Wednesday, May 31, 2017

War in Warsaw (1915)

On August 5, 1915, after almost one hundred years of Russian rule, the German Army captured Warsaw. The fall of Warsaw marked the latest in a series of victories for the Central Powers which had started with the Gorlice-Tarnów offensive in southern Poland in May 1915. Its capture was followed by a major Russian withdrawal, aimed at preventing the risk of encirclement.

Kaiser Wilhelm II bestowing Iron Crosses in Warsaw. In the background is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church. (Photo © Imperial War Museum)

The Kaiser and the Cameraman

The capture of Warsaw was featured before in the article The Kaiser and the Cameraman (2010) by Cooper C. Graham on the experiences of Wilbur H. Durborough at the Eastern Front in 1915. In this article, Cooper described how Durborough and his camera operator Ries filmed Warsaw, shortly after the city had been taken by the German forces. For their movie On the Firing Line with the Germans they captured scenes showing fresh German troops moving through the main streets, the Alexandrovski Bridge, pontoon bridges built by the Germans across the Vistula, Zeppelins flying over the city, as well as scenes showing the Jewish Quarter in Warsaw.

As mentioned before in this weblog, Durborough's film was recently restored by the Library of Congress and is now available in the public domain.

Although Durborough's film doesn't show any evidence of this, the German occupation of Russian Poland turned out to be a highly controversial subject. Under German rule Poland was reordered and put under tight military control. The Germans however failed to regulate Warsaw’s economy, and as a result the cost of living increased by about 600 percent during the German occupation.

This weblog by Courtney Blackington has more information on Warsaw in 1915 and the German occupation, with some references to Cooper Graham's article for Film History journal.

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