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Poland Trip Highlights — March 12-15, 2020

 

The Jewish world is a vibrant and growing one. We know, though, that our present is rooted in our past and its echoes shape who we are.


Many of our beginnings can be found in the ashes of the prewar Jewish community of Europe, and our stories are punctuated by the Holocaust and its aftermath.


Join us on a four-day journey in Poland, a country which millions of Jews called home since the 10th century, to learn about our roots in a world that once was. Experienced guides will take us to cities such as Warsaw, Łódź, and Krakow, and we’ll confront the horrors of the Holocaust at the Auschwitz and Chełmno concentration camps.


Throughout our stay, we will enjoy 5-star accommodations and three catered meals daily. We will depart the US on Wednesday, March 11th to arrive in Poland on Thursday, March 12th. Our tour of Poland will conclude on Sunday, March 15th and we will arrive in Israel the same day. Trip cost includes Sunday night hotel accommodations in Tel Aviv.


Cost is $1,999 per person, based on double occupancy (price does not include airfare).

 


Warsaw

Warsaw has a rich Jewish history, dating back to 1414. The Jewish presence in the city grew rapidly in the early 1800s and by 1864, they numbered 223,000. Warsaw fell to the Nazis in September 1939, and on March 27, 1940, the Judenrat was ordered to build a wall around an assigned area, enclosing just 73 streets in the Muranow neighborhood to contain the city’s 400,000 Jews.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April 1943 is the symbol of Jewish resistance to the Nazi extermination machine. Two groups of Jewish resistance fighters, the left-wing ZOB and the right-wing ZZW, joined forces to stage the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II. Though Nazi casualties were not great (probably less than 150) and 13,000 Jews died during the doomed uprising, the event is recorded as one of the most significant occurrences of the time.


Łódź

In 1929, one-fifth of the Lodz’s population was Jewish. The second largest Jewish community in Poland numbered 233,000 and boasted 80 synagogues, 31 Jewish primary schools and at least five newspapers. Prewar, the majority of Jews resided in the northern Bałuty district where Jewish cultural and religious life thrived.

Lodz is home to the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe holding 180,000 graves, not including the ‘Ghetto Field’ in the south of the cemetery, where approximately 45,000 Jews who died in the ghetto, are interred. The Children of Bałuty (Dzieci Bałut) Memorial scattered throughout the former ghetto, consists of murals of archival images of children imprisoned at dedicated children's camps within the Lodz Ghetto.


Auschwitz Birkenau (Chelmno, Płaszów)

Auschwitz, a complex of concentration and extermination camps, was the largest such camp built as part of the Nazi’s Final Solution to the Jewish Question. Auschwitz I, the main camp and administrative headquarters, is in the Polish town, Oświęcim, hence its name. The complex also included Auschwitz II–Birkenau, and Auschwitz III–Monowitz, a labor camp with many sub-camps. Approximately 1,000,000 Jews died there in the camp’s gas chambers or from systematic starvation, forced labor, rampant disease, “medical experiments” and individual executions. As Soviet troops approached Auschwitz in January 1945, most of its remaining population was sent west on a death march. The prisoners remaining at the camp were liberated on January 27, 1945, a day commemorated since 2005 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

We will also visit the Chełmno extermination camp, the first Nazi extermination camp, located 50 km north of the city of Łódź near the village of Chełmno and Nerem, and the Płaszów concentration and work camp in the Krakow district.


Krakow/Kazimierez

Krakow’s earliest Judengasse dates back to 1304 and a Jewish cemetery is traced as far back as 1311. Though banned from the city proper in 1494, Jews resettled in Kazimierez, then a Krakow suburb and identified themselves as the Krakow Jewish community. The community flourished during the 15th and 16th centuries. It was the site of the country’s first Yeshiva, and home to the greatest Jewish scholars of the period including Rabbi Moshe Isserles, Rabbi Yoel Sirkes (the Bach) and Rabbi Yom Tov Lipmann Heller. In 1802 Kazimierez was annexed to Krakow and from 1900 until World War II, Jews counted for one-fourth of the city’s population.

The Jewish community in Krakow during the interwar years was diverse with many religious institutions (including the establishment of the Bais Yaakov teacher’s training school for girls) and strong representation in the professions, making up almost a quarter of Kraków’s doctors and roughly half of its lawyers.

Soon after the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, mass persecutions of Jews in Krakow began. The ghetto in Podgórze was established in March 1941. A series of deportations to Bełżec ended in the ghetto’s liquidation in March 1943, after which the remaining Jews were transferred to the Płaszów labor camp.


Schindler’s Factory

Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory, immortalized in the 1993 movie, Schindler’s List, is located in the Zblocie district of Krakow. Formerly Jewish-owned, the enamel factory went bankrupt just before the German invasion in 1939. Schindler, a spy in the Abwehr, the German Intelligence Agency, arrived in Krakow in 1939. With the help of some Jewish investors, he leased the enamelware company with the intent of hiring Jews.

Shrewdly, he also began to produce ammunition shells, in addition to kitchenware for the German forces, so that the enterprise would be classed as an essential part of the war effort. Initially, Schindler was mostly interested in the money-making potential of the business and hired Jews because they were cheaper.

In March 1943, Schindler witnessed the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto and was appalled. Schindler changed his mind about the Nazis and decided to save as many Jews as he could. With a combination of diplomacy and bribery, Schindler secured permission to build a subcamp of the Plaszow work camp at Emalia to house his Jewish workers (and 450 Jews from other nearby factories). There, without concern to financial or personal cost, he kept them safe from the threat of random execution and deportation. Even when the factory in Krakow was closed in the face of the advancing Russians, 1,200 workers on “Schindler’s list” were protected and moved to a new factory in Brunnlitz.