Kazimierz, Podgórze, Plaszow and Oskar Schindler Part 1

1 : Introduction
2 : City (Day)
3 : City (Night)
4 : Churches
5 : Castle/Cathedral
6 : Fete
7 : Kazimierz, Podgorze, Plaszow, Oskar Schindler
8 : Wieliczka Salt Mine

PODGÓRZE originally started as a separate city from Krakow situated across the Vistula River from Kazimierz. The comparatively new footbridge across the river is shown in the picture above with Kaminierz in the background.

From 1784 to 1915 it was administered as a separate town but in 1915, on the brink of collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the town was incorporated into the administrative centre of Krakow.

The Krakow Ghetto was one of five major, metropolitan Jewish ghettos created by Nazi Germany in the new General Government territory during the German occupation of Poland in World War II.

It was created for the purpose of exploitation, terror, and persecution of local Polish Jews as well as a staging area for "separating the 'able workers' from those who would later be deemed unworthy of life".

From 1941 until 1943 the ghetto took up a large part of old Podgorze.

The ghetto was formally established on 3 March 1941 in the Podgorze district and not, as often believed, in the district of Kazimierz. The Jewish population from Kazimierz was moved into the ghetto which was surrounded by a brick and cement wall, parts of which are still to be seen (as in the picture above ).

Displaced Polish families from Podgorze took up residences in the former Jewish dwellings outside the newly established ghetto. Meanwhile, 17,000 Jews were crammed into an area previously inhabited by 3,000 people who used to live in a district consisting of 30 streets, 320 residential buildings, and 3,167 rooms.

As a result, one apartment was allocated to every four Jewish families, and many less fortunate lived on the street.(The rest of the 65,000-strong prewar Jewish population of Krakow had been relocated earlier to Poland's lesser cities, towns, and villages.)

The ghetto was liquidated between June 1942 and March 1943. Most of the Jewish occupants were sent to various extermination camps including the Auschwitz concentration camp some sixty kilometres away.

The picture (right) was taken at one of the four ghetto checkpoints early in 1943 when the Jews were being moved to 'other destinations'.

Note the wall in the background which surrounded the ghetto and parts of which are still visible in Podgorze as shown in the picture at the top of th1s page. These walls were composed of brick and cement panels in the shape of tombstones.

All windows and doors that opened onto the 'Aryan' side were ordered to be bricked up. Only four guarded entrances allowed traffic to pass through.

Having crossed the Vistula from Kazimierz by the Powstancow Slaskich Bridge (pictured above) one arrives in Podgorze. Close by the bridge is the Plac Bohaterow Getta (Ghetto Heroes Square) - formerly the Zgody Square - with its display of large metal chairs.

From 30 May 1942 onward, the Nazis began systematic deportations from the ghetto to surrounding concentration camps. Thousands of Jews were transported in the succeeding months as part of the Aktion Krakau headed by SS-Oberführer Julian Scherner.

The first Jews transported away from Podgorze consisted of 7,000 people, the second an additional 4,000 Jews deported to Belzec extermination camp on 5 June 1942.

Jews were assembled on Zgody Square and then escorted to the railway station in Prokocim. They were told to take all of their belongings. But their belongings were eventually left behind on the square including piles of furniture.

The memorial display was designed by Krakow architects, Piotr Lewicki and Kazimierz Latak, and opened on 8 December 2005. The design included 33 large empty chairs in the centre and 37 smaller chairs located on the edge of the square and at the tram stops.

The idea behind the project was to represent the furniture left behind by the evacuated inhabitants. In turn, those 70 empty chairs would also represent the seventy-thousand Jewish lives lost from Podgorze and the rest of the Krakov district.

On 13 and 14 March 1943 the final 'liquidation' of the ghetto was carried out under the command of SS-Untersturmführer Amon Göth (his SS rank was the equivalent to that of a 2nd lieutenant in the Allied forces). Eight thousand Jews deemed able to work were transported to the Plaszow labour camp decribed below.

Those deemed unfit for work - some 2,000 Jews - were killed in the streets of the ghetto by 'Trawniki men' - police auxiliaries.

Some of the clothing and other items left behind by the Jews is shown below.

Prior to 1941, within the area later occupied by the ghetto, there were four prewar pharmacies owned by non-Jews. However, the only working pharmacy remaining within the Krakow Ghetto following its establishment belonged to Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a Polish Roman Catholic pharmacist (born 21 November 1908 in Sambor, died 5 November 1993 and buried in Krakow) who was permitted by the German authorities to operate his 'Under the Eagle Pharmacy' (Apteka Pod Orlem), founded in 1910 by his father, Jozef.

Pankiewicz was the only proprietor to decline the German offer of relocating to the aryan side of the city and was given permission to continue operating his establishment as the only pharmacy in the ghetto, and reside on the premises. His staff were given passage permits to enter and exit the ghetto for work.

Pankiewicz supplied scarce medications and tranquilizers to the ghetto's residents, often free of charge. Apart from health-care considerations, he contributed to their survival in many other ways.

In recognition of his heroic deeds in helping countless Jews in the Ghetto during the Holocaust, he was granted the title of 'Righteous Among the Nations' by Yad Vashem on February 10, 1983.

Pankiewicz was the author of a book describing, among other events, the ghetto liquidation. In it Pankiewicz makes particular mention of hair dyes used by those disguising their identities and tranquilizers given to fretful children required to keep silent during Gestapo raids.

The pharmacy also became a meeting place for the ghetto's intelligentsia and a hub of underground activity. Pankiewicz and his staff (Irena Drozdzikowska, Helena Krywaniuk, and Aurelia Danek) risked their lives by undertaking numerous clandestine operations such as smuggling in food and information, and offering shelter on the premises for Jews facing deportation to the camps.

In April 1983 the 'Pod Orlem' pharmacy, located at No.18 Plac Bohaterow Ghetta (Ghetto Heroes Square) opened its doors as the Museum of National Remembrance which features the history of Krakow Jewry with special focus on the ghetto period.

In 2003, it became affiliated with the municipal Historical Museum of Krakow. The wartime activities of Pakiewicz and his staff are particularly featured in an exhibition on the history of the Jewish ghetto in Krakow.

The pharmacy was also featured in the Academy Award-winning film, 'Schindler's List'. The film's director, Steven Spielberg, who also donated $40,000 for the building's preservation, was honoured by the city of Krakow with its prestigious 'Patron of Culture' award for the year 2004.

The pictures (left and below) are of various buildings in the Podgorze central district.

They do not appear to be of specific historical interest but show some of the traditional building styles prevalent in the area.

Whilst about to leave Podgorze our coach passes the historic St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church at Podgorski Square situated on the northern slopes of Krzemionki foothills in the south-central part of the city.

This brick built church was constructed between 1905 and 1909 from a design by Jan Sas Zubrzycki and in the Gothic Revival style.

The interior of the church has been shaped in the likeness of a Gothic cathedral in the so-called Gothic Vistula style and is filled with numerous altars, benches and other items made mostly of wood. The main altar originally consisted of the tabernacle and statues of St. Joseph.

In 1999 the local parish priest, Franciszka Kolacza, decided the church needed restoration. The main altar, side altars, pulpit and organ were renovated. The interior was also restored to its original colour, which was lost during renovations at the time of pastor Franciszka Mirka when the colour was changed to red and blue.

Today the church has been painted in a white/grey colour thus restoring its former character.

The interior of St Joseph's Church.   Photograph with acknowledgement to Wikipedia and Zigmunt Put.

The visit to this area and to Plaszow continues on the next page
where there is also a detailed description of
and his involvement in the Krakow district.

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