Extraordinary collection of rare photos capture the horror and destruction of the Warsaw Uprising
Hundreds of rare photographs taken, developed and printed during the Warsaw Uprising by an ‘accidental' war photographer reveal the horrors and damage to the city as well as the bravery of the insurgents.
Constituting one of the few documentary records of the capital during the Uprising, the 310 photographs come from the private archive of photographer Eugeniusz Haneman.
One shows perhaps his most famous image ‘Insurgent in the ruins of the Holy Cross Church” while others show the exhumed and burnt bodies of victims.
Many show the damage caused to well-known landmarks in the city such as the Prudential building, Zygmunt’s column and the main railway station.
The Warsaw Uprising was the largest underground military operation in German-occupied Europe.
On August 1, 1944, around 40-50,000 insurgents took part in the fighting. Planned to last several days, the uprising eventually lasted over two months.
Haneman passed his photography diploma and began his professional career as a portrait photographer before moving to the exclusive Van Dyck studio on Al. Jerozolimskie.
He became a photographer of the Uprising by accident when, after the fighting broke out, the-then 27-year-old was cut off from returning home.
A chance meeting with a friend called Kazimierz Greger on Nowy Świat street, who ran a large photo store there, led to a meeting with Sylwester Braun from the Polish Underground who were looking for people to document the Uprising.
Greger lent Haneman the keys to his storeroom with all his developing and printing materials, saying he would pick the keys up in a few days as he only expected the Uprising to last a few days.
Braun and Haneman began work as part of a secret Home Army underground photography unit which recruited and trained what it called Field Military Reporters.
Although the unit operated throughout the German occupation, it was most active during the Warsaw Uprising.
In total, Haneman took several hundred pictures of Warsaw from August and September 1944.
Only 15 rolls of films have survived to this day.
During the fighting, about 18,000 insurgents lost their lives and 25,000 were wounded.
Losses among the civilian population were huge and amounted to approx. 180,000.
After the uprising was crushed, about 500,000 surviving residents were forced to evacuate and Warsaw was almost completely razed to the ground.
Haneman was sent to the transit camp in Pruszków after where he ended up in Kraków and accidentally bumped into Kazimierz Greger and returned the camera he had borrowed during the Uprising.
After the war Haneman worked as a cameraman and correspondent for the Polish Film Chronicle, but he continued to photograph, and in 1947 he was admitted to the Association of Polish Art Photographers.
From 1953 to 2005 he lectured in photography at the National Film School in Łódź and won many awards for his photographic achievements.
He died on 15 January 2014 in Borzęcin Duny near Warsaw.
A version of this article was originally published in 2020.