September 1, 1944 Polish Revolt in Warsaw Begins

Old Town in Warsaw in flames during the Warsaw Uprising.
As the Soviets neared Warsaw the Polish underground began a revolt against the Germans. The Poles were expecting to receive Soviet aid which did not come. The rebels initially achieved some of their objectives, but the German fought back. Using their advantages in armor, artillery and aircraft the German defeated the rebels, killing 16,000 Polish fighters and between 150,000-200,000 civilians.

As the Soviets neared Warsaw the Polish underground decided to revolt and seized control of the city. The decision to do so was both to help defeat the Nazis and support in the war effort, as well as to exert Polish sovereignty as Soviet troops neared. In addition, there was a fear that the Germans would round up every able-bodied male in the city when they withdrew.

The Poles began the revolt on August 1, 1944, in an operation called Operation Tempest. The Poles initially gained control of most of central Warsaw. The uprising was launched with the understanding that once the Poles had secured the critical areas of the city, the Soviets who had reached parts of the Eastern bank of the Vistula River opposite Warsaw would step in on their side. The Soviets, however, stood opposite the city and let the Polish underground fight alone. The Nazis fought back and received reinforcements from outside the city. They also began systematically killing Poles in the areas they controlled, going apartment to apartment killing Poles. The underground managed to liberate the Gesiowka Concentration Camp in the city freeing the 350 Jews there. Despite the Germans bringing tanks into the city, the Poles managed to fight the Germans to a stalemate. The German, however, began to use both artillery to bombard the Polish positions and their air force to bomb them. The Soviets who were close by and who had overwhelming air superiority did not intervene nor did they send their massive army across the Vistula to defeat the Germans.

The British and Americans were pleading with Stalin to intervene, but he ignored their pleas and the British began to send transport planes to help resupply the rebels. The United States sent one flight of B-17, and towards the end of the rebellion, the Soviets even dropped some supplies. In the end, Germans with their overwhelming air and artillery support defeated the rebels. A total of 16,000 members of the Polish resistance were killed as were between 150,000 and 200,000 Polish civilians. 70% of the city was destroyed. The reason Stalin ordered his troops to stand down, he wanted the Germans to kill any possible opposition to the Soviet post-war domination of Poland.