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The Old Town square just after surrender. 1944
courtesy: State Archive of the Capital City of Warsaw

Poland surrendered on October 4, 1944.

"When we went out of Warsaw," says Bokiewicz, "in all those ruins, I felt like being born again because I was still alive."

"I just couldn't believe my eyes,"remembers Taborski, "that after two months in hell, we are now walking through green fields where cows are grazing. Quite a different world to one where we had been playing at war, I must say. And then two SS men watched us, not with hatred, but with interest, and then I saw a German soldier stood there looking at us weeping."

"Thousands walked out of the cellars, women, children, carrying a backpack or a little case," recalls German officer Hasso Krappe. "They had nothing left, and they all had to leave the city. The Polish resistance fighters were totally depressed because they lost. For myself, I could not understand why this uprising had happened. How could they possibly think that the Russians would have helped them? Even we Germans said, 'Why should the Russians help the Polish people?'"

From Battle for Warsaw:

The Polish commander, General Boor Komorowski, came to his German opposite number's headquarters to complete the surrender formalities. He was offered a meal, which he clearly needed but which he refused. Surprisingly, the Germans allowed the Poles to surrender honourably. 9,000 Polish soldiers surrendered. Another 3,500 preferred to escape Warsaw to continue the struggle elsewhere. The hopeless fight had lasted ten long weeks. It had cost the lives though of nearly a quarter of a million Poles. Once the remaining citizens had been driven from the city, Warsaw was systematically destroyed. Hitler was determined it should never rise again.

On Hitler's express orders, Warsaw was razed. Its work done, the German army withdrew. By now, the city was empty of people, empty of life. Warsaw was a pile of rubble. It was a monumental tragedy, but was it a tragedy that could have been avoided?

This is a question that has haunted one man for years. In July, one month before the rising had begun, a handsome young courier, Jan Nowak-Jezioranski, left Warsaw for London to find out exactly what help the Poles could expect from the Allies.

"The request of the Polish government to send a British mission to Poland," says Nowak-Jezioranski, "was rejected, and it was rejected only for one reason: this is not our area. We cannot operate our British military mission behind the German front in the East."

The British said no to Nowak-Jezioranski because of a tacit agreement Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin had signed up to a year earlier in Teheran: that Poland would be in the Soviet Union's sphere of influence.

"I did come absolutely convinced that Poland is lost," says Nowak-Jezioranski. "I had access to classified documents and I knew that whatever the final outcome of war, in other words wherever Russians will be on the last day of war, Poland will be occupied only by the Soviet troops and Stalin will be able to do whatever he likes."


Go to part 4