Sunday, 16 October 2011

77 Krakow

Sunday 16th Oct.

The weather has and is very cold, although for a change it is bright, so we decided to book into another hotel. They are relatively cheap in this part of the world so we just did it.

Krakow ....WooHoo...Krakow.  What a stunningly beautiful city. If we thought Warsaw was pretty, Krakow is twice as good. This place was left (physically) intact by the Germans. You will see why I inserted the word "physically" later.

The centre is like something out a fairy tale. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
The Armoury - one of thre gates to the city. The city wall has been taken down and a green belt around the city now lies in its place.

St Florians gate.

The city market square, the "Cloth Hall" in the background. It started out as two rows of stalls and grew into this from about 1550 to 1900. It now houses two rows of very ornate stalls.

St Marys Church on the edge of ther market square, built in the 13th century.

Not all the locals were friendly

Monument to Adam Mickiewicz, a famous poet and activist

The Cloth Hall...again

These paintings were fantastic. So good we bought two small ones.

Then is was back to normal. A pub and some grub.

Karen had mushroom soup in a bread bowl and I had mushroom (Boletas ...Hmmm) in sauce. It tasted fantastic.
Wawal, the royal castle.
Now the sad part of our day. After lunch we decided to take a guided tour of the Jewish quarter in an electric golf buggy type cart with a very knowledgeable guide.

I am ashamed to say that at 55 years old, I have today learned the true meaning of the word "Ghetto". I think we have mentioned the plight of the Jews before but today we learned a lot more of the terrible things that Hitler and his Nazi followers did to these people.
This is the first time we have been in a Synagogue and this partucular one is similar to the style of a Christian church. On top of that we arrive just before the start of some sort of concert.
The outside of the Synagogue

The inside...

The monument to the 65,000 Jews that died at the hand of the Germans in WW2. It is located in an ald Jewish cemetary, to the right of this is where Helena Rubenstein (the cosmetic mogul) was born.
The tour then took us on to the Ghetto. Wow, were we shocked. We are all aware of the concentration camps and the 6 million Jews that died in them but this bought the realty home to us. At the outbreak of WW2 about one third of the population of Krakow were Jewish. Something in the order of 65000. At the end there were about 400. (figures vary slightly from various sources as no one actually knows the real figure.)

When the Germans took over Poland the Jews were subjected to ever increasing restrictions and enforced labour. Sometime in 1943 the Germans decided that they did not want the Jews walking in amongst them so they decided to house the remaining 17000 Jews in a small residential area of 320 houses normally occupied by 3000 people. They then decided this was insufficient and decided to build a wall around this area. Cruelly, the wall was built to mimmic many Jewish gravestones lined up together. They also bricked up any doors and windows facing the other side of the river that the Germans occupied.

Part of the wall as it exists today.

A photo inside the Ghetto walls

Any infringements of the extra draconian laws bought in by the Germans was punished with execution and the names of these people were broadcast on the public speaker system for all to hear as a warning.
The Germans then systematically segregated various factions of these Jews, selecting the old and infirm and executing them in front of the others.

The name of this place translates to “Square of the Heroes of the Ghetto” and is the square within the Ghetto that the public executions took place. The chairs are not for sitting on. They are the monumnts to the dead. It symbolises the furniture that was left behind after the Ghetto was liquidated. It was from the memory supplied by the chemist.
 On the Corner of the above square was a pharmacy that is now a museum. The pharmacist, Tadeusz Pankiewicz, used to use his premises to smuggle news and messages in and out of the Ghetto that was now a prison. Pankiewicz was a witness to the atrocities that took place in the square.
The pharmacy

We went on to visit the factory of Oscar Schindler, a German born Jewish sympathiser. Schindler was made famous by Stephen Speiburg in the 7 oscar winning film "Schindlers List". Schindlers factory was commandeered by the Germans to make ammunition components and the work force being Jewish, Schindler managed to protect and save 1100 Jews from extermination whilst at the same time making components that were not at a useable standard.
Schindlers factory as it was in WW2, was in the film and still is. It is now a museum to the plight of Krakow during WW2.
Oscar Schindlers office.

These are some of the accounts of survivors. They horrifically speak for themselves.

  Tomorrow we are off to visit the concentration camp at Auschwitz and the salt mines.

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