Germans shelling Town Hall and Blank Palace from 7.5-cm-Pak 40.

Germans shelling Town Hall and Blank Palace from 7.5-cm-Pak 40.

 Firing of 32-35 cm ammunition into Wurfgerät 42 "Nebelwerfer". Photo of 201st Stellungswerfer Regiment bombing Old Town and North Śródmieście district from Żelazna and Żytnia street intersection.

Firing of 32-35 cm ammunition into Wurfgerät 42 “Nebelwerfer”. Photo of 201st Stellungswerfer Regiment bombing Old Town and North Śródmieście district from Żelazna and Żytnia street intersection.

In the occupied areas of Warsaw, German soldiers set all buildings on fire to decrease the chances of the AK (Home Army) using them in the future.

In the occupied areas of Warsaw, German soldiers set all buildings on fire to decrease the chances of the AK (Home Army) using them in the future.

The Warsaw Uprising had been planned as a brief insurgency by the underground Polish Home Army, intended to last for a few days before the Red Army Army joined them in sweeping the Germans out of Poland. It had turned out very differently. The Poles were on their own, Stalin did not want to help them, content to see independent Polish spirit and leadership wiped out before he imposed a communist regime. The battle had not been confined to the Home Army but had included all the residents of the city, thousands of whom had died in the struggle – either murdered out of hand or killed in the relentless bombing and shelling.

Despite holding greatly superior forces for two months the ground held by the Poles had been slowly whittled down as their circumstances became ever more desperate. Julian Kulski was one of the combatants, a 15 year old boy, he was eventually able to record the final hours of the Uprising:

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 30

It is now Saturday. At nine o’clock this morning the enemy managed to set the second and third floors of our building on fire. We had to stand at our posts, deafened by exploding shells, our eyes smarting from the smoke.

It was so dark that none of us knew what was happening, and the groans of the wounded were making us more and more despondent. It was now clearly impossible to hold Zoliborz any longer, and shortly after ten o’clock Colonel ‘Zywiciel’ ordered the companies to withdraw in the direction of the Vistula. We were to cross the river at night and join the Russians.

Our company, which by that time was reduced to less than half its full strength, was again to be the last one to leave its position. The Commandos were always first to attack and last to leave. That was our job. However, at noon the order came from Lieutenant ‘Szeliga,’ and under cover of smoke we started to withdraw. Creeping through ruined houses, we reached a building on Mickiewicz Street. The remnants of our division gathered here while the Germans found themselves at last in possession of almost the whole of Zoliborz.

The rows of tanks standing on Wilson Square and lining Slowacki Street fired a stream of shells at us. The Germans had thrown an entire armored division into an area the size of a postage stamp. The Fire Brigade Building was blown to smithereens by an attack from Goliath robot tanks.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, AFTERNOON

We had hoped to remain here until nightfall and then, after breaking through the German positions by the river, to reach the Russian boats that were supposed to be waiting for us.

The tanks were causing heavy damage, and I received an order to fire at them from my PIAT antitank missile thrower. It was now almost beyond my strength even to lift it; the fever had made me so weak that I was falling down every few meters. In order to ready the PIAT for action, I had to lie on my back to pull its spring.

I took a position in the ruins opposite a large Tiger tank, and my first missile hit the right tread of the tank, immobilizing it. I saw the huge gun slowly turning, finally pointing straight at me. I knew I had to get him this time. The second shell blew a large hole in the center, and flames shot from the tank. The hatch opened, and a black-uniformed crew started to jump out. The first man was cut down by our machine-gun fire. The second was killed as he was attempting to leave through the hatch. As he fell back, he grabbed the open hatch door, closing it. Nobody else left the steel trap.

My PIAT hit several tanks as we moved among the ruins. For once, there was an ample supply of missiles, and they were being handed to me one by one. Finally, I could no longer pull the spring and collapsed, utterly exhausted.

The holes in the walls and roof made an awful impression on me and the thought nagged at my mind, Where is Marysia now? Is she still alive?

I lurched back down the stairs like a lunatic and met my startled companions. One of them shouted, “What the hell are you doing wandering around these ruins? Are you mad?”

I sank down on the steps near my fellow soldiers. The whole situation looked quite hopeless. We had to face a fact we had always known – had always known, even if not admitting it – that at some time we would have to be prepared for capture or death.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, NIGHT

The news came through, striking like lightning. The message was starkly brief. Surrender! The word itself brought forth a furious barrage of oaths from all sides: “Lies!” “Impossible!” Still, all the companies were ordered to line up. We did so, not yet able to believe what was happening.

Lieutenant ‘Szeliga’ stood before our company. I had to struggle to stand to attention and to concentrate as he took a paper from his breast pocket and began to read aloud the order from Colonel ‘Zywiciel':

Soldiers!
I thank you, my dear comrades, for everything you have accomplished during these two months of fighting with the enemy, for your efforts, pain, and courage.

I am proud that I had the honor to command such soldiers as you. Remain such in the future and show the world what a Polish soldier is, he who will sacrifice every-thing for his country.

Soldiers!
An hour ago, as ordered by the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, General Bor-Komorowski, I signed the surrender document of our group. . . . We are surrendering to the Wehrmacht as a regular army, and we will be treated according to the Geneva Convention.

I thank you once more for everything. God be with you!

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, MIDNIGHT

After that, everything went like a nightmarish dream. Hardly realizing it, we began to fall into military formation. It was nearly midnight as we started our slow march uphill from the Glass House along Mickiewicz Street toward Wilson Square.

We all made one last effort and marched in an even, measured step, as on parade, our rifles on our shoulders. We had to remind the Germans what kind of soldiers they had been fighting during the last two months.

With officers at our flanks, we advanced toward Wilson Square, solidly lined with tanks, where the Germans were waiting for us. When we were about ten meters from a gate leading into the courtyard of a large building, the command came: “Kompania Stoj!” (Company Halt!). Our commander exchanged words in German with the officer-in-charge. Then we entered the courtyard.

A thrill of terror shook me as I saw the faces and uniforms of the hated enemy at such close range. The Germans at once surrounded us and confiscated our short arms, field glasses, and so on. Then we marched in company formation through the courtyard; passing the tanks standing at the entrance to Slowacki Street, we found ourselves in the middle of Wilson Square, illuminated by the flames of burning Zoliborz. Here, we had to lay down the rest of our weapons.

I had nothing left to give up.

See Julian Engeniusz Kulski: Dying, we live: The personal chronicle of a young freedom fighter in Warsaw (1939-1945). YouTube has a short interview with Julian E. Kulski, now a U.S. citizen, on his views on the importance of the Uprising.

Polish POWs on Opaczewska Street at the intersection with Grójecka Street. Judging by the uniforms the prisoners are likely to be from one of the units of General Berling Army which crossed the Vistula river and joined the Uprising.

Polish POWs on Opaczewska Street at the intersection with Grójecka Street. Judging by the uniforms the prisoners are likely to be from one of the units of General Berling Army which crossed the Vistula river and joined the Uprising.

Sick and starved people emerge from basements and sewers in Warsaw, two months after the start of the Warsaw Uprising against the occupying German forces. As a result, thousands of the city's inhabitants were killed or sent to concentration camps, and the city destroyed.

Sick and starved people emerge from basements and sewers in Warsaw, two months after the start of the Warsaw Uprising against the occupying German forces. As a result, thousands of the city’s inhabitants were killed or sent to concentration camps, and the city destroyed.

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Sep

29

1944

One man’s valiant attack wins the battle

A Vickers machine-gun team of 7th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, 59th (Staffordshire) Division in position in a field of corn at Someren in Holland, 21 September 1944.

Still completely ignoring the heavy spandau and mortar fire which was sweeping the area, once again he crossed the wall alone to find out whether it was possible for his platoon to wade the dyke which lay beyond. He found the dyke too deep and wide to cross, and once again he came back across the wall, and received orders to try and establish his platoon on the enemy side of it. All this time the area was subject to intense cross machine-gun fire and mortaring.

Sep

28

1944

Italy – hilltop attack and room to room fighting

Sherman tanks of 26th Armoured Brigade, 6th Armoured Division, lined up on the road north of San Benedetto, in preparation for the final push to Forli, 27 September 1944.

I called to one of my soldiers, “Give me your Tommy gun!” I put that over the top and tried to make sure that I’d finished him off. He fell partly behind the door, so I then had to fire the Tommy gun through this rather thick door. A rather brave German soldier, only just visible around the doorway, dragged the officer away out of sight, and so that was that. That was how close the contact was there.

Sep

27

1944

Yom Kippur – Dr Mengele selects young boys for gassing

Jewish twins kept alive to be used in Mengele's medical experiments. These children were liberated from Auschwitz by the Red Army in January 1945.

No, no, there was no other explanation; it was one hundred per cent clear to everyone why this was being done. All of us began stretching ourselves, each one wanted to be another centimetre higher, another half-centimetre. I also tried to stretch myself a little but I soon gave up in despair, for I saw that even boys taller than I was, failed to reach the required height – their heads did not touch the plank.

Sep

26

1944

Polish Home Army trapped in the Warsaw sewers

Exhausted soldier of the Polish Home Army emerging from a sewer after escaping from German encirclement. One of his fellow soldiers pulls out his submachine gun of the sewer hatch.

The gas was affecting our eyes more and more the whole time. I felt just as if I had sand under my eyelids; my head, too, was rolling to one side in a queer way. The mass of people all round were still arguing how to save themselves. From time to time a hideous bubbling was heard, as one more person whose strength had gone slipped into the foul liquid. But even more unbearable would be the voice of some woman pulling him out: “Look, he’s alive, he’s smiling! My darling, you’ll soon be on top again!” Oh God, not to see it, not to hear it!

Sep

25

1944

Evacuation of the surviving troops from Arnhem

A group of survivors from the Arnhem Operation arriving at Nijmegen after the evacuation and having their first drink. One of them, Captain Jan Linzel (second from left) is a member of the Dutch Royal Navy attached to No 10 Commando.

As I looked around I saw tired faces everywhere, grimy, proud, undefeated faces and I wanted to cry. I didn’t recognise anybody and I had no idea how many others had made it. We had all been through so much together. Everywhere I looked I saw the eyes of men who had seen too much, given too much. Everywhere I looked I saw a hero. But for every man that had escaped many more had died, been wounded or captured and they had no one to tell their story.

Sep

24

1944

The casualties mount inside Oosterbeek

A paratrooper takes cover as a jeep burns during a German mortar attack on 1st Airborne Division's HQ at the Hartenstein Hotel in Oosterbeek, 24 September 1944.

‘How is it with you ?’ I shouted. He shouted back ‘My leg is broken.’ I wriggled my own injured leg about. It worked. Something would now have to be done about his. There was a dull, singing little pain in my middle, as perhaps the nose cap of whatever it was that had burst had bounced up and hit me there. I looked around the safe and friendly little trench, reluctant to leave it for the chill, hostile world outside.

Sep

23

1944

Arnhem: civilians caught up in the middle of the battle

British airborne troops moving through a shell-damaged house in Oosterbeek near Arnhem during Operation 'Market Garden', 23 September 1944.

I showed him down the dark stairs, and he went to work immediately. The first thing he did, after seeing the injury, was to give the woman a morphia injection. Then he began the tedious and revolting process of removing the bandages. The blood had seeped through them and dried; now the dressing was a solid crust all mixed up with what was left of her toes. It took the orderly over an hour.

Sep

22

1944

British airborne troops fight on in Oosterbeek

A German assault gun in the Oosterbeek battle.

Whatever might be the preoccupation of the Germans they were not too busy, or on the defensive, to be debarred from putting up a terrific barrage that took painful toll of the lumbering planes. Unfortunately, in spite of the tenacious courage of the airmen, the greater part of the supplies again failed to fall within the perimeter, and the many spectators from the hospital who rushed out to watch had the chagrin of seeing coloured parachutes opening in huge clusters over the enemy-held territory nearer the town.

Sep

21

1944

Arnhem: British paratroopers continue to hold out

Men from Nos. 15 & 16 Platoons, 'C' Company, 1st Battalion Border Regiment, waiting in roadside ditches along the Van Lennepweg to repulse an attack by the enemy, who were barely a hundred yards away, Oosterbeek, 21 September.

It wasn’t all grim, square-jawed stuff, we had some laughs like when a German Psychological unit in a van came up and bellowed through the loud-hailer that we were good blokes and marvellous fighters, and that if we would surrender we would be treated as heroes and all this guff.
The answer of course was cat calls, “Up yours from Wigan.” “Get knotted,” and other military replies and when it came next day somebody fired a P.I.A.T. bomb right into it. They didn’t send another one!