Who remembers the Warsaw Uprising? No, I am not referring to the much better known Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that began in April 1943. The Warsaw Uprising began on August 1, 1944 as a heroic but ill-fated last stand against the occupying Nazis by Poles still living in Warsaw. The Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa; AK) predicted that Soviet forces gathered across the east bank of the Vistula River would move in and assist the Poles in defeating Germany and liberating Warsaw. The Soviets did nothing but watch and gave no assistance to the Poles. By the time the valiant battle ended, an estimated 180,000 Poles (estimates range from 166,000-200,000,) primarily civilians, died in the effort. The death count includes an estimated 17,000 Polish Jews still in hiding or fighting with the Home Army. The Nazis subsequently bombed most of what remained in Warsaw. Any survivors were sent to concentration camps.
For many complicated reasons, the story of Poland and Poles during World War II receives little notice or attention in the Western teaching of World War II or in Holocaust education. I submit that this history remains an important facet of World War II, should not be forgotten, and deserves to be honored. I always like to highlight stories of rebellion and of people who stood up to their occupiers and enemies, and this was a significant action.
Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence understood the significance to Poles on their visits to Poland, and made a point of laying wreaths and speaking at the Warsaw Uprising monument in Warsaw. (Trump in July 2017 and Pence in February 2019. No, I’m not being political. It is a strategic observation.)
The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author.
Every year at 5:00 pm on August 1, citizens of Warsaw stand still and silent in solemn remembrance of the Warsaw Uprising.