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The Krakow Ghetto

German authorities created the Jewish ghetto in Krakow under the Nazi occupation on March 3, 1941 as a compulsory dwelling place for the city's Jews. On the order of Dr Otto Wachter, the district gubernator, the central part of Podgorze borough was closed off and all its gentile residents expelled to make room for some 17,000 Jews who were allowed to remained in the then capital of a German dependency made of the rump of Poland and called General-Gouvernement. The rest of the 65,000-strong prewar Jewish population of Krakow had been relocated earlier to Poland's lesser cities, towns, and villages.


Geography of the Krakow ghetto.

The Nazi-conceived Jewish ghetto in Krakow was situated in Podgorze area on the right bank of Wisla river opposite Kazimierz district and its historical Jewish Quarter. Originally the ghetto took up the area of roughly twenty hectares that stretched from Plac Zgody square (now Plac Bohaterow Getta) to Rekawka street and between Lwowska street and Wegierska street. It was strategically situated next to Zablocie industrial district with many plants, including now famous 'Schindler's factory', that could utilize the cheap forced labor of the ghetto inhabitants. Also the Plaszow concentration camp was near by. And the adjoining Zablocie train station facilitated future deportations. 

Schindler's Factory in Krakow

'Schindler's Factory', i.e. Emalia plant run by Oskar Schindler from 1939 to 1944, has been recently turned into a museum.

The Krakow ghetto consisted of fifteen different streets or parts of them and contained 320 buildings comprising some 3,200 rooms.

The ghetto in Krakow was sealed off, with a high wall erected round it, and only four gates guarded by German solders linked it with the outside world. The main gate was situated on the ghetto's western edge, at Limanowskiego street near Rynek Podgorski square, two other at Lwowska street (east) and at Zgoda square (south), while another entrance at Limanowskiego street was meant solely for German military vehicles.


Living conditions in the ghetto in Krakow.

The German authorities rigorously rationed food in Poland and they decreed that the ghetto Jews might survive on as little as one hundred grams of bread per day and two hundred grams of sugar or fat per month. No wonder both starvation and black market were rampant. Potatoes smuggled from the Polish peasants became the everyday sustenance for families which could afford them.

The Krakow ghetto was overcrowded as its Nazi overseers decided that at least four Jewish families should share every flat. Most apartment houses and other buildings were in bad repair.

The Germans made all Polish Jews to wear armbands with the Star of David. Soon the access of ghetto inhabitants to the rest of Krakow was restricted to an absolute minimum. Even windows looking outwards were bricked up.

The rationale for letting Jews stay in Krakow was their contribution to the German war effort so the ghetto residents had to work in German factories. The workers were issued identity cards that provided some protection from persecution, for the time being.

Everyday matters of the ghetto in Krakow were managed by so called 'Jewish Council', Judenrat. It consisted of Jews appointed by the local commander of the frightful SS police. The Judenrat was responsible for carrying out German instructions duly, exactly, and without delay. Its orders were enforced by Jewish policemen.

Destruction of the Krakow ghetto.

Over two years of its existence several thousand residents of the Jewish ghetto in Krakow were either killed or died of hunger. Then the Nazis emptied Krakow's ghetto systematically in three waves.

On May 30, 1942 the ghetto dwellers without identity cards were rounded up on Plac Zgody square (today's Plac Bohaterow Getta square) and roughly 4,000 of them left for the Belzec death camp to perish there. Since the Judenrat didn't meet the German-set quota of deportees, SS storm troopers killed some 600 Jews on the streets of the ghetto on June 4. By the end of June the Nazis formally decreased the area of the Krakow ghetto.

On October 28, 1942 such 'excessive' ghetto residents as the sick, the old, the handicapped, and little children became the target. Some 600 were murdered outright and about 4,500 shipped by train to Belzec concentration camp.

From November 1942 on the Nazis were transferring Jewish laborers from the ghetto to the nearby Plaszow camp. In December 1942, the German authorities carved the Krakow ghetto up into zone A for usable work force and zone B meant for the rest of Jews.

On March 13, 1943 so-called Ghetto A was closed down and all remaining Jewish workers imprisoned in the Plaszow concentration camp. Next day the SS troops emptied Ghetto B killing its Jewish inhabitants in their homes and in the streets. Several hundred Jews were trucked to the notorious Auschwitz death camp in Oswiecim.

The ransacking of the Krakow ghetto continued till December 1943.

Steven Spielberg's famous film, Schindler's List, shows the tragedy of the Jewish ghetto in Krakow.

Krakow's relics of the Jewish ghetto.

Little has remained of the Krakow wartime ghetto demolished by the Nazis in 1943. There are fragments of its wall at 25 Lwowska street and 62 Limanowskiego street. Also many apartment houses survived but they don't differ from other properties in Krakow of the same age.

Pharmacy Under an Eagle /Apteka Pod Orlem/ at 18 Plac Bohaterow Getta square, former Plac Zgody square, was run by a Pole during the World War II and provided a cover for the Polish resistance that tried to help Jews in ghetto. The former drugstore has been turned into a tiny museum of the holocaust in Krakow, a branch of the city's Museum of History, open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Mondays it's 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

The entire Plac Bohaterow Getta square, Ghetto Heroes Square in English, has been turned into a monument commemorating the Jewish ghetto and the Krakow Jews. 

Plac Bohaterow Ghetta, memorial to the victims of the Krakow ghetto in the World War 2
Memorial to victims of the Krakow ghetto in the form of oversized bronze chairs on the Plac Bohaterow Getta square. 

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Krakow's Jewish Town of Kazimierz 

Map of Krakow's Kazimierz historic district

Kazimierz Town

Stroll through Krakow's Kazimierz District

Podgorze district

Old Synagogue

Krakow's synagogues

Center for Jewish Culture

Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow


Plaszow concentration camp


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