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2017-02-06

Breakthrough in Płaszów camp commemoration

The city of Krakow, in collaboration with the Jewish Community of Krakow and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage will establish the KL Plaszow Museum – Memorial Site.

The camp, initially set up as a forced labour establishment and then as a concentration camp, was built by the Germans in 1940 in the southern part of Krakow, near the railway station of Płaszów. The camp occupied an area of about 40 hectares and covered, among others, two Jewish cemeteries located in Abrahama and Jerozolimska streets. About 150,000 people were prisoners of the camp, mainly Jews from Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. The number of the camp's victims is estimated at 80,000.

Ilustracja

photo by Krzysztof Bielawski / POLIN   

The only surviving elements of the former camp's infrastructure include the so-called Grey House, which before the war housed the administration of the Jewish cemetery, a telephone exchange building and the villa of camp commander Amon Göth. After the war, monuments and information boards were erected in a few places. Today the vast area is a walking ground for local residents as well as an area for dog walking and picnics. Without in-depth knowledge, it is difficult to see where the two cemeteries and collective graves are located.

The debate on how to commemorate this martyrdom site has been going on for years. In 2007, the city commissioned the preparation of an area development plan. Works to reconstruct the topography of the former camp were conducted thanks to the Social Committee for the Restoration of Krakow Monuments. However, the efforts have been stepped up only recently. To a certain extent, it was affected by last year's incidents of bones being unearthed by labourers and stray dogs.

Ilustracja

photo by Krzysztof Bielawski / POLIN   

On 26 January 2017, an agreement was signed in which the Municipal Commune of Krakow, the Jewish Community of Krakow and the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow regulated the ownership status of some of the land of the former camp. It will also be necessary to clear up the issue of state-owned land plots, but the January agreement is an important step towards the establishment of the KL Płaszów Museum – Memorial Site.

“My dream has started to come true after a very long time,” said Tadeusz Jakubowicz, the president of the Jewish Community of Krakow and a former prisoner at the camp.

The KL Płaszów Museum – Memorial Site will cover about 40 hectares. The area will acquire adequate signs, with the two Jewish cemeteries also to be marked. An exhibition and administration pavilion, called the Memorial, will be erected outside the former camp.

Ilustracja

photo by Krzysztof Bielawski / POLIN   

Preparatory work is already underway and its contributors include the Jewish Cemeteries Rabbinical Commission. An important role in creating the Memorial Site will be played by the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow, which already runs three other facilities related to martyrdom: The Eagle Pharmacy, an exhibition in the former Gestapo headquarters and the Schindler's Factory.

“Taking care of the former KL Płaszów may perhaps prove to be the most difficult of those tasks, but we believe it should be done,” said Michał Niezabitowski, the director of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow. The works will take the next few years.

Krzysztof Bielawski
 

The quoted statements come from the text “Powstanie Muzeum – Miejsce Pamięci KL Plaszow” [in:] Magiczny Kraków [online] 26 January 2017,  http://krakow.pl/aktualnosci/207154,33,komunikat,powstanie_muzeum___miejsce_pamieci_kl_plaszow.html [accessed on 2 February 2017].

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