Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Jewish Quarter

Our first full day in Krakow, we enjoyed the Jewish Quarter. Kazimierz the Great, in the 14th century, invited the industrious European Jewish community to settle in Krakow. Since they were usually outsiders and often persecuted (for instance, they were accused of poisoning the wells when the Bubonic Plague broke out), they were happy to find a home in Poland.

This quarter, once thriving and full of Jews, is now a mere monument to their past habitation. Before World War II, Krakow had 65000 Jews. Today it has a mere 200. The Nazis murdered most of them, and the Communists weren't terribly helpful either. In spite of all this, or even perhaps because of it--the Jewish character of this section of town was especially interesting. Much of Schindler's List was filmed here.

We visited several synagogues, two graveyards, and a serene 'square' with excellent international food choices. We had a fantastic Indian Lunch--Tandoori in the Jewish Quarter of a Polish City. Wow, the world is flat.

At one of the graveyards, we saw a monument to a women who lost all 90 of her extended family members in the Holocaust. She was the only survivor. Note the decorative wall in the graveyard. These are old stones, from before the Holocaust. The Germans had ripped them down--they actually used a large number of them for making walkways in concentration camps. These recovered stones are being made into a decorative memorial in the walls of the graveyard.

Afterward, we went to an industrial area that was the Jewish ghetto before Hitler's "Final Solution." We learned of a Catholic Pharmacist who stayed in the slum and aided the families, we saw a monument of empty chairs depicting the loss of families, and we even saw the actual Schindler Factory (which is where the factory parts of the film were filmed).

We were glad to end our day with a Kielbasa and some atmospheric music in the main town square.

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