July 30, 2018
Today we took our 3rd walking tour of Warsaw. In the first we went to various locations in the Stare Miasto, Old Town. The second was about Communist Warsaw, led by a woman who grew up during that era. She had to stand in line for everything, and witnessed the suppression and growth of Solidarity, leading to the downfall of the Iron Curtain. This afternoon we took the tour of WW2 Warsaw. It takes you to the Jewish ghetto and the location of some of the sites of the uprising in October 1944.
The ghetto was set afire by the Nazis to defeat the 1943 uprising. Today its location is marked on the pavement- they speak to you of the nightmare the Nazis created. Rations were a mere 200 calories a day for Jews, and 500 for Poles. Jews were allowed no medicine. If anyone helped a Jew, the penalty was death for that person and the entire family.
The resistance used the sewers to move from several areas in and near the old town. The sewers were in use at the time, unlit and required one to walk bent over. Movements had to be in complete silence. Eventually these were closed down by the Nazis.
In preparation for the 1944 uprising, the underground raised money for weapons and supplies by robbing a bank. Money was transferred from the Polish central bank by armored car. They raised the about $10 million in today’s dollars. The uprising took a heavy toll on the city and the population. The Nazis killed 200,000 people, destroyed about 90% of the old town and 65% of Warsaw as a whole.
These two uprisings were the largest of occupied Europe. The 1944 uprising not only hoped to help defeat the Nazis but to keep Poland out of Soviet hands, whose invasion of Poland made no friends in the county. The result of the Yalta conference as well as their defeat in the uprising, while the Soviet army watched from across the river, led to post war deportations and murders by the Soviets and 50 years of bad governing.