Thursday, December 28, 2006

Report from Krakow

I have arrived safely in Poland, and am having a memorable visit with my son Tim, my son, Ti and his family, my sister, Di and many of Tim’s Polish and ex-patriot friends who live here in Krakow. My trip by way of London offered a bit of adventure, since British Air managed to misplace one of my two checked bags – the one that contained a Dell laptop computer and an HP printer I was delivering to my sons. The missing bag was eventually located, and delivered to Tim’s flat in Krakow – much to my relief!

Krakow is a gorgeous city – the artistic center of Poland. It survived WWII virtually intact, so many of the ancient churches, castles and historic buildings lend it a medieval air that no longer exists in much of the rest of Middle Europe. As I was walking along the street, I encountered my very first street musician bassoonist!

We spent much of yesterday touring the museums at Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Several images will remain indelibly imprinted in my memory – the iconic sign over the main entrance: Arbeit Macht Frei. The room full of human hair – taken from recently executed prisoners and intended for use in textile mills. The train track running through the main gate at Birkenau – branching into three tracks from which arriving prisoners were separated into groups that would be immediately executed in the gas chambers or those who would join the work teams living in subhuman conditions. Few survived those conditions for more than a few months.

The scale of the atrocities carried out at Auschwitz and the dozen of other camps is beyond my comprehension. Over the years, I have read extensively about the Holocaust, but no amount of reading or viewing films or even visiting the physical sites where the killings took place is enough to help me grasp the enormity of the suffering that was visited upon the victims of the Holocaust – and their survivors. I have a friend whose father survived Auschwitz, so I wrote a note in a book of remembrance in memory of Otto Goldschmitt.

Tomorrow, we will visit the site of the Krakow Ghetto and the location of Oscar Schindler’s factory.

Let us never forget!


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