We spent several hours at the fascinating (and heart breaking) Warsaw Uprising Museum, located in the Wola district of Warsaw. I'd heard of the Uprising, but am ashamed to say that I didn't actually know that much about it. I was astonished and humbled by the bravery of these regular citizens, who in their fifth year of German occupation, decided to "rise up" against the Nazis.
For 63 days from 1st August 1944 at 5.00pm (known as "W-hour"), around 40,000 Warsaw citizens, who only had enough weapons for 2,500 people, made a stand against the Nazi occupation. They initially believe that their uprising would only last about a week, and were unaware that the Germans had decided to defend Warsaw and to counter-attack Red Army forces to the east of the city. They bravely continued to fight, and die, whilst facing a force of around 30,000, armed with tanks, planes and artillery.
Around 15,200 insurgents were killed, 5,000 wounded and, after their eventual surrender, 15,000 were sent to POW camps. Amongst ordinary Warsaw civilians, around 200,000 were dead, 700,000 were expelled from the city, and 55,000 were sent to concentration camps. 94% of historic Warsaw was razed to the ground and almost 1,000,000 inhabitants lost all of their possessions.
The Uprising Museum was opened in 2004 and occupies a huge space. It's been set up really well, and you can buy an audio tour which translates the information into English. The museum runs over several levels, with a bullet riddled iron core rising through the levels. You can put your ear to the bullet holes and hear battles taking place, and the core "breathes" (hard to explain, you need to experience it) to keep reminding you that these were real people, just like you and me, who were just trying to survive in absolutely terrible conditions.
There are some sections containing footage and information on the concentration camps, but they are clearly marked and you have to make an effort to view them - you don't stumble upon such horrible images without warning. You can spend a few hours here without a problem, and there is a small cafe should you feel peckish.
Entry fees are very reasonable, at 14PLN for adults and 10PLN for the audio guide (you must leave a photo ID for each audio guide hired, but we didn't have any on us, so they took our hotel room keys instead).
Go to this incredible museum, read and learn more about these astonishingly courageous people, and ask yourself "Would I have been brave enough to stand up and fight in the face of such dwindling odds?". I'm not sure I would have been.
Warsaw Uprising Museum
ul. Grzybowska 79
Phone:- +48 22 539 79 05