August 1st marks the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, a battle that would come to define the spirit and soul of the Polish capital…
THE BACK STORY
Viewed as a melting pot of decadence, a hotbed of dissent, a cradle of European Jewry and a symbol of Polish independence, no other city that invited as much disdain from the Nazis as Warsaw. From the very outset, the occupation set a new benchmark in tyranny with Polish freedom brutally suppressed.
Denied the most basic rights, the Poles responded by forming Europe’s largest underground movement. Commonly believed to number around 400,000 members, the Home Army (AK) was the largest of these illicit organizations. Taking part in numerous acts of sabotage, this clandestine military movement hit global headlines when, on August 1st, 1944, they launched their biggest operation to date: the Warsaw Uprising.
Aiming to liberate the town in time for the imminent Soviet arrival, their cause was boosted by promises of Allied aid as well as the knowledge that German units had already began withdrawing from the city. Incensed by this act of Polish insolence, the Nazis reacted with savage fury and what the Poles had hoped would be a swift campaign descended into a 63-day bloodbath that claimed 250,000 lives.
With all hope exhausted, Warsaw’s eventual capitulation was met with orders for the population to be exiled and the city flattened. Poland would never be the same again.
When it comes to the definitive story of the insurgency, the Warsaw Rising Museum leaves no stone unturned. If the throngs and sheer informational overload can often be daunting, it remains the most important museum in the capital, and quite arguably the country.
Points of interest are rife and include a life-size replica of a B-24 Liberator plane as well as a
claustrophobic ‘sewage tunnel’ through which visitors squeeze to get an idea of the kind of conditions combatants once faced. But it’s not the A-list sights that make the biggest impact, rather the smaller, highly personal curios: a pair of wedding bands forged from bullets; an Omega watch, it’s hands frozen at the same moment a bomb killed its owner; and a lucky cuddly mascot made from a German overcoat.
The Warsaw Rising Museum
ul. Grzybowska 79, 1944.pl