Archive for August 1st, 2019

Warsaw at war, and a message of peace: “So this German takes off all his clothes…”

Thursday, August 1st, 2019
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Sendler at the time of her interviews with Skinner. She died in 2008.

Today is the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. If you want to see Mikołaj Kaczmarek’s remarkable new “colorizing” of photos from the year-long Polish struggle that resulted in the defeat and destruction of Poland’s capital, go here

‘I was in shock – the past just came right out at me.” (Photo Mikołaj Kaczmarek)

According to Kaczmarek, “The first photo I tried was the girl next to a grave. When I finished, I was in shock – the past just came right out at me.” 

“They lived in a time of apocalypse and whether they wanted to or not they had to fight and they often died,” he said. “The colorization made me realize that they were people just like us, they just happened to live at that time.”

Meanwhile, we haven’t written for some time about Mary Skinner, the filmmaker who made In the Name of Their Mothersabout Holocaust heroine Irena Sendler‘s efforts that saved 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto (see here and here and here and here). Below, an excerpt from Skinner’s interviews with Sendler in Warsaw, 2004. (Sendler died at 98 in 2008), where she describes living through the Warsaw Uprising:

“The Warsaw Uprising is in progress. I am in this Red Cross hospital but, in fact, it is a Home Army hospital. There are about a hundred patients. This is the end of August, and we have nothing to eat. One of the patients is a servant from a landowner’s family. She tells the hospital director that in the house opposite – which is destroyed, but the basement is intact – her employers left behind an entire basement full of food. Hams and sausages, everything. So we walk into this basement. And we’re loading sacks full of all this food – and in walks a German. He was startled to see us and we were alarmed to see him. His first reaction was to jab my leg with his bayonet. I have a scar on my leg to this day.

So he was startled. We were, too. He asks us what are we doing here and we tell him in our broken German that we came to pick up the food. He stood there, and he saw us behaving in a normal way. He tells us that he is in search of some civilian clothing. “I‘ve had enough of this killing. It has been five years now and I just want to get out of this and I’m looking for some civilian clothing.” So the servant says that her employers, before they left, had packed a suitcase full of good clothes. “So get out of your uniform and we’ll have you dressed.” So this German takes his clothes off and we dress him from head to toe in a very elegant suit and we tell him, “Just run away and stop all this killing and don’t kill anymore.” He said, “I’ve been killing for five or six years now. I have a wife and children and the war is almost over. I’ve had enough.” So we said, “Just run away and quit killing.”

And so he did.