Images of War
The Warsaw Uprisings 1943-1944
This title in the long running Pen and Sword series examines two distinctly separate actions taking place in a German occupied Warsaw, Poland.
Of the German occupied countries of World War II, it’s very likely that the Poles suffered the longest, being the victims of the first full scale armed invasion by the Germans in September of 1939. Having a very large Jewish population also made it an unfortunate fact that the Poles also suffered greatly under Nazi rule, the capital city of Warsaw in particular.
This volume actually has a dual focus, as the two Warsaw uprisings were quite different events despite both having the same sad conclusions. The 1943 uprising was largely a Jewish resistance action, mostly confined to the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw, where huge numbers of Polish Jews had been concentrated by the Germans. When the Germans began large scale transport of the Jewish people to the death camps in 1942, the inhabitants of the Warsaw ghetto decided to resist. In mid-April of 1943, with no outside help, they began armed resistance against the Germans. This resistance lasted not quite a month, inflicting roughly 150 casualties to German forces, and the Jewish resistance forces suffered huge losses. The Germans put the uprising down with great brutality, burning the Ghetto block by block eliminating all resistance, and executing large numbers of people regardless of age, sex, or involvement in the hostilities.
The second Warsaw uprising began on August 1, 1944 with the Soviets advancing rapidly on the East Front, driving the German forces back to very near Warsaw itself. This rising was undertaken by all Polish resistance forces including the underground “Home Army”. This rising was timed to coincide with the Soviet advance (help was expected from them), with a goal of establishing Polish control of the capital city before the Soviets arrived to claim it as theirs. This rising had more initial success than the first one, with the Poles establishing control over much of central Warsaw. However, the Soviets stopped their advance short of the city, and ignored calls for help from Polish forces. Some airdrops of supplies were made by the US and in larger numbers by the RAF, but these were not enough. The Germans wouldn’t accept the loss of the city to the Poles, and committed huge forces (including a surprising amount of armor) to retaking the city while the Soviets stood by. This rising was crushed by the beginning days of October, at the cost of huge numbers of combatant deaths for both sides, up to 200,000 non-combatant deaths, and 80-90% of Warsaw literally flattened ( during or following the actual fighting).
This largely pictorial book covers two of the saddest chapters of the Second World War.
Format - softcover, portrait format
Page Count - 128 pages
Size - 7.5” x 9.75”
Photos - Black and White images
Tables / drawings / diagrams - none
All text and photograph captions are in English
What's between the Covers?
Above - the volume’s simple table of contents.
The book’s Prelude gives the reader some idea of conditions in the Warsaw ghetto, and on the lives of inhabitants there. This section of the book has several pages of very descriptive text accompanied by interesting photographs.
If the images in this book are any sort of indication, Warsaw was literally hell for those in it during these uprisings. There are some rather graphic photographs in this volume showing trapped resistance fighters or in some cases possibly civilians leaping to their death from the upper stories of buildings rather than face the flames.
Most of the images show the events from the German perspective, unsurprising given the German habit of documenting events. There are images from the Jewish / Polish perspective to help balance this narrative.
In both uprisings, the Germans used whatever forces at their command to subdue the partisans. In the case of the 1944 uprising, Warsaw was very literally at the front, and many more German troops were available for use, as were armored units, etc.
During the 1944 uprising, the Germans employed absolutely everything in their arsenal to put down the Polish resistance / Home Army. This book has quite a few images of German armor in the battered streets of Warsaw.
Above - an interesting mix of images from the 1944 uprising, including one showing a Sturmpanzer “Brummbar” in the streets of Warsaw.
A Note regarding the Photos - obviously, many of the images contained in this volume were taken in some very extreme conditions. This of course resulted in some images that are less than “picture perfect”, perhaps a bit dark, grainy or not perfectly focused. These images are of such relevance to this book that they MUST be included.
Above - in the upper left image we see teenage members of Polish Home Army, and the other images are proof that the Germans brought out the “big guns” to put the 1944 uprising down. The gun seen here is the massive 60cm ( that’s 600 millimeters! ) Morser Karl which from positions overlooking Warsaw, pounded large parts of it into rubble.
After thorough examinations of the two uprisings, the book concludes with a few pages describing what happened after the surrender of the Polish Home Army in early Oct 1944, and the eventual fall of Warsaw to the Red Army in January 1945.
The book’s Appendix contains a listing of the German and Polish units involved in the 1944 uprising.
The story of these uprisings is one of incredible bravery, desperation, and also of the worst things mankind is capable of. The Jewish rising in 1943 was born of desperation, as the Germans made it clear that the population of the Warsaw ghetto was bound for the death camps. The Jewish resistance didn’t have any help on the way. The Polish Home Army 1944 uprising had a reasonable hope for outside aid, given where the Soviets were. But the Soviets had plans of their own for the Poles.
The images in this book are extremely well chosen for their relevance and interest. Some of them are graphic, showing the brutal German response to the uprisings. Some images are less than perfect, but given their importance to this work, this is perfectly acceptable.
The text and photo captions are all very well written, being informative and easily followed.
This book sheds much light on a pair of WWII’s darkest chapters.
Thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy.
Reviewed by Chuck Aleshire, AMPS Chicagoland
AMPS 2nd Vice President, Midwest Region
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