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1944: Poles surrender after Warsaw uprising

The Germans have crushed a rebellion in Warsaw led by the Polish Home Army.

Street fighting began on 1 August as Soviet troops were heard battling on the outskirts of the Polish capital.

After 63 days of struggle and little outside help, the Polish Home Army surrendered to the Germans after a ceasefire at 2200 local time yesterday.

Resistance groups had used the sewers to travel from one part of the city to another and send messages.

Much of the supplies that were dropped by the RAF and US Air Force landed on enemy territory.


"[My grandmother] was just a teenager when, whilst running messages from post to post, over the rubble and through the sewers, she shot her first German. "


After the suburbs of Mokotow and Zoliborz fell earlier this week, the city centre became the final rebel stronghold to give in.

An official message from Commander of the Polish Home Army Colonel Monter on behalf of leader of the uprising General Bor said: "Warsaw has fallen after having exhausted all means of fighting and all food supplies on the 63rd day of her heroic struggle against the overwhelming superiority of the enemy."

His statement was followed by a more detailed version of events from the Polish Prime Minister in exile Stanislaus Mikolajczyk.

Speaking from London, he said military operations has ceased because food, water and ammunition supplies had been exhausted and "all hope of outside relief had vanished".

Attempts by Polish troops working together with Soviet forces to establish a bridgehead across the River Vistula were forced back under heavy fire from the Germans.

He said thousand of wounded people lay in underground hide-outs with no medical help.

He praised the bravery of the capital's people in putting up such a long resistance with no heavy armoury and little outside help.

"The defence of Warsaw will remain for ever a testimony to the invincible moral strength of the Polish nation and its unyielding will to independent life," he said.

Two days ago a last desperate appeal for Soviet aid was made in Moscow.

The chairman of the Soviet-backed Communist Polish Committee of National Liberation, known as the Lublin Committee, said Allied aid from East and West was urgently needed to avert "a tragedy of the first magnitude".

Edward Osubka-Morawski said the scorched earth policy adopted by Soviet forces in Poland had led to famine and disease in his homeland and the Soviet Union would be the main source of aid to Poland.

In Context
The Polish Home Army and the citizens of Warsaw rose up against the Germans believing the approaching Soviet forces would finish the job of liberating the city.

But the Soviet army under Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky failed to give effective help to the rebels. Stalin himself decided that only a limited amount of Allied airlifts of supplies would be allowed.

During the uprising more than 15,000 rebels were killed and up to a quarter of the city's one million inhabitants slaughtered.

After it was crushed the Germans ordered all the inhabitants to leave and systematically razed the city.

The Red Army entered Warsaw in January 1945 and the Soviet Union formally recognised the Communist Lublin Committee as the provisional Polish government.

It suited Stalin to see the Polish Home Army - who owed allegiance to the Polish government in exile in London and not to Lublin - destroyed by the Germans.

Any illusions the West held about Stalin establishing a democratic Poland soon evaporated.

By March the whole of pre-war Poland was occupied by the Soviet army.


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