Before the war
For many years a large Jewish population has lived in Krakow. One of the Polish kings desperately needed money and asked the Jewish community to help him. In return for such support, the governor gave those people the whole district of the town. Since that time, the Jewish population had been growing consistently.
The Ghetto Heroes Square previously was called the Agreement Square (Plac Zgody). It first appeared on the maps of Krakow in distant 1836 on the opposite from the city center side of the Vistula River. It was a part of the Hebrew area.
Before the beginning of the World War II more than 65 000 Jews lived in Krakow. Driven by the ideas of racial anti-Semitism, Nazi soldiers gathered all Hebrew people in one district surrounded by walls. There were only four gates to get from there to the surrounding streets and each was guarded by SS. This way Krakow Ghetto appeared – and Plac Zgody was its heart.
Life of Jews in that Ghetto was a sheer horror and torment. Nazi used their labor on the nearby factories and paid almost nothing for it. Many people died from hunger. To reduce the quantity of Ghetto inhabitants, SS often sent large groups of people to the concentration camps, mainly Auschwitz-Birkenau. And no one was coming back. That’s why people were always ready for deportation with their cloths and belongings.
Children also wanted to help their parents, so when they heard an order to gather on the square, they didn’t take any toys. They took chairs that could be of use for the family. Standing on that square, people did not know where they will go. However, there was only one way – to Auschwitz.
The project of the modern Ghetto Heroes Square has been designed by the Polish architects Kazimierz Latak and Piotr Lewicki. Now the square features 70 bronze chairs. Even in sunny summer weather you can’t get rid of the feeling of loneliness and despair when you see them. You can physically feel the lack of people who had to be there.
Next to the Ghetto Heroes Square there is Pharmacy Under the Eagle which was controlled by a Pole during the Nazi occupation. Risking his life, the man still tried to help Jews and to lead them out of Ghetto with false passports. There is also a famous Schindler’s factory nearby which is shown in the Steven Spielberg’s film “Schindler’s List”. It is now is a home for the two museums.
This part of history is very bitter and sad. However, we should know how far the human cruelty and evil can go. We should see, feel and remember that – in order to prevent such awful things in the future.