Liberty Not Yet Lost

John Paul II about The Warsaw Rising 1944

By The Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

The appeal of the insurgent authorities (20th Century) by Polskie Państwo PodziemneThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Poles!

The long-awaited hour has struck.
The Home Army units are fighting against the German invader in all points of the Capital District.

I call on the people of the Capital District to remain calm and cold-blooded in cooperation with the fighting units and at the same time I command:

After the reconnaissance, bury the dead, both Poles and Germans, and keep their documents and report them on request.
Any self-judgment is forbidden.
Enemies of the Polish nation: the Germans and the Volksdeutche will be punished with all severity of law by the competent courts. In the meantime, they should be incapacitated, keeping them locked up at the disposal of the revealing security authorities.
The property of the German authorities and citizens should be secured by protocol in every house.
The local authorities of the OPL (translator's note) Anti-aircraft warfare) and the Orderly Guard are responsible for the proper execution of the aforesaid, as well as for the counter and order in individual houses.



Civilian Commissioner

On behalf of the Regional Government Delegate for the Capital City of Warsaw

Home Army Capital District Command

Warszawa, 1 August 1944

Polish flag during Warsaw Rising, 20th Century, From the collection of: The Centre for the Thought of John Paul II
Show lessRead more

Home Army in 1944 (20th Century)The Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Summer of Hope

August 1, 1944. A hot day in occupied Warsaw. The ”W” hour was set for 5 p.m. Wacław Zagórski noted down: "So it happened! Warsaw is fighting!". This is how the heroic and tragic uprising began. Its purpose was to liberate the capital from German occupation before the Red Army entered it. It was to last for a short time, three or four days. No one expected it to be long and bloody 63 days. As soon as Hitler heard about the uprising, he gave an order to murder all the inhabitants of Warsaw, and the city was to be obliterated.

Colonel Kazimierz Iranek-Osmecki, the head of the 2nd Division of the Home Army Headquarters, said about the decision to start the armed uprising: "You must have survived five years of the occupation in Warsaw to feel what the people and soldiers felt. [...] You must have lived through all of that in order to understand that Warsaw simply couldn't resist fighting”.

First days of August 1944 (20th Century) by Stefan BałukThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

German POW’s in 1944 (20th Century) by Eugeniusz LokajskiThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

First days of Warsaw Uprising (20th Century) by Stefan BałukThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Success of the insurgents (20th Century) by UnknownThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

War damage during the Warsaw Uprising (20th Century) by UnknownThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

„« . . It is impossible to understand this city, Warsaw, the capital of Poland, which in 1944 decided to fight unevenly against the invader, the fight in which she was abandoned by the allied powers, the fight in which she lay under her own rubble, if one does not remember that under the same rubble lay also Christ the Saviour with his Cross from before the Church in Krakowskie Przedmieście . . .» I recall those words spoken on Victory Square in Warsaw […] to pay tribute to all its Heroes: the fallen and the living. […] Nation, which in the terrible struggles of the Second World War spared no sacrifice in order to confirm the right to independent existence and to establish oneself on one's own native land. The Warsaw Uprising was just the ultimate expression of this”.

(John Paul II, To Polish pilgrims on the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising (August 1, 1984).

Warfare during the uprising (20th Century)The Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Warsaw Uprising (20th Century)The Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Home Army in Warsaw (20th Century) by Tomaszewski JerzyThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

„these days […], have a special meaning in the history of this community. […] days in 1944 are the days of the Warsaw Uprising, […] that going for broke: your youth and your life, that readiness to accept death in your youth for the great cause of freedom of the Homeland. Every year we come back to those days of the Warsaw Uprising, we think of them as a special burst of heroism […]. We think of them as a kind of testimony left to the next generations by the generation that survived the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. You are young, one can say that you are at the stage of life that many of those young people were at. Today we are almost 40 years away from their youth, or at least 38 years. You are young, and what needs to be left in your hearts from that great, heroic rush is what is important. And what is important is love of freedom and willingness to testify to the truth and freedom.”

(John Paul II, Speech to the group of Polish youth (3 August 1992)).

Women during World War II (20th Century)The Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Warsaw Uprising (20th Century) by Eugeniusz LokajskiThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Free time during the uprising (20th Century) by UnknownThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

„In the past, the younger generations were shaped by the painful experience of war, of concentration camps, of constant danger. This experience allowed young people […] to develop traits of great heroism. I think of the Warsaw uprising in 1944 – the desperate revolt of my contemporaries, who sacrificed everything. They laid down their young lives. They wanted to demonstrate that they could live up to their great and demanding heritage. I was a part of that generation and I must say that the heroism of my contemporaries helped me to define my personal vocation. […] Precisely in that period of absolute contempt for man, when the price of human life had perhaps never been considered so cheap, precisely then each life became precious, acquiring the value of a free gift”

(John Paul II, „Crossing the threshold of hope”, New York 2005, s. 118–119).

Wedding during Warsaw Rising (20th Century) by Eugeniusz LokajskiThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Medical service during the uprising (20th Century)The Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Civilians during Warsaw Rising (20th Century) by Eugeniusz LokajskiThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Medical service during the uprising (20th Century) by UnknownThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Barbarism and heroism

In the courtyard I saw that the hospital staff, in white gowns, was standing near the wall […]. There were four men and some 14 or 15 women. More or less 40 or 50 of the less severely wounded were standing in the middle of the courtyard. A few of the wounded were lying on stretchers at the main gate from the side of Długa Street. A group of SS men were standing by the gate, armed with rifles and revolvers, and they suddenly started shooting at the wounded gathered in the centre of the courtyard, and also at those who were lying on stretchers. Shots rang out simultaneously from the first and ground floors. […] While the wounded were being shot at, I was standing close to the main gate and saw how the SS men would pour petrol from bottles on those who had fallen and set them alight (Helena Kłosowicz’s testimony, in: „Chronicles of terror. Warsaw”, Warsaw 2017, p. 196).

World War II (20th Century) by Planet News photographerThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Graveyards in Warsaw during Warsaw Rising (20th Century) by Keystone Press photographerThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

„If we remember the great tribute of blood that Warsaw paid so many times on the altar of love of the Homeland, our capital city appears to us […], as a martyr's sanctuary of the nation. […] A martyr – a witness. A witness of love, which is greater than hatred. After all, in our century, during the Warsaw Uprising, and then after it ended, the capital city became the house of the deadly clash between heroism and bestiality […]. What was going on in Warsaw at that time was like the last accumulation of hatred, which for several generations was trying to destroy, literally destroy our nation. And this Warsaw […] became the place of other choices and settlements in our century: between life and death, between love and hatred”

(John Paul II, Homily during the Beatification Mass of Father Rafał Chyliński, 9 June 1991, 3).

Funeral during Warsaw Rising (20th Century)The Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

„During the day, I would hear submachine guns from th edirection of Marszałkowska Street and single shots from Oleandrów Street. I could hear the screams and moans of Poles, the curses of „Ukrainians” and the sound of falling bodies. I was aware of the continuing executions.”

(Jan Łatwiński’s testimony, in: „Chronicles of terror. Warsaw”, Warsaw 2017, p. 201).

Warsaw Uprising (20th Century) by Sylwester BraunThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

War damage during the Warsaw Uprising (20th Century) by UnknownThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

„Your city has a rich, yet difficult and tragic history. Over the centuries, it has been avenged many times; it has risen, rebuilt, and resurrected again and again, becoming known as the "Untamed City". Devastated by the Swedish deluge, robbed by the marches of Russian and Prussian troops, ravaged by fires, crippled by the political slavery of the nation, it always bravely defended its dignity and glory. Neither did it succumb to Bolshevik aggression in 1920, nor to the German invaders in 1939. It wears the scars of the bloodiest of all the Polish uprisings, the one which became part of human history as the Warsaw Uprising. At that time, Warsaw came to grief, but was not defeated”.

(John Paul II, Address to Polish pilgrims coming from Warsaw, 7 May 1996, 2).

War damage during the Warsaw Uprising (20th Century) by UnknownThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Home Army (20th Century) by Chrzanowki WiesławThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

German Army in Warsaw (20th Century) by German official photographerThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

“We were stopped in front of the Ursus factory gate and split into small groups, arranging us in fours, while neither sex nor age was taken into account. I was put together with my children. Then we were ordered to go into the middle of the factory yard. On the way I saw piles of killed men, women, and children. When we drew close to the place of execution, the “Ukrainians”, under the command of an SS officer, fired a shot to each of us individually, from a pistol, to the back of the skull. They shot from such proximity that the revolver could be felt on the neck. I could hear constant screams, groans, calls for help, prayers, etc.”

(Wanda Lurie’s testimony, Zapisy Terroru ; por. w: „Chronicles of terror. Warsaw”, Warsaw 2017, p. 221–225).

Warsaw in 1944 (20th Century) by Faryaszewska EwaThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

German prisoners during Warsaw Rising (20th Century) by Joachimczyk, Joachim (Photographer) Polish official photographer (Undefined)The Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Sea of rubble

“Warsaw became the scene of long, relentless battles of attrition. […] the Germans […] unable to dislodge their adversary by standard infantry tactics, they would call up bombers and the heavy guns, pound the insurgent positions into mounds of rubble, demolish a few barricades, and gain a few yards or a couple of streets. Next morning they would find that half the barricades had been rebuilt during the night and booby-trapped, and that the shattered buildings provided perfect cover for unseen snipers and grenade throwers. In this way, practically every building and cellar had to be fought over time and time again before Germans could secure a disputed sector. […] The days became weeks; and, eventually, to the common dismay of all combatants, the weeks became months” (Norman Davis, “Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw”, London 2008).

War damage during the Warsaw Uprising (20th Century) by UnknownThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

„[…] in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, which was turned into ruin by the invaders in 1944. […] city, the capital of the Nation and the State, which fought for good cause during the last world war, […] Poland has the right to sovereign existence, as well as to proper cultural and social and economic development, and appeals to the conscience of many people and many societies in the world. Poland has fulfilled to the very last, yes: more than enough, the allied obligations it took on in the terrible experience of 1939-45. […] In 1944 the capital of Poland was turned into a great ruin. During the post-war years, the very same Warsaw was rebuilt as we can see it today, especially here, […] the old and modern alike. Is this not yet another moral victory for the Nation?”

(John Paul II, Homily at the Mass on the occasion of the Feast of Our Lady of Grace at the 10th Anniversary Stadium, 17 June 1983, 7).

Burning Warsaw in 1944 (20th Century) by Keystone Press photographerThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Capitulation

„The memory of these heroic events, which contributed to the triumph of freedom and human dignity in the spirit of Christian Europe, must lead us to gratitude for those who suffered and died in such tragic circumstances. Their testimony forces us all to commit ourselves to promoting peace, respect and harmony between peoples. In this sense «their heroic gesture obliges us all!»” (John Paul, General Audience, 2 November 1994, 4).

World War II (20th Century) by German official photographerThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

“I saw at first-hand the drama of the Polish capitulation. Let's not deceive ourselves: Warsaw fell thanks to our heavy weaponry and not to the courage of certain units […]. In spite of everything, the most heroic fighting, given the conditions, was done by the bandits [insurgents] themselves. And if London […] had not ordered the capitulation, we would have found ourselves with a tough nut to chew for a lot longer. […] The insurgents deserved to be treated like soldiers. […] They led off General [Bor] in a column of cars […]. Then they marched by in step, four abreast, avoiding the tear-stained and pain-ridden faces of the women, dressed wherever possible in remnants of Wehrmacht or party uniform, with their weapons ready to be surrendered. All done without a sign of despair, heads held high with national pride. Exemplary!”

(Letter Lt. Peter Stölten to his mother, 16 October, 1944).

Civilians in ruined Warsaw (20th Century) by Eugeniusz LokajskiThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

„The Warsaw Uprising was […] the denouement of an uprising that lasted for the entire period of World War II. […] was the most radical and bloody of all Polish uprisings. Not only did it result in the destruction of the capital city, but also in tens of thousands of human victims, especially among the young generation. Some people ask themselves if it was needed, if it was needed on such a scale? This question cannot be answered only in purely political or military terms. Instead, one should silently bow one's head towards the size of the sacrifice, towards the size of the price that that generation fifty years ago paid for the independence of the Homeland”

(John Paul II, On the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, August 1, 1994, 3).

World War II (20th Century) by Eugeniusz LokajskiThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Warfare during the uprising (20th Century) by UnknownThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

„Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, it should be stressed that it was also of key importance for Europe of the second half of the 20th century. As the peak act of the fight for the independence of Poland, it was to some extent the beginning of the formation of independent states in Central and Eastern Europe. […] If Europe is to become a «homeland of homelands», it is necessary that the right of the nations that have made their voices heard in this process be respected by the whole European community. Without a guarantee of equal rights of all nation states that emerge in Europe, there can be no peaceful coexistence on our continent

(John Paul II, On the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, August 1, 1994, 2–3).

World War II, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 20th Century, From the collection of: The Centre for the Thought of John Paul II
Show lessRead more
Diplomatic documentation from 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 20th Century, From the collection of: The Centre for the Thought of John Paul II
Show lessRead more

Home Army during Warsaw Rising (20th Century) by Orłowski, JerzyThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

“The Class of ‘44 in Poland was exceptional in many respects. Its members were the son and daughters of patriotic families who had reaped the benefits of their country’s independence only a quarter of a country before the Rising. They were kids who had something very valuable to lose, something larger than themselves, something for which they did not hesitate to fight. They were rightly convinced that their fledgling republic, for all its faults, was infinitely preferable to the totalitarian regimes in Germany and Russia that threatened them from either side. […] [they were exceptionally motivated, exceptionally dedicated, exceptionally unselfish. Their country has not seen their like before or since”

(Norman Davies, “Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw”, New York 2004, p. 614).

Wounded soldiers of the Home Army during Warsaw Rising (20th Century) by Planet News photographer Press Agency photographerThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

War damage during the Warsaw Uprising (20th Century) by UnknownThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

World War II (20th Century) by UnknownThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

War damage during the Warsaw Uprising (20th Century) by UnknownThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Destroyed Warsaw after Warold War II (20th Century) by UnknownThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

During the Warsaw Uprising, around 120,000 to 150,000 people died, mainly civilians. The conditions of capitulation concerning the preservation of historical buildings and private and state property were not respected, due to the order of Heinrich Himmler of 9 October: "This city is to vanish off the face of the earth completely [...] No stone should remain on the stone". A special photo album of the destroyed city was made and given to Adolf Hitler. During the course of World War II, 85% of buildings on Warsaw’s left bank were destroyed.

The capitulation of Warsaw (20th Century) by UnknownThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Destroyed Warsaw after Warold War II (20th Century) by UnknownThe Centre for the Thought of John Paul II

Credits: Story

Text selection: Marzena Zielonka
Editor: Marzena Zielonka
Translation: Agnieszka Burnus
Photo selection: Marzena Zielonka, Wojciech Paduch

The fragments used are from: addresses of John Paul II about Rising of Warsaw, Norman Davies, „Powstanie ’44”, Kraków 2004; Norman Davies, “Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw”, New York 2004; Norman Davies, “Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw”, London 2008; “Chronicles of terror. Warsaw”, Warsaw 2017.


The photographs come from the collections: The National Library of Poland / Polona.pl, The National Digital Archives of Poland, Imperial War Museum, The Musuem of The Warsaw University of Technology, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Wikimedia Commons.

www.centrumjp2.pl

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps