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75 years later: Newly-released wartime docs debunk myths about WWII’s liberation of Warsaw

Official Warsaw had no plans to celebrate this date — but it is not the first time that Poland has ignored the liberation of its state capital. Since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in the early 1990s, politicians across Eastern European have pushed the notion that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were equally responsible for instigating World War II —  and the idea that Red Army soldiers led a brutal occupation, instead of liberating Poland, has firmly found its place in the nation’s history books.

That view continues to prevail in some other European states, too — but a trove of recently-declassified wartime documents, published by the Russian Defense Ministry, tells a different story.

‘The Red Army crushed the 1944 uprising’

Eager to discard any positive memory of the Soviet liberation of Warsaw, Poland today instead chooses to focus on a heroic but failed rebellion which took place on the city streets in the fall of 1944. Duda last year accused the Red Army of taking a “passive” stance during the uprising, supposedly in order to allow the Nazis to annihilate the Poles who might later rise up against the Soviets.

This opinion is commonplace in Polish media. An article published in the leading Rzeczpospolita newspaper last year argued that the USSR refused to help the rebels because it saw the revolt as “a unique opportunity to destroy the independence-minded elite of the Polish nation with German hands.”

In reality, when the Polish revolt against the Nazis was in full swing, the Red Army liberated Warsaw’s Praga district on the left bank of the Vistula River — but the troops lacked sufficient means to proceed further and assault Warsaw outright, the declassified documents say. Despite stark shortages in aviation fuel, transcripts of the Red Army’s radio dispatches show that the Soviets still managed to supply Polish rebels with food, weapons and munitions. The Red Army also shelled certain parts of the city at the rebels’ requests.

In contrast, airdrops conducted by the US and Britain were “ineffective,” the documents note. At one time, the Allies deployed 80 planes on an air-support mission, but 95 percent of their drops landed in German-controlled areas.

The Soviet reports also indicated that the uprising itself was ill-conceived from the beginning. Dispatches describe how rebels, armed only with handguns and grenades, failed to capture crucial strategic outposts and destroy the railways, which the Germans were using to transport forces around the city. Ultimately, the rebels’ makeshift street barricades were no match for tanks and artillery.

Soviet troops and locals in Warsaw, Poland after liberation.

‘The Soviets looted Poland after the war’

According to the IPN, Soviets troops brought nothing but destruction, as “Polish society remained enslaved under Soviet rule and under the rule of Moscow’s communist regime for the next decades.”

Poland was in ruins after the Nazi occupation, so the primary goal of the Soviets forces was to distribute food and end hunger. One report from the Soviet military authority mentions how between 1944-45 the army provided the locals with 316,000 tons of potatoes and fresh vegetables, as well as 138,000 tons of grain. People also received scores of different tools and goods, which ranged from livestock, plows, tractors and combines to mattresses and sewing machines.

What’s more, the field medics with the 1st Belorussian Front treated tens of thousands of locals in army hospitals, while the unit’s railway troops rebuilt many railroads, roads and bridges that were demolished during the war.

Header: Soviet and Polish troops in Warsaw, Poland after it was liberated by the Soviet Union and its Polish allies on January 14-17, 1945. © Sputnik