I normally have a book review on Thursday, but this week I’m pushing it to Friday. I meant to post this yesterday, but lost track of the date – which, 69 years ago, was the day when the final Polish forces in Warsaw surrendered to the German occupiers, thus ending the Warsaw Uprising.
The Uprising was a tragic episode of the war – the Polish Home Army had been awaiting the advance of Soviet forces to Warsaw, and on August 1st 1944, with Soviet forces only miles from the outskirts of Warsaw (and with Soviet radio broadcasts urging Polish action) they mobilized to revolt against the German occupation of the city. Between 20,000 and 50,000 Poles responded to the call, taking up arms in open warfare with the German garrison. The plan, of course, was for them to be relieved within a few days by the Red Army, as had been the case in other liberated capitals (Paris and Prague, for example). For Warsaw, however, this was not to be. The Soviet forces stopped at the banks of the Vistula, within sight of the city, and did not advance in force until January of 1945 (and proceeded to clear the Germans from the city within days). Why did they stop? Historians still debate this, but it seems sadly likely that Stalin decided to let the anti-Communist Home Army fight the Germans until one side was destroyed. If the Germans were forced out it would ease the Soviet advance, and if the Home Army was wiped out the post-war occupation of Poland would be much simpler.
The fighting in Warsaw was brutal and tragic, with some 200,000 Polish civilians (a quarter of the city’s population) perishing and the vast majority of the city destroyed by the time German forces were finally forced out. Our Polish friend Leszek point us to a few minutes of colorized footage of the Uprising, assembled from both German and Polish sources:
Returning to our theme here of Forgotten Weapons, the video is worth watching closely for glimpses of a surprising number of unusual arms. These include grenade launchers on Mauser rifles, a Hungarian 39M submachine gun, a German 600mm siege mortar, a PIAT, Sturmgewehr, and others.