Sunday, July 31, 2011
The Warsaw Uprising, August 1, 1944
On August 1, 1944, the Polish resistance and the people of Warsaw rose up to throw off the Nazi oppressors. The Poles fought with guns, bricks, stolen grenades, sticks, and their hands and teeth. The Nazis retaliated with tanks, bombers, and fire.
63 days later the last Poles surrendered to the Germans.
250,000 men, women, and children were killed in the fighting, and the city of Warsaw was leveled by the Germans.
As a boy growing up, I would often hear my father talk about the fight the Poles made in the face of German military superiority. He would talk and sometimes he would weep for the dead.
My father wasn't there, of course. He had been taken by the Germans to Buchenwald Concentration Camp several years before. But when he talked about the Warsaw Uprising, he spoke like a man who had been touched by something that he would never forget.
I tried to capture this in a poem called "Cross of Polish Wood."
A CROSS OF POLISH WOOD
Told to take nothing
he took the cross
his mother gave him
two clean planed strips
made one by four nails
and a figure in lead
But he didn't pray in the box cars
he whispered and listened to whispers
talk of Polish honor
and the strength of lances
of Anders and Sikorski
and someone always said
"Warsaw will never fall
Panzers are only made of steel"
The fall of Warsaw taught him to pray
sent him to his knees in Buchenwald
to the nails and the lead
and the clean-planed Polish wood