New ‘chamber of memory’ to honour thousands of civilians killed during Warsaw Uprising
The Museum of Warsaw is to open a new chamber of remembrance to honour the tens of thousands of civilians murdered by Germany in the Warsaw Uprising.
Being built at the Warsaw Insurgents Cemetery in the capital’s Wola district where the largest massacre of civilians (around 49,000) took place in what became known as the Wola Massacre, it is estimated that by the end of the uprising around 18,000 insurgents had died in direct fighting with the Germans, while as many as 180,000 civilians had been killed.
At least 30 percent were murdered in executions carried out by the German police and auxiliary units.
Due to open in mid-2022, the memorial will feature over 62,000 brass plaques with the names of those who died.
One of the missions of the memorial chamber will be to continue the arduous process of identifying all the victims, started by the State Archives and the Warsaw Rising Museum.
For this reason, many of the plaques will be blank so that new names can be entered as research into naming all the victims continues.
Approximately 104,000 people are buried in the cemetery, the largest burial site of victims of the Uprising, the largest war cemetery in Poland and one of the largest in Europe, mostly in mass graves made from the ashes of victims created by ‘burning commandos’.
These were slave labour units formed by the SS to remove evidence of mass murder of civilians that took place during the Uprising. They collected corpses into large piles and burned them in open-air pyres.
These piles of ash were brought to the cemetery after the war and buried in 177 mass graves and in a huge barrow that contains about 12 tons of ashes, which is equivalent to about 50,000 people.
The estimate was made based on the weight of ash produced by a single body.
Work started on the memorial in July last year and will cost PLN 23 million. It will consist of two pavilions and a Wall of Remembrance, which will feature the 62,000 brass plaques.
The Hall of Testimonies will include multimedia panels displaying conversations with people affected by the trauma of the Warsaw Uprising, while the Hall of History will tell the story of the cemetery.
The museum said: “These are civilians and soldiers of the uprising, as well as younger people who, in a non-obvious way, still carry the stigma of those events today.
“We want the chamber of remembrance to be not only a place to preserve the victims of the Warsaw Uprising from oblivion, but also a space for debate on conflicts and dialogue, commemoration and living memory.”
The chamber of remembrance was established on the initiative of the Social Committee for the Cemetery of Warsaw Insurgents, headed by Wanda Traczyk-Stawska, who as a member of the Grey Ranks fought in the Uprising in Śródmieście and Powiśle before being seriously injured on September 6, 1944.