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Warsaw Rising

Aired July 24, 2005 - 20:00   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I am Carol Lin at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Happening right now in the news, splashed across the front pages of British newspapers today, to men involved in London's July 7th bombing. The pair are pictured at a Wales rafting center a month before the deadly blasts. Reports suggest a possible link between that trip and men involved in last week's attempted bombings.

Sweltering temperatures dominated the country today, especially in the center of the nation. Triple digit readings covered much of the heartland as a stream of hot air blazed a path across the Midwest. Many cities, including Chicago, put emergency plans into place to try to prevent heat-related illnesses.

And if the sun rises and sun sets over the next several days, it's going to be especially spectacular. Well, here's the reason, that big blood there. A huge dust cloud is blowing towards the U.S. from Africa. The leading age should reach Florida by tomorrow. Experts say such events are common and there is nothing to worry about.

And in Paris, cyclist Lance Armstrong has so much time to spare as he rode along the Champs Elysees. He was declared the winner 30 miles before the Tour de France was over. It was an unprecedented seventh straight tour victory for Armstrong.

Coming up in about two hours, my interview with Armstrong's mom about what is next for her son.

I am Carol Lin. Now, our CNN Special, "Warsaw Rising."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For about 63 days we saw the city blaze. We knew that we could not possibly win.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They were an army of ordinary citizens, fighting the Nazis to save their city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Otto (ph) went from street to street, from house to house, day and night.

ENSOR: The Americans and the British left them on their own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a sense of frustration and injustice that was quite strong.

ENSOR: Their loss was catastrophic but their story was never told.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somehow in history books there is very little of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thousands and thousands of people that died in the name of freedom in vain.

AARON BROWN, CNN HOST: Next month marks the anniversary of one of the most heroic and one of the most tragic battles of the Second World War. It was the battle that may have turned the tide of history and yet it is one of the least known.

Welcome the CNN PRESENTS, I am Aaron Brown. It was six decades ago that the citizens of Warsaw, Poland, buoyed by the D-Day invasion to the west and the Soviet advances from the east, took up what little arms they had and struck back against the Nazis. The resistance fighters, men, women and even children were virtually on their own, fighting impossible odds and waiting, in vain it turned out, for the help that never arrived.

Their 63-day struggle, their doomed attempt to liberate their city, Warsaw, that story now from CNN's David Ensor.

ENSOR: It looks today the way it did for centuries. But the old town of Warsaw, capital of Poland, had to be rebuilt, building by building, brick by brick.

More than 60 years ago it was reduced to a smoking ruin, most people killed or vanished. Its buildings incinerated. In a rage, Hitler had ordered his troops to flatten the city. Over 80 percent of it was destroyed.

Warsaw had dared to rebel against Nazi rule, its citizens fighting the vastly more powerful German army. They were ordinary people, volunteer soldiers, many of them merely teenagers.

Z. ANTHONY KRUSZEWSKI, UNDERGROUND FIGHTER: I was leader of the youngest group, under 16. They used us for (ph) spying. For that you could obviously go to concentration camp and be shot on the spot.

ZOFIA KORBONSKI, UNDERGROUND RADIO OPERATOR: We were young, we were optimistic. It didn't occur to me ever that I can get killed or - the only thing I was afraid of was being tortured.

ENSOR: They fought against impossible odds, but you couldn't tell them that.

CHRISTINE JAROSZEWICZ: Now, the passion with which we participated in all those things was probably difficult to understand for people who never lost freedom. And we had this terrific faith that we are going to be free.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The German foe begins its ruthless march of conquest and sets the stage for World War II.

ENSOR: Poland's ordeal began September 1st, 1939.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Poland and the world learned the meaning of a grim new word, blitzkrieg.

ENSOR: Hitler's forces charged across Poland's borders in the infamous blitzkrieg and World War II began.

JULIAN E. KULSKI, UNDERGROUND FIGHTER: I saw these huge planes. German planes were black with these crosses on it flying very, very low, I guess to escape the anti aircraft, but the trees just started bending down and I was terrified.

ENSOR: Julian Kulski was just a boy when he saw German troops enter a town square where there was a synagogue.

KULSKI: And they brought in the orchestra and they started playing German tunes and hoisted the swastika. Then they got the rabbi and tied him up to the synagogue and put the synagogue on fire and this sort of thing you don't forget, whether you are 10 years old or 100 years old. It was horrible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They closed down our school. They closed down the newspaper. And the concerts. The city that was known for loving music suddenly went dead. No sound.

ENSOR (on camera): The city of Warsaw was under German occupation for five long and brutal years. During that time, an entire government operated underground, with its own legal system, schools, even newspapers. Its underground army trained battalions and gathered weapons, preparing for the day when it would rise up against the Nazis.

NORMAN DAVIES, HISTORIAN: The scale and the horror of those five years of German occupation of Warsaw I think were unparalleled.

ENSOR (voice-over): Norman Davies, an Oxford historian who has written a book about the Warsaw Uprising, says Hitler saw Poland as a laboratory for his racial theories.

Jews were herded into a ghetto. Other Poles were rounded up in manhunts to be sent to Germany for slave labor. Warsaw citizens responded by joining the underground army, known by Poles as the AK.

Christine Jaroszewicz at 19 was an underground courier.

JAROSZEWICZ: There was a code word that I used and people opened the door to grab the documents and I was gone, you know.

ENSOR: Underground operations ranged from killing German soldiers to blowing up trains, to acts of rebellion that simply lifted the Polish spirit.

Nazi punishment was swift and terrible. Public hangings, mass executions. For every German soldier shot by Poles, 100 civilians were killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For retaliation the Nazis were executing -- taking people, 100 people from the street cars, stopping them, methodically counting them, 98, 99, 100 and machine-gunned on the spot in front of the streetcar.

In one of those operations I was 103rd.

ENSOR: Inside the ghetto, conditions were worse. People starved and streets littered with corpses. SS soldiers shot Jews at random.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, as bad as things were outside the wall, inside the wall was incredible.

ENSOR: Jews in the ghetto began to be sent to death camps. In 1943, they fought back. The Ghetto Uprising lasted a month and ended in tragedy. 40,000 either dead or deported to death camps.

Nothing left but burnt hulks of buildings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Between Le Havre and Cherbourg in Normandy, the Allied lightning strikes.

ENSOR: By the summer of '44 the war had started to turn. The D- Day invasion of Normandy brought U.S. and British forces onto the continent.

Stalin's Red Army, now allied with the U.S. and Britain, was defeating the Germans in battle after battle, marching west towards Warsaw.

To the thousands in the underground waiting for five years to strike, the time seemed right.

The premier of the Polish government in exile, Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, traveled to Washington to gain President Roosevelt's support for an uprising.

DAVIES: The president created the climate where the Poles and the Polish underground felt that they had the full support of America and the British.

ENSOR: But it was also necessary to gain the support of the Soviet Union, Poland's neighbor and a longtime adversary. Roosevelt urged the premier to fly to Moscow to work it out with Stalin.

DAVIES: Stalin is a good friend of mine. He will be quite reasonable and everything will be fine.

Roosevelt actually said to the Polish prime minister, your country will emerge from this war undiminished.

DAVID KENNEDY, HISTORIAN, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: If Roosevelt told the head of the Polish government in exile that he needn't worry about the Russians, he was being disingenuous. ENSOR: Unbeknownst to Poland, Roosevelt and Churchill had made a deal with Stalin at the Tehran Conference the year before. The Big Three met for the first time. Eager to placate Stalin and keep him in the war, Roosevelt had agreed that more than a third of Poland's territory would go to the Soviet Union.

KENNEDY: And that's the occasion where he tells Stalin, in effect, I know you are going to be in control of Poland and Eastern Europe after the war and I will not disturb your sphere of influence there. So that bargain is struck.

ENSOR: In Warsaw, where they knew nothing of such a bargain, the underground prepared to fight. The Polish premier had no firm commitment of help from Stalin, but Moscow radio broadcasts urged Warsaw citizens to rise up.

JANUSZ BELZA, UNDERGROUND FIGHTER: The Russian army was exactly at the gate of Warsaw. We felt, as solders in the underground movement, that this was the time to strike.

ENSOR: The Allied victory in Normandy fueled their hopes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we believed so much in the west and we thought they are with us. We are going to win. The Allies are going to win this war.


BROWN (voice-over): We now return to "Warsaw Rising, the Forgotten Soldiers of World War II."

ENSOR: August 1st, 1944, 5:00 p.m. The hour set for the rising to begin. Citizen soldiers of Warsaw couldn't wait.

NINA JANUSZOWSKA THIESSEN, UNDERGROUND COURIER: And you arrive in this fantastic, big square and there are thousands of Polish soldiers and our flags all around and it was an incredibly happy feeling.

ENSOR: As dusk fell, the underground fighters took to the streets. To their leaders, the timing was critical. The Russians were close enough to help but it would be Poles who would liberate Warsaw.

JAROSZEWICZ: We wanted to free Warsaw ourselves. This was our city, our capital, our country. These images of the fight in Warsaw, rarely seen outside Poland, were filmed by the underground.

ENSOR: The underground army had about 40,000 fighters, barely a quarter of them went into the battle with a weapon in their hands.

DAVIES: The had now heavy artillery, no armor, nothing to compare with the huge range of things the Germans had.

So then you had the striking force and then there were followers who were waiting for you to be shot, wounded or killed so they could pick up your weapon and go ahead. Some of the insurgents were armed with stones.

ENSOR: Many of the weapons they did have were homemade. Flame throwers fashioned from garden hoses, grenades made from German bombs.

KULSKI: I got a gun which was buried in 1939 by the Polish army. It was full of rust and the first time I fired the damn gun and it almost killed me because it fired back in my eye, I almost lost an eye.

But after that it worked fine.

ENSOR: Civilians joined in, building barricades. Even children helped. Small enough to run below the guns on German tanks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten, 12 year olds would crawl up and blow up a tank or set it on fire with gasoline bottle.

ENSOR: Two tanks were actually captured by the insurgents. The only two tanks they were to have.

Wacvlaw Micuta, a veteran of the Polish cavalry, took command of the captured tanks.

WACLAW MICUTA, UNDERGROUND FIGHTER: I trained at least two teams and in two days we were ready to fight.

ENSOR (on camera): Micuta would stage one of the most daring and memorable attacks of the entire uprising, his target, a concentration camp that existed in the remnants of the Jewish ghetto.

MICUTA: It was thousands and thousands of Jews which were either killed there or sent to be killed elsewhere. It was a death camp.

ENSOR (voice over): Micuta asked his commander for permission to attack but was told the camp was too well fortified, they would all be killed.

MICUTA: And our fellows, they were young fellows and girls too. Girls and men. They were this (ph) in their blood and they said, no we want to attack.

ENSOR: Micuta asked if he could take a band of volunteers and one tank. Granted permission, they took the Germans by surprise, storming a 10 foot tall wall that surrounded the camp. Micuta and his soldiers let loose the tanks gun.

MICUTA: Boom, finished. Another one, finished. And the boys running like mad.

ENSOR: Micuta and his soldiers liberated the camp. Inside were several hundred Jews, emaciated, expecting death at any moment.

MICUTA: They found out that this is liberation and, My God, it was very emotional. Very emotional. There were all the Jews who came and fell on his knees and he cried and he thanked us. They were brothers, they were sisters. For me it was - I never saw that they are Jews I saw that they are poor people who are in a tremendous, tremendous emotional situation.

ENSOR: Moving into an inner courtyard of the camp, Micuta saw a remarkable sight.

MICUTA: At the end there were a group of prisoners. My word. My word. I called (ph) to him and there was one with military training, who was literate (ph) in the Polish language. He said bazviz, nop levut, pach (ph) and they werten (ph) I give you the Jewish battalion, ready to fight.

ENSOR: Micuta became their commander, the first Jewish unit of the underground army, the unit he says was always at the forefront of battle.

MICUTA: And they were fighting like mad, I think three of them survived.

ENSOR: The first day of the uprising cost the Poles dearly. Thousands died and the Germans held on to most of their strongholds. Still, the Polish flag flew in the city center for the first time in five years.

BELZA: The Polish national anthem, which could not be heard for five years now would be played, the Polish flags were flying from every house.

ENSOR: "The Times" of London would write "The first of the martyred cities of Europe to suffer the horrors of German air bombardments and National Socialist rule is also the first to see deliverance at hand.


BROWN: We now return to "Warsaw Rising, The Forgotten Soldiers of World War II."

ENSOR: By August 3rd, the citizen army of Warsaw had actually gained ground against the Nazi war machine for almost three days.

The Germans counterattacked in force, unleashing planes, tanks, artillery.

In a fury, Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler ordered the Warsaw be made an example for all of Europe. Every inhabitant, man, woman and child, should be killed.

DAVIES: People were massacred in cold blood. The SS simply stormed into the hospitals, turned all the patients onto the street and machine-gunned them.

ENSOR: Defenseless civilians were herded in front of Nazi tanks as human shields.

KULSKI: You had to fire. We would start firing at the tanks, they would run over the civilians in front of them. DAVIES: Americans should realize we are talking about a tragedy where the same number of civilians were killed every day for 60 days that were killed in the World Trade Center.

ENSOR (on camera): The Poles' hopes that they would only have to hold out for a few days, that their Soviet allies just across the Vistula River. But the guns of the Red Army had fallen silent.

JAROSZEWICZ: Then, all of the sudden, dead silence. What happened? Where are we? Why aren't we fighting?

ENSOR: At4 this point the Germans took back the initiative. Their goal? To cut an artery through the center of Warsaw to the river. The fiercest battle raged in the old town.

DAVIES: Medieval streets and narrow corners, ideal cover for the snipers and the underground fighters. Took the Germans a month to catch them.

ENSOR: Six hundred under ground companies, 50 to 100 soldiers each, fanned out, each with a street or building to defend. When they lacked weapons they fought with stones or bricks. And through it all a remarkable underground support system. Bakeries and basements. Factories turning out grenades, even underground newspapers.

Hospitals were set up in cellars and moved from building to building to escape the German bombs.

MAREK CHODAKIEWICZ, HISTORIAN, INSTITUTE OF WORLD POLITICS: And this is all your neighborhood. Imagine that. Your neighborhood turning to rubble. Well, you still refuse to give up. And you look at the sky and you say to yourself, up, the Americans are coming. The Americans are coming because they are fighting for the same thing.

ENSOR: But among the Allies, a different kind of battle is going on. The RAF had flown some airdrops to aid Warsaw but too many planes were shot down. The U.S. wanted to send high flying, heavy bombers, flying fortresses that could evade German antiaircraft fire but the planes would have to land in Soviet controlled territory to refuel. In a series of historic telegrams, the U.S. asked Stalin for permission to land. Stalin refused.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: They not only watched the Nazis massacre the insurgents and kill a lot of the civilian population, but they prevented, for many weeks, us, the Americans and the Brits from delivering help the insurgents.

ENSOR: Stalin had his own plans for Central Europe when the war was over, and an independent Polish government was not a part of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact is that Stalin did not want to see Warsaw liberated by the Poles. He would prefer to see it smashed.

ENSOR: The Soviet refusal launched a crescendo of telegrams between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. August 20th, Churchill and Roosevelt send a joint message to Stalin urging him to let their planes land.

August 22nd, Stalin responds with a denunciation of the handful of criminals in Warsaw.

August 35th, Churchill asks Roosevelt to join him in another impassioned plea to Stalin. To Roosevelt he proposes to send the planes and see what happens.

It is at this moment that Roosevelt makes a fateful decision. August 26th, Roosevelt to Churchill. "I do not consider it advantageous in the long term general war prospect for me to join you in the proposed message to Uncle Joe."

DAVIES: Roosevelt's refusal to act is probably the key political moment in the writing. The western allies had a lot of cards they could have played. They were supplying the Soviet Union with colossal amounts of transport, ammunition, military supplies, and if the president had intervened he may have well had a response.

They didn't even try it.

Whether the effort would have succeeded, whether Stalin would have backed down, we'll never know. What we do know is that Roosevelt wouldn't even support Churchill in some half-hearted efforts to put pressure on Stalin. But Roosevelt was preoccupied with beating the Nazis on the Western Front and he knew that Soviets had so far borne the brunt of the battle against the Germans. He did not want to risk losing them.

KENNEDY: This is very much on Roosevelt's mind that he cannot really afford to antagonize the Soviet Union in any way. The basic strategy of the United States, a war of attrition where most of the attritting would be done by the Soviets. And indeed, the Second World War took over 20 million Soviet lives. Took fewer than half a million American lives.

ENSOR: Later historians would call Stalin's refusal to help the Poles a gauntlet thrown down before the West.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Stalin senses that there really wasn't too much pressure from Roosevelt, from Churchill, I suspect he simply became more brazen.

ENSOR: In late August, news of the Allied liberation of Paris reached Warsaw. To the desperate Poles, it was bittersweet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were very happy on one hand and feeling alone on the other, And we were really beginning to understand that we are left alone and that we are not going to win.


BROWN: We now return to "Warsaw Rising, The Forgotten Soldiers of World War II."

ENSOR: The battle for the old town took 33 days. One building changed hands seven times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The battle went from street to street and house to house and floor to floor, day and night.

ENSOR: At the peak of the battle, German bombers arrived every forty minutes. Casualties were enormous. Many Polish units lost 80 of their soldiers.

KULSKI: They had no way of surrendering. They would murder you. They would not take prisoners.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There wasn't much sleep, there wasn't much food and no, there was not much hope.

ENSOR: Facing obliteration, underground commanders decided to evacuate the old town to get to the city center for a last stand. Their only method of escape, the sewers..

DAVIES: Yes, the sewers was an extraordinary story. There came an everyday occurrence of thousands of people moving on the German positions very often.

ENSOR (on camera): For five days, underground units staged diversionary attacks to distract the enemy. Meanwhile, directly underneath them, thousands of unseen men and women were escaping through the sewers, the last group just 50 yards ahead of the oncoming Germans.

BELZA: What I saw in front of me for six hours was the behind of the man in front of me. We had constantly moved. If somebody would fail to move or pass or die of exhaustion, we would be there bottled (ph) up for the rest of our lives.

DAVIES: The Germans tried to stop it by dropping grenades and gas canisters and quite a lot of people were killed in the sewers.

ENSOR: Several thousand made it through to the city center.

Throughout the slaughter, the Soviets remained on the sidelines. Except for an attempt in mid September to cross the Vistula River by a Polish unit under Soviet command. It was brief, unsuccessful, and never repeated.

What's more, the underground was receiving disturbing reports that outside Warsaw the Soviet secret police, NKVD, were actually arresting their soldiers.

CHODAKIEWICZ: Some of them shot, others shipped to the gulag, then NKVD was staging Nazi like hunts, chasing the underground. In all the provinces, the Soviets were taking over.

BRZEZINSKI: From the Soviet point of view they were not just anti Nazi fighters, which they were. They were people who wanted an independent Poland. That made them objectively, in Soviet eyes, anti- Soviet. So they would destroy them and they did. ENSOR: And those reports were getting back to London and Washington, were they not?

BRZENZINSKI: Yes, and they were disregarded.

ENSOR: Because they were?

BRZENZINSKI: Politically inconvenient.

ENSOR: And the underground was having difficulty getting London to believe their desperate situation.

(on camera): And this is an I.D. document?


ENSOR (voice-over): Sophia Garbanski was a decoder for the underground radio.

You were giving them reports?

SOPHIA: Every day.

ENSOR: You were telling them the fight was still going on?

SOPHIA: Everywhere - everyday, 18 hours a day.

ENSOR: On September 1st, the Fifth anniversary of the German invasion of Poland, with thousands of his people dying in the streets of Warsaw, the exiled Polish commander in chief abandoned diplomacy, writing an open letter in London newspapers. "Warsaw is not waiting for empty words of praise, not for assurance of sympathy. Warsaw is waiting. Warsaw is waiting for weapons and ammunition."


BROWN: We now return to "Warsaw Rising, The Forgotten Soldiers of World War II."

ENSOR: September 18th, 1944 was a beautiful day in Warsaw. The sun was shining. Suddenly, in the sky, a miracle.

THIESSEN: That was the most wonderful picture when the American planes came and they were very very high so you didn't see anything you just heard the mmm-mmmm-nhhh. Heavy bombers. And then all of the sudden, there was like clouds. (unintelligible).

ENSOR: The Soviets had finally relented. U.S flying fortresses had been granted clearance for a mission to aid Warsaw. It was a spark of hope, but a false one. It was the one and only American mission the Soviets would clear.

By now the Polish resistance had been reduced to three shrinking pockets. In one of the them, Mokotow, the insurgents, under a torrent of artillery and bombardment were driven into a block of barricaded streets. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were totally exhausted. We were starving. We had no ammunition.

JAROSZEWICZ: We were going to go to the center of the city which was still in Polish hands and the only way we could do it was the go through the sewers.

ENSOR: Then began a trek that was truly a descent into hell. Civilians and soldiers alike crowded into the sewers.

BELZA: Many of them became psychotic, paranoid, the was screaming, there were dead bodies of people who exhausted and gave up or died or even committee suicide because they could not carry on.

ENSOR: For 20 hours men and women walked in a river of human waste, sometimes up to their chests.

And I that that I sort of imposed upon myself not to think. Don't think. Don't think. Because you will not make it.

JAROSZEWICZ: I think the one thing that saved me from losing my mind is that I had an illusion of a light at the end of the tunnel. And suddenly I realized there was a stream of light that was coming down through the manhole and suddenly I was going to explode (ph). Somebody grabbed me under my arms and put me down, put me on my feet.

ENSOR: Christine Jaroszewicz made it but went blind for three days from the fumes of the sewers. Janusz Belza also survived after watching many others die.

BELZA: After all these hours and feeling that you are arriving to kind of a safe area and helping hands getting you out.

ENSOR (on camera): While the remaining insurgents converged on the city center, to the rest, the Germans were arresting and shooting underground survivors. Shockingly, to the east, the Soviets, supposed allies to the Poles, were doing the same thing. Reports of Soviet behavior were finally getting out.

(voice-over): In London, the British foreign secretary, Sir Anthony Eden, faced outraged members of Parliament.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the right honorable gentleman think there is anything to be gained by covering up the fact that an ally of ours is both deporting and shooting nationalists and socialists in Poland?

ENSOR: By late September the underground could no longer go on. Starvation was setting in. People were drinking from puddles. Every dog and horse in the city had been eaten.

KRUSZEWSKI: There was nothing to eat. I was hunting cats.

ENSOR: After 63 days of fighting, on October 2nd, it was over. Realizing the help from the Soviets was a lost cause, underground leaders surrendered and agreed to evacuate Warsaw. Nearly 3/4 of the underground army had perished. Those who survived remembered the surrender well.

KULSKI: It was the worst moment of my life to be surrounded by Germans and taken back into captivity after two months of freedom.

JAROSZEWICZ: Despair. Despair. But we know that the road ahead of us is not easy so you did not allow yourself to sit down and cry. This was considered unpatriotic and weaklings were doing that but not us, you know?

ENSOR: As the surviving soldiers of the underground army marched out of Warsaw to be deported to POW camps, even the Germans admired their courage.

One German officer wrote home, in truth, they fought better than we did.


BROWN: We now return to "Warsaw Rising, The Forgotten Soldiers of World War II."


ENSOR: By the end, well over 200,000 people died in the Warsaw uprising, most of them civilians. A half million others were driven out as refugees. On Hitler's orders, the city that had defied the Nazis was reduced to rubble. The Soviet generals across the river watched.

DAVIES: Nobody had dreamed that the Red Army would stopped in the suburbs of an Allied capital and watch a capital being destroyed.

ENSOR: But worse was the come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prime Minister Churchill confers with Premier Stalin in Moscow.

ENSOR: Barely 10 days after the underground surrender, Churchill traveled to Moscow to meet with Stalin. He brought along Poland's premier-in-exile, supposedly to negotiate Poland's post-war boundaries with the Soviets.

DAVIES: When the Polish premier began to negotiate, as he thought he'd been encouraged to do, Molotov interrupted him and said, what's all this, Mr. Churchill here settled all these matters at Teheran a year ago. Now what are you wasting your time trying to negotiate a stupid compromise. And the Polish prime minister was absolutely thunderstruck and he turned to Churchill, and he said, is that true? And Churchill, according to the minute, hung his head and after a brief silence said, "Yes, it's true."

And that was the time when the Poles realized that they really had been sold down the river. ENSOR: Days before in Washington, President Roosevelt, getting ready for an election just weeks away, posed in front of a map of prewar Poland with Polish American leaders. The implication? He would be the protector of Poland's prewar boundaries. Unbeknownst to them, he had already agreed to cede a third of Poland's territory to the Soviets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Victory in Europe brought wild rejoicing throughout the Allied world as the Big Three announced the downfall of Nazi Germany.

ENSOR: The Allied victory in Europe came in May, 1945, in the Pacific a few months later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a great day as the thankful people let loose.

ENSOR: Poland remained occupied by Soviet troops and the underground soldiers who made it to the west were in for a shock.

In the victory parades there was no place for them. The Allies had recognized the Warsaw pro-communist regime installed by Stalin as the official government of Poland.

KULSKI: We fought for five years in the underground but the only ones allowed in the victory parade in London were the Moscow pawns.

KRUSZEWSKI: I remember I was crying in 1946 in London. Units of Fiji were parading and Poles were not allowed.

JAROSZEWICZ: We knew that the whole effort, thousands and thousands of people that died in the name of freedom in vain. You cannot help but feel bitter.

Our story was forgotten.

ENSOR: Forgotten for many reasons. For the western allies, the story of the underground fighting for Warsaw alone was an embarrassment. For the Soviets it was inconvenient. In Warsaw there would be no official monument erected to the underground fighters until 1989.

The end of World War II marked the beginning of 44 long years of Soviet repression in Poland.

(on camera): For many of those survived it, the story of the Warsaw Uprising is one of betrayal. Great powers abandoning a staunch ally. Historians, however, disagree about its legacy.

(voice-over): Some say Roosevelt and Churchill went as far as they could pressing Stalin, given that they counted on his Red Army to do the lion's share of the fighting and the dying.

KENNEDY: If you ask who won the war, if you mean who paid the greatest price in blood and treasure to defeat Nazi Germany, the answer is the Soviet Union. ENSOR: Others say Roosevelt in particular was short-sited, that the loss of Warsaw paved the way for the tragedy of the gold war.

BREZINSKI: And I don't think Roosevelt went beyond the notion, let's defeat the Nazis and that's it.

To defeat Nazis while, with considerable difference, handing over half of Europe to Stalin was a major compromise of principle, which proved historically costly.

ENSOR: There are monuments now in Warsaw, as the last generation of those who fought is dying out. To some the uprising was about courage in the face of terrible odds. To others it was naive and folly. But to those who were there it was simply inevitable.

When you look back on it now with the advantage of history, was it worth it?

KORBONSKI: Always. It was in accordance with Polish history. It was in accordance with Polish attitudes. It was according to the Polish soul and heart.

ENSOR (on camera): The Warsaw Uprising, though unsuccessful, set a powerful example for future generations.

Back in the 1980s I watched young Poles paint this symbol of the uprising as graffiti during the rise of the Solidarity trade union. Their peaceful protests led to the end of communism and a free Polish nation, the one their grandparents fought for back in 1944.

For CNN PRESENTS, I'm David Ensor in Warsaw. Good night.



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