This should be a V-mail, dear, because I’ve got a good many things to do – but I know you don’t like V-mails and so I’m writing this. If I do use the short form, sweetheart, you can always be sure it was the only way out for that particular day.
The weather finally cleared this morning and the sun sure is welcome. It has been about two weeks since we last had a decent day. I had to travel about a bit this morning and part of this afternoon to investigate a couple of injured soldiers. On the way back I managed to get a warm shower – although the temperature was not conducive towards enjoying it – i.e. the temperature outside. These quartermaster showers – if I haven’t told you before, dear, are rigged up in large tents – but they are open at either end and at the sides.
Yesterday – early evening we got some mail again and I got a letter from you – dated 13 September and one from Eleanor of the same date. Eleanor’s letter was in response to one of mine asking about my checking account balance. Every now and then I wonder what it is because it keeps changing because of insurance coming due, monthly payments for shares etc. I think my present balance is too high and I’ll write Eleanor to deposit some of it in my saving account where I get some interest. One thing I’m glad about, darling, and that is that I had the foresight some time ago to get started on some life insurance even though I didn’t have a wife or family. I will have both one of these days, darling, and insurance is a good thing to have. Before I even met you, dear, I converted my army insurance – which is term insurance and expires on discharge – to regular insurance – 20 payment life, for a higher fee of course – but worth it, I believe.
I was interested in your remarks about “Paris Underground”. I haven’t read it – of course – but I sure have had first hand information about it. Life was certainly hazardous for the workers, from what I gathered, but in my opinion, the Belgian underground, less heard of, was far more bold and efficient. By the way, as I wrote you some time ago, the only book I’ve read recently was “Roughly Speaking”, by Louise Randall Peirson.
If you haven’t gotten to it as yet I certainly recommend that you do. It’s one of the funniest yet human books I’ve read in a long long while and I’m sure you’d enjoy it, dear. I’ve got two more books from Special Service – one is “My Son, My Son” – which is a couple of years old but which I failed to read. I believe it was good. The other is the famous little book “The Education of Hyman Kaplan”. I’ll get started on one of them tonite if we don’t play bridge. We had another swell game last nite; the Colonel and I were partners and we trimmed our opponents. I played better than usual – but managed to foul up a small slam hand which I bid correctly but played poorly. We went down two.
I got a chuckle out of your reference to Shirley Bernstein. Red hair now! If you want to know what I think, I’ll tell you. She’s wacky! At best she is only shining in the glow of her brother’s success – and that is flimsy glory.
And what do you mean by feeling wonderful about “being independent for awhile” anyway? Darling you’ll be independent as my wife, too – don’t forget that – even if I have to go house to house asking if anyone’s sick!
All for now Sweetheart, I really must go – but not before giving you one big long hard ethereal kiss and all the love that it imparts. My best to the folks – and to you –
In the Summer of 1944 the tides of war were turning against the Germans. The Americans and British had landed in Normandy and the Red Army had bulldozed through the Eastern front, and was marching on Warsaw. Ever since the beginning of the Nazi occupation the Poles had been preparing for a full-scale underground offensive, and on 1st August 1944 the order was finally given by General 'Bor' Komorowski for the forces of the Armia Krajowa (AK) to rise up and claim Warsaw back from the Nazis, who had held the city for over four years.
A force of 50,000 soldiers, some trained and equipped - others volunteers (including women and children), began an assault on key strategical positions throughout the city. The Home Army won several bloody skirmishes in those first few days, and the Polish national flag flew over the Old Town. The mood was triumphant and, in those areas secured by the insurgents, the Varsovians held concerts, poetry readings and other entertainments as they celebrated their newly earned freedom. It was to be the city's last taste of freedom for forty-four years.
The Polish attack planned to displace the German troops stationed in the city, was planned only to hold the town for several days until the Russians arrived with support. Far from coming to the rescue of the doomed Poles, Stalin halted the Russian advance, claiming that the resistance was illegal and the AK were 'fascists'. The mighty Red Army did little more than watch the struggle from across the Vistula as the Germans regained control of the city. What's more, kindly 'Uncle Joe' deliberately obstructed the rest of the Allies from dispatching aid to the insurgents - refusing even to allow the Americans and the Brits to use precious airbases that were now under Soviet control. Upon hearing the news of the Uprising, Himmler was so furious that he decreed that the whole city and its population should be destroyed as an example to the rest of Europe.
Simply put, Stalin hated the Poles, considering them his arch-enemy. He was still harboring resentment over the Soviet-Polish War in which the Bolsheviks were humiliated and the Poles were able to claim all disputed territories from the Russians, including Lwow (now Lviv, in the Ukraine) and Wilno (now Vilnius, in Lithuania) - the same struggle in which he was almost court-martialled for his inadequacies a military commander. Now that the Germans were doing such a good job of destroying his bitter enemies, Stalin certainly didn't want to stop them. Moreover, with the last of Poland's home-based soldiers and leaders destroyed, he would be free to work his will over the ruined country.
Thus, what was supposed to be a 2-3 day coup turned into a brutal and bloody 2 month struggle for the Home Army. The heavily reinforced Germans struck back at the insurgents with the full force of their firepower: tanks, rocket launchers, and air raids were just some of the hazards the ill-equipped Poles had to contend with. The city became a giant war zone and civilians were not spared. Just a few days after the Uprising began the Germans sent a chilling message to the insurgents, executing at least 30,000 citizens in what is now referred to as the Wola massacre. They rounded up people from the houses in the districts which they still controlled and shot them - women, children and the elderly were not spared. This inhumane genocide was intended to crush the Poles spirit for the fight. It didn't work. However, another diabolical tactic - using female civilians as human shields for German tanks - proved effective, stacking the odds further against the beleaguered Home Army.
Unable to compete with the reinforced German troops, the insurgents were forced into hiding, often into the sewers, from where they continued to orchestrate and co-ordinate attacks. The Germans were in control of water and power supplies whereas the Home Army were desperately lacking supplies of any kind - including food and ammunition. Every animal in the city had been eaten, including the vermin. As the battle for the city raged on, with Varsovians dying at a rate of 2,000 a day, it became only a matter of time before the rebels were forced to capitulate. They finally did so on October 2nd, 63 days after the Uprising began.
|Out of the sewers...|
In the two month struggle 18,000 Home Army soldiers died and 12,000 were wounded with the survivors either sent to German POW camps or managing to go into hiding. A staggering 250,000 civilians were killed during the Uprising. Meanwhile the Germans suffered 10,000 fatalities with nearly as many again wounded. After his triumph, Hitler ordered special units to be brought in to systematically detonate any building of the remotest importance to Polish culture. The city was effectively destroyed block by block, and when the Russians finally crossed the Vistula to liberate the city, they inherited only ruins.
With Warsaw out of the way, the Soviets faced little organized opposition in establishing a communist government in Poland. Later, in the years directly following the War, as the Poles tried to rebuild their shattered country under Communist leadership, it was forbidden to talk of the brave soldiers of the Uprising. The movement was denounced as illegal and every effort was made to slander those involved. Keen to behead Polish society of its heroes and intelligentsia Stalin sent many of the surviving members of the AK to Siberia for lengthy spells of hard labor, whilst he executed those whom he perceived as particularly dangerous.
Here is a 46 minute video on the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. It is worth the time it takes to watch.