We had just reached our hotel in Krakow, the second largest city of Poland. Sun had just set and it was cold. I was shivering and it was not just because of the sub-zero temperature. On way to our hotel our bus passed through an area called village Kazimierz. From the distance I could see several chairs, and I was reminded of the broken chair memorial in Geneva, outside the main gate of UNO. I made a mental note that this may be to depict something similar.
When the story unfolded, it was absolutely terrifying and I had goose pimples right till next morning.
Gloomy scene of a sad story
Nobody likes wars. What happened in Krakow, in the vicinity of Krakow Ghetto is unimaginable.
Just before the onset of invasion of Krakow by Hitler’s army, 25% population of Krakow were Jews. They were soon persecuted and were forced to wear white arm bands mark themselves, many were sent to concentration camps elsewhere in Poland and many were forced to work in German Companies as forced labour.
All the Jews, numbering about 15000, were held in the ghetto created for the very purpose, in this area, surrounded by high walls and barbed wires. Each tenement housing had at least 4 families. There were approximately 320 buildings each containing 10 rooms and each room holding 5-10 people.
Over the next few years things became bad to worse with many getting killed or dying of hunger. On a certain day over 600 were gunned down on the streets. Reason … they did not carry out SS orders. Constantly the population reduced by either mindless killing or transfer to other camps, eventually none remained in these ghettos.
I am not going into the details of this horrifying act.
Now what remains in place of the ghettos is a vast square, Plac Bohaterow Getta, which has since been converted into a memorial to those who lived here. Big metal chairs were erected on raised platforms, symbolic of the various household stuff left behind by the families since, as per a story, when the Jews were leaving, they were allowed to carry only 20 KGs with them. Some say each chair depicts 1000 persons who lived here. One can see names of people who died here, engraved on the platform.
The famous movie Schindler’s list was made in Krakow and in fact Oskar Schindler’s enamelware factory used to exist here where Jews worked during WW II and he showed enormous courage in saving 1200 Jews from holocaust.
Such is this cold & shivering story!
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