The Foreigners in the Warsaw Uprising 1944


          In Europe a period of peace after the World War I ended did not last long. The arrangements of the Treaty of Versailles caused a deep frustration in German society, which became susceptible to the ideology of the National Socialist German Worker's Party led by Adolf Hitler. In 1933 he took all the power in Germany proclaiming the idea of the Third Reich. Hitler's goal was to rebuild the military force of Germany as fast as possible and then make Europe subordinate. His far reaching goal was a confrontation with Soviet Russia and implementation of Drang nach Osten (Drive to the East) idea in order to gain a living space on the East (Lebensraum) for the developing Germany.
          In the east of Europe as a result of the Russian Revolution of 1917 which led to the fall of Tsarist Russia a new state, the Soviet Union, ruled by communists led by Joseph Stalin after the death of Vladimir Lenin, was formed. . He planned to spread the communist ideology on other European countries. The first military attempt of implementing this agenda was stopped in 1920 by the Vistula river by the soldiers of the Republic of Poland, which regained its independence two years earlier after over 120 years of occupation resulting from the partitions.
          Poland found itself between two totalitarian states: Adolf Hitler's Third Reich and Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union. An armed confrontation was only a matter of time.

          Nazi Germany needed allies to prepare for war. They were supposed to serve as a resource base, as a reservoir of a labour force, and as a source of additional divisions supporting German armed forces.
          In November 1936 a treaty of friendship between Germany and Italy was signed, called by the leader of the fascist Italy, Benito Mussolini, "Rome-Berlin axis". In May 1939 the treaty was transformed into an alliance called the "Pact of Steel".
          Hitler began a systematic realization of his plans. In March 1938 Third Reich annexed the Austrian territory. About 180 - 200 thousand soldiers of the German armed forces took part in it. The Germans took over Austrian weapon factories and armament. Soldiers of the Austrian army joined Wehrmacht. In October 1938 as a result of Munich Agreement and with the acceptance of France and Great Britain, Hitler separated Sudetenland, which constituted about 40% of the country, from Czechoslovakia. In mid-March 1939 the rest of Czechoslovakia was occupied. Germany strengthened its military potential by taking over Czechoslovakian heavy industry and arms industry and an armament of the Czechoslovakian army. The next obstacle in implementation of the Hitler's plan was Poland.
          In August 1939 Third Reich and Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact, known as Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Its Additional Secret Protocol settled the fate of sovereign states: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Romania. Stalin agreed on German invasion on Poland and reserved a right for himself to annex a part of Polish territory.

          On 1st September 1939 at 4:40 without declaring a war Nazi Germany attacked Poland. Polish army was waging severe battles with predominant enemy forces attacking from the west, north and south. On 17th September Poland was attacked by the Soviet Union from the east. After 20 years of independence another partition of Poland took place, conducted by two invaders: brown Germany and red Russia.
          In April 1940 Germany attacked and occupied Denmark and Norway. In May 1940 France was attacked and capitulated after a month-long resistance. On the occasion the Germans occupied Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg. France was divided into two zones: the northern, including most of the country with Paris, occupied by Germany and so called French State with a government in Vichy. Material resources of France and its industry were used to support the needs of Third Reich.

          After the conquest of Poland by Nazi Germany the political map of Europe was changed fundamentally. A number of countries from East-Central and South Europe faced a dilemma of choosing an ally. France and Great Britain underwhelmed them. Seeing a brutal policy of Soviet Russia on conquered territories of Poland and Romania they decided that an alliance with Third Reich, which seemed to be the greatest European power, will serve as a protection.
          An alliance with Germany was made by Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Independent State of Croatia, Romania, and Albania. Finland, which at the end of 1939 was attacked by Soviet Union and lost part of it territory, was under German protectorate. Countries from this coalition signed in 1941 the Anti-Comintern Pact, directed against Soviet Union. Comintern (Communist International) founded in 1919 in Moscow at the initiative of Lenin was bringing together 19 communist parties, including Communist Party of Poland. Its goal was to popularize communist ideas and to prepare a global revolution. It was dissolved by Joseph Stalin in 1943.
          In June 1941 Nazi Germany attacked Soviet Union. In the campaign, apart from German troops, took part soldiers from Romania, Finland, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, and Croatia. The offensive started with an incredible momentum did not lead to the final settlement favourable for Hitler. A struggle between two totalitarian countries began, lasting for several years and ending with a defeat of the Third Reich. Without millions of Red Army soldiers the Anti Hitler coalition did not have any chance for success.

          In many countries conquered by Germany and in satellite states anti-communist tendencies among their inhabitants were strong. It resulted in forming collaborationist military formations composed from volunteers. Apart from collaborationist police formations it were volunteer units of Waffen-SS. So arose Hungarian XVII SS Army Corps, Romanian Waffen Grenadier Regiment of the SS, Albanian 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg, Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS, French 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne, Danish-Norwegian 11st SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland, Belgian 27th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Langemarck and 28th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division "Wallonien", Dutch 23rd SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nederland, Yugoslavian 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS (1 Croatian) Handschar, and 23rd Waffen Mountain Division of the SS (2 Croatian) Kama, two Latvian Waffen-SS divisions, Estonian Waffen-SS division and others.
          After the aggression on the Soviet Union the Germans captured over 3,5 million of Red Army soldiers. They were kept in prisoner-of-war camps in inhumane conditions. Some of them in order to survive decided to join the Russian Liberation Army (ROA) commanded by general Andrey Vlasov. On the terrains of today's Belarus and Ukraine some of the local Stalinist regime opponents have been joining collaborationist police formations, Russian National Liberation Army commanded by Bronislav Kaminski, Cossack and Caucasian SS formations. In a part of them served Muslims from Caucasus and Central Asia. On the German side fought approximately 70-75 thousand soldiers of Cossack origin. Cossacks constituted apart form Turkmen people and Tatars the only ethnicity the soldiers of which were treated equally to German military formations.
          In Poland attempts to create collaborationist formations did not succeed. In the second half of 1942 the Germans undertook an action to organize a Goralische Waffen SS Legion among highlanders from Podhale, which were encouraged to form a Goralenvolk - a highlander nation. The initiative ended in a complete fiasco.

          On the 1st of September 1944 when the Warsaw Uprising broke out the political and military situation in Europe was completely different then when the Third Reich started its expansion. On the West the Allies succeeded in invading Normandy, on the East the Red Army was approaching the Vistula river. The end of World War II was near.

Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz

translated by: Maciej Liszewski

Copyright © 2019 Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz. All rights reserved.