Newly released secret police documents shed new light on 1944 Warsaw uprising
3 August 2007
WARSAW (AFP) - Russian and Polish authorities on Thursday published a hefty volume of documents, many of them never declassified before, which shed new light on the ill-fated 1944 Warsaw uprising against the Nazis.
The 1,400-page tome released by Russia's FSB security service, the Polish interior ministry and both countries' historical services, includes documents which have been kept under wraps in Moscow and Warsaw's archives since World War II.
"In large part these are unprecedented documents," particularly interrogation records from the Soviet secret police, historian Jerzy Bednarek, of National
Poland is currently commemorating the two-month uprising launched on August 1, 1944 by the Polish Home Army (AK) against the occupying Nazis.
Almost 18,000 Polish resistance members died as well as some 20,000 Nazi troops, and around 180,000 civilians were massacred by the Nazis or killed in the crossfire.
After the ceasefire on October 2, Warsaw's remaining 500,000 civilians were expelled and the city was methodically destroyed by the Germans.
The revolt was directed militarily against the Germans, but the political goal of Poland's non-communist underground government was to free Warsaw before the arrival of Soviet troops who were on the city's edge.
The AK had expected to take over within days but was only able to seize pockets of Warsaw and then faced a massive Nazis counter-attack.
The new work includes material from Nazi intelligence, whose Warsaw holdings fell into Polish hands after the war, and which helps explain why the AK failed to catch out the Germans.
"Documents from Polish informers run by the Nazis inside the resistance demonstrate the degree of penetration of the movement by the Germans," said Marcin Majewski, one of the collection's editors.
The Germans "didn't take the likelihood of a revolt seriously," but once it broke out "their detailed knowledge of the resistance set up enabled them to carry out pinpoint bombing which caused huge losses."
The collection also examines the role of the Waffen-SS "Russian National Liberation Army" (RONA) brigade, mostly made up of Soviet troops who had sided with the Nazis after deserting or being taken prisoner.
The RONA gained a reputation for butchering civilians, but the reality seems somewhat different, according to interrogation records, said Majewski.
"Their role in the bestial repression of the civilians and the resistance was, finally, not as big as was thought," he said.
"The Nazis tried to exaggerate the RONA's role and shift part of the blame onto it," he added.
The volume, which is the third in a series launched in 2000, does not examine controversies over the Soviet role in 1944.
Although the Red Army sent some communist-led Polish units to help, most Soviet troops watched from across the Vistula River.
For critics, Moscow simply let the Nazis do the job of wiping out potential armed opposition to the looming communist takeover of Poland.
Some historians back Moscow's version that the uprising was foolhardy and that Soviet troops, rather than holding back, were recovering from an offensive, which had already claimed hundreds of thousands of their number.
Soviet forces only moved into the heart of Warsaw on January 17, 1945, signaling the start of more than four decades of communist rule.
Subject: German news