I have booked a tour to Auschwitz whilst I am here. I cannot say I am looking forward to it, as it will be unbelievably sad. In preparation I have been reading a bit of history and have included this below (most taken from Wikipedia or other sites where referenced):-
- Poland invaded by Germans and Soviets in 1939; (“German-Soviet invasion”);
- Persecution of Jews in Krakow began immediately after the German troops entered the city in September 1939;
- Jews ordered to report for forced labour. All Jews twelve years or older required to wear identifying armbands;
- All synagogues in Krakow closed and all relics and valuables confiscated by German Nazi’s;
- (This next point made me feel ill) Hans Frank announced in 1940 that Krakow should become the “racially cleanest” city in the General Government;
- The Krakow Ghetto was one of five majory Jewish ghettos which were created by Nazi Germany for the purpose of expolitation, terror and persecution of local Polish Jews;
- 15,000 Jews were crammed into an area previously inhabited by 3,000 people. One apartment was allocated to every four Jewish families with some also having to live on the street;
- Ghetto was surrounded by newly built walls separating it from the rest of the city;
- Any windows and doors opening onto the “Aryan” side (i.e. non-Jewish – Hitler’s ideal race of blonde hair and blue eyes) were ordered to be bricked up;
- The first transportation of Jews from the Ghetto to a concentration camp was 7,000. Many were carted in cattle cars;
- There was a labour camp nearby where those deemed able to work were transported to (Plaszow labor camp) – those who weren’t were executed on the streets;
- There was a pharmacy within the ghetto (just one!) operated by a Roman Catholic priest who was later bestowed the title of the “Righteous among the Nations”. There are 6,620 men and women recognised by this title for saving Jews from extermination.
- In Poland, if you were found to have concealed or aided a Jew, you were punished by death. Even if this was just on your property without your knowing about it. Apparently tens of thousands of Jews met death in this way, with 704 posthumously honored with medals.
There is so much more information out there and I keep learning more with every article I read. I am so saddened by what happened. I honestly struggle to fathom how human beings could be so awful. It feels strange writing about such horrible things whilst in the city where they happened.