'Bor' Komorowski sign the capitulation declaration. All fighting in Warsaw ceases at 8:00 p.m. on October 2, 1944. The terms of the capitulation agreement guarantees Geneva Conventions treatment for insurgents. Only the Wehrmacht, not the SS or Soviet collaborators, are to handle Polish POWs. [ capitulation ]
Final issue of Information Bulletin is published, dated October 4. Last Lighting's radio transmission from Warsaw to London was recorded at 9:40 p.m. on October 4, 1944.
Insurgents prepare for the surrender by destroying weapons, discarding any German uniforms or helmets in their possession, securing the archives, and issuing Home Army IDs to communists units and forged IDs to Jewish fighters.
Fifteen thousand insurgents from all districts went into the captivity, 5,000 wounded are evacuated into different prison camps. Evacuation of wounded insurgents from the field hospitals lasts until the second half of October.
All civilians are forced to leave the city. Among them are some insurgents who decided not to
go to POW camps and a few designated by the Home Army to continue the struggle. Approximately 55,000 civilians will end up in the concentration camps as dangerous elements [ concentration camps ], and an additional 150,000 are transported into forced labor camps in Germany. [ uprising cost ]
Massive and organized looting campaign of the city by Germans began. Delegations from German municipalities were allowed to enter the ruins and strip them of anything that had not already been taken by the Wehrmacht, SS, and Soviet and Ukrainian collaborators.
Postwar Polish assessments claim that 33,000 railway wagons filled with furniture, personal belongings and factory equipment left Warsaw.
After everything of value was carried away, entire blocks of abandoned houses were set on fire. Monuments and government buildings were blown up by special German troops known as Verbrennungs und Vernichtungskommando (burning and destruction detachments).
On January 17, 1945, the Red Army and General Berling's Polish First Army enter the deserted ruins of Warsaw.