The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Polish: Grób Nieznanego Żołnierza) is a monument in Warsaw, Poland, dedicated to the unknown soldiers who have given their lives for Poland. It is one of many such national tombs of unknowns that were erected after World War I, and the most important such monument in Poland.
The monument, located at Piłsudski Square, is the only surviving part of the Saxon Palace that occupied the spot until World War II. Since 2 November 1925 the tomb houses the unidentified body of a young soldier who fell during the Defence of Lwów. Since then, earth from numerous battlefields where Polish soldiers have fought has been added to the urns housed in the surviving pillars of the Saxon Palace.
During the 1939 invasion of Poland, the building was slightly damaged by German aerial bombing, but it was quickly rebuilt and seized by the German authorities. After the Warsaw Uprising, in December 1944, the palace was completely demolished by the Wehrmacht. Only part of the central colonnade, sheltering the Tomb, was preserved.
After the war, in late 1945, reconstruction began. Only a small part of the palace, containing the Tomb, was restored by Henryk Grunwald. On 8 May 1946 it was opened to the public. Soil from 24 additional battlegrounds was added to the urns, as well as more tablets with names of battles in which Poles had fought in World War II. However, the communist authorities erased all trace of the Polish–Soviet War of 1920, and only a few of the Polish Armed Forces’ battles in the West were included. This was corrected in 1990, after Poland had regained its political autonomy.
Here are a couple of photos of Saxon Square before the German destruction of the city.
An aerial view of the city after the war the Germans destroyed. The losses to Warsaw’s urban architecture at the beginning of 1945 were estimated at around 84%, with industrial infrastructure and historic monuments destroyed at 90% and residential buildings at 72%. After the Warsaw Uprising, a city which was home to over 1 million people before the war was almost deserted, with only a few thousand people living in its ruins.