Date: 25 August 2018    Author: Mariusz Klarecki

Artwork Plundering in the Occupied Warsaw

After the siege of Warsaw in September 1939, the city changed profoundly. Many Polish soldiers remained in captivity while their families had no means of subsistence.

German soldiers at an exhibition of paintings in the National Museum in Cracow. © The National Digital Archives

Those who had fought, returned injured or seriously ill. The financial situation of the residents worsened considerably. Many Varsovians opened their doors to relatives and friends who had lost their homes. As the bombs fell, many were forced to sell off the remainder of their belongings in order to afford a temporary place of stay.

The first months of the occupation saw a boost in trade especially in more valuable goods like jewelry or artwork[1]. This is how Hanna Mortkowicz–Olczakowa, daughter of one of the most popular editors of the pre-war Warsaw, reminisces about the trade fever in the capital city: „Warsaw pushed its produce out of broken-glass shop windows and burnt houses right onto the streets. Passages between ruins and tenement houses promptly filled with traders… (…) Each object seemed to be the last of its type and a miracle saved from perdition. So people bought a lot, not very selectively, rather for later or for further trade. Tables with books occupied spaces in front of Warsaw’s finest and oldest bookshops. Sellout baskets, held in disdain before the war, were now elevated to the status of carts where jobless intelligentsia and civil servants-turned-bouquinistes stood guard.”[2].

Taking advantage of the general turmoil during the initial days of the occupation, private properties were increasingly looted by for easy plunder by German soldiers and officials. Quite often, the burglars knew exactly what they had come for and where to find it. They proceeded by taking families by surprise and making threats. The task was considerably easier as many men were away from their homes, usually held in captivity in POW camps.

Second lieutenant Stefan Gierowski was called to the front. He lived with his wife in a flat, located at Madalińskiego Street. While he was away, in October 1939, “(…) the Gestapo confiscated all valuable goods from my flat, leaving aside only furniture”. Gierowski was in possession of some precious collections, including the old collection of Polonica, comprised of 1,000 volumes, around 100 bookplated books and old porcelain. Gierowski also mentions a 50–piece collection of old Polish arms including karabelas, traditional helmets, bracers, as well as other types of arms from both Eastern and Western Europe. Especially valuable was his collection of 20 royal autographs[3].

Especially in the first months of the occupation, some German residents of city, who happened to live there before the war broke out, also participated in looting. They were usually assisted by Whermacht soldiers or SS officers[4]. The approach towards the residents of Jewish origin was different as the perpetrators did not even look for any pretext. Pillaging incidents occurred openly, both during the day and night. Even furniture was taken[5].

In late September 1939, Aleksander Enholc’s house located on Słowackiego Street was burglarized by Nazi soldiers. Among the stolen objects was a Polish Bible dating from 1577, known as Leopolitska. It was then worth some 10.000 PLN (nearly £15.000) today. Additionally, a few English books were stolen, too. According to the owner they were „invaluably rare”[6].

The case of Zbigniew Karpiński, a resident of Baciarellego Street was very similar. He was robbed of a portrait by Franciszek Ksawery Lampi depicting Szymon Malewski – Rector of the Vilnius University, painted in 1910. According to Karpiński, it was “taken away, unframed, in September 1939”[7].

The occupiers were equally interested in breaking into bank safes. Duchess Małgorzata Radziwiłł had her daughter-in-law, Jadwiga Potocka, went to Warsaw to collect the ancestral jewelry deposited in a bank. The aristocrats were unaware of the fact that the Nazis had already raided all of the deposits, stealing money and more valuable goods. Luckily, their jewelry had been saved by the bank’s director. When the Nazis were searching through the deposits of the Radziwiłłs, he laughed out loud, saying “if only they were genuine!” as he pointed to the jewelry collection. The Nazis did not question his statement and hurried along to loot other deposits[8].

Within the first months of the occupation, the Nazis began mass incarcerations and persecution of Polish political, economic and cultural elites. This is how Adam Rose, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Industry and Administration, describes what happened to him in November 1939: „my flat was taken over and looted by the Gestapo. They took furniture, paintings, porcelain. Then they burnt the place down. I reported it in writing to the Vatican in winter 1939/1940 attaching detailed descriptions of how my entire flat was pillaged, which was a blatant example of wanton vandalism”. Altogether, the Nazis stole paintings by Leon Wyczółkowski, Jan Erazm Kotowski, Włodzimierz Tetmajer, Teodor Ziomek as well as 11 engravings and fine examples of artisanal handicraft[9].

Medical doctor Helena Tarnowicz–Barlicka lived with her husband, Norbert Barlicki, at Litewska Street. Barlicki, a former Polish MP, was arrested and later transported to Auschwitz–Birkenau, where he was murdered in September 1941. The couple owned a 7–room flat, abounding in art pieces. Their collection included paintings of old masters from the Netherlands, France and Italy. Tarnowicz–Barlicka, who miraculously survived the Wola massacre, remembers: „on October 9, 1943, I was displaced within a few hours and forced to return to my second, considerably smaller, flat”. Her main flat was located at Litewska street, that is, nearby Szucha Avenue, where the Gestapo headquarters was located. Therefore, it was most probably taken over to satisfy the housing needs of the German officials working there[10].

Many residents of the outskirts of Warsaw brought their more valuable goods to the capital. They did so based on their experience from the World War I, when most battles were fought outside the city. Therefore, many goods from suburban villas, manors and palaces were transferred into Warsaw. For instance, as a result of the war damage incurred in 1939, construction entrepreneur Karol Martens was forced to move to Warsaw from Kawęczyn, where he had lived before the war broke out. As he explains he was „first harmed when the Germans entered and looted his property, accompanied by local people, whom the Germans made participate in it and later filmed them do so”. But Martens lost the majority of his property in 1944, when he resided in a flat on Opoczyńska street. At that time, several paintings and sculptures by Polish and foreign artists were stolen from him[11].

Migration in the opposite direction was present, too, especially among the intelligentsia, who fled persecution from the Nazis. In 1939, Maria Srokowska moved to her cottage house in the village of Bukowice, located in the commune of Jabłonna where a Nazi artillery unit stationed nearby. As Srokowska reminisces: „some of my paintings and carpets were confiscated in December 1939 and January 1940. It was done upon ‘an order made by the commune and for the benefit of the German army’”. In 1944, when a German artillery unit stationed in Bukowice, „the commander of that artillery unit, Walter Becker” confiscated for his personal use several artisanal carpets as well as paintings from the woman’s house, including Odalisque by Jan Styka[12].

Reconstruction of the city after its destruction in September 1939 was officially banned by the occupying forces. Only absolutely necessary reconstruction works were allowed on certain streets. Post-war testimonies of Varsovians, stored in archives, often mention reconstruction of houses or work establishments with specified sums spent for that cause. From the very moment he took office, governor Hans Frank made it clear that Warsaw was not to be rebuilt. On the contrary, he made efforts to reduce reconstruction works to a bare minimum. The symbols of Polish rule were particularly targeted. The Royal Castle, for instance, destroyed and burned during the bombings of 1939, was set to be blown up as early as November 9, 1939. The decision was finally abandoned as plans were made to loot it thoroughly[13].

The Nazis eagerly proceeded with the looting of Polish artwork in museums as well as private collections. Regulations passed on December 16, 1939 required privately-owned art pieces to be reported to the Special Delegate for Listing and Securing Art Work and Objects of Cultural Value with specified number, type and state of the possessed goods. Failure to comply with the regulation was punishable by imprisonment or a trial before the Special Courts. All art pieces and antiques were to be reported until February 15, 1940. Already in the first days of occupation looting was common. In 1943, Hans Frank himself described the early days of occupation in the General Government as „the period of plunder”[14].

As Bohdan Marconi notes in his diary, the regulation on the seizure of private and museum collection caused „panic among the collectors, who rather hid their precious artefacts than decided to proceed with their official registration. All collections belonging to the non-Aryan owners were actually confiscated. Later, I saw many paintings that I knew had belonged to such collectors in the district administration, Abteilung Kultur in the Brühl Palace. Or they were sent for renovation to the museum atelier [the National Museum in Warsaw – M.K.] I was once there with my colleague Pawłowski. We were studying a painting by Bellotto, it was View of Pirno, owned by Stefan Dobrzyński. Then entered the museum’s supervisor dr. Alfred Schellenberg. He immediately commented on what the painting depicted but did not mention the artist. It was impossible that an art historian would not have recognized the artist in such a typical painting. It would seem that Schellenberg refused to identify the painting to avoid its confiscation. Or perhaps he thought it belonged to the museum.”[15].

Alongside Nazi soldiers or military officers, administration officials did not hesitate to loot private flats if given such chance. On October 1, 1939, Helmut Otto was appointed the Commissar of the Third Reich for Warsaw. Already a few weeks later, he was replaced by Oskar Dengel who was particularly hostile towards the residents. Initially appointed president of Warsaw, later the city’s prefect, he eventually left Warsaw in March 1940. Upon departing, he took a substantial number of artworks stolen from their owners. District Governor Ludwig Fischer, who stayed in the capital, decorated his offices in the Brühl Palace with plundered art pieces[16].

Warsaw’s private properties were plundered by employees of the Nazi administration, police officers, NSDAP units, as well as members of a number of institutions, organizations and even cooperative enterprises.

A photo from the period of German occupation in Warsaw. The northern part of Śródmieście district. The loading of works of art on a truck and trailers in front of the Zachęta art gallery building at Małachowskiego Square 3. © Stefan Bałuk „Kubuś” „Starba” (The Warsaw Rising Museum)

Fully fitted and furnished flats with carpets and artwork were assigned to the employees of the district head offices as well as to those working in German offices in the city’s prefect. It was not unusual for German officials to carry out attacks on private properties without proper permits from the occupying forces administration, merely abusing their high position. We know of cases when many parties competed for one particularly valuable object. This was the case of the collection of Polish and foreign paintings owned by Rafał Lemkin and stored in his flat at Kredytowa street. It was plundered first by the Gestapo, then his neighbors and finally looted by Volksdeutschers and German officials[17].

Heinrich Himmler’s special envoys were the first to find interest in artworks from the occupied Warsaw. They operated under the name of Science and Research Association „Our Ancestors Heritage” (Das Ahnenerbe). It was led by Peter Paulsen from the University of Berlin and Ernst Petersen from Rostock. It operated under the patronage of the SS. Independent of Paulsen’s group, Kajetan Mühlmann, art historian, was in charge of organized artwork-looting in the GG. Appointed the Special Delegate, acting on behalf of Göring, he selected a team of art historians, antiquarians and museum professionals from Berlin, Vienna and Breslau (today’s Wrocław). It was officially convened to „secure cultural and artistic goods”, which, in practice, meant confiscations of antiques and art pieces for the benefit of museum collections in the Third Reich as well as for German high-ranking officials’ own needs[18].

The finest art pieces plundered across Europe were to be included in the collections in Hitler’s museum (Führermuseum) in Linz. These were the masterpieces labelled as „priorities.” The works that were labelled as “second choice”, which were to be exhibited in German museums, were stored temporarily. Artworks with a “third choice” label were used to decorate and furnish offices and homes of the Nazi officials[19].

Reproductions and descriptions of the artworks labelled “priority” were edited in a catalogue entitled Sichergestellte Kunstwerke im Generalgouvernement, prepared by a task force at the Special Delegate Office. In 1940, Hans Frank offered the catalog and a photographic album as a gift to Hitler. The album featured 521 of the most valued plundered art pieces (according to the Germans), ranging from paintings to artisanal handicraft. Such cataloged pieces were meant to be displayed in the planned Führermuseum.

Two task forces were established by Kajetan Mühlmann in order to proceed with a thorough search and seizure of valuable objects in the General Government. The first one, led by Joseph Mühlmann, art historian from Salzburg and Kajetan’s brother, took over the northern part of the GG, which included Warsaw. The second task force, with Gustav Barthel in charge, focused on plundering in the southern parts[20].

The northern group’s Warsaw mission consisting of the expropriation of artworks was completed by June 1940. The plundered works were stored in the National Museum in Warsaw. In order to facilitate the proceedings, all stages of the operation were organized in minute detail. It started with stocktaking. Afterwards, the works were renovated, packed into chests and transported. In 1943, Mühlmann was replaced by Wilhelm Ernst Palezieux. One of the main tasks of the new Special Delegate was to help Frank transfer some of the pillaged pieces to his villa, located not far from Munich[21].

Erwin Axer brings an interesting perspective in his short stories. Long after the war, the author happened to visit the house of one of the former non-commissioned SS officers, serving in Frank’s personal team. What he spotted there was “a small Kossak”[22], as he puts it.

Under the occupation, the civilians often made efforts to save valuable book collections before they were destroyed by the Nazis. One common way to do so was selling one’s collection for the price of paper waste, either to a familiar public institution or to a private owner. This is what Eliasz Czajkowski decided to do. The transaction with this former supervisor of the Ministry of Communication’s library was later described by the buyer, Czesław Gutry. He located the acquired collection in his private flat in Warsaw’s Old Town. Sadly, the collection burned down during the Warsaw Uprising[23].

During the Siege of Warsaw in 1939, Wanda and Jan Rybiński lost most volumes belonging to their book collection. They perished in a fire at their flat on Hoża Street. Therefore, benefiting from unusually low book prices, they acquired nearly 250 volumes from Gebethner & Wolf bookshop. It was mostly memoirs, history books as well as belles-lettres. This recreated bibliotheca perished again when it ws consumed by the flames dominating the city when it was being razed after the uprising[24].

Salesman Roman Kozakow was arrested on August 2, 1942 in his flat located on Ordynacka Street. He was arrested for his „refusal to cooperate with the German occupier in supplying the German army”. When he was imprisoned, his flat and all his belongings were confiscated. Just his book collection featured over 2,000 volumes. In addition, Kozakow possessed engravings by Albrecht Dürer, paintings by Leon Wyczółkowski, Emil Lindeman, Juliusz and Wojciecha Kossak or Alfred Wierusz–Kowalski, Ignacy Zygmuntowicz, Antoni Adam Piotrowski to name only a few. As the aggrieved puts it himself, he kept in his flat „valuable collections compiled in a life’s time”. The last sentence from the questionnaire is particularly interesting: „Attention!!!, lost forever, didn’t burn down, taken westwards!!! [sic]”[25].

Upon being arrested by the Gestapo, a person’s belongings were confiscated and relatives who were present were sent off to concentration camps. Between 1940 and 1944, Edward Assbury, National Library employee, participated in the seizures of collections belonging to the arrested, executed or those sent off to camps. Officially, home collections were taken by the Office of Confiscated Goods, often escorted by German police officers. The librarian mentions the following plundered book collections: Zofia Garlicka’s (from Niepodległości Avenue), Janina Peretiatkowiczowska’s (from Grottgera Street), lieutenant Poniatowski’s (from Wawelska Street), Mieczysław Treter’s (from Przyjaciół Avenue), Zygmunt Muszla’s[26].

We know of cases, however, when persecuted Varsovians managed to hide even top-secret documents or family souvenirs prior to the perquisition of their flats. Bohdan Korzeniowski reveals how a collection of herbaria, owned by assistant professor Zieliński, was used in this manner. A few hundred pages of thin paper fit an entire archive of the Directorate of Civil Resistance, squeezed in between preserved specimens. The documents revealed all personal data, lists of sabotage acts, secret codes, hiding locations and much more extraordinary information. When the professor was arrested and his flat carefully searched, the Gestapo did not find the documents[27].

In 1942, Janina Naumienko’s husband hid family documents, including his commission, in a door lock. Despite extensive searches, the Gestapo did not find the secret compartment. After the couple returned to the half-burned flat, they found the door in another room and discovered that the documents were miraculously preserved.

In his diaries, Witold Bagniewski remembers a rich collection of Stanisław Patek, then resident of the Old Town: “the flat of attorney Patek at 8 Kanonii Street was a museum on its own. The walls were covered in firearm and other types of weapon, there were mannequins clad in entire uhlan uniforms, lances, rifles, flintlock rifles, and whatnot. Then, in the middle of the room, stood a table with a glassed cabinet, and inside of it one could marvel at a full set of Polish Freemasonry insignia and distinctions, starting from the Grand Master to an ordinary brother. There were also insignia of other rites such as the Scottish one. The bed of attorney Patek was truly spartan, covered with a military blanket. It stood as if under a tent, supported by uhlan lances with their pennants hanging down freely. Attorney Patek was a great enthusiast of old arms. He gladly collected all relics from the periods of Poland’s golden age, two insurrections and Poland’s glorious rebirth from ashes after the Great War”.

Before the war, Stanisław Patek was Poland’s foreign affairs minister, a delegate in Tokyo and Moscow, an ambassador to the United States, and then, between 1936–1939, a senator, appointed by the president of Poland. Later, he retired from politics due to an incurable disease manifesting itself by leg paresis. Under the occupation, unable to find means of subsistence, he relied on food supplied by his friends. He began to gradually sell off his collections. He assigned this task to Jan Czaja, his former long-time butler. On February 1, 1944, the Home Army assassinated Frantz Kutschera, the SS and Police commander for the Warsaw district within the General Government, generally known as Hangman of Warsaw. His ceremonial funeral was organized three days later. Fearing another assault, the Nazis ordered to empty all flats overlooking the streets of the cortege’s planned passage, threatening anyone with death for noncompliance.

Stanisław Patek – Polish lawyer, attorney, diplomat, foreign minister, senator. © The National Digital Archives

The cortege would march from the Royal Castle to stop near the Gdański Station. Attorney Patek, living on his own, was unable to comply with the regulation due to his leg paresis. As a result, three German officers paid him a visit. They „asked why I had not followed the orders of the gendarmes urging me to leave the flat. I responded that I suffered from leg paresis and could not ambulate. In the meantime, one of them saw the portrait of Roosevelt of natural size and asked where I had acquired it. I answered by saying that I was an ambassador in Washington and received the portrait with a dedication, still visible. He listened to my statement in silence and proceeded to another room to examine my collections. There, he saw a portrait of the Emperor Hirohito, in natural size, with dedication reading ‘to Polish Ambassador Stanisław Patek from the Emperor of Japan’. The SS one called the remaining two and showed them the portrait. They saluted. Then they spoke to me, letting me stay and treating me with cigarettes that I refused. They saluted again and left.”[28].

Out of concern for the safety of German citizens, as well as their privilege and comfort, already in 1940, plans were made to establish a single German residential district. Therefore, the Germans were indicated to settle near the offices seating in proximity of Ujazdowskie Avenues and in the villa quarter of Mokotów. That meant the displacement of Poles living in these flats. In the first days of November, those living at Litewska Street were forced to pack and leave their flats within 12 hours[29].

The final borders of the German residential district were defined in 1943. It went along the Vistula river, starting from 3–go Maja Avenue and running through Bracka Street, Mokotowska Street up until the Mokotowskie Meadow and Kazimierzowska, Krasickiego and Malczewskiego streets. Then it included Tyniecka Street, Odyńca Street until it reached the river again. It was particularly important to concentrate a high number of German residents within the „police district,” as it was called, located in proximity of Unii Lubelskiej Plaza, up until Piękna Street. This was where most offices were located, including that of the police administration. Such concentration of strategic state institutions facilitated the task of maintaining security. Usually provided by establishing checkpoints and deploying military and police patrols. Displacements of Polish residents from that part of the city continued until March 1944. Approximately 3.000 Poles were displaced during this period, while the district was barbed-wired[30].

Before the war, Elżbieta Mikulicz–Radecka lived at Ujazdowskie Avenues before moving to a flat located on Róż Avenue. Her husband, Wacław Mikulicz–Radecki, was in the convoy that set out to carry the most precious national treasures through Romania, France, and the UK to Canada in early September 1939. The popular and well-described collection by duchess Elżbieta Mikulicz–Radecka suffered partially in 1939. In 1942, the first floor of her house was taken over by Germans „upon the occupier’s demand”. The remaining part of the property was given to the Evangelical Church. The collection of the duchess featured painting masterpieces and artisanal handicrafts with a particular stress on artisanal ceramics, mostly from the early years of production from Polish manufactories such as Belweder, Korzec or Baranówka. This rich collection of decorative objects featured magnificent silverware or figurines for table decoration as well as candelabra, pateras, and other table centerpieces. In one of the duchess questionnaires is an affixed photograph depicting a set of decorative bronze table centerpieces in empire style. It was made of gold-plated bronze. The duchess packed her entire furnishings into parcels, chests and baskets and, through an entrusted intermediary, sent it off to several places. However, the entire collection owned by Elżbieta Radecka–Mikulicz „burned down at the Warsaw Uprising.”[31].

The plundering and confiscation of goods, done equally by both military and German officials, continued throughout the occupation, including just days before the Warsaw Uprising began. Stanisława Sawicka, custodian at the Engravings Cabinet at Warsaw University Library, and her entire family were arrested by the Gestapo on May 13, 1944. After the family was taken away from their flat at Ks. Skorupki Street, the Gestapo seized a collection of valuable scientific books comprised of roughly 3,000 volumes as well as paintings, drawings, graphics, old porcelain, fabrics and silverware. On June 25, 1944, Franciszek Lasocki was taken off guard in his flat by Geheime Staatspolizei, raiding his property. He was arrested while his belongings from the flat, located at Wspólna Street, were confiscated[32].

Maria Osikowska, living with her husband at Hoża Street, lost her property on June 28 and 29, 1944. All of the appurtenances of a 5–room flat were taken by the Gestapo shortly after the couple was arrested. A total of 26 paintings, including ones by Ivan Shishkin and Ivan Ajvazovsky, were plundered. Other major losses suffered by Osikowska included 2 sets of Chinese porcelain as well as 2 sets of 18th–century porcelain from Sèvres and Meissen[33].

In the aftermath of the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union, occupied Warsaw suffered several Soviet bombing raids. They usually occurred at night and targeted military infrastructure as well as communication hubs. The most intense attack was carried out on the night of May 12–13, 1943. The Okęcie airport and railroad lines were to be the main targets. However, the bombs were eventually dropped on Grójecka Street, Marszałkowska Street and Zbawiciela Plaza leaving 150 dead (including around a dozen German soldiers). Within two hours of the bombing, 800–1.000 people lost their homes with significant parts of Warsaw falling into ruin[34].

One of the bombs exploded in proximity of the house owned by the Strzałecki, located on Towiańskiego Street in Warsaw’s Żoliborz district. Before the outbreak of the war, Antoni Jan Strzałecki was a famous decorator and collector. As we read in his grandson’s memoir, fearing more raids, „on the next day, my mum packed all objects from my great-grandfather’s collection that we had somehow managed to keep and hid it in the basement. Among them was an 18th–century chandelier made by the Radziwiłł glass manufactory from Urzecze”. The chandelier was one of the few artefacts that survived the war. The collection of the Strzałeckis stood out once as it included the finest feats of age-old artisanry, paintings and militaria. Initially stored in the famous „House of Atlantes” at 24 Ujazdowskie Avenues, they were later moved to a house in Powiśle. The vast majority of artifacts were sold or donated to the National Museum in Warsaw. After Strzałecki died in 1934, the remainder of his collection was either sold or shared between numerous relatives. To make matters worse, the flat at Topiel Street, furnished with a fine taste, was bombed in September 1939. Therefore, the few remaining valuables were moved to a temporary flat in Żoliborz[35].

In 1944, as the front approached Warsaw, it revived fears among collectors and art enthusiasts, reminiscent of 1939. They were pondering the best way to hide their precious belongings. While they might have supposed that the extent of damage would be similar to that of 1939, no one presumed that such a grim scenario was about to unfold.

As the Warsaw Uprising was bound to begin, Józef Zembowicz and his friend, both great enthusiasts of Polish painters, were dwelling upon ways to secure their collections of paintings. Their opinions varied. Engineer Zembowicz was convinced that moving his collection to his house in Milanówek was a better option. So this was what he did. Judge Adamski, on the other hand, insisted on moving all valuables back into Warsaw. Eventually both barely managed to move their belongings to flats located at Niepodległości Avenue before the uprising broke out. Adamski came to Warsaw with the last parcel as late as the 1st of August. Sadly, he went missing on that day, together with his collection. In the questionnaire submitted after the war, Józef Zembowicz, who had finally decided to stay in a summer house in Milanówek with kids, declared having lost 41 paintings by Polish artists, including Portrait of brother by Władysław Czachórski, Siberia and Portrait of son by Jacek Malczewski, Digging up by Julian Fałat Solec by Aleksander Gierymski, Uhlan and Windmill by Wojciech Kossak, Sieving by Apoloniusz Kędzierski, Restaurant by Franciszek Kostrzewski as well as artworks by Leon Wyczółkowski, Stanisław Noakowski, Stefan Mrożewski, Kazimierz Lasocki. He equally declared loss of artisanal artefacts[36].

Monika Żeromska, daughter of Poland’s famous writer Stefan Żeromski, describes in her diary, how, fearing the approaching front, she moved 4 boxes of her father’s manuscripts from Konstancin to the Old Town in Warsaw. She supposed that the precious souvenirs would be safer in the city center of Warsaw. The transport of these materials was a risky enterprise itself because German gendarmes searched each car going that direction. “If they were to find it, they would without a doubt take it or destroy it immediately”, she recalls[37].

Stefan Talikowski is his post-war Chronicles captured the collectors’ spirits as of 1944: „In the last days preceding the Uprising, I spoke to Mr. Krzysztof [Tyszkiewicz – M. K.] regarding securing the collections. He told me then: “I am not not hiding anything, nor securing it. As long I live, I want to look at it and enjoy it. I very much liked this approach and was of similar opinion myself. So, together with Gienia [the wife – M. K.], we decided not to hide anything and enjoy ourselves”[38].

Just before the uprising, Warsaw was home to 950.000 residents. It is estimated that by the first days to the uprising between 370.000–400.000 Jews from Warsaw were either exterminated or sent off to concentration camps. According to Władysław Bartoszewski by August 1944, around 30,000 Poles were murdered and nearly 100.000 were sent off the Third Reich as forced laborer. Under the occupation, it was the Jewish population that suffered most losses of cultural objects. A stark majority of Warsaw’s pre-war population was murdered in the ghetto or in concentration camps[39].


[1] Z. Potocka, Antykwariat ‘Miniatura’. Wspomnienia, Rocznik Muzeum Narodowego, vol. XI, Warsaw 1967, p. 210.

[2] H. Mortkowicz–Olczakowa, Pod znakiem kłoska, Warsaw 1962, p. 325.

[3] State Archive of the Capital City of Warsaw, Municipal Executive, the War Damage Department (hereinafter referred to as APW ZM WSW), sign. 164, nr kw. 11104, p. 235.

[4] C. Łuczak, Polityka ludnościowa i ekonomiczna hitlerowskich Niemiec w okupowanej Polsce, Poznań 1979, p. 250.

[5] J. P. Majewski, Śródmieście i jego mieszkańcy w latach niemieckiej okupacji: październik 1939–1 sierpnia 1944. Dzień powszedni, [in:] W. Fałkowski, Straty Warszawy 1939–1945. Raport, The Capital City of Warsaw, Warsaw 2005, p. 71.

[6] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 159, nr kw. 9992, p. 978.

[7] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 159, nr kw. 9856, p. 444.

[8] L. H. Nicholas, The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and World War II, referenced in Polish translation, Cracow 1997, p. 64.

[9] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 74, nr kw. 10938, p. 842.

[10] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 166, nr kw. 11749, no pagination.

[11] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 73, nr kw. 10637, p. 582.

[12] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 78, nr kw. 11906, p. 758.

[13] J. Ślaski, Polska walcząca, Warsaw 1999, p. 455.

[14] C. Łuczak, op. cit., p. 22, 233-234.

[15] B. Marconi, O sztuce konserwacji, Warsaw 1982, p. 282-284.

[16] M. Getter, Władze niemieckie okupowanej Warszawy, [in:] W. Fałkowski, op. cit., p. 213-214, 218.

[17] A. Trepiński, Jak ratowano dobra kulturalne w domach prywatnych, [in:] P. Lorentz, Walka o dobra kultury Warsaw 1939–1945, Warsaw 1970, vol. 2, p. 109.

[18] L. H. Nicholas, op. cit., p. 67-77.

[19] Hans Posse, director of Dresden gallery of art, was put in charge of gathering the newly acquired pieces and preparing the museum in Linz. He was one of the people behind artwork-looting in Warsaw, – cf. K. Ajewski, T. Zadrożny, Straty muzeów i kolekcji artystycznych Warszawy w latach 1939–1945, [in:] W. Fałkowski, op. cit., p. 569.

[20] K. Ajewski, T. Zadrożny, op. cit., p. 573-574.

[21] L. H. Nicholas, op. cit., p. 79.

[22] E. Axer, Ćwiczenia pamięci, series 3, Cracow 1998, p. 10-13.

[23] C. Gutry, Pamiętnik, [in:] P. Lorentz, Walka o dobra kultury…, p. 7-8.

[24] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 52, nr kw. 5286, p. 161.

[25] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 119, nr kw. 22336, p. 415.

[26] E. Assbury, Losy księgozbiorów warszawskich zabezpieczonych w BN w latach 1940–1944, [in:] P. Lorentz, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 268.

[27] B. Korzeniowski, Książki, [in:] P. Lorentz, op. cit., p. 295.

[28] W. Bagniewski, Wizyta Gestapo u Mec. Patka, [in:] Wspomnienia 1892–45. Rynek Starego Miasta, the National Library, sign. 10540, p. 12-14. On Patek’s collection: E. Chwalewik, Zbiory polskie. Archiwa, biblioteki, gabinety, galerie, muzea i inne zbiory pamiątek przeszłości w ojczyźnie i na obczyźnie w porządku alfabetycznym według miejscowości ułożone, Warsaw 1927, vol. 2, p. 411-413.

[29] J. P. Majewski, op. cit., p. 76-77.

[30] M. Getter, op. cit., p. 235.

[31] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 36, nr kw. 1422, p. 814; E. Chwalewik, op. cit., p. 419.

[32] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 259, nr kw. 41/46, p. 169. Geheime Staatspolizei – Secret State Police.

[33] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 109, nr kw. 19903, p. 687.

[34] T. Szarota, Naloty na Warszawę podczas II wojny światowej, [in:] W. Falkowski, op. cit., p. 271-277.

[35] Oral account by A. Strzałecki, March 2015, from the author’s collection.

[36] Account of K. Zembowicz’s son from November 2013, from the author’s collection; APW, ZM WSW, sign. 91, nr kw. 15438, p. 823

[37] M. Żeromska, Wspomnień ciąg dalszy, Warsaw 2007, p. 109.

[38] P. Talikowski, Kronika rodziny Talikowskich–Talikowiczów, the National Library, mikr. sign. akc. 11061, p. 366-367.

[39] K. Komorowski, Bitwa o Warszawę ‘44. Militarne aspekty powstania warszawskiego, Warsaw 2004, footnote 9, p. 95.

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