Saturday Reader: Warsaw Uprising at 71

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Today marks the 71st Anniversary of the World War II Resistance to Nazi Occupation in Poland.

Led by the Polish Home Army, the rebellion was the largest military effort by any European resistance group in World War II. The Nazis ended the uprising after 63 days, killing over 200,000 civilians..

Prompted by the Soviet‬ advance on the Eastern Front, the Home Army ‬Command gave the order to liberate the Polish‬ capital on 1 August 1944 at 5pm. In four days, the insurgents managed to capture most of west-bank Warsaw‬, including a number of key buildings, failing however to capture the bridges over the Vistula‬ river. The arrival of German reinforcements on 5 August, brought a massacre of 50,000 civilians in the western quarters of the city: ‪‎Wola‬ and Ochota‬. Despite ‪‎German‬ advantage in military‬ aircraft and armoured divisions, the Home Army resisted the enemy in the rest of the city, undertaking offensive strikes.

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Despite desperate efforts of the Polish Government-in-Exile, the Uprising received little outside help, limited to ammunition airdrops by the Royal Air Force as well as Polish, South African, and US aircraft. The Allied command refused, however, the deployment of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade which was operationalised in Holland instead. The ‪‎Red Army‬ stalled its advance on the right bank of the Vistula, allowing few volunteers from the Polish First Army to cross the river at their own risk.

The Uprising ended after 63 days. Crushing it, Nazi‬ Germans and their allies destroyed 85% of the city, killed 200,000 civilians, expelled further 700,000, of whom 150,000 were sent to labour camps.

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