The 16-ton statue was cut into smaller pieces using torches and transported to the Reich. Most of the monument’s fragments were melted down and used in the production of ammunition.
Maciej Michalski of the Historical Museum told the extraordinary story of the Chopin memorial located in the azienki park in Warsaw. Justina Pernik’s report was broadcast on Polish radio in December 2006.
Formation of a committee
The history of the monument begins in August 1901. At that time, the Governor-General’s Chancellery in Warsaw granted permission to Count Aleksander Prochoki to establish a commission for the construction of the Friedrich Chopin monument.
– Count Prochoki and his wife Adelaide were Polish patriots – said Maciej Michalski. Both believed that during the partition it was necessary to take such initiatives with a special force that would strengthen great Poles.
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Although the tsarist authorities agreed to form a commission, it significantly limited the possibilities of its work. The commission was not allowed to publish any newspaper advertisements, and funds for the construction of the monument could be raised only among fans of Frederic Chopin’s music.
Tsarist officials also threatened donors that they would confiscate their money. Such was the case with, among others, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who contributed a large sum to the construction of the Chopin Monument.
The commission did not even have the right to announce a competition to design the monument. So the artists were dealt with directly. Wacław Szymanowski was one of the artists who began work on a statue commemorating the great Polish composer.
The broadcast guest said: – The love of Chopin’s music and the realization of similar fates meant that Simanovsky considered this monument a special goal in his work.
Wacław Szymanowski in the studio while working on the Chopin memorial. Wikimedia Commons / DP. Source: “Sztuka” magazine. The Triumph of Polish Art “, 1911
66 works were submitted for the competition. Wacław Szymanowski’s concept won. Maciej Michalski spoke of the major battles that the commission and Szymanowski himself had with the tsarist authorities to erect a monument to Chopin in the azienki park in Warsaw. Errors were searched and the action was hidden.
– For example, some critics found out that Chopin was sitting, but accused Szymanovsky of not sculpting a clear piano chair – said the broadcast guest.
Chopin in azienki
The composer’s birth centenary was not celebrated. The monument did not stand still. Then came the First World War. After that, you had to start raising money from the beginning. Waklo Szymanovsky himself was involved in this. Finally, in 1926, in accordance with the wishes of the designers, the model was cast in Paris and on November 14, 1926, the monument was unveiled. – The feta lasted 3 days – Maciej Michałowski said. The best pianists came from Europe
“Unfortunately, this monument did not survive until 1940,” the guest added. – He survived the September campaign without flaws. Later, Łazienki became part of the German region.
Edict of Hans Frank
In April 1940, the Governor of Warsaw, Hans Frank, published an appeal calling for the collection of minerals for the weapons needs of the German army. The detonation process has begun.
– In the case of the Chopin monument, it was 16 tons of bronze – Michalovsky said. – On the other hand, it was the achievement of the overarching goal that was set during the German occupation – the eradication of Polish culture.
The Germans destroyed the memorial to Friedrich Chopin from the Royal Lazienki Park in Warsaw. 1940 Wikimedia Commons / cc. Source: Adolf Ciborowski (1964). Warsaw: On the City’s Destruction and Reconstruction. Bologna.
The monument was cut into pieces, and transported by train to the Reich, where it was to be melted down for ammunition.
– From that event, there is one photo that was taken by an accidental witness of this situation in owicz – we hear it in the report. The train stopped here and parts of the monument, including Chopin’s head, were spotted in one of the wagons.
Photography has spread all over the world. The Germans destroyed all copies of the monument kept in Polish museums. How, then, was it possible to recreate the statue of Wacław Szymanowski? When did Chopin’s monument return to its place?
Listen Reporting by Justina Pernik.