WWII hero donates his old Leica camera used to capture war-torn capital to Uprising museum
The camera used by a Home Army soldier bought by his mum from a German soldier and used to capture war-torn Warsaw has been donated to Warsaw’s Rising Museum.
As a soldier of the National Military Organisation and the Home Army, Ryszard Witkowski whose nom de guerre was Orliński, used the Leica camera to record German railway transports, patriotic underground events, the activities of Home Army soldiers in Milanowek, the exodus of refugees from Warsaw and the destroyed city after the Uprising.
After the Uprising, he used the camera to make microfilms which were sent to London.
Witkowski handed over the camera during a ceremony at the museum earlier this week.
“Our collection has been enriched with a unique exhibit: Ryszard ‘Orliński’ Witkowski gave us a Leica camera,” the Rising Museum said in a Facebook post.
It added: “He received the camera from his mother, the photographer Felicja Wikowska, who bought it from a German soldier in the early stages of the occupation.”
Ryszard Witkowski was born in 1926 in Milanówek near Warsaw in 1926, where his mother ran the only photographic shop in the town.
During the war, he served in the town taking part in receiving airdrops.
After the front passed through Warsaw in January 1945, he was one of the first to enter the destroyed city.
He took a unique series of photographs, documenting the enormity of the destruction of the Polish capital, including the Old Town.
Particularly striking are the many photographs of destroyed churches and monuments, and of the figure of King Sigismund III Vasa lying on the cobblestones on Castle square.
After the war, he studied aviation and became a glider pilot. In 1947, he obtained a full aircraft pilot's licence.
However, in 1950 he was arrested by the security police on account of his activity in the Home Army, losing his job and his licence to fly.
He returned to aviation in 1955 and regained his pilot's licence. He was one of the first pilots in Poland to obtain a helicopter pilot's licence.
In 1993, Witkowski was awarded the Righteous Among the Nations medal together with his sister Aniela and for his mother Felicja, who died in 1986.
The family gave shelter to Bund activist Józef Roman, for whom Witkowski had prepared a false German ID card in the name of Grotte, and to the brothers Bronisław and Józef Miodowski, who had been liberated from the Gęsiówka concentration camp by the insurgents.
Too see more of Ryszard Witkowski's photographs which are held in the collections of the Warsaw Uprising Museum and the Polish Aviation Museum in Krakow, click HERE.