old warsaw: honky chateaus and the polish paradox

The destruction of Poland during WWII was unprecedented. The past is, in many real ways, the only material out of which to construct the future since so many citizens draw their sustenance, spiritual as well as economic, from the city. Many of Poland’s greatest cities, including Warsaw and Gdansk, were all but destroyed, their art looted, and their historic buildings burned.It was a coldly calculated demolition that laid waste to over 75% of historic Warsaw and Gdansk leading to a problem that was more about reconstruction than mere preservation and restoration; and especially complicated problem whose bases are profoundly psychological in addition to the physical challenge. In short, to rebuild a soul; to Hitler the Poles were slave-bait Slavs and in a famous telegram he ordered Warsaw to be crumbled into dust and replaced by a small military post in a total act of cultural nihilism. ….

—Nobody had ever carried out a reconstruction of the monuments of a war torn city on such a scale. The decision to do so was a break with the prevailing conservation doctrine of those times. After the war, Germany, England, Holland and Italy reconstructed only individual selected historical buildings, when they came to rebuild towns which had been virtually erased from the face of the earth.
When, in 1945, Jan Zachwatowicz (head of BOS’s Department of Monumental Architecture) presented his proposal for the reconstruction of the historical district, its boundaries went far beyond today’s Old Town and the Royal Route. It was to encompass an area of over 11 square kilometres. Zachwatowicz met with a violent attack from opponents of reconstruction and the historical area was reduced. It is true to say that the entire period of BOS’s activities was characterised by a sharp conflict between the ‘monumentalists’ grouped around Jan Zachwatowicz and Piotr Biegański and the ‘modernisators’, led by the head of BOS, Roman Piotrowski and his deputy, Józef Sigalin. It is not surprising that this division coincided with their political leanings. Zachwatowicz’s group was connected with the AK Underground Resistance Movement and the Polish Underground State, while Piotrowski and Sigalin belonged to the new order.—Read More:http://www.dsh.waw.pl/en/3_103 image:http://www.thenews.pl/1/11/Artykul/52592,Polands-heritage-should-be-protected-says-UNESCO

The Wilanow Palace is a great chateau begun in 1677 and continuously lived in, altered and redecorated until WWII. Deterioration of the physical fabric was due more to poor construction and simple neglect than to wartime damage. Like many seventeenth and eighteenth century palaces, including Versailles itself, Wilanow turned out to have been very shoddily built. The restorers found startling structural weaknesses from foundations to attics; the whole fabric had to be reinforced. As a museum, it offers three centuries of the domestic life of the Polish aristocracy. This was surprising in that Communist countries would lavish so much sympathetic attention upon the recreation of the homes of the old aristocracy. For to display these old palaces without all the squalid dependencies upon which they rested is to present as incomplete a picture of serfdom as do the American bowdlerized restorations at Mt. Vernon and Monticello, where the odious facts of slavery were virtually expunged from the picture.

—The sea of rubble which Warsaw was reduced to during World War II has been vividly reconstructed in a 3D film. It aims to bring home to a young generation the scale of wartime devastation in Poland’s capital.
It took 40 specialists two years to make the five-minute 3D aerial view sequence, a simulation of an imaginary flight over the city immediately after the war in 1945. The team took a helicopter flight over contemporary Warsaw to film base material. The 3D film is the first digital reconstruction of the destroyed city. It’s dedicated to the city’s 1944 uprising, which began on August 1st that year, against Nazi German invaders. The release of the film in Warsaw’s Rising Museum is timed to mark the uprising’s 66th anniversary.—Read More:http://www.china.org.cn/video/2010-07/30/content_20606742.htm

(see link at end)…The Office for the Reconstruction of the Capital played a key role in this process during the period 1945–51. This was a multi-faceted institution. The new authorities treated BOS instrumentally, as a tool in the process of transformation of the ruins of Warsaw into a socialist city, modelled on a Soviet template. The BOS Emergency Services undertook controversial decisions with regard to the demolition of dozens of 19th Century buildings, even those which had already been rebuilt. Such decisions were frequently taken in order to prevent the return of the buildings to their rightful private owners. Urban planners and architects, who before the war had designed nothing more than groups of buildings, could now let their imagination run free and create entire districts, with no regard for former division of title rights. Today, this method of operation is subject to strong criticism. On the other hand, enthusiasts such as Professor Jan Zachwatowicz, working within the framework of BOS, did all they could to rescue as much as possible of the national heritage which had been destroyed during the war – and years later this work met with the highest accolade.Read More:http://www.dsh.waw.pl/en/3_103

Restoration of the older parts of Warsaw were aided by the paintings of an eighteenth century itinerant from Italy, Bernardo Bellotto—Palazzo Sarcinelli – Bernardo Bellotto. Il Canaletto delle Corte Europee exhibition – Warsaw. Bernardo Bellotto’s Il Palazzo di Wilanow Visto dal Parco, 1776 oil on canvas. Late in 1766, called to be the court painter by the recently crowned king, Stanislaus II Augustus Poniatowski Bernardo Bellotto, went to Warsaw. His views of Warsaw are nearly all collected in the city’s Royal Castle. — Read More:http://contessanally.blogspot.ca/2011/11/conegliano-palazzo-sarcinelli-bernardo.html

The aspect of Polish conservation work which is the most impressive and the most controversial at the time was the reconstruction of vanished buildings. In Warsaw, the whole of the medieval center had to be rebuilt in fascimile and in Gdansk a similar story; these reconstructions were the subject of many polemics, inside and out of Poland, with regard to the liberties taken and much hand-wringing and private reservations. The ultimate reason for the success of the reconstruction was not primarily aesthetic: it was political, patriotic and emotional.  The conditions in Warsaw immediately before and after liberation revealed a city reduced to a lunar wasteland and it was a destruction that involved not only buildings and streets, but all cultural artifacts such as monuments of national heroes like Copernicus and Chopin.

—Market square of Warsaw, after its reconstruction 1953, © Zentralinstut für Kunstgeschichte I Phototek, Photo: 1958.—Read More:http://arttattler.com/architecturereconstructions.html


(see link at end) …But sometimes there is also simple verbal anti-Semitism. For years a common expression in Poland was “The streets are ours, the buildings are yours.” In Polish it’s a rhyme that hints of the contradiction between Polish ownership of the land and the Jewish capital that built on it. Recently Russek arrived at the parking place reserved for the center he directs, just when a woman in a black Mercedes was planning to park her car there. With extraordinary politeness, he called her attention to the sign that says that this parking space is reserved for the Center for Jewish Culture. “So you’re buying our streets again?” remarked the woman angrily, thinking that he was a Jew. But Russek also points out that the center has been standing for over a decade, and there have been no graffiti scribbled on the building, and almost no threats….

…So how does it happen that despite the physical absence of Jews from the soil of Poland, they are present everywhere? The answer probably lies in much deeper layers of the Polish experience. Immediately after being freed from the Nazi occupation, the Poles began to live under what many consider the Soviet occupation. For almost 50 years of this cultural and moral “occupation,” the Poles had no opportunity to confront their past and their history. Only now are they embarking on a search for the lost time, and wherever they come to search for themselves they find Jews an inseparable part of their past. So that part of the search for themselves must pass through the Jewish axis, and that is what entrenches the Jewish presence in Poland far beyond its true proportions. …Read More:http://www.haaretz.com/culture/books/the-polish-paradox-1.118842

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