The Red Army Offensive in the spring of 1944 reached Warsaw by the late summer. Poland had suffered for five years under Nazi occupation, and the Government-in-Exile in London kept the focus of the Polish cause.
In addition to the Polish airborne and regular units serving with the Allied armies in the west, a sizable irregular force was organizing in Warsaw. The city was already devastated, the bombing of 1939 barely touched by repair. “Warsaw shall not be rebuilt.” Said Rudolf Hess, Deputy Führer, in 1940. Much more of the city destroyed by the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943.
The Polish Home Army, loyal to the London Poles, stocked weapons and supplies throughout the spring of 1944. Another group of Poles, Communists who were directly controlled by Stalin, set up another government-in-exile in Moscow. They controlled a much smaller network in Warsaw and other Polish cities.
In late July 1944, the sounds of battle could be heard in Warsaw. The London Polish Government-in-Exile sent orders to the Polish Home Army that they would liberate the Polish capital themselves, sending a message that Poland would not be indebted to or under the influence of the Soviet Union.
On July 31, the Russians reached the suburb of Praga. Polish Home Army General Tadeusz Komorowski, called General Bor, ordered the Home Army to attack the German garrison.
On August 1, 1944, the Home Army rose up, attacking the German garrison with Molotov cocktails, antiquated rifles from the Polish National Army defeated in 1939, captured German guns, and a smattering of Allied Sten machine guns dropped into Poland. Many did not have proper weapons until they captured them from the Germans.
Stalin saw the uprising as an opportunity and halted the Red Army just outside Warsaw. For sixty-six days, under the direction of London, the Home Army fought the Germans in similar conditions that the Warsaw Ghetto resistance did. By October 1944, German artillery and aircraft were systematically destroying the whole of Warsaw and the Polish Home Army ceased to exist.
55,000 Poles were dead. The London Government-in-Exile and the British were outraged at Stalin sitting outside Warsaw while the defenders died and the city burned. Stalin, already thinking about the postwar world, clearly wanted the Western Polish network destroyed and let the Germans do it for him.
The Germans held the city until January 1945. By that time, only 153,000 Warsaw citizens remained out of 1,289,000 before September 1939.
The failure to support the Polish Home Army Uprising was the first of the cracks in the Soviet-Anglo-American alliance that would lead to the Cold War.