Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Warsaw Uprising, August 1, 1944

On August 1, 1944, the Polish resistance and the people of Warsaw rose up to throw off the Nazi oppressors. The Poles fought with guns, bricks, stolen grenades, sticks, and their hands and teeth. The Nazis retaliated with tanks, bombers, and fire.

63 days later the last Poles surrendered to the Germans.

250,000 men, women, and children were killed in the fighting, and the city of Warsaw was leveled by the Germans.

As a boy growing up, I would often hear my father talk about the fight the Poles made in the face of German military superiority. He would talk and sometimes he would weep for the dead.

My father wasn't there, of course. He had been taken by the Germans to Buchenwald Concentration Camp several years before. But when he talked about the Warsaw Uprising, he spoke like a man who had been touched by something that he would never forget.

I tried to capture this in a poem called "Cross of Polish Wood."


Told to take nothing
he took the cross
his mother gave him
two clean planed strips
made one by four nails
and a figure in lead

But he didn't pray in the box cars
he whispered and listened to whispers
talk of Polish honor
and the strength of lances
of Anders and Sikorski
and someone always said
"Warsaw will never fall
Panzers are only made of steel"

The fall of Warsaw taught him to pray
sent him to his knees in Buchenwald
to the nails and the lead
and the clean-planed Polish wood


Halina Koralewski said...

Thank you John for remembering and bringing an awareness to th eevent almost no one, besides Poles, knows about. The recent book by Rita Cosby: Quiet Hero, brought the event to light and finally Americans (who bought the book) learning about Poland heroic event. Last April I visited the Museum of Warsaw Uprising in Warsaw, a must for everyone, who visits Warsaw.

Danusha Goska said...

john professor eva nowakowska talked about the uprising during lectures in Poland recently. Some reassess it as a crime

Krystyna Mew said...

Wonderful poem. Thank you. My mother was involved in the Warsaw Uprising, but never spoke about it. The Warsaw Uprising Museum is really impressive. One hears the sound of the battle as one walks through it. Very atmospheric and haunting.

John Guzlowski said...

Danusha, I think your comment was cut off. Please elaborate about the "crime."

Danusha Goska said...

First, I'll say that I'm not qualified to comment on this. But EN, a very impressive and likeable teacher, acknowledged that in recent reassessments of history, people have been asking if calling for the uprising was a moral act or a crime. The leaders knew they had no chance of victory, and the losses were overwhelming.

Henia Stein said...

Thank you for sharing this story! Every survivor's story and every victim's story - everything that happened - must be shared witht he world!! By keeping these stories alive, the world will never forget. It is all of our responsibility to carry on while so many survivors are slowly passing away.

I am carrying on my father's lifelong passionate mission of sharing his story and the people of his small town in Poland - Bilgoraj.

My father's memoirs have now been published to let the world in on what happened in Bilgoraj.

This book is now available on

Orders inside the US:

Orders outside the US:

Title: Why My Father Ran - by Henia Stein

Here is the link!

I hope you not only read Sam Shatz' story but share it with everyone you know.

You may also visit the companion website for photos (you can see his DP Camp carvings in full color):

We must never forget!!