Plac Bohaterów Getta, Kraków
I flew back from Kraków this afternoon. I had gone there with my parents; it was their first time in Poland. Of course our sightseeing focused on the Jewish sites. I showed them the former Jewish district of Kazimierz and, together with my Polish-American friend A who has lived in Kraków for 22 years, the wartime ghetto over the river in Podgórze.
There were new Jewish things in Kraków since I had last been there in July 2006.
The Galicia Jewish Museum documents Jewish life and culture in Galicia.
There is now a memorial to the Jews of the Podgórze ghetto that takes up all of Plac Bohaterów Getta (Ghetto Heroes Square).
And Schindler’s factory is to become a museum – half modern art and half museum of righteous gentiles.
That was all very positive.
I took my parents to Auschwitz and Birkenau. But first we went into the town of Oświęcim to see my friend Tomek at the Auschwitz Jewish Center, which celebrates the rich Jewish life that existed in Oświęcim before the Nazis established their death camp there. My parents saw the students visiting the center and the young Germans who were volunteering there. They heard about the cross-cultural understanding and tolerance work that goes on there and at the International Youth Meeting Center in Oświęcim. All of that saved the day from being entirely depressing.
Today my parents went on to Warsaw and I came home to Prague. When I checked my email, I found the news that on the coming anniversary of Kristallnacht – the Nazi pogrom of 9-10 November 1938 – a neo-Nazi group will be marching through Josefov, the historically Jewish district of Prague. Prague Town Hall had tried to block the march, but the Municipal Court of Prague has overturned the ban.
Fine, I say, because freedom of speech is holy and the Nazis should be allowed to march. But we who vehemently disagree with them are also free to express ourselves. So if you live in Prague and you know me personally, expect an email, expect a phone call. The Jewish Liberal Union is organising a counter-demonstration and we all need to be there. It is our presence and the simple act of outnumbering the fascists that will demonstrate to the world and to the fascists themselves that their politics and their beliefs are not acceptable here.