“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”-Mark Twain
We began our weekend with a festive Shabbat dinner in the Old Jewish Quarter of Krakow:
Our day began with a tour of the Galicia Museum which documents the remnants of Jewish culture and life in Polish Galicia.
David then took us to the Wawel Castle which is a castle residency located in central Kraków, Poland. Built at the behest of King Casimir III the Great, it consists of a number of structures situated around the Italian-styled main courtyard. The castle, is one of the largest in Poland, represents nearly all European architectural styles of medieval, renaissance and baroque periods. The Wawel Royal Castle and the Wawel Hill constitute the most historically and culturally significant site in the country. In 1978 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Historic Centre of Kraków. Additionally, it served as the residence of Hans Frank who ran the General Government established by the Nazis in eastern Poland.
The group then sampled the original bagel first created in Krakow. We had lunch in the Old Town district and did a little shopping.
After lunch, we drove to Bernatka Bridge from Kazimierz to Podgorzen And walked to Podgorze, the former Jewish Ghetto, Where two memorials to the Jewish people who were forced to move here during the Holocaust are located. The first is called Ghetto Hero’s Square, or Plac Bohaterów Getta in Polish. It is a square filled with sculptures of empty chairs, symbolic of the furniture the Jews had to carry with them from their homes to the ghetto. And nearby you can find the only remaining piece of the wall built around the ghetto, the shape of the top resembles gravestones, foreshadowing the future of the members of this community, as they waited in the ghettos to be sent to extermination camps. We also toured the Under the Eagle Pharmacy, the only gentile business the Nazis allowed to continue operating in the Jewish ghetto, the pharmacy had served both gentile Poles and Jews before the war. Its owner, Tadeusz Pankiewicz, began running the business in 1933, and persuaded the Germans to let it remain open, despite an order relocate to the non-Jewish part of the city. He is credited with helping many Jews in the Krakow Ghetto.
We then stopped in front of Oskar Schindler’s factory.
Oskar Schindler saved the lives of 1200 Jews. He received Israel’s honor of Righteous Among The Nations which goes to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.
We then drove past the only remaining piece of the wall built around the ghetto, the shape of the top resembles gravestones, foreshadowing the future of the members of this community, as they waited in the ghettos to be sent to extermination camps.
We ended our day at Plaszow, the site of a former Nazi concentration camp.
We depart for Warsaw tomorrow morning.