Kazimierez – a historical district on the southern side of Krakow has been home to the Jewish community of Krakow since the end of the 13th Century. It is full of history, interesting and horrible both. Part of it became Krakow’s Jewish Ghetto during WWII – most of the ghetto inhabitants were sent to their deaths in Auschwitz Concentration camp. (which you can go visit, I didn’t on this trip, though I do intend to in the future.)
It’s near impossible to walk through the quarter and not imagine what life was like then. Now full of hipsters and artsy cafes and bars, it’s nice to see some life and joy come back to these streets, which were once so solemn.
Plac Nowy is a dodecahedron building in the centre of a square in the quarter.
Other vendors had loads of antiques and old items harkening back to both the soviet and nazi occupations. It’s always odd to me to see mugs and watches and buttons with the swastika or hammer and sickle on them. I did find an iron skeleton key to add to my keychain – I was happy with that 2 Zlotky purchase!
A little further up is a memorial to the Jewish people who lost their lives in the main square.
It is the Ghetto Heroes Square with its 33 memorial chairs of iron and bronze. These chairs symbolize the tragedy of the Polish Jews. These inhabitants of Krakow were imprisoned in the Krakow Ghetto during the Second World War and the German occupation of Poland. And then afterwards losing their lives to the Germans on the premises of the ghetto and in several German death camps.
The square was erected around 1838 as the second market square for Podgorze, which was a separate town. After 1880 it bore the name of Maly Rynek (Little Market). In 1917 it saw another name change to Plac Zgody (Concord Square). This was because of and in memory of the incorporation of Podgorze to the city of Krakow in 1915. So the present name of the square dates from 1948. It commemorate the Polish Jews who were to lose their lives in the Krakow Ghetto between 1941 and 1943.
As can be seen the Ghetto Heroes Square is in the center of the old Krakow Ghetto. The main gate to the ghetto once stood where the present entrance to the square is, coming up from the Wisla river. In March 1941 the Germans locked up all the Krakow Jews inside the recently-built ghetto. Over 20,000 people were living within the ghetto walls, where previously only 3,000 people had lived.
The one and only non-Jewish inhabitant of the Krakow Ghetto was Tadeusz Pankiewicz, who had a pharmacy within the ghetto walls. During the existence of the ghetto he and his personnel provided all kinds of help and aid for the Jews imprisoned there. Incidentally the Eagle Pharmacy still exists. And it’s currently one of 14 branches of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow.
Krakow. Be sure to go to Endzior on one of the sides of the building in Plac Nowy. Every stall in that building sells these so make sure you go to the right one. They are not all created equal!