UNDERGROUND ARMY IN BID FOR POLAND’S FREEDOM

Warsaw, Occupied Poland · August 1, 1944

When British soldiers landed on Normandy’s Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches on June 6, 1944, they came upon Ger­many’s Leichter Ladungs­traeger (“light charge carrier”) named Goliath, a tank-tread robot approx­i­mately 4 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 1 foot tall that carried 170–220 lb of high explo­sives. Known as the beetle tank to the Allies, the robot tank was steered by a joy­stick control box via a 700‑yard cable con­nected to the rear of the vehicle. Prior to Nor­mandy, Goliaths saw action at Anzio in Italy in April 1944 and most noto­riously in the two-month-long Polish War­saw Up­rising, which began on this date in 1944, as Wehr­macht and units of the ruthless SS (Schutz­staffel, or pro­tection squad) rushed to crush fierce Polish resis­tance by the under­ground Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa). Polish insur­gent volun­teers, armed only with light wea­pons and cutters, were cre­dited with success­fully severing the com­mand cables of some of the Goliaths before they reached their intended tar­gets. The insur­gents’ inten­tion was to expel the Ger­mans from the Polish capi­tal and pave the way for the legiti­mate Polish govern­ment to return to Poland from exile in London. The under­equipped Polish Home Army, numbering between 20,000 and 49,000 men, women, teen­agers, and child­ren in the begin­ning, sur­rendered on Octo­ber 2, 1944, but not before killing and wounding 16,000 Ger­mans and their allies; another 7,000 Ger­mans were listed as missing in action. Although the exact number of Polish casu­al­ties remains un­known, it is esti­mated that about 16,000 mem­bers of the Polish resis­tance were killed and some 6,000 badly wounded. Until mid-Septem­ber, the Ger­mans shot all cap­tured insur­gents on the spot, but from the end of Septem­ber, some of the cap­tured Polish sol­diers were treated as POWs (roughly 15,000). In addi­tion to insur­gent deaths, between 150,000 and 200,000 Polish civil­ians died, mostly from mass exe­cu­tions carried out by special units of the SS, police, and Wehr­macht that went from house to house, shooting the inhab­i­tants regard­less of age or sex and burning their bodies. Forced to aban­don Warsaw in Janu­ary 1945, the Ger­mans left the Polish capital a “ghost city,” over 85 percent destroyed.





Warsaw Uprising, August 1 to October 2, 1944

Goliath tracked mine, Normandy, France, 1944 Captured German armored SdKfz 251, Warsaw, August 1944

Left: British soldiers with captured German Goliath tracked mines during the Nor­mandy In­vasion, 1944. Although over 7,000 Goliaths were pro­duced, the single-use tracked mine was not con­sidered a war­time success story due in part to its high unit cost and low ground clearance. Goliaths were among the 310 tanks and armored cars the Ger­mans lost in the two-month-long War­saw Up­rising.

Right: A German armored fighting vehicle captured from an SS divi­sion by Polish in­sur­gents on August 14, 1944. The Polish under­ground exploited the Wehr­macht’s dis­trac­tion caused by Oper­a­tion Bagra­tion, the Soviet advance into east­ern Poland, to launch Poland’s bid for freedom.
Warsaw street barricade, 1944Polish Boy Scout soldiers, Warsaw, September 2, 1944
Left: Polish barricade on the Napoleon Square build around a Ger­man tank des­troyer cap­tured by the Polish Home Army. The Home Army was the most signifi­cant resis­tance move­ment in occupied Europe.

Right: Teenage Polish Boy Scout soldiers shortly after emerging from a War­saw sewer early in the morning of September 2, 1944.
Warsaw civilians murdered by SS unit, 1944Liberated women, Gęsiówka concentration camp, Warsaw, August 19444
Left: Polish civilians murdered by the in­famous SS penal bri­gade com­manded by Oskar Dirle­wanger, who reported directly to Reichs­fuehrer-SS Hein­rich Himm­ler, August 1944. In the western­most War­saw boroughs of Wola and Ochota, esti­mates of civil­ians killed range from 20,000 to 50,000 (40,000 in Wola alone by August 8, 1944) or as high as 100,000. Dirle­wanger, a psycho­pathic killer and con­victed child molester, died in Allied cus­tody, apparently beaten to death by his guards.

Right: Despite the loss of Wola, Polish soldiers managed to cap­ture the ruins of the War­saw Ghetto and liber­ate the Gęsiówka con­cen­tra­tion camp on Gęsia Street on August 5, 1944, freeing about 350 Jews. This photo show Jewish women posing with their liberators.

Below: Monument to the gallant but doomed heroes of the Warsaw Uprising, Krasiński Square in Warsaw’s Old Town.

Warsaw Uprising Memorial, Old Town

 

CNN Documentary About the Warsaw Rising, August–October 1944

WWII Chronicles book coverHistory buffs, there is good news! The Daily Chronicles of World War II is now avail­able as an ebook for $4.99 on Amazon.com. Con­taining a year’s worth of dated entries from this web­site, the ebook brings the story of this tumul­tu­ous era to life in a com­pelling, author­i­ta­tive, and suc­cinct man­ner. Fea­turing inven­tive naviga­tion aids, the ebook enables readers to instantly move for­ward or back­ward by month and date to dif­fer­ent dated entries. Simple and elegant! Click here to purchase the ebook.