No exploration of old Jewish Krakow would be complete without visiting Podgorze, the working class section of Krakow where the Krakow (Podgorz) Ghetto existed alongside Oscar Schindler’s Enamel Factory, made famous by the acclaimed movie Schindler’s List.
Our walking tour group approached Podgorze from the old Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz via a foot bridge over the Wisla River. The railings of the lovely, arched bridge were dotted with padlocks from couples who pledged undying love to each other. The bridge was in stark contrast to the dark history which greeted us on the other side.
The former Krakow Ghetto had housed 16,000 Jews in overcrowded tenements for two years. We stopped for reflection in the large open square which is now named Plac Bohaterów Getta (Ghetto Heroes Square). Filled with rows of empty metal chairs, it was a moving memorial to thousands of Jews who passed through this deportation site on their way to concentration camps.
During our walk through some of the streets of the former ghetto, our guide Tomasz pointed out a small remnant of the brick ghetto wall. The relatively-good, exterior condition of the tenement houses and streets here belied the area’s recent history.
Our two-hour walking tour ended at the former administrative building of Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory which has been turned into a Museum. Schindler was a Nazi industrialist who is credited with saving the lives of 1200 Jews he employed in his factory during WWII. The museum explores Krakow under Nazi Occupation 1939-1945.
I returned to the museum the following day in order to give it the time I felt it deserved. After an emotional visit, I felt a breath of fresh air when I saw a poster of Schindler outside the exhibit area. Next to his picture was the famous quote from the end of the movie Schindler’s List: “He who saves a single life, saves the entire world.”
It was with that positive, departing thought that I walked back to Kazimierz during a light snowfall for an upbeat afternoon of good food and exploration.
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