Zero ("W") Hour over Warsaw

By rah | rah | 1 Aug 2022

Every year on 1st August at 17.00 hour, air raid sirens sound over Warsaw, Poland’s capital and the whole city comes to a stop for a couple of minutes in an act of remembrance to commemorate the start of the failed 1944 Warsaw Uprising.


The Red Army had pushed the Germans back as far as the Vistula river and Warsaw seemed ripe for an uprising and for it to liberate itself. Afterall Paris pretty much took the same path at around about the same time with the western allies closing in.

A lot has been written, and even more said about why the Uprising failed, but this shouldn’t disparage those brave men and women of the Armi Krajowy (Home Army) who gave their all to free their capital with everything being overwhelmingly against them.

The Uprising started well, but things turned rapidly against the AK for two basic reasons. The Germans moved some of their most battle-hardened units to take up the fight and they had no consideration for the city, its defenders nor its civilian population.

The second reason is that the Russians played a double game. They urged Warsaw to rise as it’d save the Red Army from fighting, but at the same time they didn’t want a self-liberated capital that would be western leading when they favoured putting into place their people from the so-called Lublin Communist Government. This double game can be best be illustrated  by the almost complete closure of the airspace over Warsaw which limited western aid (more about that below) while at the same time they sent help across the Vistula.

Now, let’s see what that help the Russians gave before anybody gets offended or disputes this. They sent a few dozen soldiers across the Vistula from Saska Kepa to Solec to help. In other words they made a gesture so they could claim they were helping while making absolutely no difference.

And so where we the western allies?

Already restricted by range (and having to fly from Italy) and Stalin’s virtually complete closure of the air space made it next to impossible for the west to help and so all they could do was a limited number of airdrops and the Americans tended to drop from altitude and the British tended to fly in lower. As a consequence of the little that was dropped most was either damaged or fell directly into German hands. So through little fault of their own the western allies contributed about as much as Stalin did.

The difference being that Stalin did it with calculated malicious and a total disregard for humanity whereas the western allies were left frustrated as the hapless Poles did their best.

As the tide turned and the Germans got the upper hand the atrocities increased. Those left in Warsaw faced the very real prospect of being murdered as a result of Hitler’s now genocidal rage. The blood ran thick on the streets of the remains of Warsaw as the Germans systematically executed any Poles they came across, including non-combatants, women and children. Sometimes they were herded to execution centres like the tractor factory in Wola that essentially became killing centres that served the same terrible purpose of the infamous death camps. Some Poles were herded to the nearby town of Pruskow and they were the ones who by and large survived as the Germans went from building to building and destroyed them unless they were of any use to the occupiers.

And this is why tragically Warsaw’s fate was arguably at least as bad as that of Stalingrad and Berlin as well as Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

However, if you want to find out more I would suggest reading around the subject. A particularly good and personal account is Warsaw Boy (Andrzej Borowiec), but I wouldn’t necessarily rush to the Warsaw Uprising Museum as it is chaotic and disorganised and lacks a clear narrative. Also for no apparent reason the most dominant exhibit in the whole place is an American built Liberator that was painted in RAF colours. It or similar planes were used to make the airdrops. I have made it small deliberately to make my point!


But as we’ve already seen the airdrops were both limited and largely ineffective and so there is no justification for such an exhibit to be the dominant part of the museum. And at this point I’d like to remind people that I am English and I also come from that part of England known as Bomber County (Lincolnshire) and I am in no way disparaging the brave aircrews of both the RAF and the USAF. Despite this my point remains that they made no contribution to the fate of the Uprising.

And let us not forgot that this was actually the second uprising to take place in Warsaw. In 1943 upon news that it was going to be liquidated (all remaining inhabitants would be sent to their deaths in Treblinka) the remaining Jews in the Ghetto which was largely centred in the Muranow district to the north of the city centre rose up valiantly in an incredible act of courage born of both desperation and the refusal to give in.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing stay safe and stay well my friends.

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I love reading and technology as well as history. I teach English and Business to professional clients as well as soft skills with a focus on communications. I am a big fan of both Sheffield Wednesday and Lincoln City Football clubs


Experienced Business Owner and Coach and Tutor who now trades in Crypto. It is proving to be an interesting journey with so much technical language involved. Follow me as I learn the trade (and how to trade). Made some howling mistakes to begin with, but still learning and will share what I learn as I learn it for the benefit of the community. - RAH

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