We drove from Lublin to Krakow, arriving at Krakow very late at night. We then spent the entire next day touring Krakow. The first place we visited was Podgorze, where the Jewish ghetto was located and which was and still is the worst section of Krakow and is separated from the rest of the city by the Vistula river. A memorial now stands at the ghetto collection and deportation site, which is also the site of a terrible massacre.
We crossed into the main area of Krakow where we visited the still-intact Jewish quarter of the city, known as Kazimierz. We visited the old Jewish cemetery, which was desecrated by the Nazis but has since been partially restored. A wall stands in the cemetery made up of broken matzevot that could not be properly restored as burial markers.
Additionally our group visited the only active synagogue of Krakow, the Remuh Synagogue, which is designed in the modern German style with the pulpit in front. Our group noted how it differed from the Tykocin synagogue, which is in the Eastern style with the pulpit in the center. Professor van Pelt explained that because German Jews came to Krakow during the 13th century when the black plague was rampant, there was a strong German influence in the traditions of Krakowian Jews. We also learned that after the year 1800 Jews who could afford to do so were allowed to move out of the confines of the Jewish quarter into other parts of the city. This helped our group to understand that Jews had a place in the mosaic of the city of Krakow; they did not exist in a separate realm as they did in other cities across Europe.
Our group also had the opportunity to visit the Galicia Jewish Museum, where we were given a guided tour by the museum’s Director, Kate Craddy. The museum’s permanent exhibition is a collection of photographs that document the lives of Jews in the Galicia region of Poland. The museum and exhibit were conceptualized by the late Chris Schwarz, a photographer determined to show and teach about Jewish life in the region prior to the Holocaust.
Following this visit our group had some free time in Krakow before we departed for Osweicim, the Polish name for the town of Auschwitz, where we would spend the next four days and nights.