Editor’s Note: A group of local teachers is visiting Auschwitz, Poland, this week to mark the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation. The week-long trip is being led by Terre Haute-based CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center, which was founded by Holocaust survivor Eva Kor, who died in July 2019. The educators are sharing their experiences with Journal Review readers. This is the third installment in a six-part series.
Wednesday morning teachers explored Krakow’s Old Town Square including Wawel Royal Castle. Old Town Square dates back to the 13th century and includes many historical landmarks. St. Mary’s Basilica has towers from which a bugle call from a fireman is sounded every hour on the hour. The bugle call originates from a guard signaling to alert of an enemy attack in the 13th century.
Krakow’s Old Town Square today attracts many visitors with its many delicious restaurants, shops, carriage rides, beautiful architecture and museums. Teachers enjoyed experiencing the local cuisine including pierogies, obwarzanki krakowskie (braided ring shaped bread), paczki (donuts), lody (ice cream) and amazing, thick hot chocolate.
The tour ended at the magnificent Wawel Royal Castle, which was the residence of the kings of Poland. Teachers were especially interested to learn about the great King Casimir of the 14 century, who founded the University of Krakow, the oldest Polish university. King Casimir is also credited with allowing the Jews to settle peacefully in Krakow.
The Jewish population thrived successfully until the German occupation of Poland in 1939. Nazi leader Hans Frank, who served as the head of the general government, took occupation of Wawel Castle, transforming it into the Nazi headquarters in Krakow. At the same time, Krakow’s Jewish population was stripped of many rights, including not being allowed to enter Old Town Square. The Nazis also stole millions of dollars of art and valuable artifacts, most of which has not been recovered.