The poster showcasing a young man with with a gun and a flag was printed at the beginning of the August in Warsaw during WWII by the Home Army, a resistance movement. It was issued in the first days of the Warsaw Uprising to mobilize people to join the resistance and fight against the German ocupator.
Beside the more famous large version (100 x 70 cm), which was mounted on walls of Warsaw streets, probably also a smaller version, this one, was produced, which was distributed per hand. We have encountered similar cases in the propaganda printing of WWII. The survival rate of such flyers would be very small.
This version of the poster differs from the large one in details of the lines, which were adjusted to the smaller format.
This small version does not seem to be recorded, although the paper and thick off-set printing suggest 1940s. It is possible the flyer was made shortly after WWII as a souvenir. Under the later Soviet rule such underground fliers, calling people to uprising, would be supressed.
Much later reproductions of this smaller version are known, but the quality of printing and paper differs from this one.
The poster was designed by Edmund Burke and Mieczysław Jurgielewicz, members of the the Bureau of Information and Propaganda of the Polish resistance.
Edmund Burke (1912 – 1999) was born in Warsaw, where in the 1930 he studied at the School of Decorative Arts and Painting, and between 1935 and 1939 at the Academy of Fine Arts. During WWII he joined the Polish resistance in Warsaw and worked for the Bureau of Information and Propaganda of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa). Burke participated in the Warsaw Uprising between August, 1st, and October 2nd, and the Operation N, an organised series of sabotage, subversion and black-propaganda activities against Nazi German occupation forces. After the war Edmund Burke worked as a painter and designer.
Mieczysław Jurgielewicz (1900 – 1983) studied art in Vilnius and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, where he became lecturer in 1936. During WWII he joined the resistance. After Warsaw Uprising he was imprisoned by the Germans.
Polish Underground Printing during the Warsaw Uprising
Throughout the war, the Polish resistance issued thousands of different prints from clandestine workshops within Poland. This genre of prints is known as the prasa konspiracyjna ii wojna światowa (Polish Underground Press of World War II). Most of these titles were of an ephemeral nature, hastily printed, and are today very rare. Many issues were printed by ‘homemade’, improvised methods, such a mimeography, while some titles were issued by modern, professional presses.
As the dominant resistance movement, the AK, and its various affiliates, was the preeminent publisher of drukuje konspiracyjnych (underground prints), although hundreds of other titles were issued by the other resistance factions. The AK had organized its publishing operations across the country under the auspices of its Biura Informacji i Propagandy (BIP / Bureau of Information and Propaganda), a specialist unit headed by experienced authors and publishers, which reported to the Section V of the AK. The BIP was a highly sophisticated operation that carefully organized the content of its publications. War news was censored to focus on the positive, while morale-boosting stories, songs and humour were carefully chosen to appeal to the troops. The BIP also created anti-German propaganda, as well as psy-ops material to demoralize the enemy.
The present publication, Warszawa Walczy, belongs to a highly important subgenre within Polish underground printing, Prasa Konspiracyjna Powstania Warszawskiego (Warsaw Uprising Underground Press), which specifically includes works issued by the resistance within the Polish capital during the Warsaw uprising itself. Historians especially prize these works, as they give authentic insights into the thoughts and aspirations of the Polish resistance fighters during the fateful climax of their struggle. The resistance issued over 100 different publications, most in several serial editions, produced under incredibly difficult circumstances. That they dedicated such considerable energy to producing and disseminating the publications is a testament to the great importance that the AK placed on the press to both inform and to boost the morale of their followers. As time and resources (notably paper) were in short supply, most of the publications were brief, being either broadsides or small pamphlets of few pages. Many were issued by improvised (mimeograph) presses, and have a crude appearance, while some had the benefit of having been published on modern professional presses. Most of the works were issued by organs of the AK, although some were produced by other anti-Nazi groups, such as the AL.
The works of the Warsaw Uprising Underground Press can generally be classified into 3 categories: 1) daily newspapers, issued for the general public in Warsaw, such as the Warszawa Walczy, issued mainly to inform them of the accomplishments of the resistance, as well as the progress of the war outside of Poland; 2) magazines, often geared specifically towards the resistance fighters, featuring morale-boosting articles, including patriotic declarations, songs and humorous stories; 3) information bulletins, being broadsides geared towards combat-ready troops, delivering factual information in a concise manner.
References: Jadwiga Czachowska, Maria Krystyna Maciejewska and Teresa Tyszkiewicz, Literatura polska i teatr w latach II wojny światowej: bibliografia (Warsaw: Polskiej Akaemii Nauk, 1983-4-6); United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Archive, Prasa Konspiracyjna Powstania Warszawskiego, RG‐15.091M [Finding Aid for Microfilm Copies of Warsaw Uprising Underground Press Publications in the Archiwum Akt Nowych, Warsaw], (2002).