• July 7, 2016
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72th Anniversary of Operation “Gate of Dawn”. Commemoration in Vilnius

The white and red flag waved above Vilnius just for a few hours. After this time, it was removed by the Soviet soldiers, who hung out the red banner. The 7th July marks the 72th anniversary of Operation “Gate of Dawn”.

Today, on the 72th anniversary of Operation “Gate of Dawn”, the ceremony of laying flowers on the graves of soldiers of the Home Army (AK) took place in Rasos. It was organised on the initiative of the Home Army Veterans Club and Philanthropic Polish Combatants Association, with the participation of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Vilnius and Association of Poles in Lithuania.

Flowers were also laid in Pavilnys, on the graves of Home Army soldiers, fallen on the first days of Operation “Gate of Dawn”.

Operation “Gate of Dawn” was the military operation launched on 7th July 1944 by Home Army units within Operation “Tempest”, carried out in order to free Vilnius from the German occupier by the Home Army exclusively and, in accordance with the objectives of “Tempest”, to make the AK act “as the landlord” in front of the Red Army.

The operation plan was devised in March of 1944 by the headquarters of the AK Vilnius district. It presupposed the capture of the city by the combined forces of the Vilnius and Navahrudak Home Army districts.

The principal assumption of the operation was that the panic-stricken enemy would only think of a swift withdrawal, and so the operation leadership did not anticipate any serious fights for the city apart from overcoming the enemy’s police stations and outposts securing the edge of the city above all. Then, the guerrilla units, in accordance with the assumptions, were to get to the downtown and take control of the city centre, which would mean its single-handed capture by the AK. Vilnius, however, pursuant to Hitler’s order, was transformed into a fortress occupied by a strong garrison.

In the morning of 7th July 1944, because of the Red Army quickly approaching the city, the commandant of the AK Vilnius district, Lieutenant Colonel Aleksander Krzyżanowski nom de guerre “Wilk”, decided on the immediate start of the action, bringing it forward by one day in relation to the earlier plans. Only one out of three operations of the striking groups was concentrated on time. Approximately 4,000 soldiers of the Home Army supported by two anti-tank guns and a few mortars and grenade launchers attacked German fortifications from the most strongly defended, south-eastern side, in spite of the unfinished concentration of their force. Those positions were taken up by a garrison of more than ten thousand soldiers having artillery, tanks, and assault guns, as well as support from the air force operating from the airport in Kirtimai at their disposal.

Despite a considerable superiority of Poles’ enemy, AK soldiers managed to liberate a significant part of Vilnius. To 13th July, in collaboration with Soviet troops, the whole city had been cleansed of Germans. On top of the Castle Hill, AK soldiers hung out white and red flag, but already after several hours it was removed by Soviet soldiers, who replaced it with the red banner.

After the capture of Vilnius, the Soviet leadership ordered AK soldiers to leave the city.

In the whole Vilnian operation, approximately 9,000 AK soldiers took part within the Vilnius district, and about 6,000 within the Navahrudak one.

In total approximately 5,000 NCOs and private soldiers were interned during Operation “Tempest” in the Vilnius region (the ones captured in the forests near Vilnius included). Firstly, they were placed in the camp in Medininkai, from which one-fourth of them absconed; officers, however, were taken away to Ryazan. After some time, some of them resolved to join the ranks of the First Polish Army. However, the majority was conscripted into the reserve regiment of the Red Army and, when they refused to take an oath, put in the camp for interned AK soldiers in Kaluga to clear the forest, and from there they were gradually discharged between 1946 and 1947.

Deprived of the majority of commandants and confused Polish troops withdrew to the forests surrounding Vilnius. It is estimated that until 18th July about 6,000 soldiers and several thousand enlistees had arrived there. They were found by the NKVD and interned or dispersed.

Translated by Karolina Katarzyńska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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