The Poles young and old rose up in August 1944 to defeat Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. They were crushed by the Wehrmacht but the memories will never be buried: long live Poland and her Polishness.
This lies in the deep and abiding hatred of the Russians for Poland and its armed forces going back to the annihilation of the Polish Officer Cadre at the Katyn Massacre under Stalin’s orders earlier in World War II. Such was Stalin’s deceit and hatred of the Poles he would not own up to what he had done at Katyn – he wanted to hide his complicity and shift the blame to Nazi Germany and he very nearly succeeded in fooling history in that deception. He himself was ashamed to admit his dastardly actions at Katyn and for once in his dictatorship cowered in cowardice. He had been shown up by the innocent murdered Polish Military Cadre (40,000 Officers) and it took those deceased Polish Army Officers to unmask Stalin for the ruthless brutal butcher he was. Katyn was a targeted massacre aimed at the Polish Army Officers themselves – the pure lifeblood of military Poland. Katyn was the instrument behind Stalin’s later policy and actions in the Warsaw Uprising (1944). Nazi Germany hated Poland and her Jews. The whole Nazi liquidation policy directed at the Polish Jews early in World War II showed Hitler’s main purpose in carving up Poland with Stalin in August and September 1939 was to annihilate the Polish Jews.
There is no doubt Hitler another utterly disgraceful and amoral dictator carried out this policy early in World War II as Stalin did with his killings in Katyn. The Polish Officers had fallen into Stalin’s hands due to the Nazi-Soviet pact which provided for the Russo-German invasion of Poland from East and West and subsequent partition between Russia and Germany in 1939. To Hitler all Poles were like the Jews – utterly despicable. He treated the non-Jewish Poles like the civilian Jews of Poland. To Hitler there was no distinction between a Polish citizen and a Polish Jew – he was intent on murdering them all and did not fall far short in his aim. Thank God for the Polish Army units who fought in France and Italy in this war against Hitler.
2. Hitler and Stalin
Hitler was an archdictator like Stalin as I have recounted. Hitler’s particular characteristic was to work up anti-Semitic feeling in pre-war Germany and translate that animus into the Holocaust in World War II. He secured his regime’s political stability upon the rock of anti-Semitism and saw this evil intent through to the end in 1945. The whole of Germany and her occupied European Territories from 1938 to 1945 suffered grievously under his policy of the liquidation of the Jews. Hitler was not a man to say something and not do it, nor did he forget his enemies’ misdeeds in his eyes. He would never be deflected by wise counsel.
What about Stalin? Very driven like Hitler and prepared to cannibalise Poland, which he hated. For Stalin his continuation in power depended on the KGB, the political communist commissars, who were affiliated to all Red Army units and the loyalty of his Army Generals who commanded that Red Army and of course his apparatus of power throughout the Soviet Union, of which he was at the peak and head. Stalin was the chief of all this structure. His actual political philosophy, based on anti-Capitalism had strong appeal but not the driving, emotional and avaricious force of Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Hitler had the edge on racial and political impetus. Stalin had the military advantage as it turned out, but that was not the certain outcome in June 1941 to 1942/3 and immediately post Stalingrad. Hitler could have regained the front foot but in fact Stalin’s Red Armies held firm. Hitler and Stalin knew each other from afar and Stalin was the hardened fighter. Hitler was the Nazi zealot who conquered all before him and would not give an inch in defence. Stalin was prepared to move his troops back to deliver the sucker punch to the German Armies. This he successfully brought about at Stalingrad (the pincer movement – 1942/43). Germany never recovered her balance.
3. The Uprising itself
The Polish Resistance in Warsaw, Poland’s Capital, was growing in strength during the summer of 1944 as the Red Army approached its outskirts. The German Wehrmacht was retreating and everyone knew Germany had lost the war. Save the utterly deluded and mentally deranged Hitler (the Fuhrer) who had however anchored his position in power by the personal oath of allegiance to himself of all German officers and soldiers which still held water. The Uprising in Warsaw in the summer of 1944 began whilst the Germans were still in occupation of the city and it started an Anti-Nazi rebellion. The Nazis had ravaged Warsaw and Poland and her citizens Jewish and Non-Jewish since 1939. They were hated by these Poles quite rightly.
Clearly Stalin gets wind of the Uprising in Warsaw from his Generals and makes a quick call to pull the Red Army back to “help” Hitler to put down this Uprising. A return to the aroma of the Nazi – Soviet pact of 1939 days. Germany and Russia were in a fight to the death. Stalin wanted no Polish assistance and Hitler simply wished to suppress the Uprising: Stalin obliged him. Hitler’s Wehrmacht and crack SS troops both well used to committing atrocities did the job of quelling this insurrection for Stalin. They both did each other a “turn” as only such dictators may do. The Poles as always in this war were the losers but restored their pride in raising their “flag” over a “free” Warsaw, the Capital of Catholic Poland in 1944.
Honours were not even. Germany and Russia had combined to shut down the Uprising in a thoroughly unusual and dishonourable way for such combatant nations. Germany was never going to leave off and back away from Warsaw until the Red Army forced her to do so. Stalin knew this and appears to have been shy of moving into Warsaw himself. The Poles would not have welcomed his Red Army as he realised and he would have had to deal with this revolt himself. He did not relish that prospect after the Katyn debacle and his subterfuge which kept the blame for that massacre secret for decades. Another Polish outrage perpetrated by Stalin would have not gone down well and may have pointed the finger of suspicion for Katyn at Stalin himself. The kernel of Stalin was his deviousness. The finger of guilt would not be levelled at Stalin in his lifetime for the Katyn atrocity. Yet it was known.
Hitler and the Wehrmacht were more straight forward with the SS. They were the de facto occupying power in Warsaw as they still were in large parts of Europe but under threat and retreating. It was essential Hitler and his Generals pacified Warsaw to demonstrate the Wehrmacht’s strength of character and will power for ruling all the other German occupied countries and an organised withdrawal. De facto occupation counts for a lot like it or not. Nowhere else in occupied Europe was there an insurrection on the scale of Warsaw 1944 in the World War II against Hitler. This Uprising was doomed to failure as so many things are in life. But the Poles loved their country and still do thanks to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. Always love your country is the moral, come what may. That is the essence of honour.
Afterword – Stalin contrived to be seen as the “Liberator” of Warsaw in 1944 after Germany repressed the revolt – not himself the suppressor of this noble summer Uprising. Another example of his sleight of hand and brutal treatment of the Polish people. He did not lift a finger to help them in their struggle with Hitler when they needed his help most.