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Powstanie Warszawskie 1944 w dokumentach. Z archiwów słužb specjalnych/Varshavskoe vosstanie 1944 v dokumentakh. Iz arkhivov spetssluzhb

Anna Muller

Edited by Piotr Mirecki and Vasilii Khristoforov. Warsaw-Moscow: Institute of National Memory et al., 2007. 1377 pages + 104 photos. Notes, index, list of abbreviations, photocopies of documents. ISBN 978-83-60464-32-8.Hardcover. $235.00 (much less if purchased in Poland). Bilingual in Polish and Russian.

The Warsaw Rising of 1944-a sixty-three-day struggle undertaken by the Polish Underground Resistance Movement (Armia Krajowa, AK, or the Home Army) to liberate Warsaw from Nazi occupation during the Second World War-occupies a special place in both Polish history and national collective memory. Since its outbreak, the Rising had stirred disputes regarding the right of its leaders to risk the lives of insurgents and civilians in this unequal battle, and the plausibility of achieving its goals.[1] Was it possible to free the city from Nazi occupation, reinstall the prewar authorities, and at the same time avoid Soviet intervention in the Polish postwar order?

Despite these questions, the collective memory of the Rising ’44 functions as a symbol of a lonely and and heroic struggle, during which insurgents and civilians showed enormous courage and dedication to the Polish nation in the face of Nazi hostilities, very limited support from Western allies, and no support from the Soviets. Consequently, Polish historiography concerning the Warsaw Rising is vast. The first accounts of the event appeared in the 1950s. One of the most significant books about the Rising was published in Poland on the sixtieth anniversary of the event, authored by British historian Norman Davies. The English original of this work appeared a year earlier.[2] The number of published memoirs and recollections related to the Uprising continues to grow.[3] Equally increasing are collections of documents regarding the Rising, one of which is the volume under review.

This collection is the third volume of documents in a series resulting from the cooperative effort of Polish and Russian historians, namely Instytut Pamięci Narodowej (IPN, the Institute of National Memory), Ministerstwo Spraw Wewnetrznych i Administracji (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration), Archives of the Federalnaia Sluzhba Bezopasnosti (FSB, Federal Security Services of the Russian Federation), and the Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences.[4] The volume contains 149 documents: mostly reports, interrogation protocols, and the transcripts from the court hearings of members who fought against the Nazis but were charged and sentenced by the authorities in Soviet-occupied Poland for being anti-Soviet. All documents are published in Russian and Polish. The documents are supplemented with over one hundred photos and illustrations from the IPN and FSB archives, as well as from private collections. Every document has footnotes providing further details about people mentioned in it, the places and events of the Rising, and the administrative apparatus of the Thurd Reich and the Soviet Union.

The documents are organized chronologically and divided into three parts. The first part contains the operational documents of the Wehrmacht and German secret police pertaining to the Rising. These mainly report on the people arrested and executed; the situation in various parts of the city-including, for example, details about the location of the makeshift hospitals and city canals where insurgents were hiding (doc. 21); and the deteriorating attitudes among civilians toward the insurgents, due to a lack of food and the growing difficulties of surviving in the city (doc. 25). The second part mainly includes the transcripts from interrogations of insurgents and a couple of reports from Nazi informants that contain, for example, information about the location of shelters where civilians could survive the bombardments (doc. 51). All documents in this section were created during the Rising.

The third and longest part contains documents related to the IPN investigation of Nazi and Soviet crimes in Poland after the war. Most of the documents in this section are transcripts of communist interrogations of the Rising’s leaders and participants conducted between February 1945 and March 1967 in Soviet-occupied Poland. Also enclosed are documents from the interrogation of the last commander of the AK, General Leopold Okulicki, and of Col. Jan Mazurkiewicz. Both were captured by the Soviets. Okulicki’s interrogation took place in Moscow in April 1945, Mazurkiewicz’s in Warsaw in 1949. Okulicki was murdered in Moscow’s Butyrki prison in 1946, while Mazurkiewicz spent seven years in prison and was released in 1956. This section also provides the protocols from the interrogation, as well as trial hearings, of two of Hitler’s underlings: Ludwig Fischer, governor of the Warsaw district, and Paul Geibel, head of the police in the Warsaw district. Among the documents provided by the FSB are materials regarding Reiner Stahel, who between July 27 and August 25, 1944 was the war commandant of Warsaw and one of the Nazi leaders responsible for the German onslaught against the insurgents. Captured in Romania in 1944, Stahel was taken to Moscow and imprisoned. He died in the Gulag.

The published documents, the interrogation transcripts, and the trial hearings do not present the entire cases of individuals or groups of people. Rather, documents were selected from cases of various people, either German Nazi criminals or Polish anti-Nazi insurgents, primarily in order to offer insight into the ways that Germans dealt with the Polish Rising, the kind of information they attempted to obtain from the captured civilians and insurgents, and the strategies they undertook to fight against the Poles. Second, the collection provides a perspective on how the Soviets dealt with the Rising’s participants after the end of the war: accusing them of crimes against the nation, the destruction of Warsaw, the suffering of civilians, and, of course, being anti-Soviet. The captured participants were subjected to brutal interrogations, and many were executed or died in prison. The Polish and Russian consensus today is that these insurgents were trying to liberate Warsaw before the Soviets captured it.

According to the editors of the volume, because the Germans were not interested in the names or personal data of insurgents, many of those interrogated gave false names, military ranks, or even nicknames. At the same time, the Nazi police had no time to verify information or prepare confrontations among captives in order to cross-check their testimonies.[5] The editors also turn our attention to the fact that while some of the informants claimed that insurgents used terror toward civilians (doc. 68 and 77), these claims have not been corroborated. Especially with regard to documents produced by the postwar communist secret police one needs to obtain such corroboration since the police could have withheld or fabricated vital information, using provocateurs, intimidation, or torture.

The documents included in this volume are vital to any scholarly discussion of the Rising, particularly in conjunction with other documents.


1. An estimated 150,000 civilians and 10,000 fighters lost their lives. Marek Getter, “Straty ludzkie i materialne w Powstaniu Warszawskim,” Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej, 8/9 (2004): 70.

2. Norman Davies, Rising ’44: The Battle for Warsaw (London: Penguin Viking, 2003); Polish translation, Powstanie ’44 (Kraków: Znak, 2004).

3. Jan M. Ciechanowski, The Warsaw Rising of 1944 (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1974); Janusz K. Zawodny, Nothing but honour: the story of the Warsaw Uprising, 1944 (Stanford-Hoover Institution Press, 1944); Joanna Hanson, The civilian population and the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1982). Polish-language works include Pamiętniki žołnierzy baonu Zśka edited by Tadeusz Sumiński (Warsaw: Nasza Ksęgarnia, 1957); Dziennik powstańca, by Zbigniew Czajkowski-Dębczyński (Warsaw: Pństwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1969); Ludność cywilna w Powstaniu Warszawskim, edited by Czesław Madajczyk, vol. 1 [Pamętniki, relacje, zeznania] (Warsaw: PIW, 1974); Powrót do wspomnień, by Barbara Kaczyńska-Januszkiewicz, Hanna Sygietńska-Kwocńska, and Miecław Chackiewicz (Warsaw: Nowy Świat, 2004). Other academic publications include J. Franecki and H. Kisiel, “Raporty i meldunki niemieckiej policji o Powstaniu Warszawskim 1944 roku,” Teki Archiwalne, 17 (1978): 75-105; Powstanie Warszawskie 1944. Wybór dokumentów, edited by Piotr Matusiak, vols. 1-4 (Warsaw: Egros, 1997-2004); Îołnierze Powstania Warszawskiego. Dokumenty z archiwum PCK, vols. 1-3, edited by Robert Bielecki (Warsaw: Neriton, 1995-97). Even though it deals with the period prior to Rising ’44, Aleksander Kamiński’s Kamienie na szaniec [1944] is perhaps the most popular account of the attitudes and actions that led to that event.

4. The two preceding volumes are Polskie podziemie na terenach Zachodniej Ukrainy i Zachodniej Białorusi w latach 1939-1941 (Warsaw-Moscow 2001), and Deportacje obywateli polskich z Zachodniej Ukrainy i Zachodniej Białorusi w 1940 roku, edited by Viktor Komogorov (Warsaw-Moscow, 2003).

5. “Wstęp,” Powstanie Warszawskie 1944 w dokumentach, 45.

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