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Red Army liberated Warsaw 75 years ago

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Red Army liberated Warsaw 75 years ago

17.01.2020

Marina Brovkina

On January 17, 1945, during the Warsaw-Poznan operation, Soviet troops liberated the Polish capital from Nazi invaders. It took the Red Army several days to get the Nazis out of the city.

Adolf Hitler declared Warsaw a fortress (a German stronghold), and the Wehrmacht generals fiercely resisted, realizing that their defeat would open the direct route to Berlin for Soviet troops. The Red Army, having taken Warsaw, had the opportunity to be near the walls of the Reichstag soon.

Warsaw was under enemy occupation since September 28, 1939. The citizens put up strong resistance to the invaders.

Two revolts broke out on the territory of Warsaw. The first armed uprising took place in 1943 in the Jewish ghetto. It was put down with extraordinary cruelty. Special groups burned houses down with people inside. Those who survived in this hell were deported to concentration camps.

Warsaw Uprising of 1944 Photo credit: Russian movement.rf

In August-September 1944, the Warsaw Uprising took place. It was started by the Home Army (the Polish resistance movement). One of the goals was to free the capital without the participation of Soviet soldiers.

If the uprising had been successful, this would have served as a weighty argument for the Polish Government-in-Exile when discussing with the allies and the USSR questions of the state structure of the country after the final defeat of the Third Reich.

However, after two months of street fighting, the uprising ended in a crushing disaster and led to huge casualties. The Nazis took revenge on Warsaw, turning the city into ruins.

The destruction of the rebellious Polish capital took an irrational scale. When there were only a few months left until it was freed, the Allies had already opened a second front and the German armed forces urgently needed soldiers and ammunition, Hitler ordered to raze Warsaw to the ground.

The left-bank part of the city, where most of the cultural and historical monuments of national importance were concentrated, was almost completely turned into ruins.

Destroyed Warsaw, 1945. Photo credit: regnum.ru

Soviet troops were on the outskirts of Warsaw in August 1944. The soldiers were exhausted by the battles and could not take over the city right away.

It was decided to suspend the operation to liberate the city and prepare for a new assault, scheduled for January 20. However, this date had to be changed.

The reason for this was a major defeat of the Allied forces in the Ardennes.

The Wehrmacht intended to break through the front, push the enemy to the sea and arrange a “second Dunkirk”. This was the last radical attempt to change the course of the war.

The situation was critical, and Churchill asked Stalin to assault in the east as soon as possible in order to force the Germans to transfer troops and weaken the blow to the allies.

As a result, the Vistula-Oder Offensive was moved to January 12. 

The Warsaw-Poznan operation became part of the strategic offensive carried out by fighters of the 1st Belorussian Front and commanded by Marshal Georgy Zhukov. The Soviet units were to separate the Nazis, defeat them and take over the city.

The German invaders prepared for the battle very thoroughly. 17 thousand German soldiers and more than 300 guns and mortars were involved in the defense.

The battle of Warsaw began on January 14. 

The 61st Army of Colonel-General Pavel Belov advanced for an assault to surround the enemy. It hit the fascist groups south of the city. On January 15, the 47th Army of Major General Franz Perhorovich made an assault immediately after crossing the Vistula. A great contribution to the victory belongs to the 2nd Guards Tank Army of General Semyon Bogdanov.
The German command, contrary to the order of Adolf Hitler, hastily took its units to the north-west to avoid being surrounded. 

During January 16-17, the first Polish Army under the command of Stanislav Poplavsky crossed the frozen Vistula and entered the city in the early morning.

Historians note that the battle for the main railway station was very intense. Wehrmacht soldiers fought with the fanaticism of the doomed. And yet, despite the desperate struggle, they gave way to the Soviet soldiers one street after another. Realizing that they were surrounded and resistance was useless, many fled or surrendered to the mercy of the victors.

In the afternoon of January 17 afternoon Soviet troops celebrated the victory. Warsaw was completely freed from German occupiers.

The troops of the Polish and Red Army on the streets of the Polish capital. Photo credit: rbth.com

The Red Army cleared the city of the Nazis, but they had managed to turn the once beautiful capital city into ashes, entire areas lay in ruins.

For the German command, the disaster on the Vistula was a complete surprise. No one could have foreseen such a swift offensive by the Soviet armed forces. Army Group A commander Josef Harpe and 9th Army commander Smilo von Luttwitz were accused of the German defeat.

Harpe was removed from his post and sent to the reserve command of the ground forces. Von Luttwitz went to trial for failure to comply with an order. 

Having taken over Warsaw, the Soviet troops advanced significantly towards the border of the Third Reich, which was the most important task of the strategic offensive operation.

Source: Rossiyskaya Gazeta

Marina Brovkina

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