Tadeusz Komorowski

Tadeusz Komorowski

Tadeusz Komorowski was born in Poland in 1895. He joined the Polish Army and eventually became commander of the Grudziad Cavalry School.

After the invasion of the country by the German Army in September 1939, Komorowski became head of the national resistance movement. In July 1943 he was promoted to lieutenant general and became commander of the Polish Home Army.

In the summer of 1944 the Red Army began to advance rapidly into German occupied Poland. The advancing Soviet troops refused to accept the authority of the Polish government-in-exile and disarmed members of the Polish Home Army they met during the invasion.

The Polish government-in-exile in London feared that the Soviet Union would replace Nazi Germany as occupiers of the country. On 26th July 1944 the Polish government secretly ordered General Komorowski, to capture Warsaw before the arrival of the advancing Russians. Five days later Komorowski gave the orders for the Warsaw Uprising.

The Home Army had about 50,000 soldiers in Warsaw. There were a further 1,700 people who were members of other Polish resistance groups who were willing to join the uprising. The men were desperately short of arms and ammunition. It is estimated they had 1,000 rifles, 300 automatic pistols, 60 sub-machine-guns, 35 anti-tank guns, 1,700 pistols and 25,000 grenades. The army also had its own workshop and were attempting to produce pistols, flame-throwers and grenades.

On the first day of the rising on 1st August, 1944, the Poles managed to capture part of the left bank of the River Vistula in Warsaw. However, attempts to take the bridges crossing the river were unsuccessful.

German reinforcements arrived on the 3rd August. The German Army used 600mm siege guns on Warsaw and the Luftwaffe bombed the city around-the-clock. British and Polish airmen flew in supplies from bases in Italy but it was difficult to drop the food and ammunition to places still in the hands of the rebels. The Royal Air Force and the Polish Air Force made 223 sorties and lost 34 aircraft during the uprising.

Heinrich Himmler gave instructions "that every inhabitant should be killed" and that Warsaw should "be razed to the ground" as an example to the rest of Europe under German occupation. As soon as territory was taken the Nazi's took revenge on the local people. In the Wola district alone an estimated 25,000 people were executed by firing squad.

When the Old Town was taken by the German Army on 2nd August, the Polish resistance fighters were forced to flee via the sewer canals. This network of underground canals were now used to move men and supplies under enemy controlled areas of Warsaw.

On 20th August the Polish Home Army captured the Polish Telephone Company building and the Krawkowskie Police Station. Three days later they took control of the Piusa Telephone Exchange.

On 10th September the Red Army led by Marshal Konstantin Rokossovy, entered the city but met heavy resistance. After five days Soviet forces had captured the right bank of the city. Rokossovy then halted his troops and waited for reinforcements. However, some historians have argued that Rokossovy was following the orders of Joseph Stalin, who wanted the Germans to destroy what was left of the Polish Home Army.

The insurgents were forced to leave Czerniakow on 23rd September. Three days later they were forced to leave the Upper Mokotow area via the underground sewers. On 30th September General Komorowski appointed General Leopold Okulicki as head of the Polish underground.

Running out of men and supplies General Komorowski and 15,000 members of the Polish Home Army were forced to surrender on 2nd October 1944. It is estimated that 18,000 insurgents were killed and another 6,000 were seriously wounded. A further 150,000 civilians were also killed during the uprising.

After the Polish surrender the German Army began to systematically to destroy the surviving buildings in Warsaw. By the time the Red Army resumed its attack on Warsaw, over 70 per cent of the city had been destroyed. Over the next few weeks the Soviet forces took control of the city.

Komorowski became a prisoner of war but was liberated in May 1945. After the war he served briefly as premier of the Polish government in exile. He wrote several books on the war including The Secret Army (1952). Tadeusz Komorowski died in 1966.