Today was definitely a lighter day as far as the content and atmosphere of the day compared with yesterday. We still had a few things that were hard to hear, but over all, there was more laughter and more “normal” life for us today.
We started the morning with visiting a camp that was actually right here in Krakow, Poland during the Nazi occupation. There was not much to see at the camp, but there were several memorial stones and a really touching memorial tribute to the victims of the camp on the grounds (in the picture.) The people in the memorial have the gap in their bodies that symbolize that even before they were executed, their hearts where no longer there, as tragically their human dignity had already been taken away. It was so strange to think of the horrors that took place at this camp that was right in the heart of Krakow, and now you can look across the street and see a Polish Ikea and a few gas stations. Life goes on, etc. It was a strange feeling. A crazy fact about the Holocaust in Poland is that Krakow alone had 68,000 Jewish people before the war. When the Nazis invaded, they were rounded up and sent to the “Jewish residential area” (Jewish ghetto) and eventually to concentration camps and in many cases, straight to gas chambers at death camps. Only 2,000 Jews survived the Holocaust, and now, only 150 currently live in Krakow. Unbelievable! We later toured the Jewish quarter, which is a location that has been restored and built up with Jewish restaurants, shops, and is the location of Jewish music festivals and where many people enjoying hanging out, eating, and shopping the open markets. We were told that the government is trying to send a message that the Jewish community is welcome and safe in Krakow. Will it work? Who knows. There have been many people wondering about anti-semitism here, and we’ve kind of gotten mixed messages about it, but the overall message has been that there are no huge issues around it. I’ll admit there is a little skepticism amongst us in the group.
We also toured the Schindler factory today, which I’ll admit was not the most exciting part of the trip. It was really a museum about the history of Poland in the war. I think I would have enjoyed it more if my back did not hurt so much- a doctor’s appointment about my lower back pain might be in my future…
We ended our day with a nice meal at a Polish restaurant. It’s been another great day of conversation with new friends and taking in a lot of information. Tomorrow we will go back to Auschwitz 1 and Birkenau for further visits and reflections, as well as a candle lighting ceremony at the execution wall. I look forward to sharing more reflections with you all. I also plan to do a post soon to talk more about Eva’s ideas and experiences with forgiveness and my own reflections on that as a pastor. So stay tuned!
Again, thanks for reading- I am privileged to share my journey with you!