“After Grunwald and Kościuszko, it was Mickiewicz’s turn”
|The Demolishment of the Adam Mickiewicz Monument by the Germans, Kraków, August 1940. Property of the Kraków Photography Division of the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków, Inv. no. MHK-Fn2567/IX|
17 August 1940: “After Grunwald and Kościuszko, it was Mickiewicz’s turn. Vandals furiously attacked the monument of the bard standing in the Main Market Square. In broad daylight at noon tools and lifts were brought in and all the figures were thrown off the pedestal — as if with some hidden passion or provocation.” (Edward Kubalski, Niemcy w Krakowie. Dziennik 1 IX 1939−18 I 1945 [Germans in Kraków. Diary, 1 September 1939 – 18 January 1945], Kraków 2010).
The spectacular destruction of the monument resulted in anger even among those residents of Kraków who were not fully convinced about its appearance or did not attach particular importance to its existence. In those days, the monument became the national symbol: “surely not everyone was aware of who Mickiewicz really was. They came to understand him only after he had been thrown from the monument. This is when he entered their hearts. The monument fell down larger than when it had stood“, recalled Zygmunt Nowakowski. (Z. Nowakowski, Mój Kraków i inne wspomnienia [My Kraków and Other Memories], Warsaw 1994).
“17 August 1940: Crowds were standing around the police cordon, women were crying loudly. They were dispelled from time to time; numerous photographers that were gathered on the spot were beaten and arrested. This action, exactly like many other actions conducted by the occupant, turned out to be pointless, as two days later Kraków was in possession of over a dozen photos of the falling monument, and boys gathered at the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) approached people inspiring their trust and sold the photos: «Of Mickiewicz, who fell down» […] A peaceful Krakow was deeply shattered — it was the first time when common people, who were initially clearly impressed by the Germans, became really «enraged»“.
(Karolina Lanckorońska, Wspomnienia wojenne 22 IX 1939−5 IV 1945 [War Memoirs 22 September 1935–5 April 1945], Kraków 2001)
According to Kubalski, the destruction of the Mickiewicz monument was an element of preparation for the visit of Adolf Hitler to Kraków, which was planned either on 1 September or on 14 October. The visit, however, never took place. In a broader context, the action was yet another step, and definitely not the last one, to demonstrate the power of the occupant, to show disdain for Polish national symbols and gradually transform Kraków into a German city.
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