Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Warsaw lives on, they didn't suceed, we remember

1st August 1944 We Remember

Warsaw Uprising 1st August 1944 We remember

Some may think it odd, that a communication agency writes about such a heroic yet, tragic event. We do so not for profit or gain. We do so as part of Warsaw, an Anglo-Polish company, based in Warsaw, with Polish employees. Sited in the middle of the Uprising battle zone, the centre of Warsaw - Srodmiescie. 

This heroic battle, against immense odds is a tribute to the Polish spirit, which made Warsaw and Poland what they are today and will be in the future. For us its important people outside Poland know about and understand what went on.

The uprising began on 1 August 1944. The main objective was to drive the German army from the city and then help with the war. Most important for Poles was to liberate Warsaw before the Soviets, and re-establish Polish sovereignty. Initially, the Poles established control over most of central Warsaw, but the Soviets ignored Polish attempts to establish radio contact. 

Intense street fighting between the Germans and Poles continued. By 14 September, Polish forces under Soviet high command occupied the east bank of the Vistula River opposite the insurgents' positions; but only 1,200 men made it across to the west bank, and they were not reinforced by the bulk of the Red Army.

This, and the lack of Soviet air support from a base 5 minutes flying time away, led to allegations that Stalin tactically halted his forces to let the operation fail and allow the Polish insurrectionists to be crushed.

Winston Churchill pleaded with Stalin and Roosevelt to help Britain's Polish allies, to no avail. Then, without Soviet air clearance, Churchill sent over 200 low-level supply drops by the RAF, SAF, and the Polish Air Force under British High Command. 

Poland recently discovered one such RAF Halifax bomber crashed after being shot down, whilst dropping supplies to the Polish AK army. The site was excavated, and the Warsaw uprising museum working with the RAF, identified the crew of five Canadians and two British airmen and traced their families. The crew were buried with full military honours in the presence of their families near the crash site in Krakow.

Poland and Britain bury RAF crew who died supplying AK army in Warsaw uprising

16,000 members of the Polish AK resistance were killed and 6,000 badly wounded. 

Street arrest Warsaw uprising
In addition 200,000 Polish civilians died, mostly from mass executions. 

During the battle 25% of Warsaw's buildings were destroyed. After the surrender of Polish forces, German troops levelled  another 35% of the city. Together with earlier damage suffered in the  invasion of Poland and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, over 85% of the city was destroyed by January 1945.

Warsaw in ruins

Near our offices stands ul Prozna which during the Warsaw uprising, was at the centre of the battle, with the Polish AK army fighting to seize a strategic target , the PAST building which housed the telephone and telegraph exchange for the city.

Battle for PAST telephone and telegraph exchange

PAST Building on fire during the battle

On 2nd August 1944, a barricade was erected between no 9 and no 14 ul Prozna. No 14 was the headquarters of Kilinski battalion . Around the corner on ul Marszkalkowska at the Past building were 130 German troops, the SS and police.  No 14 was fortified and fierce battles ensued with 36 German dead and 35 AK Polish soldiers. On 20th August 1944, the Past Building was captured by the Polish AK army. You can read more about ul Prozna in our blog  The House with Faces here .

To give readers an idea of the slaughter and destruction in Warsaw,  to the right of one of our offices is Hala Mirowska a food market.

Hala Mirowska
 Here is an excerpt of a witness to the atrocities which took place there against citizens.
"Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland."

Record No. 23 / II

“I found myself in a shelter of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, No. 2 Elektoralna Street. This was on August 7, 1944.In the shelter there were several hundred people, mostly women and children. In the afternoon of this day, after the Insurgents had retreated from Elektoralna Street, a German outpost was set in front of the gateway of the Ministry. 

About 9 o’clock in the evening 2 gendarmes entered the shelter and ordered all the men to go out. The soldier who stood on guard assured us that we were only going to work. 
We were led out three by three (we were about 150 men) to Mirowski Square, among the buildings of the two Market Halls. Here we were ordered to remove the corpses, scores of which were lying on the ground, and after that, rubble from the gutters and the roadway. 
There were about a hundred Poles on the square when we came, all busy cleaning it up, and some hundreds of German gendarmes, who behaved very brutally: beating the Poles, kicking them, and calling them Polnische Banditen.

At a certain moment they stopped our work and ordered those who were not Poles to step forward. One man who had White-Russian documents did so, and was released.

After an hour and a half’s work, the gendarmes ordered us to form threes. I found myself in the second rank. We were all made to stand with our hands up.

An old man in the front rank, who could not hold his hands up any longer, was cruelly struck in the face by a gendarme.

After 10 minutes five rows of three were marched off under the escort of five gendarmes armed with tommy guns to the Market Hall in Chlodna Street. By chance I heard the names of two of the gendarmes who shouted to each other, Lipinski and Walter.

When we entered the building after passing two gates I saw, almost in the centre of the Hall, a deep hole in which a fire was burning; it must have been sprinkled with petrol because of the dense black smoke. We were put under a wall on the left side of the entrance near a lavatory. We stood separately with faces turned to the wall and hands up.

Plaque reads 7/8th August 1944 Nazis shot 510 Poles here at Hala Mirowska

After a few minutes I heard a series of shots and I fell. Lying on the ground I heard the moans and groans of people lying close to me and also more shots. When the firing ceased I heard the gendarmes counting those who lay on the ground. Then they began to look for two more who were missing. They found a father and son hiding in the adjoining lavatory.They brought them out, and I heard the voice of the boy shouting "Long live Poland, and then shots and moans.

Some time later I heard the voices of approaching Poles; cautiously I lifted my head and saw the gendarmes standing beside the hole filled with fire and Poles carrying the corpses and throwing them into it. Their work brought them nearer to me. I then crept into the lavatory and concealed myself behind a partition which formed the roof of the lavatory. Sitting there I heard firing near by and the shouts of Germans from the direction of the hole.

At a certain moment another Pole who had escaped from below through the lavatory found himself beside me. He was Dr Jerzy Łakota, who worked in the Child Jesus Hospital.

We sat up there for many hours. The whole time we heard the crackling of the burning corpses in the hole and of the fire itself.”

Many such atrocities happened all over the city, the two incidents mentioned happened in a small area in the city centre no more than 5 minutes walk apart.

This photo is a 3D modern reconstruction of Warsaw after the uprising

3D reconstruction of Warsaw after the Uprising

Despite the slaughter and destruction, Warsaw was rebuilt, it survived the attempt to wipe it off the map, it struggled to rebuild itself through 50 years of communism. 

Today it stands testament to those brave citizens of Warsaw, and Poland’s AK army, who gave their lives as the capital of a free democratic Poland.

A vibrant. working. modern. city changing quickly, developing, growing and expanding, reborn and standing tall to prove those who tried to destroy it did not win.

We are proud of our families, staff, our presence here, Warsaw our home, and our connection with Warsaw, it's citizens and of our clients who are rebuilding it, developing it and conserving monuments. 

Warsaw not bowed, but a living bustling, working capital city of Poland an EU member.

On 1st August every year people in Warsaw remember the fallen and the battle by flying the Polish flag, and not at half mast but flying proudly to commemorate the battle for the city,

Our Neighbours observing tradition

And when the sirens sound people do this 

  Remember with us


  1. This is a great article with fantastic photos. I was fortunate to visit Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego in 2011, it was a great experience, very moving. Thanks for sharing the story here!

  2. Thank you Leon, its important that as many people know what happened and remember it