Aftermath of the Warsaw Uprising
The failure of the Warsaw Uprising and subsequent Capitulation agreement left Warsaw almost uninhabited. The city was almost totally destroyed with no major monuments left standing. This, however, was not the end. The Home Army was in disarray and unprepared to deal with the Soviet NKVD which subsequently took control of Poland and sent many of the former resistance fighters to their deaths in Siberian gulags.
The political effect is a matter of controversy. Some claim that without the uprising, Poland would have become a Soviet republic, whilst others claim that the uprising itself was the mistake which enabled Joseph Stalin to arrange for his enemies to destroy his inconvenient allies and left Poland fatally weakened.
Destruction of the city
After the remaining population had been expelled, the Germans started the destruction of the remnants of the city. Special groups of German engineers were dispatched to the city in order to burn and demolish the remaining buildings. According to German plans, after the war Warsaw was to be turned into a lake. The demolition squads used flamethrowers and explosives to methodically destroy house after house. They paid special attention to historical monuments and places of interest: nothing was to be left of what used to be a city.
By January 1945 85% of buildings were destroyed: 25% as a result of the Uprising, 35% as result of systematic German actions after the uprising, the rest as result of the earlier Warsaw Ghetto uprising (15%) and other combat including the Invasion of Poland (10%).
Material losses were estimated at 10 455 buildings, 923 historical buildings (94 percent), 25 churches, 14 libraries including the National Library, 81 elementary schools, 64 high schools, Warsaw University and Warsaw University of Technology, and most of the historical monuments. Almost a million inhabitants lost all of their possessions. The exact amount of losses of private and public property as well as pieces of art, monuments of science and culture is unknown. However, various estimates place it at an equivalent of approximately 40 billion 1939 US dollars. The municipal council of Warsaw is currently disputing whether claims for German reparations should be made.
People hiding in the remnants
Some people were hiding in the remnants of the city, e.g. Władysław Szpilman, who later wrote his memoir The Pianist, filmed by Roman Polanski (The Pianist, 2002). They became known as the Robinson Crusoes of Warsaw.
Due to lack of cooperation and often the active aggressive moves on the part of the Soviets and several other factors, Warsaw Uprising and Operation Tempest failed in their primary goal—to free part of Polish territories, so that a government loyal to Polish government in exile could be established there instead of a Soviet puppet state. There is no consensus among historians if that was ever possible, and if those operations had other lasting effect. Some[who?] argue that without Operation Tempest and Warsaw Uprising, Poland would end as a Soviet republic, a fate definitely worse than that of independent puppet state, and thus the Operation succeeded at least partially in being a political demonstration to Soviets and Western Allies.
Armia Krajowa soldiers who remained in Poland
Most soldiers of the Home Army (including those who took part in the Warsaw Uprising) were persecuted after the war; captured by the NKVD or SB, interrogated and imprisoned, awaiting trials on various charges. Many of them were sent to Gulags or executed.
Armia Krajowa soldiers who were liberated by the Western Allies
Most of those sent to POW camps in Germany were later liberated by British, American and Polish forces and stayed in the West, including uprising leaders Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski and Antoni Chruściel, who stayed in London and the United States, respectively. Some chose to return to Poland in the hope of rejoining their families. In many cases, those who returned shared the fate of their comrades who had spent their entire time in Poland.
Long term effect on Communist Poland
The courage of the Warsaw Uprising, and its utter betrayal by the Soviet Union, kept anti-Soviet sentiment high in Poland throughout the Cold War. The post-war Communist regime attempted to counter this sentiment with extensive propaganda that downplayed and even outright denied Soviet culpability. Nevertheless, memories of the uprising helped to inspire the Polish labour movement Solidarity, which led a peaceful movement against the Communist government during the 1980s, leading to the downfall of that government in 1989 and the emergence of democracy.
- Warsaw Uprising, the main page of this series