68. anniversarry of AK dissolution – Jan. 19, 1945

The Armia Krajowa or Home Army, was the dominant Polish resistance movement in World War II German-occupied Poland. Till 1944, it absorbed most other Polish underground forces. It was loyal to the Polish government in exile and constituted the armed wing of what became known as the “Polish Underground State.”

przysięga AK

Estimates of its membership in 1944 range from 200,000 to 600,000, with the most common number being 400,000; that figure would make it not only the largest Polish underground resistance movement but one of the three largest in Europe during World War II.

Warsaw mural with words "Because this is my city..."

Warsaw mural with words “Because this is my city…”

It was officially disbanded on 19 January 1945 to prevent a slide into armed conflict with the Red Army including an increasing threat of civil war over Poland’s sovereignty.

The fallen AK soldier at his barricade - Warsaw Insurgents' cemetery

The fallen AK soldier at his barricade – Warsaw Insurgents’ cemetery

However, many units decided to continue on their struggle under new circumstances, seeing the Soviet forces as new occupiers. The persecution of the AK members was only a part of the reign of Stalinist terror in postwar Poland. In the period of 1944–56, approximately 300,000 Polish people had been arrested, or up to two million, by different accounts. There were 6,000 death sentences issued, the majority of them carried out. Possibly, over 20,000 people died in communist prisons including those executed “in the majesty of the law” such as Witold Pilecki, a hero of Auschwitz. A further six million Polish citizens (i.e., one out of every three adult Poles) were classified as suspected members of a ‘reactionary or criminal element’ and subjected to investigation by state agencies.

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17 September 1939

Sep. 17, 1939 - Warsaw Castle clock tower at fire

Sep. 17, 1939 – Warsaw Castle clock tower at fire

73 years ago at the beginning of WW2 and during the second week of the defending battle of Warsaw – on Sep. 17, 1939 – the Royal Castle of Warsaw was for the first time hit by a German missile….  the clock on top of the Sigismundus Tower stopped at 11.15 a.m.  The Royal Castle was not a military object, it was however the important symbol of the Polish State – once the official residence of the Polish Kings and the longest permanent seat of the Polish Parliament Houses, just before the WW2 – the official Residence of the President of the Republic of Poland.

As such it became a military target. On September 17, 1939, the Castle was shelled by German artillery. The roof and the turrets were destroyed by fire (they were partly restored by the Castle’s staff, but later deliberately removed by the Germans). The ceiling of the Ballroom collapsed, resulting in the destruction of Marcello Bacciarelli’s beautiful ceiling fresco The Creation of the World. The other rooms were slightly damaged. But immediately after the seizure of Warsaw by the Germans, their occupation troops set to demolish the castle. The more valuable objects, even including the central heating and ventilation installations, were dismantled and taken away to Germany.

On 4 October 1939 in Berlin, Adolf Hitler issued the order to blow up the Royal Castle. On 10 October 1939, special German units, under the supervision of history and art experts (Dr. Dagobert Frey, an art historian at the University of Breslau (now: Wrocław); Gustaw Barth, the director of museums in Breslau, and Dr. Joseph Mühlmann, an art historian from Vienna) started to demount floor, marbles, sculptures and stone elements such as fireplaces or moulds. The priceless artifacts were taken to Germany or stored in Kraków’s warehouses. Many of them were also seized by various Nazi dignitaries who resided in Warsaw. The Castle was totally emptied.

Disobeying German orders, and always in danger of being shot, Polish museum staff and experts in art restoration managed to save many of the works of art from the castle, as well as fragments of the stucco-work, the parquet floors, the wood panelling, etc. These were later used in after-war reconstruction. The great service done to Poland by Professor Stanisław Lorentz, in leading this campaign to save the castle’s treasures, is well known. Wermacht sappers then bored tens of thousands of holes for dynamite charges in the stripped walls.

In September 1944, during the Warsaw Uprising, the Germans blew up the Castle’s demolished walls. Leveling the Royal Castle was only a part of a larger plan – the Pabst Plan – the goal of which was to build a monumental Community Hall (ger. Volkshalle) or an equally sizable Congress Hall of NSDAP (National Socialis German Workers Party – ger. Parteivolkshalle) in the Royal Castle’s place and to replace the Zygmunt’s Column with the Germania Monument.

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A pile of rubble, surmounted by only two fragments of walls that somehow managed to survive, was all that was left of the six hundred year old edifice. On one of these fragments, almost like a symbol, part of the stucco decoration remained. This was a cartouche with the royal version of the motto of the Order of the White Eagle — “PRO FIDE, LEGE ET GREGE” (for Faith, Law, and the Nation – literally translated, the last word means a herd).

After the war the Castle has been totally reconstructed…. but this is another story……

The Little Insurgent Monument, Warsaw Old Town

Warsaw Old Town – The Little Insurgent Monument

In Nazi occupied Warsaw children shared the hardships and horrors of everyday life. Later – during Warsaw Uprising 1944 many children, especially within the Gray Ranks (war-time name of the Polish Underground Scouting), distributed mail, relayed messages, and fought fires; some became line soldiers.

Specially the

Warsaw Uprising, 1944 – the scouts deliver a post

Scout Field Post was a phenomenon of the Warsaw Uprising on a European scale. In the first days of the Uprising, the flow of information between different parts of the city captured by Poles was limited.  The Scout Field Post was established on the strength of an agreement between the Scout Commander in Chief and the High Command of the Warsaw Home Army District on 4th August 1944. It was to be formed by the youngest group of scouts known as the Zawiszaks. The first postal service was organised by scout chief Kazimierz Grenda codename “Granica” in the South-Central district on 2nd August 1944. This service only operated on a limited territory within this district. On 4th August, the Commander in Chief of the Scout Association, scoutmaster lieutenant Stanisław Broniewski, codename “Orsza” decided to establish a Scout Field Post for the entire city. Post boxes with a fleur-de-lis (the scout symbol) and sign saying “Scout Field Post” were located in 40 points of the city. The post was delivered free of charge. However, donations such as books, bandages and food for the injured in hospitals were readily accepted. The number of letters varied between 3,000 to 6,000 daily and reached 200,000 letters during 63 days of the battle.

Legia Football Club Fan’s tatoo

On October 1, 1983, the most poignant of all Uprising monuments was unveiled by the walls of the Barbican, along Podwale street in Warsaw’s Old Town. Designed by Jerzy Jarnuszkiewicz and funded by collections undertaken by scouts, the bronze installation shows the figure of a boy soldier clutching a Sten gun and weighed down by an adult-sized helmet. Commemorating the children who served as messengers and frontline troops. 

Jerzy Jarnuszkiewicz created the design for the monument in 1946, which was used to make smaller copies of its present state. The statue was revealed by a Boy Scout in 1983 – Professor Jerzy Świderski – a cardiologist who during the uprising was a messenger code runner named ‘Lubicz’ in the ‘Gustaw’ regiment of the Home Army. Behind the statue is a wall with the engraved words of a popular song from the period: ‘Warsaw children will go off to fight, we will, our capital, shed blood over every stone’.

During the annual celebration of the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, the Monument is covered with flowers and candles. They are primarily placed by children and scouts of Warsaw, who commemorate their peers and pay tribute to the Fallen.

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