Stalin Takes Warsaw
January 18, 1945
“After two sieges, street fighting last summer, and 5 years and 4 months of Nazi occupation, the once-great capital can hardly still be called a city.”
– Quoted from an AP article in The Times-Picayune on January 18, 1945, with no mention of the Jewish revolt
With their parents Ruth and Mark Skorecki, our survivors Anne Levy and Lila Millen survived 5 years in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. The last two years were spent living “illegally” with the help of Poles in the Praga neighborhood, which was across the Vistula River from the city. The Skoreckis were liberated by the Red Army in July 1944. Anne and Lila were 9 and 7 respectively.
The Russians remained east of the Vistula for the next five months, watching as the Germans crushed the uprising by the Polish ‘Home Army’ in Warsaw. Stalin wasn’t unsettled by the prospect of Hitler wiping out “the flower” of the Polish nation. One tyrant did the bloody work for the other. The Red Army finally crossed the Vistula and entered the ruins of the Polish capital on January 18, 1945.
The Times-Picayune reported the capture of Warsaw, the “anguished Polish capital,” in an article on the front page of its January 18th issue. As retribution for the Polish uprising that began on August 1, 1944, and lasted 63 days, the Germans dynamited (nearly) every building in the city. The population was expelled and the Home Army soldiers were marched off to POW camps. After five years and four months of untold suffering under the Germans, the Polish nation now passed into Russian hands. That occupation lasted 45 years.
The Picayune’s article didn’t say anything about the 500,000 Jews who lived in Warsaw before the war. We know that the ghetto was reduced to rubble after the Jewish revolt in April-May 1943.
After Warsaw was liberated, the Skorecki family returned to Lodz, where our survivors Anne Levy and Lila Millen had enjoyed a brief childhood before the war. Anne tells us that her mother tried to register the family on a list of survivors: