The Associated Press
WARSAW, Poland–Maria Mostowska was a young pediatric nurse when the Warsaw Rising against the Nazi Germans occupying Poland broke out on Aug. 1, 1944.
Seventy-five years on, she still vividly remembers how German troops put her against a wall and aimed a machine-gun.
She recalled how quickly the hospital filled with wounded resistance fighters and civilians, and how the Nazis destroyed the capital city.
“We worked round the clock dressing wounds, we did not leave the surgery,” Mostowska told The Associated Press.
Some 50,000 fighters of Poland’s clandestine Home Army most of them poorly armed fought the Germans for 63 days before surrendering, in the biggest single act of resistance in occupied Europe during World War II.
Some 18,000 insurgents were killed and another 25,000 were injured.
Today, Warsaw honoured the failed uprising, which had been a taboo topic during four decades of communist rule imposed on Poland after the war.
Wreath laying ceremonies by state leaders took place and sirens were set to wail at 5 p.m. (1500 GMT), the hour when the uprising began.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also joined the events, in a symbolic acknowledgement of his nation’s crimes against the Polish people decades earlier.
Maas asked Poles for forgiveness, stressing German responsibility for the atrocities.
“I am ashamed of what was done to your country by Germans and in the name of Germany. And I am ashamed that this guilt was kept silent for far too long after the war,” Maas said in remarks at the Warsaw Rising museum in the capital.
Maas also expressed his support for building a memorial in the German capital to the Polish victims of the Third Reich–an initiative backed by German lawmakers from most parties.
There are already four memorials in Berlin, inaugurated over the past 15 years, to various groups of Nazi victims: the Jews, gay victims, Sinti and Roma, and people with physical and mental disabilities.
The Polish resistance fighters were hoping for quick support from the Allies to free Warsaw from the Germans and take control before the Soviet Red Army arrived.
But no substantial help came.