The Liberation of KL Auschwitz

17th Jan 2020


27 JANUARY 2020

January 27, 2020 is the day of 27th anniversary of liberation of Auschwitz Concentration Camp. The major international commemoration will take place at the place of former Nazi German Concentration and Extermination Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oświęcim. The motto of this year's event is: 'We have a dark premonition, because we know', which are the words of the former prisoner Załmen Grabowski - a Polish Jew, who was killed during the revolt of Sonnderkommando.

Among many important persons who were invited to attend the ceremony, former prisoners of Auschwitz Concentration Camp will be undeniably the most honoured guests. It is supposed that about 200 of them will be present at the event, including the citizens of Poland, US, Canada, Israel, Australia and other European countries. The invitation was confirmed also by the representatives of numerous European countries, such as Germany, Austria, Spain, Greece, Sweden and United Kingdom, but also Israel and Australia. The schedule of the anniversary include speeches of former prisoners of Auschwitz, the speech of the director of the Auschwitz Memorial Dr. Piotr Cywiński and paying respects to the Victims at the monument in Birkenau. All the individuals as well as the organized groups who have no invitations but wish to participate in the event, will be allowed to get only into sector BI of the former Birkenau camp. After the official part of the ceremony is over, the visitors from the sector BI will be given the opportunity to come closer to the Memorial and pay tribute to the Victims.


As a result of threatening situation on the East front, on August 1944 Nazis started to prepare liquidation of the camps. From August 1944 by mid-January 1945 about 65 000 male and female prisoners, including almost all the Poles, Russians and Czechs, were evacuated from the KL Auschwitz into the depths of the Third Reich. In the meantime, on the autumn 1944 camp's authorities decided to kill all the workers of Sonnderkommando, since they were eye-witnesses of the Nazi crimes. This decision provoked the famous revolt of Sonderkommando's members, who, being aware of their fate, tried to strike back.

Ultimately on January 17, 1945, when the Soviet army reached Kraków, Germans started the final liquidation of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, which resulted in evacuation from KL Auschwitz and its sub-camps about 56 000 prisoners. These prisoners were forced to walk in the middle of winter dozens of kilometres to the western parts of Poland. The main evacuation routes of so-called Death Marches led through the Upper and Lower Silesia to Wodzisław Śląski and Gliwice towns, where the prisoners were transported further westwards by rail (in the direction of Austria and Germany). During the evacuation the SS guards shot mercilessly prisoners who tried to escape as well the ones who were too exhausted to follow the group. It can be estimated that even between 9 000 and 15 000 prisoners of KL Auschwitz died during the evacuation operation. However, Nazis managed to evacuate about 100 000 prisoners, who were further abused as slave labourers, as well as a large amount of loot which used to belong to the camp's prisoners.


The next step was covering evidences of German crime. On January 20, 1945 Crematoria II and III were blown up and on January 26 Crematorium V was destroyed as well. On January 23, Canada II warehouse was set on fire. What's more, all the important documents including prisoners' files and registration forms were being burnt. However, the rush was the reason why Nazis failed to destroy all the things which could prove them guilty. At that time in Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II and other sub-camps there were still about 9 000 prisoners (including approximately 500 children), the majority of which were sick and extremely exhausted. These prisoners would certainly not get through hardships of evacuation, so the camp's authorities decided to murder them all. In the end, before the last columns of prisoners left the concentration camp, SS killed in the camp about 700 Jewish prisoners.

Most of the people abandoned in the camp managed to avoid this fate, which proves the great hurry of the escaping Nazis. After the evacuation, the situation of the prisoners left behind in the camp was nothing better that previously. They didn't have access to food and got cold in unheated rooms. For this reason, many of them tried to get into food warehouse on their own. This brave action very often resulted in a painful death from overeating, since famished organisms of captives were not ready for such a great dose of food.


On the day January 27, 1945, Red Army soldiers stepped into Oświęcim. The troop of 60th Army of 1 Ukrainian Front were the first to reach Auschwitz Concentration Camp. The prisoners greeted the Soviet army, which in fact represented Stalinists regime, as real heroes and liberators. On arrival, the soldiers found about 600 corpses of prisoners who had been shot by SS men during the evacuation of KL Auschwitz as well as of those who died of exhaustion. But fortunately, in the Main Camp, Birkenau and Monowitz sub-camp about 7 000 prisoners lasted until liberation.

Those of them who needed no urgent medical aid were leaving the camp and coming back to their families. However, the majority of the prisoners was taken into custody and placed in provisional field hospitals, which were established on the area of liberated Birkenau camp. These hospitals functioned until October 1945, when most of the patients were discharged home and some of them moved to hospitals in Kraków.

The Procession of The Three Kings

3rd Jan 2020


After a big New Year's Party on the Market Square in Kraków, where the crowds of citizens and visitors were celebrating until dawn, no one dare say that the New Year 2020 was not welcomed appropriately. However, it is not the end of artistic events in the former capital city of Poland.

Like every year on January 6, the Procession of the Three Kings will go through the streets of Kraków to give their gifts and honour the Baby Jesus. But this year the event will be special, because it takes place for the 10th time! The jubilee procession, whose main theme is 'Miracles, miracles they're announcing!', will get through 3 different routes.

The red procession (called European) leaves from the Wawel Castle and it follows the Star of Bethlehem through Grodzka Street. The green procession, which symbolizes the Asian continent, leaves from Dębniki district and goes through Dębnicki Bridge, Planty Park and Szewska Street, whereas the blue procession (the African one) starts from Matejki Square and continues through Floriańska Street. As the custom is, all the processions eventually will meet on the Main Square, where the Holy Family will be waiting for them.

The Procession of Three Kings will be traditionally accompanied by numerous carol singers, children and youth dressed in costumes of knights and court ladies, musicians, as well as the legendary Lajkonik! The event will be culminated in Christmas play (Jasełka) and carolling on the Main Market Square. The procession will be also the opportunity to raise donations for charity, such as the St. Padre Pio Foundation.

The Procession of the Three Kings is considered as one of the biggest street Christmas pageant in the world. According to the data provided by the organizers, in 2019 this event was held in almost 800 places in Poland and abroad and it was attended by 1,2 million participants. In 2020, the Procession of the Three Kings will take place in 18 locations on different continents.

Szeroka Street

1st Aug 2019

ulica szeroka na kazimierzu w krakowie

Szeroka Street

Szeroka Street couldn't be called in any other way, since it is the widest street of Krakow (and *'szeroka'* means wide in English). The street resembles rather a rectangular square, so that it was previously called Wielka Streat (E. Great Street).

Jews started to live in Szeroka Street as a result of a decree of King Jan Olbracht from 1495 which required from Jewish people to leave Krakow and settle on Kazimierz district (see: THE ORIGIN OF JEWS IN KRAKOW). Cracovian Jews moved to the area of former Bawół village, whose centre was Szeroka Street and where the lives of inhabitants were focused.

The evidence for the importance of Szeroka Street for residents of Kazimierz is the fact that four different synagogues have been located there, which was unique on the European scale. At the turn of 15th and 16th century, the first synagogue called 'Old' was built. Old Synagogue is not only the oldest synagogue in Krakow but also within the whole territory of Poland. The second synagogue in Szeroka Street – Remu – has been established in 1557 next to already existing Remu cemetery which is known from the famous Wailing Wall, resembling the one in Jerusalem. In 1620 in Szeroka 16 the third, Wolf Popper Synagogue was built. Before II World War, just behind Old Synagogue there was the fourth synagogue called 'Na górce' (E. 'on a little hill'). In fact, it just housed prayer rooms and small mikveh in the basements. What's more, on the other side of the street - Szeroka 6, there is a monumental building of ritual bathhouse, called Great Mikveh. Mikveh existed on Kazimierz from 1567 for the needs of Jewish community in Krakow. Nowadays it has been rebuilt and it is available for visitors.

Entering Szeroka from the side of Miodowa Street, you have a rare opportunity to go back in time. Old shutters, displays and signboards, where you can read the names of former owners like Nowak, Holcer, Kac, Weinberg or Kohan, evoke the atmosphere of those days. The interiors of shops and workshops have been furnished in old style and hotels and restaurants try to hark back to Jewish tradition. Despite the fact that Szeroka Street is no longer Jewish property and the synagogues are closed, it is not uncommon to meet there some orthodox Jews who are following the footsteps of their ancestors.

Szeroka Street can be recognised in some scenes of famous Steven Spielberg's film - 'Schindler's List' – where it played Zgody Square of Krakow's ghetto, known today as Plac Bohaterow Getta (E. Ghetto Heroes Square). Finally, Szeroka is really famous for the final show of annual Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow – Szalom in Szeroka - which is held there on every June from 1996. Within 10 days of the festival, over 150 artists present modern music and the event gathers more than 30 000 viewers from all over the world.

The Man Who Spoke But Was Not Listened

10th Jul 2019


The Man Who Spoke But Was Not Listened

Wandering about Szeroka Street of Krakow Jewish Quarter, it is impossible not to stumble across a unique statue located in the heart of this place, right ahead of Remuh Synagogue.

Being the work of the local artist Karol Badyna, the statue presents an old, smart man sitting on the bench with his legs crossed. The man is a Polish-Jewish hero, Jan Karski himself.

Jan Karski was a legendary courier of Polish Underground State during II World War. This glorious emissary, putting his life in danger, got across the Warsaw Ghetto to prove to the Western world the truth about the Holocaust. In 1942 Karski informed the Allies about the mass extermination of Jews in Poland. For that reason, he is known as 'the man who tried to stop the Holocaust'.

For his courageous activity, Jan Karski was awarded with the highest decoration in Poland – the Order of the White Eagle. In addition, he was honoured by Yad Vashem with the titles of the Righteous Among the Nations and the honorary citizen of Israel.

The bronze statue of Jan Karski located in Krakow was unveiled on January 26, 2016 and it is the most recent of the Jan Karski Benches' series. The remaining benches, created by the same artist, are situated i.a. in Warsaw, Washington, New York and Tel Awiw. As the author emphasizes himself, Karski memorial bench in Krakow is different from the others – it is characterized by drama of those days. When we take a closer look at details, we'll notice that the bench is in the shape of imprinted bodies – this is the symbol of absence and emptiness after these people who used to live there not very long ago. In this way the statue brings associations with the Holocaust. However, despite being so popular, Karski memorial bench meets with opposition from the closest family of the deceased courier.

'History does not want to be a story. History still lives among us.'

The Origin of Jews in Krakow

1st Jul 2019


The Origin of Jews In Krakow

Kazimierz district is one of the most popular locations in Krakow. Its uniqueness results from the fact that this place for centuries used to be a home for two diverse communities of Jews and Christians.

The first mention about Jews in Krakow can be found in Master Kadłubek's chronicle. The Jewish society appeared here in the middle of 14th century They were an autonomous society, being under the authority of the King only. Before World War II Krakow was inhabited by over 64 000 Jewish people, which posed 25% of all residents of Krakow. So how did it happen that Jews came up in Krakow?

Jewish people used to fled from persecution from the Middle Ages. From the end of 11th century Christians, expelled Jews from their cities and towns, accusing them for crucifixion of Christ. These operations took place as a part of the Crusades. As a result, Jewish people escaped eastward and southward, i.a. to Poland. Poland became destination of Jewish community also because Polish lands were underpopulated areas, which attracted settlers from the whole Europe. Being experts from business, Jews grew rich on providing the interest-bearing credit called usury, which they were exclusive to. Despite the fact, that this practise was strictly dispraised by Christianity and Islam, both townsfolk, nobility, clergy, and even Polish monarchs, including King Ludwik Węgierski, Queen Jadwiga, King Władysław II Jagiełło and King Kazimierz IV Jagiellończyk, took out credit from them.

Because of their continuous movement from one place to another, Jewish people were blamed for bubonic plague spreading and further persecuted. However, Polish King Kazimierz the Great did not allow for persecution of the Jews in Poland. Here they could feel safe, which resulted in increase of their immigration to Poland. There is even the famous Jewish religious song which started with words: ‘’Oh Poland, royal land, where we've been living happily for ages…’’. In the times, when Spain used to force Jews to convert to Catholicism or they were burned at the stake, in Poland some Jewish people could even receive a knighthood. The Jews - as well as nobility, clergy, the middle class and peasantry – posed a separate estate. Their main occupation was running inns in villages and engaging in usury in towns. This is incorrect to link King Kazimierz the Great with bringing Jewish people to Krakow. The followers of Judaism coexisted with local Christians for over 200 years before his kingship and it was the Duke Bolesław the Pious who in 1264 provided them with freedom of religion, trade and settlement, under the Statute of Kalisz. The King Kazimierz only sustained these privileges and extended them to the whole country, which helped him to be remembered as an especially favourable to Jewish people.

Unfortunately, at night from 29 to 30 April 1494 in Krakow there was a terrible fire which gutted a significant part of the city, including the Jewish district. The responsibility for this incident was put on Jewish community, which had its consequences in plundering and destroying their lands. As a result, by virtue of a decree of king Jan Olbracht from 1495 which required the Jews to leave the city, Cracovian Jews started to move to the area of former Bawół village, whose centre was Szeroka Street. The Jews of Krakow, Bohemia and Moravia region as well as the Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal settled on this area, which resulted in creation of Jewish town on Kazimierz district, called Oppidum Judaeorum. This part of Kazimierz was separated from the rest with walls, according to existing rules. It is necessarily to mention, that creating the Jewish district, resembling ghettos, had no association with any acts of intolerance then. Separating Jewish territories was a common practice adopted in the whole Europe in that moment. In this way, from the beginning of 17th century, Szeroka Street became a centre of Jewish town. It served as marketplace which gathered around the citizens' lives.