Sunday, March 30, 2014

Horror beyond description

Today, Sunday March 30, 2014, Trevor, Eleanor and I visited the Warsaw Uprising museum. [Photo]. Among all of the horrors of WW2, is it possible that any was worse than this?  In 1938 Poland was a prosperous, peaceful, agrarian country which had the terrible fortune of being located directly between Russia and its Red Army horde and the Third Reich and its equally bloodthirsty army. In 1939 Russia and Germany divided Poland between themselves. In 1940 Germany attacked Russia and drove the Soviet troops back to Stalingrad, at a cost of several million lives. Life in Poland under the iron boot of Adolph Hitler was grim. The Jews were all liquidated. Before the war there were about 4,000,000.  After the war fewer than 50,000 (1%)  survived.  Life was not much better for the non-Jewish Poles: a million were killed in battle, by starvation, or in extermination camps.  Before the war, Warsaw had over a million people. In 1945 the population was zero. Every building was dynamited. Then August 1, 1945 the Russian army was a half day outside the ruins of Poland. 25,000 crack German troops, supported by tanks, artillery, and airplanes prepared to defend Warsaw. The Russians sent word to the Poles to rise up and fight the Germans from the west while they attacked from the east. So, on August 1, 1944 6,000 men, women and children who had survived the German's annihilation effort rose up with rocks and sticks and pistols to attack the Germans. But instead of also attacking as promised, the Russian army withdrew, allowing the German army two months to exterminate the remaining Poles before they were in turn exterminated by over a million Russian soldiers who then murdered and raped their way across the remainder of devastated Poland. The brave Poles who stood to attack their 5 year oppressors were, simply, wiped out. There are still people alive today who were nearby then and remember these events.

Today, in Warsaw, the first floor of all buildings are 3-4 feet above street level.  That is because there was so much rubble, it was impossible to remove it so the (communist) city of Warsaw was just built on top of the rubble after the streets were cleared. Modern Warsaw is a modern city with modern stores. Nearly everyone speaks English and their economy is booming.  The remnant which survived, and foreigners who have come (like my son and his wife) have built back a remarkable city.

So today we came to the museum to honor the Warsaw Uprising.

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