By the late 1930s, it was clear to many people around the world that the Third Reich and the Empire of the Rising Sun would not rest until they'd satisfied their imperialistic desires for more territory and power. So it wasn't surprising when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, and Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 wasn't really all that shocking. As the Axis swarmed in and occupied lands in both the Pacific and European theaters, many locals were left behind. Some submitted to the invading forces -- others took up arms against them. What do you really know about the famous uprisings of the Second World War?
In some places, revolt was a choice, a courageous call to arms amid occupying soldiers with big guns and superior numbers. In others, other than accepting death by starvation or gas chamber, rebellion was the only real option. In Poland, men, women and children made their own weapons, planned for many months, and then rose up against the brutality of the Germans. The Warsaw Uprising was the most famous revolt of WWII ... and its outcome became yet another tragic story for the ages.
Find any weapon you can, be it an ancient pistol or a rock, and wait for the secret signal. Then, join the fray of this treacherous WWII uprising quiz!
In mid-1944, the innocents of Warsaw had had enough. They initiated a major, coordinated rebellion. The Warsaw Uprising became one of the best-known resistance efforts of the war.
The Warsaw Uprising was a cleverly calculated rebellion, one meant to catch the Germans at a weak moment. For 63 days, the uprising caused immense bloodshed throughout some of the city’s most vulnerable areas.
Treblinka. One word says it all for those who know their WWII history. It was a German death camp ... but prisoners created an historic moment.
In Treblinka, many prisoners got news of Allied gains ... and worried. Their fear? The Germans would murder every prisoner and then run for their own lives.
The fighters in the occupied city figured that the Allies would jump to help them. They were wrong. The uprising’s warriors had very little help from outsiders.
The prisoners in Treblinka forced their way into a weapons room. They grabbed guns and started their uprising in earnest knowing that the guards would be on them in seconds.
About three hundred prisoners revolted at Treblinka. Perhaps 100 survived. Many perished before they reached the prison fence.
The Poles never gave up. In 1943, residents of the Białystok Ghetto rose up. It was sparked by a German declaration that many locals would be forcibly deported from the area.
They would’ve preferred a lot more. At the Białystok Ghetto uprising, hundreds of people revolted ... with just 25 rifles and a scattering of homemade firearms.
The prisoners at Treblinka took much hope from the Warsaw Uprising. Their resolve stiffened ... and they followed through on their daring plan.
The people in Warsaw languished under German occupation. They wanted the Nazis gone ... no matter the price in blood.
The Białystok Ghetto uprising was much smaller than the Warsaw Uprising. It was no less dedicated. The leaders of the revolted killed themselves rather than be caught.
With their cache of arms and intelligent coordination, the warriors of the Warsaw Uprising seized much of the central area of the city. Holding on to their gains was another matter.
The French Resistance became an iconic force against the Nazis in WWII. Cleverly, they undermined German efforts every second of every day.
In 1941, fearing widespread revolt by the Resistance, the Nazis took thousands of French civilians hostage. It was an outrageous escalation.
The Milice was a Nazi-operated French militia. It found Frenchmen hunting their own kind ... and after the war, they too were hunted .. and executed by their countrymen.
Winston Churchill felt the agony of the Polish fighters. Unable to convince the Allies to contribute, he sent British planes to drop supplies to the rebels in what became known as the Warsaw Airlift.
Within 30 minutes, the Reich knew all about the Polish uprising in Warsaw. They were quite pleased about this development -- it gave Nazi leaders cause to destroy the city.
If the Soviets arrived at Warsaw, a battle between the Red Army and the Nazis would destroy the city. The Poles resolved to revolt before that happened.
This was WWII, after all, where casualty numbers were always high. Around 200,000 Polish civilians were killed in the uprising, many of them executed as a matter of revenge.
Poland was one of the first to fall to the Reich. But from start to finish the Armia Krawoja, or Home Army, made them pay in blood.
Polish fighters hoped that the Allies would join the fray once they made progress in Warsaw. But Soviet generals received their cries for help ... and did nothing.
Not all Germans liked the Nazis. "Werwolf" was an anti-Nazi group in Germany ... but it didn’t manage to accomplish much during the war.
Alexander Pechersky was a Soviet soldier — and a Jew — imprisoned at the Sobibor concentration camp. But he was no ordinary POW.
After exhaustingly detailed planning, the Sobibor uprising began with the stabbings of Nazi officers. Then, Pechersky screamed, "Hurrah, the revolt has begun!"
The rebels of the uprising captured most of the city. But they failed to clear paths to one another ... and were thus isolated. This turned out to be a problem.
Kazimierz Piechowski and three other prisoners of Auschwitz pulled off an incredible feat. They dressed in German SS uniforms, stole an SS car ... and drove unscathed from the notorious death camp.
No, sometimes there is no justice. A few dozen Sobibor death camp rebels survived the war. Ironically, the prisoners who opted not to take part were all executed. On German leadership orders, the camp was immediately closed, destroyed ... and turned into a tree farm.
After about two months of bitter fighting, the Germans put down the Warsaw Uprising. And then? They completely destroyed the city.
Himmler witnessed the carnage of Warsaw and was taken aback. He compared the relentless fighting to the infamous Battle of Stalingrad.
Treblinka was a literal slaughterhouse. Nine out of 10 prisoners were killed within two hours of their arrival.
As Germany regained control during the Warsaw Uprising, the Third Reich’s leaders ordered mass executions in retribution. In the infamous Wola massacre, German troops may have murdered as many as 100,000 people ... and then burned the bodies.
The ghettos of Warsaw were utterly horrifying before the uprising. Starvation and diseases killed more than 100,000 people in the years before the revolt.
One reason the rebels pulled the trigger on the revolt as the Red Army approached Warsaw -- they feared that the Soviets would simply replace the Germans as occupiers. It was an unfathomable thought.
No one is precisely sure why the Red Army stopped its advance in Warsaw. But many historians speculate that Soviet leaders wanted the Germans and Polish rebels to destroy each other, making it easier for the communists to take over the area.