Since the end of the September Campaign of 1939,
the Polish Underground was already planning for an
uprising against the German occupiers. It was to begin
only once the Allies were approaching Warsaw, and when
Germany's defeat was imminent. Poland's freedom and
independence relied entirely on Allied support and
cooperation. The Polish government-in-exile had no doubt
that the British government was true to its word. According
to the Agreement between the two countries, signed on
August 25, 1939, both pledged to provide one another with
all their support in the event of hostilities from another
The Polish government made numerous attempts to confer with Britain on laying the groundwork for a future
offensive. Churchill gave the Poles every assurance that Britain would defend Poland at the crucial time. But
unbeknownst to the Polish Government, England had a hidden agenda. A British Chiefs of Staff report disapproved
of any military action taken by Poland because, " it would be politically unacceptable [for Poland] to undertake any
such measures without the approval and cooperation of Russia." Furthermore the report made a recommendation
that this policy not be mentioned to Poland.
The Home Army sent frequent messages to London requesting that Polish military units be deployed to Warsaw,
including their own Parachute Brigade (which initially was an autonomous unit). Britain had control of almost all
Polish military troops on land, sea, and air. The Polish request was denied. Churchill applied considerable pressure
on the Polish government to give their consent to deploy the Parachute Brigade for battle in the D-Day operations. In
exchange, Churchill promised that England would provide assistance in the uprising, and make “every effort to find
aircraft to transport the brigade to Poland in the event of an uprising."
By mid-1943, the Polish government had every indication that they would be liberated by the Red Army. Stalin
even encouraged that the Poles launch an uprising. In November 20, 1943, General Bor Komorowski, Commander
of the Home Army, submitted to the Polish Government his plans for a series of military operations that were code-
named, Burza (Tempest). They were to take place on the eastern front and attack German troops as the Soviet army
advanced westward -taking the opportunity to capture the territory before the Soviets could get to it. The operation
was launched in 1944 in Wolyn (Volhynia), Wilno, Bialystok, Lublin, and Lwow. They did not achieve their aims, as
the Soviets arrested all the leaders of the Polish Underground State.
On July 26, 1944, the Polish government in exile authorized the Delegatura in Poland to make its decision on the
date and time for the start of the Warsaw Uprising. They still believed that the Allies would provide supplies and
military reinforcements. General Bor radioed the Polish government in London asking that the 1st Parachute Brigade
and the Polish fighter squadron be dispatched to Warsaw. He ordered that German airfields near Warsaw be
bombed, and airlifts of arms and ammunition begin to be made to Polish insurgents. The British government was
unresponsive. Polish troops had already been deployed elsewhere - to the D-Day operations, and to Monte
Cassino. There was also the underlying fear on the part of the British, that any attempts to help Poland would upset
On July 31, Colonel Monter informed General Bor that the Red Army was approaching Warsaw, and were lined up
along the eastern banks of the Vistula River. General Bor gave the order for the uprising to begin the next day.
At the same time, Great Britain backed out of its promise to send reinforcements, claiming that it did not have
sufficient aircraft to carry out an emergency airlift. They were also reluctant to carry out the mission because the
Germans controlled the entire area around Warsaw. The RAF would not relinquish any part of the Polish squadrons.
On August 1, at 5:00 p.m. over 50,000 Polish underground fighters, under the command of Colonel Monter began
conducting assaults on German positions, simultaneously all over Warsaw. Only 10% of the Home Army was
sufficiently armed. They had the support and cooperation of numerous other underground regiments: the National
Armed Forces (NSZ), the Polish People's Army (PAL), the People's Army (AL), and the Security Corps (KB), in
addition to numerous partisan groups. Facing them was the German Wermacht comprising 70,000 soldiers backed
by bombers and tanks. Before August 3, the Polish fighters successfully captured a series of complexes in Warsaw's
most important boroughs: Srodmiescie, Powisle, part of Czerniakow, Zoliborz, Mokotow, the Old Town, Wola, Sadyba,
and parts of Ochota and Praga. The Poles made significant advances but could not overtake all the German
strongholds for lack of ammunition. On August 3, Stalin promised the Polish Prime Minister Wladyslaw Mikolajczyk
that the Red Army would fight the Germans if the uprising would last for at least 6 days. The Uprising lasted for all of
63 days, but the Soviets did nothing to help the Polish fighters.
Ammunition was quickly running out, and on August 4, the Underground Command ordered that the offensive be
restricted to only a few areas. The Germans recaptured each district one by one, and gained control of the major
streets. From August 4 to 11, the Germans reclaimed Wola and Ochota, and in the process slaughtered over 40,000
By August 5, the Germans had reorganized its offensive strategy and began to systematically destroy all buildings
and monuments, and annihilate all Polish military and civilian resistance. Of the 1,100 buildings, the Germans
completely destroyed over 400, and burned down 300 more. The SS Brigade, composed of common criminals, went
on a killing frenzy massacring thousands of Polish men, women and children. SS and police units went on a house to
house rampage, herding Polish citizens into the streets and executing them by machine gun fire, shooting babies in
their carriages, looting, murdering, and raping. By the end of the day, over 10,000 citizens were slaughtered. The
mass killings went on for several days. The Nazis targeted hospitals with terrible ferocity - shooting patients in their
beds. The butchery was appalling. The Germans shelled and bombed Warsaw 24 hours a day. The streets were
covered with dead bodies, piled on and buried in the rubble. Much of the downtown areas was on fire. One RAF pilot
who had flown over the city, later remarked that it looked as it were Dante's Inferno.
On August 8 and 9, Churchill pressured Air Marshal Slessor to resume flights, but this time using only Polish crews.
The drops were successful and throughout the next week 90 more Polish, British, and South African crews flew over
the Warsaw area dropping supplies and ammunition. But by the end of the week it was too late. The Germans had
reinforced their anti-aircraft defenses. Seventeen of the ninety planes were shot down, others were severely
damaged. Many of the supplies that were air dropped, landed in German-controlled areas. Britain denied further
requests by Polish airmen to fly to Warsaw. (Incidentally, the RAF, for reasons unknown, had made a recommend-
ation that the Distinguished Service Order, Britain’s highest military honor) be withdrawn from Zumbach, because he
was so jaundiced in his view of Britain.)
The fiercest battle took place in the Old Town (Stare Miasto), where German troops used rail-mounted howitzers.
In only two weeks of battle, more than 4,000 tons of German bombs were dropped on an area no larger than 3/4
square mile. From August 19 onward, Germans attached the Old Town, but were not able to recapture it until
September 2. During this hell fight, the AK tapped out urgent radio messages to the Allies for weeks asking for
help. There was no reply. The Polish Underground put up a fierce battle but could not hold off the enemy for long.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians were mowed down in a hail of bullets. But German casualties were as high as
Polish casualties. According to German sources, in the 33 day battle in the Old Town, 150 German soldiers were
killed by the AK every single day - well past 50% in total losses. Polish fighters suffered 77% of casualties. The
remaining 1,500, as well as 3,000 - some of them wounded, scrambled frantically to escape into the city sewers at
Srodmiescie. The Germans, hearing the echo of voices emanating from the sewers below, often dropped grenades
or poured gasoline in the open manholes, and then ignited it, which erupted into a fireball underneath the city streets.
Nearly 2,500 Polish soldiers were so gravely wounded that they could not be evacuated and were left behind. The
hospital staff volunteered to stay with them to the end.
News of the devastation on Warsaw and its people did not reach the West. While the Poles were in the midst of the
most hellish of battles, the world was celebrating the liberation of Paris. Churchill had put a publicity ban on all media
during the uprising. Later, he denounced the press for having maintained silence. He lied to the public about the
true nature of the Soviet Union, and promoted the Polish people as trouble-makers, and the Soviets as good-natured
saviours. Roosevelt was equally deceptive. Of the nine press conferences that he held, he did not mention one word
about the uprising. When the news about the uprising leaked out near the end of August, Roosevelt claimed that he
didn’ t know much about it. (Read Jan Karski )
Messages from the Home Army were more frequent and more desperate, as they demanded that its Allies supply
them with more ammunition, food, medicine. The supplies that the Allies had promised were delayed, largely
because of Stalin's unwillingness to allow them landing rights to refuel on Soviet territory. Churchill and Roosevelt
both made several attempts to obtain Stalin’s permission for British and US planes to land on Soviet airfields.
However, their telegrams were couched in mild language - indicating no sense of urgency. It was reported that upon
reading it, Stalin threw a tantrum. Despite constant pressure from the US and Britain, Stalin continuously denied them
permission. But by mid September, he finally conceded (since Warsaw's defeat was imminent), and permitted them
only one air drop over Warsaw. Food and water was near to depletion, while thousands of Poles were crammed into
makeshift hospitals. Typhoid was rampant.
Over 100 American planes dropped 1,350 canisters over Warsaw, filled with ammunition, food and medicine but
many of the canisters drifted into German occupied zones and were confiscated by the Nazis. The AK managed to
receive only 20% of the supplies. Britain and the U.S. treated this so-called "rescue mission" as a great success
and praised Stalin for his collaboration. The public was not aware of the situation. Stalin also sent supplies to
Warsaw albeit for propaganda purposes. The canisters however were hurled out of the planes without parachutes so
that when they hit the ground, its' contents were smashed to pieces. It was deliberate sabotage of the worst depths of
human depravity. Stalin even airdropped leaflets over German positions calling for their surrender. Radio Moscow,
which had weeks earlier, implored the Poles to rise up against the Germans, were now condemning the Polish
insurgents. The Soviet armies did nothing to help the Poles.
No military reinforcements were dispatched. The British continued to stone-wall, claiming that "no transports could
be spared ". They did have transport available but they sent the Parachute Brigade to fight in Operation Market
Garden - a battle that turned out to be a suicide mission in the very heartland of Germany. It resulted in the
slaughter of the Parachute Brigade. General Sosabowski had previously warned the Allies not to embark on this
mission, but it fell on deaf ears. He turned out to be right. Irregardless the British Command targeted Sosabowski
as a scapegoat and blamed him for the debacle. He was then released from command.
On September 19, the Russian troops began firing on the Germans, driving them westward. As the Germans
retreated, they used flamethrowers to destroy whatever was left standing in Warsaw. Within days the Red Army
On October 3, 1944, at 8:00 p.m., General Bor Komorowski
signed the surrender at German headquarters. The Warsaw
uprising, which lasted for 63 days, came to an end.
The Soviets arrested 20,000 AK soldiers and officers and
deported them to POW camps in Germany. The remaining
population of Warsaw was evacuated and sent to work on
German farms and in German factories. General Bor was
arrested and sent to prison. He was replaced by Soviet-
appointed General Okulicki.
Though the surrender had been signed, fighting continued in
central Poland until January 1945. On January 19, all of Poland
was under Russian control, and Okulicki dissolved the AK.
The total number of AK killed in the Warsaw Uprising was 62,000. From 200,000 to 300,000 civilians were
massacred. Ninety per cent of Warsaw was in complete ruin. The combattant strength was almost at par - 40,000
men on each side. German casualties were 26,000 and Polish casualties, 22,200. The Germans lost 310 tanks
armored cars and artillery, and 340 trucks and cars
General Bor Komorowski (on left)