A few weekends ago, I was taken to the Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego (Warsaw Uprising Museum) to learn about one of the most famous events in (relatively) recent Polish history – the Warsaw Uprising. I was expecting the standard thought-provoking historical exhibits that museums usually display, yet I was engrossed for hours by the colorful and vivid stories told by survivors, the photos, and the hands-on details; I came out with more respect that I already had for the Polish people (which I didn’t think was possible) and deeply humbled.
Summary of the Warsaw Uprising
In July of 1944, Poland has been occupied by Nazi Germany for five years, and they’ve been fed up, to say the very least. Plans are finalized amongst a Polish resistance group in Warsaw to attack the Germans holding the city on 1 August, to coincide with a supposed retreat by the Nazis due to the advancing Soviet Red Army. They made much progress for the first week, capturing key posts and locations, but then systematically were felled back, until the losses and casualties became too great that the Polish command agreed to capitulate. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians were taken into captivity by being sent to concentration camps, prison camps, and forced labor camps, while the Germans looted the deserted Polish homes of their valuables and belongings. For a more in-depth look at the Warsaw Uprising and its timeline, see this post ->
Exhibits & Museum
Opened on the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the uprising, the museum (actually called in English the “Warsaw Rising Museum”) was able to host some veterans of the infamous struggle while they were still alive. Today, the museum continues to collect artifacts from the era whenever and wherever they can find it, to add to the collection, in hopes to give the most accurate and complete picture of the courage of their past relatives and countrymen.
An accurate depiction of the daily life is definitely visible, as the 3,000 sq. meter museum has on display more than 800 exhibition items and more than 1,500 photos, films, and recordings. A proper history of the entire Warsaw Uprising is told, from the days preceding the Rising, preparation, to the 2 months of conflict, to finally the capitulation and its aftermath.
The exhibitions can be quite graphic, though it goes a long way to getting an accurate feel for what these courageous men and women fighters had to face. The depictions of fighting and daily life during the Uprising is shown through letters saved from the era. Going far beyond the two months of the actual mission, the post-war years of the Communist regime and the fate of resistance group, the People’s Republic of Poland (PRL), are also shown, as well as depictions of life in the Nazi internment camps.
Hall B is the large main room that the museum revolves around, and its centerpiece is a full-scale replica of a Liberator B-24J bomber; this hall gives the story of Allied airdrops, mostly the British, who were the largest support group on the Polish side. Other exhibits are devoted to the Germans and their allies, stories and videos of eyewitnesses of the Uprising, and a movie theater which shows films about the Uprising in a chronological loop on a panoramic screen.
There is a museum tower that is a favorite attraction, as it has a view of the Freedom Park and the city of Warsaw. An upper-level mezzanine has displays that have hundreds of examples of the weaponry used by both sides, and on the lowest level is a neat replica of the sewers, which you can crawl through to get a sense of the difficulties that the freedom-fighters faced.
Oh, and to get a sense of how much was looted from the Polish people by Nazi Germany after the capitulation, the museum has a nice little cafe which charges exorbitant prices for a coffee ;)
Location & Info
The museum is located in the Wola district of Warsaw, one of the neighborhoods where the resistance group had some of their greatest triumphs before falling back.
Public Transport: Buses 151, 155, or 100 (stops on request), or Trams 22, 24, or 1.
Admission: 14 zł; “The City of Ruins” film – 2 zł; Free adm. on Sundays.
(as of Feb. 2014, 1 zł = $0.33 or €0.24, so 14 zł = $4.63 or €3.38)
The Warsaw Uprising was a pivotal event in the course of the Second World War. No past event gives a better example and insight of the courage, inner strength, and resilience of the Polish people and Varsovians than the Uprising, and thus the Warsaw Rising Museum is a must-see destination the next time you visit Poland’s capital city.
For a more in-depth look at the Warsaw Uprising and its timeline, see this post ->
Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego | Grzybowska 79, 00-844 Warsaw, Poland | +48 22 539 79 05 or +48 22 539 79 06 | e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | website: 1944.pl
*Thanks to my dear friends, Ewa and Kees, for pulling out all the stops in making me feel at home during my stay in Warsaw, and for taking me to this fantastic museum!