Podgorze is the other Krakow. West of Vistula river – opposite the old town – there are no magnificent old buildings, no picturesque places and no cozy cafes for locals and tourists. Severity hangs over the houses from the 19th century and the interwar period. Many facades are blackened by the smoke of industry, some house are empty – the windows boarded up. Podgorze is the district in which the Nazis established a ghetto – for its Jewish inhabitants it was the beginning of the end. Further west is Plaszow, the territory of a former concentration camp.
Miriam and I cross Vistula river coming from the old Jewish district of Kazimierz. Now one just has to go straight ahead, to come to Plaszow. We take a look at the gray facades and a last remain of the ghetto wall, pass under railroad tracks and a highway bridge. After a cemetery a signpost indicates the site of the former concentration camp. There is not much that has been preserved. The former mansion of the camp commander is empty. A car is parked in the driveway. Apparently someone has purchased the building and it will renovate it. Who wants to live in the mansion of a concentration camp commander? The same question at anothert building. In the house of the Chevra Kadisha – the Jewish burial society – the SS guards were based. The camp was built on the site of a Jewish cemetery. Today the building is a normal residential building. Next to it are the ruins of two other buildings, obviously they were blown up. My internet research tells me that this are the remains of a mortuary. The walls are incredibly thick – it could be the remains of a bunker as well.
We follow a path which rises slightly. The fog that began yesterday evening has become so dense that even the Krakow airport is closed.
Right hand of us a large area is marked by gravel. The camp map indicates that it could be the former roll call ground. The ends of the marked square disappear in the mist. Perhaps it is also a marker for the former Jewish cemetery. Why do we need this visualization? What are we looking for at this location? Maybe it is the hope something of the murdered could have remained, some sign that would help to remember them. There are no graves to commemorate. The bodies were exhumed, burned, the ashes poured into Vistula river.
On the edge of the camp we come across an area that was secured with barbed wire fence. The wire is long gone, the concrete pillars are still standing. In the midst of this area there are ruins of brick buildings. Here, the food for the prisoners was stored. Close to it is the abyss of a quarry. It is so deep and the fog so dense that the ground can only be guessed. After a few hundred meters we find a path leading into the depths.
In the quarry of the Plaszow camp, prisoners of had to do forced labor. We come across the ruins of several old industrial buildings. In a secured area are car wrecks, they are probably gutted for spare parts. We are not alone. Several times we hear the cracking of branches. Somewhere squeaks an iron door. Maybe there are homeless people who have found a place to stay. Maybe we should not be here. We see nobody in the mist.
Miriam and I are glad when we reach an asphalt road and see people walking with their dogs. Nothing has happened to us. We are doing well. We escaped from Plaszow.
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Thank you for what you tell in words & images!
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It is important to preserve the history of these places in our memory. And it is very helpful when remarcable photographs accompany the stories, thank you indeed Christian.