Krakow

“We must free the German Nation of Poles, Russians, Jews and Gypsies”                       Quote from Otto Thierack, Minister of Justice to the Third Reich

Our official tour guide collected us from our camp site and drove us to Auschwitz and Birkenau.  We were surprised how busy it was – the car park was crowded with coaches.  The site had 2.2 million visitors a year, many were young people.  Our guide explained that it was expected that all Polish school children visit the extermination camps at least once.

After lunch our guide took us on a tour of the nearby city of Kraków.  We saw the once prosperous Jewish Quarter from which the Nazis forced thousands of Jews from their homes and herded them into an overcrowded ghetto, surrounded by concrete walls.  Many Jews perished in the ghetto through disease and starvation.

I foolishly remarked to our guide that the arrival of the Communists after the war must have seems a softer option than the brutality of the Nazis.  He said the Russians caused more harm to Poland than the Germans ever did because they destroyed anyone that threatened the Communist regime.  Stalin ordered the annihilation of all Polish dissidents – there followed the murder of military leaders followed by professional people, doctors, lawyers, teachers, professors thus destroying Poland’s educated classes.