78th Anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising

On August 1, 1944, at 5:00 p.m., the Warsaw Uprising broke out, becoming the largest underground military operation in Nazi German-occupied Europe. The Polish Home Army and the people of Warsaw were determined to secure Poland’s democratic freedom in the face of a weakened Nazi Germany and the advancing Soviet Red Army.

The main goal of the Uprising was to liberate Warsaw from Nazi German occupation before Soviet Red Army soldiers could enter the city. Nearly 50 thousand Home Army soldiers joined in the fight, armed with small arms and machine guns. They faced the full might of the German Wermacht.

Despite the odds being stacked against them, the insurgents took control over large sections of Warsaw, seizing huge amounts of German equipment and weapons, including armored vehicles. Western Allies, including Canadian airmen, risked their lives to send supplies to support the Uprising. One of the main exhibits at the Warsaw Uprising Museum is a replica Liberator B-24 bomber, many of which were flown by RCAF crews and were shot down by the Germans as they flew support missions to Warsaw.

For 63 days, the Home Army troops fought against an overwhelming German military force. Throughout this time, the Soviet Red Army waited on the other side of the Vistula River while Warsaw burned. By the end of the Uprising on October 3, 1944, 85% of the city had been levelled to the ground and the Soviet Red Army marched into Warsaw, setting the stage for 45 years of Soviet control that were to follow.

Polish military losses during the Warsaw Uprising totaled 16 thousand killed and missing in action, 20 thousand injured and 15 thousand prisoners of war. As many as 200,000 civilians died and 500,000 more had to evacuate the ruined city.

For Poles, August 1 is an important day of reflection on the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in the cause of freedom. Wreaths are laid at monuments and in cemeteries across the country and at 5:00 p.m. crowds of Poles take to the streets holding white and red flags as air raid sirens sound out across Poland, and the country comes to a stop for a minute of silence and commemoration.