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Poland is commemorating the 70th anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Uprising against Nazi German occupation. Almost 200,000 people were killed over 63 days before residents were forced to surrender.
Polish citizens honored the fighters and victims of the rebellion on Friday by laying wreaths, sounding horns and singing insurgent tunes. Veteran resistance members gathered along with local dignitaries in Warsaw's Mokotow district to remember those killed.
It was on August 1, 1944, that thousands of Warsaw residents and Polish underground fighters rose up against German forces, believing that the approaching Red Army would soon liberate the city. But little Soviet help arrived, and residents held on for 63 days before being forced to surrender, with almost 200,000 people killed in that time.
The Nazis expelled the survivors, with many sent to labor or concentration camps, and set the city ablaze.
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski on Friday laid flowers at the graves of the revolt's commanders. On the eve of the anniversary he said the Warsaw Uprising had been a "battle for the unity of the nation."
"Freedom is not something you buy in a shop...sometimes you have to pay for freedom, and not just enjoy it," Komorowski said.
Commemorative events are taking place throughout Warsaw, with Polish red-and-white flags decorating the city.
"It's difficult today to imagine the past hell," said Jan Ciechanowsk of the state Office of War Veterans and Victims of Oppression.
"It's difficult to imagine the destruction, the victims among the (Polish) soldiers but, above all, among civilians," Ciechanowsk said.
jr/kms (dpa, AP)