Museum of Warsaw Uprising is a chilling evidence of the atrocity of dying Nazi experiment. Being beaten on both fronts, the Germans unloaded their rage on essentially defenseless population of the Polish capital. Their destruction of Warsaw was symbolic and reminds me of the epic razing of Carthage by the Romans after the Third Punic War, and before that to city of Troy after their loss to the Greeks. The Germans had a plan, the Pabst plan, how to remove all signs of Polish thousand-years history. The people of all three metropoles were murdered, and the cities razed to the ground. The difference is that Warsaw was rebuilt and is a vibrant city now, whereas Troy and Carthage had disappeared from the surface of Earth.
The website of the Museum https://www.1944.pl/archiwum-historii-mowionej.html has an archive of the spoken history, where the interviews with close to 3500 of the survivors are recorded. I reviewed many of them and translated some. I was interested how now, at the end of their lives, the insurgents saw their decision to fight. And I was fascinated by their answers. My visit there brought back memories of our trip to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
So how do they feel now, some 60 years after arguably the most dramatic and consequential event in their lives? Here I’ve selected some answers.
Q: “How do you feel about the Uprising now, in retrospect? Could you tell us what the Uprising gave you?”
A. “I think, personally, that the Uprising was the right thing to do. It was the right thing because the Germans would have finished us anyway. So, I don’t think that we were much… The youth, anyway, were resilient, energetic and wanted to fight. We wanted to fight. And those who didn’t want to, they sat in the basement.” Jerzy Abend
Q. “If you were fifteen again, would you go to the Warsaw Uprising?”
A. “Of course.” Wiktor Abrahamer
Q. “And years later, what is your opinion of the Warsaw Uprising?”
A. “I think I’ve already mentioned that, but I’ll say it again, it had to happen. It was a necessity. I absolutely share this view that it was the only solution, because if it hadn’t been, first of all, maybe Warsaw wouldn’t have been destroyed, but the destruction among the population wouldn’t have been less (maybe even Warsaw would have been destroyed, I have no idea), first of all because it would have happened spontaneously. It had to explode, everyone wanted it. Everybody wanted it, they really wanted it. But it was not out of love for death, but out of love for life, because it was impossible to live. You were travelling, from time to time you [saw] those red posters (I think I saw one in the Museum of the Uprising, I was there recently) on which there are names of the people who were shot as hostages. It was on a daily basis in Warsaw. The man was leaving and didn’t know what was going to happen next. He was like this hounded hare with the shotgun aimed at him.” Kazimierz Abramczuk
Q. “Is there anything you’d like to say at the end about the Uprising that no one has ever said before?”
A. “I don’t know if anybody has. For me it is certain that there had to be an Uprising, because simply if it hadn’t been organized and there was no order to start the Uprising, all the youth would have gone into battle, anyhow. First of all, we didn’t appear on the order of digging trenches. After all, it is known that the Germans gave the order to dig trenches. At least one hundred thousand people were to stand for work, and we didn’t turn up, so it was known that there would be repressions. We were so focused on fighting the Germans that it had to be the Uprising. Fortunately, there was an order given that it was carried out correctly in terms of organization. The youth was extremely patriotic, brave and everyone fought after all with great courage and enthusiasm and happy that finally we are free people and that finally we can fight as equals with the Germans.“ Danuta Ambroziewicz
Q. “Do you think that if there was a similar situation now, the so-called youth of today would go to fight too?”
A. “Of course! I think so, too.”
Q. “No doubt?”
A. “No doubt. I don’t even think differently for a moment. First of all, young people have a will to experience something. Second, there’s patriotism in the youth. You can’t compare it with the antics of hooligans. The youth is patriotic, which is different for us who have already been brought up in a patriotic spirit, in the spirit of fighting the occupant. We saw German crimes, how they caught on the streets, how they shot, how it all [happened]. It was something different, but I think that the present youth, if not better, would certainly not do worse in such historical situations. This is my personal opinion.“ Roman Andrzejewski
Q. “In conclusion, I have a question for you: would you go to the Uprising a second time?”
A. “If it was necessary, I would go.”
Q. “What are your best memories from the Warsaw Uprising?”
A. “A very nice question. I didn’t feel so free in my life, the feeling of completely boundless freedom – that’s what I still have until today.” Andrzej Władysław Ankiewicz
And there are only a few names starting with ‘A’.
But there were also answers like:
Q. “You spoke of a negative evaluation of the Uprising, and your evaluation years after the Uprising and its meaning?”
A. “The Uprising, I don’t think it made any sense.” Stanisław Aronson
The same question.
A. “There’s a bitterness that we were sent on a mission that couldn’t bring any success under any circumstances.” Tadeusz Wąsak
So, most of the young fighters felt the need to do something after five years of German oppression. They had enough of the terror, forced labor and summary executions. Their patriotism couldn’t let them watch the destruction of their country. They wanted to do something. And they sensed the end of war was near. They wanted freedom.
They were all twenty-years old.
But they didn’t operate in a vacuum.
More about it in the next post.