The Fate of Children in the Warsaw Uprising
Since the Polish resistance revolts against the German occupier on August 1, 1944, it cannot be predicted that this battle will last two months. Often the heroic aspect is central when looking back on this fight. The brave resistance fighters fighting with limited resources against the German army which has much more firepower, bombers and tanks.
The fate of the citizens in the city is less often considered. Before the war, Warsaw was a city of 1.3 million inhabitants. About a third of them were Jews, and these had disappeared from the city with the liquidation of the ghetto in 1943.
The resistance numbered around 50,000 members on the eve of the uprising in the Warsaw region. This means that literally hundreds of thousands of civilians were sucked into combat. Some of them actively participated in the battle or supported the fighters by making weapons, setting up barricades, putting out fires, tending to the wounded and burying the many victims. Many children among them.
An eight-year-old nurse
Iconic is the image of the girl that we have placed with this post. The photo shows Róża Maria Goździewska, only eight years old at the time of the uprising. The photo was taken in the first half of August, when she was helping to care for the wounded at the field hospital in ulica Moniuszki 11. Różyczka (Rosje) lost her father in 1943 when he was murdered by the Gestapo. She survives the uprising and dies in 1989.
The photo was taken by Eugeniusz Lokajski, who took over 1000 photos during the uprising. On the site of the mutiny museum is a page with only pictures of children. In addition to the photo of Róża, also several photos of one of the other photographers of the uprising Joachim Joachimczyk. These pictures show that the children play almost all the roles that adults also play. They were also often used as couriers.
Although it is rare, there are also pictures of children who still have time for play. For example, Joachimczyk organized puppet shows and photographed four boys engrossed in a game of chess. Still, the white-and-red armbands show that these guys are involved in the fight, too. It was not really possible to be a child at that time.
Civilians and children who did not participate in the fight were also not safe. The Nazis shot and bombed the city to ruins to break the resistance. In neighborhoods where they (again) had power, they expelled the population or were murdered. The most famous is the massacre in the Wola district shortly after the start of the uprising. Over a period of about a week, Germans murdered 40,000 to 50,000 civilians including children and babies. In total, there were one and a half to two hundred thousand civilian casualties. Compare this with the more than fifteen to sixteen thousand rebels killed.
The little rebel
For those who visited Warsaw, it may be a familiar image, Pomnik Małego Powstańca. The monument to the little rebel on the edge of the old town. The child with an oversized German helmet, boots and a German-looking machine gun symbolizes the children who fought in the uprising. The monument was unveiled in 1983.
It goes without saying that today we look at the role of children in war differently. This is also the case in Poland, where many subjects can count on disagreement in society. Pieter van Os wrote an article about the statue in 2019.
Lecture lecture on the rebellion
On October 7, in collaboration with the Driel Poland Foundation, we are organizing a lecture on the Warsaw Uprising, Heroes’ epic or humanitarian disaster? Details via the history month page.
Foto verantwoording foto van Róża Maria Goździewska: By Eugeniusz Lokajski -  for the image. Image was also published as early as 1994 Eugeniusz Lokajski (1 January 1994) Fotografie z Powstania Warszawskiego, Gebethner i Ska ISBN: 978-83-85205-20-3. which means it is eligible for public domain status, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=103279430