This place took breath away for awful reasons…an hour after leaving I was still short of breath (which could also be indicative of my poor physical fitness level).
Mausoleum of Struggle & Martyrdom is one of the many places the Gestapo interrogated, tortured, and murdered. It is a free exhibit, just 2 hallways, and by far one of the most enlightening, moving, fascinating, devastating, and underrated (I was the only one there) sites I visited in Warsaw. That evening I remember feeling I was in a dark place…but a good dark place. Good to learn and acknowledge it happened but also so broken hearted to know that people went though this.
The first hallway has informational placards on the wall, and at the end is a projector of a prisoner standing, falling, then crawling behind bars. The second hallway shows actual holding cells and interrogation rooms. Constantly playing throughout are noises of footsteps, dripping water, propaganda music covering screams, marching boots, etc. Sort of like a real life haunted house.
I took my time reading each placard, tearing up, if not crying, at what I learned at each station. It wasn’t just about eliminating the Jews, the Natzis also tried “Exterminating the Polish Elite”, anyone well educated – teachers, clergy, attorneys, judges, etc. By ‘forced disappearance’, Natzis imprisoned and killed select citizens of Polish society, buried in mass graves in remote places. There was also the conscious effort at the “destruction of cultural heritage”.
You learn about places of execution; red dots are sprinkled on a map of the city, size of dot representing the number of people executed.
You also read heartbreaking excerpts prisoners scratched into the walls awaiting the inevitable. The sheer will and terror the Polish faced is awe-inspiring yet devastating and I left wondering how any human can endure such a life of pure terror.
The second hallway of holding cells and interrogation rooms is more observational and far less reading. You’ll see various interrogation devices and also a door with a peephole that was used to fire at prisoners locked in the cell.
Although the museum is only 2 hallways, outside the building you see how huge the building really is. The number of souls kept in pain there…knees crumble just thinking of it.
The fence across the street has a bunch of pictures where one angle shows one image, and another angle something different. Shows life before and after German takeover. Devastating but also poetic, tasteful depiction.