Miasto Stoleczne Warszawa

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History - Page 3


Outbreak of World War II begins the most dramatic period in Warsaw’s history.

The vigorous growth of the city was disrupted by the outbreak of World War II. On 27 September 1939, nearly one month after the beginning of the German invasion, Warsaw was forced to capitulate and the dreadful time of German oppression began in earnest. German terror was met with determined Polish resistance. The Polish Underground State, with the biggest underground Home Army in Europe, was formed in Warsaw. Crucial political and military decisions were made in Warsaw.

German Nazi occupation was the period of discrimination and persecutions. The Warsaw Jews were the victims of repressions on a scale unprecedented in the civilized world. In 1940 more than 450,000 Jews were crammed without mercy within the walls of a tiny Ghetto area.  The Ghetto Uprising on 18 April 1943 was organised by the Jewish Combat Organisation. According to many witnesses and the opinion of some historians it was not a fight for freedom, but a battle to die with dignity. The Ghetto Uprising, despite putting up a heroic fight, was destined to defeat. It was the first phase of the German process to raze Warsaw to the ground.


The Warsaw Uprising broke out and lasted 63 days.

One year after the Ghetto Uprising, on 1 August 1944, another uprising broke out in Warsaw. Its goal was to take over the power from the Germans before the Red Army entered the city. Against a heavily armed 16,000 strong German army and another 30,000 German troops in the immediate vicinity of the city, Warsaw could muster some 50,000 soldiers of whom only 5,000 were armed. Despite huge enemy advantage, the uprising lasted 63 days. Doomed from the start, these were the most tragic days in Warsaw’s 700-year history. They were days of enormous faith, remarkable courage and inconceivable sacrifice of the Home Army soldiers and the civilian population.

The surrender by the Polish forces was signed on 2 October 1944. Then the Germans ordered the inhabitants to leave Warsaw and in retaliation for the Polish people’s heroism commenced methodical destruction of the city. More than 16,000 Polish soldiers and around 180,000 civilians lost their lives in Warsaw. By the end of World War II only one out of ten houses, monuments and churches had survived in the city; not even one bridge over the Vistula River was left standing, and there was no electricity or water.

Russians entered Warsaw on 17 January 1945. The new pro-Soviet Polish authorities followed behind them into the deserted and devastated city. It was the beginning of nearly half-century of Soviet domination.

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Warsaw was rebuilt after the war and again became the capital of Poland. Reconstruction of the Royal Castle was completed in the 1980’s.

The citizens of Warsaw always loved their city - for better or for worse. After the war they came back as soon as they could to their ruined houses and backyards, many of which had been turned into cemeteries. A population census conducted in 1945 showed that 145,000 people returned to their homes in a very short time. If it were not for the thousands of people returning to Warsaw, the decision to meticulously reconstruct the city and to make Warsaw the capital of Poland, would not have been made.

However, the new Warsaw became a different city. While the Old Town was thoroughly and carefully recreated, the rest of the city was rebuilt in the socialist realism mode, which was totally irrelevant and foreign to the Polish urban tradition. The new icon of Warsaw, the Palace of Culture and Science built in 1956, remains a symbol of foreign domination.


Round Table Talks were held, which paved the way for the transformation of the entire block of socialist countries.

Warsaw gave its name to the Warsaw Pact, an alliance of socialist countries established in 1955 as a counterbalance to the formation of NATO.
The Warsaw Pact alliance was signed at the Radziwiłłów Palace. The Round Table Talks in early 1989 were also held there, which paved the way for democratic changes in Poland and ignited changes in the entire socialist block.

Since July 1994 the Radziwiłłów Palace has been the official seat of the President of the Republic of Poland.

The fall of communism in 1989 gave Poland a chance for civilizational transformation. The capital of Poland very quickly became its symbol. Warsaw went through rapid economic growth and investment boom. The first line of the metro was built, as well as new office buildings, shopping malls, residential estates, bridges and transport hubs. The Warsaw Stock Exchange started trading. Warsaw became the most attractive foreign direct investment destination in this part of Europe.

Today, Warsaw has a population of nearly 2 million inhabitants and its metropolitan population totals more than 3 million people. Warsaw is the most often visited and the fastest growing city in Poland; it is a youthful city full of exciting activities, stories to tell and amazing experiences – it is just like its citizens.