Today, March 14th 2023, marked the 80th anniversary of the second day of liquidation of the Jewish People who had been forced into the Krakow Ghetto in the previous years, with over 15,000 people being murdered in a short period of time.
While Plac Bohaterow Getta has stood as a memorial for all the Jewish People forced to endure life in the ghetto, and often subsequent relocation for death, today it was decorated with photographs of some of the people we know to have perished during the mass liquidation, with many events held this week in memoriam.
A temporary display was put up by the city that recounted the horrific 48 hours, while highlighting those that helped some survive- as well as the quick thinking that saved many who went underground to hide in the sewers.
Every year on the Sunday before or after the anniversary date [best to check in advance on the Jewish Culture Festival website if you want to participate]- a Walk of Remembrance parade is held starting at Noon and going from Ghetto Heroes Square to the monument in the former Plaszow concentration camp, that honors those who were forced into the labor camp, that eventually evolved into a concentration camp. (It’s important to note here, that yes there was a concentration camp in Krakow, and it was this one, not Auschwitz, which many people include on their Krakow itineraries even though it is located in an entirely different city over an hour away. While I think it is important to go to Auschwitz, I fully believe that it should have it’s own separate day on your itinerary and be treated as a different destination all together).
Although we think this exhibit with photographs is temporary- the 70 chairs will remain as they have been a permanent part of this area since 2005 when the Plac or Square was rehabbed. Podgorze is the name of the neighborhood that represents the former Jewish Ghetto, and has recently become an extension of the lively tourist scene in Kazimierz the former Jewish District. You will find two memorials in Podgorze to the Jewish people who were forced to move here during the Holocaust.
What do the empty chairs in podgorze on plac bohaterow Getta (Ghetto heroes square) represent?
Some say the square filled with sculptures of empty chairs is symbolic of the furniture the Jews had to carry with them from their homes to the ghetto. Some say it represents the personal items that would lay here in the square as the people were forced out of their homes once again, this time being forced from their displacement in the ghetto to meet their fate at a labor camp or concentration camp. Others interpret it as symbolism for a chair that a person once sat in, that has now vanished, and I think this is the one I most connect to. We often have a chair we always sit in, for dinner, for relaxing- and during war people are forced out from their chairs, some return and some don’t- and these empty chairs are a reminder of the emptiness left by tragedy.
Nearby you can find the only remaining piece of the wall built around the ghetto, notice how the shape of the top resembles gravestones, foreshadowing the future of the members of this community, as they waited in the ghettos to be sent to extermination camps.
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To get to the square, walk over the Bernatka Bridge from Kazimierz to Podgorze and follow a map, or take a tram to the stop Plac Bohaterow Getta. (Tram 3, 17, or 19 go easily from the city center).
While Ghetto Heroes Square is always a moving memorial to visit- the addition of photographs to the empty chairs here for the 80th anniversary of its liquidation bring an even more poignant rememberance of the over 15,000 Jewish People that were murdered from this location.
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