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Museum of the Uprising

15 April 2022 About the museum
The Museum of the Silesian Uprisings in St. Anne s Mountain is an institution established to commemorate the events related to the Silesian Uprisings and the Plebiscite of 1921. Initially, the Museum was located in the former primary school in Leśnica. Practical considerations prevailed in locating the facility in this place: the edifice had a proper cubature and the proximity of the Monument to the Uprising.

The Museum of the Silesian Uprisings in St. Anne's Mountain An important factor was also the very history of the school building in which the headquarters of the 3rd Katowice Insurgent Regiment, named after Jan Henryk Dąbrowski, had been there stationed during the bloody battles of the Third Silesian Uprising of 1921. The author of the exhibition script was Stefan Popiołek, the then director of the State Archives in Opole. The architectural and artistic conceptual design of the facility development was prepared by an architect from Opole, Adam Zbiegieni, M.A. Engineering. The exhibition was arranged by: Ignacy Kuźniewski, M.A., head of the History Department of the Opole Silesia Museum, and Janina Matuszczakowa, M.A., head of the History Department of the Upper Silesian Museum in Bytom. The then exhibition presented “the struggle of the Polish nation to defend its western border from the inception of the Polish state, as well as the struggle of the Silesian people for national and social liberation [in the period] up to the Second World War”. The exhibition also covered the September campaign of 1939 and the defense of Silesia by former insurgents, as well as the "liberation" of Silesia by the Red Army in 1945, and the incorporation of Silesia into Poland. It featured information about the acts of violence and shootings committed by the Nazis on the former Silesian insurgents. The photographic documentation showed the various monuments dedicated to the memory of the heroic Silesian insurgents. The collections presented at the exhibition came mainly from the collections of the Museum of Opole, Silesia in Opole, the Museum in Gliwice, the Polish Army Museum in Warsaw, the Upper Silesian Museum in Bytom and the Museum in Chorzów.

In 1980, the Museum was relocated to its new and current seat. This was, after a major overhaul and appropriate adaptation – the building called "Dom Polski" (”The Polish House”), AKA "Pod Chełmskim Wierchem". The edifice, located on the territory of the St Anne’s Mountain Calvary on the road to Leśnica, was built in the 19th century and originally served as an inn. In 1936, a branch of Bank Słowiański in Berlin with the help of Teodor Gadziński ‒ the director of the Bank Rolników in Opole, purchased the property, allocating the entire premises to the needs of the 1st District of the Union of Poles in Germany (Związek Polaków w Niemczech, [G.) Bund der Polen in Deutschland). Through the years 1937–1939, that is, until the Germans abrogated the activities of the Union, the house had been serving for the meetings of that organization. The "Dom Polski" hosted meetings of Polish organizations, scout camps and camps of the Polish Scouting Association in Germany, and other Polish events. The Union of Poles in Germany manifested its Polishness in October 1937 with the slogan "We have been - we are - we will be" (in Polish: Byliśmy – jesteśmy – będziemy). The building was radio-connected with loudspeakers in the windows to greet passersby with the sound of Polish speech, and that was, after all, a period of intensifying Nazi terror. During World War II, the Germans set up a labor camp for Jews and Soviet prisoners of war in the vicinity of Dom Polski and placed its headquarters in the very building. The relocation of the Museum of the Uprising to that new seat thus intertwined the tradition of the uprisings and Plebiscite, the Polish national movement in Germany, and the tragedy of Nazi terror.
In the post-war years, the building became the property of the State Treasury and was used for residential purposes until the 1970s. In 1978, its refurbishment began, along with the redevelopment for museum purposes, following the design by Krystyna Gajdek. The Museum of the Uprising began its activity in 1980 in the new premises with permanent exhibitions devoted to the history of the national liberation movement in Upper Silesia, from the 19th century to the Silesian Uprisings. It also presented the history of the defense of Silesia in September 1939 and the fate of the insurgents and activists of the Union of Poles in Germany during World War II. The exhibition script was authored by Zyta Zarzycka and Maria Myga and the visual setting conceived of by Ryszard Kowal and Marek Mikulski. The 3rd Silesian Uprising was particularly showcased, as it had the greatest symbolic value associated with the battlefields in that region. At that time, the exposition featured numerous exhibits related to the Third Uprising, such as e.g., unit banners, reports of the Operational Department of the Supreme Headquarters of the Insurgent Army, orders from the "Bogdan" subgroup fighting in the St. Anne's Mountain region, and mementoes of cadets from Lviv and Modlin. The exhibition also displayed documents related to the diplomatic battle for Silesia (a propaganda campaign): posters, announcements appeals, leaflets and other propaganda prints. It also features the documentation of the activities of the Inter-Allied Ruling and Plebiscite Commission, ([Pol.] Międzysojusznicza Komisja Rządząca i Plebiscytowa), exerting authority in Upper Silesia, as well as the Association of Silesian Insurgents (Związek Powstańców Śląskich) in 1922–1939, including veterans' uniforms and banners.
Orders and decorations were also presented, including the state decoration Cross of the Silesian Ribbon of Valor (Krzyż na Śląskiej Wstędze Waleczności) and the honorary badge for merit in the Third Silesian Uprising ‘Upper Silesian Star’ (Gwiazda Górnośląska). The exhibition was enriched with quotations from the pledge made by members of the Association of Silesian Insurgents in the interwar period, as well as hymns of the Association of Poles in Germany. The activities of the 1st District of the Union of Poles in Germany were also presented. The following journals were shown: Polak w Niemczech, Młody Polak w Niemczech, Nowiny Codzienne. Exhibits also displayed documents of the Upper Silesian Union of Farmers’ Cooperative "Rolnik" (Górnośląskie Zjednoczenie Rolników Spółdzielni „Rolnik”), farmers' banks and people's banks, local musical societies, community reading rooms, amateur theater groups. Ample space was also devoted to the Congress of Poles in Berlin of March 1938. The first floor of the Museum presented an exhibition devoted to the defense of Silesia in September 1939, the fate of the insurgents and activists of the Union of Poles in Germany during World War II, and their participation in the social and political life of the Polish People's Republic.
While the refurbishment work was underway, a decision was made to extend the scope of the overhaul by adding a rotunda with a connector, which was not included in the original concept of the new seat of the Museum. The rotunda was to house a large painting, modeled on the Panorama of Racławice, dedicated to the Silesian Uprisings, while a permanent exhibition devoted to the activities of the Union of Poles in Germany and the Union of Polish Scouts in Germany was to be placed in the connector. This latter exhibition survived until the 1990s, while the rotunda painting was not realized in its original form due to technical reasons and because of the difficult situation in the country caused by the crisis. Accordingly, the rotunda was used as a store room for archaeological holdings. It was only in 2006 that the Rotunda received the multimedia exhibition "Panorama of the Silesian Uprisings" based on a script by Urszula Zajączkowska and an artistic concept by Marek and Maciej Mikulski. A visitor first follows a historical and natural path, arranged in the form of a diorama, which leads to the exhibition, presenting the most valuable monuments of architecture and the wealth of nature reserves of Saint Anne's Mountain. In front of the entrance to the rotunda, on the upper plane, there are figures of Silesian women ‒ mothers, wives and sisters of those who went to fight for Upper Silesia. Below, photos of the insurgents can be seen that surround the viewer from all sides. The space between the path and the exhibition is filled with abandoned farm equipment, utensils and military equipment intended to evoke the scourge of the uprising. That entire staging is combined with a multimedia presentation lasting about 15 minutes, during which the changing lights, music and smoke covering the figures of the insurgents evoke a sense of solemnity. On that, the voice of a speaker is overlain, telling the history of the Silesian Uprisings. After twenty years of being in use, the building of the Museum needed an urgent overhaul, which was carried out in 2002–2005. In 2010, in connection with the preparations for the celebration of the 90th anniversary of the 3rd Silesian Uprising, the surroundings of the Museum were rebuilt.
The collections
Since 1964, the holdings of the Museum of the Uprising has included 2,485 inventory items. The collection began with 1,200 miscellanea relocated from the possessions of the Historical Department of the Museum of Opole, Silesia. Subsequent exhibits arrived as gifts and purchases resulting from a large-scale campaign to acquire them amongst the uprising veterans’ circles. In 1975, in connection with the approaching 55th anniversary of the 3rd Silesian Uprising, implementing the idea of expanding the collection, an appeal was made to the public to provide memorabilia related to the uprising. In a leaflet published in 1,500 copies, entitled “To all participants of the struggle for the national and social liberation of Silesia”, we read: "That is why we make a warm appeal to all veterans of the uprisings ‒ soldiers and activists from that period, wives, children and grandchildren and other relatives of the deceased insurgents and to anyone who has any memorabilia from the period of the uprisings, with a request to donate them to the Museum of the Uprising in Leśnica. We would particularly appreciate such items as: photos, diplomas, decorations, personal documents, flags, uniforms, pennants, ballot boxes, armbands, weapons, press, brochures, leaflets, posters, all correspondence from this period, front orders, stamps and any other souvenirs. The materials illustrating the preparatory activities for the uprising, as well as documents about the further fate of the participants in the uprisings are also valuable. Please also send certified memories with the date and place of birth, social origin, name of the troop where the participant served, and the name of the commander. In addition, please provide information as to where possibly any still privately owned material can be found.”
The profile of the collection outlined in this way is realized to this day (now almost exclusively through purchases), and most of the Museum's collections are original documents, leaflets, publications (newspapers, books) and photographs from 1918‒1922, the most valuable of which is undoubtedly the collection of hand written orders from the Koźlik Battalion (part of the "Bogdan" Subgroup), issued and received during the Third Silesian Uprising during the Battle of St. Anne's Mountain. The second group of miscellanea are flags from the period of the uprising, including the banners from Goczałkowice from 1919 (a combat banner) and from Rozmierza near Strzelce Opolskie (with the inscription "for You, Poland" [Tobie Polsko]) ‒ and the post-uprising ones used by veteran organizations.
Finally, the third group consists of memorabilia of the insurgents, most of which are diplomas and decorations with insurgents’ ID cards, veterans' uniforms, and several elements of armament and equipment, as well as personally written memories and accounts. The collections of the Museum of the Uprising are not only a unique collection of memorabilia documenting the latest history of Silesia, but also a valuable source of information for historians studying this issue in detail. The Museum of the Uprising collects all souvenirs from the period of the Silesian Uprisings and the Plebiscite: original uniforms, arms and equipment, insurgent banners, decorations and badges, various correspondence and documents, leaflets, posters, postcards and placards, magazines and subject literature, as well as photographs, mainly from the years 1918‒1921, as well as all publications related to this period. Our collections continue the tradition of gathering documentation and insurgent memorabilia, which was initiated in the interwar period by the Silesian Museum in Katowice. They constitute ‒ next to other institutions with insurrectionary and Plebiscite collections ‒ an important center for gathering, developing and disseminating historical materials related to the struggle for the nationality of Upper Silesia.

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