WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poles on Monday marked the 78th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, a doomed 1944 revolt against Nazi German forces, with some including the president comparing the wartime Polish resistance to that of Ukrainians today fighting Russia’s invasion.
People in Warsaw observed a minute of silence as a siren wailed at 5 p.m. to honor those who fought and died in the 1944 struggle that lasted 63 days and ended tragically for the Poles. That was the hour when the uprising began on Aug. 1, 1944, after five years of brutal Nazi occupation.
In the yearly ritual, people across Warsaw paused in their tracks, some holding flags or torches. A far-right organization led a march through the city that passed peacefully.
President Andrzej Duda visited an exhibition titled “Warsaw-Mariupol — cities of ruins, cities of struggle, cities of hope.” He recalled how the “Germans ruthlessly murdered civilians in the capital,” adding that “the Russian aggression against Ukraine is similarly ruthless today.”
The Warsaw Uprising was the largest act of resistance by any nation under the German occupation during World War II, and the heroism of the insurgents remains a defining element in Polish national identity.
The Germans suppressed the rebellion brutally, destroying most of Warsaw and killing around 200,000 people, most of them civilians.
As part of the commemorations, Wladimir Klitschko accepted an honorary citizenship on behalf of his brother, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko.
During that ceremony on Sunday, he met with a 95-year-old veteran of the Warsaw Uprising, Wanda Traczyk-Stawska, telling her “you are my idol.” Both Klitschko brothers are heavyweight boxing champions who have prominent roles in their country’s resistance against the Russian invasion.
Poles in 1944 also felt betrayed by the Soviets, whose troops had arrived on the outskirts on Warsaw in their westward push against Adolf Hitler’s forces. The Red Army remained on the Warsaw outskirts without helping the Poles — who were allegedly their allies.
The city-wide revolt took place more than a year after the April 19, 1943, start of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a separate revolt by doomed Jews that also ended in tragedy. It remains as a symbol of courage and defiance for Israelis today.