- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 31, 2004

Sixty years ago, on Aug. 1, 1944, began the Battle of Warsaw, long-obscured in the aftermath of D-Day two months earlier. Yet that 63-day battle deserves to be remembered. It is a tragic story.

Thousands of poorly armed Poles, vastly outnumbered and outgunned by the Nazis, were betrayed by Josef Stalin’s Red Army regiments camped across the Vistula River. The Poles thought Stalin would support their offensive against Adolf Hitler in the interests of winning the war.

How wrong they were. They didn’t realize that, given a choice between a Nazi victory over Poland or a Polish victory over Nazi Germany, Stalin preferred the former. Here was an army of heroic Poles fighting what they thought was the common enemy, the Nazis, who had occupied their country for five unendurable years. But for Stalin, a resurgent Poland was the enemy, not the Nazis. Obviously, if the Poles fought the Nazis so heroically for their freedom, they would obviously fight the communists to ensure that freedom.

On July 31, 1944, Soviet armies entered the suburb of Warsaw, Praga, on the east banks of the Vistula River. The next day, the makeshift Polish Home Army on the west side of the river, sure the Red Army would join their offensive, attacked the German army in Warsaw. At that precise moment, the Red Army decided to do nothing to help the hard-pressed Poles. Faced with the Battle of Warsaw across the river, Stalin refused to render any direct or indirect assistance to the Polish home army. For Stalin, both the Nazis and Poles were his enemies; if they wanted to fight each other, fine by him.

Stalin foresaw a postwar democratic Poland would resist Bolshevization of Eastern Europe. So why help the Poles? For Stalin, the Nazis were doing to the Poles what he had already done to some 30,000 Polish Army officers in the massacre at Katyn Forest, near Minsk. And what he would continue doing when Poland, with the shameful assent of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was handed over to Stalin’s Bolshevik empire.

This was not the only great crime against a stricken Poland. In July 1943, a brave Pole named Jan Karski arrived in the United States with an eyewitness report of a Warsaw Uprising two months earlier. Attempts by the Germans to liquidate those Jews still remaining in the Warsaw Ghetto were met with armed resistance. In the desperate three-week struggle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, more than 10,000 Jews were killed in the fighting or in fires set by the Germans to destroy the ghetto. The 56,000 Jews remaining were taken to the Treblinka death camp. Washington and London ignored Mr. Karski’s report.

In the first half of August 1944, the Nazis executed 65,000 Warsaw residents to quell that uprising. By the time it was over nine weeks later, 200,000 Warsaw residents had been killed. Eighty percent of Warsaw’s buildings were destroyed. And after expelling all the Poles, the Nazis razed the rest of the buildings.

One expected nothing better from the Nazis — but from the supposed ally, the Soviets, also? Soviet perfidy got even worse.

Between Aug. 4 and Sept. 18, 1944, Allied airplanes parachuted more than 200 tons of weapons, medicine and food in the Warsaw area. Not to be outdone, in the second half of September, low-flying Russian biplanes dropped 50 tons of supplies, almost all destroyed on the ground. Why? Unlike the supplies ferried by American, British and South African air fleets, the Soviets dropped their loads without parachutes.

During the Soviet dictatorship over Poland from 1945 to 1989, any commemoration of the Battle of Warsaw was banned.

So let us on the 60th anniversary of that battle commemorate this day and so honor a brave democratic people who, free at last, have rebuilt their country in the heart of the new Europe.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times. His updated biography “Herman Wouk, the Novelist as Social Historian,” will be published next month.

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