Along with 6000 other people in guided groups, we visited Auschwich Birkenhau concentration camp today. We lined up for our appointment along side groups of people speaking many languages, Polish, German, Italian, French, Mandarin, and English. The ages ranged from early teens to seniors. Each group was assigned a guide who spoke their language. The guide told us how the camp worked and described the daily life and death of the prisoners. As we filed through the barracks, toilets (10 seconds only twice daily) the work areas, the gas chambers and crematoria, the guide told us how the Nazis managed the prisoners with humiliation and cruelty. This camp held Polish political prisoners, Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Roma, gays and the mentally ill but the vast majority were Jews like me.
The area of these facilities was vast. The Nazis got rid of the majority of Poles on the surrounding farms and took over the housing the the towns for themselves according to the guide.
When we returned to Cracow, the evening program was dinner in a Jewish style restaurant accompanied by Jewish style Klezmer music in an area where Jews lived for 900 years before the Holocaust. There are only few Jews now in Cracow. The restaurant was in a former synagogue and ritual bath. The furniture in the hall were family dining room sets, probably taken from the apartments of the former Jewish inhabitants complete with lace tablecloths. I could not stay and walked back to the hotel in the warm June night.
I lost my way and went into a restaurant. The waitress looked at my map, told us that we still had a long way to go and called us a cab. When it arrived, she came out to make sure the cabbie understood us, I appreciated her kindness so much then.