While we were in Prague, World Youth Day was going to be held in Krakow, Poland. This is the same event I went to in Spain a few years back. Even though I didn’t feel called to go this time around, I did want to go explore this beautiful Catholic town. Krakow has 2 claims to fame: 1. it was where Pope John Paul II studied and later became their Bishop and 2. it was a major Nazi-occupied city during WWII and the closest town to Auschwitz.
It was a great time to walk around where JPII did, to see the influence he had on the town and continues to have. There were some beautiful tributes to him around the city. Not to mention the town of Krakow is beautiful in itself. I was able to eat some delicious pierogi and wonderful food in general. I also went to probably the best museum I have ever been to, the Schindler Factory Museum. It was built in the same factory where Schindler housed and employed hundreds of Jews and gave them a better life than there counterparts elsewhere. The museum was so well put together and walked through the day to day life in Krakow from the beginning of the war till the end.
The beauty of the town is in stark contrast to the horrors that happened just a short ride away. One of the hardest things I have ever done in my life was go to visit Auschwitz. The notorious Nazi concentration and extermination camp is now preserved as a museum. I have learned about it in school, but you never know the magnitude of the destruction until you see it first hand. On the way out there we watched a movie on some of the details of the crimes committed and while we were there we heard the facts and figures but my mind blocked out some of it. I couldn’t and still cannot comprehend fully what happened there. We were given a guided tour and saw the suitcases left over, the pots and pans brought there because the prisoners were told they were just being relocated, the mound of shoes that were taken away from them on arrival, the piles of shaven off hair left over that wasn’t used to make clothes, the pictures of prisoners with their date of birth and their date of death. Even after all that I can’t imagine just how many people passed through there and never left. I do not know anyone personally killed during the Holocaust, but looking at the pictures and seeing the last name of “Klein” it really hit home that these were actually people. This man with the last name Klein is probably related to so many of my neighbors back home. It wasn’t just a horror movie that played out, it was real life. These were husbands and wives, parents and children, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors all killed for no good reason. It was such a sobering, unreal, unimaginable, unthinkable experience. I do not have many pictures from that day, because it didn’t feel right to take pictures but I did take some to show as much as I could the horrors.