Updated: Jul 30, 2019
The uprising started on 1 August 1944 at 17:00 hours.
Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) began the uneven urban battle to free their city from Germans. With the Russian troops located on the other side of the Vistula River, the command decided that freeing the city from German occupation would lead to taking control of Warsaw when the Russian troops would advance to the West.
Whatever the reason and aim, it was natural for Varsavians to take to arms and fight against the Germans to free their city.
It was anticipated, that the fights would last a week and that the Soviets and the Allies provide support to them with air drops and direct combat.
None of this happened...
Of the 40 or 50 thousands Home Army troops, only 25 % were equipped with some kind of weapons. Their age was 17 to 65, many were young scouts who were preparing secretly for this act. Though some districts of Warsaw were initially freed from German troops, they soon fell back to Germans and it became clear that without food and arms the uprising was doomed.
After 63 days of heroic fights, the capitulation was signed and troops together with remaining civilians were ordered to march out of the city, most of them later transported to concentration and labour camps.
The death toll was enormous: 200,000 civilians dead, many of them killed in mass executions, 20,000 troops dead. To some, this fell into the Polish romantic tradition, die in honour rather than live as subjects. To others, this was yet another tragedy in our troubled history.
'The city must completely disappear from the surface of the earth and serve only as a transport station for the Wehrmacht. No stone can remain standing. Every building must be razed to its foundation.' — SS chief Heinrich Himmler, 17 October, SS officers conference.
And so the systematic destruction of the city started: flame throwers, dynamite and shelling. The city structure on the left bank was left in ruins, 85 % of the buildings were destroyed. When the Russian troops crossed over the frozen Vistula River on 17 January 1945, the landscape was horrible.
Numerous poems, novels, songs and films were made describing the tragedy. The film Canal (1956) by Andrzej Wajda is about the escape of Home Army troops via city sewage system and probably best tells the horrors of heroism ending in tragedy.
And if you happen to be in Warsaw on 1 August, the sirens will sound for one minute at 17:00 hours.
People will come to stand still in honour of those who vanished in the heroic act. Warsaw lives!!