Second World War History Logo

Warsaw Uprising Timeline

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 3/19/2015

With Germany seemingly on the retreat, Polish authorities attempt to take back their capital city before the Soviet Army can lay claim.

With the Soviet Army making tremendous gains on the ground to the East and the Allies mounting a considerable presence in France to the West, the time seemed right for the remaining Polish military powers within Warsaw to make a stand and eject their conquerors from the city once and for all. Additionally, the encroaching Soviet forces proved too close for comfort and was a certainly to would bring with them a Communistic brand of government by force to the sovereign Polish nation. The plan for the Poles was to take up arms and move the Germans out of the city while "greeting" the Soviet Army as a free liberated and democratic nation.


However, much stood in the way of this Polish resolve. Firstly, the remaining Polish guard was withered down to about 38,000 suitable soldier personnel to which 4,000 of these were women. There were only enough light weapons to arm approximately one quarter of this fighting force. Additionally, there would be no air support, armor support, artillery support and nary an armored vehicle to which mount an attack with. Ammunition was estimated to last about one week of consistent fighting and fighting would have to be bloody house-to-house affairs against a well-armed, well-trained and battle hardened German foe. The Polish spirit was no doubt strong during this time, but logistics said otherwise.


As such, the Polish Army and their government-in-exile - now based in Britain - looked to the Allies for help. Britain offered what it could considering its current wartime commitments, as did the United States. Soviet leader Josef Stalin would refuse to assist the Polish government in any way, sensing that the success of a "Warsaw Uprising" would hinder his prospects of conquering Poland for the Soviet sphere of influence.


By this time, Soviet forces were closing in and around Warsaw to the point that gunfire and artillery was heard along the outskirts of the Warsaw suburbs. From the Polish standpoint, this instilled some haste in exacting their next move and, it seemed, that their German invaders had retreated completely out of the Capital. In reality, however, they were only relocated to counter the swift Soviet gains. Once the German retreat was halted by Adolph Hitler himself and Colonel General Heinz Guderian placed in command of the situation, the Germans stabilized and remained a potent force.


During the perceived lull throughout the Capital, Polish resistance began building up hope and numbers through localized propaganda brought about by posters, word-of-mouth and loudspeaker presentations. Momentum to win back the city and control it before the invading Soviets could enter was in full swing and patriotic fervor was winning out over logic. Polish Army General Komorowski was in charge of the insurgency plan and greenlit the uprising to its fullest potential without realizing the true scope of the surrounding situation.


With small arms and inherent determination, the Polish uprising began on August 1st, attacking the unsuspecting German forces throughout the city. At first, the gains were deemed impressive for the Germans were unprepared and had yet to settle from the reorganization brought about from the halt to the retreat. Fighting turned evermore severe and German defenses at key locations soon proved insurmountable to the lightly-armed Polish insurgency. Despite this, the Polish fought bravely with the few arms and ammunition available to them. Street fighting proved commonplace and Warsaw turned into an official battle zone where no corner was safe from danger.


As the initial push by the Poles began to diminish, they held out hope in the advancing Red Army forces whose armor and artillery could be heard nearby. Additionally, Soviet Air Force planes could clearly be seen in the skies above. However, as the fighting within Warsaw persisted, the sights of the Soviet advanced seemingly disappeared. It seemed that, in true Stalin fashion, an order was given to halt the Red Army advance against Warsaw and let the Germans deal with the pestering Poles before the Soviets geared up to take the Capital themselves. Hitler, infuriated by the nerve of the Polish uprising, committed more men and equipment to the fighting (including bands of ex-criminals, police and ex-Soviet soliders-turned-Nazi) to squash the resistance once and for all - sending a clear message to anyone under his grip with the same insurgent-minded intentions.


The situation for the Poles turned hopelessly bleak. Word soon reached British PM Churchill and American President Roosevelt of Stalin's inaction - both reportedly appalled at the Soviet leader's lack of response. Both leaders appealed to Stalin's sense of morality - if there ever was one - to deliver assistance to the Poles in need. Stalin declined on the insistence that he was never consulted about the intended uprising by the Poles and thusly could not appropriately coordinate a response. Additionally, he stated that his forces were, at present, committed to other - more pressing matters - in the region. When a request came from the British and Americans to deliver their own supplies to the Poles via Soviet-held forward airfields, the request was denied.


It was clear that Stalin was intending to take Poland for his own at the expense of its people. In one deliberately futile act, Stalin ordered a meager airdrop of supplies over the city - these landing into German Army hands and made up of a few small arms and nothing more. As time wore on, the situation for the Poles grew ever grimmer - help from the Allies, it seems, would not come in time, if at all.


The influx of German troops completed the stamping out of the uprising. Remnants of the Polish insurgency were divided into three combat groups with little in the way of communication with one another. Ammunition was now gone. Prisoners were executed by the Germans on site while wounded Poles were reportedly doused with gasoline and set ablaze, left to burn alive. Professionals such as doctors were executed at Polish hospitals and patients systematically killed. Additionally, any remaining Polish civilians caught in the fighting were killed or taken prisoner - all this with the Soviet Army less than 15 miles away from Warsaw proper.


On October 2nd, the Polish Army officially surrendered to the Germans. Between 150,000 and 250,000 Poles were murdered and killed against the loss of 26,000 German troops. Polish survivors were taken away to await a fate worse than death while Warsaw was raped of its valuables and destroyed where it could be by land or air.


Polish Lieutenant-Colonel Zygmunt Berling, having been leading a contingent of the 1st Polish Army alongside the Soviet Army, attempted to come to the aid of his beleagured comrades, breaking rank and storming the Germans. His advance was quickly repelled and the units retreated back to Soviet-held ground. For his actions against Red Army orders, Berling was stripped of his command.


Text ©2003-2015 www.SecondWorldWarHistory.com. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Permitted. Email corrections/comments to SecondWorldWarHistory at Gmail dot com.

There are a total of 29 Warsaw Uprising Timeline Events. Entries are listed below by date of occurrence.

1944
Saturday
July 1st

Plans by the Polish Army are laid out for a resistance and uprising in the Capital City of Warsaw against their German overseers.

1944
Saturday
July 1st

Lieutenant-General Komorowski heads up the resistance plans as Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Home Army in Warsaw.

1944
Wednesday
July 26th

The Polish government, in exile since the fall of their country to the invading Germans, communicates with the British government for help in staging the uprising.

1944
Thursday
July 27th

The British government promises what it can and this emerges in the form of scattered air drops of weapons and supplies.

1944
Monday
July 31st

Soviet Army forces close in on German defenders in Warsaw.

1944
Tuesday
August 1st

Three Soviet Army Fronts converge on the outskirts of Warsaw, prompting Polish General Komorowski to greenlight the uprising.

1944
Tuesday
August 1st

Roughly 30,000 Poles and scattered firearms make up the beginning of the Warsaw Uprising.

1944
Tuesday
August 1st

Uprisings begin across the Polish capital of Warsaw.

1944
Tuesday
August 1st

Upon hearing of news of the Polish uprising, an infuriated Adolph Hitler swears punishment and commits more of his troops within the Capital limits.

1944
Friday
August 4th

Realizing their chances of victory are slim against well-trained and well-armed Germans, Polish Authorities once again ask the Allies - including the Soviets - for assistance in maintaining the uprising.

1944
Thursday
August 10th

German Army forces continue to relocate to Warsaw in an attempt to quell the Polish uprising.

1944
Friday
August 11th

Sensing complete destruction of Warsaw and its people, the Pope himself appeals to the Allies for help.

1944
Friday
August 11th

The Red Army finds themselves some 12 miles outside of Warsaw proper, having advanced into the Polish suburbs.

1944
Sunday
August 20th

German Army soldiers now number some 21,300 personnel in Warsaw.

1944
Wednesday
August 16th

Sensing his own political interests and conquests, Soviet leader Josef Stalin rejects a direct call for aid for the Poles.

1944
Sunday
August 20th

The swift and thorough German response has divided the Polish resistance into three distinct groups, all cut off from one another.

1944
Sunday
August 20th

The German Army begins their final push to crush the Polish response.

1944
Friday
August 25th

SS Obergruppenfuhrer Erich von dem Bach-Zelweski details the final German push.

1944
Friday
August 25th

The Germans begin their counter-offensive against the remaining Pole units.

1944
Saturday
September 16th

Pressured by the Americans and British, Stalin gives in - just a little - and delivers a meager air drop of arms consisting of just fifty pistols and a pair of machine guns.

1944
Saturday
September 16th

Polish Army units fighting alongside the Soviet Army make a dash to support their comrades in Warsaw, this against the orders of Soviet High Command.

1944
Sunday
September 17th

Under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Zygmunt Berling, the 1st Polish Army forces engage the Germans in Warsaw but are ultimately driven back in retreat.

1944
Monday
September 18th

American B-17 bombers land at Poltava, now under Soviet control, to refuel. Onboard are arms and supplies meant for the Polish resistance.

1944
Monday
September 18th

Josef Stalin refuses further Allied use of his forward airfields to resupply the Polish insurgents.

1944
Thursday
September 21st

For his actions in disobeying Soviet Army orders, Berling is stripped of his army command.

1944
Monday
September 25th

American air drops deliver their much-needed cargo to the Polish resistance below. However, the drop zones are in firm German control and supplies are captured soon after landing.

1944
Monday
October 2nd

Polish General Komorowski, sensing total defeat imminent, orders his Polish insurgents to surrender to the Germans.

1944
Tuesday
October 3rd

Polish military forces all surrender to the German Army, ending the valliant uprising.

1944
Tuesday
October 31st

Some 250,000 Polish civilians and soldiers of Warsaw will meet their end through execution or deportation to Nazi concentration camps as a result of the Warsaw uprising.