of Poland. We spent four days with him during our recent trip. Even before we went a number of
people said to us, 'oh Warsaw is all right, but it was so damaged in the war it's not the real thing. If
you want to see the real Poland go to Kraków or Gdansk.' Well we did not have time for that, so we
went to Warsaw.
Warsaw is certainly a city much touched by death and the ravages not just of war, but of the brutality of
both the Nazi and Soviet regimes of the last century. The Nazi years alone saw the ghettoisation
and then extermination of three million Polish Jews, many of them from Warsaw, and less than
10% of the Jewish population of Warsaw survived the war. Powerful memorials to the forcible
removal of Jews, gypsies and homosexuals by train in cattle trucks are to be found across the city.
For 63 days in 1944 the Poles struggled to free themselves from Nazi control. Known as the
Warsaw Uprising this was a major operation by the Polish resistance Home Army to liberate
Warsaw from Nazi Germany. I am sure many of you who are a little more advanced in years will
remember it. The Uprising was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union's Red Army approaching
the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces. However, the Soviet advance
stopped short, enabling the Germans to regroup and demolish the city, reducing its many beautiful
ancient buildings to rubble, while defeating the Polish resistance. The Uprising was the largest
single military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II. It resulted in
estimated German army losses of 23,000, Polish army losses of 36,000, the slaughter of nearly
200,000 civilians and the expulsion of a further 700,000 from the city. During the urban battles
25% of the buildings were destroyed and subsequently German troops systematically levelled
another 35% of the city block by block. Together with earlier damage suffered in the 1939 invasion
of Poland and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, over 85% of the city was destroyed by January
1945, when the course of the events in the Eastern Front forced the Germans to abandon the city.
So where in all this horror is the bread of life?...