Why Warsaw Uprising Failed

In 1944, Poland's political situation grew increasingly precarious as Soviet forces moved into eastern Poland. In the West, unbeknownst to the Poles, the Allies had agreed to give Joseph Stalin a free hand in eastern Europe after the war. In Poland itself, the brutality of the German occupation continued unabated, with thousands dying every day in camps, summary executions and street round ups.

 

Polish resistance forces were unified under the aegis of the Armia Krajowa, or Home Army (AK, pronounced “Ahh-Kah”). (The only exceptions were the miniscule Communist movement and a small group on the right, the ONR.) This underground force was large and well-organized, but lacked sufficient weapons. Only 1 in 10 fighters had a firearm of any sort and heavy weapons were almost non-existent. This organization prepared for an uprising that would strike back at the hated occupiers.

 

With the tacit approval of the government in exile, the Home Army prepared Operation Burza or Storm. As the Red Army advanced, the underground would rise up, defeat the retreating Germans and greet the Soviets as master of their own country. In the summer of 1944, as the Soviets approached Warsaw, the Poles decided to retake their capital city. Their goal was to drive out the Nazis and welcome the Soviets as masters of their own house, forestalling any effort to impose a Soviet-style puppet regime. In Wilno (Vilnius), the AK played a major role in ousting the Germans from the city and helping the Red Army. The Soviet reciprocated by executing the leaders of the Polish resistance and conscripting the rank and file into the Red Army's Polish units. This was an ominous beginning, but the real test would be in Warsaw.

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