Berlin (dpa) - It was the largest resistance movement in the territories occupied by Germany in the Second World War: On 1 August 1944, the Armia Krajowa - the Polish Home Army - had risen against the occupying power of the Nazis.
After 63 days, the Warsaw Uprising was bloodily defeated. About 200,000 Polish soldiers and civilians were killed during the fighting, and about half a million were subsequently deported. In revenge, the Polish capital was almost completely razed by the Nazis.
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas traveled to Warsaw to attend the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the uprising. He is the highest ranking German guest in memory of this historical event since Gerhard Schröder, who was the first Chancellor in Warsaw in 2004 for the 60th anniversary.
Maas called the invitation to Warsaw a "special sign of trust". With the almost complete destruction of Warsaw and the death of around 200,000 Poles, Germany has brought terrible suffering to its neighbors in the suppression of the uprising, said the SPD politician before his departure. "The resilience and courage with which Poland opposed the German occupation in 1944 shows an overwhelming desire for freedom and self-determination."
Poland, and Warsaw in particular, had rebuilt after the war on their own. "For that I feel great respect and deep humility," Maas said. Today, Poland and Germany associate a deep friendship and partnership.
Maas is attending a memorial service on Wednesday at the Warsaw Uprising Memorial. On Thursday, together with his Polish colleague Jacek Czaputowicz, he will lay a wreath at the monument to the victims of the massacre in Wola during the uprising. It is considered one of the largest war crimes of the Second World War with about 50,000 dead. In the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising, Maas will give a speech.
The Warsaw Uprising in Germany is often confused with the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto in April and May 1943, which was also bloodily suppressed by the Nazis. On December 7, 1970, the then Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt knelt down in a historic reconciliation gesture in front of the monument to the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto.
The uprising of 40,000 fighters of the Polish Home Army in 1944 began when the Soviet troops had already arrived in the eastern districts on the Vistula. They did not intervene and even prevented other ally warplanes carrying relief supplies from landing at Soviet airports.
The uprising was rewarded by the German occupiers with unprecedented brutality. When German troops withdrew, 90 percent of the city's buildings, once considered the "Paris of the East", were destroyed. Of the 1.2 million people who lived in the Polish capital before the war, only a few hundred remained entrenched in the ruins. Estimates assume about 1000. In total, between five and six million Poles were killed by war, terror and systematic genocide during the Second World War - 15 to 17 percent of the total population.