Rare photos from the Warsaw Uprising of 1944

The Warsaw Uprising of 1944 was a heroic and tragic 63-day struggle to liberate World War II Warsaw from German occupation.

The uprising began on 1 August 1944 as part of the nationwide Operation Tempest launched at the time of the Soviet Lublin–Brest Offensive.

The main Polish objective was to drive Germany out of Warsaw, while helping the Allies defeat Germany. An additional, political goal of the Polish Underground state was to liberate the capital of Poland and claim Polish sovereignty before the Soviet-backed Polish Committee for National Liberation assumed control.

Other immediate reasons included the threat of a massive German round-up of able-bodied Poles for "evacuation"; call for rebellion by the Polish service of Radio Moscow; and an emotional Polish desire for justice and revenge against the enemy five years after the German occupation.

Initially, the Poles established control over most of central Warsaw, but the Soviets ignored Polish attempts to make radio contact with them and did not advance beyond the city limits.

Intense street fighting continued between the Germans and the Poles. By September 14, the east bank of the Vistula River opposite the Polish resistance positions was occupied by Polish troops fighting under Soviet command; 1,200 men made it across the river, but were not fortified by the Red Army.

This, and the lack of air support from the five-minute flight time from the Soviet airport, led to accusations that Joseph Stalin cleverly restrained his forces to allow the operation to thwart and crush Polish resistance.

Arthur Koestler called the Soviet attitude "one of the major slanders of this war, which for the future historian would rank on the same moral level as Lydis."

David Glantz, on the other hand, argued that the rebellion had begun too early and that the Red Army could not realistically assist, despite Soviet intentions.

Winston Churchill requested Stalin and Franklin D. Roosevelt to help Britain's Polish allies, but to no avail. Then, without Soviet air clearance, Churchill sent over 200 low-level supply drops by the Royal Air Force, the South African Air Force and the Polish Air Force under British High Command in an operation known as the Warsaw Airlift.

Later, after receiving Soviet air clearance, the U.S.

Although the exact number of casualties is unknown, it is estimated that around 16,000 members of the Polish resistance were killed and about 6,000 were badly injured. In addition, between 150,000 and 200,000 Polish civilians died, mostly by mass executions.

Jews being taken asylum by Poles were exposed by German house-to-house sanctions and mass expulsion of entire neighborhoods. German casualties ranged from 2,000 to over 17,000 soldiers killed and missing.

During the urban fighting, about 25% of Warsaw's buildings were destroyed. After the surrender of the Polish army, German troops systematically leveled the other 35% of the city block by block.

With damage caused by the invasion of Poland in 1939 and the Warsaw ghetto uprising in 1943, more than 85% of the city was destroyed by January 1945, when the Germans were forced to leave the city during events on the Eastern Front.

Life Behind The Lines

In 1939, Warsaw had about 1,350,000 inhabitants. At the start of the rebellion over a million people were still living in the city.

In Polish-controlled territory, during the first weeks of the uprising, the people tried to recreate the normal day-to-day life of their independent country.

Cultural life was vibrant among both the soldiers and the civilian population, with theatre, post offices, newspapers and similar activities.

Boys and girls from Polish Scouts who worked as couriers for an underground postal service risk their lives daily to broadcast any information that might help their people.

Near the end of the rebellion, shortages of food and medicine, overcrowding and indiscriminate German air and artillery attacks on the city made the civilian situation all the more hopeless.

Booby traps, such as pieces of thermite-laced candy, may also have been used in the German-controlled districts of Warsaw; Targeting Polish youth.

Lack Of Food

As the uprising was to be quelled by the Soviet Union within days, the Polish underground did not predict that food shortages would be a problem.

However, as the fighting progressed, the inhabitants of the city faced hunger and starvation. A major breakthrough came on 6 August, when Polish units occupied the Haberbusch i Schiele brewery complex on Seglana Street.

From that time the citizens of Warsaw mostly lived on barley from the brewery's warehouses. Every day several thousand people organized in cargo teams reported to the brewery for bags of barley and then distributed them to the city centre.

The barley was then ground in a coffee grinder and boiled with water to make the so-called spit-soup. The "Sovinsky" battalion managed to hold the brewery until the end of the battle.

Another serious problem for civilians and soldiers alike was the lack of water. By mid-August most of the water drain was either damaged or filled with corpses. In addition, the main water pumping station remained in German hands.

In order to contain the spread of the pandemic and to provide water to the people, the officials ordered all the watchmen to supervise the construction of water wells in the backyard of every house.

On 21 September the Germans blew up the remaining pumping stations on Kozykova Street and thereafter public wells were the only source of potable water in the besieged city. By the end of September, there were over 90 working wells in the city centre.

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