July 31, 2004


The teenagers who held off the Nazis (NEAL ASCHERSON, 7/31/04, The Scotsman)

THE Warsaw uprising began at exactly five o’clock on a summer afternoon: 1 August, 1944, 60 years ago tomorrow.

Only the German occupiers were taken by surprise when the hour struck and the shooting by the young fighters began.

It was to be the greatest and most tragic urban insurrection in European history. Nobody could foresee that it would last for 63 terrible days and nights, that it would cost something like 200,000 lives and that the Nazis would deliberately destroy all of central Warsaw.

For most Poles, the uprising is still thought of as a glorious patriotic sacrifice, the proudest memory in Poland’s modern history. But a minority take a more critical view and think the insurrection was a mistake.

The military assessment by the Home Army leaders was hopelessly optimistic, they say. And the political calculations that lay behind the uprising were unrealistic.

In 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union had invaded and partitioned Poland, wiping the state off the map. An exile government appeared in London, taking command of the Home Army resistance movement within German-occupied Poland.

But it was not only German tyranny that concerned the London government. After 1941, when Stalin joined the Allied coalition against Hitler, the Poles began to ask themselves what "liberation" under Soviet control would mean.

The only hope was that Warsaw could liberate itself. Then the Russians would be met by a free and democratic Polish government installed in its own capital.

Given the miserable fate we left them to it seems a worthwhile gamble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 31, 2004 10:42 AM
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