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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
"It is one of the most wonderful urban celebrations found anywhere in the world"

Anthony M. Tung, Preservation of the World's Great Cities

"She defies the storm" (Ancient Warsaw motto)

This thread will start with the herculanean efforts of the BOS (Biuro Odbudowy Stolicy - Bureau for the Reconstruction of Capital) and the newly created Pracownie Konserwacji Zabytkow (Ateliers for the Conservation of Cultural Property) in the aftermath of World War II and its later incarnations and on reconstruction efforts during the communist era to liberation and to the present.

It is a testament and homage first of all to those architects, engineers, planners and everyday Varsovians who sacrifised the better part of their lives to rebuild Poland's capital, but will also recount tremendous efforts by Polonia and people from other countries around the world who assisted in the greatest urban reconstruction effort of the 20th century of this scale.

The results may be mixed and controversial, a reflection of the ideological, cultural and political ferment that existed in Europe and especially in then Soviet occupied Central and Eastern Europe between the survivors of the pre-war regime, communists, conservators of varying opinions on how to rebuild and Corbusian modernists. Not all that the BOS did was right viewed through the prism of the present-day, many surviving masterpieces of architecture were torn down under their direction post war for ideological reasons more than technical, no one knows for sure, and rebuilt in a "purer" earlier version or a socialist realist-inspired version and some were restored as modern buildings stripped of details, such was the thinking in those days. Far worse outcomes could have befallen Warsaw if those who advocated building an entirely new modern city had won the day. Atleast today we see before us an amalgam of many different architectural styles and urban design philosophies that manage to survive as a testament to Warsaw's turbulent and very rich history.

Anyone with knowledge and photos that document this period is welcome to contribute. Before and afters are welcome, but it would be great to see photos of actual construction and the methods they used.

Basic Facts
(taken mainly from A. Ciborowski's Warsaw A City Destroyed and Rebuilt):

  • In january 1945, the volume or rubble totalled 720 million cubic feet

  • 98,000 mines and shells were removed from the ruins of the city and 1,000 buildings were cleared of mines by sappers, an additional several hundred thousand have been cleared since

  • War losses amounted to 800,000 people killed and 85 percent of the city destroyed

Assessment of Situation and First Works

Founding, Initial Directives and Organizational Structure of the BOS (Office for the Reconstruction of the Capital)

Every big journey starts with ....first page

Nomination of Jan Zachwatowicz as Director of BOS

Call to Polish Architects

New headquarters established

Initial Staff Roster

Organizational Structure

The first week


9,134 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Thank you for visiting Tiaren, rychlik and Illuminat, for being the first visitors you win an all expense paid trip to Warsaw, well, a virtual trip :) to the following related threads (in Polish only sorry):

I will be posting much more later

By Monika Scislowska, The Associated Press

WARSAW, Poland - The plane slowly descends from white clouds and sweeps over a panorama of a city destroyed by the Nazis: the skeletons of bombed bridges jutting from a quiet river, the empty walls of burned-out houses, the Jewish ghetto totally flattened.

It is Warsaw in the spring of 1945, just after World War II.

The sea of rubble that Warsaw was reduced to during the war is vividly reconstructed in a 3D film that historians and computer graphics experts showed for the first time in Warsaw on Wednesday.

The goal of the film, which must be seen with special 3D glasses, is to bringing home to a young generation the scope of the wartime devastation of Poland's capital.

"Young people do not understand what it means that Warsaw was in ruins; they think it was just a few collapsed houses," Jan Oldakowski, the director of the Warsaw Uprising Museum, told reporters at a screening of the film "City of Ruins."

"Nor were we, at the museum, fully aware of what the city looked like," he said.

The 1939-45 destruction was the result of bombings carried out by Nazi Germany, which invaded Poland in 1939 and occupied it for six years, killing millions of people. Most of the damage resulted from the German army's revenge for the city's 1944 uprising against its brutal rule.

The uprising failed after 63 days of an uneven struggle, but as one of Europe's most dramatic acts of resistance to Nazi rule remains an important element of Polish national identity. The heroism shown by the insurgents — among them women and teenagers — is a source of deep pride to this day.

Oldakowski said it took 40 specialists two years to make the five-minute 3D aerial view sequence, a simulation of an imaginary flight of a British Liberator bomber over the city right after the war in 1945.

It reconstructs the trajectory that RAF bombers took when bringing arms and supplies to the insurgency. The uprising began on Aug. 1, 1944, and the release of the film is timed to mark the 66th anniversary.

Starting Sunday, the film will be shown to visitors at the museum, which documents the uprising and is a major draw for tourists and students from across the country. Last year, it had some 500,000 visitors.

Michal Gryn, from the Platige Image studio which made the film, said the team was not aware at first of the challenge before them in the form of the masses of documentary material they had to go through.

"It was a unique project to build a 3D model of authentic city ruins and make five minutes of film from it," Gryn said. "I don't think that anyone in the world has done this."

His team took a helicopter flight over contemporary Warsaw to film base material. They filled it in with detail from some 2,000 historic pictures, films and paintings — some from private archives — to recreate Warsaw as it was after the war.

The result is a computer simulation that shows collapsed bridges along the Vistula River, whole districts of roofless, burned-out houses and the Warsaw Ghetto as a flat sea of rubble.

A solemn musical score enhances the sense of death and menace.

An inscription that closes the film says that before the war some 1.3 million people lived in Warsaw, some 900,000 at the start of the uprising and just 1,000 amid the ruins in 1945.

Before the war, some 10 per cent of the city's population was Jewish.

Most experts consider up to 40% of pre-war Warsaw to have been rebuilt in some form or another, including a meticulous reconstruction of the Gothic and Renaissance Old Town. Today it is a bustling city of some 1.7 million (agglomeration of approximately 4 million), an administrative and business centre with many high-rise buildings.

9,134 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
2a. Destruction of Warsaw

To fully appreciate the meticulous reconstruction of Warsaw, it is important to understand the extensive long range planning and extremely thorough destruction of the city from the early 1930's through to its horrific culmination on January 17, 1945. This will give a clearer sense of the challenge facing the rebuilders. One of the most detailed accounts complete with numerous eyewitness accounts has been provided by Alexandra Richie in her recent book Warsaw 1944 Hitler, Himmler, and the Warsaw Uprising, which I have drawn on for this section. Here I will focus on its material destruction, but some mention must be made of the human loss, the loss of human capital if I may, because these were the people and their culture that made Warsaw what it was. I will expound here on what "complete" means, because aside from the destruction of Carthage by Romans, this destruction was unique in the annals of history.

  • In the 1930's teams of German scholars, architects and historians descend on the city to study which buildings could claim German ancestry and would therefore be worthy of preservation

  • After Nazi German occupation of Poland in 1939, Nazi engineer and architect Friedrich Pabst publishes a report Die Neue Deutsche Stadt Warschau which includes a section entitled Der Abbau der Polenstadt und der Aufbau der Deutschen Stadt (The Destruction of the Polish City and the Construction of the German City). The report concludes that every building must be destroyed except for the old town due to its Germanic burgher house, Lazienki Palace and the Belwedere palace that was to house the visiting Hitler. The population was to be reduced from 1.3 million to 80,000 Poles restricted to the Praga district and Warsaw proper would be build in the style of a medieval German town with a planned population of 130,000 Germans.

  • The Luftwaffe bomb Warsaw heavily in 1939 to commence destruction. A new version of the Pabst Plan is drawn up by architects Hubert Gross and Otto Nurnberger to take this destruction into account. This plan is then presented to Hans Frank on February 6, 1940 entitled Neue Deutsche Stadt Warschau.

  • Clearing of the Warsaw Ghetto. 400,000 Jews, who greatly influenced the culture of Warsaw, are herded into this artificial ghetto and murdered within in or shipped to death camps from the Umschlagplatz

  • On August 5th and 6th 1944, the Destruction of Wola and Ochota and the massacre of 40,000 and 15,000 civilians respectively constitutes the largest single battlefield massacre in World War II. These Aktions were sanctioned by Hitler and Heinrich Himmler (Reichsfürher of the S), led under direction of SS General Heinz Reinefarth with the ultimate order given by General von Vormann of the 9th Army to commence, then brutally executed in Wola by Oskar Dirlewanger and his gang of released murder convicts along with the rest of Kampfgruppe Reinefarth and in Ochota by Bronislaw Kaminski and his gang of eastern POWs and conscripts. Dirlewanger's brigade was infamous for their brutality, raping and murdering women not even sparing children. Hitler awarded Dirlewanger the Knight's Cross for his work here. The mausoleum in Sowinski Park in Wola today contains the 1,120 kilos of human ashes from this massacre.

  • The destruction of Old Town, measuring about 10 square kms, utilized what were termed wunderwaffen, the most advanced and destructive weapons of the era. Generalfeldmarschall Robert Ritter von Greim sent hundreds of sorties of Stukas, Messerschmitts and Jinker Ju-87Ds dropping 1,580 tonnes of bombs over the entire city. 711 Ju-87D sorties ordered by Oberleutenant Hans-Jurgen Klussman were sent over the Old Town alone. Panzer tanks were ineffective in the old town maze of streets, so the largest assault guns were deployed as of August 13th, namely 10 SturmPanzer IV or Grizzly Bears with 150 mm howitzers. Two monstrous 65 tonne Strumtiger with 380mm rocket launchers were added that sent gigantic 345 kg shells into the old town. To this arsenal was added over 40 Hetzer JagdPanzer 38s anti-tank guns with high velocity 75mm guns as well as 90 of the infamous Goliaths (one was restored and is on display at the Warsaw Uprising Museum), miniature tanks that carried up to 100 kgs of TNT and could be directed by remote control anywhere (one destroyed the 13th Century St. John's Cathedral) and the Panzerzug 75 with 105mm howitzers. The latter was commanded by Captain Franz Eaon sending it back and forth along a track by Gdansk rail station on the edge of the old town, pounding it mercilessly with firepower. Major Reck set up rocket launchers in the Saski Gardens that could send 40 deadly 57kg incendiary bombs in as many seconds. On August 18th flamethrowers of the SS Jäger-Abteilung arrived along with a 61mm howitzer. Krone Battalion was brought in with 150 flamethrowers and the SS received a further battery of 105 and 150mm howitzers, two 210mm mortars and two 280mm howitzers. Then came the 120,000kg 'Karl' mortars (Karl Mörser Gerät), the largest self-propelled weapons in the history of warfare, with shells weighing 1,577 kilos each. 56 were fired from Sowinski Park alone, the concrete pad on which it was mounted still stands. This gun had the power to destroy an entire building and bury all of its residents. On August 15th Nebekwerfers rocket launchers were introduced. The shells emitted a terrible shriek and so were known as 'Krowas" (cows), since they sounded like dozens of beasts in their death throes. Thousands of these shells were used, many filled with jellied petroleum causing horrendous burns - thousands died this way.

    On August 19th the general attack on the Old Town began with fire from Panzer trains, Krowas and artillery fire that preceded a line of Goliaths used to destroy barricades and buildings followed by Tiger tanks and then foot soldiers moved in.

    The old town was pounded relentlessly and reduced to rubble and most of the civilians were killed in the process, members of the AK escaped through the sewers to fight elsewhere. Once the Germans had entered the Old Town they found mostly rubble, with nothing left standing and about 35,000 survivors hiding in basements, many of whom would later be killed or sent to work in the Reich.

  • 150,000 civilians and 18,000 AK soldiers are killed during 1944 Uprising. Obersturmbannfürher Dr. Ludwig Hahn and his battalion of 700 SS men kill 2,000 people on Aleja Szucha alone.

  • After Ochota, Wola, the Old Town, the suburban districts of Mokotów and Żoliborz are destroyed and pacified, the City Centre is attacked. Once the AK (Polish Home Army) capitulates, on Hitler's orders (see next), a massive expulsion of the remaining 520,00 civilians through the Pruszków Transit Camp begins, of which 60,000 are sent to concentration camps and 90,000 to work camps in the Reich and 18,000 to POW camps. Thousands of Polish orphans are sent to the Reich to be given to childless German couples. Families are deliberately torn apart at this transit camp, many to never be reunited.

  • Hitler issues Führer Order (ARLZ - Auflockerung, Räumung, Ladung und Zerstörung) to Warsaw Obergruppenführer Erich von den Bach on August 1, 1944 and reissues it on October 9, 1944, ordering that the city was to be glattraziert (levelled), all raw materials, furnishings were to be sent to the Reich (nearly 23,300 train car loads), while most Warsawians surviving the suppression of the Warsaw uprising were to be used as slave labourers for the Reich, sent to concentration camps or dispersed and Jews that survived the pacification of the Warsaw ghetto were all to be killed. Himmler told an SS Officers' conference: "The city must completely disappear from the earth and serve only as a transport station for the Wehrmacht. No stone is to remain standing. every building must be razed to its foundations, the quarters for the army will be set up in basements, there will be no barracks, only technical equipment and the railways buildings will be left."

  • A Detailed list is drawn up by Herr Weisker of the Nazi Economic Office in occupied Poznan of who was to get what. Warsaw was to be stripped of everything useable from gum, paraffin, leather goods to iron machinery, wires, cables, ovens, textiles, rope, paper, electrical equipment etc. This is not to mention the looting by regular soldiers. Major Max Reck's Kampgruppe broke into the Emisyjny Bank and stole 250 million zloty.

  • Reich Agent for Fashion Benno von Arent takes charge of plunder of looting the National Museum. Art was looted from private homes and churches as well.

  • By November 20 the city is picked bare by Gruppenführer Heinrich Reinefarth's units which were then cleaned and sorted in the Warthegau (Nazi-occupied Polish territory incorporated into the Reich comprising mainly of Western Poland.

  • Generalmajor Helmuth Eisenstück is appointed Commandant of Fortress Warsaw and given the duty to destroy what is left of it. A region of about 17 square kms is to be razed to the ground.

  • Sapper units specialized in the burning and demolition of buildings from Organization Todt are enlisted.

  • A special Verbrennungskommando unit led by SS Oberleutenant Kruger was formed to burn buildings using flamethrowers

  • Another unit led by engineers drilled holes into the sides of palaces, churches and schools for dynamite in order to then explode the structure

  • Most of the vast collection of the Krasinski Library founded in 1844 was shelled and set on fire and almost completely burned by October 1944

  • On October 20 the Załuski Library, the oldest public library in Poland dating from 1744 was burned alomg witgh 400,000 books - only 1800 manuscripts survived; The Czetwertyński libraries are burned, only a hundred out of thousands of manuscripts are saved

  • On October 20 the National Archives are destroyed, only 4 percent survive.

  • The Polish Library created during Poland's partitions in Rapperswil Switzerland is set on fire and destroyed.

  • In a December 1944 report Ludwig Fischer called what was done to Warsaw a..."military achievement of the highest rank." A special badge was made depicting a gigantic eagle with a swastika around its neck crushing a twisted serpent in its long talons with Warschau 1944 emblazoned on it.

  • By January 1945 85 percent of the buildings of Warsaw are destroyed, 10,455 out of a total of 24,724 buildings are reduced to actual rubble, the rest were burned out hulks unsuitable largely for restoration. 925 historical buildings are destroyed; 25 churches and synagogues, 14 libraries, 81 primary school, 64 high schools, the University of Warsaw, the Warsaw University of Technology, monuments of all kinds, museums, squares, palaces not to mention hundreds of thousand of regular homes were gone.

  • Destruction ends on January 17, 1945.

  • 100,000 people are arrested by Soviets between August 1944-August 1945 many are AK members who drove the Uprising, many are transported to remote Soviet territories never to return again

  • US General Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the city after the war and was quoted as saying: "I have seen towns destroyed, but nowhere have I been faced with such destruction."

2b. Reconstruction

Anticipating Hitler's ultimate plans, the reconstruction of Warsaw started before the war and during its destruction. Planners and architects in Warsaw risked their lives when they began surveying the city during the war and covertly making plans for its recontruction. Upon cessation of hostilities the planning and even working drawings were ready to commence the immense effort that faced them. A covert Studio for Architecture and Town Planning was located in the Cooperative Building Enterprise to study postwar needs. One of the pioneers of Polish modern architecture, Szymon Syrkus was its director until his deportation to Auschwitz. The Planning Department worked clandestinely with a secret commission of town planning experts to study the redevelopment of Warsaw's circulation routes.

The greatest feat is attributed to the members and faculty of the Warsaw Technical University's architecture department. Of especial note were the efforts of Professor Jan Zachwatowicz who obtained a special pass to enter the deserted and devastated city as fighting raged on between Nazi German forces and brave Warsaw Uprising insurgents. During several such trips his team recovered the massive documentation of Warsaw's historic structures hidden in the architectural department. The documentation (drawings and photographs) of Warsaw's heritage began at the turn of the century and picked up apace immediately after the Russian Tsarist occupation ended in 1919.

Although by command of the German occupying force the university had been reduced to a secondary school for training in building trades, as an act of defiance, faculty and students developed studies on Warsaw's reconstruction all through the war and occupation and continued the documentation of the city's landmarks.

Also during the deliberate destruction of the city, the Geibel Commission led by professor Lorenz and other Polish scholars attempted to retrieve valuable objects from churches, libraries and archives saving some old prints, rare books from the Theology Department of the Warsaw University. The extremely valuable towards the city's future reconstruction library of the architecture faculty of the Polytechnic had already been sent to Łowicz just after the Uprising.

These studies along with the documentation retrieved by Professor Zachwatowicz were all hidden in the ancient stone coffins of dead monks in the monastery of Piortkow and after the war formed the sine qua non basis for Warsaw's meticulous reconstruction along with detailed paintings of Warsaw by Bernardo Bellotto.

After the war, the next generation of Polish planners and architects was ready to get to work.
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You guys have to see this artistic and symbolic art. Excerpt from the artist:

We decided to show how the ruins of Warsaw after 2WW would look like if it was possible to form a cube out of them. 74 milion square meters capacity of destroyed buildings would form a 500m high cube. Marcin Kobylecki and Krzysztof Noworyta created the idea of such unusual visualisation. Bartek Kik created a series of fake photos from selected well known cities with such cube. The series of photos is a part of promotional campaign to commemorate anniversary of Warsaw Uprising, organized by Warsaw Rising Museum.


9,134 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
Reconstruction begins:

  • On january 13, 1945 the Polish government in Soviet occupied Poland decides in the temporary capital of Lublin to rebuild Warsaw

  • The clearance of 20 million cubic metres of rubble begins

  • The legal basis for systematic town planning and reconstruction was the Polish Government Decree of October 1945 that made all city land municipal property, only buildings belonged to previous owners. This gave planners total freedom to arrange and plan the city's land uses and infrastructurebut was also tantamount to expropriation

  • The organization in charge was the Biuro Odbudowy Stolicy or Warsaw Reconstruction Office (later replaced by Warszawska Dyrekcja Odbudowy - Warsaw Reconstruction Management Office) who oversaw the clearing of rubble, the creation of a masterplan, design of reconstructed historic buildings and the prioritization and sequencing of reconstruction. BOS was located at 33-35 Chocimska Street, one of the few intact buildings in the centre of Warsaw

  • A draft masterplan was ready by the end of 1945 and all salvageable components of historic buildings were inventoried and warehoused

  • The first areas to be rebuilt were Nowy Świat and Krakowske Przedmieście followed by Łazienki Park while houses in districts of Mokotów, Żoliborz and Koło that were only burned but not destroyed were repaired

The Team

The Tool

The Help

The Inspiration and Documentation - As nearly 85% of the archival collections including construction drawings of the National Library were burned, paintings (Belottos Canaletto's for their precise details and scale), post cards, pictures and accurate records of important monuments done by students (wish I could find these) of the Warsaw Polytechnic at the behest of Professor Oskar Sosnowski in the 1930's were the basis of reconstruction.

Precision Instruments

In response to the difficult task of making the reconstructed historic city look authentic and to give it that aura of "handmadeness", the Polish state created the Pracownie Konserwacji Zabytkow (Ateliers for the Conservation of Cultural Property) in 1945. The work of this group refined the efforts of the entire reconstruction team to give historic Warsaw that recognizeable verissimillitude to its pre-war original condition. Established in 1945 as a unit of the Ministry of Culture and Arts, the PKZ employed 8,000 people in branch offices in 25 cities, with a proportionately large contingent in Warsaw. These units employed old postcards, the memories of Varsovians, original plans and sketches to recreate the all-important details that to this day distinguish Warsaw's reconstruction. Specialized ateliers were created in: old wood-building construction, historical methods of fabricating bricks, ceramics, terra-cotta, conservation and restoration of frescoes, murals, sculpture and painting preservation, restoration of historic furniture, clocks etc, re-creation of historic textiles, replication of historic and stained glass, historical fabrication methods of ferrous metals; and many other specialized traditional skills were revived.


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Discussion Starter · #17 ·

Life Returns to the City (Sorry pics are quite grainy)


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Discussion Starter · #18 ·

Reconstruction of the Historic Heart of the City Begins Before and After

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
These are indeed scans from a few different books. I will include some other archival photos I collected online over the years, but I need to get them into order before I post them, I will do a few batches over the next couple of weeks.
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