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KRAKOW - KAZIMIERZ DISTRICT

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

sunny 12 °C

I arrived in Krakow right on schedule despite the Canadian snowstorm that threaten to complicate the travel. I was pleasantly surprised not to need a coat at all here until the sun started to go down when it got quite chilly.

I was completely beat so was delighted to learn my room was ready. North Americans are not often so lucky when arriving early into Europe. Some suggest it is better to stay awake but I find I am useless without a little sleep. Still, I had to force myself to get up after a 2 hour snooze.

I elected to take a 2.5 hour walking tour of the area I am staying in called the Kazmierz District which was once the center of Jewish life in Krakow before being destroyed during World War 2. Thanks to Steven Spielberg, who filmed Schindler’s List in the area, it has since been revitalized. Although of the 60,000 Jews who lived here before the war there are only 160 remaining. We learned that many of the Jewish restaurants are owned and run by the Polish and are not Kosher. And of the 7 synagogues that were in the area, only 2 are still used for worship.

Here are the highlights of the evening with some text robbed from the internet.

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This is the  Jan Karski bench - Karski was a member of the Polish underground army, known to the history books as the "man who tried to stop the Holocaust." During World War II, Karski smuggled himself into the Warsaw Ghetto and Nazi concentration camps with the express intent of witnessing and recording the horror being perpetrated against the Jews, in order to report it to the West

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The Isaac Synagogue, built in the early Judaic-Baroque style, was opened in 1644, and was a gift to the city from a wealthy Jew, Izaak Jakubowicz

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These stairs were used in the filming of Schindler's List, to represent the ghetto which is too modernized now.

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We walked over this amazing bridge on our way to Schindler's Factory and the Jewish Ghetto.

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The Jewish Ghetto was occupied from 1941-1943 before residents were killed or shipped to concentration camps. Near where the Ghetto once stood, is a large square containing the "Empty Chairs Memorial". The chairs scattered across the square face the concentration camps and each chair is said to represent 1000 Jews killed. Some say the chairs represent the belongings of those moved to the ghetto, and chairs because they were often carried by the children. There are a few chairs with their backs to the ghetto, these are said to represent those that did not accept what was happening to these people. One of the those people was Dr. Tadeusz Pankiewicz. He was the only non Jewish person to live inside the ghetto. He convinced the Nazis that he should keep his pharmacy there to help prevent illness form spreading to the city. He saved many lives.

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We wandered on to Oscar Schindler's factory where he saved 1200 Jews. This is now a museum and the faces of those he saved peer through the window panes. we did learn of some inaccuracies in the movie and that Schindler was no saint but also that he and others risked their lives to save many who would have been otherwise lost. As always in difficult times, the great humanities can be found.

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It was a short day but I covered quite a bit. The city has a voice that speaks clearly of its history. I heard it and felt it immediately but there is also a warmth that has me looking very forward to the next 3 days.

Posted by curlygirl 14:15 Archived in Poland Tagged krakow

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Comments

Great first day - you covered alot of history. And what a beautiful bridge with those figures. Wow, lucky you!

by Agnes

Great pictures and history lesson! WW2 has been an obsession of mine for a few years. I could never wrap my head around how that all went down until now I see the lack of empathy and lack of compassion and blind trust in unqualified authority figures who blatantly lie in my own country and my own time. WW2 highlights the importance of resistance at an early stage and I just hope Americans keep up the good fight! Look forward to more pics and facts ?

by Theresa

Beautiful post Shelley! I would have loved to see all
That history.

by Jennifer

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