Operation Tempest
– Warsaw Uprising 1944

From the beginning of the occupation, it was planned that the underground conspiracy would culminate in a popular uprising, which would influence the political and geographic makeup of the future Polish state.

By mid-1943 it became increasingly apparent that it would be Red Army forces and not armies of the Western Allies which would enter Polish territory. This realization modified the concept of a general uprising for both the government in exile in London as well as the delegation in occupied Poland. Instead “Operation Tempest” now called for a series of successive fights starting in the East and shifting westward with the movement of the Eastern Front. The emphasis of the new plan, devised by the leadership of the Home Army, moved away from achieving a military objective and instead focusing on attaining a more political goal: to demonstrate Poland’s strength so that the entering Russians would recognize Poles as the rulers of their domain.

Turgiele, April 9, 1944. Romuald “Bury” Rajs commander of the 1st Assault Company III Vilnius Bridge of the Home Army and his soldiers depart church after resurrection mass. The region to the southeast of Vilnius was at this time completely under control of the Home Army, who formed here the Turgielska Republic. The Germans only controlled the larger infrastructure points. Photo: Author unknown, Polish Underground Movement Study Trust in London / KARTA Center
Turgiele, April 9, 1944. Romuald “Bury” Rajs commander of the 1st Assault Company III Vilnius Bridge of the Home Army and his soldiers depart church after resurrection mass. The region to the southeast of Vilnius was at this time completely under control of the Home Army, who formed here the Turgielska Republic. The Germans only controlled the larger infrastructure points. Photo: Author unknown, Polish Underground Movement Study Trust in London / KARTA Center

The first fighting as part of Operation Tempest began in January 1944, after the Red Army crossed the pre-war frontier of the II Polish Republic. In June-July 1944 diversionary activity grew into local uprisings. Home Army units achieved several military victories, including playing a notable role in the liberation of Vilnius and Lviv, nevertheless their actions were a complete political failure. Soviet authorities, ignoring the demonstrated legal right and ability of Poles to govern the liberated territories, treated the Eastern lands of the Polish Republic as part of their own country, and officials of the Polish delegation and soldiers of the Home Army were interned (upwards of 5,000 in the Vilnius region, and 3,000 in the South-Eastern region of Poland.) Due to the fact that the political objectives of “Operation Tempest” were not being met, Chief of the Home Army General Tadeusz “Bor” Komorowski decided to launch an uprising in Warsaw as well, which had previously been taken out of the planned operation. Controlling the capital, besides the military value, was to also be a grand demonstration of the power of the Polish underground, intending to force Soviet authorities to accept a position favorable to Poland on such topics as Poland’s boundaries and independence.

The Warsaw Uprising began on August 1, 1944. Fighting continued until early October. Fot. Sylwester “Kris” Braun Warsaw Museum
The Warsaw Uprising began on August 1, 1944. Fighting continued until early October. Fot. Sylwester “Kris” Braun Warsaw Museum

Arguments as to the necessity of the Warsaw Uprising began prior even to its outbreak and they last until today. On the one hand the uprising brought the almost complete destruction of the city and the death of 150-180 thousand soldiers and civilians, with the survivors being expelled from the city and sent to camps. On the other hand, fighting Warsaw, which resisted for 63 days represented an independent Poland, and for the next 45 years would served as a symbol which helped Poles survive under Communism and maintain their identity.

Stalin did not directly aid the uprising in Warsaw, and hindered initiatives of the Western allies to bring aid to the Poles (including forbidding Allied planes carrying supplies for Warsaw from landing on Soviet airfields).

The people of Warsaw depart the city after the uprising’s surrender. Photo: National Digital Archive.
The people of Warsaw depart the city after the uprising’s surrender. Photo: National Digital Archive.