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On 1st August every year there is a special event. This time is called Godzina ,,W”. What is this exactly? Godzina ,,W” was the codename for the date and time that began Operation Tempest in German-occupied Warsaw, and so the Warsaw Uprising. The time exactly was 5pm, 1st August 1944. This is why, on 1st August at 5pm one can expect to hear sirens, with many people gathered on the streets and even people and cars coming to a complete standstill.
Of course, the history of World War II in Poland is rich, it’s deep and it’s very sad. It’s impossible to explain anything in detail in a short article, but we’ll begin with a short explanation about what happened before the Warsaw Uprising.
On 31st July in 1944, during a briefing of Home Army’s general staff at 67 Pańska Street, General Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski, commander of the Home Army, received a report from General Antoni Chruściel, commander of the Warsaw district, regarding a supposed successful Soviet breach of German defenses just outside of the Praga suburb in Warsaw. The information was actually false, but on its basis,at 5:45 PM, Bór-Komorowski gave Chruściel an oral order to begin Operation Tempest on 1 August 1944 at 5:00 PM.
Why was 1st August at 5pm the chosen date and time? Well, it was initially decided that the Uprising would take place in the early morning, but in July 1944, Chruściel decided that it would infact take place at 5pm. This is due to the fact that at that time, there was a lot of street traffic, meaning that the soldiers could could much more easily blend into the crowd and get to the meeting points safely, whilst in the meantime also transporting guns and ammunition. At 5pm there was also enough sunlight left for the operation to go as smoothly and accurately as possible. The exact day, however, was to be decided the day before the fighting were to begin.
The order was issued by Chruściel at around 7:00 PM – just an hour before military curfew. As a result, it was delivered between 7:00 and 9:00 AM the next morning to district commanders. Group commanders received it between 9:00 and 13:30 PM. In the afternoon the total number of messengers delivering the order reached 6000. There were posters on the streets with the simple title ‘Polacy!’, as an appeal to the Polish people, to tell them that the long-awaited fight-back was to shortly commence.
Not all units managed to keep the mobilisation a secret until 5:00 PM… First shots were fired at a German patrol at 13:35 PM on Krasiński Street in Żoliborz. The Germans quickly brought a tank and a few armored vehicles with machine guns. While sweeping the area, at 5:30 PM on Suzina Street, the German patrol surprised a Polish unit who were taking weapons from a stash. Fights started before 5pm in reportedly at least 8 different instances across Warsaw.
Ultimately, the Germans were not able to stop the Uprising from happening. This is the general history from this mind-blowing, brave fight and difficult time for not only Warsaw, but the whole of Poland.
Now, there are many things to commemorate 1st August 1944. For example, a memory plaque was placed on the building at 68 Filtrowa Street, where Antoni Chruściel signed the original order that lead to this incredible event. There’s also a street in Warsaw called Al. Godziny ,,W”.
One of the most noticable signs of honour and respect we have for this in Warsaw is that every year on 1st August at 5pm, almost everything comes to a standstill, and with sirens blazing, Polish flags flying in the breeze, we stop to think about and remember this miraculous event in history.