During the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, the Soviet Red Army was supposed to come to Poland's aid against the invading Germans. But the Soviets didn't follow through; Stalin called off the aid. Warsaw as a result burned but the British press weren't too sympathetic toward the Polish. We're talking about word having spread throughout Europe about the mass extermination of Jews, and how the Polish Jews in the Warsaw ghetto rose up to resist the Germans with homemade and smuggled weapons, until the Soviets got there as agreed upon. But they didn't. What makes it worse for the English was the general lack of shock and awe by the British press against Stalin.
The British press generally held onto the ideal that it was the Poles' fault: First, that the uprising was not spontaneous, but planned by a sort of Polish government in London; second, that the Uprising wasn't coordinated with the Soviet Army or the Allies so they were rightfully on their own; third, the Poles weren't in support of the British gov't anyway (an Allied force); and fourth, that the British allowed Warsaw to fall to improve post-war bargaining with the Soviets. These are quite the conspiracy theories, and although some may contain fragments of the truth, it's hard to get around how Churchill and Roosevelt called Stalin and pleaded for help, but were openly denied. I don't know what kind of cheap rhetoric and propaganda can dull that sharp reality.
Although Stalin's behavior may have been predictable and repulsive, the British press' response was repulsive and reprehensible. The Warsaw Uprising is also known as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, because that's who stood up to the Nazis. A minority had firepower or warfare skills, and the Nazis had tank units and a penchant for domination. But the Poles knew this. They were simply buying time for the bulk of the Red Army to arrive. When they didn't, not only did the Warsaw rebels fall, but also did the Jews in hiding. The numbers are sickening: nearly two-hundred thousand Poles--resistors and civilians--died from mass executions.
There are two main branches to this madness. Stalin, and the British media. Stalin had his own agenda which has not been proven, though is suspected to involve having power over a puppet government in Poland, which, if the Red Army aided and succeeded in protecting Warsaw, would never happen. He apparently wanted the capitol for himself, and used the red herring that he wasn't consulted about the uprising like Churchill and Roosevelt were, as a peer. Orwell recounts how the British media wasn't sympathetic, and had a tone that the Poles almost deserved to have Warsaw taken. That the Poles "prematurely ordered its followers to rise when the Red Army was at the gates." (731) Right; poor, militarily untrained people living in ghettos jumped the gun in military defense of their own city. Even if the metaphor is accurate and they mistimed (the imaginary) partnership with the Red Army, it's their city to defend because it's their lives, families, and traditions that are at risk. The metaphor that the Red Army "dragged its feet" was never used, which points to an anti-Pole prejudice.
The longest day of many English's lives in WWII was when the Nazis tried--but failed--to cross the English channel and conquer their homeland. Very scary, no doubt, for those people in London to hear that their trained military fought on the banks of their own shores for their survival. Yet the English had an Army, a Navy, and a solid battle plan to protect their homeland. In Warsaw, there was no professional Army or Navy or strategic battle plan left to defend their their capitol. The Poles were in the streets fighting the Nazis with dirty weapons that many of them had never before used. Yet the British press--according to Orwell, who was alive at the time--were generally unsympathetic to the severity of the Poles situation.
Let me be clear: The Warsaw Uprising was intended to buy time until the well-armed and trained Red Army arrived. This is common knowledge regarding this matter. Granted, the Red Army may have been exhausted and low on supplies and worn down from fighting pockets of Germans, however, they were moving toward Warsaw until Stalin called it off. The time the Poles bought actually became their own valiant, though futile, resistance of an international evil. But the British media couldn't bother to have the empathy to appreciate the Poles' courage in fighting for their own city, people, and natural rights.
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