News from Galicia

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.

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.

Bedzin Mizrahi Synagogue

Ceiling of the Mizrahi synagogue in Będzin after renovation.

Bedzin 1943 Auschwitz Deportations Memorial

Monument of Deportations of Bedzin Jews in 1943 to Auschwitz.

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.

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.

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.