March of the Living Update: Touring Krakow

Dear BU Wheelock Community,

Thanks to those of you reading my posts from Poland.

Today we took a tour around Krakow seeing the Wawel Castle and Oscar Schindler’s factory where he turned from being a Nazi to saving 5000 Jews from certain death.

From there we took a train to Warsaw and spent the afternoon in the Warsaw ghetto. Our guide, an expert on the Warsaw ghetto uprising was able to show us both the terrible ways in which the Jews throughout history were integrated and segregated from society until finally after Poland was captured by the Germans in 1939 and nearly a half million Jews were forced to live in 2 sq. miles of the city. They were systematically starved, humiliated, and finally deported to Treblinka to be gassed and cremated. Finally, in desperation, a small poorly armed group tried to rise up and defend themselves but were defeated by the Nazis.

There is an incredible museum of the Jews in Poland that shows the more than 1000 years of their history in this region. Before WWII, there were about 3.3 million Jews living in Poland. Today, the official number is 15,000. This small Jewish population that remains in Poland still has an uncertain future as anti-Semitic behavior has not dissipated entirely. Like human beings everywhere, some Polish people seem rather indifferent to what has happened in their history. Not attending to this history and heeding its warning puts everyone at risk for these kinds of crimes to happen again.