The city of Warsaw is burning (part 3)

Operation Tempest: Warsaw excluded from the Plan:

The goal of the Polish Underground Movement from the outset was to resist the German occupier, protect civil population and to reconstruct the government. However, leaders of the ZWZ/AK aimed in particular to develop a plan of a national insurrection which would take place at a suitable moment of the war. The initial plan was prepared by the General Rowecki who argued that the uprising would have a chance to succeed in the moment of the German retreat:’ Our active appearance against the Germans in the country can take place only when the German nation collapses under the effect of military defeats, hunger, and propaganda, which breaks the discipline of the troops who are demoralized (…) are ready to abandon their posts (…)’. The plan anticipated, moreover, that capture of all the main strategic objects, in particular, Warsaw is a vital part of the project:’ The attack would be aimed only at the most strategically important targets, and Warsaw was the first.’ Rowecki’s plan was indeed a nucleus for the actual Uprising, nevertheless, changes on the world arena led to its modification.

Poland was a member of the Allied Camp virtually from the beginning of its existence. However, with the German attack on the Soviet Union it became apparent that Stalin would join the Great Britain in a common fight against Hitler. Polish role in the coalition, however, was rather insignificant and its position was being further shaken by the presence of its former invader from 1939. It should go without saying that British viewed the Soviet Union as a more viable ally than Poland, especially since the collapse of France, Great Britain was practically facing Nazi Germany by itself.

Thereby, British to avoid any animosity within the Alliance pressed Poland to come to an agreement with the Soviet Union in regard to the events of 1939. British by solving the Polish-Soviet problem hoped to strengthen the Soviet will to withhold the German assault, therefore, reinforcing their own strategic positions. The accord between Poland and the Soviet Union was eventually achieved in a Sikorsky-Maisky Pact signed in London on July 1941:’ The Pack marked the re-opening of Polish-Soviet relations and provisions of military co-operation between the two countries (…)’ Nevertheless, the extent of the problems between new allies was still vast. There were number of issues on which either of the sides was reluctant to compromise. Firstly, there was a question of 8,000 Polish officers captured by the Red Army in 1939 whose fate Stalin did not want to explain. Secondly, there was a question of the Polish eastern territories incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1939. These lands with its main cities of Vilnius and Lwόw, were considered as an integral part of Poland. Polish government doubted, however, in USSR willingness to return once conquered territories back to Poland. Thus, Soviet-Polish dispute over the abovementioned concerns intensified, therefore, leading again to a tense situation. Stalin in due course made a territorial claim to the Eastern part of Poland:’ As far as the eastern frontier of Poland was concerned, Western Ukraine and White Russia would have to be included as autonomous republics in the Soviet Union.’ The final break in the Polish-Russian relations occurred, however, with the German discovery of the mass graves of the Polish officers in the Katyń forest near Smoleńsk. Germans` claim that Russian were responsible for the massacre was followed by the Polish request for the International Red Cross investigation of the matter. Stalin reacted by accusing Polish government in-exile of collaboration with the Germany, and accordingly by breaking the diplomatic relations:’ These circumstances compel the Soviet Government to consider that the present Polish Government, having descended to collusion with the Hitler Government, has, in practice, severed its relations of alliance with the U.S.S.R and adopted a hostile attitude to the Soviet Union. For these reasons the Soviet Government has decided to interrupt relations with that Government.’5

Polish government found itself in a very complicated situation. On the one hand it was being accused of collaborating with the enemy, on the other hand, Stalin by suspending diplomatic relations made his stance clear in regard to the territorial dispute. Moreover, foundation of the Communist Polish army in Russia and presence of the Communist elements in Poland such as PPR and AL confirmed Soviet’s intention of establishing a Communist regime in Poland:’ (…) the Polish Communist, with the Soviet assistance began to dispute radically the legitimacy of the Government-in-Exile and prepare their own administration network and armed forces to take power(…)’ Position of the Polish authorities prior to the Tehran conference was further underestimated with the death of Prime Minister, Sikorski. Although his successor Stanisław Mikołajczyk was a cunning politician, he was not able to prevent occurrences of the Tehran conference during which the so-called Big Three (US, Great Britain and USSR) resolved the aforementioned frontier problem in favour of the Soviet Union despite the Polish protest.

Polish Underground was significantly affected by the Soviet political game. After the General Rowecki’s arrest in 1943, new leader of the AK General Bor-Komorowski had to adjust the plan of a national insurrection to the new political circumstances. In 1943 it became clear  that Poland will be liberated by the Soviet Union and not , as it was expected, by the Anglo-American forces. It goes without saying, therefore, that this fact at the peak of the Soviet territorial demands constituted a threat for the Polish independence:’ (…) the front is moving again within our national boundaries, we do not refuse to the Soviet armies entering Poland in pursuit of the Germans the right to wage war on our territory. We shall not, however, submit to any political pressure aiming at subordinate us to alien policies and depriving us of the freedom to organise our national life(…) In the result of all of this, High Command established operation Burza (Tempest) which was expanded and modified version of the Rowecki’s plan. The Tempest was to begin simultaneously with the imminent German collapse and the entry of the Red Army into the Polish soil.

It could be argue that leaders of the Underground by staging the operation Burza sought to manifest their willingness and loyalty of the Polish people to the cause of the Allied camp to fight the Nazis.’ To show the world our undaunted attitude against the Germans and our will to fight them till the end. To take under our auspices part of the community which does not form part of the Home Army (…)’ Action of the Home Army, however, had also a broader political purpose. It aimed explicitly to resume Polish control over the areas recovered from the German occupation, therefore, to prevent territorial claims of the Soviet Union to these lands and moreover to avoid any attempts of establishing a puppet Communist regime in the liberated Poland:’ Soviet Union on the one hand is our ally in the fight against the Germans on the other hand, however, it is a dangerous conqueror which attacks our independence. Thus, we have to co-operate with the Soviets in the fight against the Germany, yet at the same time we have to reveal our political resistance, based on the constant demonstration of the Polish independence in all the aspects’

Interestingly enough, however, operation Burza in its early stage was aimed to achieve its objectives without staging fights in the main urban centers’, such as Warsaw:’ Originally, the Burza plan was calculated to avoid fighting in major towns in order to spare the defensless population and safeguard historical building. With this object in mind, we did not at first plan any action inside Warsaw.’ Zawodny pointed out, moreover, that the commanders of the Secret Army being certain to a great extent that the capital is excluded from the Burza plan started supplying other AK divisions within the country with Warsaw’s weapon:’ AK Headquarters, some months before the Uprising, had been sending weapons and ammunition out of the city. On July 7 1944 General Bor allocated 900 machine pistols with ammunition to the eastern Poland.’The question then becomes what factors had influenced General Komorowski to embrace Warsaw within the framework of the operation Burza and to commence ultimately the fights in the Polish capital?

Autor: Sławomir Usiatycki

Absolwent University of Aberdeen (Szkocja) oraz Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego. Stypendysta berlińskiego uniwersytetu Frei Universitat Berlin, gdzie podczas swojego rocznego pobytu szlifował swoją wiedzę z zakresu handlu międzynarodowego oraz teorii biznesu. Jest beneficjentem wsparcia finansowego udzielonego przez University of Aberdeen na badania dotyczące przyczyn Powstania Warszawskiego. Dzięki otrzymanym pieniądzom pojechał do Londynu, gdzie spotkał się z uczestniczką Powstania Warszawskiego oraz prowadził badania w Instytucie Polskim i Muzeum im. Generała Sikorskiego oraz w archiwum Studium Polski Podziemnej w Londynie. Ponadto, Sławomir Usiatycki jest certyfikowanym egzaminatorem British Council, ETS Global oraz Międzynarodowych Certyfikatów Językowych TGLS. W swojej bogatej karierze zawodowej pracował również jako wykładowca akademicki dla Uniwersytetu Ekonomicznego w Łodzi. Obecnie pracuje jako lektor języka angielskiego w Direct Language School w Ząbkowicach Śląskich. Prywatnie pasjonat języków obcych oraz sportów górskich: wspinaczki skałkowej i jazdy na rowerze górskim.