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1935: World’s First Female Rabbi Is Ordained, in Germany

1935: World’s First Female Rabbi Is Ordained, in Germany

Regina Jonas remained outside the Orthodox establishment, but provided spiritual services in the concentration camps where she wound up and died.

Regina Jonas was ordained as a rabbi in Offenbach am Main, Germany. With an ordination certificate signed by the head of Germany’s Liberal Rabbis’ Association, Jonas is thought to be the first woman ever to receive ordination – though the country’s Orthodox rabbinate did not recognize her status. Less than a decade later, she was dead, having been murdered at Auschwitz.

Source: 1935: World’s First Female Rabbi Is Ordained, in Germany – This Day in Jewish History – Haaretz

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December 27, 2015 Posted by | News | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Bookkeeper of Auschwitz’ trial begins in Germany – BBC News

A 93-year-old former Nazi SS guard, known as the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz”, has admitted he is “morally guilty”.

Oskar Groening

Oskar Groening spoke at the beginning of his trial for being an accessory to the murder of at least 300,000 Jews at the concentration camp.

He described his role of counting money confiscated from new arrivals and said he witnessed mass killings, but denied any direct role in the genocide.

If found guilty he could face three to 15 years in prison.

via ‘Bookkeeper of Auschwitz’ trial begins in Germany – BBC News.

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Auschwitz, News | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Polish Wedding….. All you need to know.

KRAKOW TOURS– Polish wedding season is almost upon us. More and more foreigners are marrying Poles or getting invited to Polish friend’s weddings and there are things these people need to know. In this definitive survival guide to Polish weddings I will cover every potential pitfall, misunderstanding and health risk I’ve uncovered. Comparisons are made with British Weddings, the rest of you will have to wing it.

1. Read your invitation carefully

In Poland it is quite possible to be invited to the wedding but not the wedding party. In fact it’s more common to be invited to the ceremony than to the party.

Many Poles are still attached to the quaint notion that the union of two people in holy matrimony is a significant event that people might want to witness rather than a slightly tedious prelude to a booze up. Shocking I know, but there it is. If your invitation mentions “ślub” that’s the tedious prelude part. If it mentions “ślub” and “wesele” put on your best drinking shoes and pat yourself on the back, you’re going to a party.

2. The missing groom

In a British wedding ceremony the groom arrives at the church first and waits at the altar with his best man for the bride to be escorted down the aisle by her father or nearest equivalent. It’s a tradition that allows for all kinds of hilarious church-based shenanigans such as the groom fainting from stress or the best man passing out from alcohol poisoning. It’s also frequently used as a dramatic device in the kind of movies where brides decide not to turn up at the last minute. In Poland the bride and groom arrive at the church at the same time and walk down the aisle together, sometimes in leg irons. If you’re waiting in the church and notice the groom is missing don’t get excited, he’s coming. Expectations of a thrilling ‘jilted-at-the-altar’ scenario are unlikely to be met.

3. Polish best man – the world’s easiest job

Expectations of the best man at a Polish wedding are not high. The ability to walk in a more-or-less straight line and hold some envelopes are sufficient qualifications. Polish best men do practically nothing. He walks behind the bride and groom down the aisle along with the bridesmaid and then sits down. That’s pretty much it. Best men are often also witnesses, but not always. In a British wedding it is the responsibility of the best man to bring the ring (note, only one ring) and hand it over at the appropriate moment, another tradition that provides limitless opportunities for humor. Not so in the Polish service – the rings are already there in a holy cubby hole of some kind.

If you’re ever asked to be best man at a Polish wedding do not hesitate. No responsibilities, no speeches (more on this later), a definite invitation to the party and a guaranteed woman to go with. You can’t lose.

4. Throwing money around and sealed brown envelopes

On exiting the church the happy couple are traditionally showered with handfuls of loose change. They are then expected to pick it all up. Starting out on married life groveling around on the pavement for pennies like bums is, apparently, lucky. If you ever find yourself in this position I suggest bringing an umbrella which you can smoothly invert to catch the bulk of the incoming coinage.

Immediately following this potentially painful and humiliating indoctrination into marital finances everybody lines up to pay their respects to the couple and hand them wads of cash. Three kisses on the cheek and flowers for the bride, a handshake and an envelope full of money to the groom. I’m told the going rate is about 200 zloty. The bride hands her flowers to her bridesmaid, who needs to have forearms like tree trunks, and the groom hands the envelopes full of money to the best man, who needs to have moderately large pockets (I told you this job was easy).

5. The salt and the bread

Off to the party, which might be in a wedding hall, a restaurant, or somebody’s back garden. On arrival everybody gets a drink and the bride and groom get salt and bread. Again, if you ever find yourself in this situation, don’t panic – it’s just symbolic, it doesn’t mean you’re only getting salt and bread for the rest of the evening. One or other of the parents who’s job it is to provide the bread and salt may make a short speech and start blubbing at this point.

6. Songs, songs, songs

Immediately following the salt and the bread business all Poles in the vicinity will break into song. The song is known as “Sto lat” (”100 years”) and is the same song you will hear sung at birthday parties, presidential inaugurations and, in extreme cases, the opening of a tin of sardines. Here are the words — you’re going to hear them a lot in the next few hours:

Sto lat, sto lat,
Niech żyje/żyją, żyje/żyją nam.
Sto lat, sto lat,
Niech żyje/żyją, żyje/żyją nam,
Jeszcze raz, jeszcze raz, niech żyje/żyją, żyje/żyją nam,
Niech żyje/żyją nam!

which translates roughly into English as:

A hundred years, a hundred years,
We want him/her/them to live.
A hundred years, a hundred years,
We want him/her/them to live,
Once again, once again, we want him/her/them to live,
We want him/her/them to live.

7. First dinner, first dance

Once the singing has died down everybody sits down to the first meal. Note my use of the word ‘first’ here. There may be additional singing in the form of traditional demands for the bride and groom to kiss like alien face-huggers, but there’s nothing important going on there that you need to worry about. Immediately following the first meal the newlyweds are invited to embarrass themselves horribly by performing the first dance.

8. A lot more dinners

I often advise people going to Polish weddings to beware of the amount of food they will be required to consume. “There will be a lot of food” I say “I mean, really a lot.” “Oh good” they say. I shake my head and hold my tongue. A few days later I see them again and they say “Why didn’t you tell us there would be so much!” “I did!” I say “I tried to warn you.” “My god” they say with the horror of recollection in their eyes “I didn’t know there was that much food…”

This is how it works. Immediately after the first toast you will sit down to an excellent meal of something roasted, with vegetables and potatoes and a side salad preceded by soup. You will eat this and then help yourself to the various cakes, cold meats, breads etc. scattered liberally about the table. At this point you will be completely stuffed and saying to yourself “Hey, that guy was right, there really was a lot of food, but I could handle it.” You will probably be quite satisfied with yourself and think me a moaning minnie with the food handling capacity of a small rodent. About an hour later the waiters will be bearing down on you with exactly the same thing all over again. An hour after that they will be back again. By now you’ll be feeling the fear. Fortunately there are only three or four more courses to go, each one the size of a hearty Sunday dinner. And then cake.

Do not attempt to eat everything served to you. You will die. You have to regard the food as symbolic. It’s a symbol of wealth and plenty, an overwhelming feast for the happy event, it’s not an actual meal.


9. The vodka situation

Vodka is a big deal at Polish weddings. Talk of who is going to buy the vodka and where they are going to get it begins at least six months before people start considering less significant details such as wedding dresses or who to marry. Presumably there was a time when vodka was in short supply or had to be manufactured in the woods because, as far as I can see, the entire problem can me solved in a ten minute trip to the local supermarket. However, I digress.

Assuming the vodka is there and, to be honest, the wedding would have been canceled if it wasn’t there are a few things you should know. Vodka is only drunk collectively. Glasses are filled, somebody proposes a toast, vodka is drunk, and glasses are refilled in readiness for the next toast. There’s no casual solitary sipping. It’s all or nothing every time. Sometimes it will be a special wedding vodka prepared according to a traditional recipe known only to 84-year-old uncle Bogdan. These are often sweet and pleasant tasting but can still kill an elephant at 20 paces. Do not be tempted to fill in the time between toasts with a beer or a glass of wine, that way lies very messy but dimly recalled madness.

10. Throwing bouquets and ties

The throwing of the bouquet will be familiar to British readers and it has the same function at a Polish wedding, except that it takes place at the party and not outside the church. The difference at a Polish wedding is that it is taken much more seriously. In the half an hour before the tossing of the bouquet is due you’ll notice a gradual but complete evacuation of the building by all unmarried females over the age of about 24. To be 25 or older and still in that circle around the bride is a powerful shame.

Unlike men at British weddings Polish men also get the chance to make utter fools of themselves scrambling after discarded clothing. The groom’s tie is the sought after item in this case. By this time of the night any male who is still able to stand, regardless of age, is considered a good catch.

11. Proper dancing

Dancing is also a big deal a Polish weddings. It’s the women’s vodka. The first time I went to a Polish wedding my girlfriend said “You know there will be dancing, don’t you?” “Well yes” I said “that’s normal.” I had in mind the vague individual flailing around that every self-respecting Brit regards as dancing. Not so. Proper dancing is expected. In pairs, with feet and everything. Dancing schools make a killing in Poland.

12. Midnight cake

The cake is cut and distributed to the groaning overstuffed guests at midnight. Or at some other random time. Then they wheel in an entire roasted cow just in case anybody is feeling peckish. Knocking off time will probably be sometime around 3 or 4 in the morning.

13. The two-day wedding

It is true that Polish weddings sometimes go on for two days. The second day is known as “poprawiny” and you’re most likely to come across it at a traditional village affair. At first the idea of a party that goes on for two days sounds quite appealing to the average Brit. By the fifth course of the first night the idea becomes less attractive. The first time I went to a two-day wedding I imagined a Bacchanalian blow-out that would literally go on for 48 hours. In fact the truth is less terrifying. On the first night everybody goes home in the early hours of the morning, sleeps for 10 hours, then comes back and does the whole thing all over again minus the tedious mucking about in church.

The second night is traditionally much more relaxed than the first. It’s a no-holds-barred party to celebrate the fact that the previous night’s party went well, or to rectify the fact if it didn’t. Boys are sorted from men.

Enjoy!

For a fantastic wedding photographer in Southern Poland have a look at Lukasz Lisiecki’s website.

March 11, 2015 Posted by | Events, Krakow Travel Advice, Recommendations, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Bradley Wiggins to race Tour of Poland

Sir Bradley Wiggins will make his comeback in the saddle in this months Tour De Pologne.

Krakow Tours  - Bradley Wiggins

Wiggins has endured a frustrating 2013 which has left question marks over whether he will race in the Tour De France again.

He targeted the Giro d’Italia only to withdraw early in the race suffering from a chest infection, and a subsequent knee injury then hampered his recovery and ended his hopes of being ready for the Tour.

Wiggins will return to action in the Tour of Poland later this month with one eye on the world championship time trial in Florence in September.

“He’s very, very motivated and in great shape now, going into Poland, and then on to the individual time trial at the worlds.”

The tour will be in Krakow on 30th July, and then to Katowice on the 31st, and finally Wieliczka to Krakow on 3rd of August.

 

All the details available HERE

July 23, 2013 Posted by | Events, Sport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prince Philip in Polish research student gaffe

KRAKOW TOURS: Prince Philip is reported to have asked a highly qualified Polish research student in Cambridge if he had originally come to the UK “to pick raspberries”

Prince Philip

The 92 year-old prince, husband to Queen Elizabeth II, made the remark when visiting the prestigious Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology, where the structure of DNA was first discovered, Cambridge News reports.

Prince Philip may have become confused when meeting the Polish research student after hundreds of thousands of Poles migrated to the UK after joining the EU in 2004 – with many taking up temporary work such as fruit picking.

The gaffe-prone prince has developed a talent of putting his foot firmly in his mouth over the years, especially when making small talk with ethic minorities or on Royal trips abroad to exotic destinations.

“If you stay here much longer, you will go home with slitty eyes,” the prince said to 21-year-old British student Simon Kerby during a visit to China in 1986.

In 1995, when confronted by a Scottish driving instructor, Prince Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh enquired: “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?”

In 1967, when asked if he would like to visit the then Soviet Union, the prince said: “I would like to go to Russia very much – although the bastards murdered half my family.”

“And what exotic part of the world do you come from?” Prince Philip asked Conservative Party politician Lord Taylor of Warwick, whose parents are Jamaican, who replied: “I’m from Birmingham.”

And in 2000, the prince pontificated on the British class system: “People think there’s a rigid class system here, but dukes have even been known to marry chorus girls. Some have even married Americans,” he said.

May 24, 2013 Posted by | News | , , , | Leave a comment

Justin Bieber: the best thing to happen to Holocaust awareness since Schindler’s List

It’s been a busy few weeks for Justin Bieber.

His pet monkey was quarantined in Germany, he attacked a photographer, got kicked out of a Paris hotel and rolled up two hours late for his opening night at the London O2, leaving thousands of “Beliebers” to stagger home at midnight on a school night.

All in all, that’s pretty standard stuff for a pop star coping with adulation and adolescence. Teen idols, after all, occupy an entirely different universe. Shenanigans are in the script and colossal egos make them the entertainers they are. Stay tuned to see Justin shave his head, smoke a tropical cigarette and book into rehab.

But in the eyes of many, this once wholesome starlet has transformed from Cliff Richard to Keith Richards in under a year. Now, it seems, he can’t do good for doing bad.

The 19-year-old’s latest blunder took place in the unlikely setting of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam last Friday. After touring the museum for an hour, he wrote in the guestbook that he hoped the Jewish teenager (who died in 1945 at Bergen-Belsen, aged 15, from typhus and malnutrition after hiding from the Nazis with her family for two years) “would have been a Belieber” – a fan of his.

Cue the collective Twitter cringe.

Yes, it was a crass, silly, self-obsessed thing to write. Using Anne Frank’s memorial book to self-promote requires a rare brand of teenage arrogance. And yes, Justin probably deserves much of the stick he’s getting on Twitter (“‏Justin Bieber also believes Primo Levi would have really enjoyed ‘One Less Lonely Girl’… thanks @Jeffrey Goldberg).

Justin’s words may not have been particularly inspiring or sympathetic, but they certainly weren’t malicious. They were simply the clumsy thoughts of a young man lacking the eloquence to write or sing anything more profound than, “Baby, baby, baby, oh, like baby, baby, baby.”

Thanks to his 37 million devoted Twitter followers (he recently overtook Lady Gaga as the site’s most popular user), Justin has unintentionally become the best thing to happen to Holocaust awareness since Schindler’s List. Thanks to a self-centered teenager’s inane comment, 37,569,749 young people around the world are learning a little about the life of Anne Frank – a true teen idol if there ever was one. (Bieber’s Twitter following has increased by more than 10,000 in the hour I’ve been writing this).

Had she been born at the turn of this century, Anne may well have been a Belieber. She was certainly a pop culture fan, (“I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle, look at the world, feel young and know that I am free”). Last month, aged 84, she may have been seen hurrying with her grandchildren to catch the last Jubilee Line train from the 02, thanks to Justin’s rock ‘n’ roll tardiness.

Sadly, all we are left with is her diary, which stands as a testament to what youthful spirit can overcome.

Perhaps, thanks to their hero’s silly words, a handful of Beliebers will download her diary and begin to appreciate how only time and good fortune separates them from Anne’s fate.

We’ll never know what Anne Frank would have thought of Justin Bieber. But today, 68 years after her death, young people are clearly still profoundly touched by her story – however ineloquently they express it.

April 17, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz, News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amon Goeth

KRAKOW TOURS: Revelations about the execution of a notorious Nazi war criminal, immortalised in Schindler’s List, have raised questions about how the mass murderer died and whether he was even hanged at all.

For decades Amon Goeth, who was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews and Poles during World War Two, was believed to have been filmed being executed in 1946.

A black and white video shows executioners twice botching a hanging before he was eventually killed.

But historians claim in a new National Geographic documentary called Bloody Tales that the video was from 1947 and shows Dr Ludwig Fischer being hanged.

Worryingly, there is almost no detail about the sadistic mass murderer’s death in official records and no one knows what happened to his body.

Historian Dr Suzannah Lipscomb and presenter Joe Crowley do not believe he escaped Europe like other high profile Nazis such as Adolf Eichmann and Joseph Mengele, and say he was killed.

However the revelations surrounding Goeth, who was known to carry out his own killings rather than order them, mean his death is now a complete mystery with records containing just two words: ‘He died.’

via Amon Goeth: Did ‘executed’ Nazi murderer in Schindler’s List escape justice? | Mail Online.

March 22, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz, News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Krakow Ghetto Pharmacy to Reopen

KRAKOW TOURS: Drawers full of surprises, voices on an old phone, and new rooms that will transport visitors back in time – the famed Pharmacy Under the Eagle will reopen after a major refit in March, on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto.

The Pharmacy Under the Eagle (Apteka Pod Orłem) was the only gentile business that the Nazis allowed to continue operating in the Jewish ghetto. Its owner, Tadeusz Pankiewicz, helped save many lives and is recognised as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. His staff also risked their lives to help those trapped in the ghetto.

Situated on Plac Bohaterów Getta (formerly Plac Zgody), the Pharmacy Under the Eagle kept people alive by distributing medications for free, as well as providing tranquilisers to help keep hidden children quiet during Gestapo raids and hair dye to aid escapes.

via Krakow Ghetto Pharmacy to Reopen After Major Refit » Krakow Post.

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Events, Krakow Travel Advice, News, This Day In History | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poland to donate €10,000,000 to Auschwitz perpetual fund.

The Polish government is to contribute 10 million euros for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation which is to oversee the conservation and maintenance work at the site of the former Nazi German concentration camp in southern Poland.

A draft bill which is to approve the donation has had its first reading in the parliamentary commission for culture and the media. Its chairwoman, Iwona Śledzińska-Katarasińska, said that preserving Auschwitz, a site of unique importance, is of utmost siginificance not only for Poland and Europe, but also for the whole world.

Chairman of the Auschwitz Foundation, former Auschwitz prisoner Władysław Bartoszewski, called on deputies to support the draft irrespective of party differences. ‘Such a non-partisan gesture would be appreciated by both the Germans and Jews, showing that all the parties in Poland, from the right to the left, share the view that the site of the former camp should be preserved as a testimony for the whole mankind’, he said.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, which was established in January 2009, hopes to create a Perpetuity Fund of 120 million euros by 2015 to ensure the consolidation, restoration and long-term maintenance of the camp site.

Several countries have already pledged to contribute 85 million euros, the most sizeable contribution (60 million euros) having been offered by Germany. The United States, Austria, Great Britain and Israel have also contributed to the fund.

The site of the Auschwitz camp extends over an area of almost 200 hectares and comprises 155 buildings, most which are badly in need of repair. The conservation projects are also to cover the camp’s archives, documents and objects in the museum collection. Over 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, perished at Auschwitz.

July 30, 2011 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , , , , | 1 Comment

And not before time.

Krakow Tours - Auschwitz Italian displayFrom July 2011, the Italian exhibition at the Auschwitz Memorial is closed to visitors.

Not educational in any way, it failed to meet the basic requirements for national exhibitions as set by the International Auschwitz Council, which have been in force since the 1990s.

The Italian exhibition, opened in 1980, was made up of a ribbon of fabric in the form of a spiral, hung with paintings intended to represent various incidents from the history of Italy in the 1930s and 1940s. The designers stated that the final section was supposed to be an apotheosis of positive colors signifying victory over the time of contempt and persecution.

This type of exhibition can be categorized as art for art’s sake and would be referred to in a gallery of contemporary art as an installation or performance. This type of art is not presented on the grounds of the former Auschwitz camp, where the educational dimension is connected with remembrance, education, and making the younger generation aware of the tragedy of the victims of the Shoah and the concentration camps, as well as encouraging people to reflect upon their personal responsibility for the world around them and its future.

The organizers of the closed exhibition, the Italian ANED association, have been reminded regularly over the years about the fact that the exhibition did not conform to the rules established by the International Auschwitz Council. Positive talks are underway with the Italian government about creating a new narrative-historical exhibition in the future that will meet the requirements set by the International Auschwitz Council and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

July 4, 2011 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , , , | 3 Comments

Auschwitz ‘Arbeit macht frei’ sign re-assembled.

June 9, 2011 Posted by | News, Tour Information | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Poland’s giant snowman

KRAKOW TOURS – It’s Frosty, super-sized.

This 31-foot behemoth – dubbed ‘Milocinek’ – is casting a long, frigid shadow over Trzebnica, Poland.

A group of ‘bored’ Poles started building him one day – and then decided they would just keep going.

Six days later, they hunted down a barrel for a hat and a traffic cone for a nose, and their work was done.

The resulting Goliath of a snowman stands on eye-level with surrounding two-storey homes, and dwarfs passing cars it is 9.5 metres (31 feet) high.

The snowman was completed Friday near the town of Trzebnica in southwestern Poland.

A Polish newspaper’s website reported Saturday that the snowman’s builders believe Milocinek is the largest snowman built in Poland since winter weather set in more than a week ago.

Other observers go further – suggesting he may well be the largest snowman in the world.

See the video

Read more: Daily Mail

December 15, 2010 Posted by | Events, News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rugby on Ice in Krakow

Krakow Tours – Rugby

This is the Krakow Freestyle Ice Skating Club demonstrating their rugby skills on ice.

This is a sport they are trying to develop, it’s only played as a touch game so far, but with additional funding and interest they hope to get padded up and start playing full contact.

Read more about it at The Krakow Post

December 8, 2010 Posted by | Events, Sport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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