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1944: Polish resistance launches Warsaw Uprising

The Story

Five years into the Second World War, the Soviet army was advancing on Nazi-occupied Warsaw. In a desperate bid to liberate the city from the Nazis while staving off a communist takeover, the Polish resistance launched the Warsaw Uprising on Aug. 1, 1944. After 63 days, the struggle ended in disaster with a city in ruins and 250,000 dead civilians. In this CBC clip, four Polish-Canadian survivors describe dark days of no food, water or ammunition.

Medium: Television
Program: Newswatch
Broadcast Date: Oct. 2, 1984
Guest(s): Georges Rabyc, Wladimir Romanowski, Anna Serafin, Wilhelm Synienski, Bob Vogel
Reporter: Paulina Casaubon
Duration: 4:14

Did You know?

• The reporter in this clip is incorrect in noting that the Warsaw Uprising ended on Aug. 2, 1944. The correct date was Oct. 2, 1944. The news report was timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of that date.

• Poland was the first country invaded by Germany in the Second World War. On Sept. 1, 1939, German troops crossed the border into Poland. Two days later, Britain declared war on Germany. Canada declared war on Sept. 10, 1939.

• As the war progressed, Allied armies from Britain, the United States and Canada closed in on Nazi-occupied Europe from the west. The Soviet army, also Allies, advanced from the east.

• By July 1944, the Soviet army was making its way through Poland. Alongside it was the Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN), a Soviet-backed administration that purged Polish towns and cities of resistance fighters. This was in anticipation of a postwar Soviet takeover of Poland.

• In Warsaw, the resistance force, the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa), consisted of about 30,000 men and women.

• According to The Heart of Europe: A Short History of Poland, by Norman Davies (1984), the timing of the uprising of was delicate. Act too early, and the resistance risked getting crushed by the Germans; too late, and Warsaw would be easily plucked from Polish hands by the Soviets and the PKWN.

• The rising was planned to last just a few days until the Soviets moved in. However, the Soviets stayed on the opposite side of the Vistula River and watched as the resistance battled it out with the Nazis.

• The vicious street-by-street combat lasted until Oct. 2, 1944, when resistance leader Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski capitulated to the Nazis. The city's few remaining inhabitants were sent to internment camps and the city was bombed to rubble, leaving it to the Soviets.

• The Warsaw Uprising is sometimes confused with the uprising that took place in the Warsaw ghetto on April 19, 1943. During that event, Jewish Poles living in the overcrowded, sealed-off ghetto resisted Nazi officers who had arrived to send the last remaining Jews to concentration camps. Though they had no hope of winning, the resisters staged the insurgency with grenades and small arms to show the Nazis they wouldn't go without a fight.

Also on August 1:
1952: The Social Credit Party is sworn in as the new government of British Columbia under W.A.C. Bennett. The party stays in power until 1972.
1959: Georges P. Vanier is appointed as Canada's new governor general. Vanier is the first French-Canadian governor general.
1985: A U.S. icebreaker, Polar Sea, leaves Greenland for a voyage through the Northwest Passage without Canada's permission.



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