Poland marks 63rd anniversary of tragic WWII Warsaw Uprising
Aug 1, 2007, 12:31 GMT
Warsaw - Memorial ceremonies across Poland Wednesday marked the 63rd anniversary of the tragic Warsaw Uprising of Polish Home Army (AK) partisans against occupying Nazi German forces, bent on systematically destroying the Polish capital and its population during World War Two.
'It is very difficult to suffer such a great loss, but Poland would be weaker today if not for the Warsaw Uprising,' Poland's Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski told reporters after a ceremonial changing of the guard at Poland's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Fought in a bid to secure Poland's post-war independence, the Warsaw Uprising was launched by AK commanders loyal to the Polish government-in-exile in Britain on August 1, 1944 by a largely unarmed force of nearly 40,000 Polish partisans.
Despite minor victories, the rising was crushed by the Nazis after 63 days of fierce fighting. Nearly half of the AK insurgents and at least 100,000 civilians were slaughtered. The rag-tag partisan units had fought a well-armed force of 50,000 German troops of whom some 16,000 died in action.
The battle is widely regarded as the bloodiest in Poland's turbulent history.
With no Allied support, the uprising was crushed by October 2, 1944. On orders of Adolf Hitler, Nazi forces subsequently began to level Warsaw until close to 90 per cent of the city was left a smouldering heap of ruins.
Between 600,000-700,000 Warsaw residents, many of them Jews, perished under Nazi occupation between 1939-1944. The capital boasted a population of more than 1.3 million before 1939. All told, six million Polish citizens, roughly half of Jewish ancestry, died in World War Two.
Historians agree the uprising's failure was certain without Allied support.
Stationed only a few kilometres away from the fighting on the opposite bank of the Vistula river, the Soviet Red Army was ordered by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to wait as the Nazis massacred the Polish resistance. Western Allied forces also failed to help.
The uprising's collapse is therefore also viewed as having paved the way for the post-war Soviet take-over of Poland and, ultimately, the beginning of the Cold War.
With Poland's post-war communist authorities bent on trivializing the Home Army's wartime drive for Polish sovereignty, the uprising was relegated to the margins of history until the demise of communism in 1989.
For over 40 years, the communist regime branded it a hopeless suicide mission which had been 'irresponsibly' ordered by Poland's wartime government-in-exile in Britain.
But in 2004, the 60th anniversary of the event finally saw the opening of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising Museum, a multi-media facility devoted to documenting one of the most dramatic episodes of Polish history.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur