The Warsaw Uprising

October 24, 2007

Relations between Poland and Germany are constantly strained by the problem of anti-German feeling among the Poles. The Germans are, of course, sorry for everything that happened in their country during WWII, and for most Americans, that’s enough. After all, they were on our side against the Russians in the Cold War. The Polish seem to have a better memory than the Americans, and after visiting the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising, I can understand why.

How about this fact: after the defeat of the Home Army by the German forces, Hitler ordered Warsaw to be destroyed, and he was serious. According to Wikipedia, “Special groups of German engineers were dispatched throughout the city in order to burn and demolish the remaining buildings. According to German plans, after the war Warsaw was to be turned into nothing more but a military transit station, or even a lake.” Think about that.

When my friend with whom I was staying in Warsaw told me that Warsaw had experienced worse destruction than Berlin during World War II, I was incredulous, knowing the extent of the destruction in Berlin. As an American, even one with some knowledge about the Nazis and WWII, it’s hard to comprehend a mindset like that. We’ve all heard that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, but we’re so used to hearing that that we no longer think about what it means.

The destruction of Warsaw, though certainly less of a tragedy than those murders, makes one freshly aware of just how evil and hard to comprehend the Nazi regime was. I mean, Who orders an entire city to be destroyed?

I was having a discussion the other day about how Americans don’t hold grudges against other countries like Europeans do. That’s true, but Americans also haven’t experienced what Poland has. If the Canadians (say) were to invade America and order that New York City be reduced to rubble, with not one building to remain standing, I imagine dislike of Canada would persist for some time.


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