The Warsaw Rising Museum, arguably the city's finest museum, was opened in 2004 to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the doomed Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The Uprising is tragic and largely unknown chapter of World War II, in which a brave Polish resistance of freedom fighters met annihilation and retribution from the Nazis, in front of a backdrop of underhand maneuverings - principally by Stalin. Hushed up by the Soviets after the War and largely ignored by the West, the subject of the Uprising has only started to receive the attention it demands in recent years. It is a fascinating and disturbing story, partly because of the gall and guile of the Polish Home Army, which, despite being small and woefully ill-equipped, resisted the Germans for 63 days; and partly because of the complicated issues surrounding the event: the Rising's ultimate futility, the severe consequences of its failure, the inaction of the Russians, and what many Poles still perceive as the betrayal of Poland by its Western Allies, Great Britain and America.
The Warsaw Rising Museum attempts to accurately recreate the atmosphere and events of the struggle of 1944, and to give a picture of the realities of life under the Nazis which precipitated the fight for freedom. The Rising has been criticised in the past as a pointless gesture that brought needless death and destruction upon the city; however the Museum shows the importance of this 'gesture', which serves as an example of the strength of the Polish spirit - the same spirit that eventually helped overthrow Communism and secure Poland's status as a free country. The Museum seeks to give this bold resistance, and in particular its patriotic protagonists, a prominent place in the national consciousness - something which was denied to them for 45 years after the War.
Inside the vast museum building - a former power station - visitors will find three floors of exhibition to work their way around. Photographs provide the main body of evidence, some jubilant and upbeat, others terrifying. Amongst the smiling soldiers are pictures of boys and girls as young as 12 years old, who were enlisted as messengers and couriers. The Museum also has a number of excellent video and interactive presentations and a cinema screen on the Mezzanine shows footage of the first month of the struggle, when the Poles scored some important victories against the Germans. There are also a number of 'replica' exhibits, one of the best of which is the mock sewer, which guests can travel through. The sewers were often used as places of refuge and flight for the Polish Home Army - particularly as their position became increasingly desperate - and some of the gruesome realities of living in such squalor is brought home by the exhibit. The final exposition, 'Death of a City', shows footage of Warsaw as it was before the War, and after the Nazi backlash. Thousands were executed in retribution for the Uprising and every building considered of any importance to Polish culture was destroyed.
A trip to the Warsaw Rising Museum is pretty much essential for any visitor of the city - particularly those that think that the sins of the Second World War are forgotten and forgiven. The aftermath for the Poles continued until 1989 and the scars on the face of the Polish capital are still visible today.
The Warsaw Rising Museum is open 10:00 - 18:00 everyday, with late opening on Thursdays until 20:00. Admission is 4 zloty (2 for concessions), and it is free to enter on Sundays. Click here to visit the official website.