|Krakow Ghetto Map
According to German sources, 68,482 Jews lived in Krakow and the surrounding villages,
in November 1939
. It was one of the largest Jewish communities
in Poland. Most of the Krakow Jews lived in the historical Jewish district
but from 1867
, many Jewish families had
lived and had their
own businesses throughout the entire city. Even today one can visit old Jewish houses and the synagogue
. It is the only historical Jewish district in a large Polish
conurbation that was not destroyed during the war.
On 6 September 1939
, Krakow was captured by German troops. The city became the capital
of the newly established Generalgouvernement
, led by Generalgouverneur
. He chose the famous Wawel Castle
as his residence.
Very soon the Nazis ordered all synagogues closed and the establishment of a Judenrat
. The first
president of the Judenrat
was Marek Biberstein
, a well-known
Jewish teacher and social activist. SS-Oberscharführer Paul Siebert
who appointed the members of the Judenrat
, told them to fulfil the German orders with absolute
obedience and accuracy. One of the first SS orders was to deliver all valuables
and historical artefacts from Krakow's synagogues.
the Jewish ghetto police was established, headed by
Before the war he was a carpenter and an Orthodox Jew, who did not speak Polish or
German fluently. He became the best-known collaborator of the SS and Gestapo
From November 1939
, all Jews aged 12 years or older had to wear armbands. According
to Jewish sources the Judenrat
sold 53,828 armbands bearing the Star of David.
Jewish homes and shops were looted; SS and Wehrmacht
troops even blocked off entire streets to do this.
The best Jewish apartments were confiscated for German officers' and officials' families.
The houses of the Jewish community were also confiscated. German soldiers moved into
the modern dormitory of the Jewish Academic Society and the old peoples home.
Many young Jewish men were sent to forced labour camps in small towns and villages of
the Krakow district.
In April 1940
, Hans Frank
announced that Krakow should
become the "cleanest" city in the Generalgouvernement
- that is, without Jews. Therefore on
18 May 1940
the Nazis ordered the resettlement of a large part of the Jewish population. According to this order only
15,000 working Jews were permitted to stay in the town, together with their families.
By 15 August 1940
, many Jews had been
from Krakow, mainly to towns and
villages around the capital. Because it was intended that even more Krakow Jews should be resettled,
members of the Judenrat
tried to bribe the Stadthauptmannschaft
official who was
responsible for resettlement. Therefore Marek Biberstein
several other members of the Judenrat
and the German official were arrested.
in Krakow and Tarnow
. The Krakow advocate Dr
was forced to take over the new leadership of the Judenrat
was a very modest person who often refused collaboration with the SS. After his release
was killed in the
Plaszow forced labour camp
In autumn 1940
, the next wave of resettlement occurred. More than 5,000 Krakow Jews
were resettled to the Lublin
district. Others tried to find new homes in the
surroundings of Krakow. By the end of March 1941
, around 41,000 Jews in total
had been resettled.
On 3 March 1941
the governor of the Krakow district, Dr
ordered the establishment of a ghetto in Krakow.
|The Big Removal
The ghetto was not set up in the historical Jewish quarter of Kazimierz
All Jews who lived in Krakow had to move into the ghetto by 20 March 1941
decided to leave the city, others moved to Podgorze
as ordered. Many Polish
families also had to change
their apartments and take over empty Jewish houses in Kazimierz
people were on the move, carrying their property, looking for a new dwelling. A Polish witness wrote:
"We travelled over the Vistula river like many
other families. On one side
of the bridge we came from Podgorze, on the other side the Jews came from
I remember the silence of this removal... The silence changed into mourning and sighs.
The ghetto territory covered an area of 20 hectares, and included 15 streets and 320 houses with 3,167 rooms.
A wall in the style of Jewish tombstones and a wooden fence (partially) surrounded
the ghetto. Otto Wächter
's wife described the ghetto wall
as "elegant in the Hebrew taste". All windows and doors overlooking or leading to the "Aryan" side
were to be closed with bricks. Four guarded entrances were created: the main gate
on Limanowski Street / Podgorski Market
, others on
(only for army vehicles),
and Zgoda Square
Most of the houses were old and dilapidated. Before the war, around 3,000 inhabitants
lived in the ghetto area, but now more than 15,000 people were crowded together.
According to the regulations, four families had to share one flat. Alternatively one apartment
window for every three people was allocated. Because of the overcrowded housing, many people spent their time
in the streets. In October 1941
, around 6,000 Jews from surrounding villages
were sent into the ghetto.
Hunger became the biggest problem, since the daily ration of bread for each person was 100 grams,
with an additional 200 grams of sugar or fat provided monthly. The main food was potatoes.
Most of the Jews had to work in ghetto workshops and factories, in part for the German Wehrmacht
were supplied to many Jews.
The first deportation took place between 30 May and 8 June 1942
. Based entirely
on their own judgement,SS-men decided
who would stay in the ghetto and who would be deported.
SS-Hauptsturmführer Wilhelm Kunde
for this and the next deportation. On 31 May
the handing over of ID cards was stopped. All
persons without a card had to gather on Zgoda Square
Dr Artur Rosenzweig
organized the assembly, but
he did not want to participate himself in this "action". Jewish policemen, led by
, rounded up the people in their houses and
brought them to Zgoda Square
. During the two first days of this "action"
around 4,000 Jews were deported to Belzec
death camp. The columns of deportees were led to the Plaszow Railway Station
where the overcrowded trains departed to Belzec
. Officially the people were
told that they were going to the Ukraine to work.
Not enough people were selected for deportation to satisfy the SS. During the next days
of the "action", many Jews were killed on Zgoda Square
or in the streets.
During this time, Dr Rosenzweig
lost his position because of
his "insufficient effort" in organizing the deportation. Kunde
told him that he would be deported, together with his whole family. The same day he was sent to
. Dawid Gutter
became his successor.
On 4 June 1942
, around 600 people were killed in the ghetto. On the last day
of this "action", 7,000 Jews from Miechow, Jedrzejow
(villages near Krakow)
were deported, together with Krakow Jews. Among these victims were
, a famous author of Jewish folk songs and
, a well-known artist and painter.
Soon after the first deportations many people in the ghetto discussed the fate of their
relatives and comrades. Many Jews believed that the deportees had arrived in the Ukraine,
and were now living in good conditions. But several weeks later, a Pole whose Jewish wife was
deported from Krakow in June, was told by Polish workers that all the people had been deported
. He informed others and the truth went around in the ghetto.
At the end of June
, the ghetto area was reduced. In August
Jews from surrounding towns
and villages were concentrated in Wieliczka
, a small town near Krakow. In
late August, many of them were deported to Belzec
On 28 October 1942
, the biggest and most cruel deportation took place in Krakow.
In front of the Arbeitsamt
(job centre) many children were taken away from
their parents. Whole families of employees were selected, although everybody had assumed
that these people were "privileged". Sick people and invalids were killed or deported.
All children from the orphanage were shot near the town, together with their teachers
and curators who voluntarily accompanied them. These "actions" were followed by many suicides.
In the course of this action, around 4,500 Jews were deported to Belzec
approximately 600 were killed on the spot. Shortly after this deportation, letters from the
ghetto were sent to Krakow, informing
the Jews that Belzec
was the deadly terminus of the deportation trains.
In December 1942
, the ghetto was divided into two parts: "Ghetto A" for workers
and "Ghetto B" for non-workers. The latter were to be deported as soon as possible. From
November 1942, many Jews from the ghetto were sent to the SS forced labour camp in
, a suburb of Krakow. Among them were the Jews who worked in
's enamel factory.
protected his Jewish workers and helped them during the liquidation of the ghetto (see the movie "Schindler's List").
On 13 March 1943
, "Ghetto A" was liquidated, and all workers were sent
KZ. The action was personally led by SS-Untersturmführer Amon
, the new commandant of Plaszow
Prior to this, Göth
worked in the headquarters of Aktion Reinhard
(personal assistant in
's office) until early 1943
Because of a personal conflict with
and his having been accused of corruption,
On 14 March
, the SS liquidated "Ghetto B". Many people were killed in courtyards
or in the streets. The last
were deported in trucks to
|Collecting the Jewish Property
Columns of Jewish prisoners were led to the ghetto for the collection of Jewish property, left
behind in the houses. This continued until December 1943
. Several weeks
after the liquidation of the ghetto Jewish policemen and the last members of the
were sent to Plaszow
, head of the Judenrat
was executed there in December 1943
, immediately after his arrival in the camp.
was released from Plaszow
the request of the Gestapo
, but imprisoned there again in December 1943
, the members of the former Jewish ghetto police and their families were
finally executed in 1944
, as a result of a personal order of
. That was the last act of the Krakow ghetto tragedy.
In summer 1942
, a Jewish resistance group met in the ghetto. The leaders
were Adolf Liebeskind, Abraham Lejbowicz, Symek Dränger
and Maniek Eisenstein
. Organizing a revolt was impossible, but the group helped
Jews escaping to the forests. The most notable acts of resistance were a bomb attempt
on the German café "Cyganeria" in December 1942
, and the burning of German cars in garages
on Grzegorzki Street
After the liquidation of the ghetto and the looting of Jewish property, the houses
were taken over by poor Polish families. Today, fragments of the
former ghetto wall are still visible, as well as the pharmacy "Under the Eagle" (now containing a small ghetto
museum), which was situated within the ghetto itself. Its owner, Tadeusz Pankiewicz
was the only Pole living in the ghetto.
for the murdered Jews of the Podgorze Ghetto was inaugurated on
8 December 2005
Gazeta Wyborcza w Krakowie
Bieberstein: Zaglada Zydow w Krakowie. Krakow 1985.
J. Kast, B. Siegler, P. Zinke: Das Tagebuch der Partisanin Justyna. Jüdischer Widerstand in Krakau. Berlin 1999.
T. Pankiewicz: Apteka w getcie krakowskim. Krakow 2003.
Articles from Krakow newspapers (mostly from the local "Gazeta Wyborcza") published in March 2003 on 60th anniversary
of the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto.
© ARC (http://www.deathcamps.org) 2005