Skip to main content

Film Gallery: Siege of Warsaw, Poland 1939 Browse

Aftermath of German military air raids on Warsaw

In September 1939, Julien Bryan filmed during the immediate aftermath of German military air raids on Warsaw as Polish men rushed to defend their besieged city and refugees set up temporary homes. Bryan immediately heeded the mayor of Warsaw’s call to “escape with these films and let the world know what the Nazis did to Warsaw.” He actively promoted the story and his pictures on lecture tours and in the American press. After a film screening at the White House early in 1940, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her column, My Day, “I do not think anyone can see these pictures and fail to be impressed with what happens to any individual when we indulge in this madness called war.” Bryan eventually compiled his compelling work recording the horror and confusion of Warsaw during the German attack on Poland into a ten minute film called Siege. Released in 1940 by RKO as a newsreel in the Reelism Series, Siege became the first non-Nazi film of the start of World War II to be seen in American theaters. It was nominated for an Academy Award (Best Short, one reel) in 1941 and placed on the 2006 National Film Registry by the Librarian of Congress in December 2006. In 2008, the Museum’s Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive produced a new 35mm film preservation print of Siege with funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Find out more about this film footage in the online Film and Video catalog