What’s Special About Warsaw

Most of Warsaw was destroyed by the Nazis during World War II.  In response, the Poles rebuilt the city as it was before it was destroyed. They did this over many years with the help of photographs taken and paintings done before the devastation. Talk about a resilient people! Isn’t that something?

Hitler wanted all Poles killed after its second uprising. The first uprising took place in the Jewish ghetto from April 19 until May 16, 1943. It was done to oppose the Nazi’s effort to transport the remaining ghetto population to Majdanek and Treblinka death camps. The Warsaw uprising took place in the summer of 1944 and was led by the Polish underground resistance.  Everyone was fed up with Nazi occupation by then, not just the few remaining Jews.

The photo below is a sculpture commemorating the Jewish ghetto uprising. A fantastic museum of Jewish history through the centuries in Poland was built across from this monument.  It is called the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews and it first opened in 2013. Here is more information about this award-winning museum. https://www.google.com/search?q=polin+museum+warsaw&oq=polin+&aqs=chrome.0.69i59j46i39i175i199j69i60l3.3140j0j4&client=tablet-android-lenovo-rev2&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8

Statute Commemorating the
Jewish Ghetto Uprising

The Hebrew word Polin means “rest here.” According to Wikipedia, the museum’s “core exhibition features a multimedia exhibition about the Jewish community that flourished in Poland for a thousand years up to the Holocaust.”

Apparently, Jews had been living in Poland since the Middle Ages. Indeed, by the sixteenth century, 80 percent of all Jews worldwide lived in Poland, where they enjoyed some autonomy and tolerance by others. There they had a thriving social and cultural life.

According to a website called facinghistory.org, “the relatively peaceful existence of Polish Jewry was threatened toward the end of the eighteenth century when, in a series of diplomatic moves, Poland was partitioned between Russia, Prussia, and Austria. With Russia in control of vast areas of Poland, most Polish Jews found themselves living under Russian rule. Russia imposed geographic and professional restrictions on Jewish life, confining Jews to the Pale of Settlement.”

In time, many Jews migrated to the big cities of Poland. In fact, by the 1920s, Jews made up about 30 percent of the population of Warsaw.

“After World War I, Poland became a democratic independent state with significant minority populations, including Ukrainians, Jews, Belorussians, Lithuanians, and ethnic Germans. However, increasing Polish nationalism made Poland a hostile place for many Jews,” according to facinghistory.org.

Things got much worse during WWII when Germany occupied Poland in 1939 and began to severely reduce the rights of Jews living there. In Warsaw, for example, the Nazis forced all Jews living there to move into a walled ghetto, beginning in November 1940. Many people died of starvation or disease in the crowded conditions. It was established in November 1940. At its height, as many as 460,000 Jews were imprisoned there, in an area of 3.4 km (1.3 sq mi), with an average of 9.2 persons per room.

In time, the Nazis deported most Jewish people from the ghetto to Polish concentration camps such as Treblinka and Auchwitz, exterminating millions there. If you visit Warsaw, you can see places in the sidewalk that delineate where the ghetto wall was located in the city from 1940 to 1943.

You can also see remnants of the Ghetto wall as well as bullet holes left over from the Jewish uprising.

Look how high the red brick wall was
Bullet holes remain from the Uprising

History is all around you in Warsaw today. In one park near the Warsaw train station there is a statute honoring a Polish doctor named Janusz Korczak who ran an orphanage there. The Nazis told him they would be taking his charges away and that he should leave. He said that he would go where they were going, knowing full well this meant he would die too. He and the orphans he cared for died in Treblinka. Here is a Wikipedia article about this heroic doctor and author. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janusz_Korczak

See the candles placed at the base of the statute honoring this amazing person

If you are interested in WWII history, I highly recommend you visit Warsaw. In addition, it’s an interesting place to go even if you are not a history buff. For example, the city has a fine art museum called the National Museum of Warsaw featuring a variety of works from the Middle Ages up to the mid 1900s. While there, the museum had a special exhibit of the work of an amazing woman Polish artist named Anna Bilinska. She lived from 1854 until 1893. I had never heard of her before but her artwork blew me away. Here is a sample of her work.

This is her self-portrait. It won many awards

Here is more information about the artist and the exhibit. https://www.mnw.art.pl/en/temporary-exhibitions/the-artist-anna-bilinska-18541893,46.html.

Warsaw also has a huge variety of culinary options, from pierogis and wild boar to vegan options, sushi and ramen to pizza and Turkish kebobs. Hubby Rick and I spent three days there and never had a bad meal once!

So if you are looking for a place to travel that is full of history, culture and culinary delights, I wholeheartedly recommend Warsaw to you.

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