Madonna has provided further controversy on her world tour after inadvertently scheduling her Warsaw concert on the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, the renowned 1944 revolt by the Polish resistance army to liberate the capital from Nazi occupation.
As sirens sounded in the Polish capital on Wednesday evening to mark the 68th anniversary of the popular uprising against German rule, Madonna prepared to take the stage for the Polish leg of her 80-date tour.
Despite the singer’s manager insisting they weren’t aware of the date’s significance to Polish people, protests had been fairly vocal in the capital in the days leading up to her performance, with promotional posters being defaced with black paint and symbols of the Warsaw Uprising. Written protests were also lodged by some 50,000 Poles, including parliamentarians.
Members of the right-wing Law and Justice (PIS) opposition party who were involved in the protest claimed “people who have no love for the motherland are urging our youth to go to watch dances by half-nude women instead of paying their respects to heroic warriors”. Some 16,000 Polish fighters died in the battle, and a further 200,000 Polish civilians were killed in subsequent Nazi reprisals.
A planned Catholic mass vigil in honour of the victims, included a youth association address describing Madonna’s performance as being “in opposition to sacred Christian values” and an attempt “to ridicule God and our religion”. Madonna herself had a Catholic upbringing and is renowned for using religious icons and imagery in her performances.
At the first concert of her current tour in Tel Aviv in June, attendees were treated to images of guns and goriness interspersed with Catholic symbols, paying tribute to her background. Church bells rang out and bare-chested monks marched in front of a large red cross, as a Hebrew prayer was chanted and Madonna appeared on the stage on her knees in a Catholic confessional booth, before breaking through the glass window with a rifle.
The controversy was further heightened when a montage of images featuring French National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen with a swastika pasted to her forehead was projected on to the stage, swiftly followed by a composite representation of Adolf Hitler.
Le Pen slammed the incident as the work of “an old singer, desperate to be spoken about, since her songs no longer work”.
The Warsaw Uprising was conceived to coincide with the Soviet Red Army’s march on Nazi Germany, after Poland had lived through five years of Nazi occupation, but when the Soviet advanced halted, the Polish resistance was forced to fight single-handedly for 63 days, allowing German troops to regroup and defeat the revolt.
House-to-house searches were carried out by German forces to expose hidden Jews and approximately 25% of Warsaw’s infrastructure was destroyed.