Today in History, Jan. 17: Soviets liberate Warsaw from Germans

ORLANDO. Fla. -- On this date in history, Soviet troops liberate the Polish capital from German occupation: Warsaw was a battleground since the opening day of fighting in the European theater. Germany declared war by launching an air raid on September 1, 1939, and followed up with a siege that killed tens of thousands of Polish civilians and wreaked havoc on historic monuments. Deprived of electricity, water, and food, and with 25 percent of the city’s homes destroyed, Warsaw surrendered to the Germans on Sept. 27.

The USSR had snatched a part of eastern Poland as part of the “fine print” of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (also known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact) signed in August 1939, but soon after found itself at war with its “ally.” In August 1944, the Soviets began pushing the Germans west, advancing on Warsaw. The Polish Home Army, fearful that the Soviets would march on Warsaw to battle the Germans and never leave the capital, led an uprising against the German occupiers. The Polish residents hoped that if they could defeat the Germans themselves, the Allies would help install the Polish anticommunist government-in-exile after the war. Unfortunately, the Soviets, rather than aiding the Polish uprising, which they encouraged in the name of beating back their common enemy, stood idly by and watched as the Germans slaughtered the Poles and sent survivors to concentration camps. This destroyed any native Polish resistance to a pro-Soviet communist government, an essential part of Stalin’s postwar territorial designs. Source: History.com.

Also on this date in history: Benjamin Franklin is born; Eisenhower gives his farewell farewell address; Japan suffers an earthquake; Al Capone is born; Muhammad Ali is born.

Other events on this date: 

1773 - Captain James Cook becomes 1st to cross Antarctic Circle (66° 33' S)

1873 - A group of Modoc warriors defeats the United States Army in the First Battle of the Stronghold, a part of the Modoc War.

1912 - Captain Robert Scott's expedition arrives at the South Pole, one month after Roald Amundsen

1941 - Kuomintang forces under orders from Chiang Kai-shek open fire at communist forces, resuming the Chinese Civil War after World War II.

1946 - United Nations Security Council holds its 1st meeting.

Birthdays on this date:

1931 James Earl Jones, Miss, actor (Darth Vader, Exorcist II, Soul Man);

1956 Paul Young, rock vocalist/keyboardist (Every Time You Go Away);

1970 Jeremy Roenick, NHL center (Team USA, Blackhawks, Coyotes), born in Boston, Massachusetts;

1971 Kid Rock, American singer;

1983 Rick Kelly, Australian racing driver.

-- YouTube download / AP video / Henry Frederick, Headline Surfer
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