One of the main reasons why historians still study World War Two is the unique situations which were brought forward by the scale of the conflict. Never again , hopefully, will thousands of bombers be sent to level towns and cities , or cities be the place of massive siege battles with modern weapons. During the war , several other problems were addressed , some answers were useful and some were plain horrible and in the effect of the Third Reich on Warsaw answered the question of how would one go about destroying a city through a systematized plan . The destruction would in the end be countered by the polish people , who in turn answered the question: Can you rebuild a city and restore its heritage ?
Before the war.
Pre-war Warsaw was sprawling city , a beautiful city filled with layers of buildings from different ages that gave the city a truly unique look among European cities. The city was the polish capital for centuries and withstood countless wars and rebellions . It was the seat of the parliament of the polish-lithuanian commonwealth during the late 17th century and early 18th , would suffer damage during the wars for polish independence , especially when at the end of the 18th century Suvorovs forces crushed the polish uprising and installed empress Catherine II as the Queen of Poland , adding the polish realm to the russian kingdom. Revolutions followed throughout the napoleonic wars and the through 1830’s and 1848 . Only after World War One would the city be again the capital of Poland , but what would follow after in the second world war would shatter and completely destroy it.
The architecture of old Warsaw was a mix of Gothic , baroque and neoclassical buildings. The city comprised many palaces belonging to the lower and upper nobility and many were built as residences for some of the kings of Poland. By 1930 many of these monuments were widely renown and housed art collections as museums. Some were all on their own impressive like the Royal Castle or Palace of the Four Winds and would serve as important attractions in the inter-war period. In a sense it resembled the Viennese and Parisian tendency to built palaces for the nobility within the city center , but in Warsaw the mix of old baroque houses and newer neo-classical buildings gave it a unique feel , not having to go through a major reconstruction effort and not being completely damaged by events preceding the two world wars it still contained some layer from the old medieval town , intermixed with what was added until the 1930’s.
The city was bombed early in the war in 1939 , when several buildings where hit during the siege , the Royal Castle burnt down and many more houses were destroyed or damaged beyond repair. The city would then be the scene of fierce fighting during the uprising in the summer of 1944 . The Red Army refused to cross the Vistula and helped the partisans because they were supported by the exiled government in London. Since out of all the cities , Warsaw happened to be the most troublesome , partisan active capital. Therefore it would not only be cleansed of the enemies of the Third Reich , but also be set and example for other occupied major cities. Other cities faced similar scorched earth tactics, but Warsaw would be faced with systematic destruction. Several buildings were damaged , palaces houses , administrative centers and urban squares were destroyed by special demolition groups, so by january 1945 the city was a complete ruin.
The reconstruction began after the war and from the 50 ‘s it continued in some sections of the city until today. The Old Town was completely restored as the pre-war image. Not all plans were found for all the buildings in the Old Town and some facades were remade after 18th century paintings , and pictures from the 1930’s. The will to rebuild managed to give the historic center a new life .Not all the town was remade in its pre-war image and some buildings could not be reconstructed. In these cases new modern houses and building blocks were built , sometimes in a social realist style other times in the international style of late modernism .The rebuilding took many years and even today some houses are still being rebuilt or renovated , some are being now brought up to their original image by adding details and finishing touches which during the 60-70’were impossible due to lack of funds, the reconstruction effort being a state initiative until the 90’s.
The Old Town and market , early 20th century
Old Town in 1939 , before the war would begin in september.
The Warsaw philharmonic building and avenue
The old Warsaw was a mix of neo-classic and eclectic buildings similar to those in Paris after its reconstruction in 1850.
Another picture of the avenues of Warsaw dominated by eclectic building blocks, the view is from the Napoleon Square.
The Saxon Palace and its plaza.
Some houses dated back to late 18th century , early 19th century.
Bruhl palace 1939.
Napoleon square , built in late 19th century , it illustrates the concepts of the late 19th early 20th century urban planning and eclecticism , integrating in the urban landscape large patches of vegetation in plazas and along boulevards.
Pilsudski square in front of the Saxon palace during a military parade and review.
The Saxon Palace , view from Pilsudski Square.
Warsaw commercial halls.
The Saxon Palace and the russian Orthodox Cathedral which was demolished in 1924.
Warsaw was preparing for modern additions, the Marshal Pilsudski borough.
The Marshal Pilsudski borough.
Bloch Palace spetember 1939.
The damage done during the siege was extensive.
Lubomirski Palace in 1941 after the first battle for the city.
The germans enter the city after the surrender of the polish forces.
Warsaw was in both shelled and bombed in 1939 and 1944
Bruhl Palace in 1939.
Remains of the Saxon Palace after 1944.
Extensive damage was done to houses.
Foch street in ruins during the uprising.
German anti tank gun in front of the town hall which was reduced to a ruin.
Rocket batteries firing against partisans of the Armia Krajowa.
German troops advancing in front of the National Theater .
Close-up one the Stuka rockets and their crews. Note their proximity to the apartment buildings .
The center of Warsaw after september 1944.
The city lies in ruins after the battle. The picture was taken during the surrender of Armia Krajowa to the germans.
Some buildings like the ones in the background were left intact in spite of fierce fighting like that witnessed by this ad and poster stand.
First the communist regime would build the new administrative buildings in the social realism style of the Soviet Union , these woul tower over the defeated city , signaling a new conquest , that by the soviets.
Numerous buildings and squares were destroyed.
Warsaw in 1945.
The city was in ruins for long time before the reconstruction efforts managed to bring it back to life.
Jan Kiliński’s statue in Podwale standing triumphantly over the destruction, in the 50’s signalling in a way, its reconstruction.
Warsaw today after reconstruction.
The Old Town rebuild , view towards the Royal Castle.
Many old apartment buildings were rebuilt and renovated.
Warsaw center remade and rebuilt, some modern building blocks in the international style have appeared near the boulevard but many have been restored.
The Old Town today.
A mix of old and new buildings.
The restored building of the Handlowy bank.
Before and after, the reconstruction brought buildings like this back to life.
Remains of the Saxon Palace, mainly foundation and cellar walls. Due to financial and technological reasons not all buildings were rebuilt, some requiring a complete reconstruction.
Warsaw’s typical avenues are today standing thanks to the vast reconstruction which began in the 1950’s.
The eclectic buildings of pre-war Warsaw are again standing.
The center of Warsaw is mostly rebuilt and renovated.
Three buildings from three different periods stand side by side in Warsaw showing the long history of the city which now gazes toward the future.