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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.

March 3, 2011 Posted by | Events, Tour Information | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Good news for Polish tourist industry.

The number of tourists travelling to Poland is expected to rise by six percent in 2011, leaping from 12.4 million to 13.2 million visitors, according to the UN’s World Tourism Organisation.

Although companies specialising in the Middle East have suffered huge losses this year as a result of the political turmoil, according to the WTO, Poland’s prospects echo a global upturn for the sector.

The Central Statistical Office (GUS) published figures yesterday showing that an equivalent of five billion USD flowed into Poland last year from foreign tourism.

As many as 1.1 million Germans stayed in Polish hotels and hostels during 2010.

The number of Germans was three times greater than that of the British, who came second in the rankings.

In tandem with these trends, Poland will be spending 30 million euro on a campaign to tie in with the International Tourist Fair in Berlin (ITB), the most significant global fixture of its kind.

March 1, 2011 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, News, Tour Information | , , , , | Leave a comment

Memorial day at Auschwitz – Birkenau

Auschwitz & Birkenhau

Photo courtesy of Peter Harpley

January 27th is International Day of Holocaust Remembrance, established by the United Nations to coincide with the liberation in 1945 by Soviet troops of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in southern (German occupied) Poland.

Over one million died in Auschwitz, mostly Jews, at the hands of the Nazis and six million perished in the Holocaust.

President Bronislaw Komorowski and German president, Christian Wulff will be taking part in ceremonies today at the most notorious of Nazi death camps.

“Former prisoners will be the most important guests at the ceremony this year, as we fear that with their death we will lose the most important of witnesses,” the Auschwitz Museum’s Pawel Sawicki told Polish Radio.

The main ceremony will take place at around 15:30 CET at the Monument to the Victims at the Auschwitz Museum, the most visited museum in Poland. Last year, close to one and a half million people visited the site from all over the world.

The museum is launching the Intervene Now campaign to raise 120 million euro for the up keeping the historical site.

“The barracks, barbed wire, the ruins of the crematoria and gas chambers are the best guardians of memory,” says Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, an advisor to PM Donald Tusk and Auschwitz survivor.

January 27, 2011 Posted by | Events, News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Outstanding experience from 8am to 8pm!!”

This review of KRAKOW TOURS was posted on Tripadvisor recently.

“Outstanding experience from 8am to 8pm!!”

“I have been involved in the travel business worldwide for 25 years, so i feel i know a thing or two about ground handlers and local tour operators. I came across Phil Clark of krakowtours.co.uk on tripadvisor, I was most impressed by the various personalised comments and reviews of his Auschwitz and salt mines tours. My wife Alma and I were fully aware of the harrowing experience which lay ahead on our visit to Auschwitz. I was worried as we were due to visit two camps and the salt mines all in the one day, however Phil has the winning formula!!

Phils tour operation is run on a personal one to one basis. He takes six clients per day in his wonderful converted American style mini-bus, which is a pleasurable experience in itself. He also provides a lovely picnic lunch for all of his clients. Reviews on other tour operators show that accessing these sites/camps can be a drawn out and painstaking process, however with Phils operation there is no such issues, your straight in. It is a most difficult day, but i feel that Phil has got it just right. By taking in the brilliant and dramatic salt mines at the end of the afternoon, it helps dramaticaly to relieve the pain and anguish of the previous hours. It is my personal belief that everybody should visit these historical sites at some stage in there lives. I cannot recommend a better person, with a more caring and knowledgable personality than Phil Clark of krakowtours.co.uk.”

Eamon and Alma Duffy
Drogheda
Ireland

Many thanks to Eamon and Alma for this tremendous review of our tour.

View more reviews HERE on Tripadvisor, the worlds #1 travel website.

January 16, 2011 Posted by | News, Tour Information | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New Euro 2012 blog


KRAKOW TOURS – Countdown to Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.

As it’s now only 17 months until the start of Euro 2012 KRAKOW TOURS have added a new Blog, to keep the estimated 1 million fans visiting Poland and Ukraine up to date with news, stories and information about the Euro 2012 championships.

For all you need to know about Euro 2012 have a look here.

January 12, 2011 Posted by | Events, Krakow Travel Advice, News, Recommendations, Sport, Tour Information | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Auschwitz visitors, almost 1.4 million in 2010.

KRAKOW TOURS – As many as 1.38 million visited the site of the German Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in 2010, the museum has announced.

The record high attendance in the 60-year history of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and State Museum in Oświęcim, southern Poland, topped the previous year’s attendance of 1.3 million.

The numbers soared despite the air traffic freeze following the volcano eruption in Iceland and the May floods in the southern and central parts of the country.

“The former death camp is the most frequented memorial site in the world,” said museum spokesperson Bartosz Bartyzel.

Apart from 530,000 Poles visiting, the largest group coming to Auschwitz last year were British, accounting for 84,000 people, followed by Italians, numbering 74,000 and 63,000 French nationals.

Up to 850,000 visitors were students.

The museum’s staff member Andrzej Kacorzyk has pointed to the increasing number of foreigners from European countries and the Far East: “Last year the Memorial Site was visited by more inhabitants of South Korea than the US citizens,” he said.

There is also a growing interest in the museum’s multilingual guided tours and educational programmes

The Auschwitz Nazi death camp complex, established in 1940, claimed the lives of over 1.1 million people.

Auschwitz Trips with Krakow Tours.

January 12, 2011 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

1 Millionth visitor to Wieliczka salt mine

KRAKOW TOURS – The number of visitors to the historic salt mine in Wieliczka near Kraków has topped the one million mark.

On the penultimate day of 2010,  Ms Urszula Szczęsnowicz, who came to the site with her family from Mława, north of Warsaw, was greeted as the one millionth visitor by the Director of the Salt Mine Kajetan d’Obyr.

She was given a red-carpet treatment, taken on a special tour of the place, presented with gifts and asked to put her signature in the Visitors Book, alongside such celebrities as Fryderyk Chopin, Duke  Edward Windsor and the King of the Belgians Albert II.

2010 saw a three percent increase in the number of visitors to Wieliczka. Foreigners account for 52 percent of visitors. The British top the list (56.900), followed by Germans (39.300), Italians (36. 500), French (32.500) and Koreans (31. 600).

The Wieliczka Salt Mine was founded in the middle of the 13th century. It features a 3.5-km touring route for visitors that includes historic statues and mythical figures. There are also a large chapel, an underground lake, as well as a private rehabilitation and wellness complex.

In 1978 the Wieliczka Mine was included in the original UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

January 1, 2011 Posted by | News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Stolen Auschwitz sign to be re-erected

KRAKOW TOURS – A Swede and two Poles have received jail sentences for their involvement in the theft of the “Arbeit Macht Frei” Auschwitz sign.

A Krakow court sentenced Swede Anders Hoegstroem to two years and eight months for instigating the theft—a term he will serve in Sweden following an earlier plea bargain.

Prosecutors stated that the motive for the theft was financial. Hoegstroem claimed that another Swede induced him to organise the raid, though Polish authorities have found no evidence to support this.

The Polish pair, identified as Marcin A. and Andrzej S., were sentenced to up to two-and-a-half years in jail for their involvement in the theft. Andrzej S. is reported to have apologised to the court for the crime. Three other Poles were jailed in March 2010 for their part in the crime.

The December 2009 theft appalled Polish public opinion and sparked a massive manhunt across Europe. The “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign was recovered after just three days, crudely sliced into three pieces.

Conservators at the Auschwitz Museum announced Wednesday that they are preparing to re-erect the original sign after months of painstaking restoration work.

Full story Krakow Post

December 30, 2010 Posted by | News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Early start to Christmas eve in the Salt Mine.

KRAKOW TOURS – Christmas Eve celebrations have already started in the Wieliczka salt mine, near Krakow, where carols sung by the miners and their families echoed from the St. Kinga chapel, 200 meters below ground level.

The special Christmas mass began at 7 am this morning.

This underground sanctuary and its salt sculptures had been created in the 18th century.

The first midnight mass was said on Christmas Eve 1865.

The tradition had been interrupted after World War Two when the communist authorities banned the celebrations giving safety precautions as a reason and were resumed in the late 1980’s.

December 24, 2010 Posted by | Events, Krakow Travel Advice, Tour Information | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Germany to donate €60 million To Auschwitz – Birkenau

KRAKOW TOURS – The German Foreign Ministry has announced that it will donate 60 million euro to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, the fund-raising body for the preservation of the Nazi concentration camp’s site in southern Poland.

Berlin is set to donate the money in five equal yearly payments starting in 2011, the ministry stated, Wednesday.

Following an agreement signed between the federal authorities and representatives of Germany’s federal states, the Federal Government will pay 30 million euro, with the other half directly coming from the country’s states.

“Through the donations to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, Germany recognises its historical responsibility for the support and transfer of memory of the Holocaust to future generations,” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle published in an official statement.

Westerwelle also wrote that Auschwitz-Birkenau is a “synonym of the crimes perpetrated by National Socialism. Today’s memorial reminds us of this crime. It is our duty to support the Foundation which secures the museum as an indispensable place of remembrance, education and learning in the future.”

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation was created in 2009 thanks to the initiative of Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, the PM’s plenipotentiary for international dialogue, and more pertinently perhaps, a former inmate of Auschwitz.

The Foundation’s activity is aimed at the preservation of around 155 buildings, 300 ruins and thousands of other exhibits, including documents and archive materials. According to the Foundation, around 120 million euro is needed for the upkeep of the Museum site for years to come.

December 16, 2010 Posted by | News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Polish local presidential candidate and the strippers.

This is Włodzimierz Tomaszewski, a recent candidate for president in Łódż, appearing in his ‘Party Political Broadcast’ extolling the virtues of Łódż as a cultural centre.

Keep this up and the British Stag Parties will be flocking there in their thousands.

KRAKOW TOURS – Stag & Hen

 

December 7, 2010 Posted by | News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Auschwitz sign theft – Charges at last

KRAKOW TOURS – It’s been nearly a year since the theft of the infamous “Arbiet Macht Frei” sign that had once greeted prisoners destined for the death camps at Auschwitz.

Though the sign was recoveredjust three days later, it wasn’t until yesterday that the final steps were taken so that those responsible could be brought to justice.

In March, three of the five Polish suspects involved in the theft of the sign were handed prison sentences ranging from 18 to 30 months. However, the alleged mastermind of the theft, Swede Anders Hoegstroem, a former neo-Nazi, as well as two Polish suspects, were only charged by Polish prosecutors on Thursday. Hoegstroem, who had been extradited to Poland in April, is now facing between 28 and 32 months for incitement to commit theft of the historic sign. One of the Poles, identified as Marcin A., was indicted with the same charge, while the final suspect, Andrzej S., has been charged with participating in the actual theft, though he pleaded not guilty.

Hoegstroem is expected to agree to a plea bargain to serve out his sentence in Sweden.

Photo courtesy Peter Harpley

November 26, 2010 Posted by | News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jesus Christ that’s a big one…….

KRAKOW TOURS – Taking Jesus Christ Superstar to a whole new level, literally.

An almighty statue of a crowned Jesus Christ has been erected in Swiebodzin, North West Poland. Standing at more than 100 feet tall and erected in a similar design to the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, it will be the world’s grandest statue of Jesus.

The body of the statue is 33 meters high, each meter representing a year of Jesus’ life, while the crown perched on his head measures three additional meters.

Despite Poland’s  historic faith and following of the Catholic Church, the community has become divided, leading to charges of megalomania against the Catholic church. When a crane attempting to place the statue’s head collapsed,  the head fell and crushed a builder’s foot. Many deriders believe this mishap is a sign from God and are calling for the statue to be dismantled.

Even the chief building inspector has received threats, including a brick thrown through his car window.

The monument is five years in the making and was originally designed as a small garden sculpture. Statue  supporters, led by local priest Sylwester Zawadzki hope that the monument to Christ will show religious piety, encourage pilgrimages and attract tourism. However, building experts have voiced concerns that the statue’s foundations are not up to standard. “We’ll give it 20 years, maximum, then it’ll fall apart,” a building expert told Polish media.

One thing’s for sure: Jesus really is larger than life.

Village People alive and well and living in Poland

November 21, 2010 Posted by | News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Oswiecim (Auschwitz) to separate from its’ twin.

KRAKOW TOURS – The mayor of Ballan-Mire, central France, has announced that he does not want to renew a twinning agreement with the southern Polish town of Oswiecim, citing concerns that the local authorities there are distancing themselves from the former Nazi concentration camp situated there.

According to reports from Agence France Presse (AFP), Laurent Baumel, the socialist mayor of Ballan-Mire, near Tours, has criticised the twinning agreement, signed in 2002 by his predecessor, by stating that the contract does not refer in any way to the Nazis’ activity at the site of Auschwitz, where an estimated 3 million people died during World War II.

“There is no talk of the Holocaust, Shoah or the camp,” Baumel told AFP, underlining that the twinning agreement is “a typical ‘twinning’ between a French and Polish town geared towards cultural and touristic exchange.”

According to Mayor Baumel, since 2008 Oswiecim authorities want to forget about the Nazi concentration camp as part of the twinning agreement. “The Polish local authorities are standing by the separation of the town from the death camp, in effect leading to the trivialisation of the town itself,” Baumel stated.

“In fact, their approach is based as if they were to say ‘stop identifying our quaint town with a death camp; Oswiecim is not Auschwitz’,” Baumel complains.

“By no means do I want to support a strategy based on separating the name of Auschwitz from everything it means in common history,” the mayor has said, with reports in La Nouvelle Republique (FR) that Baumel has already taken the decision not to renew the agreement.

Meanwhile, head of Oswiecim’s town council, Piotr Kucka is surprised by the French mayor’s decision.

“We have always repeatedly stated that it is not allowed to link the town with the camp. After all, that is also the policy of the Polish state as a whole,” Kucka told the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

“As soon as there is talk of an ‘Oswiecim camp’ instead of ‘Auschwitz’, a line is crossed as to the falsification of ‘Polish concentration camps’,” Kucka maintains.

Oswiecim is a town over 800 years old, reminds Piotr Kucka, yet Auschwitz was the result of a five-year period of Nazi occupation, when most Polish and Jewish residents were resettled to make way for a model German town.

Originally, Auschwitz camp was used for the interment of Poles. Town councillor Piotr Kucka told PAP that current residents of Oswiecim make sure that visiting Germans refer to the town in its proper Polish form, and the German name.

Co-operation between Ballan-Mire and Oswiecim has been ongoing for around ten years, starting with youth exchanges, and ultimately leading to a Polish-French Friendship Association based in the southern Polish town.

The mayor of Ballan-Mire last visited Oswiecim in the Spring of this year. His opposite number is Oswiecim, Janusz Marszalek, has not been informed of the decision.

LINKED STORY.  Oswiecim…Under the shadow of Auschwitz

November 11, 2010 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Auschwitz thief complains of maltreatment

KRAKOW TOURS – Anders Hoegstroem, the Swede who is accused of stealing the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign from the Auschwitz museum in December 2009, has complained of bad conditions in the jail where he is currently being held.

Hoegstroem earlier passed on his grievances to a friend in Sweden, Bjoern Fries, a politician for the Social Democratic Party in Sweden. Fries announced the thief’s malcontentment on SVT, Sweden’s public broadcaster on Thursday evening.

“Hoegstroem has lost 15 kg since he was interred in Poland, and he also has to pay for his own water and personal hygiene products,” Fries said.

The politician is urging the Swedish authorities to look into the case, to check whether “such treatment is in line with the European justice system.”

Former neo-Nazi, and allegedly the mastermind behind the theft of the sign, Anders Hoegstroem is currently being held in a prison in the southern city of Krakow, along with two Polish suspects: Marcin A. and Andrzej S.

Investigations into the theft have been extended until December, with media reports stating that the case will probably be finished by the end of this year.

Hoegstroem has maintained his innocence in the case, which accuses him of the theft and also persuading the Poles to help him. If found guilty, he could face a 10 year sentence.

November 5, 2010 Posted by | News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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