Central Warsaw came to a standstill on Thursday (August 1) to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the 1944 Warsaw uprising.
Drivers stopped their cars and citizens stood still, with some letting off flares, as sirens rung around the city at 1700 (1500GMT), to mark the “W” hour, the time when on August 1, 1944, Polish resistance fighters attempted to overthrow the Nazi occupiers.
In the city’s Old Town, crowds stood in the form of the ‘Kotwica’, the symbol of the Polish Underground State and Home Army as they took part in the long-standing tradition of holding a minute’s silence, to show their solidarity with insurgents who died 75 years ago.
World War II veterans who took part in the uprising were among those present at a memorial service held in Warsaw’s Powazki military cemetery, where floral wreaths had been laid in honour of their fallen comrades.
On August 1, 1944 thousands of poorly-armed Warsaw residents rose up against the German Nazi forces to take control of the city ahead of the advancing Soviet army.
The uprising infuriated Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, who ordered the destruction of the city. Germans sent in their elite SS troops, bombed the city from the air, pounded it with heavy artillery and used civilians as human shields. Civilians were routinely executed – 150,000 died, 165,000 were sent to labour camps and a further 350,000 displaced. The Red Army stood idle across the Wisla river, at one point several hundred metres from heavy fighting, and did not allow Western allies to use its airfields for airlifts.
The Warsaw Uprising collapsed after 63 days, leaving the city in ruins and historians divided about whether the insurgency should have been launched in the first place.