What Was the Warsaw Uprising?

Dan Cavallari

During World War II, Germany's Nazi military considered Warsaw, Poland to be the center of the resistance against their plans of expansion and genocide of the Jews. Germany had been occupying Poland for several years by 1944, when the Warsaw uprising took place. For just over two months, the Polish Resistance Home Army began to fight back against the Germans in an attempt to liberate Warsaw from German occupancy. While the Warsaw uprising was generally quashed by the Nazis, the event was important in shaping post-war relations between Poland and the Soviet Union and it had ramifications beyond its brief sixty-three days.

Nazis eventually ended the Warsaw Uprising.
Nazis eventually ended the Warsaw Uprising.

The Polish Resistance Home Army had been planning the Warsaw uprising for quite a while before the actual event took place. Their goal was to work toward Polish liberation, but also to promote Polish sovereignty in the post-war era. As the Polish forces saw it, the key to the Warsaw uprising would be the participation of the Western Allied Forces, including the United States and Great Britain. It became evident as the Warsaw uprising approached that the Allied Forces would not reach Poland in time to participate in the battle. Instead, the Soviet Army would be closer and more able to help in the fight.

The Soviets refused to participate in the planning and implementation of the Warsaw uprising, however, further straining the already tenuous relationship between the Poles and the Soviets. While the Poles and the Soviets were fighting a common enemy — the Germans — that was where their similarities ended. The Polish Resistance Home Army wanted to set Poland for post-war freedom as a sovereign nation that had a democratic government based on a more Western model. The Soviets wanted to put in place a communist, pro-Soviet government that would suit their needs in Europe in the post-war era. Because of this ideological clash and other fundamental differences, the Poles and the Soviets did not form an alliance.

In the summer of 1944, as the Soviet Army crossed the Polish border on an offensive mission against the Germans, the Polish Resistance Home Army initiated the Warsaw Uprising. Within the first several days, the Polish Army was successful in gaining control over much of the city. They were underprepared, however, and they faced many setbacks, the most important of which was the absence of the Soviet forces. The uprising was only meant to last a few days, but fighting dragged on for weeks instead. While support eventually did arrive, it was not substantial enough to make the uprising a success. The Germans received reinforcements and pushed back against the Poles, and a stalemate ensued. The uprising ultimately ended in a war of attrition in which the Germans had the upper hand.

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