WARSAW UPRISING (AUGUST–OCTOBER 1944)

When August 1 to October 2, 1944
Where Warsaw, capital of German-occupied Poland

Who More than 40,000 Polish irregulars in the pro-Western Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) under Gen. Antoni Chrusciel (1895–1960) versus (initially) 11,000 German troops under the overall command of Lt. Gen. Reiner Stahel (1892–1955). Also, more than 5,000 SS personnel, including Waffen-SS, in the area under Col. Paul Otto Geibel (1898–1966). Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) took a personal interest in the battle for Warsaw, allocating large resources that eventually numbered 25,000 men. On August 4, 1944, SS-Gen. Erich von dem Bach (1899–1972) was given command to retake the city.
Why As the war in Europe moved toward its conclusion, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had agreed at the Tehran Con­ference in Decem­ber 1943 to divide terri­tories that had fallen under the Nazi jack­boot into post­war spheres of influence (actually control). Poland was to fall within the Soviet sphere. This was unaccept­able to the London-based Polish government-in-exile, which wanted to re­estab­lish itself on Polish soil, and the Polish Under­ground State, which was a covert adminis­trative, political, and military structure oper­ating in occupied Poland. Both wanted a free and inde­pendent nation. To demon­strate their determi­nation, the Polish Home Army planned Operation Tempest (Akcja Burza) to liberate Warsaw and other areas under German control before the Soviet Army, in its unrelenting advance on Nazi Germany, arrived.
What Note  The Warsaw Uprising is not to be confused with the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (April 4, 1943 to May 16, 1943), when armed Jewish fighters courageously resisted German efforts to liquidate the Warsaw ghetto’s remaining 55,000 inhabitants.
  Occupied since September 1939 by both Germany and the Soviet Union, and after 1941 by Germany alone, Poland had long been the scene of large-scale resis­tance to its occupiers. Resis­tance took the form of sabotage and diversion, retali­ation and assassi­nation, partisan warfare, intelli­gence gathering, liaising with the Polish govern­ment-in-exile, civil acts of disobedi­ence, and providing help to Polish Jews. At a time when Allied troops were breaking through the Normandy defenses (Opera­tion Ove­rlord) and the Red Army was nearing the east bank of the Vistula River that had divided their country between Germany and the Soviet Union (August 1939 to June 1941), the Poles in Warsaw rose up and by August 4, 1944, had seized much of their capital. (The areas of Warsaw controlled by the Home Army on August 4 are shown in red in the map above.) The uprising had the markings of a short cam­paign as German divisions retreated from the Eastern front, panicky German civilians evacu­ated Warsaw, the German high command reeled from the nearly success­ful assassi­nation of Hitler on July 20, and the Red Army was within 10 miles of Praga, Warsaw’s right-bank district on the Vistula River.
  The arrival of German tanks on August 7 did not immediately shift the balance. Fighting reached a climax between August 9 and 18, with large-scale urban combat raging across the city in scenes remi­nis­cent of Stalin­grad (Septem­ber 1942 to February 1943). By the start of Septem­ber the tide had turned against the Poles as air attacks by Goering’s Luftwaffe and artillery bom­bard­ment reduced the city to rubble. Although the Soviets had been calling for a Polish uprising for months, Stalin seemed unwilling to help the insur­gents; indeed, he refused to allow the Western Allies to use Soviet airbases to fly supplies in to the insurgents.
Outcome On October 2, 1944, Gen. Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski (1895–1966), Chrusciel’s superior in the Polish Home Army, surrendered what was left of Poland’s capital, thereby ending the Warsaw Uprising and Operation Tempest. Between 150,000 and 180,000 citizens of Warsaw died in the 63-day uprising and its aftermath. Among the insurgents, 15,200 were killed and missing and 5,000 wounded. The Germans sent 15,000 surrendered resistance fighters to POW camps and roughly 55,000 civilians to death, labor, and concentration camps, including 13,000 to Auschwitz. Approxi­mately 700,000 people were expelled from the city. German casualties were 16,000 killed and missing, 9,000 wounded, and 2,000–5,000 taken captive.
  Between October 1944 and January 1945 the Germans, under the command of SS Col. Geibel, systematically destroyed the city by fire and explosives. Geibel deliberately targeted all public and historic buildings, including churches, schools, the National Library, Warsaw University, and most monuments. With all inde­pen­dent Polish resis­tance eradi­cated by the SS before the Germans retreated, the Soviets were able to “liberate” Warsaw in mid-January and establish a Soviet-spon­sored Committee of National Liberation, which imposed a Communist provisional govern­ment on Poland on January 1, 1945. Soviet control of Poland was recog­nized by the Allies at the postwar Potsdam Conference in 1945. Communist rule in Poland lasted until 1989, after which a democratic government declared August 1 a national holiday.

History Channel’s Warsaw Uprising, Summer 1944