Krakow’s ghetto opened 70 years ago today.
Seventy years ago today, the occupying Nazi German regime opened a ghetto in Krakow for Poles of Jewish descent. It was one of the five largest such ghettos in the so-called General-Government region of the Third Reich.
By 3 March 1941, over 36,000 Cracovian Jews had already been forcibly resettled outside the city. Now a second wave was enacted, enclosing the remaining Jews in a walled section of the city’s Podgorze district, south of the River Vistula.
By October 1941, the Ghetto housed about 16,000 people. They were enclosed in an area that prior to the war had accommodated 4,000. Apartments typically housed four families together.
Evacuations of the ghetto to forced labour camps began in May 1942, as recorded in the memoir of Catholic pharmacy owner Tadeusz Pankiewicz, who was later decorated by the State of Israel.
Another prominent figure who aided the Jewish community was Oskar Schindler, who famously used the free labour of Jews at his enamel factory, a short walk from the ghetto. He succeeded in saving the lives of over 1,000 Cracovian Jews.
65,000 Jews from the city and its environs perished during the war. Approximately ten percent of the pre-1939 population survived. Amongst those who escaped the ghetto was the young Roman Polanski, who went on to become one of Poland’s most renowned film directors.
In the summer os 2010, the city of Krakow opened a major museum chronicling the occupation in the former Schindler Factory. A march of remembrance also takes place every year, marking the bloody liquidation of the ghetto in March 1943.