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Number 143

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Copyright After the Battle 2009
Editor-in-Chief: Winston G. Ramsey
Managing Editor: Gordon Ramsey
Editor: Karel Margry
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The Warsaw Uprising cannot be understood without having a look at the many
border changes experienced by Poland in the 20th century. When Germany and the
Soviet Union invaded Poland in September 1939, they carved up the country along a
demarcation line through Brest-Litovsk. Two years later, with Germanys invasion of
the Soviet Union, the Russian-occupied eastern half of Poland fell into German
hands. By 1944, with the Red Army pushing the Wehrmacht back to the west, Stalin
staked his secret claim to all Polish territories east of the so-called Curzon Line,
which basically was the demarcation line of the Polish-Soviet Armistice of December
1919. In return Poland would receive territories annexed from Germany. In effect the
country would be shifted westwards. Even though Stalins claim was yet unknown,
the uprising was the Poles last effort to rescue their pre-war frontiers.

Tragedy on the eve of D-Day
Revenge at Saint-Julien


Acknowledgements: For their assistance with the

Warsaw Uprising story, the Editor extends his
appreciation to Wojciech Markert, Bortlomiej Bydon,
Grzegorz Jasinski and Witold Rawski of the Wojskowe
Biuro Badan Historycznych Wydzial Studiw I Analiz
(Polish Military Office for Historical Research and
Analysis), to Piotr Michalek of the Polish Ministry of
Defence and to Wojciech Szelag, David Gray, Okko
Luursema and Maarten Swarts. For their help with
the Ugine story, the Editor would like to thank Robert
Amprimo, Louise Barat, Christian Chevalier, Georges
Gautard, Pierrine Mayen, Rgis Roche, Gerhard
Rother and Valrie Trouflau. For making possible the
Saint-Julien story, he thanks Alain Baumes, Mayor of
the village, and Josette Combalier, author of several
detailed reports on the affair.
Photo Credits: BA - Bundesarchiv; IGN - Institut
Gographique National; MPW - Muzeum Powstania
Warszawskiego, Warsaw; NIOD - Nederlands Instituut
voor Oorlogsdocumentatie, Amsterdam.


Front Cover: The Warsaw Uprising Memorial on

Krasinski Square in Warsaw's Old Town. (Karel Margry)
Centre Pages, left: Map of Warsaw's underground
sewer canal system, showing the various
subterranean routes, with their points of entry and
exit, used by the Polish Home Army fighters during
the 1944 uprising. (MPW) Right: Separate element of
the Warsaw Uprising Memorial on Krasinski Square
representing a group of Polish freedom fighters
emerging from a sewer manhole. (Karel Margry)
Back Cover: The memorial at Les Fontaines near
Ugine in Haute-Savoie, France, marks the precise
spot where nine hostages were shot by the
Germans about midday on June 5, 1944, in
retaliation for a Resistance bomb attack that killed
11 German policemen earlier that day. In all, the
Germans executed 28 persons, the text on the
memorial reminding passers-by that they were shot
'here and at Place de la Gare'. (Jean Paul Pallud)

Young and old participated in the uprising, as evidenced by this picture by Joachim
Joachimczyk of a Polish teenage fighter who has just exited from a sewer manhole
on Warecka Street after making good his escape from Old Town through the underground canals (see page 27).


On August 1, 1944, the Polish underground army in Warsaw

rose in rebellion against the Germans. The leaders of the Home
Army had decided to undertake the operation, not only so that
Poland could be seen to liberate its own capital but also as a
statement of Polish independence vis--vis the Soviet Union.
With the Red Army having reached positions just miles from the
city, the Poles expected that fighting would only last a couple of
days before the Russians would arrive and seal the fate of the
Germans. However, Soviet dictator Stalin had other plans for
Poland and, on his orders, the Red Army stopped its offensive,

giving the Germans ample opportunity to concentrate on

brutally suppressing the uprising. The Polish insurgents outgunned, outnumbered and only sparingly re-supplied by Allied
airdrops fought on for an incredible 63 days, tenaciously and
with unbelievable courage holding on to daily shrinking sectors
of the city, until they were finally forced to capitulate on October 2. As so often in Polish history, international power politics
led to them being sacrificed. Jerzy Tomaszewski photographed
a party of AK fighters holding a barricade on Mazowiecka Street
in City Centre in the early stages of the uprising.


On September 28, 1939 27 days after

the German invasion of Poland from the
west (see After the Battle No. 65), 11 days
after the Soviet invasion from the east, and
after enduring a two-week siege the city of
Warsaw capitulated to the Germans. The
siege, which had brought almost continuous
shelling by heavy artillery and bombing from
the air, had cost the lives of 6,000 Polish soldiers, with 16,000 wounded, while civilian
losses were about 10,000 dead and 50,000
wounded. Ten per cent of the citys buildings
had been destroyed.
From the first day of the occupation of
Poland, the German authorities established a
rule based on absolute terror, meant to deter
the Poles from any activities counter to German interests. Warsaw naturally became a
focal point of this iron law. Right from the
start, public executions were held in the
streets, as retaliations for even the smallest
act of sabotage. Lists of names of the executed were posted on buildings to serve as an
extra deterrent. Thousands of citizens,
arrested at random in street round-ups, were
deported to forced labour in Germany or
imprisoned in concentration camps. Pawiak
Prison, located in the city centre, became
notorious as the largest political prison in the
country, a place of bestial interrogations,
resulting for most inmates in an agonising
Despite the continual sense of danger, the
people of Warsaw turned en masse to antiGerman activities. The conspirational organ-

isation Wawer conducted acts of sabotage

and propaganda anti-German graffiti
appeared on walls, as well as the letters PW
formed into an anchor, symbolising the
words Polska Walczy (Poland is Fighting),
and the letter V symbolising victory.
Employees in legally operating print shops
began printing counterfeit currency aimed at
funding the resistance, and false documents
to allow resistance fighters to travel freely
around the country. Despite the risk of retaliations, actions were taken against Germans
and Poles collaborating with Germans.
To counteract Nazi-sanctioned entertainment, an underground cultural life sprang
up, including theatrical presentations, concerts of banned Polish music and readings
of poetry in private homes. The Germans
had closed all universities and other institutions of higher education, as well as secondary schools, but the people responded
by creating a highly effective network of
clandestine education. National and religious holidays were festively observed in
secret. There was a thriving underground
Humour was a mighty weapon of opposition. Word-of-mouth jokes and sarcastic
songs ridiculing the occupier circulated the
streets of Warsaw. When signs Nur fr
Deutsche (For Germans Only) appeared
throughout the city, inhabitants hung the
same signs from street lamps. Caricatures of
Hitler and the hated swastika were hung on

By Piotr Sliwowski


This anti-German activity was not accidental, nor uncoordinated, but directed by the
fully developed legal structure of the Polish
State. The Polish Underground State, established on September 27, 1939, was a unique
phenomenon. Nowhere in Nazi-occupied
Europe except in Poland did such a complex
and well-functioning organisational structure
arise a structure encompassing administration, courts, education and a huge, excellently organised army. The Underground
State was headed by government leaders
who had escaped abroad: a president, a government headed by a Prime Minister, a Commander-in-Chief; first in France, later in
London. Based on the Polish Constitution of
1935, it thus maintained the legal continuity
of the national government.
Within Poland, the highest authority of
this government was wielded by the Delegate of the Polish Government to the Home
Country, who held the rank of Deputy Prime
Minister in the government. He headed the
clandestine apparatus of civilian administration, with authority over entities that corresponded to normal ministries: Internal
Affairs, Justice, Labour, Health, Treasury,
Industry, Commerce and Trades, Science
and Education, Food and Agriculture and
Transportation. The Underground State not
only organised opposition to the enemy, but


Left: In the last week of August, with the front of Heeresgruppe

Mitte in Eastern Poland collapsing, the German occupation
authorities started evacuating Warsaw in a state of haste and
panic. Here lorries are being loaded with goods from the
Zacheta art gallery on Malachowski Square, which during the
also cared for its citizens, supported clandestine education, conducted informational and
cultural activities, maintained documentation, etc. Of particular note was the dense
network of secret schools, thanks to which
young people could receive an education
including higher education.
The secret administration of justice was
equally effective. Civilian and Military Special Courts passed judgement, including
death sentences for traitors and collaborators. The Underground State also conducted
broad-ranging activities of a strategic political nature concerning the future social order
in Poland, the economic system and Polands
place in post-war Europe. Basic laws were
formulated, new legislation proposed, social
and economic reforms were discussed, so
that the reborn country might begin to function immediately after the end of the war.
The foundation of the Underground State
was formed by political parties about 50
political societies were active in the underground, many publishing their own press.
The scale of this phenomenon was huge. In
Warsaw alone, during the occupation there
appeared over 700 periodical titles, plus
many books, brochures, school texts, etc.
Representatives of the major political forces
in the country formed an advisory and consultative body, creating a kind of underground parliament. Warsaw became the capital of this Underground State. It was the seat
of the central military command Supreme
Command of the Home Army and of the
central civilian authority the Delegation
of the Government to the Home Country.
The Polish Underground State included a
growing army, which remained an integral
part of the Armed Forces of the Republic of
Poland that had continued its fight uninter4

German occupation was known as the Haus der deutschen Kultur (House of German Culture). Right: With the original Latin
inscription Artibus (To the Arts) restored on its sculpted
pediment, the Zacheta is today a State Art Gallery and once
again one of Warsaws prime exhibition centres.

ruptedly since September 1, 1939. The

underground army was initially named
Sluzba Zwyciestwu Polski (Service for
Polands Victory), then Zwiazek Walki
Zbrojnej (Union for Armed Combat), then
in February 1942 it was renamed Armia Krajowa (AK, Home Army), which became the
largest of the underground armies in occupied Europe. Numbering about 400,000 soldiers, it was an integral part of the regular
Polish Armed Forces fighting alongside the
Allies abroad. The existence of this vast
underground army would have been impossible without the mass support and co-operation of the populace. The fundamental purpose of the AK was to fight to regain
Polands independence. The army armed
itself, building an extensive system for producing weapons and explosives; trained, and
conducted ongoing military operations: sabotage, intelligence gathering all in preparation for a nation-wide armed uprising.
But before this erupted, Warsaw witnessed another heroic insurrection: the
Ghetto Uprising. In October 1940 the Germans had created the Warsaw Ghetto, in
which they crammed over 380,000 Polish
Jews. On April 19, 1943, after some 75,000
inhabitants had perished from misery and
starvation and another 265,000 had been
deported to Treblinka camp and murdered
in the gas chambers there, the 60,000 inhabitants of what remained of the ghetto rose in
desperate rebellion against the Germans.
The fighting raged for nearly a month, ending in the complete annihilation and defeat
of the ghetto fighters on May 16. The Germans subsequently razed the entire ghetto
to the ground, leaving a four-square-kilometre sea of ruins in the heart of the Polish capital.


In late 1943, the outcome of the war and
the post-war world order were in balance. A
key element at this stage was the spectacular
success of the Soviet Red Army, which after
victories at Stalingrad and Kursk had begun
a rapid advance westward. Those were the
circumstances under which the leaders of the
three great powers British Prime Minister
Winston Churchill, US President Franklin D.
Roosevelt and Soviet dictator Josef Stalin
met in Teheran in November-December
1943. The Western Allies, unable to keep
their promise to open up a new front in the
West, wanted at all costs to preserve the
alliance with the Soviet Union. Stalin, well
aware of the difficult situation of the Western Allies, took advantage of this, forcing the
acceptance of the boundary between Poland
and the Soviet Union along a modified Curzon Line, which in effect legitimised the
Soviet territorial conquest of Polish territories made possible by the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of 1939. The Polish Government-inExile was not only unrepresented at the
conference but also not even informed of its
secret decisions concerning Poland.
Relations between the Soviet government
and the Polish Government-in-Exile had
become severely strained by the Katyn affair,
the discovery by the Germans in April 1943
of the mass graves of over 4,000 Polish officers in the Katyn woods near Smolensk a
war crime for which the Soviets looked
clearly culpable but for which they vehemently denied any responsibility (see After
the Battle No. 92). Within two weeks of the
discovery of the mass graves, Stalin broke off
diplomatic relations with the Polish Government-in-Exile. The Soviet behaviour in the

A good set of comparisons but without a

present-day match. The building of the
German Nordwache (Northern Guard)
police station at 75a Chlodna Street,
pictured before the uprising. Note the
concrete pillbox on the left.
Katyn case led the Poles, both in London and
at home, to increasingly distrust their Soviet
The developing international situation
caused the government of the Polish Underground State to abandon its original plan, initiated in 1939, of a nation-wide uprising, to
occur in the final stage of the war. In its
place, AK Command planned Operation
Burza (Tempest), the intention of which
was to attack the German forces just behind
the front lines as they withdrew westward
and to immediately install Polish organs of
administration in the territories thus liberated. These were then to function as both
legal and de facto authorities vis--vis the
Soviet troops advancing into Polish territory.
When the Soviet Army crossed the prewar boundaries of Poland in January 1944,
Operation Burza manifested itself as a
series of local insurrections, moving from
east to west along with the front. Acting
alone or in conjunction with the Red Army,
units of the Home Army entered battle in
Volhynia, the Wilno region, in Lvov and
around Lublin. They liberated dozens of
towns, prime among them Wilno and Lvov in
July. But military successes and good cooperation with the Red Army did not attain
the desired political goals. The front-line
Soviet troops were followed by units of the
NKVD secret police and the counter-intelligence agency SMERSH which began to
arrest members of the Polish civilian administration and military commanders who were
coming out from under cover. AK soldiers
were forcibly disarmed and sent to labour
camps in the depths of the Soviet Union, or
involuntarily assigned to the First Polish
Army of General Zygmunt Berling a Polish unit within the Red Army.


Given these circumstances, the Polish
authorities began to realise the Soviets true
aim. On the basis of their experiences in
Operation Tempest, it became clear to the
Poles that Warsaw must be in Polish hands
before the Soviets entered the city.
The moment seemed propitious: in late
July 1944, in the face of unfavourable reports
from the Eastern Front, the Germans began
evacuating their garrison and administrative
personnel from Warsaw. At the same time,

The same building after it had been seized by Polish fighters from the Chobri I
Battalion on August 3. The building no longer exists and new development at the junction of Chlodna and Zelazna Streets has made a meaningful comparison impossible.

waves of German troops withdrawing from

the front began passing through the city. The
populace had been electrified by news of the
Allied landings in Normandy launched on
June 6, and of the attempt on Hitlers life on
July 20.
During the last week of July the leaders of
the Polish Underground State faced very difficult decisions. On July 21 a Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN) an
illegal, Communist quasi-government totally
subservient to Moscow assumed government authority in the eastern territories
occupied by the Red Army. At the same
time, the 1st Byelorussian Front under Marshal Konstanty Rokossowski reached the
River Vistula and the outskirts of Warsaw,
and the city was rife with rumours that they
had entered the suburbs on the right (eastern) bank. Meanwhile, the Germans had
managed to halt the panic on their side, and
police and SS troops were returning to the
city. On July 27, the German governor of the
Warsaw District, Dr Ludwig Fischer, in an
attempt to forestall an armed insurrection,
issued a decree ordering 100,000 Poles to
enlist for work on fortifications. This order
was spontaneously and widely ignored. At
the same time, the Soviets and their Polish
Communist henchmen by means of radio
broadcasts called on the citys inhabitants to
fight the Germans, accusing the AK of passivity.
Finally, in the afternoon of July 31, the
Commander-in-Chief of the AK, General
Tadeusz Komorowski (nom de guerre Br),
in consultation with the Governments Delegate to the Home Country, Deputy Prime
Minister Jan Stanislaw Jankowski (Sobol),
gave the order to begin combat action. It was
a decision reached by the highest, fully legal
authorities of the Polish State, who were well
aware of the associated risks. After their
experience in two horrible occupations, they
knew that the Red Army was not fighting to
set Poland free, but to exchange Nazi totalitarianism for their own, Communist one. The
Warsaw Rising, the goal of which was to liberate the capital with Polish forces and thus
be able to greet the Soviet troops in the role
of host, was the last desperate attempt at saving Poland from yet another enslavement.
W-Hour was set for Tuesday, August 1, at
1700 hours.


Warsaw Bureau of City Planning before the war. During the 63

days of the uprising he toured the city with his standard Leica
camera covering numerous important events. Before leaving
Warsaw on October 6, he buried the negatives in glass jars
inside a cellar. After escaping from a trainload transport of Polish POWs near the Dutch border, he returned to Warsaw in January 1945 to recover the hidden negatives. He soon left Poland
for Sweden and in 1964 emigrated to the United States where
he settled in Los Angeles. He died on February 2, 1996. Below:
The same junction pictured by Karel Margry in June 2008.


Above: The first days of freedom. A Home Army detachment

emerging from Chmielna Street marches across Szpitalna
Street in City Centre. After the long years of occupation the
sight of young uniformed Poles marching openly on the streets
filled the people of Warsaw with joyous excitement. This is one
of over 3,000 pictures taken during the uprising by Sylwester
Braun (Kris), one of the best-known field photographers
employed by the Home Armys Bureau of Information and
Propaganda (BIP) to cover the uprising. Born on January 1,
1901, Braun was a geodesist by profession who worked at the


Although Warsaw was 85 per cent destroyed in the war, much has been repaired or
painstakingly restored. Here and there, individual buildings have survived the
massive redevelopment of the post-war decades so it is still possible to find meaningful comparisons in the present-day city. Chmielna Street remains relatively intact
and is today a pedestrian area.


Home Army forces in the Warsaw District,

commanded by Colonel Antoni Chrusciel
(Monter), numbered about 50,000, but they
lacked essential equipment and armament
only ten per cent of the members had any
kind of weapon. The situation of the enemy
was totally different: on the eve of the uprising, the German garrison in Warsaw numbered some 13,000 well-armed and highly
trained soldiers, posted at the key locations
in the city, and supported by heavy weapons,
artillery and aircraft. Despite such a disproportion of forces, the Poles initiated the battle which would last 63 days.
On August 1, about 25,000 soldiers of the
Home Army entered combat, because not all
of them could make it in time to their designated staging areas. The first clashes already
occurred a few hours before W-Hour, premature fighting breaking out in the Zoliborz,
Srodmiescie (City Centre) and Wola districts. On the first day, German units in the
city suffered severe losses, estimated at
about 500 casualties. But losses among the
Poles were significantly higher, almost 2,000
being killed.
The positions captured in these first battles
did not provide the Poles with a tactical advantage. Nevertheless, they controlled almost
three-quarters of the capital: virtually the
entire Stare Miasto (Old Town), a significant
part of the downtown districts of Wola, City
Centre (with the then-tallest edifice in the city,
the 16-storey Prudential building, on top of
which they raised the red-and-white Polish
flag) and Powisle (where they captured the allimportant power station), a small section of
Ochota (in the south-west), the central section
of Zoliborz (north of Old Town) and the lower
part of Mokotw (in the south). They also captured storehouses of military uniforms and
food on Stawki Street; German barracks in the
building of St Kinga Church on Okopowa
Street; the Military Geographic Institute on
Jerozolimskie Avenue (the citys main eastwest thoroughfare); the Municipal Transport
building on the corner of Swietokrzyska and
Marszalkowska Streets, and the Directorate of
Railways building in the Praga district (on the
east bank of the Vistula). A sizable Home
Army group under Captain Jozef Krzyczkowski (Szymon) established itself in the


In the first days of the uprising, barricades

went up in innumerable places all across
the city, ordinary citizens joining with AK
fighters to erect obstacles blocking streets
and avenues. This is the barricade sealing
off the western end of Chmielna Street in
the capitals City Centre borough. Picture
by Joachim Joachimczyk.

An overturned tramway car and a lorry trailer have been used

to block off Zlota Street at its junction with Zelazna Street at
the western end of City Centre.

The Palace of Culture and Science Stalins gift to Warsaw

towers over a completely reconstructed Zlota Street. Only
the building on the right (minus its balconies) remains.











Map showing the areas of the city seized and held by the Polish
Home Army by August 5. We have indicated the main locations
featured in our story and also the initial positions of the counterattacking German assault groups under Kampfgruppe Reinefarth.
(The separate Kampfgruppe Rohr was not organised until August
17.) [1] Krasinski Square; [2] Bank Polski; [3] Teatralny Square; [4]

Nordwache police station; [5] PAST building; [6] Victoria Hotel; [7]
Prudential building; [8] Warsaw University; [9] City power station;
[10] Polytechnic University; [11] Small PAST building; [12] BKG
Bank; [13] Poniatowski Bridge; [14] Sowinski Park. Stare Miasto
Old Town; Srodmiescie Polnocne northern City Centre; Srodmiescie Poludniowe southern City Centre.


The quiet courtyard remains remarkably unchanged after 65 years.

August, which they would use in several
combat actions. They also had a Hetzer
tank destroyer, seized from Panzerjger-

Abteilung 743 on August 2, which they later

repaired and took into service under the
name Chwat (Daredevil).


Kampinos Forest, the large woodland just

north-west of Warsaw. But the Germans were
entrenched in several dozen strong positions,
and still maintained control of the city, retaining possession of the most-strategic locations:
the five Vistula bridges, the railway stations,
the two airports and many administrative
buildings and military barracks.
The arms available to the Home Army
came from a variety of sources. Some were
captured from the enemy, some came from
Allied supply drops, but most weapons had
been manufactured in the underground
armys own arms shops, which had been in
operation through most of the resistance
movement. These clandestine factories produced home-made grenades of various types,
flame-throwers, grenade-launchers, bottlethrowers and mines. Gun shops assembled
sub-machine guns a Polish version of the
British Sten gun, and a home-grown gun
called Blyskawica (Lightning), also based on
the Sten.
The rebels arsenal also included a few
combat vehicles both home-made and
captured during the course of the uprising. A
symbol of Polish ingenuity and inventiveness
was the armoured car called Kubus (Jake).
Built on the chassis of a Chevrolet truck and
with a body of double layers of sheet metal
painted in a grey-and-brown camouflage pattern, it could protect its riders from rifle fire
and grenade shrapnel. The Poles would use
this vehicle twice in their attacks on the University of Warsaw, on August 23 and September 2. In both operations, they also used
Szary Wilk (Grey Wolf), originally called Jas
(Johnny), an SdKfz 251 half-track of the
5. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Wiking,
captured by men of AK unit Krybar in the
Powisle district on August 14. In addition,
the Poles had two 45-ton Panther tanks, captured from the Fallschirm-Panzer-Division
Hermann Gring by men of the Zoska
Battalion in the Wola district in early


Platoon I/1447 mustering in a courtyard

between Mazowiecka Street and
Dabrowski Square in the north-west corner of City Centre. Commanded by 2nd
Lieutenant Leopold Kummant (Ryski),
his injured arm in a sling, the platoon
was part of the company of Captain
Boleslaw Kontrym (Zmudzin), a unit of
the Bartkiewicz Group under Major
Wlodzimier Zawadzki (Bartkiewicz), one
of the formations making up the AK
forces in the Northern City Centre sector.
The picture was taken by Irena Kummant-Skotnicka (Luga), the platoon
commanders spouse.

Left: The Victoria Hotel located at No. 26 Jasna Street in

northern City Centre was captured by the Poles on the first
day of the uprising, August 1, and for the first three days was
the command post of Colonel Antoni Chrusciel (Monter),
the commander of the Warsaw District of the Home Army.

Here, Polish soldiers dash out from the hotel lobby for the
benefit of a BIP cameraman, this being a still lifted from cine
material. Right: The hotel was heavily damaged in the later
fighting and has since been replaced by a nondescript office
and housing block.



with a Soviet 7.62mm machine gun and a flamethrower in a

revolving turret, Kubus was designed to carry 12 men including
the driver, Sergeant Fijalkowski (Anastazja). Completed on
August 23, Kubus went straight into action in the second attack
on the Warsaw University. This failed, as did the third attempt
on September 2. Forced to evacuate from Powisle, the crew
abandoned the vehicle in the Oklnik Garden on September 6.
Right: Recovered from the garden after the arrival of the Red
Army in January 1945, Kubus has since been one of the prime
exhibits at the Polish Army Museum on Jerozolimskie Avenue.
However, there are today two specimens of Kubus in Warsaw, a
replica having been built for the new Warsaw Uprising Museum
that opened in July 2004. This is the replica, built by Janusz

The Krybar Group was also responsible for capturing a SdKfz

251 half-track. Originally on the strength of the 5. SS-PanzerDivision Wiking, it was seized by members of the Krybar
Group on Na Skarpie Boulevard in the southern part of Powisle
on August 14. Like Kubus, the vehicle was used in the attacks
on the Warsaw University on August 23 and September 2.

It was originally christened Jas (Johnny) but, after the death of

commander Adam Dewicz (the man holding the MP40 submachine gun) on August 23, it was named after his pseudonym
Szary Wilk (Grey Wolf). It remained in service until the end of
resistance in Powisle on September 6. The picture was taken
by Sylwester Braun (Kris) on Tamka Street.


Left: This home-made armoured car was built during the uprising by members of the Krybar Group with the express purpose
of using it to attack the troublesome German strong point in
the Warsaw University complex. It took 13 days to build, construction starting on August 10 when engineer Edmund
Frydrych (Junior-Lieutenant Kaczka) acquired a 3-ton Chevrolet model 157 truck via the staff of the city power station in
Powisle. Construction took place in the workshop on the corner
of Tamka and Topiel Streets under the direction of engineers
Walerian Bielecki (Junior-Lieutenant Jan) and Jzef Fernik
(Globus). The vehicle was named after Ferniks wife, a female
doctor who had been killed on August 15 and whose AK
pseudonym was Kubus. Covered with a double layer of
armoured plating, procured from all over Warsaw, and armed




Above and top right: One of the two Panther tanks captured
from the Fallschirm-Panzer-Division Hermann Gring by
members of the Zoska Battalion (part of the Radoslaw
Group) in Wola on August 2. The pictures were taken by BIP
photographer Juliusz Bogdan Deczkowski (Laudaski) near
Okopowa Street, the avenue that skirted the ruins of the
destroyed Jewish Ghetto between Wola and Zoliborz. The battalion created a special tank platoon named Wacek and used
the tanks in several combat actions. On August 5, they committed one of the Panthers in an attack on the small concentration camp on Gesia Street, in the heart of the former Jewish
ghetto area, which the Germans had turned into a strong
point. The attack freed 348 Jews, who subsequently joined the
ranks of several insurgent battalions (right). One of the Panthers was lost on August 8, the other on August 11.

The Polish armoury also included a

Jagdpanzer 38 (t) Hetzer. One of the best
tank destroyers designed by the Germans during the war, it was captured
from Panzerjger-Abteilung 743 by men
of the Kilinski Battalion during the battle around the Main Post Office on
Napoleona Square on August 2. Heavily
damaged by Molotov cocktails, it was
initially built into the barricade that
sealed off the approach from Szpitalna
Street at the southern end of the square
(above). Three days later, on August 5, it
was towed away (centre right) and
brought back to running order by Senior
Sergeant Franciszek Jablonski (Wilk).
Adorned with the nickname Chwat
(Daredevil), it was then kept operational
although mostly in reserve and never
really deployed in actual combat until
lost under the ruins of the postal building. The picture (right) was taken in the
Post Office courtyard around August 14.
The men sitting on top of the vehicle are
(L-R) 2nd Lieutenant Asko and a welder
sent from the insurgent-held city power
plant. The eagle emblem and name
painted on the vehicle are attributed to
Marian Sigmund.


The first news of the outbreak of the Warsaw Rising caused rage and uncompromising
reactions on the German side. Hitler was
furious and ordered the total destruction of
the city. Reichsfhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler,
in relaying Hitlers order, added: Every
inhabitant must be killed (including women
and children), no prisoners will be taken.
Warsaw must be levelled to the ground, to
create a terrifying example for all of Europe.
Right from the start, the German garrison
was strengthened by troops of the German
9. Armee of General der Panzertruppen
Nikolaus von Vormann that happened to be
present in Warsaw or were moving through
the city on their way to and from the retreating front, in particular some units of the 5. SSPanzer-Division Wiking and the FallschirmPanzer-Division Hermann Gring.
To combat the uprising, the Germans created a special Korpsgruppe, commanded by
SS-Obergruppenfhrer Erich von dem BachZelewski. The various elements of the corps
reached Warsaw by rail in the course of the
first week, assembling on the western and
south-western suburbs. The Korpsgruppes
main force was Kampfgruppe Reinefarth,
commanded by the SS- und Polizei-Fhrer
(SS and Police Leader) of Poznan, SS-Gruppenfhrer Heinz Reinefarth, and eventually
consisting of four brigade-sized assault
groups. From south to north they were:
Angriffsgruppe Sd (Assault Group
South), mainly comprising SS-Sturm-Brigade
RONA, a unit made up of Russians, Ukrainians, Latvians and Lithuanians from the collaborationist Russkaya Osvoboditelnaya
Narodnaya Armiya (Russian National LiberOne of the weapons employed by the Germans was the Goliath, or Fernlenkpanzer,
the remote-controlled explosive-filled
tracked vehicle that could be used to blow
up buildings, barricades or troop concentrations. Powered by either an electric or
small petrol engine, it had a maximum
speed of 10kph carrying an explosive
charge of 60, 75 or 100 kilograms. It was
steered by a trailing command wire with a
range of 600 metres. The Goliaths in Warsaw were operated by Panzer-Abteilung
302 which arrived in the city on August 14,
originally equipped with 35 but six days
later increased to 50. Kriegsberichter
Gutermann photographed men of the special unit preparing two of the Goliaths for

ation Army) and commanded by SSBrigadefhrer Bronislaw Kaminski (but in

Warsaw led by Kaminskis deputy, SSSturmbannfhrer Yuri Frolov);
Angriffsgruppe Mitte (Assault Group
Centre), led by SS-Standartenfhrer Oskar
Dirlewanger, comprising SS-Sturm-Brigade
Dirlewanger, a notorious unit made up of SS

BA 695/411/4A

BA 695/411/1A

The German reaction to the uprising was not long in coming. On August 5, Kampfgruppe Reinefarth launched a strong counter-attack from the west, beginning with a
powerful drive down Wolska Street. A Wehrmacht Kriegsberichter (war reporter),
Gutermann, pictured SS-Gruppenfhrer Heinz Reinefarth (third from right) conferring
with his commanders and staff.

convicts and common criminals released

from prisons and concentration camps, and
two battalions of collaborationist Azerbaijan
troops, the Aserbeidschanische Feld-Bataillon I./111 and the Aserbeidschanische Infanterie-Bataillon II;
Angriffsgruppe Nord (Assault Group
North), under Major Max Reck, comprising
a variety of motorised Gendarmerie companies from Poznan and other Polish towns
plus two police battalions, Polizei-Bataillon
Burkhardt and Polizei-Bataillon Peterburs;
Angriffsgruppe Schmidt, led by Oberst
Willi Schmidt, mainly consisting of
Sicherungs-Regiment 608 from Poznan.
In the course of August, Korpsgruppe von
dem Bach would be further reinforced by
numerous other units: several formations
made up of Cossack troops (Kosaken-Regiment 3, IV. Kosaken-Abteilung from
Sicherungs-Regiment 57, Kosaken-Bataillon
572, Kosaken-Abteilung 69 and Ost-ReiterAbteilung 580); elements from several
armoured units (Panzerjger-Abteilung 743,
Panzer-Abteilung 302 and Sturm-PanzerKompanie 218); an armoured train; various
artillery, anti-tank, machine-gun, flamethrower, assault pioneer and Flak units; and
many other smaller battle groups.
As the battle progressed the Germans further committed elements of various frontline divisions, notably the 19. Panzer-Division (used to put down the Poles at Mokotw
in the south and Zoliborz in the north) and
the 25. Infanterie-Division (deployed against
Zoliborz). Overall, the rising fought against
approximately 190 different German and
collaborationist units. The total strength of
von dem Bachs command eventually


BA 695/411/7A

the right. Powaskowska Street was the main line of advance of

Angriffsgruppe Reck during its attack towards City Centre on
August 11. Progress was slow and fighting in this area continued for several days the presence of the Goliaths is proof that
the pictures were taken on or after August 14.

Left: Major Max Reck, the Angriffsgruppe commander, watches

as the Goliaths are made ready for deployment. He is standing
on the corner of Powaskowska Street, at its crossing with
Okopowa Street, taking advantage of the cover provided by the
heavy perimeter wall which surrounds Powaski Cemetery.

The area around the burial ground and the former Jewish
Ghetto beyond was firmly defended by units of the
Radoslaw Group, some 1,650 strong. Major Reck came from
the Infanterie-Schule Posen (Infantry School Poznan). Right: The
same corner, now a busy crossroads.


BA 695/411/9A

Left: His next shot showed the soldiers transporting the

Goliaths forward on their specially-designed handcarts. Right:
With help of experts from the Polish Military History Institute,
Karel traced the spot to Powaskowska Street in the north-western borough of Powaski. St Karol Boromeusz Church stands on



BA 695/412/12

Centre: A little further on, another Kriegsberichter, Leher, pictured the same column
of evacuees passing a Marder II (SdKfz
132), a tank destroyer mounting a captured Russian 7.62cm anti-tank gun on a
Panzer II chassis (or, to use the full German
terminology, a Panzer-Selbstfahrlafette 1
fr 7,62 PaK 36(r) auf Fahrgestell PzKpfw II,
Ausf D). This most probably belonged to
Panzerjger-Abteilung 743, companies of
which were assigned to support both the
Kaminski Brigade in Angriffsgruppe Sd
and the Dirlewanger Brigade in Angriffsgruppe Mitte. The courtyard of the gutted
building had been the scene of one of the
massacres of over 1,000 persons. The German troops piled the corpses in large
heaps, poured petrol over them and set
them on fire, then did the same to the
building. Many other houses in Wola had
been set on fire by shelling and Stuka
bombing. Right: Still standing on the corner of Syreny Street, the building has been
neatly restored.

On August 5, Kampfgruppe Reinefarth

launched a main counter-attack from the
west and south-west, through the districts of
Wola defended, among others, by the

Radoslaw Group under Colonel Jan

Mazurkiewicz and Ochota. The objective
of these attacks was to regain the two major
thoroughfares crossing the city needed to

BA 695/423/13

reached 50,000 troops. (By August 17, the

forces under Reinefarth had grown so large
that Korpsgruppe von dem Bach inserted a
second headquarters to take command of the
forces fighting in the south-western sector of
Warsaw. This was Kampfgruppe Rohr, commanded by Generalmajor Gnther Rohr.
From that day onward, Korpsgruppe von
dem Bach comprised two main forces,
Kampfgruppe Reinefarth and Kampfgruppe
The Germans were very well armed with
artillery, tanks, armoured cars and aircraft.
They utilized heavy 38cm mortars and
Wurfrahmen 40 multiple-frame rocket
launchers with high-explosive and incendiary
missiles (which the Poles called cows
because of their sound, or wardrobes
because of their shape) and deployed SdKfz
303 Goliaths, small remote-controlled
tracked vehicles carrying a 60kg explosive
charge that could blow up barricades or
buildings. Their most-powerful weapon was
a self-propelled 60cm Karl Mrser siege
mortar, shells of which could easily demolish
a multi-storey building. Throughout the
fighting, the Korpsgruppe was kept supplied
by the 9. Armee and received replacement
troops from the Reich.
On August 3, faced with large concentrations of German troops, the Polish force in
the Praga district went back underground.
Thus, two days after its start, the uprising
was limited to main-part Warsaw on the west
bank of the Vistula.

populace be evacuated from the city. Kriegsberichter Gutermann photographed a large group of civilians being marched
out under guard. Right: The picture was taken on Wolska
Street in the Wola district. The main thoroughfare leading into
Warsaw from the west, this was Kampfgruppe Reinefarths
main axis of advance during August 5-6. We are on Wolska
Street near the junction with Plocka Street, the house on the
left being No. 54. Mass shootings of groups of over 1,000 civilians had taken place all around this spot.


Left: During the first days of the uprising, the German troops
advancing through western Warsaw acted with the utmost
savagery, rounding up and shooting every Polish person they
came across. Thousands of men, women and children were
slaughtered in the boroughs of Wola and Ochota, the main perpetrators being the men of SS-Brigade RONA and SS-Brigade
Dirlewanger. Although higher German commanders issued
orders that the massacres be stopped, they continued for
several more days. New orders stipulated that the whole


BA 695/423/16

Left: A few paces further on, still on in Wolska Street, a group of evacuees is herded
into the St Stanislaw Church. Right: The trees have grown but the church remains
unaltered after 65 years.
men, women and children were killed. Executions were carried out in hospitals, factories and courtyards of apartment buildings.
Surviving Poles were rounded up into special units and forced to dig pits, in which the
bodies of the murdered were burned in an
attempt to erase evidence of the massacre.
Soon, the Germans were running short of
ammunition. In an evening conversation
with General von Vormann, commander of
the 9. Armee, Reinefarth asked: What

should I do with the prisoners? I have more

prisoners than bullets.
From the moment the rising broke out, in
many parts of the city, captured members of the
Home Army were summarily executed, the
Germans considering them to be bandits to
whom the Geneva Convention did not apply.
Through the first month of fighting, the Allies
delayed recognising the AK as a regular Allied
army only on August 29 did an official diplomatic note on this matter change this situation.


BA 695/423/18

keep open the Wehrmachts supply routes to

the Eastern Front and to link up with the
forces under Generalleutnant Reiner Stahel,
the garrison commander of Warsaw, which
were cut off in the centre of the city.
That same day, remembered by the
Varsovians as Black Saturday, the Germans began the systematic mass murder of
inhabitants of Wola and Ochota, an
unprecedented massacre preceded by rape
and the looting of houses. Prime culprits for
this horrific bloodbath were the thugs of SSBrigade Dirlewanger and the Russian mercenaries of SS-Brigade RONA. Over the
next few days, an estimated 15,000 to 40,000

Left: Inside, the people anxiously await their fate. Stories of the
German atrocities in Wola and Ochota had spread rapidly
across the fighting city, putting fear and anger in the hearts of
the people. With the expectation that the same fate would
await them on capture, it only strengthened the AK soldiers in
their determination to fight on and encouraged many ordinary
civilians to join their ranks. Inevitably, whenever the Germans

captured a city block and ordered all the inhabitants to evacuate, many thought that their last hour had come. Under such
circumstances, it was almost a relief to discover that they were
actually being evacuated. The majority of the populace of
Warsaw was moved out via Dulag 121, a transit camp set up in
Pruszkw, ten kilometres west of Warsaw. Right: Then a place
of anxiety, now again a place of worship.


The aerial resupply of the Warsaw insurgents by the air forces of the Western Allies
was a courageous but very costly effort and, for the most part, futile. Out of a total of
178 aircraft despatched by No. 205 Group from Italy between August 4 and September 21, no less than 31 were shot down a loss rate of over 17 per cent. One of them
was Liberator KG809 of No. 1586 (Polish) Special Duty Flight. On the night of August
14/15, it took off for its seventh mission to Warsaw. After successfully dropping its
supplies on to Krasinski Square, on the return flight but still over Poland, the aircraft
was attacked and shot down by Luftwaffe fighters over Bochnia (some 30 kilometres
east of Krakow) and crashed in a ball of flame near the village of Nieskowiece. The
entire crew perished: Flight Lieutenant Zbigniew Szostak (pilot), Flight Lieutenant
Stanislaw Daniel, Warrant Officers Stanislaw Malczyk, Tadeusz Dubowski and Jzef
Bielicki and Flight Sergeants Wincenty Rutkowski and Jzef Witek.


July 30. On August 3 he met with Stalin,

informed him of the outbreak of the uprising and asked for assistance. Stalin declined
to take an unequivocal stance. He accused
the Home Army of lack of activity up to
now in the fight against the Germans. In a
second meeting, on August 9, Mikolajczyk
asked for the immediate supply of weapons
to the Home Army. Stalin declared that
assistance would be forthcoming, but it soon
turned out that this was an empty promise.
Stalins position was applauded by the Polish Communists in his service, who were



The AK leadership had assumed that the
rising would last at most a few days, after
which units of the Red Army would enter
Warsaw. A similar tactical evaluation was
reached by the German command. However,
Stalin made a decision that was incomprehensible militarily, but in accord with the
logic of totalitarian politics he ordered the
Red Armys offensive halted until the rising
was crushed. For the last time in the Second
World War, there was a de facto, but this
time not formal, co-operation of Stalin with
Hitler, their joint aim being the destruction
of Warsaw.
Day after day, the Home Army awaited
Stalins order to resume the offensive
towards Warsaw. But the Soviets were very
well aware that the political goal of the rising
was not only to demonstrate the power of the
Home Army, but to establish in Warsaw an
authority sanctioned by the legal Polish Government-in-Exile. To prevent this, they
stopped their westward advance, and
directed their attack at the Balkans. Around
August 10, Stalin rejected the plan for the
taking of Warsaw presented to him by his
military leadership, and for over five weeks
he waited for the city to fall. He justified this
by the supposed exhaustion of the Red Army
units holding the east bank of the Vistula. He
allowed neither establishing contact with the
Poles, nor any air operations over the city,
nor even making supply drops to the city. He
also ordered that the front line be more
strongly sealed by NKVD units, lest any AK
units infiltrate into Warsaw from territories
controlled by the Red Army. The Soviets
also initiated a large-scale diplomatic campaign to discredit the Polish Government-inExile and the uprising itself, disqualifying it
as a street brawl and the combatants as a
band of criminals.
Stalins activities took place in the presence of the Polish Prime Minister, Stanislaw
Mikolajczyk, who had come to Moscow on

preparing to take over rule, at the point of

Soviet bayonets, of the Polish territories
occupied by the Red Army. Their deputy
leader, Wanda Wasilewska, in a meeting
with Mikolajczyk claimed that there was no
fighting in Warsaw.
Shortly after the outbreak of the rising,
Polish authorities in exile initiated efforts to
gain assistance for the fighting city from the
Western Allies. On August 3, Churchill
issued a directive to begin air drops over
Warsaw, making them contingent on the
opinion of Air Marshal Sir John Slessor, the
Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Allied Air
Forces in the Mediterranean.
On the night of August 4/5, the first Allied
bombers with supplies for Warsaw took off
from Brindisi in southern Italy. Many were
manned by Polish crews serving in the RAF.
Between August 4 and September 21,
bombers of No. 205 Group Halifaxes and
Liberators of No. 1586 (Polish) Special Duty
Flight and Nos. 31 (SAAF), 34 (SAAF), 148
and 178 Squadrons flew 22 night-time
relief missions to Warsaw, despatching a
total of 178 aircraft. Losses were exceedingly
heavy: 31 aircraft did not return and 193
crewmen were lost (of the latter, 141 were
killed, 40 joined up with Home Army troops
or were captured by the Germans and 12
reached Red Army lines).
Night drops over Warsaw were extremely
perilous; in order to target a particular district of Warsaw, the heavy bombers
descended to an altitude of just a few hundred feet, flying just above the rooftops,
under fire from German, and often also
Soviet, anti-aircraft guns.
The air operation was greatly hampered
by Stalin, who did not allow Allied aircraft to
land at Soviet airfields after making the
drops. The round trip from Italy to Warsaw
was about 1,750 miles, so the return flights
had to be carried out in daylight, across Hungary and Yugoslavia, where airspace was
patrolled by German fighters. Only on September 10, when the fate of the uprising was
already sealed, did Stalin agree to make airfields available to the Allies.
On September 18, 107 B-17s (out of 110
despatched) of the 13th Combat Wing, 3rd
Bomb Division of the US Eighth Air Force
appeared in the skies above Warsaw, having flown there from their bases in England. Their appearance caused great euphoria, which however quickly turned into

A full-scale replica of KG809 (US serial number 44-10395) is today one of the prime
exhibits at the Warsaw Rising Museum. Reconstructed from original technical drawings and photographs and incorporating parts salvaged from the original machine, it
honours the aircrews of all nations that flew to Warsaw to help the uprising.



Some 40 miles further east, at the village of Zdzary (between

Tarnow and Debica), is a memorial to another resupply bomber
that was lost during the same night, August 14/15. It commemorates a Liberator of No. 178 Squadron and its crew: Lieutenants R. L. Lawson (pilot) and A. D. E. Stott (navigator), Warrant Officer Ernest Page (air gunner) and Sergeants William
Garner (flight engineer), Roland Pain (wireless operator), Rupert
Stonier (bomb-aimer) and William Huddert (air gunner), who all
died in the crash. They lie buried in collective graves in the
CWGC section in Krakows Rakowicki Cemetery. The memorial
on the crash site was the initiative of the local villagers and was
unveiled in the presence of relatives of the crew on July 5, 1998.


As the uprising erupted in Warsaw, the
Polish Committee of National Liberation
(PKWN) the Moscow-controlled quasigovernment set up headquarters in Lublin
and began spreading its authority in the eastern territories occupied by the Red Army.
They had a clear stance regarding the fighting in the capital, declaring on August 20:
The Warsaw Rising, in the real intent of its
perpetrators, was to be directed not against
the Germans, but against the PKWN, against
Polish democracy; its goal was to establish in
Warsaw a reactionary government and
declare it the government of the country.
From the first days of its existence, the
PKWN, headed by Edward OsbkaMorawski, under Soviet direction, actively
worked against the interests of a democratic

Poland. On July 26, five days after its formation, the committee signed an agreement in
Moscow, by which Polish citizens found in
the combat zone were put under jurisdiction
of the Soviet military authorities. Consequences were quick to follow. Using lists of
names previously prepared by their intelligence service, the Soviets began to arrest
thousands of Polish soldiers and officials of
the Polish Underground State, deporting
them to prison camps in Ostaszkw, Borowicz and Riazan.
On July 27, the PKWN leadership also concluded in Moscow a secret agreement with
the Soviet government concerning a new
Polish-Soviet border based on the so-called
Curzon Line. Thus, this self-appointed government, without any legitimacy, sanctioned
the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of 1939 and
ceded half of pre-war Poland to the Soviets.



despair when most of the 1,284 containers

dropped fell outside the areas controlled by
the Home Army, who recovered only 228
of them. One B-17 was lost and seven were
damaged. Another B-17 had to land at
Brest-Litovsk but the others continued into
Russia to bases at Poltava and Mirgorod.
This operation had a great psychological
effect, but could in no way alter the course
of the uprising. In all, between August 4
and September 21, the Western Allies
dropped some 239 tons of weapons and
supplies into Warsaw.
In the final phase of the rising, from September 13 to October 1, Soviet aircraft also
brought 50 tons of supplies to the fighting
city, but these drops were executed without
parachutes, resulting in most of the badly
needed equipment arriving damaged or
totally destroyed.

Memorial in the Skaryszewski Park in east-bank Warsaw marking the spot where another Liberator of No. 178 Squadron,
EV961, crashed after having been set on fire by German Flak on
the night of August 14/15. Six of the crew Flying Officer
George MacRae (pilot), Lieutenant Percy Coutts (navigator),
Flight Sergeant Hugh McLanachan (air gunner) and Sergeants
John Porter (wireless operator), Richard Scott (flight engineer)
and Arthur Sharpe (air gunner) died in the crash. The sole
survivor was Sergeant Henry Lloyd Lyne (bomb-aimer), who
was thrown out of the aircraft when it exploded. The area
where the bomber came down was then a small muddy island
in the middle of a lake. The memorial was unveiled in 1988.

Left: Of the 110 aircraft sent out to Warsaw by the US Eighth

Air Force from Britain on September 18, only two were lost,
but the Poles were able to recover only 17 per cent of the 1,284
containers released. BIP photographer Jerzy Tomaszewski
pictured Home Army soldiers displaying a supply parachute on

Szpitalna Street near its junction with Chmielna Street. This is

the same spot where Sylwester Braun (Kris) photographed
the marching AK soldiers in the early days of the uprising (see
page 6). Right: Braun himself snapped smiling soldiers marching off with a supply container.

NIOD 14545

Angriffsgruppe Dirlewanger began to launch daily assaults, but

the insurgents managed to repulse every one of them. An SS
combat photographer, SS-Kriegsberichter Hans Schremmer,
documented the fighting around the square from the German
side in a series of pictures, which unfortunately are undated.
Here two Sturmgeschtze III advance into the square from
Foch Street. The building on the left-hand corner is the Grand
Theatre. In centre background is the Blank Palace with the
ruins of the Ratusz on the left.


The battle for Old Town began on August 8, increasing in ferocity on August 19, and lasted until September 2. Some of the
heaviest fighting took place around Plac Teatralny (Theatre
Square) on the southern edge of Old Town. From the first day
of the uprising, the square itself was a kind of no mans land,
the Poles having seized the Canonesses Convent, Ratusz
(Town Hall) and Blank Palace on the northern side while the
Germans held on to the area around the Grand Theatre
(National Opera House) on the southern side. From August 12,

From 1944 . . . to 2008. Foch Street is today named Moliera Street and modern cars replace the fighting vehicles of yesteryear.


After the successes of the first few days,
and faced with the brutal German counteroffensive, the AK fighters turned to defensive
action, concentrating on holding previouslywon positions and on attempting to link up
the various areas held by them particularly
the northern and southern parts of City Centre; City Centre with Powisle via Nowy Swiat
street; and City Centre with Old Town.
On August 7, they threw a barricade
across Jerozolimskie Avenue, the citys main
artery, between Krucza and Marszalkowska
Streets. It formed, and would remain, the
only connecting passage between the northern and southern parts of the city throughout
the uprising. To protect those crossing the
road, a trench was dug between the two sides
of the road. (Later, in September, a tunnel
was also constructed.)
On August 9, troops of SS-Brigade
Dirlewanger achieved a link-up with the
German troops holed up in the German governmental and administrative district around
Pilsudski Square, allowing the evacuation of
German Governor Fischer and other Nazi
officials. Insurgents opened fire on the
motorcade, wounding Fischer and killing one
of his deputies.
On August 12, having brutally reduced
Wola and Ochota, German troops struck in
force at Old Town, attacking with Angriffsgruppe Schmidt from the north, Angriffsgruppe Reck from the west and Angriffsgruppe Dirlewanger from the south and east.
The historic district was defended by the
Radoslaw group under Colonel Jan
Mazurkiewicz;, the Kuba-Sosna group
under Major Olgierd Ostakiewicz-Rudnicki
(Sienkiewicz) and the Rg group under
Major Stanislaw Blaszczak (Rg), under
the overall command of Colonel Karol
Ziemski (Wachnowski).
On August 18, German Stuka fighterbombers fiercely bombarded the district,
concentrating on the areas around Market
Square and the Polish Bank on Bielanska
Street. The Government Printing Office, the
most northerly bastion of defence, was under
constant barrage by artillery and mortars.
The next day, Kampfgruppe Reinefarth
launched a general assault on the besieged
district. Infantry units attacked on
Bonifraterska Street, in the Krasinski Garden, on Tlomacka and Bielanska Streets.
Fierce fighting continued in the ruins of St
Johns Cathedral and nearby Brzozowa
Street. Day after day, the Germans continued their artillery barrages and air attacks,
setting fire to many buildings and reducing
the historic district to rubble.
On the night of August 20/21, in an
attempt to come to the rescue of the troops
fighting in Old Town, AK units from the
Zoliborz district in the north made the first
attempt to take the Gdansk Railway Station.

BA 146/1973/113/22

The assault guns most likely belonged to

Sturmgeschtz-Ersatz-Abteilung 200,
which arrived in Warsaw on August 8
with six vehicles. Three were each
assigned to Angriffsgruppe Nord (Reck)
and Angriffsgruppe Mitte (Dirlewanger).
The attacks in Teatralny Square were carried out by the latter force so the StuGs
featured here must be Dirlewangers.

An open-air folk concert was underway when Karel took his comparison in June 2008.

NIOD 17535

Two StuGs venture out onto the square

(the muzzle of the second is just visible on
the left). The far side was doggedly held by
men of the Rg Group under Major
Stanislaw Blaszczak, among them the
Nalecz Battalion under Captain Stefan
Kaniewski and the Dzik Battalion under
Captain Tadeusz Okolski. For two weeks
they held out against the incessant attacks
of German armour, aircraft and artillery
until the last day of the Old Town battle,
September 2, but by then the groups battalions had practically ceased to exist.

Ukrainian troops of Angriffsgruppe

Dirlewanger take cover behind the
columns of the theatre.
Despite relatively good armament and
numerical advantage, the attack broke down
in a hail of German machine-gun fire,
artillery and mortar barrages. The open area
in front of the station, between Zajaczka
Street and the tracks, cleared by the Germans by burning down the barracks there
and illuminated by flares, proved to be
impassable. The Poles were forced to retreat,
having lost about 100 men.
The attack was resumed the following
night, August 21/22, with assaults from two
sides, from the direction of Zoliborz and
from Old Town. But the attempt to surprise
the Germans failed. Met by massed machinegun and artillery fire, the attack cost the
Poles several hundred killed and wounded.


BA 146/1973/113/21


The echoes of war have faded away in

this timeless comparison.

Left: German troops dash across the ruins towards the northern end of the square. On August 29, the Germans broke into
the Blank Palace, Ratusz and Canonesses Convent but the
Poles managed to recapture the palace and the front part of

the town hall the following day. Right: The new building
erected on the right has replaced the former piles of rubble,
while on the left can be seen the eastern wing of the restored
Blank Palace.



Left: Getting closer, Lokajski pictured the

raging fire and smoke belching out of the
third-floor windows. Far left: Still a landmark symbol of the uprising today.


The only significant successes by the Poles

during this time were solely in City Centre.
On the night of August 19/20, units under
command of Captain Henryk Roycewicz
(Leliwa) attacked the eight-storey building
of PAST (Polish Telephone Joint-Stock
Company) on Zielna Street. It took many
hours of heavy fighting for them to finally
eliminate this troublesome enemy strong
point, which had poured heavy fire on the
Poles ever since the beginning of the uprising. Final victory was achieved by setting the
building ablaze. Using a motorised firebrigade pump, placed on the second story of
a building across the street, they poured
thousands of litres of diesel fuel and petrol
into the building, creating an unquenchable
fire. To escape the flames, the German
troops descended to the basement, where
they were attacked by a Polish platoon
through a breach in the wall. Thirty-eight
Germans were killed, with many more
wounded and burned, and 121 taken prisoner. Polish losses were 17 killed. The building contained a large supply of weapons,
which was captured.

quantity of fuel into the building, they set fire to the upper
floors, forcing the Germans down to the basement and into the
arms of AK fighters that had blasted an entry there. A BIP cameraman or photographer was present at the besieging of the
PAST almost every day, hence its storming is one of the betterdocumented episodes of the uprising. BIP photographer Eugeniusz Lokajski (Brok) pictured men of the Kilinski Battalion
watch the burning PAST from a barricade on Zielna Street.
Right: Our comparison was taken from near the intersection
with Swietokrzyska Street.


Left: One of most-celebrated Polish successes during the whole

of the uprising was the capture of the PAST (Polish Telephone
Stock Company) building on Zielna Street on August 20.
Located in the heart of City Centre, the high-rise edifice had
been a German redoubt since the start of the rebellion on
August 1, the German force holed up inside it keeping the
entire area under incessant machine-gun and sniper fire. Insurgent forces lay siege to the building, but it was not until
August 20 that members of the Kilinksi Battalion and other
Home Army units succeeded in capturing it. Pumping a large




Above, right and below: Surrendering Germans come streaming out of the PAST
and are being led away under guard. In all,
the Poles took 121 prisoners, many of
them wounded and burned.


The houses across the street from the Polish Telephone Company building have disappeared to be replaced by a row of
low-rise shops and cafes.



Another BIP photographer, Joachim Joachimczyk, pictured the

fuel being squirted into the PAST building from the second storey
of the house opposite. Note the film cameraman in the foreground.



One of the German prisoners, Kurt Heller, had kept a diary during the 19-day siege, excerpts from which testify as to their
plight: August 4: We are further closed in. No support from outside. We expect help today or tomorrow. We have no food.
Water lacking. August 5: Rudolph is killed. All my friends have
now been killed. Lttwitz fell. Hollweg is seriously wounded.
August 7: At noon we were shelled by our own artillery but
without losses. Our attempt at break-out failed. One man was
killed and four seriously wounded, one of whom died. At 8 a.m.
today 14 of our dead were buried in the courtyard. The air is
very bad because the corpses of our dead stink. August 14-1516: Terrible hunger. Fear envelops us at night. August 17: The
Poles want to drive us out with fire and Molotov cocktails.
Again, several men broke down and committed suicide. August
19: I cannot think of deliverance. There are Poles all around us.
Left and above: Men of the Kilinksi Battalion use ladders to
climb into the building through the windows. . . soon to emerge
with captured weapons and ammunition (below left).

No ladders outside the historic building today, only the sunshades of a modern caf terrace.

On August 23, men of the Ruczaj Battalion and of the 136th Postal Platoon captured the so-called Mala PAST (small
PAST building) at No. 19 Pius XI Street in
the southern sector of City Centre. A
telephone-exchange vital to German
communications, it had been reinforced
by a platoon of Schutzpolizei under
Oberleutnant Jung on the first day of the
uprising. The insurgents laid siege to the
building and heavy fighting with automatic weapons and hand-grenades went
on for days until finally the German garrison was overcome, the Poles setting
fire to the building and smoking them
out. Jung and 14 other men managed to
fight their way out, the rest 76 men,
many of them wounded were killed or
taken prisoner. The AK fighters liberated
20 Poles whom the Germans had held
hostage in the building, and captured
three vehicles and a large quantity of
weapons and supplies. Here, pictured on
August 22, smoke emerges from the
building after it has been set on fire in
the Polish assault. In the roadway stands
a German tank, knocked out earlier in
the fighting.
Three days later, on the morning of
August 23, the Polish forces scored another
success in City Centre when, after an attack
lasting several hours, they seized the socalled small PAST building on Pius XI
(Piekna) Street, a telephone exchange
turned into a German stronghold, taking 76
Germans prisoner, liberating 20 hostages
and capturing three vehicles and a considerable amount of weapons and ammunition.


SS-Brigadefhrer Paul Otto Geibel, chief of

the German SS and police in Warsaw,
launched several attempts to relieve or
strengthen the besieged force, sending in
infantry groups supported by tanks, but
none of these came through. During one of
these attempts, on August 5, the Germans
loaded Polish women onto two of the
panzers to shield the vehicles from being
attacked with Molotov cocktails, an act
which led to heavy casualties among the
women. Here a female combatant poses
beside one of the burned-out tanks after
the battle. The vehicle is an Italian Carro
Armato M13/41 captured by the Germans
from the Italian Army in 1943 its German designation being PzKpfw M14/41
736(i). Vehicles of this type were used to
equip two SS-Sturmgeschtz-Abteilungen
and employed in anti-partisan operations.

Left: Members of the Ruczaj Battalion pose in the doorway of

the small PAST after their victory. From September 6 till the
end of the uprising on October 5, the telephone-exchange

building would serve as the headquarters of the Home Armys

Supreme Command. Right: The same doorway in what is today
Piekna Street, less the pillbox on the right.


That same day, August 23, the Poles

attacked a strong German bastion the
Church of the Holy Cross and the adjoining
police station on Krakowskie Przedmiescie
street. The complex operation was led by
Major Bernard Romanowski (Wola).
After taking the church, the Poles attacked
the Germans main defensive position, the
two-storey rectory behind it, manned by a

site side. On August 23, after a stiff battle, the Poles captured
the police station but all attacks on the university failed. This
picture, a film still from footage shot by insurgent cameraman
Antoni Wawrzyniak on August 26, shows German armour,
some disabled, in front of the university. Below: The picture
was taken from the doorway of the police station.

garrison of several dozen soldiers. Then,

after an AK sapper unit breached the wall
with an explosive charge, the Polish fighters
reached the courtyard of the police headquarters, where they eliminated a German
force and launched a two-pronged assault
on the main building. The whole operation
lasted about nine hours and was one of the
most spectacular actions of the rising. Ger-

man losses were several dozen killed, with

almost 100 taken prisoner. Here again, the
Poles captured a large number of weapons,
including especially valuable machine guns.
However, renewed attacks to capture the
Warsaw University a German bastion
since the first day of the uprising further
along the same street, remained unsuccessful.


Above: The chaos of battle on Krakowskie Przedmiescie. This

wide avenue, which forms the dividing line between Powisle
and City Centre, was the scene of heavy fighting, the insurgents occupying many of the streets around it but the Germans tenaciously holding on to the police headquarters on the
west side of the street and the university complex on the oppo-



The ruined building was never repaired and became a symbol of the uprising. In 1984
it was decided to set up an Uprising Museum in the building but this never materialised and the plan was finally abandoned in 2002 in favour of another location, the
former tramway power plant on Przyokopowa Street.


Meanwhile, fighting in Old Town was not

going well for the Poles. Home Army units in
other parts of the city tried several times to
come to the aid of the surrounded district but
all attempts ended in failure. One by one, the
Germans captured successive Polish positions. The only way left to break out of the
siege was by way of the sewers. On the night
of August 25/26, the AK Supreme Command
evacuated through the sewers to City Centre.
AK units in Old Town still held on to positions in the Polish Bank, the bombed-out
passageway by Dluga Street and in the ruins
of the Ratusz (City Hall) and the Blank
Palace on Teatralny Square. On August 27,
Colonel Ziemski reorganised the defence of
the district. That day, the Poles nullified a
German attempt to blow up St Johns Cathedral, capturing men from SS-Brigade
Dirlewanger and about 100 kilograms of
explosives; in the Government Printing
Office fierce battles raged for each floor. The
next day, the Germans took the entire building, murdering the wounded, field hospital
staff and civilians found sheltering in the
Given the desperate situation, Colonel
Ziemski decided to try to evacuate his troops
to City Centre. On August 30, a group of
lightly wounded passed through the sewers
out of the besieged district. That same day,
remaining units attempted to open up a corridor through the Bankowy Square via which
all the soldiers and civilians could be evacuated, but the action, in which the Poles lost
300 men, ended in failure. Under the circumstances, Polish units resumed evacuations
through the sewers, continuing this until September 2. It was hard going. The relatively
short section from Krasinski Square to the
Warecka Street exit took over four hours to
traverse. In all, over 5,000 of the Home Army
and small groups of civilians escaped via the
sewers a few hundred north to Zoliborz,
the majority south to City Centre.


Another of the Polish strongholds in Old

Town was the building of the Bank Polski
(Polish Bank) on Bielanska Street. AK units
occupied this massive building on the
morning of August 4. Fighting for it started
on August 20 and lasted until September 1.
The last redoubt defending the Old Town,
it was abandoned when German encirclement threatened, the defenders withdrawing from the building.

Left: Remains of a German SdKfz 301 Borgward B IV armoured

demolition vehicle that exploded within Polish lines on August
13. The SdKfz 301, or schwerer Ladungstrger (heavy charge
carrier), was a larger version of the Goliath. An explosives-filled
armoured vehicle designed to demolish buildings, barricades
or other obstacles, Panzer-Abteilung 302 brought 20 of them to
Warsaw. In the evening of August 13, soldiers of the Gustaw
Battalion saw an enemy vehicle move close to a barricade on
Podwale Street and apparently get stuck whereupon the driver

jumped out and escaped. The insurgents briefly inspected the

abandoned vehicle, then moved it inside their defence lines,
thinking they had captured an enemy tank. However, shortly
afterwards, it exploded in front of No. 1 Kilinskiego Street,
killing over 300 people: about 100 men from the Rg Group,
many from Battalions Gustaw, Wigry and Gozdawa and
over 100 civilians. Right: The memorial to the catastrophe in
Kilinskiego Street: Place sanctified by the blood of 500 fallen
insurgents and residents of the Old Town.



Left: The escape of the AK fighters from Old Town through the
sewers was made from Krasinski Square, the escapees entering
the underground system through a manhole on the square. On
the morning of August 31, Wieslaw Chrzanowski pictured Wojciech Sarnecki (Woitek) from Anna Company of Gustaw Bat-

by the enemy. The Poles quickly adapted the

main routes for frequent passage, fixing
wooden boards on the floor and ropes to the
walls, but conditions in the tunnels were
extremely difficult. The passageways were
dark, because light would attract the attention of the Germans. Stuffiness and the smell
of toxic sewage made breathing difficult and
they were often forced to wear gas masks.
Some of the passageways were only 90cm
high and 60cm wide, forcing people to move
on all fours. To aid in orientation, wooden
sticks with a length corresponding to the
widest horizontal diameter were used
travellers wedged them against the walls in
front of them and guided themselves forward, then moved the stick ahead. The journeys proceeded at an average pace of five

metres per minute. In time, after the organisation of a special unit for this purpose, conditions improved somewhat: sappers built
wooden dams to regulate the water level and
put up lighted directional signs. Movement
through the sewers was supervised by specially-trained women couriers and young
boys, including a troop calling themselves the
sewer rats.
In mid-August the Germans began to
destroy the sewer routes, their engineers
installing steel grates, closing up entrances,
injecting smoke into the tunnels, flooding
them with water, and throwing in grenades.
Some tunnels were demolished with Taifun
devices containers filled with inflammable
gas which was released into the tunnels and
then detonated.




The use of the city sewer system on such a
large scale in the Warsaw Rising was a phenomenon not seen in earlier armed conflicts.
Designed in the 19th century by Englishman
William Lindley, the sewers stretched underneath virtually the entire city. In the night of
August 5/6, Elzbieta Grosswna (Ela)
made the first passage from City Centre
south to Mokotw, opening up regular communication via the sewers between districts.
The network of underground passageways
enabled Polish forces to maintain liaison
among various centres of battle, transfer of
reinforcements, supply of ammunition and
food, and also the evacuation of soldiers,
civilians and wounded from sections cut off

talion dashing across the square while under enemy fire, shortly
before his successful getaway through the canals. The view is
towards the corner of Miodowa and Dluga Streets in the proximity of the sewer entrance used for the retreat. Right: The same
corner has undergone a major transformation since the war.

The main escape route from Old Town to City Centre ran from
Krasinski Square to the manhole on the corner of Nowy Swiat
and Warecka Street (see the red line connecting [1] and [3] on
the map overleaf). Joachim Joachimczyk pictured one of the
escapees being helped out.

The later escape of the defenders of Mokotow to City Centre,

on September 26, began at Szustra Street and ended at the
manhole on Ujadowskie Avenue near Wilcza Street, pictured
here by Sylwester Braun (see the purple line connecting [8] and
[9] on the map overleaf).

Krasinski Square nr Dluga Street
Stolecna St near Krasinskiego Street
Nowy Swiat near Warecka Street
Zgoda St near Sienkiewicza Street
Danilowiczowska St near Senatorska St
Mazowiecka St near Swietokrzyska St
Bankowy Square near Senatorska St
Ujadowskie Avenue at Wilcza Street
Szustra Street
Wiktorska Street
Zagorna Street
No. 60 Wawelska Street
Wawelska St near Prokuratorska St
Dworkowa Street


Northern Sector
Stare Miasto - Zoliborz
Stare Miasto - Srodmiescie
Zoliborz - Srodmiescie
Stare Miasto - Srodmiescie
Stare Miasto - Pl. Bankowy
Southern Sector
Srodmiescie - Mokotow
Srodmiescie - Mokotow
Czerniakow - Mokotow
Trasa ewakuacyjna Ochoty

BA 695/424/18A

BA 695/424/14A

fitted with special trusses and moved as a single unit.) In all,

six mortars of this class were built by Rheinmetall-Borsig
between 1937 and 1941 and the one sent to Warsaw was gun
No. 6, commissioned on August 28, 1941, and named Ziu.
(Guns Nos. 1-5 were named Adam (later Rex, then Baldur), Eva,
Odin, Thor and Loki respectively.) Operated by HeeresArtillerie-Batterie 638, which had a complement of three officers and 110 men, Ziu arrived in Warsaw on August 18, setting
up a firing position in the Sowinski Park along Wolska Street in
Wola (see [14] on the map on page 8). Although there was a
delay due to the late arrival of the ammunition, the gun managed to fire its first shot that same day. Right: The crew loading
the gun. Note the roman VI on the breech, indicating that this
was gun No. 6, Ziu.

Above: The crew running back to the gun

to reload for another shot. Right: The
statue of General Jzef Sowinski (17771831), the hero of Polands November
1830 uprising, just visible behind the carriage enabled us to pinpoint the guns
exact position in the park. Mortar No. 6
Ziu stayed in action at Warsaw until September 22, when it was returned to the
artillery proving grounds at Jterbog
(south of Berlin) for repairs. It appears
that a replacement gun was sent, for the
German order of battle for September 26
shows the presence in Warsaw of
Heeres-Artillerie-Batterie 428 which operated Karl mortars No. 1 Rex and 4 Thor.
This battery stayed in Warsaw until October 11, when it was sent to Budapest. Ziu
was captured by the Red Army at Jterbog on April 20, 1945. Today it is at the
Kubinka Tank Museum in Russia, albeit
incorrectly named Adam.


BA 695/424/17A

Left: The most-powerful weapon employed by the Germans at

Warsaw was the Karl-Gert 040 60cm heavy siege mortar. The
largest piece of field equipment to see service during the Second World War, this massive weapon weighed 124 tons and
could throw a 1.7-ton high-explosive shell a maximum distance
of 6,8 kilometres or a 2.2-ton concrete grenade a distance of
4.3 kilometres. A self-propelled gun in theory, its tracked
carriage was powered with a 580hp Daimler-Benz diesel
engine that enabled it to move at a crawling speed of 6-10 kilometres per hour, but in practice the tracks were mainly used
just for aiming the gun. (For transport over larger distances the
gun was taken apart, barrel, recoil mechanism and carriage
being moved as separate loads. For very long distance moves
the whole apparatus was slung between two railway wagons


structure, the 16-storey Prudential Insurance Building on

Napoleona Square in City Centre, on August 18. Braun took his
photo from the roof of his home at No. 28 Kopernika Street,
some 600 metres away on the other side of Nowy Swiat street.


Ziu scores a direct hit on the Prudential building! Sylwester

Braun (Kris) took one of the most-spectacular photos to
emerge from the Warsaw uprising when he pictured the exact
moment a round from the Karl mortar hit the citys tallest

Karels comparison, taken from the upper window of the same house in June 2008.

The same view today, taken from the corner of Swietokrzyska Street. Completed in
1934, and 66 metres high, the Prudential was Warsaws first real skyscraper. During
and after the uprising it was almost totally destroyed by the Germans, only the steel
framework surviving. Rebuilt over the stripped skeleton in post-war years in a more
neo-classical style, the building was adorned with a colonnaded porch and became
the Hotel Warszawa which operated up to July 2003. Now plans are for the top floors
to become luxury apartments and the rest to be renovated for hotel use but when we
took our comparison in June 2008 reconstruction was still underway. Napoleona
Square is today named Square of the Warsaw Uprising (Plac Powstancw Warszawy).



The outbreak of the rising meant not only
the possibility of open warfare with the occupier, but also after almost five years of
covert resistance the emergence from
underground of the legal structures of the
Polish State. For over two months, an area of
several square kilometres of the capital
formed a free state, with all the institutions
of a democratic republic. Political parties
began their activities, publishing their periodicals; civil administration began to function; red-and-white flags and crests with the
crowned white eagle appeared, prompting
widespread enthusiasm. The civilian population spontaneously joined in. Hospitals were
created, as were fire-fighting units and air
raid services; workshops produced guns and
other weapons; newspapers were printed and
distributed; and work proceeded on the
installation of two radio stations.
On August 5, the Government Delegate
for the Capital Region, Marceli Porowski
(Sowa), assumed full civilian authority over
the city, with duties approximating those of
the pre-war mayor of Warsaw. All matters
not connected with military operations were
in the purview of the rapidly developing civil
administration. Within a few days, officials
organised agencies responsible for providing
citizens with food and water, housing, and
co-ordinating the evacuation of civilians
from particularly threatened areas. An
Office of Missing Persons was formed as part
of the Polish Red Cross. Civilians were also
aided by the Scouting movement, which
organised what was known as the Military
Social Service.
The civil administration relayed its instructions to the populace in four ways: by means
of block committees, posters hung on walls,
publications in the Dziennik Obwieszczen
(Daily Announcements) and through the
Polish Radio.
On August 6, the Scouts Field Post Office
began its operations, young boys and girls
undertaking the task of collecting and delivering mail. The central post office was in
Swietokrzyska Street, close to the Grey


Firemen attempt to put out the fire that

has broken out in the Prudential building
as a result of the shelling, but they are
seriously handicapped by lack of water
and equipment. The office block had
been seized by a company of the Kilinski Battalion on the first day of the
uprising and it became one of the Home
Armys strong points in City Centre,
serving amongst other things as an
excellent observation post.

Left: The cameramen of the Home Armys Bureau of Information and Propaganda risked their lives recording the course of
the uprising, and the effect it had on the lives of the civilian
population. They shot over 30,000 metres of film, part of which
the BIP used to compile three newsreels that were screened in
Warsaw, even as the fighting continued. Sylwester Braun photographed two of the BIP cameramen, Stefan Baginski (left)
and Antoni Wawrzyniak, at work on the corner of Marszal32

kowska and Sienkiewicza Streets during German shelling of

City Centre on September 4. That morning, Powisle and the
northern part of City Centre were subjected to heavy and
systematic artillery and aerial bombardment as a prelude to
the all-out German attack, started at noon, against Powisle.
The onslaught demolished whole streets and caused many
casualties. Right: Looking into Sienkiewicza Street from
Marszalkowska today.

Ranks scouts headquarters. In time, their

activities spread virtually across the whole
city. Eight more post offices were created,
with over 40 letterboxes throughout the city.
Correspondence passing through the Scout
mail service was limited to 25 words, and all
letters were subject to military censorship (to
minimise the risk in case the letters were
intercepted by the Germans). Letters were
delivered at no cost. The daily volume of
mail ranged from 3,000 to 6,000 items.
The AK leadership was well aware that, in
addition to the struggle, it was vitally important to document the course of events.
Already in the spring of 1940, the underground forces had established a Bureau of
Information and Propaganda (BIP). In 1942,
the bureau created a unit code-named Roj
(Swarm) especially charged with documenting and publicising the upcoming uprising. It
trained teams of cameramen, photographers,
radio announcers, journalists and writers and
accumulated equipment and necessary materials. Thanks to these preparations, the outbreak of the rising on August 1 saw the
deployment to the front of many journalists
and war correspondents well-prepared for
combat conditions.
Film-makers documented the uprising on
30,000 metres of film, from which Waclaw
Kazmierczak with two other directors
Antoni Bohdziewicz (Victor) and Jerzy
Zarzycki (Pik) edited several newsreels.
The first screening of a newsreel occurred in
the evening of August 15, in the Palladium
cinema on Zlota Street. Two more issues
were screened on August 21 and September
2. All three were presented under the title
Warsaw is Fighting. There was much more
material which was not then used but also
It had been intended that BIP would, in
the first hours of combat, activate a radio station under the call-sign Blyskawica (Lightning). Unfortunately, in transporting the
equipment to its destination, it became
soaked with water, which delayed the stations deployment. Communications officers
quickly set up a substitute station and on
August 3, the 18-watt transmitter Burza
(Tempest) began broadcasting. The repaired
Lightning transmitter then became operational on August 8. The next day, using the
same transmitter, a second station Polish
Radio came on the air. Although the transmitter had to change location three times,
programmes were transmitted daily until the
very end of the uprising, October 4. They
included a news bulletin relating information
from the world, from the country and from
the fighting city; a press review; and a cultural program with music and insurgent
poetry. It was indeed quite an accomplishment that in this heavily bombarded city,
there functioned two radio stations Lightning and Polish Radio whose broadcasts
were heard as far away as Great Britain.
As the number of wounded soldiers and
civilians increased, the AK Command issued
an appeal to the citys physicians to take on
medical duties. Over 500 doctors, assisted by
a multitude of nurses and medical orderlies,
spontaneously volunteered for work in hospitals and treatment centres. During the two
months of fighting, over 10,000 persons were
hospitalised and almost 20,000 given immediate medical aid. The efforts of the medical
teams prevented the outbreak of an epidemic in Warsaw. They toiled at one of the
most difficult fronts of the battle. Hospitals,
although prominently marked with red
crosses, often became the targets of German
air attacks.

On September 14, units of the Soviet 47th Army entered Praga, the district of Warsaw on the east bank of the Vistula. The happy Poles welcoming their liberators were
unaware that the Soviets would for the next six weeks remain frustratingly passive.
After Old Town fell to the Germans on
September 2, Polish forces maintained their
positions in City Centre, Powisle, Czerniakw, Mokotw, Zoliborz, and in the
Kampinos Forest north-west of the city.
Above all, they defended the strategic areas
on the banks of the Vistula in the hope that
holding on to them might facilitate an
amphibious assault by Red Army forces from
across the river. The Germans also feared a
Soviet offensive and therefore directed their
main assault thrusts at the town districts
along the river: Powisle and Czerniakw.
On September 3, Angriffsgruppen
Schmidt and Dirlewanger assaulted Powisle
from the north. Possessing an overwhelming
superiority, and notwithstanding the
defenders determination, they systematically overcame successive points of Polish
resistance. On September 5, having totally
exhausted their ammunition, the Poles
abandoned the power station in Powisle,
out of action since the previous day due to
bomb damage. In the city, now without electricity, the situation rapidly grew more desperate. On September 6, the whole of Powisle collapsed and German units began to
attack and capture the northern parts of
City Centre.
Faced with this catastrophic situation, and
with no prospect of assistance from the out-

side, the AK leadership authorised the Polish

Red Cross to begin negotiations for the partial evacuation of the civilian population
from City Centre. As a result, on September
8 and 9, during hours of cease-fire, some
8,000 people left the city. Having thus established contact with representatives of the AK
Command, the Germans proposed beginning
talks on the capitulation of the rising.
A day later, September 10, Rokossowskis
1st Byelorussian Front renewed their longawaited offensive action, the Soviet 47th
Army starting the Praga operation. Taking
part in this attack was the 1st Infantry Division Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a Polish unit in
the Red Army. Under these circumstances,
the AK Command decided to play for time
in their negotiations with the Germans,
finally breaking off all talks on the 11th.
On the 13th, Red Army units entered
Warsaw from the east, advancing into the
Praga district. The Germans retreated to the
west bank of the Vistula, blowing up all five
of the rivers road and rail bridges in the city.
The following afternoon, the whole of Praga
was free of Germans. However, having occupied the east-bank districts of Warsaw,
Soviet forces now ceased all offensive operations. The Polish capital, fighting with its last
breath, waited in vain for a general assault by
the Red Army. The ally once more became
a spectator.


Karel discovered that the picture was

taken on Targowa Street, one of Pragas
main thoroughfares, at its corner with
Wilenska Street. A new apartment block
has been inserted between the old buildings. The view is northwards.

The only point where Jerozolimskie could

be crossed with any safety was at the barricade that had been erected on August 7
between houses Nos. 17 and 22, about
midway between the German positions in
the BKG building and those around the
Central Railway Station at the other end of
the street. Constructed from a double wall
of sandbags, it was later deepened by a
trench dug into the roadway. On September 7, and again on the 8th, the Germans
repeatedly attacked in attempts to demolish the barricade, but the vital position
held. On September 13, insurgent photographer Wieslaw Chrzanowski pictured two
soldiers from the Gustaw Battalion,
Cadet Corporals Roman Patynowski and
Kazimierz Gajewski, carrying sacks of
grain from the grain store at the Haberbusch & Schiele Brewery through the
trench to the southern sector.


The same view today, looking east down Jerozolimskie, with the BKG on the right
and the flanking towers of the Poniatowski Bridge in the far distance.
day. In an attempt to ensure that inhabitants
got at least one hot meal a day, insurgents
kitchens prepared the simplest food, for
example barley soup, popularly known as
spit-soup because of the need to spit out the
husks and chaff.
The lack of water was also a great problem. On September 14, the Germans captured the waterworks on Filtrowa Street,
which meant that the water supply to the city

was cut off. Water now had to be obtained

from wells dug in many parts of the city,
often by German prisoners. By mid-September, 42 wells were operational, with another
48 in progress. They were used according to a
strict schedule separately by soldiers, hospitals, kitchens and civilians. This involved
considerable risk, because the Germans
often bombed or shot at queues of people
waiting for water.


Only the units of General Berlings First

Polish Army, weak and poorly trained,
moved out to help the rising. Over the next
few days, despite a lack of Soviet artillery
support, regiments of the Polish 2nd and 3rd
Infantry Divisions established three bridgeheads on the west bank of the Vistula: at
Czerniakw on the 16th, Zoliborz on the
17th, and between the Poniatowski and Srednica Bridges on the 19th. Fighting lasted
longest at the Czerniakw bridgehead, where
two battalions of the 9th Regiment of the 3rd
Division joined forces with Home Army
units under Colonel Jan Mazurkiewicz
(Radoslaw). The Germans threw huge
forces at them, attacking with Angriffsgruppe Schmidt from the north, Angriffsgruppe Dirlewanger from the north-west and
Kampfgruppe Rohr from the south-west and
south. On September 23 they took Czerniakw, where they proceeded to commit more
murders on soldiers and civilians. The chaplain of the Kryska unit, Father Jzef Stanek
(Rudy), attempted to negotiate to save the
lives of the survivors but paid for this with his
life at the hands of the Germans. (Along with
107 other Polish martyred clergy he would be
beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1999.)
In the second half of September, the people of Warsaw were increasingly plagued with
hunger. Quartering and feeding of the populace was controlled by block commands and
by the effectively organised Rada Glwna
Opiekuncza (RGO, Main Welfare Council).
The uprising had begun with many bakeries
and field kitchens operating throughout the
city, and inhabitants had also hoarded significant stores of food and water, but these were
depleted over time, so the authorities ordered
the registration and requisitioning of all commercial food stores in the areas held by the
Home Army. In City Centre, the chief source
of food was the grain store at the Haberbusch
& Schiele Brewery on Ceglana Street, occupied by the AK fighters on August 6. Nevertheless, food rations were diminishing day by


During the first days of the uprising, a

strong German force positioned itself in
the large BKG Bank (Banku Gospodarstwa
Krajowego) on the corner of Jerozolimskie
Avenue, and Nowy Swiat. From there they
kept Jerozolimskie, the main east-west
thoroughfare through the city, covered
with incessant machine-gun fire, making
any crossing of the road a perilous undertaking and preventing an effective link-up
between the Polish forces in City Centres
northern and southern districts. On September 29, a local, one-hour cease-fire took
place at the Germans request, allowing
them to pick up the bodies of a dozen soldiers killed near the Cristal restaurant
across the road. The Poles used the truce
to collect supplies dropped in the avenue,
while cameraman Antoni Wawrzyniak
used the lull in the fighting to take this
shot of the BKG building.

The end of the uprising. The capitulation agreement having

been signed the previous day, General Tadeusz Komorowski
(Bor), the commander-in-chief of the Home Army (centre),
meets with the German delegation that will take him to
General von dem Bachs headquarters in Ozarw for further
discussions. They are standing in Politechniki Square which
After taking Czerniakw and having driven Polish forces away from the Vistula
riverbank, the Germans concentrated their
attacks on the Mokotw district in the southern part of town, defended by AK units
under Lieutenant-Colonel Jzef Rokicki
(Karol). Battered by units of the 19.
Panzer-Division from the north and east and
Kampfgruppe Rohr from the south and west,
day by day the area defended by the Poles
shrank, as one by one the their last strong
points were reduced. On September 26 the
Mokotw units began to evacuate through
the sewers, an operation that turned into a
dramatic disaster. Contradictory orders,
toxic sewage and German attacks from
above caused many of the AK soldiers to
panic and die in the underground passage
and only some 600 utterly exhausted fighters
made it to City Centre. Mokotw finally
capitulated the next day around noon.
That same day, September 27, after a week
of preparations, the Germans began Operation Sternschnuppe (Shooting Star),
designed to eliminate the Kampinos Group
a strong force of AK units fighting in the
Kampinos Forest outside of Warsaw. Two
days later, on the 29th, the Kampinos units
were crushed by the Germans in a battle
near Jaktorw.
Next, the Germans concentrated on eliminating Zoliborz, the now-isolated northern
district of town, launching Angriffsgruppen
Reck and Schmidt and units of the 19.

throughout the uprising had formed the front line, the buildings in the background being held by the Poles. The Polytechnic University complex (to the rear of the photographer) had
originally been in their hands as well but had been recaptured
by Kampfgruppe Rohr on August 19 after a fierce five-day

Panzer-Division into it in massive concentric attacks. In the afternoon of September

30, his strongholds being overrun on all
sides, Lieutenant-Colonel Mieczyslaw
Niedzielski (Zywiciel), commander of the
troops in the borough, was instructed by
AK Command to stop combating and surrender his troops. Now only City Centre
was still fighting.
After the fall of Mokotw and Zoliborz,
lacking all hope, the AK Command, in con-

sultation with the Government Delegate to

the Home Country, Jan Stanislaw Jankowski, decided to enter into capitulation talks.
On October 1, General Tadeusz Komorowski, the Home Army Commander-in-Chief,
sent a message to the Polish Government in
London: Further combat in Warsaw has no
chance of success. I have decided to end it.
Terms of surrender guarantee full combatant
rights to the soldiers and humane treatment
of civilians.


Looking west across the square into

what was in 1944 named 6. Sierpnia
Street and today Nowowiejska Street.


On October 2, representatives of the AK

Supreme Command Colonel Kazimierz
Iranek-Osmecki (Heller) and LieutenantColonel Zygmunt Dobrowolski (Zyndram)
signed an agreement on a cessation of
hostilities in General von dem Bachs headquarters in Ozarw outside Warsaw. By its
terms, the Home Army was to surrender its
weapons and leave the city in tight unit
columns, headed by their commanders. The
entire civilian population had to depart from
the city as well.
The first AK units marched into captivity
on October 4. A day later, in grim silence, the
remaining units marched out, along with the
AK Supreme Command, the Warsaw District
Command and the City of Warsaw Corps
Command. General Komorowski, the
supreme commander, standing alone by the
side of the street, saluted the units. Then,
escorted by a German officer, Major Kurt
Fischer, he followed them, determined not to
abandon his soldiers. The last group numbering about 300 persons left the city on
October 9. In all, 11,668 Home Army soldiers
and officers went into captivity. The Germans
moved them to Stalag 334 at Lamsdorf (Lambinowice), from where they were later sent
on to other POW camps across Germany,
men and women going to different camps.
In his final report of the Warsaw action to
Himmler, General von dem Bach stated that
German casualties totalled 9,044 men
killed, wounded and missing. These numbers
were obviously greatly understated. In his
account in February 1947, given in a Warsaw
prison, von dem Bach estimated that casualties were 10,000 killed, 7,000 missing and
9,000 wounded. (Records of the 9. Armee
have the same amount of wounded but indicate a decidedly lower death figure of 2,000.)
Polish casualties were incomparably
greater according to various estimates,
civilian losses alone were 130,000 to 180,000.
Of the entire Home Army force employed,
approximately 18,000 were killed or missing
and 25,000 wounded, 6,500 of them seriously.
In addition, almost 2,000 Berling soldiers of
the First Polish Army died during the
amphibious assaults and fighting in the


The Germans felt a genuine respect for

the Poles military achievement and their
courage and allowed them to surrender
with honour. The Home Army forces
retreated from the battle area in closed
formation and fully armed and only later
laid down their weapons. Here, members
of the Wigry Battalion assemble on
Dabrowski Square for the march into
captivity. At centre, with rucksack, is the
battalion commander, Major Eugeniusz
Konopacki (Trzaska). The picture was
taken by Edward Swiderski on October 5.

Dabrowski Square, southern side, at its corner with Jasna Street today. The building
closest to the camera has changed but the ones at the far end remain recognisable.

Left: Bor-Komorowski being escorted by Major Kurt Fischer,

the Ia (Operations Officer) of Kampfgruppe Reinefarth. Right:
The surrender agreement stipulated that 6. Sierpnia Street
would be the route used by the Home Armys 72nd Infantry
Regiment (from September 20, the insurgent forces in Warsaw

had been reorganised into three divisions, those in City Centre

forming the 28th Infantry Division Stefana Okrzej comprising
the 15th, 36th and 72nd Regiments) to march into captivity and
it was here that Bor-Komorowski stood to salute his troops
leaving the city on October 5.

Having stood idly by on the eastern bank

of the Vistula for six weeks, restrained
by Stalins orders from coming to the
rescue of the Polish insurgents, the
Soviet Red Army did not finally enter the
west-bank part of Warsaw until January
17, 1945 over three months after the
end of the uprising. Here a column of
vehicles crosses the river via a wooden
bridge built next to the blown Poniatowski Bridge.

On January 12, 1945, the long-awaited
Soviet offensive got under way. The Germans, realising they were outnumbered,
soon evacuated the west-bank part of Warsaw and Soviet and Polish units entered the
devastated, virtually empty capital on the
17th. On the 19th, the First Polish Army
staged a dress parade on the ruined Jerozolimskie Avenue. A garrison made up of
soldiers of the Polish Army was stationed in
the city, under the command of General
Michal Rola-Zymierski.
In the first half of 1945, the Communists
gained practically total control of Poland. On
March 27, three key leaders of the Polish
Underground State the last Commander
of the Home Army, Brigadier-General
Leopold Okulicki (Niedzwiadek); the head
of the National Unity Council, Kazimierz
Puzak, and the Government Delegate to the
Home Country and Vice Premier, Jan Stanislaw Jankowski arrived at Pruszkw for a

meeting with the Soviets. The invitation

turned out to be a ruse the three men
were arrested and taken to Moscow. The following day, the NKVD arrested 13 more
leaders of the Polish Underground, including
representatives of the main political parties:
the Populist Party, the National Democrats,
Labour Party and Democratic Union.
In mid-June 1945, the Soviets staged a
show trial in Moscow of the arrested men,
known as the Trial of the 16. Its purpose
was to discredit, in the eyes of Western
nations, the leadership of the Polish Underground, and, by consequence, all Poles in
opposition to Soviet domination. To this end,
the defendants were accused of collaboration
with the Germans. Ten of the 16 were sentenced to prison terms. For three of them
General Okulicki, Vice Premier Jankowski
and Minister Stanislaw Jasiukowicz (Opolski) it meant a sentence of death. They
died in unexplained circumstances during
Soviet incarceration.



The first few days of October 1944 saw the
mass exodus of Warsaws civilian population.
At least a quarter of a million residents left
the city. The Germans directed the expellees
to transit camps, the largest of which was
Dulag 121, set up in the rolling stock repair
works at Pruszkw, and already established
in the first week of August. By October 10,
almost 550,000 Varsovians, plus about
100,000 residents from its suburbs, had
passed through the camp. The stay there usually lasted no longer than a week. During
that time, the Germans conducted a selection
which determined the further fate of the
detainees: deportation to the General Government (the German-occupied Polish territories not annexed to the Reich), to Germany for forced labour, or, in the worst case,
to concentration camps.
Yet not everyone left the devastated city.
Among the ruins remained those who could
or would not leave Warsaw, mostly Jews, for
whom revealing themselves to the Germans
would mean certain death. Estimates of their
number vary between several hundred and
2,000. In extremely difficult conditions, without food, in daily danger of discovery, they
remained in hiding until the city was occupied by the Red Army in January 1945. (One
such Warsaw Robinson was the Polish-Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, whose story
has been made famous by Roman Polanskis
film The Pianist, released in 2002.)
After putting down the rising, the Germans proceeded with the systematic levelling
of the city, implementing Hitlers personal
order. A cable of October 11, from Ludwig
Fischer to Governor Hans Frank, expressed
the order unambiguously: Warsaw is to be
levelled with the earth. Further, all raw
materials, all textiles and all furniture were
to be removed from the city.
To execute the order the Germans created
three co-operative bodies military, civilian
and SS/police, each with its own evacuation
staff under the overall command of Generalmajor der Polizei Paul Otto Geibel. During interrogation in Warsaw in 1948, he confirmed that Himmler made him responsible
for the destruction of the Polish capital: This
city should utterly disappear from the face of
the earth, and serve only as a transhipment
point for the Wehrmacht. There should not
be a stone left upon a stone. All buildings
were to be demolished to the foundations.
The systematic looting not only targeted
raw materials or factory equipment, but also
cultural treasures, works of religious and secular art, historic documents and private
property of the inhabitants, such as furs,
rugs, gold and other valuables. In the course
of a few months, the Germans shipped out of
Warsaw about 45,000 rail cars loaded with
material goods.
After completion of the looting, special
demolition teams, known as the Vernichtungskommando, systematically burned
down or blew up anything that was still
standing in west-bank Warsaw. The demolition included blowing up historic buildings,
factories and public utility structures. The
waterworks and sewer systems were
destroyed, electric power lines torn down
and tramway rails ripped up. Between October 2 and January 16, 1945, 30 per cent of the
city was demolished more than was
destroyed in the two months of combat.

The same spot down by the river bank, looking east across the Vistula. Poniatowski
Bridge has been rebuilt in its full glory.

The scene of utter destruction in Old Town, seen from the air in 1945.
with express speed in only three years. The
Communists added Josef Stalin to the
buildings name.
For a long time, there was no decision
about what to do with the ruined Old Town.
Only seven buildings remained from the
vast pre-war district. In places, rubble was
stacked storeys high. Finally, a decision was
made to rebuild the area and the adjacent
New Town. Work continued until the mid1950s, restoring the buildings to their 17thcentury appearance. (The district was put
on UNESCOs World Heritage List in
Arguments over the rebuilding of the
Royal Castle and its intended use in the new
reality continued even longer 35 years
and had decidedly political overtones, the
Communist regime being very unwilling to
see this symbol of the old Poland resur-

rected. When the castle was finally rebuilt in

1971-84, it was financed entirely from private
The Warsaw Rising ended in military
defeat. But its significance far exceeds its
military meaning. Memories of the uprising,
and the ethos of the Home Army, were
fiercely suppressed by Communist propaganda and censorship, but at the same time
remained most vivid in the minds of the people. The battle fought by the Home Army,
the efforts of civilian authorities and the sacrifices of civilian inhabitants during the
uprising enabled ordinary Poles to cultivate
the idea of freedom in an enslaved land. This
was the tradition that was invoked by Solidarnosc in the early 1980s. And it was the
fighters in the uprising, not their opponents,
who in the end were victorious, when a free
Poland was reborn in 1989.



In Poland, the new regime did not greet

returning AK soldiers as heroes. To the Communists they were all traitors and bandits,
filthy dwarves of reaction, enemies of the
peoples homeland. There was increasing
harassment, persecutions, arrests and murders performed in the name of Communist
law. Many were sentenced often on the
basis of falsified evidence to long prison
terms. Scores of them were executed or died
in Soviet prisons. The first Commander-inChief of the Home Army, General August
Fieldorf (Nil) was hanged in 1953; Captain
Witold Pilecki (Witold), who had voluntarily allowed himself to be imprisoned in
Auschwitz, had organised a resistance movement there and later fought in the uprising,
was sentenced to death and executed in 1948
with a shot to the back of the head; Lieutenant Jan Rodowicz (Anoda), a company
commander in the Zoska Battalion, was
arrested on Christmas Eve 1948 and died
under torturous interrogation although his
persecutors insisted that it was suicide.
Between 1944 and 1956 (the onset of political thaw), military courts issued almost 6,000
death sentences, and carried out over half of
them. Two million persons experienced
arrest, torture and imprisonment, and six million were investigated by the secret police.
The life and fate of Poles was now totally in
the hands of the all-powerful Ministry of Public Security. Return to normal life was impossible. This state of affairs lasted for the next
45 years as late as the spring of 1989, former members of the Home Army were under
surveillance by the Security Service.
The new Warsaw, rebuilt in Soviet style,
became the symbol of these times. The Biuro
Odbudowy Stolicy (BOS, Office of Rebuilding the Capital) was created as early as February 14, 1945, under the leadership of
Roman Piotrowski. Despite the declaration
by the Presidium of the National Council
about restoring the splendour of the capital,
the ambitious plan prepared by the BOS,
intending to bring back Warsaw to its prewar state, met with sharp criticism from the
new regime, who demanded socialist realism
in architecture. In order to create new thoroughfares, there was no hesitation about
demolishing historic buildings suitable for
restoration. The symbol of Warsaw of that
time was the high-rising Palace of Culture
and Science, completed in 1955 and built

The fall of the Communist regime in 1982 finally lifted the ban
on fully and openly commemorating the heroic events of 1944,
leading to a spate of new memorials, new research and new
publications on the Warsaw uprising. A prime event was the
creation of the Warsaw Uprising Memorial on Krasinski Square
in Old Town. Designed by Professor Wincenty Kucma and
architect Jacek Budyn, it consists of two groups of sculptures,
one depicting an attack by an insurgent unit, the other a
smaller group emerging from the sewers. The latter is placed
almost on the exact spot of the manhole from where many of
the AK fighters escaped from Old Town on September 1-2.
Erected with donated funds, the monument was unveiled on
August 1, 1989 the 45th anniversary of the uprising.

Another milestone was the establishment of the Warsaw Rising

Museum. Initiated in July 2003 by the then President of the City of
Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski, and located in a former tramway power
plant on Przyokopowa Street, it was created in record time, being
ready for opening on July 31, 2004 the 60th anniversary of the
uprising. Using the latest technologies and with hundreds of
evocative exhibits, the museum gives a truly remarkable overview
of every aspect of the uprising. The establishment includes an
archive and study room, educational department, bookshop, and
a park with a wall of honour listing the names of every AK soldier
who fell in the battle. Immensely popular right from the start, the
museum welcomed over one million visitors within two years and
has been awarded numerous accolades.