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Photo Gallery: Postwar Browse

Annotated Copy of Siege

Annotated Copy of Siege

One page from Julien Bryan’s annotated copy of Siege. Bryan made notes in this book when he returned to Warsaw in 1958 to discover the fate of the individuals he photographed in 1939: “I wanted to know if my Polish friends of 1939 were still alive, and if they were, to learn what happened to them in the last 19 years. I also hoped to photograph them and their families. It was a very naïve concept on my part. I knew the full name of only one man…. Some did not even know that I had taken their pictures. I had no addresses whatsoever.” With the help of the Warsaw Evening Express editors and an astute interpreter, Bryan located twenty-five people. He published their stories, along with a reprinted version of Siege, in 1959 under the title Warsaw. This particular page illustrates the devastating experience of Balbina Szymanska, the mother of twin boys born in a maternity ward on September 5, 1939. Bryan’s first observation at the hospital was striking, “Somehow it seemed brutal to intrude upon the privacy of these terror stricken people, but I did my job. I was making a documentary record of a thing that was really happening… I was impressed by Warsaw’s will to survive.” Balbina remained with the twins in Warsaw throughout the Nazi occupation, and had just been reunited with her husband after spending months at Treblinka, when the 1944 Polish uprising began. She returned home after hunting for bread, and found that her house had been completely destroyed by enemy shells. On September 5, 1944, the twins’ fifth birthday, the boys and their father were killed. Balbina remarried and is shown in Warsaw with her new family. US Holocaust Memmoiral Museum, gift of Julien Bryan Archive