The Warsaw Rising Museum: Polish Identity and Memory of World War II
Marta Kurkowska-Budzan

Seven to eleven year old children visiting the Museum are invited to The Room of the Little Insurgent. Equipped with replicas of historical toys of late 1930s, puzzles with the Rising? motifs, even with little barricade and insurgents? helmets and camouflage jackets, the room is a playground as well as an education spot. One could raise a question of a moral value: what do the children learn there? How to make a war?

The main exhibition works with views, lights and sounds. Huge pictures, monitors, computers play major role here. The tour shows chronology of events which leads the way to theme rooms. The visitors walk amidst ruins of Warsaw, touch walls, gather calendar cards with daily news about battles, barricades, losses. 

 On the first floor guests learn about the life in Warsaw under Nazi occupation and causes of the outbreak of the Rising on August 1, 1944.  Many Polish historians indicate that A.K. headquarters? decision about an uprising in that political and military situation was not the correct one and brought immensely tragic consequences. The mission statement of the Museum declares:

?The Rising has been criticized in the past as a pointless gesture that brought needless death and destruction upon the city; however the Museum shows the importance of this ?gesture,? which serves as an example of the strength of the Polish spirit - the same spirit that eventually helped overthrow Communism and secure Poland?s status as a free country.?[13]

On the same floor, in a separate room, original 1940s printing machines produce announcements, leaflets and the bulletin of the Rising.

The Museum also has a number of excellent video and interactive presentations to be found in arranged bunkers, walls, barricades. A cinema screen on the Mezzanine shows footage of the first month of the struggle, when the Poles scored some important victories against the Germans.

There are also a number of ?replica? exhibits, one of the best of which is the mock sewer, which visitors can travel through. The sewers were often used as places of refuge and flight for the Polish Home Army--particularly as their position became increasingly desperate--and some of the gruesome realities of living in such squalor are brought home by the exhibit.

 The final exposition, ?Death of a City,? shows footage of Warsaw as it was before the War, and after the Nazi backlash. Thousands were executed in retribution for the Uprising and every building considered of any importance to the Polish culture was destroyed.

Like U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Museum of the Warsaw Rising expresses its commemorative mission in various places and forms. A steel monument situated in the center of the building, reaching from its first to second floor, with the inscribed calendar of the Rising? events constitutes the heart of the Museum. Literally a heart beating is heard from it as well as the sounds of fighting city. On the second floor, the monument is surrounded by big-size photographs of insurgents.


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