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63 Days of Lonely Struggle

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1.08.2014 | 70 lat temu wybuchło powstanie warszawskie. Tak walczyła Warszawa
ReutersFor 63 days, the insurgents led a heroic and lonely fight against German troops

On 1 August 1944, an uprising broke out in Warsaw on orders of the Commander of the Home Army General Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski. For 63 days, a heroic and lonely struggle was waged against German troops. The goal was independent Poland that would be free from both German occupation and Soviet domination.

The Warsaw Uprising was the largest military campaign undertaken by any underground resistance movement in German-occupied Europe. It was planned for several days but lasted for more than two months. The military goal was to liberate the Polish capital from the extremely brutal German occupation to which it had been subjected since September 1939.

The Home Army command assumed that the Red Army would make a rapid push to take Warsaw for strategic reasons. It was anticipated that the fighting would take several days and would end before Soviet forces entered the city. Assistance from the Allies was expected as well.

The capital’s takeover by the Home Army before the Soviets’ arrival and the presence of the authorities of the Polish Underground State who would act on behalf of the Polish government-in-exile was to provide an asset in the fight for independence against the USSR. The emergence in Warsaw of civil authorities associated with the Government Delegation for Poland was considered particularly important in view of the communists having established the Polish Committee of National Liberation.

Heroic and Lonely Fight

The order to start the Uprising was given on 31 July 1944 by the Commander of the Home Army General Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski with the approval of the Government Delegate Jan S. Jankowski. On 1 August 1944, around 40,000 to 50,000 insurgents started fighting in the capital. However, only a quarter of them could hope to be given a weapon.

Having received the news of the Uprising in Warsaw, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler issued the following order: "Every inhabitant is to be killed, no prisoners are to be taken. Warsaw has to be levelled to the ground in order to set a terrifying example to the rest of Europe".

For 63 days, the insurgents led a heroic and lonely fight against German troops. Finally, as there were no prospects for continuing the fight, on 2 October 1944 representatives of Home Army Command Colonel Kazimierz Iranek-Osmecki (vel Jarecki) and Lieutenant Colonel Zygmunt Dobrowolski (vel Zyndram) signed the agreement for the cessation of hostilities in Warsaw at the headquarters of SS-Obergruppenführer Erich von dem Bach in Ożarów.

Casualties and Expelled Population

Around 14,000 to 18,000 insurgents were killed during the fighting in Warsaw and 25,000 were wounded. Around 3,500 soldiers from the Tadeusz Kościuszko Division were killed as well. Civilian casualties were enormous with estimates ranging from 120,000 to 160,000 killed. The surviving ca. 500,000 inhabitants of Warsaw were expelled from the city, which was almost completely razed in the aftermath of the Uprising. Special German units which used dynamite and heavy equipment continued to methodically destroy the remaining buildings for more than three months.

More than 15,000 insurgents, including 2,000 women, were taken into German captivity. Among them was almost the entire command of the Home Army, including General Bór-Komorowski who had been appointed Commander-in-Chief by President of the Polish government-in-exile Władysław Raczkiewicz on 30 September 1944.

Owing to the immense losses suffered by the Polish side as a result of the Uprising, the decision to start it has remained controversial to this day.


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