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Warsaw, Poland

Mały Powstaniec (The Little Insurrectionist)

A statue honors the children who fought Nazis in Poland. 

By 1944 Poland had been occupied by Nazi Germany for almost five years. Tensions mounted in the capital city as Polish soldiers began trying to push them out in 1943. Hitler and Himmler saw Warsaw specifically as a detriment to their efforts. Their plan was detailed in the horrifically succinct Order for Warsaw: “Every citizen of Warsaw is to be killed including men, women and children. Warsaw has to be leveled to the ground in order to set a terrifying example to the rest of Europe.

By 1944 the city’s children were no strangers to war’s atrocities. The Polish resistance was forced to begin their uprising much sooner than planned and without help from the Allied forces due to mounting tensions with the Nazis. The Polish Underground Scouting, known during wartime as the Gray Ranks, played an integral role in the resistance, mostly carrying messages for the troops, but sometimes donning the stolen German helmets and guns and fighting on the front lines.

By the end of the 68-day battle, the Polish resistance had managed to kill 8,000 Nazi soldiers and wounded around the same number. But as the Nazis razed the city the resistance deaths had climbed to 16,000 people, and the civilian death toll, including the Jews being hidden by the Polish people, reached as high as 200,000. Hitler and Himmler went on to destroy almost 90% of the buildings in the area.

Jerry Jarnuszkiewicz created the design for the Little Insurrectionist in 1946, just two years after the massacre, but the statue wasn’t built until 1983. Professor Jerzy Świderski, a cardiologist who was a Gray Ranks courier, unveiled the memorial on October first.

The statue of a young boy wearing an oversized helmet and holding a German submachine gun is reputed to be modeled after a child soldier called “Antek,” a 13-year old who was killed on August 8, 1944. A plaque behind the figure features the engraved words of a popular song from the period: “Warszawskie dzieci, pójdziemy w bój/za każdy kamień twój, stolico damy krew.” (Varsovian children, we’ll head into battle/for every stone of yours, we shall give our blood).