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News | 6th February 2020
 

Krakow and the real horrors of Auschwitz

 
 
 

An account of a visit to this marvellous city and its bleak past

Last week marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Russian army.
Many incredible stories of survival were broadcast and written about and some survivors returned to the site of their suffering during World War Two.
Margaret Sanderson of Westerkirk writes about her recent visit to Krakow.
While there, she visited the factory owned by Oskar Schindler, whose story Schindler’s Ark was written by Booker prizewinner Thomas Keneally.

IN SEPTEMBER last year my brother, sister-in-law, sister and I went to Krakow for five days.
This proved to be far too short a time to see all that this amazing city had to offer.
There are numerous cafes and restaurants in Krakow serving excellent and very reasonably-priced food. I can also recommend the flavoured Polish
vodka.
On two evenings we had dinner in the hotel and chose the six-tasting menu. Not just food, truly art on a plate.
We visited the cathedral, a beautiful building set on a hill which had panoramic views across the city.
Inside, the stained-glass windows were fantastic and we felt the tour was well worthwhile.
We also visited the Basilica which is next to the main market square. The ceiling and altar are incredible and, again, we really needed more time to
appreciate this beautiful building.
My brother and his wife
decided to visit Auschwitz but, because it was a long and tiring day, my sister and I decided to tour Schindler’s factory and take the new tour Krakow under Nazi Occupation 1939-45.
Oskar Schindler was German but he was so horrified by what was being done to the Jewish people during the occupation that he saved almost 1,200 Jews from being sent to concentration camps by employing them in his factory.
He eventually had to start making mess kits and shells for the Germans to make sure the enamel factory was protected.
The Nazi commander in charge of the part of German-occupied territory in Poland in 1940 ordered the resettlement of the Jewish population because he wanted Krakow to be a Jew-free city.
In 1941 the Krakow Ghetto was established and about 16,000 Jews were confined behind the three-metre-high walls.
Four gates were constantly guarded and conditions were appalling because of the horrendous overcrowding. Food was severely restricted and schools were closed.
Over the next two years Hitler’s plan, The Final Solution, to finally cleanse Europe of the Jewish population, began.
Many Jews were loaded on to cattle trucks and sent to Belzec death camp but this did not satisfy so yet more were sent to Belzec and, by the end of this action, almost 7,000 were sent to their deaths and many more shot in the street.
On March 14, 1943 the final push began to rid Krakow of the Jews. Many were killed in the ghetto and almost 3,000 were taken directly to Auschwitz.
During our tour there was
almost no sound from the tourists, only the guide’s story of the horrors which took place could be heard.
I was only nine when Auschwitz was liberated but I can still remember going to the cinema to see the dreadful news stories of the suffering endured by those imprisoned in these camps.
We all went to the Jewish district on the final day of our stay and were delighted to see that the Jewish people are now free to work, run businesses and worship, according to their faith.
Krakow has so much to see that I would encourage anyone to go there to learn about its

 
 
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