The Warsaw Uprising
The Soviet Union, and Stalin in particular, have often been accused by bourgeois historians of betraying the people of Warsaw when they rose up against the Nazi fascist occupiers in 1944, as the Red Army was approaching the outskirts of the city. The chief merit of this article is that it clearly and in detail debunks this slander. The author shows, with quotations from both Soviet military sources and a document from the British Foreign Office, that the real ones to blame were the Polish Government in Exile in London who called the uprising without any coordination with the Red Army. They did this, in conjunction with the British and U.S. governments, to ‘beat the Russians.’ This tragic adventure led to the defeat of the uprising and the subsequent decimation of the population and the destruction of much of Warsaw by the Nazis. It was only several months later that Warsaw, along with the rest of Poland, was liberated by the Red Army and the Polish democratic forces organised in the People’s Army, at the cost of thousands of lives.
In Poland there were especially complicated relationships that had to be considered by the Soviet headquarters (HQ) as well as the front and army supreme commander (FSC and ASC) in crossing the country’s borders. The over 20-year-old anti-Soviet politics and propaganda of the Pilsudskis, Rydz-Smiglys, Becks and other, supported by the Catholic clergy, in cooperation with the restorationist, also anti-Soviet activity and ideology of the London exile government, favourably promoted by the British government, had considerable effect on the Polish population. As Lieutenant General Antipenko, representative (for rear services) of General Rokossowski, FSC of the 1st Byelorussian front, wrote, the Polish population welcomed the Red Army as liberator, but a certain mistrust was unmistakable.11 This circumstance was also confirmed by other Soviet writers.
The Polish resistance movement was deeply divided along class lines. There were two political centres in Poland. That of the anti-fascist revolutionary-democratic forces was the Polish Committee of National Liberation, the ‘Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego (PKWN), formed on July 21, 1944. To the PKWN belonged: the Polish Workers Party, ‘Polska Partia Rabotnica’ (PPR), established in January 1942 on the initiative of the communists living in the Soviet Union and those communist organisations working illegally in Poland as a Marxist-Leninist party; the Polish Socialist party, ‘Polska Partia Socjalistyczna’ (PPS); the Polish Farmers Party, ‘Polski Stronnictwo Ludowe’ (PSL); the Democratic Party, ‘Stronnictwo Demokratyczne’ (SD) and non-party people.
The PKWN was the nucleus of the future peoples democratic government of Poland. It had its headquarters at first in liberated Lublin.
The feudal-bourgeois restorationist forces had their political representatives in the Polish exile government in London and its representation in the Polish underground, its so-called emissaries.
There were several Polish armies and armed units in 1944. After an agreement by the Soviet government with the Polish exile government in London on July 30 1941, the formation of a Polish army on Soviet territory began. In 1942 it was evacuated to Iran at its request. It was known by the name of its commander as the ‘Anders Army.’ It took part in the battles in North Africa, Italy and Greece at the side of British troops.
In February 1942, the Polish exile government in London began the formation of an army within the country in the Polish areas occupied by the German fascists, the ‘Armija Krajowa’ (AK).
Both the Anders Army and the AK were in the main under leadership of reactionary generals and officers, with General Kazimierz Sosnkowski as Commander in Chief at the top. Sosnkowski belonged to the exile government in London. The goal of both Polish armies was, after the expulsion of the German occupiers, to restore the domination of the old capitalist classes.
From the anti-fascist resistance movement under the leadership of the PPR, the People Army, the ‘Armia Ludowa’ (AL) and the farmers’ battalion, ‘Bataliony Chlopskie’ (BCH) were formed. The PPR formed its own military organization, the Peoples Corps, ‘Gwardia Ludowa’ (GL) at the beginning of 1942. On Soviet territory, the Alliance of Polish Patriots, ‘Zwiazek Patriotow Polskich’ (ZPP) was formed with the build-up of regular Polish military forces, whose 1st Division participated in battles at the side of the Red Army already in October 1943. Units of that 1st Polish Army, which united with the AL to form the Polish Army, "Wojsko Polski" (WP) on July 21 1944, already took part in the liberation of Lublin on July 24 1944.
Besides these military units and armies, there were also partisan units.
The Polish resistance was organized into two main groups, one the anti-fascist democratic organizations and associations and the other the bourgeois-nationalist organisation and associations. The former stood for national liberation from the fascist German occupiers by means of the people’s democratic revolution, the elimination of the big landowners and big capital, while those connected to the Polish exile government in London and its emissaries restricted their resistance to national liberation with the restoration of the old power and property relationships and at the same time waged class war against the anti-fascist democratic units and the Red Army.
This main class division into two political groupings and military forces did not mean that they were separated in such a ‘pure’ form so as to be clearly distinguished in practice, under the scheme: here are the progressive people’s forces, ‘the good ones,’ there are the nationalist-restorationist-bourgeois forces, ‘the bad ones’! Within the reactionary groups, there were not a few Polish patriots, who fought with courage and determination at the risk of their lives against the German fascists for the liberation of their country, who had, however, at the same time reservations regarding the communists and the Soviet Union. On the other hand, in the organisations and units led by the PPR there also fought Polish patriots who, while they were not anti-communists, were also not free from reservations regarding the communists. One must always remember that a nation that survived three divisions from 1772 to 1918, whose state independence had only been restored 25 years earlier, which had been experienced by the generation that was still living and fighting, cultivated mistrust regarding its strong neighbours. The German fascists were headed toward defeat, they would leave Poland, but how would the Soviet government act, as their triumphant armies now entered Polish territory? In the rumours and anti-Soviet slanders of the exile government in London and its emissaries as well as the Goebbels propaganda was there perhaps not some truth, that the Soviets would force the Poles to their will, to their system? Thus many Poles fell into the contradiction that, on the one hand they supported the Red Army as the liberators from the German fascists, to this extent one must help them; on the other hand, would they respect the state sovereignty of Poland, the right of self-determination of the Polish nation?
On the specific order of Stalin, the Red Army had to concentrate on its fighting task against the German armies and not interfere in the internal affairs of the Polish people, to behave towards the Polish population politely, to be helpful and to provide aid to the extent possible.
The administration of the liberated zones was the responsibility of the PKWN. The Red Army had to support the PKWN; it had no administrative authority. Infringements of authority by members of the Red Army would be severely punished by the HQ, by the FSC and ASC.
The chief political administration of the Red Army had referred to the new situation in its directive of July 19, 1944, with the advance of the Red Army beyond the state borders. As a result, appropriate requirements for the political education of the soldiers of the Red Army were issued.
In July 1944, Stalin had summoned General Krainiukov, Chief Member of the War Council of the 1st Ukrainian Front, and Generals Mechlis and Subottin, members of the War Council, to a meeting of the National Defence Committee in Moscow in order to prepare a draft decision about the rules of behaviour for the Red Army abroad, ‘whereby each fighter is called upon to uphold the honour and reputation of the land of the Soviets as well as the sovereignty and dignity of the liberated peoples.’12
In this discussion Stalin developed his thoughts about Poland, ‘its present and future. He remembered that in the past the Poles had shouldered not only the yoke of tsarist rule, but they had also been brutally exploited by their own landowners and capitalists and the bourgeois powers of the West. In the hands of the imperialists, Poland had frequently been a centre of contradictions, conflicts and military clashes. Stalin emphasised that in these historic days, in which the Red Army would liberate the Polish people from the fascist yoke, that the bases would be laid for a brotherly, indestructible friendship between the Soviet and the Polish people. The War Council would have to see to it that this friendship would develop and be consolidated, so that it would last for centuries.
‘’We Bolsheviks’, Stalin continued, ‘have from the first day of the Great Patriotic War seen the historic liberation mission of the Red Army. Now the moment has come to liberate the peoples of Europe from fascist enslavement. It is our internationalist duty to help the Polish people in the rebirth of a strong, independent, democratic Poland.’
‘The chairperson of the National Defence Committee explained that we would not form our own administration on Polish soil and we would also not establish our own order there. We must not interfere in the internal affairs of the liberated country. These were the sovereign competence of the Poles alone. The Polish Committee of National Liberation has been formed, and it would establish its own administration. A close relationship should be established with the committee; other organs of power are not to be recognised.
‘’I repeat, no other power should be recognised except the Polish Committee of National Liberation!’
‘Stalin proposed that the War Councils of the fronts whose troops had entered Polish territory should issue a proclamation to the Polish people. He recommended that the proclamation should as the basis the explanation of the Soviet government and the decision of the National Defence Committee to clarify the aims and tasks of the Red Army on Polish territory.
‘Then the discussion was concluded. Stalin came up to us, shook our hands and wished us great success.’13
On the instructions of the CC of the CPSU (B) and the National Defence Committee the War Council of the front drew up a proclamation to the Polish people. Therein it stated:
‘The Red Army does not have the task of incorporating any part of Polish soil into the Soviet Union or to introduce the Soviet order in Poland. The historic hour has come in which the Polish people will take their fate into their own hands. The recently formed Polish Committee of National Liberation is the only legitimate power on the territory of Poland, which expresses the interests of the Polish people. In this hour, you must help the Red Army in any manner so that it can smash the fascist armies and so that the normalisation of life on the free soil of independent Poland can be speeded up.’14
The War Council and the Political Administration of the 1st Ukrainian Front published a newspaper in the Polish language under the name ‘New Life’. It appeared in an edition of 20,000 copies.
Groups of Polish speaking agitators were assembled, who carried out mass political work in the liberated zones.15
On July 22, 1944, the PKWN as the new people’s power in Poland published its programmatic manifesto. Therein it stated: ‘the national property, that is currently in the hands of the German state and individual German capitalists, and also large industry, trade, bank and transport companies, as well as the forests, will be provisionally placed under state administration.’ The ‘property of citizens, farmers, merchants, crafts people, small and medium-sized business people as well as of institutions and the church, that the Germans had seized,’ will be ‘returned to their legal owners...’16
As was evident, the goals of the PKWN were not socialist demands.
On July 26, 1944, in Moscow, an agreement was reached about the division of responsibilities between the PKWN and the high command of the Red Army. In the zones near the front, the Soviet high command, that meant the respective FSC, exercised in the main the highest power that was necessary for military requirements. In the liberated zones that were no longer near the battle zone, the whole power passed to the PKWN. In practice it took on governmental functions even if it was not yet officially designated a provisional government.
On August 1, 1944, Molotov as a People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs confirmed in a letter to the chairperson of the PKWN, Edward Boleslaw Osobka-Morawski, recognition by the Soviet Union. After the formation of the ‘Provisional Government of the Polish Republic’ on December, 31, 1944, the government of the USSR established diplomatic relations with it on January 5, 1945. As Stalin emphatically explained, the PKWN, the provisional government was the only organ of power in Poland that was to be supported. All other organisations, that presented themselves as ‘organs of power’ were to be rejected as illegal. That applied specifically to the Polish exile government in London – Stalin usually spoke of it as an émigré government – and its emissaries in Poland. All internal political questions as well as problems of Polish foreign policy were fundamentally to be dealt with by the Provisional Government as the only lawful government of Poland.
Such instructions of Stalin were determined on the basis of class and security policy. The Soviet government was interested, after its experiences with the old feudal-capitalist, anti-Soviet governments of Pilsudski and Beck in having a democratic and peaceful Poland as its neighbour. Stalin had never demanded the establishment of a socialist order in Poland or in any other country, also not in Germany or the GDR. The question of the social order was for the people themselves to decide. Revolutions, particularly the socialist revolution, are not articles for export.
After the experiences of the 1920s and 1930s, however, Stalin had no illusions about the Polish big landowners and big capitalists. Therefore it followed that he and the other members of the Soviet government supported the first organs of a democratic people’s power in Poland, in which the Polish lords did not set the tone, and which secured against a military intervention from abroad, such as in Greece. Churchill, and not only he, were naturally not at all pleased with this policy. They wanted the old power relations of the Polish lords restored and Poland tied to a new ‘cordon sanitaire’ against the Soviet Union. At this time, slanderous terms about Soviet ‘satellite-states’ began to be used for Poland, as well as later also for the other East European people’s democracies and the GDR. These terms have continued into present bourgeois history by political propagandists. That the workers, farmers, intellectuals and other working peoples would want a socialist social order, which eliminated private property in the means of production, that they could want the establishment of their own political domination, strikes at the social limits of the bourgeois reason.
Bourgeois democracy, based on ‘free elections’ to parliament as the alleged expression of the people’s sovereignty since its historical existence has been nothing more than the form of bourgeois class rule and the political reflection of competition under the bourgeoisie. That has been known for at least 150 years. In his work of 1850 ‘The Class Struggles in France,’ Marx wrote: ‘Bourgeois rule as the outcome and result of universal suffrage, as the express act of the sovereign will of the people – that is the meaning of the bourgeois constitution.’17
But what if the Communists obtain a majority in the elections? The right to vote must be ‘the reasonable,’ and the reasonable is the class domination of the bourgeoisie. If ‘the content of this suffrage… is no longer bourgeois rule,’ the constitution has lost its meaning. ‘Is it not the duty of the bourgeoisie so to regulate the suffrage that it wills the reasonable, its rule?’18
Churchill wanted the ‘reasonable’ in Poland, and the Polish exile government in London represented the ‘reasonable,’ and Stalin had rejected this ‘reasonable’ one and had recognised the Provisional Government in Lublin as the only legitimate government, the ‘unreasonable’ one, and had referred all questions relevant to Poland to this government.
In the understanding of democracy of Churchill and other bourgeois ideologists, the government established in Greece by the force of the British army and confirmed through elections under terror was the ‘reasonable’ one, the power legitimised through ‘free elections.’ The Provisional Government in Lublin as a representative of the workers, farmers, intellectual and other working people excluding of the big landowners and big capitalists was the ‘unreasonable’ one. And when this people’s power was also protected by the Red Army against outside intervention, it was only a ‘satellite government’ of the Soviets. Anti-Sovietism, anti-communism are a priori ‘democratic’, and the other way around, socialism, socialist democracy are ‘dictatorships,’ satellites regimes, the ‘unreasonable’, etc. The scheme is so simple and continued to be so after that. If this version is repeated often enough and if possible in the same words, then not a small section of the masses of the people themselves are prevented from seeing through the methods of rule of the dictatorship of the capitalist class.
The emissaries of the London émigré government in Poland provoked a furious battle against the administration established by the PKWN, which was the Provisional Government in the liberated zones; they carried out terrorist attacks against Soviet army units, troop transports, supply goods and did not refrain from assassination attempts. Those people taking part in the administration were branded as ‘traitors to the country’, who would be pursued as criminals after the restoration of the power of the exile government in London. The emissaries of that government led a real class war against the partisan units, who were sometimes trained by Soviet officers, some of whom fell too. Assassination of partisans, Soviet soldier and officers, sabotage attacks against rear supply lines of the fighting Red Army were on the order of the day.
The more than a five year occupation of Poland by the German fascists had led to the annihilation of almost six millions people – 25 percent of the total population! – and also to a broad destruction of industrial and cultural institutions. ‘During the occupation in Poland 10,200 (64 percent!) of industrial enterprises, 2,677 hospitals, 6,000 schools, 3,337 museums and theatres, 300,000 buildings in cities and over 450,000 houses in villages had been destroyed. Many Polish cities consisted only of ruins and ashes.’19
The Soviet government and the Red Army helped with everything they could. ‘Thousands of orphans had to be clothed and fed. At the request of the Polish government, the front provided flour, barley, sugar and condensed milk as well as bedding for these children for a whole year. On the personal instruction of Stalin, the 1st Byelorussian Front provided from its supply 500 trucks as well as several hundred tons of fuel to the Polish government. That was not at all easy at that time.’20
The establishment of a new administration by the PKWN, the Provisional Government also needed the support of Soviet services. The Soviet finance specialists faced difficult problems, such as fixing the exchange rate for gold under the new conditions, regulations as to how to calculate supplies to the Red Army and how to pay the members of the military. Simultaneously two currencies, Polish and Soviet, were valid. Questions of money circulation, which had an expressly political character, had to be clarified.21
That was for the liberated zones. But the war was still continuing on Polish territory and also across the western borders of Poland, where there were contradictions between military requirements and political considerations. Lieutenant General Antipenko referred to the problem of the east-west railroad tracks, which was strategically important for the offensive of the Red Army in the direction of the Vistula - Oder - Berlin. The tracks in Poland had the width customary in Western Europe. The changeover of the Polish tracks to the Soviet standard was suggested for military reasons, however politically this was dubious. The changeover was begun, but Stalin gave the order to restore the rails immediately to the West European width. After much consideration, the military situation forced the transport committee, which had been created on Stalin’s initiative, to accept Antipenko’s proposal on the changeover to the Soviet width, at least on one stretch in October and November. Otherwise the transport of troops and military goods for the offensive along the Vistula - Oder - Berlin could not have been carried out, which would have led to a lengthening of the war.22
The Warsaw Uprising – August 1 to October 2, 1944
The Warsaw uprising was an expression and result of the dramatic sharpening of the class struggle within the anti-Hitler coalition. Valentin Falin deserves the honour of being among the first Soviet scientists, if not the first, to have seen the inner connection among three events that, on first sight have nothing to do with each other: the ‘Rankin’ Plan, the assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944 and the Warsaw uprising.
The ‘Rankin’ Plan was decided upon at the Quebec Conference (August, 19-24 1943) between Roosevelt and Churchill, and was made more specific on November 8, 1943. It provided for, among other things, a possible breakdown of German defences, an unconditional capitulation before the Anglo-American troops, the ‘immediate’ occupation of the following cities and their surrounding areas: in Germany: Bremen, Lübeck, Hamburg, the Ruhr Valley, Cologne, Berlin, Dresden, Stuttgart and Munich; in Italy: Turin, Milan, Rome, Naples and Trieste; in southeastern Europe Budapest, Bucharest and Sofia. ‘Symbolic forces’ would be put down in The Hague, Brussels, Lyon, Prague, Warsaw, Belgrade and Zagreb. Finally also Denmark, the Kiel region, Salonika and the island of Rhodes would be placed under control. The main slogan proclaimed everywhere was: ‘to beat the Russians.’
Not coordinated action with the USSR, but rather countermeasures. Unconditional capitulation of Germany not to the anti-Hitler coalition, but rather to the USA and Great Britain.23
Stalin was not officially informed of these decisions. To what extent he had knowledge of these plans from other sources, through indiscretions or through Soviet intelligence, I must leave open. Stalin certainly had no illusions at all about Churchill and his noble intentions.
The attack on Hitler on July 20, 1944 was not just a single action, the result of a plot of some military officers and officials of the fascist state apparatus, but rather the expression of a far-reaching political crisis of fascist Germany. The double-game of high-ranking representatives of the fascist state, Himmler, Schellenberg, Papen among others, with representatives of the Western powers, would allow a breakdown of the German war machine in the West, a capitulation only to the Western powers and the continuation of the war against the Soviet Union as a possibility.23a This aspect leaves the political motive of the leaders responsible for the Warsaw uprising clear: ‘to beat the Russians!’
This was the intention of the ‘Burza’ plan, code name for the uprising: at least 12 hours before the arrival of Soviet troops in Warsaw to free the city from the fascist occupiers through the uprising and to proclaim the emissaries of the Polish exile government in London as the legitimate Polish government. With the success of the uprising, a symbolic British army unit would be able to occupy Warsaw.24
The version given out by interested people to the public, that the uprising had broken out ‘spontaneously’ after a commentary by the Moscow radio on July 29, which was interpreted as having called on the Warsaw population to the uprising, is not plausible in view of the extensively available factual material, although by far not all the archive documents have been published. This anti-Soviet assertion comes from General Bor-Komorowski, who thereby sought to justify his criminal undertaking, after he too recognized that the uprising was doomed to failure. For his part the Prime Minister of the Polish exile government in London, Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, made use of this lie in his telegram to Roosevelt on August 18 in order to justify the irresponsible conduct of his government and its emissaries in Poland. The method was and is not new, to place the blame for his own crimes on the Soviet Union and Stalin.
We make use of a document from the British Foreign Office, which – despite the omission of important facts – unambiguously states that the uprising of August 1, 1944, was ‘not an unplanned attack.’25
The ‘Polish Underground movement’ (meaning the emissaries of the London government and the AK – UH) was ‘controlled by the Polish government in London.’26 The commander of the AK, Bor-Komorowski, was in turn under the commander in chief of the Polish military forces (the Anders army and the AK – UH), Gen. Sosnkowski. Sosnkowski was a member of the exile government in London. The British government left no doubt that: ‘We must continue to regard the Polish Government in London as the legitimate government of Poland’.27
The Polish exile government had ‘plans ready for a general rising’. It had ‘in fact asked for British assistance,which had been rejected however with the warning ‘that a rising would be effective only if it took place in agreement and cooperation with the Russians.’28 It must be mentioned that General Sosnkowski had also warned Bor-Komorowski about an uprising were it not previously agreed upon with the Soviet command.
The plans for the uprising ‘were ready before the Russians, in a rapid advance, had reached the outskirts of Warsaw on July 29.’29
This last statement is inaccurate and can lead to the incorrect conclusion that the Soviet military forces stood directly before Warsaw and only had to enter it. Perhaps such an incorrect conclusion was also intended?
Actually the main forces of the 1st Byelorussian Front under FSC Marshal Rokossowski were still at a distance of 200 kilometers from Warsaw. Only the 2nd Tank Army of the 1st Byelorussian Front was 10to 12 kilometres from Praga, an outlying district of Warsaw on the east bank of the Vistula. There it was engaged in a defensive battle against attacks by stronger German tank units. Warsaw was separated by the Vistula from Praga. To force the river was at that time impossible given the existing balance of forces. Obviously there has been speculation on the ignorance of the reader. We will return later to the question of the combat readiness of the 1st Byelorussian Front in July 1944.
In the document of the Foreign Office there follows the version of the ‘commentary’ of the Moscow radio of July 29 that supposedly had induced Bor-Komorowski to give the order for the uprising on August 1. ‘The Russians were then only 10 kilometres from the city,’ but ‘General Bor-Komorowski was, however, unable to get into touch with the Soviet military authorities before issuing his order’ for the uprising.30
Bor-Komorowski could have made contact with the Soviet military authorities, specifically with the FSC of the 1st Byelorussian Front, Marshal Rokossowski, if he had wanted to.
Tucked away in a footnote, the thesis of the ‘proclamation of the uprising’ by the Moscow radio is downplayed by Llewellyn Woodward, with the comment that the Soviets denied having made such a proclamation. Thus the interpretation of the commentary of July 29 is left to the reader.
In the same footnote, however, the author comes a bit closer to the truth when he admitted: ‘The Poles wanted to liberate Warsaw for themselves, and to have a Polish administration at work before the Russians entered the city; hence they needed to be in control at least twelve hours before the Russians’ entry.’31 If we put Bor-Komorowski and the exile government in place of ‘the Poles,’ this is correct. In this connection it should be noted that Mikolajczyk and company departed for Moscow on July 27, thus they were in Moscow immediately before the uprising.
Some questions arise from this circumstance: Did Mikolajczyk, as Prime Minister of the exile government, know nothing of the plans that had been drawn up for the uprising in London? Did he have no possibility of informing Stalin, Molotov or other high-ranking Soviet officials or generals about the immediately impending uprising, even if he did not know the exact hour? (Bor-Komorowski had repeatedly changed it, as will later be seen.) Was he not able to find out whether the Red Army was in a position to come quickly to the aid of the insurgents? Was he not able to arrange a contact between Bor-Komorowski and Marshal Rokossowski?
The British government – and so Churchill too – had known of the uprising. They were careful enough to place conditions on any aid or support. Churchill proceeded according to the well-known motto: if it goes well, we can help, then we will have the Soviets on the outside; if it goes badly, we bear no responsibility for it, we had already recommended making contact with the Soviets beforehand (with the knowledge that they would not do this). In addition a defeat of the insurgents offered the possibility of placing the responsibility for the carnage that one could predict that the fascists would carry out against the Warsaw population on the Soviets, on Stalin! – as did happen.
Infantry General Kurt von Tippelskirch attested as a military officer to an essentially correct view of the events in Warsaw when he wrote:
‘As at the end of July Rokossowski’s armies apparently irresistibly approached the Polish capital, the Polish underground movement took this to mean that the hour of the uprising had arrived. Also encouragement from the English side certainly was not lacking. This was part of the practice of the English, already used in Rome and soon to be used in Paris, of calling on the population of the capitals whose liberation seemed to be forthcoming to an uprising. The uprising broke out on August 1, when the forces of the Russian advance had already been broken and the Russians had called off their attempt to take the capital in a lightning attack. So the Poles who had called for the uprising were left to their own devices. At first they had surprisingly great successes. Most of the German departments in the big city were cut off from the outside world, the railway stations were seized by the insurgents, who had grenade launchers, 2-cm flak and anti-tank weapons, and all through streets were blocked. Only the bridges over the Vistula were still held by German security forces. Had the Russians continued their attacks on the front at the bridgeheads, the situation in the city would have probably become untenable. Sufficient forces could be brought together in and around Warsaw in order to at least retake the German departments, to take the railway stations over again, and to prevent the whole city from falling into the hands of the insurgents. However another harsh, fierce battle was needed, that lasted into October, before the German garrison could prevail over the uprising. For a quick, clean sweep, the forces were constantly lacking.’32
Stalin, the HQ and the FSC of the 1st Byelorussian Front, Marshal Rokossowski, were surprised by the uprising. Neither the Polish exile government nor Bor-Komorowski had the intention of informing or even consulting the Soviet leadership. That would have contradicted their political intentions, namely: ‘to beat the Russians!’
So it seemed strange when Churchill sent a telegram to Stalin on August 4, that the Poles were ‘appealing for Russian aid, which seems very near. They are being attacked by one and a half German divisions. That may be of help to your operations.’33 Churchill based this on information that he had received from the Poles.
Stalin’s answer of August 5 was very short. He thought that ‘the information given to you by the Poles is greatly exaggerated and unreliable.’ ‘The Home Army [Armia Krajowa] of the Poles consists of a few detachments misnamed divisions. They have neither guns, aircraft nor tanks. I cannot imagine detachments like these taking Warsaw, which the Germans are defending with four armoured divisions, including the Hermann Goering division.’34
How this uprising with the balance of forces known by Stalin could be ‘of help’ for the Red Army remained a secret of the British Prime Minister.
According to an investigation by Falin, the official troop strength of the AK (in Poland altogether – UH) consisted of 175.000 men, who were under ‘direct supervision of British advisers and were supplied with British money and weapons.’ The weapons were dropped by British airplanes.
Only a small section of the AK was used in operations against the fascist occupiers. ‘All the rest were waiting for day X,’35 that is, to be used against the Red Army.
Despite their understanding of the actual intentions of the Polish exile government in London and its emissaries and the leadership of the AK as well as of the Churchill government, Stalin, the HQ and the FSC of the 1st Byelorussian Front, Marshal Rokossowski, did everything humanly possible to support the insurgents.
The uprising had a dual character. It was on the one hand the work of irresponsible adventurers with anti-Soviet aims, in this respect it was a crime against the Polish people. On the other hand, after the start of the uprising, units of the AL (Armia Ludowa) also took part, even though they had not been informed by Bor-Komorowski, who had also forbidden any contact by units of the AK with the AL! Also the Warsaw population supported the uprising against the hated German fascists; in this respect the uprising had the character of an anti-fascist people’s uprising. That was the reason why Stalin and the HQ did everything in their power to help the Warsaw population.
The former FSC of the 1st Byelorussian Front, Marshal Rokossowski, remembered: the armies of the 1st Byelorussian Front were among the first to set foot on Polish soil. They advanced as gar as Praga, on the east bank of the Vistula,. Praga is variously designated as a suburb and as a district of Warsaw. It is important to the understanding of the strategic situation that Praga is separated by the Vistula from the other districts of Warsaw. Rokossowski’s armies therefore were nearest to Warsaw.
In order to avoid repetitions, I limit myself here to Rokossowski’s explanations of the military situation, the military activities of the 1st Byelorussian Front and his experiences with the officers of the AK.
The armies of the 1st Byelorussian front were welcomed by the Polish population. The 1st Polish army, which belonged to the 1st Byelorussian Front, gained increasing strength from volunteers from the population, from units of the GL (Gwardia Ludowa), the AL and other resistance forces. The behaviour of the AK was disturbing.
‘Only the AK – the Armija Krajowa – kept aloof. Our first meeting with representatives of this organisation left an unpleasant impression. On receiving information that a Polish formation calling itself the 7th AK Division had occupied the forests north of Lublin, we decided to send out several staff liaison officers to contact them. At the meeting the AK officers, wearing Polish uniform, held aloof and rejected our proposals for combined operations against the Nazis, declaring that the AK took its orders only from the London Polish government and its emissaries. They defined their attitude towards us in the words, ‘We shall not use arms against the Red Army, but we do not wish to have any contacts.’’ 36
On August 2 Rokossowski received from his own reconnaissance the news of the uprising in Warsaw. Everything had come as a surprise, they were based on suppositions. Rokossowski at first supposed that it was a rumour spread by the enemy.
‘Frankly speaking, the timing of the uprising was just about the worst possible in the circumstances. It was as though its leaders had deliberately chosen a time that would ensure defeat. These were the thoughts that involuntarily came to the mind. At the time, our 48th and 65th Armies were fighting more than a hundred kilometres east and northeast of Warsaw. Our right wing had been weakened by the withdrawal of two armies to GHQ Reserve, though we still had to overcome strong opposition, reach the Narew and gain a foothold on its western bank. The 70th Army had just taken Brest and was engaged in mopping-up operations in that region. The 47th Army was fighting at Siedlce, its front facing north. The 2nd Tank Army was bogged down on the approaches to Praga, the Warsaw suburb on the east bank of the Vistula, and was busy repelling the counterattacks of the German armour. The Polish 1st Army, 8th Guards and 69th Armies had forced the Vistula at Magnoszew and Pulawy south of Warsaw, and were seizing and widening bridgeheads on the western bank: this was the main task of our left wing, a task within their capacity which it was their duty to carry out.
‘Such was the position of our forces when the uprising began.
‘Certain carping critics in the Western press did at one time charge the First Byelorussian Front and, of course, me as its Commander, with deliberately failing to support the Warsaw insurgents, thereby condemning them to death and destruction.
‘The Byelorussian campaign had been without parallel in scope and depth. On the Front’s right wing the advance had exceeded 600 km. Fighting all the way, our forces had strained to the .utmost to carry out the tasks set by GHQ. Warsaw, however, could have been liberated only in a new major offensive operation – which was launched later on. In August 1944 many important measures would have had to be taken to capture Warsaw, even if only as a large bridgehead.’ 37
Warsaw was close by, the troops of the 1st Byelorussian Front were already fighting in the outskirts of Praga. ‘But every step cost a tremendous effort.’ 38 ‘So far, however, we had had no contact whatsoever with the insurgents, though our intelligence agencies had made every effort to get in touch with them.’ 39
Rokossowski learned very quickly the difference between the initiators of the uprising, General Bor-Komorowski as its commander as well as General ‘Monter’ as his assistant, the commander of the Warsaw military district and the ‘patriotically-minded inhabitants of Warsaw.’ The latter, who wanted to liberate themselves from the fascist occupiers, took up their weapons and joined the uprising. ‘That was their only thought.
‘However, those who had initiated the Warsaw uprising in that exceptionally unfavourable situation ought to have considered before venturing on this move.
‘From all that I had succeeded in gleaning from the Polish comrades and the information that had reached the Front HQ, the only conclusion that suggested itself was that the leaders of the uprising were doing their best to isolate the insurgents from any contacts whatever with the Red Army. As time passed, however, the people began to realise that they were being betrayed. The situation in Warsaw deteriorated, bickerings broke out among the insurgents, and it was only then that the AK leadership finally decided to appeal to the Soviet Command – via London.
‘The Chief of the General Staff, A. I. Antonov, established contact between us and the insurgents immediately on receiving the message of request. On the second day after that, September 18, the BBC broadcast a report from General Bor-Komorowski to the effect that the insurgents’ actions were being co-ordinated with Rokossovsky’s HQ and Soviet planes were continuously dropping arms, ammunition and food for them.
‘Getting in touch with the First Byelorussian Front’s Command presented no difficulty at all. Only the desire was needed. But Bor-Komorowski had decided to contact us only after the British attempt to help the insurgents with supplies from the air had failed. One day 80 Flying Fortresses escorted by Mustang fighters appeared over Warsaw. They flew over in groups at an altitude of 4,500 metres, dropping their load. Naturally, from such a height the cargo was scattered over a large area and much of it failed to reach the insurgents. German AA guns shot down two planes. After that the Allies made no further attempts.’ 40
‘The enemy had detected a weak point in our positions between Praga and Siedlce, and decided to strike at the flank and rear of the troops that had forced the Vistula south of the Polish capital. He had concentrated several divisions on the eastern bank in the Praga area, specifically, the 4th Panzer, 1st Hermann Goering Panzer, 19th Panzer and 73rd Infantry. On August 2, the Germans counter-attacked, but were met on the approaches to Praga by units of our 2nd Tank Army coming up from the south. A fierce meeting engagement ensued. The German troops, with the strong Warsaw defence area behind them, were in a better position.
‘It was a situation in which the Warsaw insurgents could have tried to capture the bridges over the Vistula, and take Praga by attacking the Nazis in the rear. This would have been a great help to our 2nd Tank Army, and who knows how events might have developed. It, however, ran contrary to the plans of the London Polish government, which had three representatives in Warsaw, as well as to the plans of Generals Bor-Komorowski and Monter. They had performed their evil mission and disappeared, leaving the people they had provoked into this gamble to pay the price.’ 41
One learns further from Rokossowski that there were bitter protracted battles with heavy losses between the armies of the 1st Byelorussian Front and German tank units in the region around Warsaw.
‘A powerful enemy group was concentrated in front of Warsaw, it comprised the 5th Viking SS Panzer Division, the 3rd Totenkopf SS Panzer Division, the 19th Panzer Division and up to two infantry divisions. We could not allow this threat to continue and when the 70th Army came up, it was decided to try and rout the enemy forces holding the territory before Warsaw and capture Praga, its suburb. The 47th and 70th Armies, units of the Polish 1st Army, the 16th Air Army, and all the reinforcements that could be spared from other sectors of the Front, were committed to this operation.
‘On September 11, the fighting began, and by the 14th the troops had routed the enemy and taken Praga. The infantrymen, tank crews, gunners, engineers and airmen fought with great courage along with the gallant men of the Polish 1st Army. We also received great help in the street fighting from the people of Praga, many of whom gave their lives in the common cause.
‘This was when the uprising in the Polish capital should have started. A joint strike by the Soviet Army from the east and the insurgents from Warsaw, taking the bridges, could have succeeded in liberating and holding Warsaw, though even in the most favourable circumstances that would have been just about all the Front’s troops could do.’ 42
Soldiers, officers and generals of the 1st Byelorussian Front did everything they could at the risk of their lives in order to help the insurgents in Warsaw.
‘The tragedy of Warsaw kept worrying me, and the realisation that it was impossible to launch a major rescue operation was agonising.
‘I spoke with Stalin over the telephone, reporting the situation at the front and everything relevant to Warsaw. Stalin asked whether the Front was capable of immediately launching an operation with the object of liberating Warsaw. When I replied in the negative he directed us to give all possible help to the insurgents so as to ease their plight. He endorsed all my proposals concerning how we could help them."43
‘…starting with September 13, we had begun to supply the insurgents by air with weapons, ammunition, food and medical supplies. This was effected by our Po-2 night bombers, which dropped their loads from low altitudes at points indicated by the insurgents. In the period between September 13 and October 1, 1944, Front aircraft flew 4,821 sorties in aid of the insurgents, 2,535 of them with various supplies. Our aircraft also gave air cover over districts indicated by the insurgents and bombed and strafed German troops in the city.
‘The Front AA artillery also helped the insurgents with cover from enemy air attacks, while our ground artillery suppressed enemy artillery and mortar batteries. We parachuted several officers into the city for liaison and fire adjustment and succeeded in stopping enemy air raids over insurgent positions. Polish .comrades who managed to cross over to us spoke with great appreciation of the effectiveness of our air and artillery operations.’ 44
Polish patriots warned us ‘that the AK refused to have any dealings with us, and their leadership was behaving extremely suspiciously, fanning hostile sentiments against the Soviet Union, the Polish Government in Lublin, and the Polish 1st Army. It seemed strange that Bor-Komorowski had never even tried to establish direct contact with the Front HQ, although the General Staff had provided him with the code. It was obvious that the politicians were prepared to do anything except co-operate with us, and shortly this was confirmed.’ 45
In order to provide still greater help to the insurgents, Rokossowski made the decision to put down a strong landing force on the west side of the Vistula. The staff of the 1st Polish Army had taken over the organisation. This action was agreed upon with the leadership of the uprising in a timely manner.
‘On September 16, units of the Polish Army embarked to cross the Vistula. They landed at points on the bank supposedly held by insurgent units, which was what the whole plan had been based upon. But then these footholds were found to be in Nazi hands!
‘The operation developed haltingly. The first assault succeeded in gaining a foothold with great difficulty. More and more forces had to be thrown into action, and casualties began to soar. Yet the insurgent leaders, far from giving any help to the assault forces, did not even try to contact them.
‘In such circumstances it was impossible to hold on to the western bank, and I decided to call off the operation. We helped the assault party to return, and on September 23, these units of three infantry regiments of the Polish 1st Army rejoined the main forces.
‘In undertaking their heroic assault, the Polish soldiers had consciously embarked on a mission of self-sacrifice to help their compatriots. They had been betrayed by men who held the interests of the ‘powers that be’ above those of the country. Soon we learned that, on instructions from Bor-Komorowski and Monter, the AK units had been withdrawn from the riverfront suburbs into the heart of the city. Their place had been taken by Nazi troops. Among those who had suffered had been units of the Armija Ludowa, whom the AK command had not warned of their intention to withdraw from the riverfront.
‘From that moment the AK leadership began to prepare for capitulation, which is confirmed by fairly extensive archive materials. Our offers to help those desiring to escape from Warsaw to the right bank were left unheeded. After the capitulation only a few dozen insurgents managed to cross to our side of the Vistula.
‘The Warsaw uprising thus reached its tragic conclusion.’ 46
Thus spoke Marshal Rokossowski.
As chief of the operative administration, the Chief of the General Staff, Army General Sergei Matveyevitch Shtemenko47 not only had knowledge of the plans of the General Staff and the HQ, but also took active part in their preparation. In this work, he met almost daily with Stalin. In the General Staff and HQ, where all information was gathered and analysed, Shtemenko – and Stalin – had more comprehensive knowledge of the existing balances of forces at the fronts, than Rokossowski, as FSC of just the 1st Byelorussian Front could have.
The strategic intentions of the German high command were ‘not precisely known’ at that time to the General Staff, however they knew ‘pieces of information.’ The German high command had drawn off some of their troops, particularly tank troops, from Rumania and had reinforced the army group in the Centre - Warsaw region.
The armies of the 1st Byelorussian Front in their advance toward Warsaw ran up against fresh troops. The balance of forces in this region was extremely unfavourable for the Soviet armies. The front on the German side had been reinforced by the 19th Tank Division, the SS ‘Death’s Head’ and ‘Viking’ Tank Divisions, and the ‘Hermann Goering’ Division plus several infantry units of the 2nd German Army.48
‘These bloody and very fierce battles went on for several days. As a result, the enemy’s defences, based on the Warsaw fortified zone, acquired a relative stability for a considerable time. Our break-through to Praga proved impossible…
‘[T]he forces of the 1st Belorussian Front’s right wing, exhausted by their long and uninterrupted advance across Belorussia, could not quickly advance to Warsaw. Also, the relative stability of the Nazi forces along the Siedlce-Minsk-Mazowiecki line posed a new threat to those forces reaching the Vistula south of Warsaw.’ 49
Shtemenko states that in Rokossowski’s view, 20 German divisions were preparing a strike along the east bank of the Vistula from north to south against the troops of the 1st Byelorussian Front who had advanced to the Vistula. A dangerous flank attack threatened Rokossowski’s armies.
At the beginning of August, Marshal Zhukov, Rokossowski and the General Staff had undertaken ‘vigorous attempts to destroy the enemy’s grouping on the approaches to Warsaw. This is borne out both by the several discussions at the Stavka of the further actions of the 1st Belorussian Front and by the continuing long battles that frustrated the enemy’s vigorous and even dangerous countermeasures. But this did not result in changing the situation in the Warsaw region in our favuor.’ 50
We have already seen examples of the politics of the Polish exile government in London and its emissaries in Poland. Schtemenko provides two more interesting pieces of information. On July 24 1944 the exile government and the high command of the AK had already decided to begin the uprising. On July 25, General Bor-Komorowski reported to London: ‘Ready at any minute for the battle for Warsaw.’ 51
On July 27 Mikolajczyk left for Moscow! He allegedly knew nothing of the uprising! That reminds one of the song of Mack the Knife from the Three Penny Opera, who also ‘knew nothing!’ Shtemenko also subjected the military action of the leadership of the uprising to a devastating critique. The moment of the beginning of the uprising was planned by Bor-Komorowski for August 2 or later, then it was suddenly set for August l, at 5 P.M. There were no real preparations for assembling and arming the insurgents as well as for organising the action. Originally twelve hours were planned for the preparation of the uprising, but some units and some sectors had only five hours. Already at the first stage of the uprising, it was disorganised and all the plans made ‘for many years’ (!) were reduced to nothing. The planned tasks, engagements and objectives of the attack proved to be illusory. At the beginning of the military action there were not even the simplest contacts among the insurgents.
The uprising began under different conditions and at varying times. ‘Many soldiers went looking for their commanding officers. Neither they nor their officers knew where their arms and ammunition were stored.’ The element of surprise was lost. ‘[T]he Home Army had only 16,000 men, of whom only 3,500 were armed. (They were armed with rifles and pistols, since there were virtually no other weapons available.)’ 52
All that remained was the high fighting morale of the insurgents, their hatred of the fascist occupiers. They performed true miracles of heroism. This high fighting morale was the reason that the uprising was able to obtain certain successes at the beginning. It could not be victorious.
Shtemenko confirmed once again from his knowledge the criminal attitude of Bor-Komorowski and the politicians of the Polish exile government in London: ‘Warsaw was bleeding. Yet neither the command of the Home Army nor the Polish Government in Exile at any time requested of the Soviet Government or the Soviet command that it help the insurgents. They did not even consider it necessary to inform us of the uprising. Only later did it become clear that neither requesting nor informing was included in the political calculations of the Mikolajczyk group or of the Home Army command, even when the Nazi troops were starting to drown the uprising in blood.’ 53
The Soviet side made repeated attempts to break through to Warsaw. On Stalin’s order, Zhukov, Rokossowski and the General Staff were to prepare possible measures for the liberation of Warsaw. They saw a last chance in the deployment of the 70th Army after three days’ preparation.
No attack was possible before August 10 because the necessary quantity of ammunition could not be supplied before then. Stalin was in agreement.
But the attempt by the exhausted troops of the 70th army to force a breakthrough to Warsaw as they marched also did not succeed. Although the HQ had no reserves worth mentioning, Stalin let Zhukov and Rokossowski prepare an operational plan for the liberation of Warsaw. This operational plan is little known. It unambiguously refutes the standard lies of Western publications that Stalin had done nothing to help the Warsaw insurgents. Therefore it is documented here:
‘1. The front can launch its Warsaw operation after the armies of the right wing have reached the Narew River and seized bridgeheads on its western bank in the sectors of Pultusk and Serock. These armies are positioned some 120 kilometers from the Narew. It will take ten days to cover that distance.
‘Thus the offensive by the armies of the right wing of the front, which will carry them to the Narew River, must be effected between August 10 and August 20.
‘2. Meantime, on the left wing of the front, using the 69th Army, the 8th Guards Army, the 7th Guards Cavalry Corps, and the 11th Tank Corps, we must carry out a separate operation with a view to expanding the bridgehead on the western bank of the Vistula so that these armies can reach a line running through Warka, Stremets, Radom, and Wierzbnik.
‘For purposes of carrying out this operation it is necessary to transfer Katukov’s 1st Tank Army from the 1st Ukrainian Front to the 1st Belorussian Front and send it from the region of Opatow through Ostrowiec to Sienne with the mission of striking in a northerly direction and advancing to the front at Zwolen and Radom, and thus helping the 69th Army, the 8th Guards Army, the 7th Cavalry Corps, and the 11th Tank Corps to destroy the enemy facing them.
‘Also, the line of demarcation between the 1st Belorussian Front and the 1st Ukrainian Front must be moved northward so that it runs Krasnystaw-Ilzanka-River-Opoczno-Piotrkow. This will make for a greater density of troops in the armies of the 1st Belorussian Front’s left wing, and will increase the striking power of our forces in the direction of Radom.
‘3. When these operations have been carried out and the armies of the front’s right wing reach the line of the Narew River, while those of the left wing reach the Warka-Radom-Wierzbnik line, the troops will need at least five days so that the air bases can be moved up and artillery rear-area services brought up, along with ammunition, fuel, and lubricants.
‘4. Taking into account the time required for preparation, the Warsaw operation may be launched on August 25, using all of the front’s forces, with a view to reaching the defence line Ciechanow-Plonsk-Wyszogrod-Sochaczew-Skierhiewice-Tomaszow and capturing Warsaw.
‘In this operation, to attack north of the Vistula we shall use three mixed armies, the 1st Tank Army, and the 1st Cavalry Corps, and to attack south of the Vistula, the 69th Army, the 8th Guards, the 1st Tank Army, the 2nd Tank Army, two cavalry corps, one tank corps, and one mixed army to be taken from the right wing of the front.
‘In this operation the Polish 1st Army will advance along the western bank of the Vistula with the mission of taking Warsaw jointly with the forces of the front’s right wing and centre.’ 54
Shtemenko reported that the situation in the Warsaw region was often discussed at HQ. He no longer remembered every word that Stalin had said, but he assured that ‘I can guarantee fidelity to the general tenor of his remarks.’ 55
‘The Supreme Commander reaffirmed that the members of the Polish Government in Exile in London were responsible for the Warsaw gamble, which was undertaken without informing the Soviet military command and in violation of its operational plans. The Soviet Government would like to see a specially created impartial Commission ascertain precisely upon whose orders the uprising in Warsaw was begun, and who was responsible for the fact that the Soviet military command was not given advance notice of it. No military command – neither the British nor the American – would tolerate the organising of an uprising in a large city ahead of its forces’ front lines in violation of its operational plans and without its being informed. Obviously, the Soviet command was no exception. There is no doubt that if the Soviet command had been asked for its opinion on whether an uprising should be started in early August, it would have objected to the scheme. At the time, the Soviet forces were not in a state of readiness to take Warsaw by storm – all the more so, since by that time the Germans had managed to transfer their tank reserves to this region.
‘Looking searchingly at everybody, the Supreme Commander went on to say that no one could reproach the Soviet Government for having supplied inadequate assistance to the Polish people, including Warsaw. The most effective form of assistance was the vigorous military actions by the Soviet forces against the German occupying troops in Poland, which had made it possible to liberate more than a quarter of Poland. This had been done by Soviet forces, and only Soviet forces, who had spilled their blood for the liberation of Poland.
‘There remained another and rather ineffective form of assistance to the Warsovians: dropping weapons, medical supplies, and foodstuffs from aircraft. On several occasions we had dropped weapons and foodstuffs to the Warsaw insurgents, but each time we had been informed that they had got into the hands of the enemy.
‘Since Churchill and Roosevelt had written Stalin about aiding the Warsaw insurgents from the air, the Supreme Commander said that if the Prime Minister and the President had such a :firm belief in the effectiveness of this form of aid and were insisting that the Soviet command organise the rendering of such aid jointly with the British and Americans, the Soviet Government could agree to that. It was essential, however, that the assistance be provided in accordance with a plan previously co-ordinated.
‘As for the attempts to blame the Soviet Government for the fate of the uprising and the victimisation of the Warsovians (the Supreme Commander continued to think aloud), they could only be regarded as manifestations of a desire to shift the blame from where it really belonged. And the same thing applied to the claim that Soviet aid in the matter of Warsaw contravened the spirit of co-operation among allies. There is no doubt that if the British Government had taken steps to see that the Soviet command was given timely notice of the planned uprising in Warsaw, things in Warsaw would have taken a completely different turn.
‘Stalin also said that a fair exposition of the facts about the events in Warsaw would help public opinion to condemn without qualification the irresponsibility of those who organised the Warsaw uprising, and to understand correctly the position of the Soviet Government. All one could do was try to see that the public learned the entire truth about the events in Warsaw.’ 56
After fierce fighting, units of the 47th Army and of the 1st Polish Army, the latter led by General Zygmunt Berling, took Praga on September 13. Praga lies on the east bank of the Vistula. That would have been the right moment for the AK to advance from Warsaw to the east of the Vistula to occupy the bridges and save them from destruction. That would have allowed access by the troops of the 1st Byelorussian Front, including those of the 1st Polish Army to the city centre, and would have liberated Warsaw from the fascists. That was precisely what the leadership of the AK did not want. They left the fascists enough time to blow up the bridges over the Vistula.
Shtemenko wrote: ‘Now there was only the river between the insurgent Warsovians on the one hand and the Soviet forces and Voisko Polskoye on the other. Or so we thought at the time. Things, however, turned out to be much more complicated, owing to the deceitful political calculating of the rabbles of the landowner state.’ 57
After a report by Rokossowski that his troops were not yet in a position to liberate Warsaw, Stalin ordered him to improve the supply of the insurgents from the air with ammunition and other resources; ‘he had ordered that everything possible be done in this area.’ 58
Already on the night of September 13 to 14, attempts were made to drop weapons and ammunition over Warsaw; these proved successful, and ‘the regular supplying of the insurgents began the next day.’ 59
Marshal Zhukov, who had just come from the 1st Ukrainian Front, immediately made his way to the 1st Byelorussian Front by Stalin’s order. Stalin had obviously not yet abandoned the attempt to liberate Warsaw. Turning to Zhukov, he said: ‘You’ll have a free hand there. Look into the Warsaw situation on the spot, and take whatever steps are necessary. Maybe Berling’s forces should try to force the Vistula in a special operation.... It would make a big difference.... Assign the task to the Poles personally, along with Rokossovsky, and help them organise things. They are still inexperienced people.’ 60
Zhukov, Rokossowski and Berling together worked out an operational plan. According to that plan the Vistula should be forced and the southern part of Warsaw should be taken. From there they should make contact with the insurgents in the northern part of the city and advance to the north. Zhukov thought ‘that in addition to taking the city of Warsaw it would be a good idea to create a Warsaw bridgehead.’ 61
On the evening of September 16 at about 9 P.M. the transfer of troops of the 1st Polish Army began. They succeeded in forming a bridgehead on the west bank of the Vistula.
On September 15, the high command of the AK finally decided to make contact with the 1st Byelorussian Front.62
Around the bridgeheads on the west bank of the Vistula fierce battles causing great losses broke out. Zhukov, Rokossowski, Antonov (deputy chief of the General Staff) and Stalin were in constant contact with each other. On September 20, Zhukov and Rokossowski were still of the opinion that they should continue fighting to annihilate the enemy in and around Warsaw, while Stalin, the General Staff and the chief political administration had received incredible news from the bridgeheads on the west bank of the Vistula: ‘The C. in C. of the Home Army had secretly undermined the insurgent forces from within. On September 20, seven officers from the headquarters of Monter, co-commander of the Home Army Warsaw Area, reached Praga. They had been instructed to get in touch with the command of the Red Army and of the Voisko Polskoye. One of these officers stated that Bor-Komorowski had issued secret orders to use force to compel those armed detachments oriented toward the Lublin government to take orders only from him, and to deal harshly with those who did not comply.’ 63
On September 21 the situation at the Warsaw bridgeheads had become critical. The German troops in this sector had carried out attacks with strong artillery support and tank troops against the units of the 1st Polish Army fighting at the bridgeheads, who had become separated from other sectors of Warsaw. The situation of the Polish units became extremely ominous. They were fighting on a very narrow strip of the bank and were also isolated from the main forces of the 1st Polish Army. As has already been mentioned, under these conditions Rokossowski gave the order to discontinue the battle. Bor-Komorowski and the exile government in London had to answer for the failure of this operation. By September 23, the units of the 1st Polish army involved in the fighting were withdrawn to the east bank of the Vistula.
On September 28, the German troops began their general attack on Warsaw. It remains to note that the last liaison officers of the 1st Polish Army had to leave the staffs of the insurgents, after it became known ‘that hostile agents were out to annihilate them physically.’ 64
On October 2 the leadership of the AK capitulated. Strangely, Bor-Komorowski was allowed to live by the German fascists!? Only a few insurgents and fighters of the AL succeeded in crossing over the Vistula to the 1st Polish Army or to the units of the 1st Byelorussian Front. The uprising cost the lives of over 200,000 inhabitants of Warsaw. I have no figures on the number of wounded. Hundreds of thousands of residents of Warsaw were sent to the concentration camps or expelled from the city. The city was almost completely destroyed.
The Warsaw tragedy was the result of the vicious anti-Soviet politics of the Polish exile government in London and the leadership of the AK, that is Bor-Komorowski. If the British government also washed its hands of responsibility, it took no serious steps to prevent the crime of the Polish exile government. On the contrary, it still regarded it as the ‘legitimate’ government of Poland.
In spite of the defeat of the uprising, in the HQ and in the general staff under overall control of Zhukov and Rokossowski, plans were made for the annihilation of Warsaw enemy groups. On October 5, the operation was to begin. On October 4 strong attacks of the enemy were brought to a halt, but this was not enough to decisively defeat the enemy.
At the end of October Stalin gave up hope of being able to liberate Warsaw in a short time.65 Only in the course of the offensive of the winter of 1944-45 could all of Poland and so also Warsaw be liberated. 600,000 Soviet soldiers gave their lives for the liberation of Poland.
It was a very intelligent policy of the Soviet command, to give the honour of marching into the Polish capital to the 1st Polish Army. The troops of the 1st Byelorussian Front had broken through the German defences and penetrated into the rear of the Warsaw groups. The German troops had to flee Warsaw in order not to become encircled. On January 17, 1945, the 1st Polish Army under the leadership of Lieutenant General Stanislaw Poplawski could again take possession of their capital.66
Footnotes [numbered as in the complete text of the original]
11. Antipenko: In der Hauptrichtung [In the Main Direction]. Moscow 1971 / Berlin 1973, p. 213.
12. Krainjukow: Von Dniepr zur Weichsel [From the Dnepr to the Vistula]. Moscow 1971 / Berlin 1977, p. 259.
13. Ibid., p. 260 ff.
14. Ibid., p. 261 ff.
15. Ibid., p. 262.
16. Quoted from Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges 1939-1945 in zwölf Bänden, Bd. 10. Hrsg. von Institut für Militärgeschichte des Ministeriums für Verteidigung der UdSSR, Institut für Marxismus-Leninismus beim ZK der KPdSU, Institut für allgemeine Geschichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften der UdSSR, Institut für Geschichte der UdSSR der Akademie der Wissenschaften der UdSSR [History of the Second World War, 1939-1945 in 12 volumes, Vol. 10. Published by the Institute for Military History of the Defence Ministry of the USSR, Institute for Marxism-Leninism under the CC of the CPSU, Institute for General History of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Institute for the History of the USSR of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR] Moscow 1979 / Berlin 1982, p. 67.
17. The Class Struggles in France, in Marx and Engels Selected Works in three volumes [English edition], vol. 1, p. 285
18. Ibid., p. 285.
19. Antipenko, op. cit., p. 216 ff.
20. Ibid., p. 217.
21. Ibid., p. 216.
22. Ibid., p. 222 ff.
23. Valentin Falin: Zweite Front. Die Interessenkonflikte in der Anti-Hitler Koalition [Second Front: The Conflict of Interests in the Anti-Hitler Coalition]. Munich 1997, p. 378. Emphases by UH.
23a. See Ulrich Huar: Stalins Beiträge zur marxistisch-leninistischen Militärtheorie und -politik. Das Jarh 1943 [Stalin’s Contributions to Marxist-Leninist Military Theory and Politics. The Year 1943] In Schriftenreihe für marxistisch-leninistische Bildung der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands [Series for Marxist-Leninist Education of the Communist Party of Germany] Part 1, pp. 39-44.
24. See Falin, op. cit., p. 548, fn. 89.
25. Sir Llewellyn Woodward: British Foreign Policy in the Second World War. London 1962. Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, p. 300.
26. Ibid., p. 287.
27. Ibid., p. 288.
28. Ibid., p. 300.
30. Ibid., p. 301.
31. Ibid., p. 301, fn. 1.
32. Kurt von Tippelskirch: Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges [History of the Second World War]. Bonn, 1954, p. 471 ff. At the time of the writing of his book, Tippelskirch could not have known of the ‘Rankin Plan and of other documents that were published later.
33. War Telegrams, Vol. 1. Correspondence of Stalin with Churchill, Attlee, Roosevelt and Truman, July 1941 – November 1945 [English edition]. Moscow 1957, reprinted by Red Star Press, London 1983, p. 248.
34. Ibid., p. 249.
35. Falin, op. cit., p. 442.
36. K. Rokossovsky: A Soldier’s Duty [English edition]. Progress Publishers, Moscow, English translation 1985, p. 254.
37. Ibid., pp. 255-256.
38. Ibid., p. 256.
39. Ibid., p. 256.
40. Ibid., p. 256-257.
41. Ibid., pp. 257-258.
42. Ibid., pp. 260-261.
43. Ibid., p. 261.
44. Ibid., pp. 261-262.
45. Ibid., p. 262.
46. Ibid., pp. 262-263.
47. Shtemenko was a member from 1940, and the head from 1943, of the Operational Administration of the General Headquarters, later Chief of Staff of the United High Command of the Warsaw Pact.
48. Shtemenko: The Last Six Months [Vol. 2 of Im General Stab, published separately under the above title in English]. Doubleday, Garden City, NY 1977, p. 79.
49. Ibid., pp. 79-80. Emphases by UH. The 1st Byelorussian Front had partially covered 600 kilometres in two months of non-stop attacks. The troops and units had been weakened by losses, their supplies and provisions were disorganized. The situation of the 3rd and 2nd Byelorussian Fronts and of the 1st Ukrainian Front was similar.
50. Ibid., p. 80.
51. Ibid., p. 81.
52. Ibid., p. 83. Shtemenko here refers to the observations of the Polish historian Adam Borkiewicz: Powstanie Warszawski [The Warsaw Uprising] 1944. Warsaw 1957.
53. Ibid., p. 86.
54. Ibid., pp. 88-89.
55. Ibid., p. 93.
56. Ibid., pp. 93-95.
57. Ibid.., p. 96.
58. Ibid., p. 97.
59. Ibid., p. 97.
60. Ibid., p. 97.
61. Ibid., p. 98.
62. Ibid., p. 99.
63. Ibid., p. 103.
64. Ibid., p. 105.
65. Ibid., p. 110.
66. Ibid., p. 111.
From ‘Stalin’s Contributions to Marxist-Leninist Military and Political Theory – Cooperation and Class Struggle in the Anti-Hitler Coalition, 1944’ by Ulrich Huar, Offen-siv, Journal for Socialism and Peace, Hanover, Germany, August 2004.
Translated from the German by George Gruenthal
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