Planned destruction of Warsaw: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The city of Warsaw was nearly destroyed in a planned way by Nazi Germany after the fall of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.

The city must completely disappear from the surface of the earth and serve only as a transport station for the Wehrmacht. No stone can remain standing. Every building must be razed to its foundation.
SS chief Heinrich Himmler, October 17, SS officers' conference[1]
Warsaw has to be pacified, that is, razed to the ground.
Adolf Hitler, 1944[2]


Pre-war plan of destruction

Destruction of the Polish capital was already planned before its final destruction in 1944, even before the start of World War II. On 20 June 1939 while Adolf Hitler was visiting an architectural bureau in Würzburg am Main, his attention was captured by a project of a future German town – "Neue deutsche Stadt Warschau". In plan called the Pabst Plan Warsaw was to be turned into a provincial German city. The project was soon to be included as a part of the great germanization plan of the East, the infamous Generalplan Ost. The aftermath of the failure of the Warsaw Uprising was a good time for Hitler to start realization his pre-war conception.[3]

Warsaw Uprising aftermath


Expulsion of civilians

In 1944 a large transit camp (Durchgangslager) was constructed in Pruszków, in the Train Repair Shops (Zakłady Naprawcze Taboru Kolejowego), to house the evacuees expelled from Warsaw by the Nazis. In the course of the Warsaw Uprising and its suppression, the Germans deported approximately 550,000 of the city’s residents and approximately 100,000 civilians from its outskirts, sending them to this Durchgangslager 121 (Dulag 121), a transit camp. The security police and the SS segregated the deportees and decided their fate. Approximately 650,000 people passed through the Pruszków camp in August, September, and October. Approximately 55,000 were sent to concentration camps, including 13,000 to Auschwitz. They included people from a variety of social classes and occupations (government officials, scholars, artists, physicians, merchants, and blue-collar workers), in varying physical condition (the injured, the sick, invalids, and pregnant women), and of various ages, from infants only a few weeks old to the elderly, aged 86 or more. In a few cases, these were also people of different ethnic backgrounds, including Jews living on “Aryan papers.” [4]

Some people hid in the deserted city. They were called Robinsons (after Robinson Crusoe) or cavemen. Germans called them rats and killed them if they were found within the city ruins. The best known Robinson of Warsaw was Władysław Szpilman (The Pianist). Chaim Itsl Goldstein has also published his memoirs The Bunker.

Looting and destruction of buildings

German Brennkommando destroying Warsaw.

After the remaining population had been expelled, the Germans started the destruction of the remains of the city.[5] Special groups of German engineers were dispatched throughout the city in order to burn and demolish the remaining buildings. According to German plans, after the war Warsaw was to be turned into nothing more but a military transit station,[1] .[6] The demolition squads used flame-throwers and explosives to methodically destroy house after house. They paid special attention to historical monuments, Polish national archives and places of interest: nothing was to be left of what used to be a city.[2]

Bank Polski in 2004, bearing the scars of the Uprising. The lighter-colored bricks were added during the building's reconstruction after 2003.

By January 1945, about 85% of the buildings had been destroyed – 10% as a result of the September 1939 campaign and other combat, 15% the earlier Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, 25% the Uprising, and 35% systematic German actions after the uprising.[5]

Material losses were estimated at 10,455 buildings, 923 historical buildings (94%), 25 churches, 14 libraries including the National Library, 81 primary schools, 64 high schools, University of Warsaw and Warsaw University of Technology, and most of the historical monuments.[5] Almost a million inhabitants lost all of their possessions.[5] The exact losses of private and public property, including pieces of art, other cultural artifacts and scientific artifacts, is unknown but considered to be substantial. Studies done in the late 1940s estimated total damage at about US$30 billion.[7] In 2004, the President of Warsaw, Lech Kaczyński (now President of Poland) established a historical commission to estimate losses to public property alone that were inflicted on the city by German authorities. The commission estimated the losses to be at least $31.5 billion.[8] Those estimates where later raised to $45 billion and in 2005, to $54.6 billions (all equated to 2004 dollars).[9]

Destruction was so bad that to rebuild much of Warsaw, a detailed landscape of the city which had been commissioned by the government before the Partitions of Poland (18th century), painted by two Italian artists Marcello Bacciarelli and Bernardo Bellotto who ran an arts school there as well, had to be used as a model to recreate most of the buildings.

Notable dates in the history of destruction of Warsaw:

Alfred Mensebach and a number of camera teams documented the destruction.

The city of Warsaw was rebuilt, with the Old Town being thoroughly reconstructed, and the New Town being partially restored to its former state.

Notable damaged or destroyed structures


  1. ^ a b Krystyna Wituska, Irene Tomaszewski, Inside a Gestapo Prison: The Letters of Krystyna Wituska, 1942-1944, Wayne State University Press, 2006, ISBN 0814332943, Google Print, p.xxii
  2. ^ a b Anthony M. Tung, PRESERVING THE WORLD'S GREAT CITIES: The Destruction and Renewal of the Historic Metropolis, Three Rivers Press, New York, 2001, ISBN 0-517-70148-0. See CHAPTER FOUR: WARSAW: THE HERITAGE OF WAR (online excerpt).
  3. ^ Niels Gutschow, Barbarta Klain: Vernichtung und Utopie. Stadtplanung Warschau 1939 – 1945, Hamburg 1994, ISBN 3-88506-223-2
  4. ^ Księga Pamięci, Transporty Polaków z Warszawy do KL Auschwitz 1940-1944 (Memorial Book: Transports of Poles from Warsaw to Auschwitz Concentration Camp 1940-1944)
  5. ^ a b c d Warsaw Uprising: FAQ
  6. ^ Peter K. Gessner, "For over two months..."
  7. ^ Vanessa Gera Warsaw bloodbath still stirs emotions, Chicago Sun-Times, Aug 1, 2004
  8. ^ (Polish) "Warszawa szacuje straty wojenne" (in Polish). Retrieved 2007-03-16.  
  9. ^ See the following pages on the official site of Warsaw: Raport o stratach wojennych Warszawy LISTOPAD 2004, Straty Warszawy w albumie and Straty wojenne Warszawy


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