On the weekend of the 60th anniversary of D-Day, "CNN Presents" lookED at a little-known chapter of World War II that attempted to capitalize on the success of the Normandy landings. It ended up as a footnote in the war, despite the deaths of more than 200,000 people.
"Warsaw Rising: The Forgotten Soldiers of World War II" reveals the story of the Warsaw underground resistance movement and its two-month battle against the Nazis. Hosted by David Ensor, CNN's U.S. national security correspondent, "Warsaw Rising" includes personal stories from survivors, historic images and rare footage filmed by the Polish underground army.
In the summer of 1944, an underground army of ordinary citizens in Warsaw rose up against their Nazi occupiers with the belief that the D-Day invasion in the west and Soviet advances in the east would give them a chance for freedom. Instead, the underground fighters -- many of them teenagers, women and children -- fought for 63 days using homemade weapons, desperate for their Allies to come to their aid.
"Warsaw Rising" relates stories of heroism and survival against all odds -- including that of a young tank commander who captured a German tank and with it liberated a concentration camp, saving the lives of several hundred Jews. Also, an underground soldier and female courier recount the tale of their 20-hour trek through the sewers below the streets of Warsaw, walking through a river of human waste to escape the Nazis overhead. "The passion with which we participated in all those things was probably difficult to understand for people who never lost freedom," said Christine Jaroscewicz, a 19-year-old fighter at the time. "We had this terrific faith we were going to be free."
"Warsaw Rising" also investigates the political realities of relations between the United States, Soviet Union, Britain and Poland as the war came to a close. When Allied help was most needed, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin refused to let his troops cross the Vistula River to aid the Poles in liberating Warsaw. At the same time, Poland's other allies, the United States and Britain, had struck a deal with Stalin, ceding him control over Central Europe in return for his help fighting the Germans.
In the end, the Nazis slaughtered the Polish resistance and demolished Warsaw. More than 200,000 people died, half a million were driven out of the city and more than three quarters of the underground army perished.