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There was to be one more glimmer of hope. Finally, Churchill's pressure on Stalin bore fruit. On September 10, the Soviets launched an assault on Warsaw and offered help to the Poles. They flew airdrops and even took on the German dive-bombers, suffering huge losses in the process. The Soviet gesture had come too late and amounted to too little, but eight days later, Stalin did decide to allow allied planes to land on his airfields and re-fuel.

And so, on September 18, the sky above Warsaw was filled with American Flying Fortresses. For a brief moment, the Poles thought salvation was at hand. The leader of the uprising, Boor Komorowski recalled it in his memoirs.

The day was sunny and fine with a cloudless sky. It was the sound of cheering and shouts of joy on all sides which told me that the aircraft were coming over. The whole sky was filled with planes flying in at a great height from the west. They left behind long trails of white dots. It took a long moment to realise that the dots were parachutes.

Parachutes of food and ammunition and not, as fervently hoped for, parachutes carrying the soldiers of the Polish 5th Airborne Division. One by one, the insurgent strongholds were collapsing.

Though the city's sewers provided an escape route for thousands, fighters and civilians alike, the Germans, upon learning of this new escape route, dropped hand grenades down manholes and injected explosive gas.

"This is the street where I went into the sewers from," says Boleslaw Taborski. "This is a manhole. This is a manhole which when taken off leads you right down to it. I get the real feeling now, the stench, the dirt. It takes me back. Crowds of people were pushing in all directions. The place was full of noises. It was very strange, very dark and felt like a road to hell."

Often the Poles got lost and emerged from the sewers thinking they were beyond the battle zone, only to be shot by waiting Germans.

"They put us against the wall. SS man with machine gun was lying, lying down waiting to give us shots against that wall until something happened like in an old play where the hero is to be executed but an officer came on a foaming horse waving a piece of paper with the pardon. This time it was an SS man on a motorcycle but also waving a piece of paper that a surrender has been signed and that they were to take us prisoner."


Go to part 3