Poland in World War II

Warsaw Uprising Museum

The Warsaw Uprising Museum is dedicated to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The institution of the Museum was established in 1983, but no construction work took place for many years, and the museum finally opened on July 31, 2004, marking the 60th anniversary of the Uprising. The Museum sponsors research into the history of the Uprising, and the history and possessions of the Polish Underground State. It collects and maintai ...
Founded: 1983 | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Auschwitz concentration camp was a network of German Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. It consisted of Auschwitz I (the original camp), Auschwitz II–Birkenau (a combination concentration/extermination camp), Auschwitz III–Monowitz (a labor camp to staff an IG Farben factory), and 45 satellite camps. Ausch ...
Founded: 1940 | Location: Oświęcim, Poland

ORP Blyskawica

ORP Błyskawica is a Grom-class destroyer which served in the Polish Navy during World War II and is the only ship of the Polish Navy awarded the Virtuti Militari medal. It is preserved as a museum ship in Gdynia, the oldest preserved destroyer in the world. It was the second of two Grom-class destroyers, built for the Polish Navy by J. Samuel White, Cowes in 1935–37. The name means Lightning. The two Groms were ...
Founded: 1935-1937 | Location: Gdynia, Poland

Naval Museum

The Naval Museum of Gdynia is focused on the history of the Polish navy history. The museum contains a huge collection (20.000 pieces) of weapons used by the Polish navy. Show-piece is currently the ORP Blyskawica, a Polish destroyer used in the Second World War.
Founded: | Location: Gdynia, Poland

Wolf's Lair

Wolf"s Lair (Wolfsschanze) was Adolf Hitler"s first Eastern Front military headquarters in World War II. The complex, which would become one of several Führer Headquarters located in various parts of occupied Europe, was built for the start of Operation Barbarossa - the invasion of the Soviet Union - in 1941. It was constructed by Organisation Todt. The top secret, high security site was in the Masurian wo ...
Founded: 1941 | Location: Kętrzyn, Poland

Gestapo Headquarters

During the World War II Gestapo Headquarters in Gdánsk was located to this building. It’s currently occupied by the Internal Security Services, but above the main entrance it’s still possible to make out lettering feebly disguised with paint: ‘Polizei Prasidium’.
Founded: | Location: Gdańsk, Poland

Westerplatte

Westerplatte is a long peninsula at the entrance to the harbour. When Gdańsk became a free city after WWI, Poland was permitted to maintain a post at this location, at the tip of the port zone. It served both trading and military purposes and had a garrison to protect it. WWII broke out here at dawn on 1 September 1939, when the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein began shelling the Polish guard post. The garrison, whic ...
Founded: 1966 | Location: Gdańsk, Poland

Stutthof Concentration Camp

Stutthof was a German Nazi concentration camp completed on September 2 1939 in a secluded, wet, and wooded area west of the small town of Sztutowo located in the former territory of the Free City of Danzig. It was the first camp built outside of 1937 German borders and the last camp liberated by the Allies, on May 9, 1945. More than 85,000 victims died in the camp out of as many as 110,000 people deported there. Soviet fo ...
Founded: 1939 | Location: Sztutowo, Poland

Gross-Rosen Concentration Camp

Gross-Rosen concentration camp was a German network of Nazi concentration camps built and operated during World War II. The main camp was located in the village of Gross-Rosen not far from the border with occupied Poland, in the modern-day Rogoźnica, Poland. At its peak activity in 1944, the Gross-Rosen complex had up to 100 subcamps located in eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, and on the territory of occupied Pola ...
Founded: 1940 | Location: Rogoźnica, Poland

Belzec Extermination Camp

Bełżec was a Nazi German extermination camp built by the SS for the purpose of implementing the secretive Operation Reinhard, the plan to eradicate Polish Jewry, a key part of the 'Final Solution' which entailed the murder of some 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. The camp operated from 17 March 1942 to the end of December 1942. The burning of exhumed corpses on five open-air grids and bone crush ...
Founded: 1942 | Location: Bełżec, Poland

Guardhouse No 1

WWII broke out here at dawn on 1 September 1939, when the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein began shelling the Polish guard post. The garrison, which numbered just 182 men, held out for seven days before surrendering. The site is now a memorial, with some of the ruins left as they were after the bombardment. The surviving Guardhouse No 1 houses a small exhibition related to the event, including a model of the battle la ...
Founded: | Location: Gdańsk, Poland

Majdanek Concentration Camp

Majdanek, or KL Lublin, was a German concentration and extermination camp on the outskirts of the city of Lublin during the German occupation of Poland in World War II. Although initially purposed for forced labor rather than extermination, the camp was used to kill people on an industrial scale during Operation Reinhard, the German plan to murder all Jews within their own General Government territory of P ...
Founded: 1941 | Location: Lublin, Poland

Plaszów Concentration Camp

The Płaszów was a Nazi German labour and concentration camp built by the SS soon after the German invasion of Poland and the subsequent creation of the semi-colonial district of General Government across occupied south-central Poland. Originally intended as a forced labour camp, the Płaszów concentration camp, was erected on the grounds of two former Jewish cemeteries (including the New Jewish Cemetery) and populated ...
Founded: 1943 | Location: Kraków, Poland

Chelmno Concentration Camp

Chelmno was the first Nazi camp where gassing was used to murder Jews on a large scale. It was located 47 kilometres to the west of the Lodz ghetto where many of the victims came from. A total of 320,000 people were murdered at Chelmno. These included Jews from the Lodz ghetto and throughout the area, in addition to 5,000 Roma who had been previously sent to the ghetto. Chelmno consisted of two sites, just two and a hal ...
Founded: 1941 | Location: Chełmno, Poland

Potulice Concentration Camp

The Potulice concentration camp was established by Nazi Germany during World War II. It is estimated that a total of 25,000 prisoners went through the camp during its operation before the end of 1944. It became notable also as a detention centre for Polish children that underwent the Nazi experiment in forced Germanisation. Initially the Potulice camp was one of numerous transit points for Poles expelled by the German au ...
Founded: 1941 | Location: Potulice, Poland

Katyn Massacre Site

The Katyn massacre was a series of mass executions of Polish nationals carried out by the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), the Soviet secret police, in April and May 1940. Originally the term 'Katyn massacre', also known as the Katyn Forest massacre, referred to the massacre at Katyn Forest, which was discovered first and was the largest execution of this type. The massacre was prompted by NKVD chief La ...
Founded: 1940 | Location: Smolensk, Russia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Het Steen

Het Steen is a medieval fortress in the old city centre of Antwerp. Built after the Viking incursions in the early Middle Ages as the first stone fortress of Antwerp, Het Steen is Antwerp's oldest building and used to be its oldest urban centre.

Previously known as Antwerpen Burcht (fortress), Het Steen gained its current name in around 1520, after significant rebuilding under Charles V. The fortress made it possible to control the access to the Scheldt, the river on whose bank it stands. It was used as a prison between 1303 and 1827. The largest part of the fortress, including dozens of historic houses and the oldest church of the city, was demolished in the 19th century when the quays were straightened to stop the silting up of the Scheldt. The remaining building, heavily changed, contains a shipping museum, with some old canal barges displayed on the quay outside.

In 1890 Het Steen became the museum of archeology and in 1952 an annex was added to house the museum of Antwerp maritime history, which in 2011 moved to the nearby Museum Aan de Stroom. Here you’ll also find a war memorial to the Canadian soldiers in WWII.

There are some beautiful plaques on the back side of the Steen Castle at Antwerp. Canadian visitors will especially want to see the plaques thanking the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry for their part in the liberation of Antwerp, in 1944.

At the entrance to Het Steen is a bas-relief of Semini, above the archway, around 2nd century. Semini is the Scandinavian God of youth and fertility (with symbolic phallus). A historical plaque near Het Steen explains that women of the town appealed to Semini when they desired children; the god was reviled by later religious clergy. Inhabitants of Antwerp previously referred to themselves as 'children of Semini'.

At the entrance bridge to the castle is a statue of a giant and two humans. It depicts the giant Lange Wapper who used to terrorise the inhabitants of the city in medieval times.