It happens every year on August 1st. For a minute, all activity stops in Warsaw, Poland, as people remember what began on August 1st, 1944.
On August 1st 1944, the people of Warsaw rebelled against their German Nazi occupiers. Though underarmed, undernourished, and vastly outnumbered by some of Germany’s finest, for the next 6 weeks, the people of Warsaw fought. Winston Churchill urged the allies to help the Poles, but the Russians and Americans stood idly by; the British were able to drop a few shipments of food and ammunition by air, but it was not enough. Still, the Poles fought on. And fought. They tied up countless battalions of German troops for over 6 weeks. This is called the Warsaw Uprising (powstanie warszawskie).
Every August 1st, Warsaw remembers. You can see it in this moving clip here. Watch it, it’s worth the minute it’ll take you.
But at the end of the uprising, over 200,000 citizens of Warsaw, mostly civilians, were dead, many of them executed by the Nazis. Upon the defeat of the Poles, the German troops then systematically destroyed Warsaw–block by block–until over 85% of the city was rubble. The Germans vowed, “The city must completely disappear from the surface of the earth….” What was a city of 1.3 million before the war became a heap of rubble with maybe 1000-2000 people in it.
Today, Warsaw is Poland’s capital and largest city with a population of about 1.7 million, the 9th largest city in Europe.
You can read more about the Warsaw Uprising here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Uprising, it is a very sobering story, especially when you hear how the Roosevelt and the USA just stood by and did nothing.
Last summer when i was in Poland, I visited Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego, the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising. It’s very moving and I highly recommend it. I wrote a bit about it in my blog here: http://poland.leonkonieczny.com/blog/?p=463.