On August 1st of each year, the people of Warsaw commemorate the 1944 Warsaw uprising:
by Paul Barford
Once a year on August 1st, the people of Warsaw pay homage to the fallen heroes that fought for freedom in 1944 during the Warsaw Uprising. The biggest rebellion against German Nazi occupation during WWII cost over 200 000 lives and destruction of the capital.
Both before and after the Uprising, the Nazis carried out in Warsaw (as well as many other cities of the occupied country) a deliberate policy of annihilating Polish culture. This included emptying museums, stealing or destroying the contents, burning libraries, blowing up landmark buildings and monuments, closing cultural institutions and imprisoning or executing their staff. By their brutal and barbarous acts, the occupiers wanted to wipe out the identity of the conquered nation by deleting its material and non-material. Poland and the Polish people resisted, and it seems to me still today place a higher value on cultural property than many other nations in the EU.
It is in this context that it is particularly disturbing to see the German signatures on the anti-best-practice petition
premised on the notion of German superiority to the interests of the citizens of the source countries. Shame on you, have you not learnt any lessons?
The first two paragraphs of this post by Mr. Barford are commendable, and give insights into both the ordeal and the resurgence of the Polish people.
The last paragraph is a regurgitation of his extreme antipathy to collecting antiquities and the antiquities trade. It reveals nothing other than his well-known personal biases.
It is also noteworthy that Barford does not even mention two very important aspects of the Warsaw uprising which are a matter of historical record:
1) The Russian propagandists called for this uprising, and it was in response to this incitement and the expectation that the Red Army was about to attack, that the Polish patriots launched the uprising they had been secretly preparing.
"The Uprising was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union's Red Army approaching the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces. However, the Soviet advance stopped short, enabling the Germans to regroup and demolish the city while defeating the Polish resistance, which fought for 63 days with little outside support. The Uprising was the largest single military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II. ...
"More recently, blame for the Rising’s failure has fallen squarely at the feet of the Soviets. Stalin was playing a double game that wasn’t apparent to the Americans at the time, in part because President Franklin D. Roosevelt tended to believe Stalin. The Poles were deceived as well; Komorowski and his fellow commanders made their decision to fight based on what seemed to be safe assumptions at the time. “Ever since the outbreak of the Rising, the people of Warsaw had been living by listening, listening to hear the Soviet guns,” underground commander Stefan Korbonski, who spent months in Soviet captivity before escaping to the West, wrote in his postwar memoirs. “It never even occurred to anyone that the Soviets might deliberately stop their offensive, so as to enable the Germans to destroy the City of Warsaw.”
Soviet troops didn’t enter Warsaw proper until January 17, 1945. Even then, members of the Home Army were imprisoned or executed by Communist officials. (Komorowski spent the remainder of the war in the notorious Colditz officer’s prison, and escaped to England after the German surrender.) For Poles, the Allied victory over Nazi Germany was bittersweet. As Pawel Ukielski, the deputy director of a new museum in Warsaw devoted to the Rising, explains: “One occupation was just exchanged for another.”
Despite the dramatic fighting and the tremendous losses, the Warsaw Rising is one of the lesser-known conflicts of the war. The reason is simple: publicizing the events of August and September 1944 was in nobody’s interest during the Communist era. For the ruling regime in Poland, it was a direct attack on their legitimacy. The struggle has been largely forgotten outside Poland as well. The Rising was an uncomfortable reminder that Poland and the nations of central Europe had been cynically abandoned to Stalin during and after the war. None of the German officers responsible for the brutal reprisals against civilians in the city were tried at Nuremberg. In fact, the events of August and September 1944 were barely mentioned, for fear of roiling the tense relationship with Moscow."
2) As is mentioned in the above but not discussed in depth, Stalin was pursuing a political strategy intended to destroy Polish nationalism in preparation for the Communist puppet government he intended to install after occupying Poland.
The Polish government in exile in London had learned through their agents that the Russians had massacred a large number of Polish officers at Katyn and elsewhere after occupying eastern Poland:
Disregarding Churchill's advice that it was politically very unwise to make any public announcement of this horrifying atrocity, the Polish government in exile publicly rejected the Soviet lie that the massacre had been carried out by the Germans:
"In April 1943, the Germans announced that they had discovered at Katyn Wood
, near Smolensk
, mass graves of 10,000 Polish officers (the German investigation later found 4,443 bodies) who had been taken prisoner in 1939 and murdered by the Soviets. The Soviet government said that the Germans had fabricated the discovery. The other Allied governments, for diplomatic reasons, formally accepted this; the Polish Government in Exile refused to do so.
Stalin then severed relations with the Polish Government in Exile. Since it was clear that it would be the Soviet Union, not the western Allies, who would liberate Poland from the Germans, this breach had fateful consequences for Poland. ...
During 1943 and 1944, the Allied leaders, particularly Winston Churchill
, tried to bring about a resumption of talks between Stalin and the Polish Government in Exile. But these efforts broke down over several matters. One was the Katyń massacre
(and others at Kalinin
). Another was Poland's postwar borders. Stalin insisted that the territories annexed by the Soviets in 1939, which had millions of Poles
in addition to Ukrainian
populations, should remain in Soviet hands, and that Poland should be compensated with lands to be annexed from Germany. Mikołajczyk, however, refused to compromise on the question of Poland's sovereignty over her prewar eastern territories. A third matter was Mikołajczyk's insistence that Stalin not set up a Communist government in postwar Poland."
Mr. Barford fails to mention the suppression of any discussion of the Katyn Massacre in Poland until the fall of the Communist government, whose loyal and enthusiastic employee he had been:
Mr. Barford also fails to mention the suppression of any objective discussion of the Warsaw Uprising by the People's Republic of Poland:
It appears to this observer that the above should give an objective reader some chilling insights into Mr. Barford's far-left-wing mentality, his distortion of the record by suppression of that which does not suit his purposes, and his well-known propensity for advocating measures "in the defense of cultural heritage and the archaeological record" which impress many of us as being Marxist in concept, and totalitarian in their scope and probable consequences.