Exhibitions at the Hall of Remembrance
The Hall of Remembrance is a place where one can reflect upon the consequences of violence, radicalism and military conflicts. Its mission is to appeal for dialogue and to “call for peace”. The expositions presented at the Hall are aimed to honour the victims of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising and to raise awareness of the importance of the Warsaw Insurgents Cemetery. The names of tens of thousands of victims of the Warsaw Uprising have been rescued from oblivion and are now recorded on the Wall of Remembrance.
The Hall of Testimonies
A temporary exhibition
An exposition of makeshift graves and execution sites where the residents of Warsaw as well as insurgents were being shot dead is presented by way of maps showing the city from the bird’s eye view. The maps have been developed by Zygmunt Walkowski, an expert in Warsaw’s iconography from the period of World War Two who specialises in interpreting photos of the capital city. A pre-war land map of Warsaw was used to determine the locations of events described in historic documents. The places marked on the map were transferred onto the German aerial photographs taken during the Uprising and after its suppression. The photos, kept at the National Archive in College Park near Washington DC, recorded the tragedy of Warsaw, razed to the ground by the Germans after the fall of the Uprising. The maps are accompanied by lists of execution sites which contain information on dates and circumstances of the events as well as on the victims and their subsequent commemoration. The exposition is complemented by a display of approximately 50 photos from the Museum of Warsaw collection which were taken during the Uprising and after the fighting had stopped—they show ruined city, graves amongst the rubble and remains of the victims.
In the future, the Hall of Testimonies will house a multimedia installation by Krzysztof Wodiczko. Visual artist of world-renown, theoretician of art and lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Wodiczko creates a unique audio-visual work that brims with emotions. It is based on many hours spent talking to the people affected by the Warsaw Uprising trauma.
The Hall of History
The exhibition retells the story of postwar efforts made towards the establishment of the Warsaw Insurgents Cemetery. The story begins right after the Warsaw Uprising. The photographs of the capital city taken after the fighting had stopped in 1944 show the scale of destruction—a city turned into ruins and graves scattered across the rubble.
The story of striving to commemorate the victims of the 1944 Uprising has been divided into four thematic fields: Exhumations (1945-1947); Establishing the Cemetery of the Fallen in the Uprising (from November 1945 until the early 1950s, i.e. as long as the burials were taking place); Erasing from Memory (1950s-1980s) and Rescuing from Oblivion (1990s till 2022).
The last thematic field presents social actions undertaken with the aim to restore the cemetery to its proper rank. The informal Social Committee for the Insurgents Cemetery, set up in the 1990s, carried out, among others, an operation of collecting the names of the fallen, of those who had died or disappeared during the Uprising, with the aim to put them on the Wall of Remembrance. Thanks to the Committee’s efforts a stone altar was erected in 2004, sacral and insurgent symbols were incorporated in the Fallen Invincible monument (2001) and on the tombstones (from 2012), the cemetery was entered in the Historic Monuments Register (2012) and a competition for the Hall of Remembrance architectural concept was launched (2014).
Each of the themes is illustrated by scans of photographs, documents, press cuttings from the Museum of Warsaw collection and from archival research (footnote 1).
A scan of the book of the people buried at the cemetery is a vital element of this section of the exhibition. The book contains entries dating back to 30 November 1945 until 1957, as well as singular, incidental entries from the later period. The last entry dates back to 21 June 2001. Over 320 pages of the book are filled mainly with the abbreviation “N.U.” [name unknown] entered in the first name and surname column—and this is perhaps the most poignant testament to the tragedy of the Uprising.
The exhibition closes with a film which conveys the message of Wanda Traczyk-Stawska, prime mover behind the construction of the Hall of Remembrance and the chair of the Committee, addressed to the future generations.
The Room also houses a sculpture by Gustaw Zemły titled “The Reclining One”, from the Reclining Figures series. The cast in bronze dates back to 1967 and is a draft for the Fallen Invincible 1939-1945 monument unveiled at the Warsaw Insurgents Cemetery in 1973.
The Wall of Remembrance
The Wall of Memory, situated outside along both sides of the building, is an integral part of the Hall of Remembrance. It bears engraved plaques with the names of nearly 62,000 individuals—identified civilian victims and soldiers of the Warsaw Uprising. The list is being created on the basis of data collected by the Warsaw Rising Museum and as a result of the activities of the Warsaw Insurgents Cemetery Social Committee. The project of the Wall envisages adding more plaques whenever more people are identified.
FOOTNOTE 1: The research was conducted at the Institute of National Remembrance, the State Archives in Warsaw, the Warsaw Rising Museum, the Dulag 121 Museum, the National Film Archive – Audiovisual Institute, Voivode’s Deputy for the War Veterans and the Repressed, the Polish Red Cross, and with materials collected by the Warsaw Insurgents Cemetery Social Committee.