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Warsaw Boy

    Warsaw Boy

No country lost a larger proportion of its people under Nazi rule than Poland. It started the war with 35 million. When it ended six million had been killed: almost half because they were Jews and many because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But a sizeable minority died because they were part of resistance movement that refused be cowed and fought back with a persistence unknown in some other occupied countries.

On 1st August 1944 Andrew Borowiec, a 15-year-old boy who hadn't started shaving, lobbed a grenade through the shattered window of a Warsaw apartment block onto some Germans running below and felt he had just come of age. 'At last I was a soldier. I'd just tried to kill some of our enemies.'

The Warsaw Uprising lasted for 63 days. Heinrich Himmler, who tried to crush it with some of his most notorious SS units, described it as 'the worst street fighting since Stalingrad'. Yet for the most part the insurgents were poorly equipped local men and teenagers. Some of them were even younger than Andrew who was promoted to lance-corporal for the courage and leadership he displayed above and below ground as the Poles took to the city's sewers and crawled beneath the German lines. Wounded in a close quarters fire fight the day after his 16th birthday, and unable to face another sewer escape, he was captured as he lay in a makeshift cellar hospital wondering whether he was about to be shot or saved. And from there on he learned a lesson: there were good Germans as well as bad.

From one of the most harrowing episodes of the Second World War, this is an extraordinary tale of survival and defiance recounted by one of the few remaining veterans of what was surely Poland's bravest summer. Andrew Borowiec dedicates his book to all the Warsaw Boys: 'Especially the ones who never grew up.'


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