The scars of war


Google have added WWII era aerial photography of 40 European cities to their on-line historic photographic database which can be accessed through their Google Earth software. The cities in today’s Poland for which these photographs are available, their dates and their sources are: Warsaw (Polish Air Force 1935, Soviet Air Force 1945), Wroclaw (RAF 1943) and Gdansk (RAF 1943). The pictures showing the aftermath of heavy bombing raids are a bitter reminder that dropping high explosives on people is an obscene way of settling international disputes. Tragically the fervent hopes of all those who hoped that after WWII a more civilised way would be found to settle such questions have been cruelly frustrated.

While the RAF photographs are understandably blurred (pilots flew high to frustrate the aim of anti aircraft batteries) the Soviet photographs taken just after end of the war are pin sharp. It is possible to ‘fly’ over Warsaw in 1945 and experience the devastation in a way no textual description ever can equal. Suffice it to say that Hitler planned the complete destruction of the Polish capital and the establishment of Neue deutsche Stadt Warschau, a small provincial German town, in its place. By the end of the war 85% of Poland’s capital lay in ruins.

The three images below are taken from Google Earth and are approximately centred on the al. Jezoroliemskie ul. Marszalkowska crossroads in the centre of the City. They show the eastern approach to the original Dworzec Glowny station.

1935. Photo Polish Air Force, retrieved via Google Earth.

1945. Photo Soviet Air Force, retrieved via Google Earth.

July 2006. Photo ©GeoEye, ©Google, retrieved via Google Earth.

Railway enthusiasts will be disappointed that the 1935 images of Warsaw are heavily censored as regards major railway stations and junctions. Large areas are filled in with grey with the legend “KEEP LOCKED, FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY, No right to publish”. However, the Soviet photographs taken 10 years later have no blank areas. They show fascinating glimpses of the narrow gauge lines that once ran on the outskirts of the City and will be of great assistance in researching the routes of these lines for future articles in BTWT.

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