Photographs from the Warsaw Rising

Warsaw Rising Museum

This exhibition presents photographs taken by Press War Correspondents of the Home Army Head Quarters (PSW) during the Warsaw Rising. PSWs were photojournalists who were secretly trained during the occupation by organs of the Polish Underground State. We get to know some of them: Stanisław Bala (code name “Giza”), photographer and insurgent cameraman; his sister Małgorzata Balówna (code name “Małgorzatka”), photojournalist and courier; Eugeniusz Lokajski (code name “Brok”), Olympic champion and photojournalist; Sylwester Braun (code name “Kris”), photographer who documented Warsaw from the beginning of the war; and Władysław Chrzanowski (code name “Wiesław”), though not formally a PSW, nonetheless a soldier who recorded the activities of his unit. They all met in Warsaw in August and September 1944 during the Rising, as did fifty other insurgent photographers. It is thanks to them that we are able to see these events today. They have left behind a great archive that recreates the atmosphere of those days. The life of each photographer is fascinating and multifaceted, and as laudable and dramatic as the Rising itself – one of the largest urban battles of World War II. It was also tragic, because despite two months of heavy fighting – with insufficient support from either the West or the Soviet allies, the latter having already stood on the banks of the Vistula – the Rising ended in the city’s capitulation. The fates of the photographers were similar to those of hundreds of thousands of Warsaw residents, whose lives marked the tragedy of their city. “Brok” died, like thousands of others, under the ruins of Warsaw while the others were sent to POW camps. “Kris” escaped deportation and returned to Warsaw, but emigrated soon after. “Giza” and “Małgorzatka” emigrated to England and then to the United States. “Wiesław” returned to Poland, but only disclosed his photographs after 1956. “Kris” came back to Poland in 1983 and held a large exhibition.

The end of the war did not bring liberation to Warsaw and Poland, but marked a new occupation. Even though honouring the heroism of the insurgents was forbidden, the memory of the Rising survived. Finally, 2004 saw the opening of the new Warsaw Rising Museum, which until today has welcomed nearly three million people.

These photos have been selected in order to paint as realistic and representative a picture as possible of the Warsaw Rising.

Sylwester Braun „Kris”

Sylwester Braun (“Kris”) was born on 1 January 1909 in Warsaw. A surveyor by profession, he has worked in the Office for Town Planning on Future of Warsaw projects. As soon as the war starts, he begins documenting the destruction of Warsaw and manifestations of Nazi terror. He joins the underground in 1940. In the Rising he is a photojournalist for the Information and Propaganda Bureau of Home Army HQ. As a Press War Correspondent (code name “Kris”), he makes photographs with a Leica camera. After capitulation of Warsaw, he leaves the capital with civilians and escapes transportation to Germany. In 1945 he returns to Warsaw and finds his negatives. About half of the approx. 3 000 uprising photographs have survived. He emigrates to Sweden and then to the United States. In the 1980s he returns to Poland. He is the author of the Polish-language Reports from the Warsaw Rising. Braun died on 9 February 1996 in Warsaw.

2nd Lt Stanisław Bala (“Giza”) was born on 10 November 1922 in Starowiskitki near Warsaw. In 1940–42, he studies at the Wawelberg Higher School of Machine Construction where he obtains a technician’s diploma. In February 1940 he joins the underground Section VI of the Information and Propaganda Bureau of Home Army HQ. He completes a course in photojournalism as well as one for cameramen. His Home Army identity card number is 120026. During the Warsaw Rising, with his 16mm camera, he documents the struggle for Wola and the capture of both the Holy Cross Church and the Police Headquarters. After the end of the Rising, imprisoned in German POW camps: Lamsdorf, Gross-Born, Sandbostel, and finally Lübeck.  His prisoner number is 101779. After the war he remains abroad, living in France and Great Britain, where he pursues technical studies. In the early 1950s he settles in the United States and lives in San Rafael until his death on 19 September 2013.

2nd Lt Stanisław Bala (“Giza”)

Platoon Comd. Halina Bala-Rueger was born on 13 May 1921 in Starowiskitki near Warsaw. The Bala family was Polish-Hungarian. Halina Bala, possessing a Hungarian passport, is able to travel on German trains. In 1940-41, after receiving Polish Red Cross training, she works as a nurse. As a courier for the Home Army HQ Information and Propaganda Bureau, she distributes underground press. Together with her brothers, Władysław and Stanisław, she completes a clandestine course in photojournalism. During the Rising she serves as liaison (code name “Małgosia”) to reporters and filmmakers as well as a photojournalist. She makes photographs with a Leica camera from Allied air drops. In 1944 she is appointed to the rank of platoon commander and awarded the Silver Cross of Merit with Swords. After the capitulation of Warsaw she is held captive in the German camps of Lamsdorf, Mülhberg and Altenburg. Bala later joins the Women's Army Auxiliary Service in France. After the war she emigrates to Great Britain and then to the United States. She married Press War Correspondent, Leszek Rueger, and settles in California.

Platoon Comd. Halina Bala-Rueger
2nd Lt Eugeniusz Zenon Lokajski (“Brok”)

2nd Lt Eugeniusz Zenon Lokajski (“Brok”) was born on 14 December 1908 in Warsaw. In 1934 he completes his studies at the Central Institute of Physical Education. Works as an athletics coach and PE teacher. In 1934-37 he is successful in a number of sporting endeavours including pentathlon runner-up in the Budapest World Athletics Championships (1935), competitor in the Berlin Olympic Games (1936), javelin record-breaker in Poznań (1936), and winner of the javelin event in Athens (1937). In the September Campaign of 1939 serves as platoon commander of the 35th Infantry Regiment. Subsequently taken prisoner near Brest on the River Bug. In October 1939 he makes his way to Warsaw. In the first few years of German occupation, he keeps a low profile, working as a labourer. In 1942 Lokajski opens a photographic workshop. He also teaches clandestine physical education classes. In January 1944 he is sworn in as Home Army soldier (code name “Brok”) and becomes platoon commander in the 3rd Praga Company, part of the 1st Battalion of the 3rd Region of Rembertów, within the Home Army’s 7th Area “Obroża” (Collar). During the Rising he serves as liaison officer for the “Koszta” Company and, as of 30 August, its commander. In addition to his combat role, he makes photographs with an appropriated Leica camera under the name of Press War Correspondent  “Brok”. Eugeniusz Lokajski died on 25 September 1944, buried under the rubble of a bombed house at 129 Marszałkowska St.

Lt Wiesław Chrzanowski "Wiesław"

Lieutenant Wiesław Chrzanowski “Wiesław” was born 4 December 1920 in Sosnowiec. He graduated from the Joachim Lelewel high school and Sapper Reserve Cadet School in Modlin with the rank of Second Lieutenant, Sapper. He fought in the defense of the Modlin Fortress in September 1939. From 1940, he was active in the National Military Organisation (NOW), and later from 1943, in the Home Army (AK) “Antoni” Battalion “Anna” Company. He conducted trainings in the underground Cadet School. During the occupation, he studies at the 2 year State Technical High School – occupied Warsaw University of Technology – completing the pre-war Technical University program through the underground education system. In the Uprising, he took on the responsibility of leading of the 2ndplatoon in company ‘Anna’, Battalion ‘Gustaw’ ‘Róg’ Group in Old Town, and after crossing the sewer canals, in City Centre North. After the capitulation, he was interned in the Fallingbostel Stalag XI B, Bergen-Belsen Oflag XI B/Z, Grossborn Oflag II D, Sandbostel Stalag X B and Lübeck Oflag X C. He returned to Poland in November 1947, after finishing his studies at Munich University of Technology. He worked for Silesian steel mills in Chorzow, Ursus Factory – producer of agricultural machinery, and gave lectures at the Warsaw University of Technology. He lived in Warsaw. Chrzanowski died Easter Sunday, 24th April 2011.

Leica camera

Insurgent reporters were equipped with modern miniature Leica cameras. Thanks to the size and portability of the equipment, which was produced in batches from 1925, the photojournalist could be at the centre of events.

Insurgent reporters equipment
Home Army ID for Press War Correspondent issued by the HQ of the Armed Forces at Home Staff VI/Propaganda Division
Reverse side of previous document
Pass for photojournalist “Joachimczyk” issued by Home Army Command
Symbolic moment || Photojournalist, Stanisław Bala ("Giza"), is taking down a German flag from the building of the Post Office Savings Bank at 31/33 Świętokrzyska St. For the insurgents, destroying Nazi emblems was a symbolic act of the city’s liberation from enemy rule.
End of terror || Photo depicts burning images of the Third Reich leader. By destroying portraits of Adolf Hitler, Poles could openly express their hatred of the dictator who personified the German terror machine.
Group of insurgents || Insurgents wore white and red armbands with the letters “WP” for Polish Army (Wojsko Polskie).
Assembly of insurgents || Approximately 20% of Insurgents were women. They mainly served as couriers or medical orderlies.
Unit marching out || "Chwaty” unit covering the printing-office in City Center. Printing-offices operating in Warsaw during the uprising published less than 150 different titles.
Insurgents || Authentic insurgent newsreels filmed by cameramen from the Home Army Bureau of Information and Propaganda. This footage was coloured and sound was added when the original material was used to produce the film “Warsaw Rising” - the world’s first non-fiction war drama.
August enthusiasm || Insurgents and civilians gathered in front of a fence covered with posters and orders from insurgent authorities.  Directives and announcements distributed in this way were acknowledged and respected.
Enthusiasm of the first days || Civilians are digging a ditch and constructing a barricade on Wronia St. In the first days of the Rising Warsaw residents, swept with enthusiasm, spontaneously joined in to build roadblocks and fortifications.
Construction of fortifications || Photo shows the sub-district of North City Center during the Warsaw Rising. An insurgent is building a barrier with flagstones to guard the entrance of the Italian Insurance Association at 10  Moniuszko St. Inside the building was a famous café called Adria,  which functioned as a canteen for insurgents.
German propaganda || Insurgents from "Koszta" company are reading a German propaganda leaflet, urging them to stop fighting.
Chaplain || A chaplain can be seen with a sanitary bag accompanied by two insurgents by a gate in the courtyard of the Main Post Office (view from Warecka St). Every insurgent unit was accompanied by a clergyman who administered the sacraments and demonstrated courage to the soldiers.
Barricade from rubble and broken pieces of furniture || Insurgents crossing a street under the cover of a barricade. It was built using whatever was available: rubble, furniture or even a turned over wooden cart.
Under cover of barricade || Insurgent crossing Marszałkowska St. under cover of barricade. During the Rising more than 1000 barricades have been erected in the streets of Warsaw.
Preparations || Insurgent unit manning a barricade on Żelazna St in the City Center.
Fighting in the city || Insurgent manning an observation post in a tenement house on Marszałkowska St. Urban fighting required unceasing vigilance.
Fighting || Insurgents had few weapons stored up prior to the Rising or captured in battle.
German POWs || Insurgents are guarding German POWs in the courtyard of the Post Office Savings Bank headquarters at 31/33 Świętokrzyska St. Captured Germans were subjected to forced labour including repairing of barricades, digging out people buried under the rubble, transportation of food and disarming of unexploded shells.
Reverse side of previous photograph
Submachine gun fo underground make || Assembly shop for submachine guns "Błyskawica" on Boduena 2. During the Rising about 40 guns were assembled there.
Arms from airdrops || Photo depicts insurgents in firing position with a British armour-piercing PIAT rocket launcher – an indispensable tool to destroy German vehicles. Thanks to Allied airdrops, Polish combatants received military equipment (such as the PIAT), as well as food and medicine.
Everyday life || Authentic insurgent newsreels filmed by cameramen from the Home Army Bureau of Information and Propaganda. This footage was coloured and sound was added when the original material was used to produce the film “Warsaw Rising” - the world’s first non-fiction war drama.
Insurgent press || Insurgent press distributor hands the "Information Bulletin” to a woman. This newspaper was published daily for the entire period of the Rising and became the most popular and best informed press title in Warsaw.
Field kitchens || Women cooking a meal on an improvised stove made of bricks, set in the backyard of an annex house of tenement house on Kredytowa 3. In spite of the living conditions becoming extremely difficult, the civilian population displayed determination and courage.
Digging a well || To cope with water shortage, more than 100 wells were dug in the city.
Until death do us part || Wedding of Medical Orderly Alicja Treutler "Jarmuż"  and Platoon Comd. Cadet Bolesław Biega "Pałąk". Both survived the Rising and have remained married until now.  The wedding ceremony was presided over by Chaplain Cpt. Wiktor Potrzebski "Corda". During the Rising chaplains married several dozen pairs.
Funeral ceremony || A funeral ceremony of Lt. Mieczysław Mańkowski "Piotr" from "Ruczaj" Battalion at the chapel in the courtyard of a tenement house on Marszałkowska St.  In the first weeks of the Rising funerals were still very solemn.
Farewell || Funeral of (most likely) Cpl Jerzy Badowski "Doliwa" on Moniuszki St. Friends bid farewell to the soldier of the 1st platoon of “Koszta” Company.
Insurgents' cemetery || A girl is in an insurgents’ cemetery located in a garden behind the buildings of 9 Mazowiecki St. 
Reverse side of previous photograph
Battle for a German bastion || Insurgents in the rear of PAST building, between Zielna and Bagno Streets. Capturing this eight-storey building made of reinforced concrete went down in history as one of the most effectively carried out insurgent operations.
Insurgent victories || Insurgents on a barricade on Zielna St. watch the burning PAST building. To set the building on fire, Insurgents pumped thousands of litres of fire-starting fluid inside using a motor pump.
Capturing PAST building || Insurgents watching the burning PAST building.
German POWs || German POWs from the captured PAST building, gathered in the courtyard of a nearby tenement house. Having captured the building, Insurgents took 121 Germans into captivity.
Brave girls and women || Medical orderlies carrying a wounded across Zielna St. Women and girls trained for first line units during clandestine medical courses. They were well prepared to fight and exceptionally courageous.
Battle for a church || Insurgents are at the entrance of St. Cross Church on Krakowskie Przedmieście St. The recapture of this church from German control was a spectacular success for insurgent troops.
Warsaw's burning symbol || A 600mm calibre missile explodes hitting the Prudential building at 9 Napoleon Square. Consequently, the tallest building in Warsaw – the symbol of its modern façade – lay in ruins.
Barricade covering sewer entrance || Insurgent with Mauser rifle at a barricade blocking Długa St. at the Field Cathedral near sewer manhole, which was vital during the sewer evacuation of thousands of soldiers from the Old Town.
After leaving the sewer || Insurgents from the Old Town are resting after evacuation via the sewer system. About 5300 soldiers from the Old Town escaped through the sewers.
City in ruin || Destroyed tenement houses on Moniuszki St. As the days pass Warsaw turns into ruin.
Fire smoke || Burning tenement houses at the intersection of Jasna and Moniuszki Streets. Clouds of dense smoke hovered over the burning city.
Civilians || Two women with a dog and a man running across Napoleon Square. It is estimated that 130-150 thousand civilians were killed during the Rising.
Before capitulation || A group of soldiers from "Gustaw" Battalion on Dąbrowski Square. From the left: Cpl Jerzy Sikorski "Sixton", Cpl Kazimierz Dąb "Kazik", Medical Orderly Henryka Wieczorek "Heniuta", 2Lt Henryk Ożarek "Henio", Cpl Tadeusz Przybyłowski "Roma", Cpl Cadet Antoni Dobraczyński "Hel". "Sixton" is holding an insurgent newspaper informing about capitulation negotiations.
Farewell to Warsaw || Civilians are leaving Warsaw after capitulation of the Rising. Expelled city residents were to stay in a transition camp in Pruszkow.
Into captivity || Evacuation of medical personnel after capitulation of the Rising.  Having left Warsaw they end up in a hospital POW camp in Zeithain.  Graves of the fallen are on the left.
Liberation of camp || After the Rising Polish officers were held in Oflag X C in Lubeck. On 2 May the camp was liberated by British forces.
End of war || Oflag X C in Lubeck – a Mass celebrated on the occasion of the 3 May holiday, one day after the camp was liberated by British forces and a few days before Second World War ended.
The effects of war || Authentic insurgent newsreels filmed by cameramen from the Home Army Bureau of Information and Propaganda. This footage was coloured and sound was added when the original material was used to produce the film “Warsaw Rising” - the world’s first non-fiction war drama.
Coming back home || Crowding on the train roof, residents of Warsaw are returning to their city after the war ends.
Warsaw returns to life || People are strolling through the streets which are difficult to recognize after the war.
Phoenix from the Ashes... || Destroyed city is full of life again.

Invincible city

The Warsaw Rising constitutes one of the most critical but at the same time tragic events in the history of 20th century Poland. Its purpose was to liberate the capital with own forces and welcome the entering Soviet army in the last attempt to escape enslavement. The Rising involved not only 63 days of heroic battles but also equally long efficient operation of various institutions in a free and democratic Republic covering a few square kilometres. The Poles paid an extremely high price for their decision to fight for freedom. Almost 150 thousand citizens were killed and the rest were expelled from the city. Hitler himself ordered the capital of Poland to be razed to the ground. Warsaw defied this attempt to wipe it off the face of the earth and already in January 1945 it was decided that the capital will be rebuilt. Soon the Red Army and the people’s Polish Army entered left-bank Warsaw. Returning residents began to organise their lives anew among the rubble. One the greatest achievements were reconstruction of the Old Town and the Royal Route and designing new routes of communication. Unfortunately, those buildings and architectural projects, which did not conform to the new socialist appearance of the city, have not been rebuilt after the war. Luckily present day Warsaw draws on its prewar traditions with greater confidence while carefully preserving the memory of soldiers of the Warsaw Rising who died for its freedom.

Credits: Story

Kurator wystawy — Joanna Lang; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego
Współpraca — Aleksandra Trzeciecka, Aleksandra Duralska, Joanna Jastrzębska-Woźniak; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego
Koordynacja projektu — Matylda Piątkowska; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego
Edycja — Jakub Król; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego
Konsultacja historyczna — Katarzyna Utracka; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego
Redakcja — Agnieszka Panecka; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego
Tłumaczenia na język angielski — Monika Kowaleczko-Szumowska
Współpraca — Montaż i postprodukcja filmów: Jan Radziukiewicz; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego, wybór filmów: Julia Sielicka-Jastrzębska; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego
Muzyka — Bartosz Chajdecki

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions (listed below) who have supplied the content.
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