PRIVATE GUIDING AND GENEALOGY RESEARCH SERVICES IN CENTRAL EUROPE
Polin Travel is a firm and research center created out of passion for guiding, history and genealogy. This is the first project in Central Europe combining those three fields in order to provide high quality, individual travel and research services for visitors with different backgrounds and expectations. The firm was created in 2000 in Cracow and has been directed since then by Tomasz Cebulski.
We specialize in Jewish guiding and genealogy services in Poland but we also work in other fields like Christian genealogy in Poland and regular private, expert guided tours to most popular travel destinations around Cracow and Central Europe. We have special academically designed travel itineraries to Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, Cracow, Kazimierz, Wieliczka Salt Mine and majority of Jewish heritage and Holocaust related sites in Poland. We guide our tours and lead genealogical research mainly in Poland and former Galicia territory (nowadays partly in Ukraine). Our guiding and genealogy research services also cover the territories of Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Ukraine and other countries of Central Europe.
Last years brought us a lot of experience with different projects starting with Jewish genealogical researches for individual families, through projects for families of Holocaust survivors, finishing on large, student field tours focusing on Holocaust and minorities heritage in Europe. Among our clients and partners we have universities, museums, high schools or Jewish communities from the USA, Canada, Great Britain and Israel. All our tours and research projects are tailor-made and are privately guided because we believe in quality, not quantity. Quality, which was valued by many of our former guests who had decided to use our services: Oprah Winfrey, Elie Wiesel, Steven Pinker among the others.
RECOMMENDED PRIVATE TOURS AND STUDY TRIPS
Private, individually guided tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Cracow Ghetto, Schindler's Factory and Plaszow Camp.
Years of experience have thought us about different motivations of visitors coming to see Auschwitz-Birkenau. Noticing the serious drawbacks of growing mass touristic visits we decided to offer one day private tours of Auschwitz, according to our academically developed and experience based itinerary.
There is much about Cracow and Kazimierz which is conceived from the eyes of visitors in the city's history, legends and atmosphere. A good guide on a well-conducted tour can easily unveil this invisible dimension.
One day tour itinerary based on splendid history of Jewish communities in Poland and Galicia. Villages and cities which before WW II were the very essence of Jewish life in Poland are now waiting to be re-discovered.
Private, individually guided tour of Lublin / Majdanek and Action Reinchard Death Camps of Treblinka, Bełzec and Sobibor.
The three death camps of Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor represent the ultimate evil of the German Nazis and ultimate destruction of Polish Jewry. Those places are often scarcely known about because the Nazis did their best so that we would not remember them.
You can find more travel itineraries at TOURS, SITES, PAST PROJECTS or HOLOCAUST EDUCATION and JEWISH HERITAGE AND HOLOCAUST TRAVEL MAP OF POLAND.
NEWS FROM CRACOW AND GALICIA
IN PREPARATION OF THE 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF KL AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU LIBERATION ON JANUARY 27, 2015.
In preparation of the 70th Anniversary of Auschwitz liberation the State Museum has removed from the monument in Birkenau the Cross of Grunwald which was posthumously granted to all the camp victims at the monument unveiling in 1967. It was, a now non existing Communist military decoration with a symbol of a regular cross with two swards in the middle. The museum is planing now to install at this part of the monument a quotation from Sondercommando prisoner Zalman Gradowski:
"Come to me you free citizen of the world, where your life is assured by human morality and your existence guaranteed by law and I will tell you how these modern-day criminals and common bandits have crushed the morality of life and annihilated the laws of existence".
Also a new plaque in Luxembourgish was added at the monument in Birkenau.
IN PREPARATION TO THE 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF KL AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU LIBERATION
DOCUMENTS AND LETTERS FROM KL PLASZÓW
There was a set of documents and private letters send from the KL Płaszów found recently during renovation works in a private home in Wieliczka. All of those were addressed to and in possession of already deceased war time rail clerk Stanisław Pamuła. He was keeping correspondence and became the trustee of many Cracow Jews imprisoned in KL Płaszów. On their request he was providing money , medicine or clothing. He also became a depository of some of their assets which he kept protected and administered through the war. The letters are in Polish, Yiddish and Hebrew. There is now a team of scholars working on the translations and research of the hidden archive content.
One of the letters from KL Plaszów in Polish.
7 MILESTONES FROM THE HISTORY OF POLISH JEWS, 7 DAYS BEFORE THE LONG AWAITED OPENING OF THE MUSEUM OF HISTORY OF POLISH JEWS IN WARSAW.
In 2013 in Warsaw the impressive building of the Museum was inaugurated to start its long awaited service as an educational bridge gapping the void of Polish-Jewish relations non-existence. On October 28th , 2014 the eight core exhibition galleries were inaugurated to strengthen the museum's message and promote the heritage of Polish Jews and more complete understanding of ten centuries of their history.
The Museum of history of Polish Jews in Warsaw - POLIN
The New "Shoah" exhibition in block 27 in Auschwitz
On June 13th, 2013 the new exhibition in Auschwitz block 27 was inaugurated. The first exhibition in the so called ''Jewish pavilion or Jewish exhibition'' was opened in 1968, then it was refurbished and updated in 1978. The contemporary presentation titled Shoah is curated by Yad Vashem Institute and its director Avner Shalev in person. In his words the new exhibition shows 'Chapter by chapter, we show the most important topics related to the Holocaust, which is not necessarily a historical narrative, but rather a presentation of the very deep ethical and cultural dimensions of the memory of the Holocaust. To the visitor, this experience is to be a deep, meaningful and complete reflection on our fundamental morals as a people and members of today's global civilization.'
On the unveiling day the PM of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech and officially inaugurated the exhibition. In his speech there was a personal accent 'I have just seen the children's drawings, flowers and gallows, and the drawing of a child who in a captivity draw a rabbit that runs around freely. I saw and touched the names of millions of Jews. Not all of them were sent here. One and a half million of them were murdered in the forests and the executions in the villages and in the pits. Among them was the twin sister of my blessed father-in-law Shmuel Ben Artzi. Hon Judith was beautiful and young. When she was murdered, she was about 20 years. I saw her name here. There are people who deny the Holocaust. Come to the block 27 and see the name after the name.'
The exhibition itself is taking two floors of block 27 in Auschwitz I. Although very modern display technology was used the whole project gives sense of simplicity and clarity. For the first time, in case of such presentations a large space is devoted to show Jewish life in Europe before the war. The films and pictures of Jewish life before 1939 are screened on walls around the visitor placing him into the middle of that rich civilization. This allows to gain the proper personal context and deepens the sense of loss caused by the genocide. Special value of those pre war images is realized in confrontation with the brutal reality of Auschwitz surrounding the building with exhibition. The narration doesn't limit itself to Auschwitz only but gives the general overview of Holocaust chronology including pre-war propaganda, ghettoization, execution sites and other death camps. Large part of the exhibition is devoted to children killed in the Holocaust and this topic is introduced and mediated by the simple drawings of children from Terezin covering the walls of one room. Every exhibit chapter is introduced with a short, basic description in English, Polish and Hebrew. The last room accommodates the pages with names of the Holocaust victims identified by Yad Vashem Institute through the testimonies of survivors, remaining documents and ongoing research. The building is also prepared for educational work with visiting groups offering special meeting places for ceremonies or reflection. There are some minor historical and language discrepancies, which surly will be corrected in the nearest future. The exhibition sets a new standard for Holocaust and genocide narration to the younger generations in the world especially in the times when the last survivors are slowly passing away. The Shoah in block 27 is highly recommended to every visitor of Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum who wants to understand more of the complexity of Holocaust and genocides.
You can find the pictures at PolinTravel.Guide.Genealogy.Poland
The New "Shoah" exhibition in block 27 in Auschwitz
Dąbrowa Tarnowska Synagogue restored
In June 2012 the Synagogue in Dąbrowa Tarnowska was opened after major renovation works carried by the local municipality and financed from the city budget and EU funds. The restored building is housing the Center for the Meeting of Cultures in Dąbrowa Tarnowska with an extensive exhibit dedicated to the history of local Jewish community.
The Dąbrowa synagogue dates back to early 1860s when the growing Jewish community decided for this monumental structure along the main street in the city. It was build according to the plans of Jewish architect Abraham Goldstein. Funds were mostly provided by Izaak Stern, a local Jewish philanthropist whose donation was recognized in the Hebrew inscription in the upper part of the eastern wall. Construction and finishing works were conducted from 1855 to 1865. In early XX century a small synagogue for Orthodox Jews and Mikveh were build adjacent to the main building. During WW I the complex suffered some destruction because of the vicinity of the Russian-Austrian frontline and was restored with the donation of a local resident named Gold. Another, more extensive and throughout renovation was conducted from 1936 to 1937 under the supervision of Dora Mertz from Tarnów. A characteristic three-storey gallery flanked with two towers containing staircases was added at that time. Near the top of the towers there are four bas-relief sculptures of biblical animals with Hebrew inscriptions: be brave like a leopard, be light like as eagle, be strong like a lion, be nimble like a deer.
During WW II the synagogue was changed into warehouse by the German Nazis and in spite of some reconstruction attempts undertaken in the 1970s it had to wait as ruin until 2008 when the just finished major reconstruction was undertaken.
You can find the pictures at PolinTravel.Guide.Genealogy.Poland
Dąbrowa Tarnowska Synagogue October 2012
69 Anniversary of Sobibór Uprising.
Pictures taken on October 4th,2012 of the least visited and commemorated of the Reinhard Action Death Camps where 250.000 to 300.000 Jews from Poland, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Czech Republic and Jewish Soviet POW were killed from April 1942 till October 1943.
You can find the pictures at PolinTravel.Guide.Genealogy.Poland
Last year the first volume of Sobibór first monograph was published by Marek Bem in Włodawa.
This year in the 70 Anniversary of Wansee Conferance and Action Reinhard POLIN TRAVEL was making a photo documentation of all camps , ghettos and Nazi decision centers in former Nazi Lublin District. In case of anybody interested in photos we will be glad to share.
Sobibor Rail Sign October 2012
67th Anniversary of Auschwitz-Birkenau Liberation,
In late January 1945 Auschwitz SS administration started the evacuation of 58 thousands of work capable prisoners into the III Reich interior, this initiated the infamous Auschwitz Death Marches. The hectic evacuation of the camp due to the fast approaching Soviet army was also encompassing the massive destruction of physical evidence of mass extermination project carried at the camp grounds from spring 1942 till late 1944. This included mass burning of camp records, removal of buried corpses and ashes, burning of Canada (prisoner's property) barracks. Finally on January 20th the SS blew up Crematoria, Gas Chamber number II and III and on January 26th the same was done with Crematoria, Gas Chamber number V. The similar building number IV was previously damaged and partly burned after the mutiny of Sondercommando prisoners on October 1944.
On the the 27th of January 1945 the Red Army troops entered the Auschwitz-Birkenau grounds liberating the entire large complex of camps with over 7000 emaciated prisoners still alive. This event gave an end to almost five years history of German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau which took lives of up to one and a half million of human beings, mainly Jews.
70th Anniversary of the Nazi Wansee Conference and initiation of the mass extermination of Jews in Death Camps,
January 20th, 2012 was the 70th anniversary of Wansee Conference at which the German Nazis took the decisions about the ultimate shape of the "Final solution to the Jewish question" in Europe. There were 15 high ranked German Nazis participating in Wansee, at least eight of them with PhD titles. Within a few weeks after the conferance the first mass transports of Polish Jews were sent to Death Camp of Belzec. The first mass transport of Jews to Auschwitz arrived on March 26th, 1942 from Slovakia.
Kazmierz Smoleń the former prisoner of Auschwitz-Birkenau number 1327, and long time director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum passed away on January 27th,2012.
Kazimierz Smoleń the former prisoner of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and long time director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum passed away on January 27th,2012. Kazimierz Smoleń was arrested in April 1940, deported to Auschwitz on July 6th, 1940 he was given a KL Auschwitz number 1327. He survived the camp for the next almost five years. On January 18th, 1945 with Auschwitz evacuation he was deported to Mauthausen. Finally Kazimierz Smoleń was liberated on May 6th,1945 in Ebensee, a sub camp of Mauthausen, over 5 years after his imprisonment. After the war he was working in the Commission to Investigate the Nazi Crimes in Poland and participated as a witness and expert in trials of SS staff of Nazi Concentration Camps. Kazimierz Smoleń was one of the creators of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau established in 1947 and from 1955 till 1990 he served as the director of the Museum. After retirement he was still devoted to the Auschwitz education and worked witnessing about the camp history to younger generations till his very last days. Blessed be his memory.
MIZRAHI SYNAGOGUE IN BĘDZIN was re-opened after five years of renovation works.
In early 2012 the city of Będzin has finished the five years renovation project of Mizrahi synagogue in the city. This XIX century synagogue was established by Będzin merchant Jakub Chil Winer in the basement of his house. The synagogue was the only one surviving the Holocaust in the city. It was re-discovered by local history enthusiasts in 2004, but its interior was very badly damaged with polychromies pealing off.
In the last five years the city has invested over 120.000 PLN in restoration project. Now the interior is brought back to its colorful and splendid shape. The polychromies are following Zionist , religious narration by depicting holy sites of Israel with some religious symbols and signs of Zodiac inserted. This unique synagogue will become another focal point for Zaglebie (Będzin, Sosnowiec and Dąbrowa) Jews in the world.
Ceiling of the Mizrahi synagogue in Będzin after renovation.
Monument of Deportations of Bedzin Jews in 1943 to Auschwitz.
MARKET SQUARE/RYNEK UNDERGROUND - Following the traces of the European identity of Kraków
In autumn 2010 the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow opened its brand new exhibition in the excavated undergrounds of the Market Square and Cloth Hall building. This museum is the result of many years of archeological works undertaken in the very core of 1000 years history of Krakow and close to 800 years since its location. The archeologists reached the base level, indicating the first human activities in this area around 8 meters below the present surface of the market.
The museum encompasses 700 archeological pieces, 500 digital models of buildings, 600 3D digital models of city structures in the time span of last 1000 years. During a visit we can admire medieval city stalls, cemeteries, cobblestone streets, jewelry and hundreds of artifacts well enhanced and enriched with multimedia presentations, 3D models and holograms. This new branch of the Krakow's Historical Museum provides a time vehicle across the last ten centuries of the city's history and makes every visitor feel the growing, accumulated city's beauty and potential. It will definitely become the main attraction for both inhabitants and tourists.
SCHINDLER'S FACTORY - Cracow under the German Nazi occupation from 1939 to 1945
In summer 2010 the Krakow's Historical Museum opened its new branch at the premises of the former Schindler’s Factory. This modern museum is to present the history of Krakow under the German Nazi occupation from 1939 to 1945. Large part of the exhibition is devoted to show life and annihilation of the Krakow’s ghetto. The museum is arranged chronologically, giving the visitor a unique opportunity to follow the war time narration and experience of occupation reality. The numerous artistic means and multimedia presentations enrich the exhibit and help to understand the complexity of Nazi occupation of Krakow and Poland. The first part of the exhibit narrates the city's cultural, ethnic and religious richness in the 20’s and 30’s of the XX century. Stereographic pictures take us into the streets of the city just before the war. Then comes the September Campaign and gradual implementation of the new Nazi regime aimed against local population. The museum creators were able to reconstruct city's streets, prison cells, war time apartments with an successful effort to show general anxiety, chaos and individual human tragedy inflicted by war. The exhibition has many layers of narration and in this way can satisfy people who want to have just a general orientation in the war time in Cracow as well as history experts looking for some additional history details.
We offer certified guides and tours at the Museum in the former Schindler's Factory - "Krakow under the German Nazi occupation from 1939 to 1945".