On Saturday, May 27, 2023, Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska delivered a lecture at the Museum of Warsaw on the topic “Was Warsaw Rebuilt with Bricks from the Recovered Territories?” It was a part of a day with the exhibition currently at the Museum, entitled: Warsaw 1945-1949: Rising from Rubble (curator: Adam Przywara, see more).

Karolina tackled the subject of the Recovered Territories, i.e. the former German lands that were incorporated into Poland after World War II, when the country was shifted westward. Many of these lands were devastated by the war and had to be rebuilt by the new Polish settlers. But what about Warsaw, the capital city that was almost completely destroyed by the Nazis? Did it also use the materials and resources from the Recovered Territories to rise from the ashes?

She used archival documents and eyewitness accounts to show that the reconstruction of Warsaw was not only a great architectural achievement, but also an important tool for shaping a new Polish identity, both in the city and in the Recovered Territories. She revealed how even seven years after the war, in November 1952, there were plans to send two wagons of demolition bricks from Koszalin and its surroundings to Warsaw every day. These bricks, described as “whole, full and well cleaned”, traveled across Poland – heading to the capital.

She also explored why in many places one can still encounter stories of whole villages dismantled “for the reconstruction of Warsaw”. Eventually, she explained if the mythical reconstruction consumed only bricks from the former German lands, or also other materials, or even – people.

The lecture was a great opportunity to learn more about the history of Poland and its capital city. If you missed it, you can watch a recording here.

Photography: Alfred Funkiewicz, Men from a Jewish organization clearing the rubble of the Warsaw Ghetto, 1947, Warsaw Museum