The First Day in Krakow

BBYO’s National Teen Delegation arrived safely and started their journey in Krakow. The group toured the Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz, the symbol of the wealthy and prominent Jews who had lived in Krakow for hundreds of years. In the area are numerous synagogues and old and renovated Jewish institutions.

The teens discovered the Jewish history of Krakow: As the historic capital of Poland from the 10th to the 16th century, there had been a strong Jewish population until World War II. During the Nazi occupation in 1939, Krakow became the capital of the Nazi Government. After the Nazis expelled 40, 000 Jews, a ghetto was established (1941) in Podgorze. There were up to 18,000 Jews living in 300 houses, as well as storage spaces, attics, rooms under staircases, and in basements. It was a time of intense cruelty by the Germans and random killings occurred.

Upon Krakow’s liberation on January 19, 1945, an organization was formed to bring groups of Jewish survivors back to the city. The first group that arrived was a group of seventeen children from Auschwitz who were housed in an orphanage.

Today, approximately 1,000 Jews live in Krakow, but only about 200 identify themselves as members of the Jewish community. Despite the small population, interest in preserving Jewish history has been rekindled. A new Jewish research institute was established in the University there and a Jewish Cultural Center was set up in Kazimierz. Every two years, Kazimierz hosts a Jewish cultural festival that has music, dance, film and theater.

 

Hear from the teens:

“When we visited the synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow, it was so powerful to see Jewish people praying in a place that was taken from us.”Molly Schwartz, Connecticut

“Today was a start of a long and meaningful experience. It is hard to even fathom how hard it must have been to experience something like being forced out of your home for just being Jewish.” – Jake Teplitsky, Connecticut

“Discovering how the Jewish people lived in Poland has enlightened me and given them a history as people, not just victims.” – Harrison Fratkin, Virginia

“The past 2 days have been a series of never ending sights, new friends, and of course, tiredness. What I’ve learned so far is that Poland, aside from the horrific events that occurred, is a beautiful European country.” – Ari Sabot, Massachusetts
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