Warsaw Uprising Sixty Years Later Irresponsible Brawl or Heroic Rise for Liberty?

How many of us realize that the Warsaw Uprising stands as one of the biggest battles of World War II?   This unprecedented Battle for Warsaw claimed 18 thousands lives of the Home Army soldiers and about 200,000 civilian lives on the Polish side, and about 17 thousands lives on the German side.  According to Heinrich Himmler, the Battle for Warsaw was “the most fiercely fought battle from the beginning of the war, equally fierce as the Stalingrad Battle.” The Battle for Warsaw engaged German forces comparable in strength to those of General Rommel’s forces in North Africa during the 1940-1942 campaign. Thus, the Battle for Warsaw effectively limited German defensive capabilities on the western front at the time of the Normandy Campaign and facilitated the Soviet passage to Berlin.  And yet for decades this important battle has been effectively marginalized on both sides of the Atlantic due to political reasons. For many Polish people the Warsaw Uprising still represents a very controversial chapter in Polish history.  Soviets labeled this battle as an irresponsible brawl. This interpretation is deeply engraved in the post-war conscience of the Polish people and represents a prevailing view in the English language historiography.

The opposite position on this matter taken by the Polish Government in London has been effectively suppressed for sixty years, even though this was the only legitimate position of the Polish people at that moment in history.  In that summer of 1944, only the London Government had the mandate and credentials to determine what was in Poland’s true national interest.  In their sole judgment, the Battle for Warsaw was a historic necessity in the struggle for independent Poland, no matter how inconvenient Poland’s aspirations for sovereignty could have been to others.  Could it be that the Poles felt morally obliged to stand up for Poland and her territorial integrity in the decisive moment in history regardless of the consequences?  Could it be that this unequal, irrational battle put the whole world on notice that the Poles would never succumb to foreign oppression and would remain uncompromising in their immortal drive for self-determination?  Could it be that thanks to the legend of this hopelessly but so fiercely fought battle the future generations drew strength to continue and ultimately win this unequal fight?

To the Americans the Battle for Warsaw is a little known episode of World War II, even though this battle claimed more lives than both nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Norman Davies, who recently published a seminal book about the Battle for Warsaw, used the following illustration to drive home the true meaning of this battle: „Warsaw Rising was like the World Trade Center catastrophe repeated day after day for 63 consecutive days.”

The time is slowly approaching to assure that the Polish military deeds in World War II be given their rightful place in history.  Please join this effort.  On Sunday, September 12, 2004 at 1:00 PM, a program commemorating 60-tieth Anniversary of the Battle for Warsaw will take place at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Cleveland.  Everybody is warmly welcomed. A special invitation is extended to the younger generation of Polonia. We promise a fascinating movie and a good discussion. Please come with curious mind and challenging questions!

Maria Szonert-Binienda

Forum, 8/2004