world war 2: warsaw uprising 1944

City sewers were used by the insurgents for transportation and communication between

separated districts throughout the Uprising.

warsaw sewers cross-sectionFrom the early weeks of August of 1944, insurgents used Warsaw's sewers as a means of transportation between separated districts. The clearance of the passages varied; the smallest that could be negotiated were 3 feet high and 2 feet wide. Where the passages were tall enough for adults to walk upright, the sludge level was significantly higher, aggravated by a strong current. The semicircular floor was very slippery and covered with debris, including corpses. Partisans controlled sewer traffic by issuing permits and guarding the manholes. Since all traffic was 'one way' and passing was impossible, schedules were created to organize the flow.

In the sewersFrom the end of August, sewers were used as the final evacuation route for insurgents and civilians and for regular courier traffic. The most successful, the Old Town quarter evacuation, enabled 5,300 people (including 150 German POWs) to escape into City Center and Zoliborz districts.

Not until late August did the Germans realize that the insurgents were traveling through the sewers. The Germans then tried to disrupt the traffic through the sewers by throwing in hand grenades, pouring in acrid gas, laying mines, building obstacles, and dumping and igniting gasoline. At the end of September, 150 evacuating Mokotow defenders accidentally exited into a German-held area and were executed on the spot.

1. Example of the sewers cross-section. Tymoteusz Duchowski & Juliusz Powalkiewicz, Kanaly.
Sewers passage from Old Town to City Center. Wieslaw Chrzanowski, Bataliony AK.

Read more about Warsaw sewers: [ article  ], [ witnesses  ]