THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
An icon of genocide
Back to Warsaw for Shabbat

Kraków and Kielce

After all the death and despair we have reviewed this week it was good to be regular tourists this morning. We visited the Wawel, seat of Polish kings. We toured the Royal Cathedral, of which John Paul II was formerly the bishop. We enjoyed the largest and, in my opinion the most magnificent, market square in Europe.

I had seen it all before, having brought my family for weekend trips when we lived in Poland. I was delighted to see it all in far better condition than in those days. Poland's evident prosperity pleases me a lot. I spent 11 years of my life working, with my clients, on its development in the immediate post-communist era. The Polish people, liberated from the idiocies of socialism, have achieved marvels already and are not finished yet. I smiled at every example I saw.

After lunch we headed to Kielce and back to dark history. In a shocking incident in 1946, after the defeat of the Nazis, 40 Jews who had survived the Holocaust and returned to their homes were killed by some of the city's Polish residents. It was the country's last pogrom. The news spread fast and persuaded Poland's few remaining Jews to leave; mostly to Israel.

The Communist Government suppressed all further reference to the incident. It simply did not fit its simplistic political narrative. Once Communism fell, good people in Kielce began working (with opposition from some who resist an uncomfortable truth) to commemorate the pogrom respectfully and address its horror in a spirit of reconciliation.

A centre for "culture, meeting and dialogue" has been established at the site of the pogrom and the volunteers who run it work tirelessly to educate the young people of the city in particular. We visited the centre and viewed its current poignant exhibition of family photographs of the Jews of Poland in the years leading to the Holocaust.

Pope John Paul II Centre, Krakow
Street performer, Krakow
Leaving the market square, Krakow
The hourly bugle call, Krakow

The updated map of our tour is here and all my photos are here.