Nine weeks of blood and glory
Warsaw Uprising of 1944 day by day.
After almost three and a half years of an unbroken series of successes, the German war machine was running out of steam. In January 1943, the German troops suffered a defeat at Stalingrad. From that moment on, the initiative in the eastern front was taken over by the Red Army.
edited by: Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz Copyright © 2023 Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz. All rights reserved.
In July 1943, the Allied troops landed on Sicily and began to push the Germans back from the south of Europe. The preparations for the invasion on the continent from the UK islands were in progress. June 6, 1944, marked Operation Overlord when the Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy.
For Poles, the situation on the eastern front was very complex. In January 1944, the Soviet forces crossed the former border of Poland and were pushing to the west. The territories left by the retreating German troops were treated as spoils of war, not as liberated grounds. The NKVD (Soviet People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) forces were disarming any Home Army troops met on their way; the soldiers were conscripted into the Soviet units or into the Polish People's Army formed under the Soviet aegis. Those resisting were deported to the Soviet gulags or imprisoned.
In July the Red Army crossed the Bug River. In his efforts to completely subjugate Poland, Stalin established the Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN) in Moscow, a temporary executive authority operating between the Curzon Line and the Soviet-German front line. PKWN was dominated by Polish communists whose task was to fulfil the objectives of the USSR in Poland. The final decision about its establishment was made by Stalin. From that moment the territories east of the Curzon Line were treated as incorporated into the Soviet Union and under its jurisdiction.
On July 22, 1944, PKWN issued a manifesto in liberated Che³m. The manifesto was made public on the day of its announcement not in Che³m, but in Moscow - it was broadcast by Radio Moscow. It was also in Moscow where the first version of this document was printed. In Poland the manifesto was printed as late as on July 26. Lublin was proclaimed as the seat of PKWN on August 1, 1944 (hence its name: the Lublin Committee). In reality, the manifesto had been signed and approved by Stalin on July 20, 1944.
The manifesto delegalized the Polish Government-in-exile in London, with whom Stalin had severed diplomatic relations in April 1943 after the Katyń Forest massacre had been disclosed. The main instrument of power used by PKWN was a complex security service (modelled after NKVD) and a series of successive repressive decrees issued in order to squeeze any oppositional independent organizations, the bodies of the Polish Underground State and of the Government Delegation for Poland and their subordinate armed forces out of public life.
All this was happening by tacit consent of the governments of Great Britain and the Unites States: they needed millions of Soviet soldiers to fight fiercely with the German forces, in this way relieving the western front.
As the eastern front was approaching Warsaw, the situation of the Home Army command was getting more and more complicated. Both the soldiers of the underground army and Warsaw population were under strong pressure to engage in fight with the hated German occupant. The outbreak of the Uprising was rather inevitable, regardless of the executive decisions.
The approaching Red Army was stirring up mixed feelings. On the one hand, they were supposed to be the Allied forces, liberating the country from the German occupation. On the other hand, they were also aggressors that had revealed their true intentions on September 17, 1939.
In this situation, the Home Army command decided to commence a military rebellion against the Germans in Warsaw based on two assumptions: military and political. From the political point of view, knowing that the Soviet forces had practically reached the eastern outskirts of Warsaw, the objective was to capture, if possible, the two bridges on the Vistula River to enable the Allied army to take Warsaw "in one stride". The political assumption was to overtake Warsaw by the Home Army troops subordinate to the government in London and to reactivate complete state administrative structures. In this scenario, the Red Army marching into Warsaw would find the city functioning as the capital of the soon-to-be-independent country. Seeing that the German army was chaotically retreating, the Home Army commanders believed that it would take 3-4 days for the insurgents to meet all the assumed objectives.
Both assumptions turned out to be faulty. Stalin had already designated a place for liberated Poland in his plans. The country was to become a satellite state of the Soviet Union, totally subjected to its policy. In this situation Stalin had no intention of accepting any administrative structures in Warsaw that would not be completely subordinate to him, neither did he need any helping hand from the Home Army while liberating the city. On the contrary, he perceived the armed soldiers of this organization as hostile.
Last but not least, the Red Army, exhausted after the long-lasting offensive and encountering the growing German resistance, would have had to muster up tremendous strength to meet the goals set by the Home Army headquarters. Of course, had Stalin desired to achieve those goals, he would have mobilized his commanders to execute the task. It had happened on multiple occasions in the past. This time, he had no intention at all. He had a perfect opportunity close at hand: the Germans could solve problems related to rebellious Poles who later might constitute an obstacle during the implementation of the Soviet order in "bourgeois" Poland.
Such was the general background leading up to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.
July 27, 1944 - 5 days before the Uprising
July 28, 1944 - 4 days before the Uprising
July 29, 1944 - 3 days before the Uprising
July 30, 1944 - 2 days before the Uprising
July 31, 1944 - 1 day before the Uprising
translated by: Beata Murzyn
edited by: Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz
Copyright © 2023 Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz. All rights reserved.