Poland commemorates civil population of Warsaw fighting in Rising

On October 2, Poland commemorates the Day of Remembrance for the Civilian Population during the Warsaw Rising. About 200,000 of the civil residents of the city died in the insurrection.

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“The sacrificial, determined attitude of the inhabitants of Warsaw caused the Rising to last for 63 days. While establishing the Day of Remembrance for the Civilian Population of Warsaw Rising on October 2, we do justice to them, we honour the memory of the murdered, so many of whom are still resting anonymously at the Insurgents’ Cemetery in Wola [District of Warsaw],” the Lower House Sejm resolution of 2015 reads.

The Day of Remembrance of the Civilian Population of the Warsaw Rising coincides with the date of signing the agreement on the cessation of hostilities in the capital.

The Warsaw Rising is most often associated with soldiers of the Home Army, insurgents and barricades. However, at that time there were civilians next to the insurgents. Before the outbreak of the Rising, 920,000 people lived in Warsaw, of which 720,000 were on the left bank of the Vistula river. The outbreak of the Rising for some of the civilians was a big surprise.

In the first days of the Rising, euphoria and joy prevailed among the civilians who joined the Rising and supported the fighters. Over time, however, these sentiments subsided. During the Rising, the city was cut off from the rest of the country.

This caused problems with the food supply. In addition, the bombings damaged the sewage networks, which in turn resulted in a shortage of water, which was extremely bothersome. There was also a shortage of medicines and food. The Polish Red Cross held talks with Germany to organisze exits for the civilian population, especially women and children. Such exits took place on 7-8 September, but a small number of people left Warsaw then - most of them wanted to stay in the city until the end.

The behavior of the Germans towards the civilian population also contributed to the decline in moods among the residents of Warsaw. Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, upon learning about the outbreak of the Rising, gave an order to completely destroy the city. The crimes against civilians began on August 2, and in the following days grew stronger.

After the Wola Massacre the Germans began to deport civilians from Warsaw, stating that they would need it as a cheap labour force. They also noticed that the murder of civilians stopped the offensive of German troops pacifying insurgent positions. It is estimated that from 90,000 to even 150,000 people were sent to work in the Third Reich during and after the fall of the Rising..

In addition, about 650,000 Warsaw residents were expelled from the city during and after the fall of the Rising. Some were deported to forced labour in the Third Reich, others were sent to concentration camps. Most, however, were displaced deep into the General Government. However, they received no help from the Germans, but by a Polish charity organisation.

The civilian population was used as the so-called living barricades. This meant that the civilians in Warsaw were driven ahead of tanks and advancing German units. One of the forms of extermination of civilians by the Germans was also the bombing of the front lines, where civilians were hiding in shelters and cellars, and large insurgent hospitals operated, where not only insurgents but also civilians were sent. Although hospitals were marked with Red Cross signs, the Germans bombed them.

The Warsaw Rising was a momentous battle waged in Warsaw by the Polish Home Army, an underground army consisting both of regular soldiers and Warsaw citizens, against the occupying German forces. The battle lasted for 63 days from August 1 to October 2, 1944 and resulted in around 15,200-20,000 fighter casualties on the Polish side and around 200,000 civilians dead. The Warsaw Rising Museum has so far managed to collect 60,000 names of the civilian victims of the Rising.