Bombing of Prudential – a shocking example of how Germany reduced Warsaw to rubble in WWII

In August 1944 Warsaw was still under German fire. Prudential, the tallest skyscraper in pre-war Poland, was built between 1931 and 1933 in the Art Deco style. At the time of construction it was the third tallest skyscraper in Europe. It was hit by a 2-ton German missile and approximately 1,000 artillery shells during the Warsaw Uprising, on 28 August 1944.

The picture of the explosion taken by field correspondent Sylwester Braun has evolved into a pivotal emblem of the Warsaw Uprising and is probably one of the most famous photos of World War II.

The 66m building was in the Insurgents’ hands from 1 August, taken over by soldiers of the “Kiliński” battalion. The soldiers hung the Polish flag on the top, and the Home Army (AK – Armia Krajowa) observation point was set up on the upper floors. “When the Polish flag was hoisted from it, people left their homes just to look at it, crying and laughing and spontaneously singing the national anthem” – wrote historian Alexandra Richie.

Heavily damaged skyscraper after the war. Photo: Cyprian War, Wikipedia, public domain

The building was heavily damaged but survived the bombing. It was rebuilt in the post-war years. As much as 9,000 tons of debris were removed from its interior. We know Prudential nowadays as Hotel Warszawa. Located  in the center of Warsaw, this distinguished 5-star hotel run by the Likus family showcases remarkable architecture and interior design that beautifully showcases the city’s pre-war magnificence.

Hotel Warszawa today. Picture: British Poles

The 63-day uprising was the largest effort any European resistance movement took during World War II. Hundreds of thousands of people died during the fighting without any outside support. Poland’s capital was almost totally destroyed. “The entire nation builds its capital” (Cały naród buduje swoją stolicę) became the city’s rallying cry.

On 1 September 2022 Arkadiusz Mularczyk, deputy minister of Poland’s foreign affairs, presented the “The report on the losses suffered by Poland as a result of the German aggression and occupation during the Second World War, 1939-1945”.

According to the report, the number of Poland’s population loss suffered at German hands was set at 5,219,000 people (21% of which were children under 10). Total amount of material losses was USD 196.403 billion and in cultural assets and works of art approx. USD 4.756 billion. Adding all components gives the total amount of Polish losses PLN 6,220,609 million (USD 1,532,170 million).

To date, the Republic of Poland has not received any amount of war reparations. The Potsdam Conference in 1945 established the framework for the denazification of Germany and the methods by which it would address its responsibility for the devastation it caused in Europe—through financial reparations and open admissions of culpability. German propaganda has expended efforts to substantiate the existence of a record detailing Polish abandonment of reparations. Minister Mularczyk emphasizes that within the repositories of the Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, no resolution from the Council of Ministers or any paperwork meeting the requisite formal and legal criteria of such a resolution pertaining to the purported renunciation of reparations by Poland can be located.

It is time to talk about those losses, to demand truth and reparations.

 

Nel Badowska

Picture: Sylwester “Kris” Braun, British Poles

Colourisation: Mikołaj Kaczmarek Kolor Historii

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